Friday, 1 February 2008

We step back - they step forward

David and Libby led this morning's circle. We welcomed 6 new family members - all children. The imbalance between children and adults is starting to give me some concern, yet it doesn't seem to make any difference to the kids. I've been trying to work out why that might be? The actual answer came as Libby said "We choose to be here" - it just screamed out at me. It's this choice that children are making that makes what we do now so different from what we were doing four weeks ago. This place has value, it has meaning, and they - the kids - believe in it.

If I imagine how we might have handled such a situation with a full complement of teachers and no-change to our system I think it would have been to call for even more help, more resources, more "things" - whereas the answer appears to be much more about finding the answer from within ourselves. This is not some philosphical debating point - it's what is actually happening. Because there so few of us we cannot smother, or control - we can only guide and provide some shape to what we all decide to do. The response from the children has been phenomenal - they appear to have grown in direct proportion to the space being provided - the more we have had to step back the more they have stepped forward.

It's this realisation that gives me confidence that we can build successfully upon our growing family - families within families - the secret is to listen - no, it's more than listening - it's remaining silent. It's the adult silence that provides the space.


Anonymous said...

Independent learning is a very important skill for children to have; adults as well.

There will come a point when facilitated learning will come into play though. That point may be when a child has a desire to learn something that is outside the scope and sequence of the books and materials you have available. Or when those resources do not address the child's needs or learning style.

The facilitated learning may then take the form of a more direct mentoring by an appropriate adult. If this adult is within your Center's family groups that is good. If you need to facilitate so that the child can find the information and/or experience they seek outside of your family groups, then that is when it will be important to have enough oversight that the child is not exploited in some way.

It might not be a bad idea to poll the adults in your group to see what kind of skills they have - life skills, technical or mechanical skills, survival, etc.

Jane said...

At the moment it sounds as if the children and adults are getting a great deal of emotional support from each other in your small close-knit community, bound together by your shared experiences.

Your commentary gives the impression of calmness and positive thinking. And yet our children have seen gruesome sights and suffered heart-breaking losses. Are you seeing any fall-out from this in terms of children's interactions with each other and the adults? How are you dealing with it?

DC said...


I could do with name so that at least you will know if I'm replying to you.

I like the idea of finding out what skills we have within our adult group. I'm sorry to admit that it had never occured to me.


I'm surpised by just how calm they are. I would have expected it to be chaotic - I think it has something to do with shared experience - we have all be through the same thing - no-one is different.

Jane said...

I can think of children I have taught whose deprived circumstances and/or negative previous experiences were the reason given for their kicking against authority and violence to others, in word and action. This happened even when they were put together with others whose experience was similar.
Why is this not happening now? What's different? Will it erupt in the future?

KathyinFL said...

dc, sorry for the last couple of anon posts. The name is Kathy. I have five children of my own so I'm well aware of the challenges of working in groups with significant age differences between the participants.

Most everyone will find their feet. It will take some longer than others. And some may need more professional assistance than you currently have in the adult members.

Hopefully, the "family" dynamics will play up members' strengths as well as give weaker members time to adjust to the new society that appears to be emerging ... at least within the group you are working with.

Likely you will see a much healthier response in the children in your group because you were able to gather them early and help them find direction. You are not ignoring the grieving process. Nor is the grieving process being put on the back burner because physical survival supercedes all other cares. I'm sure the adults may need to nudge some of the children on occasion so they continue healing but for now, the ride should be smooth overall.

The longer children - and adults - are left directionless, the longer they'll be stuck in neutral or sliding backwards on the road to healing. The longer they are stuck, the more effort it will take them to escape the rut of doing nothing or acting out in destructive ways in an attempt to balance the fear and despair in their lives.

You are doing a good thing and giving people lots to think about.

I'm curious, is anything being done for the youngest children? Are authorities making sweeps of neighborhoods to check for infants and toddlers left without caregivers? What about dependent elderly? The communal or "family" group may help in those age populations as well.