Charlotte Mason Reflections: Out-of-Door Life

Thursday, April 27, 2017

At Flint we've been taking advantage of the gorgeous Texas spring weather and taking our classes outside as much possible lately. Because, you know, any day now it's going to be approximately one thousand degrees out and we'll all be hiding inside with the AC until late September. 

And ALSO because it's a key aspect of Charlotte Mason philosophy to take the children outdoors as much as you can. In Home Education she wrote:

"For we are an overwrought generation, running to nerves as a cabbage runs to seed; and every hour spent in the open is a clear gain, tending to the increase of brain power and bodily vigour, and to the lengthening of life itself. They who know what it is to have fevered skin and throbbing brain deliciously soothed by the cool touch of the air are inclined to make a new rule of life, "Never be within doors when you can rightly be without."...

For the rest of us, and the most of us, who live in towns or the suburb of towns, that is included in the larger question- How much time daily in the open air should the children have? and how is it possible to secure this for them? In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother's first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it spent for the most part out in the fresh air. And this, not for the gain in bodily health alone- body and soul, heart and mind, are nourished with food convenient for them when the children are let alone, let to live without friction and without stimulus amongst happy influences which incline them to be good."

She wrote that in 1906, y'all, but so much of it sounds like it was written about children today. I imagine that we are at least a teensy bit more overwrought nowdays, yet we are so much more likely to keep our kids indoors practically 24-7. We have reasons, too, lots of really great ones! Apparently they had reasons a hundred years ago, because CM goes on later in the chapter to write that she is not speaking about what is convenient but what is ideal, and she knows that once a mother is convinced that something is beneficial to her child she will move mountains to get it for them. Which, yes. Kill shot! The woman knew how to make a point and she definitely knew her audience.

Also, she knew what she was talking about, since SO MUCH research is coming out about the importance of being outdoors for our mental and physical health. She didn't have scientific research to back her up then, just her dead-on observations and reflections. 

So. If you're looking for us these days the best bet will be to check the playground, or the garden, or the gazebo, or a park, or a strawberry farm, or...

FAQ: No School on Fridays?

Monday, April 24, 2017

Q: You really have no school on Fridays!?!? What do working parents do with their kids on Friday? What about the number of days the state requires?

A: Yes really! The four-day week is one of the first unusual things that stands out to people when they're looking at Flint Academy. It's a big selling point for cranky high school students and worn out teachers, let me tell you!

As far as childcare for working parents, it hasn't been too much of a problem. In the past we have offered a Friday option but every time we've tried it...only one or two people have signed up. For a lot of our younger students with working parents, Fridays have become grandparent days, which is awesome. When that isn't a possibility, lots of families have worked out childcare with one another, trading Friday work hours for a Saturday night date, for example. I really think that part of the reason childcare hasn't been much of an issue is because (and I will say this with my dying breath) this is a village! We are all here for each other, all the time. 

Also, the State of Texas doesn't mandate a set number of school days per year for private schools. The State of Texas doesn't mandate much at all for private schools (other than we have to teach Texas history, which is hardly a burden - who wouldn't want to learn about Texas history?) because the State of Texas is awesome like that.

Schools all over the U.S. are starting to explore the idea of a four day week, and they're finding out what we already knew - it's crazy effective. I found dozens of articles and studies on the trend with just a quick little Google search, here's a few if you're curious: New York Magazine Huffington Post Georgia State University the AASA US News 

The biggest benefit to the students is that they have time to just be, something that children aren't getting nearly enough of. They get to recharge, run around, play, maybe even get dirty. Hopefully they even get the chance to be really and deeply bored, since it is basically impossible to develop any imagination if you never experience boredom. If you let it be, "I'm bored" is the first step to something magical happening. On a totally different note, older students have more time available to get a part-time job and learn equally magical things like responsibility and work ethic and Finishing High School is Important Because I Don't Want to Do This Kind of Job Forever.
Plus, if you want to go someplace cool like the aquarium or Six Flags or a movie? There are WAY less crowds on a Friday morning.  

You also end up with teachers who are better rested and balanced, who get a chance to miss their students over the weekend, and who have had time to come up with amazing lesson plans. In their pajamas. Like rock stars. Never underestimate the power of a teacher who has been able to do laundry, take their kid to the dentist, clean the house, cut out five thousand folder activity pieces while binging on Netflix, and talk to their spouse. Come Monday morning? That teacher is fully prepared to change the WORLD one student at a time. I'm going to post specifically about individualization later, but I will say here that individualization at Flint means that most of the amazing lesson plans that we have time to write on Fridays are per student. As in, a different plan for each child. Each day. Each subject. You can see how that would be a little time consuming.

And just as the teachers are ready to bring it, so are the students. They aren't dragging and despondent, looking ahead to an endless week of drudgery. Well, we're pretty light on drudgery anyhow, but it's also psychological. Just knowing that they get Friday off helps the students work hard all week long, without collapsing into useless puddles of goo by lunchtime at the end of the week. It also really cuts down on absences and sick days, for students and teachers both, which gives us a much more seamless education overall. At Flint we value quality over quantity all day long forever. Read two good books thoroughly instead of skimming over fifteen. Learn everything you can about a few historical events (or scientific and mathematical concepts! Or art techniques! Or basketball fundamentals!) rather than zooming through a whirlwind overview.  Work hard and learn deeply for four days instead of superficially for five. That's our hill and we will die on it.

(Metaphorically. No one is going to die. Unless you try to make us take standardized tests, in which case I can't be held responsible for your safety.)

As someone who is both a parent and a teacher, I can tell you from both perspectives how wonderful the four-day school week is. My chicks are young still, but I can tell you they have never yet been burned out at the end of the week, or "sick" on Monday morning. The complaint I get from them is on Thursday afternoon when they realize it's going to be three whole days before they GET to go to school. I love that! And I get to pretend I'm a stay-at-home mom on Fridays, which does amazing things for my sanity. We run errands and have doctor appointments, and do chores, sure, but we also do fun little day trips or spend hours playing with craft supplies. That time with my babies is what I need more than anything else. We are crazy busy and life is totally chaotic so much of the time... I don't think I'm exaggerating (much. I'm always exaggerating a little) when I say that those Fridays off keep us from falling apart. 

There are SO MANY more reasons that Flint's four-day week is a brilliant idea. I think that one of my classes did an ANI chart on this, actually...I wonder if I can dig it up? Probably not because I love throwing things away. But hopefully this helps explain the general philosophy behind it, at least. Next question?

Our School? Odd?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Where on earth did you get an idea like that?

Sometimes I forget that our school requires a little explanation. I mean, Aaron and I have been raising our family in this crazy village since forever, so lots of things seem perfectly mundane that I realize actually seem kind of bizarre to visitors and new families. We seem to have collected a lot of newcomers lately (Hi! You clearly have wonderful taste and excellent decision-making skills, you gorgeous things!) and also a lot of new people checking the school out for next year (It's amazing I promise, get over here, you!) and communicating the heart of the school, what we're doing and why and how, was really one of the main purposes of this blog. Which I am hereby reviving because there is NO WAY to truly understand Flint Academy in the course of one little school tour. Especially since we rarely can manage to all behave for a tour. Weirdest Thing My Class Was Doing When a Tour Came By But I SWEAR It Was Part of My Lesson is practically a competitve sport among the teachers. I can only assume from anecdotal evidence that some form of this competition exists for the students and animals as well. Ahem. My POINT is that you can get a little sample (enough to send you running for the hills, or, if you are really cool, intrigue and fascinate you) but there is no way to understand it all in that little amount of time. 

So step right up, loves. That picture up there, for example, is one of the upper school students relaxing backstage before his grand finale in our recent grammar school production of Sleeping Beauty. And here is one of the five thousand selfies that I find on my phone when I leave it lying on my desk unsupervised.

Here we are connecting with works of art:

And here we decided to take literature class outdoors:

But also we love to dance:

This...this is...a cheese party. That the eighth graders decided very randomly to have. Actually, I still need this one explained to me?

Here's that baby that keeps trying to crash high school classes. You are fooling NO ONE, baby!

And this is the cutest cheer squad EVER:

I could keep doing this all day because I take an unreasonable amount of pictures, but what I really would like is a little guidance from YOU. I really don't know where to start, so I keep not writing anything. If you've been at Flint Academy for a while, what are some aspects of the school that you think need explaining? Things that confused you at first, or even things that still confuse you. And if you are new or prospective, what are you most curious about? Let me know and I'll explain it to the very best of my ability. Aaaaand GO!
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