Lindie's Blog

Items filtered by date: September 2021

Sunday, 26 September 2021 20:09

Getting to know Agraria

     On Friday this group of Kindergartners had their first visit to Agraria.  The weather was beautiful--sunny and warm enough by afternoon for some children to wade barefoot in Jacoby creek.  We started by setting up our circle area around the clay oven, which is under a roof. Next on our agenda was taking a look at the bathrooms in the big, old barn.  The toilets are composting, so instead of flushing each person needs to add a scoop of saw dust when they are done. 

     Finally we were ready to set out on a morning hike.  We started out by sampling some herbs in the garden--oregano, basil, thyme, and mint.  We made our way through the maze--a series of mowed trails in the meadow just beyond the offices.  We stayed together on a first pass through.  The children decided that they were comfortable exploring the maze on their own.  They had a plan to ask a friend if they got confused or turned around or to stand in one place and call my name.  They practiced yelling, "Lindie!" just to be sure, and then they were off to run through the maze on their own--no one needed to call my name.  From the maze we walked the trail to the persimmon circle for morning snack.  There were ripe and some not so ripe persimmons on the ground around the tree.  A couple Kindergartners sampled the red, ripe persimmons.  I think they taste like a grape crossed with a banana.  No Kindergartner was a fan. 

     After morning snack the children played in the wooded area behind the persimmon circle, which is mostly honey suckle under-story that creates an open space just the right size.  The remainder of the morning was spent at the rocky creek, where the children kept their boots on and stayed on the rocks due to the temperature and depth of the water.  After lunch the children made plans for a return visit to the maze, to explore Jacoby Creek where the depth and temperature would allow for barefoot wading, and to be back in our circle area before snack with enough time to use red clay and paint with poke berries.  We got to all but the poke berries, which we postponed until purple or pink days back at school.  It was a very full and busy day at Agraria!

Sunday, 19 September 2021 18:45

Barefoot at School

Many children in the Younger Group forgo footwear during the school day. We have some ground rules - to be barefoot outside, it has to be at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and we wear shoes if we're hiking or otherwise going off school grounds. Other than these circumstances, the children are allowed and encouraged to be barefoot if it is comfortable to them. 

One of the most compelling reasons for this practice is that we encourage the children to take appropriate, manageable risks. The act of taking off protective footwear exposes the children to some elements of risk that are manageable on our playground, and we often see that the reward is worth the risk many times over. Being barefoot can also increase a person's tactile sensory experiences and can add a rich layer of proprioception. 

The teachers also notice that being barefoot is simply more comfortable than restrictive shoes for many of the children. When shoes are necessary, some children may be more comfortable in shoes that have a wide, rounded toe area, are "zero drop", with minimal cushioning and arch support, and flexible soles so that they can continue to strengthen the intrinsic muscles of their feet. 

There may also be some long term health benefits related to being habitually barefoot as discussed in this study from the NCBI/NIH:

Cheers to free feet and the opportunity to take manageable risks! 






Tuesday, 14 September 2021 21:39

Why all the unicycles?

Antioch School legend has it that the late, great OG teacher Bill Mullins bought a couple of used unicycles one weekend, thinking that the OG children might take a liking to them. Now, decades later, the unicycle has become a symbol of the Antioch School and a challenge many children still enthusiastically take to. But, why? Contrary to rumors around town, unicycling is not an Antioch School graduation requirement. And none of the teachers are expert unicyclists who teach the children how to do it. 

The teachers give children the opportunity, the time, and the physical structure to learn, but no one can actually teach someone how to ride a unicycle -- one just has to get on and try it. Each rider has to find her balance, figure out the right speed, adjust after failed attempts and be encouraged by small gains. It takes time. No one is great at unicycling right off the bat. It is not something to be mastered after a day of practicing, or a week, or a month. There is always something new to try and more to learn. Even after years of unicycling, the children find new ways to challenge themselves by riding on different terrain or on higher unicycles; they ride on the balance beams or on ramps; they do jumps or learn to air mount. Children are natural learners who will return to tasks, even very challenging ones, over and over again. The opportunities are limitless. 

Learning to ride a unicycle is work that only the rider can do. It is challenging, satisfying, and fun. It is internally motivated. It is learning at its best and most natural. It is no wonder it has come to symbolize the Antioch School.  

Sunday, 12 September 2021 22:57

A Herd of Nurseries

These Nursery Schoolers seem so very aware of one another. They are also very much drawn to one another and want to gather up and take part in things together. Whatever their fellow Nurseries are doing seems to be the most interesting to them… at least in the moment. It’s difficult to predict this early in the year, but this urge to herd up really does seem to be pretty central to them as individuals and certainly it will be great foundation for their group building this year.

At its core, the Nursery is a social laboratory. In many ways, the Nurseries create their own social laboratory each year out of their own particular personalities, temperaments and individual needs and interests. Of course this is true for all the groups… all of the students are adding layer after layer to their own social understandings of others and of themselves. They are all gaining in their own social experience and practice.

As a species we humans… infants, children, adolescents, adults… are highly social animals. We have large brains that in part evolved as a match to the neural processing demands of this complex social work. Our brains require a large portion of our daily energy. Young children’s growth and development is on a fast track in all ways! Recent research into human metabolism shows that while adults use 20% of daily energy to fuel their brains, for children from the ages of three to seven, 60% of their daily energy is devoted and consumed by their developing brains. If you think about this just a bit, it makes absolute sense, and it is still astonishing!

My point in sharing this is to acknowledge that all children are busy growing and changing and developing in so many ways. They are building whole body systems. They are wiring up… building connections within and expanding connections to what is outside of them. It is something that happens quite naturally while they interact with the people and the worlds around them. And because they are so new to the world, and because the social is so fundamental to human experience, for Nursery aged children, it can be a big part of what they do. They are led to this throughout by the essential nature of human development.

It will be interesting to watch. Several Nurseries have brought previous friendships with them which has been wonderful and may even help speed up everyone’s group building process this year. There will also be plenty of discovery for each of them since, previous friendships or not, everyone will be getting to know one another within the novel context of this year’s Nursery.

These children’s urge to herd up and be together may also fast track some of their social work together. Simply being drawn together and then finding themselves sharing the same close-up space will give them more opportunities and need for picking up the various social tools that can be useful in smoothing the path with one another. Even this first week, people have been coming to Athena or me, and, with encouragement, have already wanted to carry through talking and listening with another if there is a problem.

Even in these first few days I’m already seeing them want to take on this important work. We are off to an amazingly quick start together!


Sunday, 12 September 2021 20:41

Doing our best work - what is good practice?

In the YG, children begin learning how to read, write and do arithmetic in earnest. When we begin this work together, sometimes I notice that the children have started to receive messages about productivity and work from the broader culture that run counter to the goals of learning and joy we have at our unique school. 

With this sort of academic learning, I ask the children to focus on the idea of "doing your best work". When we talked about it last week, the children came up with some excellent criteria to describe what one's best work is. They said that it is done carefully and not rushed, and we also thought that your best work is something you're proud of and that doing it isn't too hard or too easy, but just challenging enough. 

We also thought about what good practice feels like - it feels like you've accomplished something when you're done, and you're focused (not restless).

Learning stays joyful if the goals are centered around doing our best work and getting in some good quality practice. I'm excited to see how the children practice these skills this school year! 

Saturday, 11 September 2021 01:25


     I'm really enjoying observing this group of children exploring their environment and getting to know themselves and each other.  Here are some highlights from this past week.

  • The children have asked me to tell a story each day at snack time, so we are part way through the Gray Cat stories--a long time Kindergarten oral story tradition.
  • Some children are visiting the garden and the chickens daily--checking to make sure the hens have food, harvesting cucumbers, green peppers, and tomatoes, and planting radishes.
  • The children are already advancing their knowledge of problem solving--how to share a scarce resource; how to deal with bawdy humor (aka potty talk); how to use a wagon to move a heavy item when there aren't enough friends willing to lift it; and a novel solution to how to break a tie vote when deciding on activity plans--everyone's stuffy or stuffy substitute, which was anything from a drawing to a back pack, gets to vote also.  In case you're wondering, the tie was broken when a stuffy voted differently from their Kindergartner:) 
  • The children are learning the routines and taking on responsibilities--remembering to tell me their plans when they go into the building, the meadow, or anywhere that is out of bounds from where we currently are; figuring out the timing of the walk to the bathroom; reading the job chart to find out what their jobs are today and tomorrow; and learning to stuff hammocks back into their stuff sacks.

     They have made hike and shape day plans for next week, and even have field trip plans made for later this month and beyond!  I'm looking forward to seeing how it all turns out!

Monday, 06 September 2021 13:45

How We Begin in the Younger Group

Each classroom group at the Antioch School begins the year a little differently. Like everything we do at school, the way we go about things is child centered. In general, the younger the classroom group, the gentler the start to the school year.  In the YG, we begin with half of the group visiting the school for half a school day. After our half day groups have had their turn to visit, we all come together for our first full day of school. 

On our half days, we spend time learning names, thinking about our classroom agreements, and practicing important responsibilities. New YGers learn to hear the difference between the bell that signifies the end of the Older Group's free time and the bell that signifies the end of our free time. Returning YGers help out - "You don't need to go inside yet, that was the OG bell".  The whole group goes on a boundary walk together and we learn how far we are allowed to range at free time. The children talk about why it's important to know the free time boundaries. We practice hand washing to get ready for snack and lunch time, we learn where to find special materials in the classroom, and how we leave school at the end of the day to meet our families for pickup. 

On our first full day together, we finalize our first set of agreements, knowing that we can always add to them if we need to. We learn about the flow of a full day at school, and we prepare to dive into folder work, lessons, jobs, and projects. There's a lot to learn, and the children are so happy to be back at school together. I'm looking forward to a great school year with this Younger Group! 

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