Tuesday, March 19, 2019

each and every child

This 20 year old article by Alfie Kohn might help you to understand why he's been a trusted name in progressive education.  https://www.alfiekohn.org/article/kid/  The point is that these are not your kids or our kids, but our children, and we each share a responsibility to each one. The news of elite parents gaming the system to get every possible advantage for their own children is nothing new and is perfectly reasonable to fearful minds. Each child is important that we have a responsibility to all children.

Clear Spring School was founded over 40 years ago with a mission that differs from that of many of the private schools that sprang up across the nation in the wake of the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling by the supreme court that was intended to bring an end to school segregation. While many private schools were established to maintain segregation, and to maintain the advantage previously given to white children by segregated schools, The Clear Spring School was established to offer a model of education in which each and every child was afforded the recognition and opportunity each child deserves and enabling the success of each child upon which our society depends. The point was not to be exclusive, or to keep some out, but to serve as a model from which all children would ultimately be served.
What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy.— John Dewey, School and Society
Brown vs. Board of Education was an extreme measure in response to an extremely ugly problem... that of a society deeply divided along racial lines. The court decision brought  school busing and the politicization of the educational landscape, with politicians of both parties vying for control of local and state school boards. If you read the national news, we are still a long ways from returning the focus of education to the child. Politicians have all kinds of ideologically inspired notions that have little or nothing to do with the needs of our children.

Today I gather materials for building a table.

Make, fix and create...

Monday, March 18, 2019

get back pocket cat... woodworking is where it's at

Yesterday I registered our little free library so it will go on the map at Littlefreelibrary.org. The photo shows the prototype "pocket cat" I made for Friday's Kindergarten class. It is little more than a hint of a cat and quickly made but was instantly recognized by the kids wondering, "What will we make today?" And responding, "YES, I want to make that."

It is nothing more than a small block of wood with 1/8 in. holes drilled in it for bamboo skewers to fit. We use small snipping pliers to trim the skewers to shape to form the ears and tail.

This is spring break week at the Clear Spring School. I plan to use my time to assemble boxes. I've also been clearing and cleaning in the wood shop to have room to build a large dining table.

Make, fix, create and encourage others to learn from real life. It's rewarding.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

two events...

Mark your calendar & join us for an Art Extravaganza on March 31, 3-6 pm, in ESSA's Wood and Iron Studio!

I will have two woodworking activities for guests in the wood shop. One will be making a very small set of Frank Lloyd Wright's Nature Pattern Blocks. Sawing and sanding will be required. The other will be crafting a Sloyd trivet from Gustaf Larsson's book Elementary Sloyd and whittling. A question, my youngest students ask, "Do I get to keep this?" Yes you will keep the things you've made, maybe for generations.

The other event I want to invite you to is the annual Froebel education conference in Boston, October 5 and 6, 2019 in Boston. Many important educators have been invited to speak. http://froebelusa.org/

Make, fix and create...

Nature Pattern Blocks

A friend, having heard a talk I gave at the UU Church in Eureka Springs, gave me this set of Frank Lloyd Wright Nature Pattern Blocks. As I've described before, Frank Lloyd Wright became an architect having grown up with the blocks invented by Froebel. His mother had attended the 1876 World's Fair in Philadelphia at which a Kindergarten classroom had the following effect described by Nina C. Vandewalker in her book  The Kindergarten in American Education, 1908:
"The Exposition kindergarten was conducted in an annex to the Woman's Pavilion, by Miss Ruth Burritt of Wisconsin, who had had several years of experience as a primary teacher before she became a kindergartner, and whose manner and insight were such as to gain adherents for the new cause. The enclosure for visitors was always crowded, many of the on-lookers being "hewers of wood and drawers of water, who were attracted by the sweet singing and were spellbound by the lovely spectacle." Thousands thronged to see the new educational departure, and many remained hours afterwards to ask questions."
Wright's mother was among those mesmerized and inspired. The Kindergarten method of learning is not to be confined to the early years. We all learn best through play, and as Wright noted in his later years, "I can still feel those maple blocks in my hands to this day."

I do not believe these blocks are currently available. They should be.

Make, fix and create...

Saturday, March 16, 2019

bridge and pocket cats

Yesterday in wood shop my 5-6 grade students helped to finish the bridge and to decorate a bench leg on the lathe.

My Kindergarten students made tiny pocket cats.  I made a couple prototypes as usual, and was pleased that the Kindergarten students immediately recognized what they were and wanted to make them.

I left my phone at home to charge during the Kindergarten class, so I have no photos of that class.  To make a pocket cat requires decorating a small block of wood with markers to serve as the cat's body, then drilling holes for 1/8 in. dowels to fit as legs, tail and ears. The kids decided where these parts would fit, then drilled the holes in the chosen spots, with me holding the block of wood while they operated the drill press.

When the cats were complete, they insisted that their cats be further customized. One boy wanted wings on his, while another, claiming the cat was not toy but part of a "collection," chose to mount his on a block of wood to serve as a base. Many of my students have collections of their work, and what better time is there to start than in Kindergarten where they can learn to get things of interest through their own labor?

You may recognize our dog Rosie helping with the bridge.

This is the start of Spring break at the Clear Spring School. I'll spend my time working on boxes and launching a table project.

Make, fix, create. Build human culture and the fabric of community by choosing to learn likewise.

Friday, March 15, 2019

chapter 11

I learned in the past few days, when I got a royalty statement from F&W publication, and no check came in the following days that the company had filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the state of Delaware. When I started my first books, F&W Publications was a family owned enterprise. F stood for farm and W stood for writers, and the initial thrust of the business was to cater to those two areas of need: Publishing in support of small farms and writers. That was about a hundred years ago. The founding family members happily sold out to investors and the new CEO announced at a staff meeting that the business would be a perfect fit for him. He could run the business (after selling off assets) from his beach house in the Bahamas.

According to the bankruptcy narrative presented to the court, the company had made a few fatal mistakes. Over a period of years they'd made relentless efforts to get much bigger fast. Then the killer was to get deeply involved in e-commerce for which they were ill-prepared. Since they were one of the major publishers of niche craft related books, they thought they could expand their market by selling craft related products, taking the customer trust they had earned and leverage that into competition with other online retailers. That involved building an unreliable internet system that greatly disappointed customers, and renting warehouses to hold all the stuff they couldn't sell through an unworkable platform.

When the first non-family owners had severely botched business, the second round was Citi Bank, and then a descending spiral of big idea banker type folks all with the small minded idea of selling off non-essential assets so they could do more stuff unrelated to the founder's intent.

Of course, part of F&W's problems have been related to the rise of free unedited materials offered through the internet and youtube in particular. Why should anyone have to pay for anything other than their connection fee to Verizon or AT&T? I assert that there is still a place in the world for well-edited good books. It's easy to make cheap content, and to fill the internet with crap. It's more of a challenge to make good books. And there is a value to the latter. The shame in F&W's case is that they could have continued to make good books. Perhaps Chapter 11 Bankruptcy will allow them to return to the mission that gave them their start. There's a lesson here. When businesses wander far from their founder's intent, things have a way of "getting out of hand."

F&W gave me the chance to write my first three books. So they have a dear place in my heart and I wish them success. My first three books are now out of print but we did a more recent compilation of projects from my first two books. It is "25 Beautiful Boxes." You can find it on Amazon or can contact me directly for a signed copy.

Make, fix, create, and hope for the sake of human culture that all learn to learn likewise.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

one in twelve...

The scandal of rich folks using bribery and fraud to get their kids into college has brought to light some of the pressures that children and parents feel. No one could fault a parent for wanting the best for their children, even if that parent is delusional about what a child might actually need (like character and the self-respect one earns through doing real things of value to their communities as examples). Perhaps you can excuse a few folks for not imparting to their kids what they have not earned or learned themselves.

On the other hand, one in 12 students go off to college with suicide plans in hand. The pressures are enormous. Parents want bragging rights they can claim from their children's success, and success in this disrupted society requires college.

They've advertised and promoted this for years, even on TV. How many times have you heard that college graduates make twice as much money as those who do not get college degrees? And so the solution they propose is that all kids, by necessity, must go to college whether they are ready and mature enough to be successful at it, even if that means elbowing more deserving kids out of the way.

We might take a different approach like that taken in the Nordic countries. Incomes are more uniform, so that all (even teachers) make reasonable incomes, and parents have much less to worry about. Here in the US, college graduates make twice as much and corporate CEOs make up to a thousand times more than that.

In Educational Sloyd, one of the objectives was to foster a societal sense of the dignity of all labor. This was not to create a two or three tier society, but to build a society in which all människor,  (human beings) would be treated with respect, and democratic principles would thrive. We seem to have gone willingly in the wrong direction, and our children pay the price. Suicide, drug addiction, and student debt.

It interests me, that manual arts training in schools would build that sense of the dignity of labor, but also provide a path toward the development of character in all our youth. Between senseless degradation of our natural environment, suicide and opioid addiction, our children suffer, and few see that the answer is at hand.

The photo shows one of my students with an airplane he made in yesterday's class. The working propeller is a special touch.

Make, fix and create...

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

service does that.

While a few desperate housewives may cheat as best they can to get their kids into colleges they think their children must have whether they've earned it or not and thus deprive them (their children) of choice and the system of universities of their legitimacy and fairness, the idea that all children must go away to college in order to find fulfillment is based on the idea that the only place success can be found will be in the larger world beyond the humdrum walls of our own communities.

If you actually look at small communities like my own, you find folks itching to serve one another and to actually make the world a better place. Service connects us with each other. That may not be known by those in northern cities where folks may itch to escape winter on the one hand or anomie on the other. Folks move around a lot and may never become fully connected. Corporate ladders do that. You may get yanked around one place to another and be happy about it because each step brings more money, power and glitz. Financial success can do that. You may have your eye on fresh and larger properties (the owning of which make you appear hot), or a place to go during the winter months (or summer for that matter). Getting the hell out or away has become a mark of success, whereas fitting into the ponderousness of small community life is not.

 Perhaps it is simply time to reassess. Take a fresh view. When you begin to realize that the hands themselves are not dull instruments, but are thoughtful creatures on their own, that can be listened to and trusted, you may place more attention on the small things that actually matter in the creation of a sense of place and appropriateness of place for the rest of you. You might find for a change that you fit and fit in. Service does that.

We have may have a terrible view of human culture at this point, if you look through the lens of the internet and through broadcast media. Life from that vantage point is about big, fast and glitz. In small towns like my own, folks work hard to be of use to each other. That, my friends, is what's called the fabric of human culture.

 The interesting thing that might happen from a fresh, hand-centric view would be that instead of home becoming the hell you hope to get the hell out of, home might become a better place. Perhaps we should take time to reinvest in each other and see what happens next.

I have a full day of classes planned at the Clear Spring School.

 Make, fix and create...