Monday, February 28, 2011

Awakened by Thunder

Last night a thunderstorm rolled through while I slept, helping to turn the season from winter to spring. This morning, fog greeted me as stepped outside with my pup, and I realized the last vestiges of winter will soon be gone, paving the way for the birth of spring.

Like the animals in the brush making their preparations, I too need to start moving toward a place of new beginnings. Investigating the opportunities for spiritual growth which lie inside me and which I can awaken through my dreams, journaling, and storytelling. Like the wild animals around me, I have a lot to do to get ready for the change that is coming. For a re-birth of sorts for myself.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Separating Ourselves from Nature

At the back of the yard where I live, there is a split rail fence that divides wild unfettered nature from the much more groomed human-pleasing world. Woodlot, vines and wildlife on one side, lawn and house with people on the other. On this late winter morning, a harmonic collection of bird songs just over the fence, silence on the other.
The wild joyful party happening just over the fence coaxes me to come join the fray. To let go of what holds me in place, controls me, and allows me to live in a silent world devoid of animal wisdom to guide me. There is much to be learned from nature on how I should be living my life. I just need to learn its language.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Shadow World

What part of yourself lurks in the shadows?
Residing away from the light, cloaked in blackness.
Maybe you don't even know,
What's hidden in your depths.

Sunset to sunrise, or under the frozen lake of winter.
Only the light of day or warmth of spring,
allowing us to see what was once hidden,
will reveal the mystery of the dark.

Like the life that swarms under a log
on a warm summer day,
there is a world under your surface too.
Discovered through your dreams, and silence.

Go outside alone, sit quietly and notice.
What gets hidden in the cast of a shadow.
Your shadow, behind the trees or the rocks.
The last places snow melts on a warm winter day.

Our inner world, what lies within us, may be the key,
to melting away what's missing from our lives.
Shine some light there and discover
your life source, your soul.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sleighton Farm School for Girls

My son suggested I not visit and take pictures of the long abandoned Sleighton Farm School for Girls. He told me it was haunted and that I would bring the ghosts back to our house after visiting there. I admit, the place did have an eerie feel about it each time we drove by and that feeling was no different today as I pulled into the drive to snap some shots.

Driven by a desire to understand what Sleighton School had been when operational, I did a quick search online last night. I thought it had been some sort of private school that had run out of funding but the sad vibe of the place that pulled at my gut each time I went by told me something else. Sure enough, it had been a sad place. A reform school for delinquent girls, sent there by the courts of Pennsylvania in an attempt to rehabilitate them. Under the guise of trying build character, develop an intellectual life and train one to earn a livelihood, the girls spent long exhausting hours working each day in the classroom and gardens.

Here is a quote about the property taken from the company currently managing the property:

"The historic campus of the former Sleighton School for girls contains historic buildings, including 19th and early 20th century school buildings, an imposing chapel, cottages, a stone barn, and 19th century farm structures as well as 350 acres of open space. Some of these historic buildings were designed by Cope and Stewardson who also designed educational buildings at Princeton, Bryn Mawr, and the University of Pennsylvania. The campus has been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

The Sleighton School's predecessor, the House of Refuge, was founded by Quakers in 1826. The school closed in 2001 due to financial difficulties. The property is now managed by the Wolfington Companies."

Typical of the many structures found in this area, the school buildings are almost all built of stone and are quite a sight to behold when driving past. They hold your gaze because you can see the work that went into them and it is hard to see them falling into disrepair. The school has been identified as being eligible for the National Registry of Historic Places. Other preservation organizations would like the buildings saved as well. The site reminds me of what Ellis Island once looked like before it was deemed a valuable resource and saved.

Hopefully these buildings will be saved and a bit of their history recorded. It would be interesting to hear the stories of those that attended this school and to know that they went on to better things in their lives. That the reform did help them. That would go a long way toward making me see the possible good in the mission of this school rather than just another place where we housed children in order to tell them how to think and be.

Until I hear those stories, I will simply have to view them as I view the other educational institutional buildings we have for young people in this country. Facilities where students are made to attend by law and given lessons on topics which may or may not help them lead a productive life. Thankfully, homeschooling laws allow some of the lucky ones to escape.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The turning...

Sunny today. Warm temperatures for the week ahead. Should see the ground slowly turn to brown letting go of the white I have grown accustomed to. Later, the brown will fade to green and spring will pop. I can smell the transition coming, hear it in the air with fresh new bird song. See it with the longer daylight, feel it in my bones.

Just like a wild animal, taking cues from my environment...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

How to Make Learning Relevant for Young People



1a: having significant and demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand.

My son Ryan asked me if I could make math more fun for him the other day. Our days plodding through his algebra text had grown tedious when compared to what and how he was learning at his homeschool resource center with its creative way of reaching young people. At the time, I told Ryan how important it would be for him to know math in the future and that he just had to buckle down and learn it, fun or not.

Later that day, after our frustrating math session came to an end, I came across an article online featuring Will Wright- the mind behind the games Sims and Spore, discussing how video games and their problem solving requirements, may help in learning. Wright explained that because video gamers must solve problems in order to move on to the next level, the work they engage in to solve problems becomes relevant to them. This relevancy encourages the gamer to pursue the knowledge needed to move forward.

As I was reading the article, I realized where I had been missing the boat with Ryan and his math. Just telling him he was going to need what I was teaching him some day down the road didn't create the desire he needed to really learn the material now. There was no relevancy. No significant or demonstrable bearing on the matter at hand. Much like the disconnected learning young people are subjected to in public schools.

A search online turned up many articles on how to create relevancy in learning for school teachers. It involves creating lesson plans that attempt to create links between the student and what he is learning. I found these plans to be contrived and offering no real connection to the student because they are teacher directed rather than being led by the student's interests themselves. If students don't care about what they are learning, they will lack the ability and motivation to learn it in a real way.

When students are allowed to pursue what interests them, their passion for the topic will carry them forward and create the relevancy needed for real learning to take place. Real learning, relevant learning, requires passion and the solving of problems that are found in the pursuit of that passion. Because passion is individual, every student needs to have the freedom to pursue what interests them.

On that note, I've discovered that I can't make math fun for Ryan. Making it fun won't create the relevancy he needs to really learn it. He needs the passion. Just as I did when I found myself needing to pass math in order to be accepted into the business school in college. If I passed, I was accepted, if I didn't I wasn't. My passion to get into business school made me learn math. Math skills that I would some day like to pass onto my son once he becomes passionate about learning them himself.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Surface of the Moon...Wintertime Blues...

My mind seems caught in the grip of winter, slowed down and fragmented by the brittle icy weather we have been enduring. Easily distracted, I seem to have lost my focus.

Typically, I would head outdoors when feeling this way and upon return would find my head clear and myself re-energized, centered and able to tackle tasks at hand and carve out some time for myself.

This winter feels different. Not that the demands of my life are any different, just that this winter itself is different. As a life long lover of winter, I have always embraced the cold, the wind, the snow. I loved nothing more than to head out into a storm, hiking through deep snow or to ski along a trail noticing how snow cover would bring a welcome silence to an area.

But this year winter has brought us ice. Ice on the power lines, coating the limbs of trees and bringing them down into the yard. Ice on the roads, driveways and walks. Ice hanging off the house and coating the snow.

It is the ice that has formed on the snow that I find most troubling. It is impossible to ski in it. Impossible to walk on it...your feet breaking through a top layer of frozen crust to the soft, deep snow below or snow becoming an icy mass as it melts on the warmer days and freezes again at night. My backyard currently reminds me of the surface of the moon and at night when I stumble across the cold and barren yard, navigating with my pup on the deeply pitted uneven surface, I feel like I have traveled to the moon. In fact, I may as well be on the moon right now, given how sequestered I am from the winter world I typically enjoy.

Because stepping outside in such slippery conditions is both dangerous and frustrating this year, spending time outdoors is not the salve that typically solves much for me. As a result, I have made a pact with myself to encourage me to find time each day to tend to elements of mind, body and spirit. A more forced approach than what would come naturally with being outdoors, but one that works all the same. Already I am finding myself in a better place. Winter's icy grip is lessening even though it is still very much here.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

On the Woodpile...

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

~Robert Frost