Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Learning is so Natural

Talked to a friend of mine the other day who has a 10 year old son. At the school meeting she wanted him to sign up for track. He didn't want to. She was frustrated and said, "All this boy wants to do is read read read. He reads all the time. He'd read all day if I let him. I told him that he has to do something besides read all the time." If he were at The Living Water School, I would let him read all day, because every single room will have a small library...books will be at every child's fingertips. I've noticed that most children...just about every child I've encountered have interests that are intellectual, academic, or creative. Rarely are they just random or negative. Attitudes are sometimes negative, behavior is sometimes negative, but interests are usually in the three above categories. Why does my 3 year old on his own use my phone or Kindle to play phonics games? Why does he sometimes just go on his own to play the piano? Without me asking or suggesting...he just wants to. And if you think about it...I mean really sit and think about it, every child is this way....if you just give them the chance to show it to you...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Ideal Living Water School Parent

7 Traits of a Living Water School Parent:
1. They have sat in the school office at least once during the school year and have cried out of frustration
2. They have tried to advocate for their child and no one has been able to help
3. They cannot home-school the child in order to provide them with the type of school experience that meets their needs and interests
4. They feel as if the school keeps their child from going as far as their intellect wants to go
5. They want their child to have freedom to pursue their own interests and creative projects
6. They don't give a hoot about scoring , grades, or standardized testing and they believe that an "A" is equivalent to the child doing their best (they place more value on the child's character than the grades they get)
7.. They want a bully free (students as well as teachers), safe, healthy, and emotionally edifying school environment for their child.

Our Ideal Student

7 Traits of a Living Water School student:
1. finishes all his/her classwork so fast that he/she is left bored and disrupts the class
2. a student who is well behaved but very far advanced in their thinking and the parents want him/her to have the opportunity to go as far as they want in their intellectual pursuits.
3. a student who just does not learn like the rest of the class and needs the freedom to understand their learning style and interests (very out of the box...they HATE being forced to fit in a box)
4 .the one who is just odd...they don't fit in anywhere, they are shutting down because they feel so out of place (often bullied, often misunderstood by the teacher)
5. the one who has so much creativity in their mind that they cannot concentrate on anything else
6. the one who is smart, does their work, but cannot sit perfectly still or avoid creative mischief
7. the child who craves one on one time and attention.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Natural Flow of Learning

As I am transitioning out of traditional schooling/teaching, I am amazed at how I am now so sensitive to how natural it is for children to be thinking beings. Back in December my current school's music teacher quit. They asked me to create a simple music program to finish the year (all while still teaching kindergarten). So since January, I would meet with grades k-5 once a week and we would just sing songs and play simple songs on the recorder. Today was the performance and it was amazing. As I was setting up for tonight's program, I had no help really. So my 8 little kindergarten angels helped me! I had to print off the programs and so I asked the students to go to the sanctuary and count how many chairs need programs. They did that. I needed 80. I ran them off and then asked my little Einsteins "If I have 80 programs and there are 8 of you, how many should each of you get to put on the chairs?" Their minds start working. They start talking, then I see them count each other, by 10s ( I hope you get that). They yell out "10!!!" I was so proud of them. Then we went to put the programs on the chairs. They're running all around the sanctuary, putting programs on chairs. They run back to me for more programs (we needed a few more than 80 it turns out). I had plenty of extras. Some would say, "I need 5." But I would give them 3. They'd say, "Mrs. Prather, that's not enough!" Then I'd say, well how many more do you need (with a grin on my face). And they'd say, "I need 2 more!" And this is how it went on. Oh this is good! Learning while living. Well we finished setting up the sanctuary and my boss comes in and sees all the chairs neatly laid with programs (I had some students go through and make sure each paper was straight...on their own). She asked me who helped. I told her my kids did. She said, "Wow! They are so bright! They did this? I so underestimate little people!" Oh, if children are just given a chance to let their brains work freely, without interruption, the outcome will amaze you every time.

Info Session This Sunday!

Information Session Sunday, April 26, 2015!
At The National Golf Club in Fort Washington, MD
3:00 pm-5:00 pm
Parents, teachers, those who are curious, those who want to support, homeschoolers, ALL are welcome!
Appetizers will be served!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Freedom in Learning is EVERYWHERE!

Signs that I have seen that children will learn if we let them be free:
Example 1: Today my 5th grade recorder students wanted to perform When the Saints Go Marching In for our spring concert. I had been meeting with them to teach them how to properly count, etc in order to play together. They could not get it. In today's rehearsal they looked so sad. I said, "You know what, I'm gonna sit over here and just let you guys play it. Do you think you can do it without me teaching you?" Their faces lit up and they were so excited. So I sit down. One girl does a count. They all fall in and play the song PERFECTLY!! I don't even know if they know or understand the theory (but they would have to in order to play so well together), but they did it! It was awesome! They ask if the girl who did the count can "direct" them for the concert. I was like SURE!
Example 2: When my uncle was born he was severely delayed/special needs. Doctors said he would not live past 6 months and if he did he would never walk, etc. My grandmother gave him what he needed to be nurtured. The family spoke positive words into his life. He lived to be 42, had a job at the post office, walked, and baby sat me. He dressed himself and was completely independent. He could read, loved to watch the news and talk about politics and sports. So it doesn't matter, as long as you are human, you have a will to learn, grow, and survive in society. It is a natural instinct in every single human.
Example 3: My morning conversation with my sons:
Destin (crying)-Mommy! Dillon called me a boss!
Me: Dillon why are you calling your brother a boss?
Dillon: I need someone to be my boss!
Me: but why?
Dillon: Because I am the Master and I need someone to work for me!
Me: Dillon that is not a boss, that is an employee.
Dillon: What is an employee?
Me: It's someone who works for someone else
Dillon: Ok, good. Destin you are my employee!
Destin: (crying) but I don't want to be your employee!
Me: Dillon, can Destin be your assistant master? You guys can work together to tell people what to do!
Destin: Yeah! I want to be the assistant master
Dillon: No you are an employee!
Destin: (Crying harder) No! I don't want to be an employee!! I want to be the assistant master!
Me: Dillon, let your brother be the assistant master
Dillon: well ok....
The entire conversation was a total learning experience that my 3 and 4 year old created without me. (and they both want to be entrepreneurs...AWESOME!!
It's like the blinders have been totally taken off my eyes. I can see freedom in education every where!!!

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Safe Place

My parents removed the value of grades from our house. Their only motto was "Do your best...your best is an A to us." For a child like me that was so important. Oh how I wish my school life had been the same. When I left home each day, my self-esteem was hurt greatly, not because I had mean teachers (and there were some) but mainly because the hierarchy of school life constantly beat me down and I could not keep up. My parents understood that I had a different way of learning and comprehending and being. I was a dreamer...a wonderer...a creator...odd (let's just be honest) and they let me be that. However, they understood that I had to pass from grade to grade in order to reach my dreams. So they would often reward me JUST for passing...even if it was a D. So how does a child who only got Ds in school graduate, Cum Laud from college? Because I began to work hard to achieve the dreams I had for myself (being a teacher). I was motivated by what interested me. I was motivated by what I wanted to achieve. Wouldn't it be great if k-12 schools were the same way?? Now I am a teacher, but the one thing in these 20 years that I have hated is that there is always a child or more that is like how I was. I am forced to hold up the standard of the school board, but my husband and family will tell you, my heart aches for certain students. They are NOT special needs. There is nothing wrong. They are just designed differently (as we all are). School should not be cookie cutter. I have seen the weight of the pressure destroying their sense of self and I have felt helpless. I have watched as parents sat in my office or classroom crying...trying to figure out what to do or where to go with their child. Now I think God has led me to the type of school philosophy that will help me to provide a place for every child to feel good about how God made them. Traditional schools are fine. But there should be a smorgasbord of choices for parents to make the best education choice for their child. My school will not be big probably but it will be available for EVERY. SINGLE. CHILD. and they will be happy there. No more pain. No more feelings of failure. A community where every child will be welcome (absolutely no bullying from teachers or students allowed) to learn and be as God has designed them and we will celebrate their differences.

Friday, April 10, 2015

What is School part 2

More on the history of the word "school": From the Greek-spare time, leisure and learned discussion. "learned discussion" "leisure"??? I can put these words together and a place of leisure and learned discussion? In Rome: Place of discussion. So how did school turn into a place where kids are forced to sit in a desk, with their mouths shut while someone pours info in their heads? This is getting good.....(I'm not making this stuff up). And I feel this way, even though I've spent 20 wonderful years in traditional public and private schools. I do not believe in getting rid of school, which is why I actually struggle with the term "unschooling", but i think we need to get back to the old old way of schooling...where kids learned by doing and discussing and engaging with a teacher who ignited a fire of learning in their hearts and minds.

What is School? Part 1

If you look up the etymology for the word “school” it means “leisure or leisure for learning.” In ancient times, schooling took place in the context of relaxing with friends and discussing topics in a leisurely manner…topics of personal interest. There was usually an adult there to guide the discussion without too much interference in the child's thought process. From this schools were formed. Over the centuries there became such a demand to create people to establish society and to fit certain tasks to do so, so schooling became much more rigorous and specific to certain tasks. We have gotten away from cultivating the child’s natural intellect in order to develop them into the person God ordained for them to be. The Living Water School seeks to present a school that follows a more natural path. Parents and teachers are still there guiding students, but we are supporting God’s original plan for the child and helping that plan come into being.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A School for David

I think David in the Bible would have made a good student for the school. So his dad, Jessie knew that Samuel was coming to his house to pick the next king from one of his sons. Samuel gets there and Jessie has all the sons lined up. Samuel looks at each one and thinks that any of them could be the next king because of how they looked on the outside. They fit the standard. But God said no to all of them. Samuel then asks if Jessie had any other sons, because God had told him one of the sons was to be the next king. Jessie tells him that he has one more but he's out in the fields watching sheep. Samuel asks to see him. When he walks in, God says, "That's the one." David was out in the fields caring for sheep and WRITING MUSIC AND POEMS! Out in the fields day dreaming and creating and communing with nature. He did not fit the standard. But yet he was the next king. Even his own dad didn't see it. How many students have I seen that have a special anointing but because they don't fit the standard way of learning, they are overlooked? How many times have even I not been able to reach a student because I was so busy trying to do my job and teach the "curriculum." How many times have I fussed at a student because they wouldn't sit still and "do their work"...filling in the worksheets and doing the test? How many kings and queens have I missed because of this? May that child who is gifted, smart, creative, different find a home at the school I believe God is leading me to start.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Meditations on the Creek

It was an early spring morning as I sat to read, pray and meditate as I watched the beauty of the creek behind my house.  In that one moment I saw myself in the creek and my family in the  River.  The creek is a tributary of a major river near my house and my house sits at the end of the creek.  I realized  that the creek had an end and the only way out of that end was for it to flow back into the river.  That was my life.  My family was the river.  There were definite boundaries to me and my brother’s life experiences that identified me as a member of this family, but sometimes I decided to veer off from the river.  The beauty of my parents is that they let me do that, but I always found myself flowing back into the river of my family. My parents never judged me or made me feel I was less than my brother because my grades were not as good as his or my interests were not like his (or anyone else’s).  They welcomed me back and celebrated my adventures with me.  My river, my family was a safe place but school was not.  Most of my school years from preschool until almost 12th grade there was such a feeling of discouragement.  I could not fit in.  I could not understand.  Learning was difficult and I felt no one understood how I learned…not even myself.  I never could “make the grade” and I did not seem to know how I could.  That early spring morning as I looked at Swan Creek, I realized that schools should also flow like a river. A child’s learning should take place within a definite boundary, but within those boundaries, learning should be free to flow for the child and the child should feel free to veer off from time to time in her own tributary. They will naturally come back to the river, as I did.  Once they understand how they individually fit into the confines of the riverbank. When they do return, their adventure should be celebrated and validated as a legitimate learning and enriching experience that is unique to that learner. They will come back to the river, because the river flows into the ocean and our learning life from preschool to 12th grade prepares us for the ocean of society or the world.  We all have to go there in our own way and in our own time.  There's no escaping that.  The current is too heavy to hold us still.  We do not thrive in a dam, but we flow in a river headed to the ocean of life.  What we do with the river determines how we survive the “wild blue yonder” of the ocean or the world. This was the one revelation I received as I meditated on creek that early spring morning.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Jesus is My Example

Jesus was a teacher and I love his teaching methodology. There were only 12 students and his lessons were in stories, demonstrations, in nature (i.e. the fig tree). There were not a lot of students but his "school" was so powerful that those few students (11 minus Judas) turned the world upside down.

Let Them Be. Let Them Learn.

All my years of teaching I have had moments like these...where I put aside the approved curriculum for a minute and just let the kids learn for themselves. Last Friday we went to the school library and each child could pick any non fiction book they wanted on any topic of interest. Imagine these little 5 and 6 year olds walking through the hallway with stacks of books. I then told them that for the next week, whenever they are finished with their classwork, they can work on an independent project. The project can be anything but it just had to teach us something. The project would be presented at the end of this week instead of doing Show and Tell (show and tell irks me...mindless...time to get rid of that). I love this because the learning never stopped. There was no "Mrs. Prather I'm finished. What do I do now?" The room everyday was buzzing with precious little kindergarteners who were focused reading through books, getting markers, paper, in small groups talking about their projects. They didn't want to take rest time but wanted to work through it (guess nap time is officially over)! You create the environment, the opportunity, the aura, and learning will happen (think potty training, how to walk, how to talk etc.). Kids are natural learners. No need to force it...but facilitate it.

Why My School Will be Different

Visited a school today. I toured the school and this is what I saw. Kids walking through the hall way with their hands folded behind their back. I guess i had a "look" on my face because a teacher says, "Oh we make them do that so they won't touch the walls when they walk through the hall." Um...you want 5 and 6 year olds to be so confined that they cannot even touch a wall when they walk??? Looked around the classrooms on a tour and saw desks with worksheets. I hate worksheets. I saw clean classrooms and perfectly lined desks and tables. An orderly classroom means the teacher is doing all the talking and the kids are doing little "doing." Um...thanks but I don't think this is the place for me to work or for my creative and expressive children to attend. So me opening a school is looking more and more like a good idea.