Poor Old Michael Finnegan Begin Again

butterdeanGenerations of disenfranchised parents have given way to a mass exodus from the school system, leading to thousands of children being home schooled or ‘un-schooled’ by parents. An article by the BBC states that “there has been a 65% increase in children recorded as home educated in the UK over six years.”

Rather than wondering how this will change society in a decade or two, let’s concentrate on why this may have happened.

From my experience as a preschool teacher and observations as a quality rating specialist spending many hours in family child care homes and classrooms in the USA, here’s just a piece of what I noticed:

*teachers out of touch with children’s needs
*babies placed in swings or bouncers while teachers do other things
*children ostracized for not joining the ‘group’
*focus on keeping children quiet
*minimal quality ‘one on one’ time
*teacher-led rather than facilitated activities
*babies only being held for bottle feeding
*children not being seen and heard as individuals
*focus on academics rather than skill-building
*not enough time outside
*teachers who think the ABC song proves they know their alphabet
*emphasis on competition and being ‘better than’ other children
*parents not included in decision-making processes regarding child
*children referred to as ‘good’ or ‘bad’
*teachers trying to ‘guilt trip’ children into doing activities
*children’s cultures not being taken into consideration during lesson planning
*focus on negative rather than positive behaviors
*lack of communication between teachers
*using the same resources for lessons year after year
*teachers with no knowledge of child development
*time outside used to ‘blow off steam’ rather than as a teachable moment
*teachers forced to follow a curriculum template

Pick out any of those observations above and you can understand why a parent might reconsider putting their child in such a place all day, every day. Unfortunately this is the reality, and to be honest, I believe if a parent has the time and resources to teach their own child, this is always the best option. However, for parents who work outside the home, there are preschools and kindergartens that are not like the rest. With a bit of research it’s possible to find new places popping up that focus on the whole child. They take them outside to explore in nature and be one with their wild side. The teachers listen and interact and learning is playful and enjoyable. Where it’s ok to climb trees and play in the mud and shout and laugh. The new nature revolution is here because educators – real ones who care – realize that there’s much more to being human than doing worksheets.

Jeffreys, Branwen. “Rising Numbers of Pupils Home Educated.” http://www.bbc.co.uk. December 21, 2015. Accessed August 1, 2016. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-35133119.


The Future of Education

nature-kidsIn the future, a new kind of teacher will be needed. Humanity is coming full circle and getting back to it’s roots. We are awakening and realizing that we need each other, and the earth to survive. Humans share DNA with all life on earth, past and present, even plants and animals. This knowledge alone should give us an inkling as to why everything is connected. But something has gone intrinsically wrong in the society that we live in. People compete with each other for higher status; they put value in expensive possessions, and they collect and throw away relationships as if they don’t matter. Adults pick up weapons and turn to violence against each other for the smallest reason, so children learn that this is the norm. The laws keep us from behaving like unruly animals, but they also stop us from thinking. Drugs are touted as ‘medication’, and handed out too easily. Doctors promote them as a way to live life with a more positive outlook; when really they only serve to numb the mind and create another living zombie.

Thankfully, there is another mindset prevalent out there, making waves with new research in neuroscience and the practice of compassion and integrative medicine. Studies are proving that academia needs to focus on the whole child; that what we feed our mind, has an impact on our life. Children need real, authentic connections to others; to feel alive and experience nature; that their words matter and their actions have a consequence – good or bad. The more well-rounded our experiences are, the better chance a person has at having the foundation to succeed later in life.

Think of yourself as a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Each year of your life, more pieces are added. But if any of the pieces you need get lost, or taken from you, or simply not added – you can never get those back. That’s why even as an adult you may feel like there is something missing from your life, but you can’t quite figure out what, and you blindly search for things to fill those holes where the missing pieces belong.

In my workshops, I help Early Childhood Educators see our human existence in a new light, before I give them the tools to create quality experiences for children. Just as a chef prepares vegetables in a way which is palatable, educators should impart knowledge in a way that makes children hungry for more; because each piece is vital to create a better quality of life for each child. In the grand scheme of things, what I do is small potatoes, but as my studies help to open my mind further, I know they will bring me closer to my goal of becoming a leader in this new wave of teaching with eyes open and hearts pure. Only in this way will we be able to see and feel what children really need; to help them become understanding, empathetic, spiritual, compassionate humans who appreciate life, always love first, and never think to harm other beings.