Dear Violet Glen Families,
October seemed to be the month of transition. I watched the children put down their guards with one another, breathe a bit easier, and find trust in their class community, challenges and all. Not that we don’t experience conflict or disagreements, but the children begin to interact and engage with somewhat of an unconditional love. It is heartwarming to observe them truly “see” each other, recognize their friends’ struggles, and embrace them and accept them as is, without judgement or feeling a need to “fix” one another. As a teacher, I can learn a lot from this instinctual gesture of my little friends. Is it really my job to “fix” any of the children in my care? Or is it my job to observe them, be curious about their struggles, and hold them in love and warmth as they navigate through the work of growing into their sound body and mind? I always tell parents that their children’s peers will be their best teachers. I believe this is true because the children change their behavior, not because they have been shamed or punished into doing so, but because their friends have opened a genuine space for them to walk through and try on a new way of being. True transformation happens when it is motivated by our own interest in change, not by pleasing others around us. What a gift they are to one another.
I also felt many moments where I could so strongly appreciate being outdoors with the children. There is a saying from a well known Outdoor Educator, Erin Kenny, “Children cannot bounce off the walls if we take away the walls.” I remember the challenge of being in a classroom with 20 Kindergarteners, and the dread of them deciding to be silly. That silly, when everything they do is so funny and ridiculous. For adults it often looks strange, chaotic, and noisy. For children, I think it is one of their most joyful experiences, to be goofy silly with a friend. I found myself watching two friends in the Glen sharing this silly kind of experience together. I could feel the remnant tension rise in me, remembering how that felt in a four walled room with a large class of children. I would try and divert the play and redirect their energies. If that didn’t work, then they probably would be asked to do work with myself or the assistant. I am sure they most likely equated that to punishment. Such a shame I had to take away that good bonding play experience for those friends. Because really, all they were doing was having fun. So, it felt so nice to watch those friends be silly in the Glen and not say a word and let them do it as long as they needed because it wasn’t bothering anyone. And when it was done, I could sense that their relationship had strengthened from that experience together. I am realizing how much of simply being a child is hindered when we focus too much on form and order that comes hand in hand with being indoors and having lesson plans with little ones. We forget to watch them with wonder and curiosity, and find appreciation in their joy.
Finally, I am officially winterizing the Hut this weekend. It seems it is time. I have also started winterizing my wardrobe and my morning routine. This requires about 10/15 extra minutes of dressing time to accommodate my layers and the practice of eating a hearty breakfast to help boost my body’s warming capacity for the morning. It is a bit of extra work and thought but feels good to be best preparing for my day. And I have realized it is essential for me to succeed in doing what I do. If I am cold and unprepared while outdoors, that will directly impact my mood and ability to be present with the children. I encourage you to do the same with your children. Much better for them to be overdressed than underdressed. It is easier to cool off than it is to warm up on an already chilly day. At this point insulated, waterproof boots are ideal for weathering the cold and the wet. And a hat and gloves or mittens are nice to have, certainly to start out the day. We are always very thoughtful in letting them shed when needed. I also know the uncomfortable feeling of being too warm. Thank you, thank you, thank you for putting in this extra work as parents. I am not a person who likes to waste time. I feel it is a very precious gift and like to use it wisely and efficiently. And I know it can often feel fleeting. But I can assure you, investing in this for your children allows them to experience things that many do not because it is “too cold” out or because it is “such a miserable day.” I believe it will ultimately help to fortify and strengthen their bodies and soul, as well as expand their bandwidth of resiliency and capacity to do hard things. It is one of the exceptional gifts an Outdoor School has to offer. It invites the children to “weather the weather, whether they like it or not.”
Early School Age (Beavers)
Games, games, games…how they love the games. We are playing many games, some known, some new. Although I like to find games that don’t rely heavily on points and winners, I have realized that many fun games have teams where one team might win and the other not. Or one child might win and the others not. As we move through that space of “winning” and “losing” I continually remind the children that we are playing to have fun, and although someone might eventually win the game to conclude the game, it doesn’t change any of the fun we had playing the game. I never allow friends to be boastful or brag at the end of a game and encourage the teams to congratulate each other on a job well done. I do understand that in life we don’t always win and sometimes somebody achieves a goal that you may have been striving for. It is good for us to be able to weather and appreciate another’s success without it interfering too much with our own well-being. One team may have won this time but the next time we play it might be the other team that wins. I truly feel this is an important space to be attentive as their teacher. I don’t allow the kids to criticize members on their team and I always choose the teams, so as to avoid the common predicament of being the last child picked, or certain children always being together. It is good for them to practice playing playfully, in the spirit of fun and not too much seriousness. I am paying close attention to these details as we venture into these games.
Aside from games, the children are finding their interests when it comes to project time. I always invite a few options but encourage them to recognize what they enjoy doing. For some, that might be sewing or other smaller, fine motor activity; for others that might be fire tending or fort building, more full body work. Both will require more focussed attention and progression towards a desired goal. I also hope to deepen our experience with stories and plays in this group. We have been experimenting with simple charades to get a bit comfortable “acting” in front of a group.
Aside from all of these details, I am recognizing much kindness in the children. There seems to be a genuine care for all and a joy to be present amongst each other. We will continue to nourish and strengthen this quality as we navigate our play and work together.
Adolescent Group (Hawks)
Our oldest group got to create a “yurt home” in the big woods this last week. It is our goal to include them in the daily decision making process of our day as they are growing into young adults. We invite them to have more ownership of their experience with the directed guidance of Ms. Anna and I. We are really wanting them to recognize passions or strong curiosities and help create a space to pursue these interests. I feel we are still getting settled into this relationship dynamic. Connection and trust seem to be essential foundation pieces in creating this environment. This connect happens as we work together physically and as we dive into important topics of the world they are growing into and currently know. As we strengthen and build this trust, we hope to widen our adventures and further deepen our physical, cultural, and artistic experiences.
I am often hesitant to recommend a “parenting” book as I feel it can wrongly enforce the assumption that there is a right and wrong way to parent and can often set us up to fail when things don’t go as they describe in the book. Being a parent is hard work and it frequently doesn’t go as we would hope. Although we can’t change that fact, we can look at how we manage and navigate these challenging circumstances that come up. I have been reading Kim John Payne’s book, Being at Your Best When your Kids Are at Their Worst, both as a teacher and parent of a 12 and 15 yr old. I have found much insight in navigating those most challenging moments with our children, when we end up responding or reacting in a way we regret or that doesn’t feel helpful. He emphasizes the importance of meeting our children with curiosity rather than judgement. With an authentic wonder of “why” when it seems they are being so naughty, rude, or unkind. It has invited me to approach these engagements with my children with greater calmness and less frustration and anger. It is all practice and will never be perfect but it has offered helpful tools on this parenting journey.
As we enter our season of bundling up to weather the elements, I have attached an article for inspiration. Although the children are not climbing mountain peaks, we are most assuredly building our resilience and strengthening our capacity to see and appreciate the good…
- Friday, Nov 5th, 5:00pm: Lantern Walk at the Wood Lot (I will send out a separate informative email regarding this event)
- Monday, Nov 22 – Friday, Nov 26th: No School (Thanksgiving Break)
**Thank you to all who helped create the magic of the Enchanted Forest. It is truly such a gift to offer the children, and the adults 🙂
Thank you for all that you do as members of our community. Enjoy your weekend…
Erin, Jodie, and Anna