Integral Program for Homeschoolers

Morning Star Integral Program for Homeschoolers

“Oh look at this, it’s so sparkly!” calls Christine, one of the five children attending our Integral Kindergarten program for homeschoolers. We all run over, through the crisp bright snow, and following suit, peer sideways at the snow-formed slanting crystals spread across the field, morning sun shining through each one. We get busy, touching the crystals gently, picking them up… they melt so fast on our warm fingers, tasting them, these thin slices of winter delicacy. We discover that by placing our heels in an imagined circle-center and just moving our toes around, we can form snow flowers! Peter figures out how to make mini bear prints on the snow with just his fingers and thumb, and so a whole array of animal tracks appear… bunny tracks, cougar and deer… not sure how some actually look like, we take note to check in our forest book later on. Red cheeks, glowing eyes, no one wants to head inside just yet, so we extend our outside time today, the snow – that sparkle land of crystals – way too fun to leave too soon.

In seeking to uphold an integrally informed approach in our efforts as parents and teachers, we very often face less structural societal support than if we were teaching and parenting within already existing and stabilized perspectives and systems. It can be a solo journey indeed. Certain educational philosophies may very well inspire and support the aspirations and efforts we pursue at home, certain teachers too, as well as certain other families. But it is a very rare thing to find a school setting that encompasses it all – an educational approach and curriculum that is integral, teachers who embody integral consciousness, and an entire classroom of children who have not yet been exposed to and picked up a number of imprints from our extremely ego-centered culture (in terms of behavior, language, self-sense), which you would prefer your child not to be exposed to until their capacity for discernment has overtaken their absorbent mind. So what to do? In our case we decided to homeschool our daughter. We also discovered a few other families who have similar aspirations and felt that a social component that aligns with their child’s homeschooling experience and the standard they seek to uphold at home, would be most welcome. And so Next Step Integral’s Morning Star Homeschoolers’ program was conceived!

On November 6, 2008 Next Step Integral launched an Integral Learning Space for Homeschoolers at the HeartFarm in Winlaw, BC!

The intention and purpose of this learning space for homeschooling children are:

  • To provide a healthy social setting and experience for young homeschooling children.
  • To facilitate a joyful, wholesome experience of structure and rhythm.
  • To keep the group small enough so that the one facilitator can give quality attention to each child and keep the group dynamic flowing well.We have begun with 5 children.
  • To bring careful reflection and an integral perspective to what kinds of behaviour, language, concepts, relationship modeling, objects, food items etc. are provided, modelled and exchanged.
  • To provide an integral blend of “curriculum” for body, mind, soul and spirit.
  • To draw upon the skills and talents of our community, occasionally bringing in individuals who can offer Presence to children, and share their particular gift with them.
  • To provide an enrichment to families’ homeschooling experience by complementing the homeschooling efforts of parents who work toward being integrally informed as parents and teachers.

Content, Focus and Commitments

  • Each morning touches on a variety of topics and experiences, with the intention to nourish and educate body, mind, soul and spirit of each child, for example music (incl. singing), movement, yoga, art and crafts, nature, social interaction and learning, storytelling, play, and – depending on the age of each child – some focused project work related to each child’s specific interest and growing edge.
  • The curriculum is based on an effort to support and accompany each child, so that s/he is met as fully as possible, and can live and move through the developmental stage s/he is currently at with health and integrity.
  • For this collective learning space to not have to work “uphill”, we ask that enrolled children are not, or minimally, exposed to television; and if, that the small amounts be of content that parents would be comfortable if their children imitated, and contain healthy, age-appropriate information and influence.
  • This initiative has been a joy to facilitate, and to witness the ease and eagerness with which the children participate in the program and interact with each other.

Interested in finding out more? Let us know:

Below a little more about the “space” that we are creating:

  • Which words, concepts and related modeling do we avoid in this learning space, and why?
  • Ones that hold negativity – for example: hate, anger/angry, fighting, freaked out, stupid, terrible, strange, lonely…
  • Culturally overused ones with inaccurate associations – scary, bad; monster…Ones that express a low energy-level in a victimized way: lazy, boring/boredom
  • Ones that label a person, instead of their behavior

General understanding around our use of language:

  • Words open up a “doorway” in a child’s world/consciousness to concepts, experiences, and interpretations of life. So, before we introduce them we want to make sure they are useful, accurate and age-appropriate concepts, experiences and interpretations.
  • We aim to let our “highest and best” inform which words we use, not our lower self or simply our unconscious assumptions. Asking ourselves: “Would Buddha or Christ or any other Awakened Being we may know of and be inspired by, make sense of the world in this way?” can be very helpful in gaining insight into more evolved responses and interpretations.
  • First, we allow children to experience life themselves (as long as safe for them and others) – then we offer the most accurate, life-affirming ways to describe the experience, rather than coloring it ahead of time with our own interpretation and bias.

Overall: We co-create a respectful space that encourages integrity and empowerment, and is free of violence, negativity and fear. Here are some examples, with reasons as to why we avoid them in this learning space, as well as suggestions on what words we would use instead or how we might reframe:

“I hate”: This very strong expression of dislike is unlikely to be necessary or accurate in a child’s world. It creates a strong distance between oneself and the life experience, and does not allow for a way out. It can easily be replaced by “I don’t like” or “I don’t enjoy so much”, with a clear explanation as to why, that can lead to a creative solution.

“Are you angry?”: Similar to “hate” this is generally too strong of an expression for a young child’s emotions and could be more accurately expressed: “Are you frustrated?” or “Are you upset about something?” or “Are you struggling with something?”

“Stop fighting” OR “They are fighting”: We believe the word “fighting” is overused and holds associations of aggression, battle, intense conflict – and would, for example, replace it with: “Let’s see if we can find a solution, it looks like you are having a struggle.”

“I am freaked out”: We choose a more empowered and accurate ways to describe our circumstances without unnecessary intensity and drama, which could also make a child feel insecure.

“I am stressed”: Similar to just above – what are we modelling for as how to be in the world? We can be more accurate, for example, “I am feeling unsure” or “I need to take a break and rest for a moment” or “Let’s stop for a while and take some quiet time together.”

“I am sooo tired”: Provides an example of lack of energy, of feeling like a victim. In this learning space we will model taking responsibility for ourselves and being creative >> I didn’t sleep enough last night, so I will go to bed earlier tonight. Let’s find something restful and fun to do together – what about reading books with a nice cup of tea?”

“He is stupid/crazy”: This labels and judges, and is quite likely inaccurate. Instead of labelling a person, we find ways to describe and understand a person’s behavior that encourages compassion and constructive insight, for example: “He is making an unhealthy choice” or “She does not seem grounded”.

“What a terrible day that was!”: This is a narrow, negative and probably inaccurate interpretation of a day. What does “terrible” really mean? When we think about that, we would probably only use this descriptive on very rare occasions. Also, this can be a very subjective interpretation of certain events and may not reflect a child’s, while colouring the child’s experience. Instead we could say: “Today there were a few challenging moments for me” Or “I found … to be quite a tricky situation” And continue to explore what we could learn from that and do differently next time.

“Are you lonely?”: Instead of introducing the concept of loneliness (and with it most likely the idea that this is something to be avoided), we can simply speak of “being alone” or “with company”, and that both have their benefits and challenges. So, for example, “Would you like some company?” or “I could give you some fun ideas on what you could do when you have some alone time.”

“Yuck, that’s awful!”: A subjective, negative and not necessarily accurate way of responding to something. Also, it doesn’t leave any space for inquiry or change. It models a reactive, repulsed way of responding to an experience. And it potentially closes the door for a child to experience it differently, perhaps positively. Suggested alternatives: “Oh, that is different; it is very spicy / mouldy / gooey / loud (or whatever factual, objective adjective would fit).”

“What a weird (or strange) guy”: Negative labelling that distances and encourages an “us” versus “them” mentality. Instead we will reframe: “He is acting in an unusual (or “ungrounded”) way. OR “He does not look very happy” OR “I wonder why he dresses like that; do you have an idea?” Then brainstorm together to gain further insight / understanding.

That’s scary!” OR “Did that scare you?”: Totally overused and usually inaccurate. Why scatter a sense of fear, even if just a bit of fear, in children’s minds and hearts? Instead we offer them more accurate words to describe how they might be feeling that are not directly associated with fear, and that can lead to resolution, for example: “Are you feeling unsure?” (Then, “Let’s help you feel sure again”) or “Did that startle (or “surprise”) you? Or “Did that make you feel nervous?”

“Stop being so lazy!”: Puts into self-sense an idea of being lazy. Instead: “Try and find a way to use your energy better” or “Let me help you find a way to use your energy more fully.”

“Are you bored?” OR “That’s boring!”: We believe this perspective is not worth introducing. Who says life is ever boring? It does never need to be seen in this way, so we choose not to introduce this concept in the first place.

“Night night, don’t let the bed bugs bite!”: Said as a friendly habit, but at a young age can be taken literally by children and introduces the idea of something being present in the night that could get them. Basically, it is useless trash that can instigate unnecessary fears in your child.

“Is there a monster hiding behind the curtain?”: Said in play, but opens up the idea of a “being” that is big, possibly invokes fear and brings uncertainty. We will avoid introducing and/or using this concept in the learning space.

“I’m so jealous…”: Introduces a way of perceiving the world that is based on a lack of (love, stuff…). No need to provide this as an example, especially if child has not yet had an experience that could be named jealousy. If child has had such an emotion, then it could be expressed in a way that encourages choice and change, for example “You wish you had the same … as she does?” Well, perhaps you can take a turn playing with it once; let’s go ask.

In summary:
We stay light on negatives (behavior, language etc) in this learning space – thus encouraging a positive, constructive, empowered outlook on and experience of life in a child. We focus on and model an inspired, open-minded, proactive (rather than reactive) relationship to life. We liberally edit books and other teaching materials to reflect this. The facilitator is empowered and expected to uphold the above in the learning space.

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