Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The impeded stream is the one that sings

"There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say "It is yet more difficult than you thought." This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings."
-Wendell Berry

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Transition Time

We have officially said good-bye to Hemphill House and all the memories we made there this summer. The porch is empty, the house is filled with regular house furniture, there is no happy colorful clutter, paintings drying on the railing, wooden toys on the shelves, produce in baskets and food preparations in the kitchen. No children running through it all.
It is quiet now and Free Range Childhood is looking for a new home. The two places we had considered are not going to be viable and so we are in an expectant waiting stage.
The primary families involved are taking a couple weeks sabbatical and other participants are waiting to find out what the next step will be.
It is likely that this will be a quieter, scaled back year where we have a little more time and space to put thought into shaping our learning community. We have been building a full-time project from scratch while running it full-time. That's the grassroots way and its been big and beautiful but we need a bit of a rest for the fall and possibly the winter to allow for things to unfold a bit more slowly, a bit more mindfully.
Also it's likely our name will change to reflect the direction we are moving in - a supportive community of families learning and advocating for change together.
We are currently thinking of New Appalachia FreeSchool Community.
Feedback welcome.
The last two weeks of our summer the small and middle children had learned to paddle the canoe by themselves with a shovel because we didn't have paddles for it. They took turns paddling the child ferry around and around the pond weeds stalking frogs, trailing fingers along the water's surface, jumping, shouting and swimming off its overturned red hull. They rushed to the canoe first thing after morning chores and stayed for the entire day, becoming pond dwellers, inhabiting the murky brown shallows in mismatched swimsuits and old clothes, aquatic and alive, hallowing out the sunburnt hem of summer. On one of the last days, they pulled the canoe on the shore, sunny side up, and enlisted the older boys to haul buckets of hot water to fill it in order to create a homemade hot tub to ease off the day.
It was a priceless summer and I look forward to what the fall will bring.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Good Things

It always reinforces that one is part of something bigger than oneself when help keeps appearing and good things happening just when you need it most, but didn't know you'd need it ahead of time in order to ask for it.
That's a big sentence.
It seems to be a season of many changes for many people and we are no exception. We will most likely be moving locations for the fall which is both sad, as we love our beautiful house here, but also very exciting as we look at a beautiful eco-building on an organic farm with lots of other phenomenal opportunities.
As we processed that this past week, the overwhelmingness of it has been offset by amazing help and affirmations from some traveling WWOOF'ers (young people serving on organic farms) dropping in unexpectedly then deciding to stay a while and Sparrow being here two days a week with lots of enthusiasm, energy and ideas.
Favorite quote from one of the WWOOFers: "I've never been involved with such well-behaved children! They are so responsive and self-directed." While on the inside, we often see the melt-down moments too, (like when none of the kids wanted to clean up the massive pillow-and-blanket-fort shanty town they had erected at the back of the house after it had disintegrated into earthquake rubble), it is really true that given respect and freedom, children will respond accordingly. I think the kids here are unbelievably amazing.

We received a huge donation of bottlecaps. And huge is not an exaggeration. We started a bottlecap project yesterday using an one-inch hole punch to cut out images and place little found objects inside the caps. We've been sealing them with poly-resin to make little worlds-inside-bottlecaps.
The older kids have found a new "addiction" (their words) and are now cutting up comic books to create heroes, villains, quotes and assorted images inside the caps and have begun an elaborate trading game with them. The craft table has been covered all day and breaks were only taken to eat and have brief trading sessions. It is 7pm, many of the children have stayed for the evening and they are still at it.

We have been learning new songs with Sparrow and weaving them into the fabric of our daily rhythms. We have begun singing before daily meal, singing as we clean up, and singing at the end of the day. These tiny adjustments to the day add a great deal.

We have been very crafty with Aspen (one of the WWOOFers) here and have made potato stamps, collages, bottlecap creations and paintings.
Michele was here yesterday teaching the children "plant magic" and healing. They have been making herbal tinctures that will be in practical use for our apothecary. The last one was a calming tincture which the children named "Heal The World With Calmness" but spelled it on the jar, "Heal The World With Comeness." It is very cute.
Today they made a tincture with the kids' favorite common herb "Self Heal." The small purple clover-like flowers grow weed-like all season in the field and by the roadside. The children love the fact that it is so accessible and continually experiment with its many different usages.

There were visitors out today to learn about the project and we will have another open house next Tuesday, although visitors are welcome anytime.

Rosetta spent the late afternoon canoeing small children around the pond.
Tomorrow, Hanifa will be here and Denise will be painting rocks with the kids. We want to go on a long woods walk to observe the changing season.

Summer is getting late and we look forward to what fall will bring.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Groundwork Laid...The Coming Fall

With our first summer coming to a close and the fall on our doorstep, we are starting to think about our structure for the fall.
We will be having open houses every Tuesday for the next two weeks in which interested families can stop in for a visit. We'll have refreshments and information and can talk about the structure and plans for the fall.
If you know of any families interested in truly alternative education and supportive community, please pass along our information. There is a "family" forming that is varied and beautiful and we are excited about what is and what will come.
Somw great news is that we have really fun new staff. Sparrow Pants, accordian player, artist, circus performer, acrobatic wonder, music teacher, and all around super mom and great teacher is here every Monday and Tuesday doing all sorts of stuff. Today as I write, the kids are playing musical chairs to the accordian out on the porch and have been learning rounds and folk songs with her the last couple of days.
Hanifa, the exuberant Kosovo matriarch who I have mentioned several time in this blog, will be here every Wednesday and Friday, loving the children, helping with the younger children, cooking and gardening.
Ongoing is:

Monday: Music and Partner Acrobatics with Sparrow
Crafts and Sewing
Herbalism with Michelle every other Monday afternoon
Tuesdays: Music with Sparrow
Cooking lessons with Cookie of Morning Glory Cafe
Outdoor Games
Wednesdays: Yoga with Asheville Yoga Instructor,Mado
Art and Painting with Denise
Guitar Lessons with Juan Holladay of the B-Sides
Belly Dancing with Logan of Body Lyrics and Baraka Mundi
Thursdays: TBA
Fridays: Yoga with Mado
Canoeing and Pond day

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

We Like Cold Beverages

So when I was a kid, I knew making a plastic pitcher of Kool-Aid like the back of my hand. A packet of red powder, a (larger than necessary) scoop of white sugar, fill with cold water, stir and stir, taste test frequently off the wooden spoon and presto! A big sugary vat of artificial flavor and color on the rocks!

During the summer months here at the House, we want to keep everyone duely hydrated during long days of outdoor play. We have a small table with fresh flowers and two large clear pitchers - one with water and one with daily made lemonade, lime-ade or cold herbal fruit tea. The kids have also mastered a handful of other natural summer beverages that are very satisfying and have been rewarding to make. Here are a few of our favorites:

HERBAL SUMMER TEAS: Today we have hot-brewed mint tea that one mother made with a touch of agave and then refridgerated.
We've experimented with different sun-teas. Tomorrow we will be trying fresh mint, blueberry honey tea. We'll put the mint and blueberries in a large jar, fill with water, cover and set it out in the sun for 4-5 hours. Stir in honey and serve.
Our favorite and easiest for the summer is Celestial Seasonings Cool Brew tropical fruit herbal tea. It has hibiscus, rooibos, honeybush, rosehips and other delicious things. You just put a few bags in cold water, add a few drops of stevia and keep in a pitcher outdoors for the day.

BANANA MILKSHAKES: Almost Daily! Rosetta bought a huge quantity of over-ripe bananas for .10 cents a pound. The kids peeled and froze them in bags. All we have to do is take a few out each day, put them in the blender, cover with milk and you have a very sweet and satisfying milkshake.

SPARKLING WATERMELON SODA: Inspired by a friend's recent birthday party. We scoop out watermelon chunks, put them in the blender, pour a few inches of cold seltzer water over it and blend on smoothie setting. When the watermelon is really ripe and sweet...oh goodness.

LEMONADE AND LIME-ADE: Depending on the day, the kids will squeeze fresh lemons or limes. In hurries, we just use bottled juice, add water and stevia to taste.

FLOWER ICE: Tomorrow we will be freezing edible flowers from our garden and strawberries into ice cube trays to make adornment for our blueberry mint tea.