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.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Rainy Monday

Yesterday was our first rainy day here at the House. Which goes to show how much we needed the rain. Which also means for the first four weeks of the program, the children have been outside almost every moment of every day. That is a brilliant kind of success.
Not having a big rainy day plan, we make-shifted a few activities while the kids, free from the obligatory parental, "Don't get your clothes wet," spent most of their day "washing their hair" under the roof run-off, playing and dancing in the downpour, ("Dancing in the rain is my favorite thing!" - Wren), and playing in the large puddles forming in the driveway, (supervised, of course).
Instead of just lighting incense at the beginning of the day, when we open up the space and wake up and bless the house, we kept it burning all day. We lit candles in the kitchen, kept the coffeee pot on, baked sweet cornbread and biscuits and talked and dreamed about where we're going. We need to keep doing that regularly.
The kids and I played memory and logic games sitting in a big circle and walking around the living room with papers stuck to our foreheads. We read books, built with blocks, worked on geometry puzzles.
We set up the art table to make miniature books, but no-one was really into it. There were a few new children here and everyone was mostly excited to play in the rain and with newly made friends.
A big group of kids found a monster puddle in the driveway. Literally. They came running on the porch at one point to announce that there was, in fact, a monster in the puddle. Petra, who had been brave enough to wade into the middle, had seen two eyes and felt something grab her leg.
It didn't seem to keep them away too long. They systematically threw boots, rocks, paper and anything else they could find into the puddle to find out what floats and what sinks.
We spent the last minutes of the day tidying up and doling out the dry and clean clothes between the children - like the fish and loaves, there seemed to be more than enough go around with a few to spare. (It helps that our apartment is upstairs).

Sometimes I feel a bit inadequate that I don't have anything to send home with the kids at the end of the day. No special craft project or stack of papers.
I was telling a friend about it this evening, wondering if I had done enough. Did I have enough activities? Should I have planned something more concrete?

She said, the day you just described sounds like a dream day from my childhood. If you had been my teacher, I would have LOVED you.

She also reminded me that being here with the children each day, being present, intuiting the flow of the day and responding accordingly- improv in its' best sense- is a huge creative endeavor. It is a very specific and special kind of work - holding positive and imaginative space open for 12-18 children each day.

We do plan a lot of projects for the kids. There are always ongoing ideas and creative ventures happening. Last week, our bathroom was filled up and covered in vines, soaking in the bathtub. This week, just a perfect circlular "sun" spiral of last week's progress on the basket we are weaving from those vines.

Education, like friendship, like community, like any kind of meaningful and lasting growth, should also be a slow process. And it needs both sunshine and rain, busy days and quiet days.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Gratitude and Abundance, a community house's prayer

And this is just one week's worth! :

Thank you, David, for showing up unexpectedly with 8 dozen eggs from your farm. We made gorgeous omelettes and ate our fill. We sent boxes of eggs home with friends and family.

Thank you Michelle for bringing vegetables from your garden, unasked for. We made an amazing huge pot of soup. There was so much leftover we packed it in recycled yogurt containers and sent some home for dinner with almost every family.

Thank you Hanifa for more vegetables from your garden the next day! I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and wasn't sure if we'd have enough food that day.
We talked in the kitchen chopping vegetables while Warren took the children for a walk in the woods. We ate the "fruit of paradise" ; you said keeping busy was the best way to stay alive and I believe women who have lived in refugee camps with 6 children in tow.
We threw everything in the pot, reminding me of Stone Soup, put it over rice and lunch was perfect. We had lots left to feed visitors who stayed and ate with us on the porch. They went back for seconds, thirds. There is still some left to give to the children who will come tomorrow with special dietary needs.

Thank you also for the bag of new toys; the children dived into them with relish and got started right away using the kitchen stuff for fresh mud pies and flower soups.
Thanks you for your big Kosovo heart. The children always ask when you will come and greet you each day with special respect. Noah, my perceptive and discerning preteen who does not dole out compliments lightly, said that you were the kindest person he knew.

Thank you Jodi, dear friend and Short Street Cakes lady, for showing up this week and jumping right in. For swooning with the palpable magic of the space, for making plantain polstices and cleaning up the dishes and affirming all the good that's happening here. Can't wait for you to come bake cakes the old way.

And Emma, worker-owner of Firestorm Cafe and community activist, for believing in community ownership and coming to help when I had no-one else to fill in. For staying long hours on the porch talking and dreaming about how you could bring your jewlery making tools and skills and offering to help if ever I need it. And reminding me of that several times. You said community education is worth volunteering time and energy and resources to even though you, yourself, don't have children. You believe in it.

Thank you Warren for taking walks with the kids, for getting out the microscope after the walk and being present while everyone came to take looks at beetle's wings and frog's blood and tree skin cells.

Thank you Mado, for weaving magic with the yoga you do with the children. It is one of my favorite parts of the week. It was amazing to see almost every kid filling up the yoga room, totally present. You bring so much awareness and creativity to everything you do. I feel blessed when you show up each week.

Thank you, Juan, busy as you are, for coming to play guitar with the kids and loving it. It's a whole level of coolness to have a Asheville super star here every week, loving to be with the kids. The day always gets better when you walk in with your grace and peace, even though you're busy, and really show up for the kids- spending more time than planned every week because you're so into it. As a result they're so into it.

Thank you Denise, for volunteering your time and centeredness and long years of experience to guide the children through art every Wednesday. There were so many kids out with you on the porch and a Zen calm filling the whole thing. The way you make yourself accessible but not obtrusive and stay for long hours so the children can flow in and out of it naturally is really beautiful and works so well with the atmosphere we are trying to create. It makes our Wednesdays so enjoyable.

Thank you Logan for coming even though you and Malachi had had an exhausting week, because you knew the girls were looking forward to belly-dancing again. Another Asheville super-star bringing professional teaching to the kids with a huge amount of love and positivity. You and all those girls dressed up and giggling, jangling hips and waving fans, is about as cute as it gets. No-one can resist peeking in. It means so much that people are not only giving lip service to the project but are personally comitted to making this happen each week. That alone overwhelms me with humility and gratitude, that I get to be right here in the middle of it.

Thank you every off-the-charts incredible child showing up with your goodness. To watch you do your stuff - caring for each other, all ages, and working through problems and spending hours making art and making games and making food and making fun every day makes me feel as if I'm in a beautiful dream every single day. Today Lucius told his mom, "I was a real artist! I spent the whole day at this art table!" And the art table showed every sign of intensive use. It was gorgeous.

Thank you for the mystery and the unseen hands that hold it all together. It is goodness in the making.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

From Jodi of Short Street Cakes, Asheville: an amazing woman in her own right and dear friend

"Jasper and I just spent the morning at Hemphill House Commons, the freerange childhood homestead/freeschool started by my friends Mary Ellen Phillips and Rosetta Star of Rosettas Kitchen. This experience is inspiring me on many levels.
In just a few hours, in a totally spontaneous way, we and the kids 1)made a plantain poultice for one of the kid's bee sting, 2) saw seahorses, spiderwebs, and a rabbit skeleton, 3) cared for plants and miniature ponies, 4) learned about knife safety cutting up beets for lunch 4) cleaned the kitchen communally 5) had some great conversations and 6) learned how to play fuzball, among many other things.
I am inspired by my friends, who are creating family and community structures that are flexible, organic, functional, and specific to place. I'm inspired by the way that this project (and many others in town) can be seen as a continuation of the groundwork towards true sustainable community that has evolved in the ten years that I've lived in Asheville- I'm thinking ACRC, Asheville Freeschool, and many others. I'm continually inspired by the people that continue to take risks, take leaps, and follow their hearts.
It was like summer camp, but it was more like life."

Monday, July 5, 2010

New Educational Paradigms

Warren is at the table eating cherries with Mira, who is humming and carefully placing her cherry pits in the small striped bowl designated just for that.
Mia is holding the cockatiel reclining on the sofa, intently observing it's avian habits.
There are boys on the porch gathered around the new foosball table. There are kids on the trampoline.
It is cool today and quiet. A change from the hot, busy and bustling days earlier in the week. I am using this time to do some research, writing and catching up.
Three educational models prominently on my mind are Reggio schools of urban post-war Italy, Krishnamurti schools of southern India and The Appalachian Settlement School Movement of rural eastern Kentucky at the turn of the century.
I am drawn to these models because they realised and acted upon the socio-economic, cultural, spiritual and historical uniqueness of their specific communities, children and families. They recognized the limits, destructiveness and ineptitude of solely academic learning based on homogenizing individuals to serve obsolete purposes and institutional needs. They shaped new and creative social institutions to best serve and meet the needs of their communities and a changing world.
Specific to all as well is the spiritual recognition of the need for space to facilitate both an inward focus, paying attention to our internal hemisphere and emotional responses, in addition an outward focus, paying attention to our human impact on natural ecosytems around us.
In looking for good models to draw from, I am especially inspired by The Center for Learning, outside Bangalore, India. Friends of mine spent time working in their extended community and turned me on to their website. I have been inspired by the work they have done in creating a model reflecting the values we also hold closely to. From their website:

CFL is a community of students and adults interested in learning about ourselves and our relationship with the world. This learning involves not only academics and other life skills, but also a deeper exploration about our emotions and thought processes and the way we respond to the challenges of life.

Centre For an attempt to explore the nature of learning and its relationship to the challenges we face today. We feel that living creatively and meaningfully demands from each of us a serious inner enquiry free from dogma and ideology. Without this, there looms the danger of losing ourselves in a world that values achievement and success above all else, unmindful of the damage to nature and community. Education has been reduced to preparing the young to compete in such a world...

As educators, we wish to meet the challenge of creating an environment where children and adults can inquire together in freedom, security and affection. Perhaps this can awaken a creativity in the individual, which will contribute greatly toward a spirit of responsibility and regeneration in society. The curriculum also aims to help students discover their interests and nurture rigorous skills in academic and non-academic areas.

To Live

Really to live requires a great deal of love, a great feeling for silence, a great simplicity with an abundance of experience; it requires a mind that is capable of thinking very clearly, that is not bound by prejudice or superstition, by hope or fear. All this is life, and if you are not being educated to live, then education has no meaning. You may learn to be very tidy, have good manners, and you may pass all your examinations; but, to give primary importance to these superficial things when the whole structure of society is crumbling, is like cleaning and polishing your fingernails while the house is burning down.

J Krishnamurti

Friday, July 2, 2010

Closing Monday

Free Range Childhood will be closed on Monday, July 5th for a family holiday, mid-summer's break. We'll see you on Tuesday.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


We all concur that we love visitors! So many people are curious about the project. And there is usually some fun or interesting thing going on. We welcome you to stop by for a little or alot - just be aware of the life being lived around the house and that we may be fairly busy. Often visitors will pitch in for a bit and become a part of the "life" of the day. It's also usually a welcome break to take a few minutes to give tours,(the children are very adept at this by now as well), sit and talk over tea and answer questions in person.
Hemphill House is quickly becoming what it was intended to be: a community, a "fellowship", a place where children and parents can be valued and supported and enjoy good company.
It's the most fun when we have the most neat people around. Feel free to stop by and check it out if you're curious.
The address is on the info of our blog and directions are simple to mapquest.

So Much

Tired. But the very best kind.

Yesterday: yoga, painting, group and private guitar lessons, zombie tag, burritos, a yellow jacket nest, homemade bubble making, two kittens, a puppy, the "options" game, a fairy palace out of sticks, two new kids, and ended the day with a great big mess and lots of girls dressed in jangles and Indian dress sets bellydancing with Logan well past closing hours: choreographing and performing with a total and utter lack of self-apprehension. It was beautiful. We all yelled and clapped and laughed. It was a party, a parade, and it was all homemade!

Today: dulcimer fever gettin' down in the great room to Bile Dem Cabbage Down, welcome friends and new faces stopping by every day here to get more information and a feel for our "thang" - curious about the newness and the differentness. Folk- dancing on the porch, artisan bread baking, more "scenarios" games - the big kids huddled on the trampoline for hours discussing what would you do in nuclear fall-out? Frog hunts and subsequent frog-terrarium-making. Beatles on loud and on repeat, (the 11 and 12 year old boys are DJ'ing - they keep hacking into the i-tunes), dress-up and tag and more kitten time. A baby chicken was born to Rosetta's hen, wet and dewy, but has not yet arrived at the House - we need chicken tractors!

Did I mention a mess? It is Annie Dillard who coined "this beautiful mess" and I concur.

The highlight of my day was a little tinkly sound behind me while playing dulcimer. I kept turning around to see Lucius, our bright and brilliant self-occupier, working hard on his marble tower - having opted out of dulcimers. I couldn't figure out where the tinkling sound was coming from. Finally, hearing it very loudly, I looked down and saw that he had placed the little brass Glockenspiel (a beautiful sounding pentatonic zylophone) under his marble tower so that as the marbles came down, they made music. That's why I'm here.

More thoughts this weekend. Keep posted.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Flower Garlands...

...the children and I gathered and sewed outside. It started with an uneasiness, every time I passed the front of the house, that such a mass quantity of fallen Rose of Sharon blossoms, littering the stone archway of the porch, were being lost to waste and destined to rot.
Annie Dillard remarks: "Nature is, above all, profligate. Don't believe them when they tell you how economical and thrifty nature is, whose leaves return to the soil. Wouldn't it be cheaper to leave them on the tree in the first place? This deciduous business alone is a radical scheme, the brainchild of a deranged manic-depressive with limitless capital. Extravagance! Nature will try anything once."
As the casuality rate increased and I became enamoured with the fallen - the beauty of color and perfection of form - I wanted to salvage them from this "deranged manic-depressive", but for what?
So, when the morning today did not go as planned and the children seemed unsettled and off center, I got out a sewing kit, handed a small basket to the smallest child and told him, fill this with flowers. He diligently attended his task, and I quietly engaged mine: shaping and sewing simple garlands from soft mauve skirts of fallen blossoms. I became more present, as did he, and before long we had an audience and soon after that, other children were taking the basket out further and further afield to collect leaf and blossom litter. The mood changed from scattered and unsettled to focused and present, and we all sat and sewed. We talked about patterns, they made up their own and followed them conscientiously.
From there, they settled in their own rhythm and direction for the day. Cookie showed up to give cooking lessons and prepared an enormous and phenomenal lunch with the older children, the weather was gorgeous outside, everyone played and built forts and fairy village improvements and the day flowed smooth as silk.
To show, our summer fireplace looks as if the wee folk have been at work.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Petra and the Fairy Teepee

A Fairy Tightrope for the Fairy Circus

Making Fairy Houses

Fish and Ponds

(the fish were already floaters. the boys wanted to dissect them as an experiment.)

The Week Ahead

Looks to be promising and busy! We have some regular weekly sessions starting, like cooking classes, art lessons, guitar lessons, adult/child yoga and belly-dancing. We also have amazing visitors leading herbalism and appalachian music this week.
As always, we try to strike a balance between creative, interesting options and the children having lots of unstructured time to play, jump on the trampoline and create their own games. Every day we will be cooking a large vegetarian meal together, spending time out of doors at the pond, creek and woods and working around the property, taking care of the animals and gardens.
In addition, here's the schedule thus far:

Monday - 11am - A local herbalist and mother will be leading a plant walk with us. We will gather flowers and local medicinals to make tinctures and flower essences following.

Tuesday - 11am - Cookie, gourmet chef and owner of Black Mountain's Morning Glory Cafe, will be here every Tuesday to give a cooking lesson and help the children prepare lunch.
Weekly Afternoon Art class with long time alternative school art teacher, (and Rosetta's mother!), Denise

Wednesday - 9am, parent and child yoga led by Mado.
11am - Natalia Grunwell, a French native and local artisan bread baker, will be here to give a class on baking simple no-knead artisan breads which we plan to continue to make weekly at the school.
1:30pm, Logan, of Body Lyrics Bellydancing, will be giving a children and adults belly-dancing class.
Juan Holloday of the B-Sides is here every Wednesday morning to give guitar instruction at $5 per child. (an amazing deal!) Bring your guitar!

Thursday - 9:30am Anne Lough, local dulcimer player and teacher, (and my mother! wink.), will be giving dulcimer lessons followed by traditional folk dancing on the porch. This session is open to the public at $12 per child.

Friday - 9am parent and child yoga led by Mado
Canoeing/pond day - bring your swimsuit!

As always, Hemphill House is open to visitors. Please contact us in advance if possible so we can have an idea of how our day/week is going to flow.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Creation and Courage: The doing and The undoing - "Forget Yourself"

"The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves." -C.G. Jung

"I have not failed. I have successfully discovered 1200 ideas that don't work." -Thomas Edison

"Give me a fruitful error any time, bursting with its own corrections. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself." Vilfredo Paret

It has been far from a "sterile" week.
Children are regularly wet or muddy or both. There are the obligatory scrapes, bruises and a few cuts - signs that children are out of doors using their bodies actively in play.
Someone donated a canoe. Friday afternoon saw Warren with makeshift paddles (read: shovels) taking the children around the pond, pulling invasive pondweeds out by their hands. Peeling off layers and going for a swim.
We built a big bonfire out of over growth the children cleared. The fire department peeked around the corner to say a friendly hello and make sure everything was under control. They seemed well enough pleased.
We have had guitar teachers, jugglers and stilt-walkers out.
We are continually making unanticipated impromptu decisions and more involved long-term decisions while trying to involve the children as much as possible in that process. We have realized the need to become more and more grounded in our guiding principles and why we are making the decisions we are making. But we are learning a great deal from that in and of itself.
This project is, as one staff described, "an organic process." That means that it is not only a natural, free-flowing progression shaped out of the particular materials and individuals local to this space and environment, but that it is also a creative process. That it leaves room for discovery, for surprises, serendipity, chance, and for learning from things that work as well as those that don't. Since we are trying new things and shaping our days organically, this means certain concrete disciplines -such as highly prioritizing circle time every day with the children to talk about what is and isn't working, what is and isn't good or safe, what needs to get handled better and decide what changes we need to make to create the space we all want to be able to thrive in. It means being aware of and responsibly addressing possible hazards and safety concerns.
It also means some not so concrete things, like trusting and listening to our intuitions. We are learning early on how to be attentive to input from others coming into the space while holding to our deep intentions - those mutually held ideals which have created this in the first place. It means not having an unrealistic expectation that everything will be perfect from the inception but giving ourselves space to continually evolve and make changes at a reasonable pace.
We are creating something new. And creating implies trying. And trying, creating. Fear of failure checked at the door.
Having the courage to do that as adults - to see every new venture full of errors and learning and growth - also gives children space to try things and re-arrange and try again. And that is fertile ground for true creativity.
There seems to be a cultural paranoia against any kind of "failure." The response in institutional and even much of what's passed as "alternative" education is to micro-manage, to pull the noose even tighter on the throat of freedom and creativity, to further reduce it to a "proven" formula that appeases worried parents and inept institutional "norms" by eliminating the elements of chance and the possibility that things might not go as planned. It is skirting the periphery of a hunch that every human is born containing everything they need to grow into who they need to be if left to grow freely.
Albert Einstein said, "I do not believe much in education. Each man ought to be his own model, however frightful that may be."
It can be frightening to put into an educational practice the belief that in the process of life, creativity and discovery, no-one can tell you the right answers to the test - that each individual must learn to rely deeply on their own intuition, perceptions and reason to develop an internal map with which to navigate life. To trust ourselves, to trust our children AND THEN to teach our children to trust themselves- making our educational highway out of an unpaved, bumpy dirt road- means a lifestyle of discovery, trusting that this road is going somewhere good and in the meantime, it's a hell of a ride. It is "bursting with possibilities."
I realized at the beginning of last week that I was so utterly stressed about the unknowns ahead. What if it doesn't work? What if the kids are bored? What if people think we don't know what we're doing? What if we DON'T know what we're doing?
By Monday, overwhelmed by a feeling that did not serve me well to begin with, I threw it up in the air and gave my heart and full attention to the presence and play of the children who had come that day without any such baggage. All sense of pressure dissipated.
I observed my children who could hardly sleep for the excitement of the next day of play. And then myself, who could hardly sleep for the worry of the next day. Children have an intuitive "play instinct acting from inner necessity." It is an adult discipline to simply show up with oneself and be guided by the children, back into that space. The gift, then, children give back to us when we show up unhindered to the canvas of right here, right now, ready to throw down and have fun, is to allow the creative organic process of this space, and thus our own selves, unfold.

In talking about this with a friend, I related an experience I had a couple of months ago. In the midst of a lot of personal changes and difficult decisions, I was under the weight of tremendous pressure.
I went to a party with a good friend as an effort to go out and have a "good time." We didn't know many of the people there; we ended up sitting in uncomfortable chairs, making meaningless small talk and exchanging knowing looks across the table. Bored, we picked up a detailed celtic cross coloring page someone had set out for St. Patrick's Day. We pulled in a basket of crayons and entered into our own little coloring universe at the end of the table.
Both dreamy, creative types, we became childishly excited about the opportunity: the possibility of what we could make together, directing our boredom toward a St. Patty's print-out. There was a subversive feel to the whole affair. A superiority in checking out to the tune of a coloring book.
We were fairly confident that we could harness our childhood expertise in coloring with our adult sophistication and create something pretty spectacular. We started testing colors and deciding on the best combinations and patterns. We were so sure it was going to be amazing.
We intently and carefully began to execute our masterpeice, immersing ourselves in the coloring - paying attention to detail, process and instinct while intuitively responding to the other, to the feeling of co-creation with someone you are resonating profoundly with.
It felt incredible, exhilerating even, until about halfway through. As all our process was finally beginnning to take shape and we had been intently coloring for a good while, we both began slowing down a bit to verbalise our nagging suspicion -that despite our subversive pride and our assurance that cooperatively we were going to astound the room- our little thing was turning out god-awful ugly.
At which point we laughed. And laughed. And laughed. A genuine emotion in a room of prentension. We couldn't stop laughing and amid the joy of utter failure, a gorgeous idea occurred - to make it as ugly as we possibly could. We started grabbing the worst colors we could find and filling it in heinously, trying to out-do ourselves in a celebration of banality. We fell off our seats laughing so hard.
That total release to abandonment and joy - the release of any pressure what-so-ever was brilliant. It was gorgeous.
It is a hidden beauty : to give oneself full permission to fail and to fail spectacularly and utterly with abandon and hold on to that joy or discouragement if it may be, and try again, in a different way, try something completely unheard of and try again - knowing that you're making PROGRESS. In all the attempts that don't work - the beautiful Something - the Perfection of the concept emerges. Just like that.
That is the space I want to stay in - the safe space I want to create here at the school.
Play - Making - Unmaking - Failing - Laughing - Playing Some More
A safe space for trying and creating. A safe space to be a child might feel dangerous to an adult.
And I'm not going to lie. It feels like it requires all the courage and faith I have available to me. But I am so whole-heartedly grounded in the what-for:
"Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself." -Henry Miller

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

All Beginnings

It is the quiet hours after , Day 2.
I could not find the inner space to write before we opened and I don’t know why. There is a German phrase, "Aller Anfang ist schwer." : "All beginnings are difficult."
Who wants an audience while taking those first few uncertain steps?
There are no practice runs behind closed doors here.
One day and 12 kids later, Rosetta and I looked at each other, puzzled, and said, "That was so easy. Piece of cake."
Two days and fourteen kids later, we sighed and said, "We're doing great but we need to keep thinking this through."
It seems despite, or maybe because of, the fact that we are both crazy, hair-brained schemers: wide-eyed opened-eyed dreamers who actually think we can accomplish what we dream of... so far it has worked! We have had friends and families joining in who are excited and gifted and ready to put in a day, a morning, an afternoon, share thoughts, bring concerns, pull poison ivy, sort books, drink wine, laugh and affirm, "This is amazing." "You're doing phenomonally." "It feels so great to be here." And it's happening. My children at the table tonight said, "I can't believe how amazing it is that all our dreams could come true." That's a nice legacy to be passing on.
Another mother picking up her children today was greeted with, "Mom, that was the best ever!"
The mother said her children had been wanting to go to school so, "they could eat in a cafeteria and have recess."
All they *really* did here was play in the sunshine all day and eat another amazing Rosetta meal fresh from the kitchen. I think we have cafeteria and recess covered at least - and hopefully a good bit more. Here's the list compiling after two days:
Cleared out the woods overgrown around the outdoor stove, which will be used for subsequent meals.
Discovered that we were pulling Japanese bittersweet vines and stripped and saved them to handweave a vine basket this week.
Made Fresh Vegetable soup and kid-rolled chapati's
Children defined rules, boundaries and need for respect, drew up a charter and map of the house and property
Drew and designed with crayons, chalk, scissors and other tools in the handbox of creativity
Identified the flowers in the spring meadow. Discovered heal-all, plantain, forget-me-not and rhodedendrons – found out we could cook heal-all in our soup or use it in a compress to heal a cut.
Hanifa came to help: a kind, loving, hovering, assertive Serbo-Albanian "grandma" who made the children eat their soup ("what do you mean you don't like it? Here. It is good food!" And the kids ate it); who told stories of being in refugee camps with 6 children, one of them 2 months old, and of how she was given asylum in the USA. She swept the porch more times in one day than I have in a month.
Went for a long attentive walk in the woods, indentified woodland flowers, wild mushrooms,newly hatched litters of millipedes and found a site to build a temporary woodland shelter
Read books and practiced reading with interested children
Sang "Yellow Submarine" with i-tunes at the top of our lungs
Got the salt-water aquarium set up and running: all ready for the seahorses and starfish
Set up the trampoline
Had a session with a wholistic animal attendant who will be volunteering at the farm
Made homemade play-dough
Rescued frogs
Involved and evolved impromptu games
told stories
sang songs
watered flowers
walked the ponies
built towers
and ate some more food today.

The children have hardly been inside at all.
And now a thunderstorm.
We are tired. But a happy good tired.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wish List will be with these things, we have a lot of wishes. Got stuff lying around?

Paper Lamp Shades
Bean Bags
Floor or outdoor cushions
Outdoor Furniture
Fort Building Materials:
-(indoor - pillows, cushions, sheets)
-(outdoor: scrap wood, windows, etc.)
Wooden Toys
wooden puzzles
musical instruments
tinker toys, etc.
play castle
outdoor toys
Science Toys and old Lab Equipment
“invention” stuff: wires, springs, recyclable materials, etc.
Creative and art supplies
Colorful things
Christmas lights
Picnic Tables
Outdoor Shelter
Garden tools and equipments
rabbit hutches
Hot tub
Fencing (non-electric)
Chicken tractors

Monday, June 7, 2010

And on Mass Education

"To trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves…and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted."
-John Holt

"We are shut up in schools and college recitation rooms for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bellyful of words and do not know a thing." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

"My schooling not only failed to teach me what it professed to be teaching, but prevented me from being educated to an extent which infuriates me when I think of all I might have learned at home by myself." -George Bernard Shaw

"Learning Means Dignity"

Learning means dignity
From an interview with Pedro Reyes Millan

"My work is handicraft work. It makes me very happy. I feel dignity because I find that with the more work that I do I find new knowledge in relation to my work. I pick up a piece and I start to work the piece, and I find something different from the piece of wood I was working last night. Always I am learning something. And learning means dignity.

To live is to work and act in a creative way. And by creative I mean dreams, emotion, feeling, intuition. When working on a piece of wood, I realize that in working with this piece as a tool I can communicate with other people. I feel that the people will understand what I am trying to say with that piece of wood. And I feel good, comfortable, with dignity, working with this approach."

Friday, June 4, 2010

Soiree in the Making

Rosetta's still in the infirmary,(bed), and although it won't be the same without her, we're going to try to pull it off tonight anyhow.
Jack is the lasagna man; we've got lots of help on the way and it promises to be a nice crowd.
Anyone is welcome to show up for the 5 o'clock tour and discussion without RSVP. There will be several people coming just for that segment. Dinner is at 7.
The miniature ponies are here and settling in well. I love to look out the window in the morning and see them grazing by the pond as the mist settles.
We'll introduce you to the otter, or at least show you where his den is and where he likes to eat fish. We'll have a playful session on education and life and community and ideals, Jack will be rocking the wet bar, the kids can romp and have an adventure, there will be lanterns in the trees. Should be a great evening again.
Come if you can. We'll repeat next week on Tuesday night.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Scheduling Updates

Tonight's dinner soiree is postponed until next Tuesday. Rosetta is really sick and tucked away for a couple of days. This is bad news for Rosetta and those of you who planned to come tonight. It is good news for some of you who couldn't make it this week. You'll have another opportunity next Tuesday.
We will still host Friday night.
Hope to see you there.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Asheville Craigslist Farm Pages

It is evening here at the house.
I lived an appalachian epic today through the rain and the first line of it was Asheville Craigslist farm pages, one that read: "SHEEP. Can go in freezer or be used as pets."

The refrain was something about driving ethereal Appalachian back roads because 1.the school (insert the I) wants farm animals and 2. I (with no other pretense) have been craving the kind of adventure that took me alone along drizzly fields and ridgelines Kurosawa couldn't have dreamed up while crossing switchbacks with names like "Papaw Elmer's Drive." The kind of adventure that would have me chasing castrated sheep across barnyards with a pregnant teenage mother,(whose parents were watching TV in the trailer), and quieting them with WWF neckholds while she explained that their testicles had not fallen off yet, but they would, and she hoped the children would not be too scared by that.

The stanzas were about a hitchhiking mother and toddler on the back floor of the van after they had gotten caught in the downpour still far from home, farmers' directions that read like Rumi, "sweep to the left," "keep following straight then sweep right," "there's a curve then it straightens and it curves again. Follow that." Bawdy black rams, skittish white ewes, fleeces sticky and damp having just come in from pasture, red hens, (lay real well and right personable too), the rabbit breeder's wife who smelled like sage leaves after the rain and whose face was a summer peach, all sweetness from inside. She couldn't have been more than 19, I thought when I first saw her, but no, her children were as old as mine.

I lived it all and saved it all like a child collecting pebbles at the shore, pockets wet and heavy on the ride home. Like James Herriot making tea over the aga stove, watching unpredictable weather pass over the moors.

The epic is wrapping up something like this:
in the wood living room of the school

baby rabbits in a box
by the fireplace
nursing goats' milk from an eyedropper.
a lost turtle,
the sheep in my heart but maybe not in my budget,

a tiny white moth with threadbare wings
I found barely alive at the end and have kept right beside me
on his deathbed where I type:
an old mottled brown copy of Whittier's poems:
“Oh, the outward hath gone! - but, in glory and
The SPIRIT surviveth the things of an hour;
Unchanged, undecaying, its Pentecost flame
On the heart's secret altar is burning the same !”

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The first big night

We had an incredible evening here tonight. In the mix were bright, intuitive and engaged Asheville friends, a great concept with lots of room for dreaming and discussion, a beautiful evening on a big covered porch and great food and - if it continues this way it's gonna be the sweetest little ditty being crooned anywhere near these parts. I am multi-dimensionally full. Will write more about it tomorrow. I have also been reunited with my camera, so pictures will be on the way.
In the meanwhile, here are some of the details about the program and space. It represents the basics of what we envision while being open and malleable. If you are still free Tuesday or Friday and haven't RSVP'ed yet, we'd love to have you in on the fun stuff.

What we are...
Free Range Childhood is a non-coercive learning environment which supports students becoming active participants in choices which affect their lives and communities.
We do not adhere to a traditional formal classroom structure. Instead, our “open classroom” consists of a fluid home-like environment where hot meals are being prepared in the kitchen, people are working in the garden, projects developing and art happening, walks being taken, books being read and questions asked and explored on an ongoing basis which the child may flow into or out of at any time. We value the natural rhythms of home life and of the child. Often in the afternoon there will be large outdoor games on the lawn or children will have extensive time to explore and run free or have down time to themselves. While the students and staff will be expected to participate in the daily upkeep of the house, garden and farm animals, we facilitate as much freedom, space and personal choice inside that structure as possible.

In addition, there will be daily and weekly optional classes in outdoor and life skills, dance and movement, music, environmental science, foreign languages, etc. We will also offer more traditional academic tracks and tutoring as desired by students and families involved.

There will be no grades, testing or other formal evaluations. We consider ourselves
co-pilgrims alongside each individual's personal growth and learning journey. Because of that, we will have regular child/adult "school" meetings in which all ages will democratically take part in decisions which affect the group and themselves. We value open and positive communication and will assist and empower students in their own interests while facilitating a respectful and mutually encouraging environment.

Summer Program Hours
The summer program will run weekly from June 14 until July 9, take a week off , and run again July 19 through August 13.
Full-time and Part-time scheduling available.

Membership to the commons, $5 per month
Summer program, $25 per day, (discount for multiple children)
Drop in, $30 per day (less than a week advance notice)
Fees must be made in advance.
Part of the cost can be offset by work-exchange for “commons currency”

Commons Currency
Commons Currency is similar to a barter and trade system. It will allow members to track hours of service and other contributions to The Commons and Childhood Program and apply the credit to membership and tuition fees.
Commons Currency is based on reciprocity and will be determined by hourly rates or mutually determined value of resources.
The Commons will also be working in conjunction with local alternative currencies such as Asheville L.E.T.S. to create sustainable means of lifestyle enrichment and educating our children.

Current Needs of the project are:

Daily Program Staff
Administrative Planning and Oversight
Garden Creation
Planning and facilitating adult enrichment program
Teaching children's or adult classes
Building a Treehouse or other handy-person projects
Stream and/or Pond Restoration
Housekeeping/ Cleaning
Property Maintenance
Food Planning and Preparation

The Larger Picture of “The Commons”

The concept of the commons was birthed out of a desire as busy parents, entrepreneurs, artists, activists and educators to live more simply, to have less, to grow more of our own food, enjoy fresh healthy meals regularly and share life with others in meaningful ways - to know our neighbors and have a strong network of "good folk" in our lives and our children's lives. Also part of the mutual dream was living in a large country estate or farmhouse with beautiful gardens, horses to ride and a swimming hole or a natural pool in the summer.
We began to dream of what it would look like to have a common space that would allow us to have a lot of these things through resource sharing. To have our social interactions be more rich and nourishing, to know there's a hot meal with friends somewhere on a busy night or an open green space for our children to run around with lots of other children, pick blueberries, catch fireflies and explore nature freely in the shallows of a pond or while caring for farm animals? Where we can have a place to sit and relax with a glass of wine in the garden while the children's imaginations have room to romp and grow?

Out of these intention-filled desires we created The Commons. Traditionally, a commons is a land, house or resource that belongs to and is shared by a community, that is not owned either privately or publicly. It is that which we hold in common. Our “Commons” is a solutions oriented community that supports healthy, abundant and joyful living through membership based collaborative resource sharing. The Commons will create community gathering spaces that bring back the essence of nurturing relationships, both to each other, to nature and to a simpler and more sustainable way of living for ourselves and our families.

Our first commons is the Hemphill House. As mothers, we naturally wanted our first community gathering space to reflect and be open and inviting space for families.
Hemphill House Commons offers:
Residences held in common with extensive grounds and gardens
Pampering amenities
Farm fresh whole food meals, snacks, beverages
Discussion groups and adult classes
Free Range Kids Program -a childhood discovery program and "open classroom"
adult sports, dance and yoga
holistic and sustainable lifestyle enrichment

Thursday, May 27, 2010

An invitation...

Join us for an inspiring evening of good food, fun and friends as we collaborate on the concepts of The Commons and Free Range Childhood program. The Commons is a solutions oriented community that supports healthy, abundant and joyful living through membership based resource sharing. Our flagship initiative is Free Range Childhood, an expansive learning environment and outdoor classroom which facilitates children and families being directly involved in shaping their own education. We are committed to the belief that all students must be free to develop naturally as human beings in a non-coercive educational environment and empowered to make decisions affecting their everyday lives and that of their community.

Saturday May 29th,Tuesday June 1st, Friday June 4th

5pm-7pm Tours of the Hemphill House, informal presentation followed by a question and answer session

7- 8 Lasagna Dinner featuring local organic salad and Farm and Sparrow bread
Sliding scale adult meal 9-900$ and child plate 5-12years 6-600$

8-9 Bonfire and conversation

We are currently based out of The Hemphill House, a large historic home just 5 minutes from downtown Asheville. Hemphill House is located on two flat acres with a pond and stream backed by 14 wooded acres. The property serves as a commonly held space for classes, dinners, discussion groups, parties, and day-to-day activities.

Our main focus at Hemphill House is a multi-generational, all ages open classroom which allows children and adults to shape and be responsible for their own learning and self-growth while participating in the daily life of a small farm and extended community.

Planned Offerings include:
Experiential Learning
Life Skills
Personalized Academic Options
Animal Husbandry
Wild plant identification and wild-crafting
Fire-building and outdoor cooking
Food preparation and preservation
Art and creative exploration
Dance and Movement
and lots of play...

Address and Directions:
5 Hemphill Road, Asheville, NC 28803

From Asheville, follow 240 to 74 east towards Fairview. GO about half a mile. After you pass the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance, Hemphill Road will be the next road on your Left. Number 5 is the first driveway on the right.

RSVP required email or call Rosetta @ 828-606-7386
How many and dietary choices (vegan, vegetarian, meat, gluten-free)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wednesday in the Evening

Charlotte Mason said that, "Education is a science of relationships."
What that means practically is that we, or our children, have not to know of things, but to KNOW them intimately - to have lasting relationships with ideas, places and people. To develop friendships with good books, with how paint color spreads on wet paper, with pond shallows and stream beds, with the way birds stand sentinel and the greens of the trees deepen as the sun goes down, the way the whipporwill sings right at the very moment dusk falls.
These relationships can't be built within the four walls of a classroom or from reading dry facts from textbooks. They can't even be taught. They need to be discovered and then left with quiet hours for a close relationship to develop.
That is what Hemphill House is about.
And it's not just the children. As I personally have gone through many life changes, I am awakening to the awareness that the whole world outside me is pulsating with relationships waiting to be consummated...driving the parkway at night with the windows down is my new friend, the French Broad River rolling beside me in the dark. The way the grass clumps in the pond convulse when the otter is eating a fish hidden in their stalks, the pile of bones I may or may not find later and the paths he leaves in the weedy green rushes going about his business. The slow tubular bodies of the bottom feeders sunning in the shallows, their black tails flicking them back into the dense overgrowth. Bright faces of children climbing trees, (and, truthfully, the log walls),(and anything else sturdy enough to support size 2 feet), hand-made drawings and boisterous voices. The invitation to discover alongside the children, sewing wonder back onto the worn thin parts of my soul. Stalking the present, tracing it's edges, like Emily Dickinson observing, "My business is circumference."
My kitchen utensils, (donated to the school's kitchen), are now strewn about the garden, muddy, and a row of exquisitely decorated mudpies line the walkway to the door.
The children have discovered an island where buttercups grow on the other side of the hidden stream and intimately know the patches where the forget-me-nots and wild strawberries thrive en masse.
There were lots of good people here for dinner tonight, children in bathing suits running up and down the hill, in and out of the water, food passed around, thoughts shared and built on, puppies coddled and put to bed, and friendships strengthened.
That is Hemphill House.
A science, a network, of relationships. And the invitation is open.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

For those interested...

We will be hosting our first informational open house / fundraiser dinner at 5pm Saturday, May 29th. Informational presentation, conversation, and tours from 5 to 7pm. Dinner at 7pm. Sliding scale donations for dinner 9-900$ for adults, 6-600$ for kids :)
Lasagna (vegan, vegetarian, local meat, and gluten free options available but you must RSVP!) dinner with local salad and Farm and Sparrow bread. Please RSVP number of people and dietary choices---- email
We're constantly talking about this thang -asking friends: what would a space look like that would fill the gaps in our busy, often urban lives - a place where the pace is a bit slower, where children are playing, blueberries and fresh vegetables are growing, where there is always a cup of tea or coffee and a few friends sitting around? We are excited about what this could be. We're creating a place that will best represent Asheville and our community's needs while at the same time will be reproducible elsewhere. We would love your dialogue and input as we shape and dream about what this space could mean and be.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Petra's List

My body aches. I am losing track of the vines I've pulled, the shrubs I've attacked, the flowers I've planted. By now the dirt is so embedded in my skin creases and fingernails that I have given up on trying to look ready for a night on the town. I said I have given up. It's more of a giving in, and not very reluctantly, to country life again. Accepting a less manicured body for a more manicured flower garden, relinquishing social chatter in favor of quiet observation. It didn't take much convincing - the slower and less pressured invitation to living, quiet walks with a glass of wine, early evening mist wrapping the fields and mountains, the air sweet and fragrant with honeysuckles and wildflowers. I fit with this.
Today Petra showed up at the house with a hand-written paper. She has been in public school Kindergarten this year and has enjoyed the orderliness of the classroom, structured learning and time with friends. Rosetta is letting her make up her own mind whether she would like to stay in school or join in at the commons. Petra has demonstrated the careful and thoughtful consideration with her decision that is not often associated with the "rashness" of childhood. The kind of intentionality that I deeply admire in her and reminds me why I enjoy the presence of children so much.
The paper she brought today was a carefully considered treatise of sort - a list of things which would comprise her ideal learning environment retaining the enjoyable aspects of her school classroom while examining the gaps which public school doesn't fill.
I am excited that the kind of learning space which empowers and liberates children to take a direct part of their own education and have control over what and how they learn happens so naturally and easily as long as children are given the space and encouragement to do their thing and be themselves.
Petra and I sat down on the outdoor couch and read over her list. And I do not see any reason why any of her desires would be unattainable.
This is what she wrote:
Petra numbecs (numbers)
Learning homwrc at scol
Dance aid (lemonade)
musick shekers (shakers)
firDSpinsinMg (firespinning, a special request of Rosetta)
centers prawiNg (drawing)
sweep mop
tousi (toys) JewleYy

The list will continue to grow and reflect the unshackled insight and clarity of the children who create the new space - who know what they want and are unimpeded in making it happen.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The pond and
The children clearing out the outdoor stone fire pit. Mmmm...summer soiree's.

Hemphill House

Thursday, May 20, 2010

In the beginning...

...there were two mothers, 9 children, 2 miniature ponies, a bunch of birds, some fish, a couple kittens, a passion for life, beauty, education, good food and good friends and a hunch that we could fit all of these things into a big log house with a pond and some gardens and call it...and call it....
Hmm. What to name it?
For now, we'll call it The Big House Commons at Hemphill. And our children will run free and muck in streams and make mud pies and sunshine tea and read books and care for chickens and grow food and that will be called Free Range Childhood - a new forward thinking (but old-fashioned in the truest sense) way of raising and educating our children communally.
Welcome to the beginning.