Wednesday, February 22, 2012


At NWE School, we see ourselves as co-parents. Here is a poem by Shakta Kaur Khalsa. 

Clouds of Light

They look so small and frail
but they are so great and magnificent.
They are born of the same womb
that birthed the cosmos and knitted together the galaxies. 
If you could see them as they truly are,
you would be astounded.
You would see not little children,
but dancing clouds of light,
energy in motion,
swimming in an ocean of love.

They are so much more
than what you see
as are you

Life can seem mundane 
But it is not.
Children can seem ordinary,
and troublesome,
and fragile.
But they are not.
You may feel alone,
and separated,
and powerless.
But you are not. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Words of reflection and bringing in the New Year!

Welcoming in the New Year – I am overwhelmed by all that I have learned in the past 3 months in starting this school. It is one thing to read, research, form theories and another in putting it all together in practice and action.
I wish so much I could have taken you with us on this journey – experiencing children as they learn and grow with freedom and nature as their guide and teacher. Vanessa and I have humbly taken back seats as we bask in the simplicity of teaching children.
No Grades = No Fear
This is my first time experiencing a gradeless teaching environment. I have always seen the harm in grades from promoting and nurturing low self-esteem to creating a stressful competitive environment and a feeling of not being "good enough." Grades add little value to a child or their parents.  The negative backlash of a point system has always been clear and motivating. Now sitting on the other side, I can share the beauty and success of creating a “no grade zone.”
I have seen that when fear is eliminated, children very naturally and enthusiastically challenge themselves. They are motivated to take on their own personal weaknesses and do so with confidence. That confidence is buoyed with support, guidance, and love of a teacher who only sees success.
Another inspiration given to me by our children is their ability to thrive in every way you can imagine in nature. Again we can all agree that children in nature is natural and good. But here I had to jump out of my comfort zone and become an observer. I found the more I stepped back, the more magic I observed. Without structure or expectations children who are given quality extended time in nature with freedom to explore it, climb in it, dig in it, observe it – become explorers, scientists, adventurists, seekers of treasure, finders of fossils,  to name just a few. What they teach me through their observations and experiences, well simply blew my mind.
How exciting it is to be able to share with you these truths:
Freedom and Love promote untold:
Intellectual growth and development
Physical comfort and expression
Spiritual journeys and awareness
All of this is easily seen in the eyes of a child given this new paradigm in education. They sparkle with happiness.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mornings at the school!

Children work at their own pace on different learning objectives.  Music in the background helps with focus and concentration. A beautiful learning environment!

Wisdom has a place in schools

Tell me, and I'll forget. 
Show me, and I may not remember. 
Involve me, and I'll understand. 
- Native American Proverb

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Play, curiosity, and learning go hand in hand

Will the next generation have a Steve Jobs?

The forecast doesn't look good. In an era of parental paranoia, lawsuit mania and testing frenzy, we are failing to inspire our children's curiosity, creativity, and imagination. We are denying them opportunities to tinker, discover, and explore -- in short, to play.

Click to read full article:  If We Don't Let Our Children Play, Who Will Be the Next Steve Jobs? 

...We are raising today's children in sterile, risk-averse and highly structured environments. In so doing, we are failing to cultivate artists, pioneers and entrepreneurs, and instead cultivating a generation of children who can follow the rules in organized sports games, sit for hours in front of screens and mark bubbles on standardized tests....

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The importance of play

One of our lovely parents forwarded this article to us! The full article, featured in The Atlantic, can be reached here:
"All Work and No Play: Why Your Kids Are More Anxious, Depressed"

When children are in charge of their own play, it provides a foundation for their future mental health as older children and adults. Gray mentions five main benefits:

1. Play gives children a chance to find and develop a connection to their own self-identified and self-guided interests.
As they choose the activities that make up free play, kids learn to direct themselves and pursue and elaborate on their interests in a way that can sustain them throughout life. Gray notes that: " school, children work for grades and praise and in adult-directed sports, they work for praise and trophies.... In free play, children do what they want to do, and the learning and psychological growth that results are byproducts, not conscious goals of the activity."

2. It is through play that children first learn how to make decisions, solve problems, exert self control, and follow rules.
As children direct their own free play and solve the problems that come up, they must exert control over themselves and must, at times, accept restrictions on their own behavior and follow the rules if they want to be accepted and successful in the game.
As children negotiate both their physical and social environments through play, they can gain a sense of mastery over their world, Gray contends. It is this aspect of play that offers enormous psychological benefits, helping to protect children from anxiety and depression.
"Children who do not have the opportunity to control their own actions, to make and follow through on their own decisions, to solve their own problems, and to learn how to follow rules in the course of play grow up feeling that they are not in control of their own lives and fate. They grow up feeling that they are dependent on luck and on the goodwill and whims of others...."
Anxiety and depression often occur when an individual feels a lack of control over his or her own life. "Those who believe that they master their own fate are much less likely to become anxious or depressed than those who believe that they are victims of circumstances beyond their control." Gray believes that the loss of playtime lessons about one's ability to exert control over some life circumstances set the scene for anxiety and depression.

3. Children learn to handle their emotions, including anger and fear, during play.
In free play, children put themselves into both physically and socially challenging situations and learn to control the emotions that arise from these stressors. They role play, swing, slide, and climb trees ... and "such activities are fun to the degree that they are moderately frightening ... nobody but the child himself or herself knows the right dose."
Gray suggests that the reduced ability to regulate emotions may be a key factor in the development of some anxiety disorders. "Individuals suffering from anxiety disorders describe losing emotional control as one of their greatest fears. They are afraid of their own fear, and therefore small degrees of fear generated by mildly threatening situations lead to high degrees of fear generated by the person's fear of losing control." Adults who did not have the opportunity to experience and cope with moderately challenging emotional situations during play are more at risk for feeling anxious and overwhelmed by emotion-provoking situations in adult life.

4. Play helps children make friends and learn to get along with each other as equals.
Social play is a natural means of making friends and learning to treat one another fairly. Since play is voluntary and playmates may abandon the game at any time if they feel uncomfortable, children learn to be aware of their playmates' needs and attempt to meet them in order to maintain the play.
Gray believes that "learning to get along and cooperate with others as equals may be the most crucial evolutionary function of human social play ... and that social play is nature's means of teaching young humans that they are not special. Even those who are more skilled at the game's actions ... must consider the needs and wishes of the others as equal to their own, or else the others will exclude them." Gray cites increasing social isolation as a potential precursor to psychopathology and notes that the decline in play may be "both a consequence and a cause of the increased social isolation and loneliness in the culture."

5. Most importantly, play is a source of happiness.
When children are asked about the activities that bring them happiness, they say they are happier when playing with friends than in any other situation. Perhaps you felt this way when remembering your own childhood play experiences at the beginning of this article.
Gray sees the loss of play time as a double whammy: we have not only taken away the joys of free play, we have replaced them with emotionally stressful activities. "[A]s a society, we have come to the conclusion that to protect children from danger and to educate them, we must deprive them of the very activity that makes them happiest and place them for ever more hours in settings where they are more or less continually directed and evaluated by adults, setting almost designed to produce anxiety and depression."