Saturday, June 01, 2013

Piper Goes To School

Piper went to school last year. No Not a normal school for our quirky beastie. No we found a little unschool, Freedom to Grow, where she would go two days a week. Piper is our out there kid. She always wants to be doing things, playing, going places. We hoped school would provide an outlet.

First day of school
There was so much to do, and the school welcomed our family to get involved as well. There were animals, field trips, and special days. Piper saw plays and choral groups. She went to the rec center for PE. She roamed the woods and the beach. There was plenty do for an energetic girl.
Meeting some seriously large tortoises. 

As Piper has gotten older, I've started to notice that much of her exuberance has begun to be dampened under extreme self-consciousness. Fear was staring to take over Piper's spirit. She didn't dance as much or sing aloud. She was constantly telling us that her drawings were awful. It was like someone was turning a dimmer down on her vibrant self.

When the school went horseback riding at a school mate's stable, Piper was initially excited. However as our line crept closer toward the pony, she started to tell me she didn't want to ride the pony.She said she was scared but I noticed her casting glances at the other kids. She was scared to ride in front of them. I talked to her but she wouldn't budge. I sadly helped her take her helmet off and we leaned against the fence. One of the teacher's noticed Piper hanging by the fence and approached her. With a lot of gentleness, she got Piper on the pony. I cheered out loud because Piper was making a step towards the vibrancy I expected from her.

And I've watched Piper blossom this year in terms of her friendships. It has not always been easy for her, and there were many struggles with other girls. I'll admit my kids are a little sheltered when it comes to girl drama, and I did worry about this when I sent Piper to school. She had struggled with this at park days and I was worried about the day in and out. And yes there were struggles as Piper dealt with different personalities, spats between friends, and the pain of rejection. These lessons are painful to experience, and hard for me to watch. They bring back so much of my own pain at being the weird child left out. At FTGU, Piper wasn't the weird child though, and by the end of the year she had made good friends. She had also learn to negotiate reaching out to others, and making friends with people she might not have originally imagined as being friends.

And I think these friendships have helped Piper in her relationships at home. Having friends who help her, and encourage her has given us a pathway to talk with her about patience and understanding with R. Her new love affair with Jude, a beautiful and awesome love, that made her vulnerable also I think benefited from school. I think this vulnerability gave her strength because after expressing to us her fears, and after our encouragement to love without restraint Piper did start to reach out more. 

Academically, Piper exploded. She went from being pretty much a non reader to reading chapter books and manga. Now Piper's nose is always buried in a book. She begs to go the library as she whips through series after series. 

And it's not just fiction she's reading but non fiction. Piper studied bats in the fall, and I knew more about that species than I ever wanted to know. I was lucky enough to be in on that study at her school, and it was delightful to watch how excited Piper was to learn new things. Piper saw the beauty and joy in bats which is something I never thought possible but I sat here growing as excited at she as what we were learning. She took her information and created her own book.

And with the reading came a love of writing. Piper learned to journal at school and she loves it (how can I, her mama blogger not be proud of this new love?). I find journals she's stabled together and filled out all over the house. The one below was quite moving, a love letter to Jude which is part of a whole journal she's created to give to Jude once she's older.
And this creative building in writing and reading is something I really see fostered at FTGU. Piper always liked to craft but she really wanted me to facilitate it. I'm not a crafty person and it's hard for me to make my big plans into reality. I'd encourage Piper to just do it but she'd drag her feet and end up doing nothing. At FTGU, she learned to be more independent. Now at home, she's always putting things together...crafting collages, boxes, whatever she can get her hands on. Her handmade journals are works of art.

Bird Toy 
Bat Cat by Piper Fall of 2012
Tree Fur by Piper May 2013

Twice in the school year, Piper gave us a presentation of the work she's done over the course of the semester. I loved watching her giggle her way through the presentations but she still did it. She broke through her embarrassment to show us all she had learned. And it was always amazing to me how much she had crammed into a year. Nothing too formal but just the wonderful learning that comes from joy, interest and excitement.

In addition, I was really thrilled with Lora's end of the year report for Piper. I felt she understood Piper and she was seeing both the things that gave us such joy with Piper and the things that concerned us. It's nice to see that a teacher and a guide really gets who your kid is and where they might want to journey next.

This year has been an incredible year of Piper. It's been a mixed bag of wouldn't be a good life if things were too smooth. Over this year, I've watched Piper spread her roots across the ground. Not up or down but instead across the horizon. We named our little home school Mille Plateaux years ago in honor of Deleuze because we adored his idea of rhizomes. "A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo. The tree is filiation, but the rhizome is alliance, uniquely alliance. The tree imposes the verb "to be," but the fabric of the rhizome is the conjunction, "and..and..and" This conjunction carries enough force to shake and uproot the verb "to be." Thousand Plateaus 24. What has happened for Piper in this little school that is by the train tracks is that she has contiuned into the myriad forms of becoming. Her school and Lora did not try to push her into mold. She was not fitted with wood stakes to force her into a linear growth. Instead she was allowed to spread out to become an and...and another and. Her life has not grown away from us to sweep the sky while we sit about her roots, instead she has expanded into ground, into new areas while remaining near us as well. To find a school that encourages that "and" is a rare gift.

I encourage those who can to consider donating to the school's scholarship fund. This fund directly impacts Piper but also will help other families realize the freedom to learn in a way that opens up the "and" in a child's life. Lora wants to make sure this vision can be realized by parents who might not be able to afford the full tuition. Click here to learn more.

1 comment:

Down Wit Dat said...

Dammit, you've made me cry. xox