House of the Seed

An old petting zoo converted into a school in the jungle of a developing country. Children are barefoot, half dressed, and running amuck. There are no teachers, no whiteboards, no computers, and not a textbook in sight. There is no curriculum and no testing. In fact, it’s unclear who is in charge…if anyone.

This is the school my children will be attending and Im stoked! Why? Because, despite how it may appear to the untrained eye (or through the lenses of first-world glasses), this school is the future. This school is based on brain development, rather than content development. Its focused on a holistic view of the child as an independent, spiritual being, and believes the child is driven innately towards creating, exploring, learning, and loving. It is understood by the adults, who have over thirty-five years “teaching” experience”, that play is not only how children communicate, but it is how they learn. They incorporate learning into daily projects led by the children and provide a Renaissance-esque education for them that no public school in the states could ever provide.

I dreamed of this school a while back, which was either me putting it out into the universe, or the universe bringing it to my attention, but either way, we found each other. The past ten years have been bringing me to it’s doors. My years as a teacher in the public school system witnessing children with anxiety, depression, anger, and frustration built up a disgust for our education system. Listening to fellow teachers complain daily about the poor behavior from students, the lack of drive or ambition students had, the minimal parent support, and the bullying amongst peers in the classroom. I knew the drop out rates were increasing and the college attendance rates were decreasing and when I had my two boys I began experiencing my own level of anxiety about their educational future.

No, I don’t want Montessori, where they practice adult skills every day and learn shapes, letters, and numbers before they’re even three.

No, I don’t want a private school where they’ll likely be surrounded by elitist peers who care more about who’s wearing what and what their daddy’s do for a living.

No, I don’t want the Lord of the Flies preschool where they run around like wild banshees and their emotional needs may be overlooked in the “every man for himself” philosophy.

Then, I discovered the “House of the Seed” school via a mom blog and thought I was still dreaming! It exists! It’s real! A place where children lead their own learning and where culture, arts, and logic are all incoporated into the day. Where children learn to think, rather than memorize! A place set in nature that promotes respect for the environment and helps children understand how to be a part of the world, not just use the world. I fell in love and began begging my husband to take me there so I could see it in action.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to visit in person and I cried! I cried because I watched my boy’s faces light up from the inside and I watched the other children welcome them with open arms and show them things, teaching them without even speaking the same language. I felt I was finally at home and I knew they would thrive in a place like this and that my dreams for them could be realized if I could only get them here.

They can’t technically “attend” until age three, but I can take them daily since we will be living in the community part of the year and I can assist them in their transition and support their learning experiences daily. The leaders of the school encourage parent involvement because they understand the parent-child bond and respect the parent’s role in their child’s ability to learn. Parents enrich the experience rather than hinder it and they’re welcomed daily.

Some naysayers will wonder how children can learn without a clear curriculum or schedule. How can they learn history without a history class or learn literature without taking a Language Arts course? Math is so important to brain development and logical reasoning so how can the students be successful without that? The thing is- they’re learning ALL of this and more every day through projects, activities and play.

For example, while I was there I saw students building an organic garden together. They chose seeds from the kitchen to plant, they learned the different levels and types of soil as they used real gardening tools to prepare each row. They studied various insects before deciding which ones were helpful and which ones may be harmful. Some of the students didn’t care to help with the garden, but instead decided to make signs for it. They went to a construction zone and selected materials, measured, cut, and sanded the wood. Not only are these students learning life lessons, but they’re learning (and applying) science and math skills! They’re also learning about cooperation, communication, teamwork, patience, and nurturing the environment.

All of the materials I saw in the school were designed to provide concrete experience, and reach every type of learner, whether they were visual, kinestheic, or auditory learners. The students were engaged, happy, and self-directed. I loved every magical moment of my time there and can’t wait to go back.

Bonus? When the director noticed my son’s interest in animals and invited us to visit the stables so they could feed and pet the ponies. Winning!

Where is this place? I can’t tell you! I’ll keep this gem a secret in hopes it inspires people to create one in their own community all over the world and ignite change! It’s time to unschool and raise children to be lifelong learners who know how to think rather than memorize.

Stay gold, 

That Girl

We finished up our day with a dunk in the Rio Macheuga! Feeling the earth on your skin is so therapeutic! Dirt, water, sun, air…

Baby On-the-Go

I’m currently assisting a family with their nine month old baby boy and will be traveling (worldwide) with them from now until next Spring. This has had me thinking, “What gear do you need (and not need) when traveling with a baby?”

STROLLER

I’ve always known not all strollers were created equal, but some are just flat out a pain in the ass! Any stroller that requires you to set up, or break down, is NOT travel friendly. I prefer a 4Moms, BabyJogger, Stokke Xplory, or Orbit baby that allow for easy, one-hand folds. Plus, these all have PLENTY of space for your stuff so you don’t have to carry a purse, diaper bag, coats, blankets, and shopping bags. Boo to being a packhorse.

CARSEAT

The law states that a baby or toddler does NOT have to be in a carseat or carrier in pulic trasportation so…forgo the 30lb carrier and just leave it in your car. Get yourself a bomb-diggity baby carrier like the Baby K’tan or Happy Baby Wrap and just call it a day. When you’re wearing the baby on-the-go, there’s a 0% chance you’ll accidentally leave it on the subway or bus, lol. Keep it strapped to you.

BACKPACK

The mama I work for carries an Hermes Birkin and/or her Prada diaper bag on the daily; however, I’m sure she would opt for a backpack  or crossbody when we’re traveling because there’s no shame in her game and we both agree “comfort trumps style” when it comes to traveling with a baby. Diaper Dude has great backpack, Lily Jade has diaper bags/backpacks that double as purses, and SkipHop offers some crossbody options. The goal is to downsize, consolidate, and have all that you need.

Lily Jade ROCKS! (you heard it here first)

PATEMM PAD

You may think you have a portable diaper changing pad, but if you don’t have the PateMM, you ain’t got a clue how awesome life could be. The PateMM is circular, wipeable vinyl, packs up flat and quare, and is just sticky enough to hold your wee little gymnast in place during changing. You can whip this out of your pack for a quick diaper change on the airplane, the bus, the amusement park changing table…whatev.

COVERED GOODS

I think this is a must have! This lil feat of engineering is a nursing cover that doubles as a carseat cover, shopping cart cover, OR scarf! It provides 360 degree coverage, which is great to protect baby from sun, rain, stares, glare, germs, etc. while on the move!

EZPZ PRODUCTS

When you’re away from home with your baby, you can’t bring your toddler meal set or placemat with you. The restaurant will likely bring you a glass dish, sharp silverware, and baby may not be able to reach their food. That is unless you pack an EZPZ Happy Mat or bowl! This is easy to drop into the diaper bag or backpack and super easy to clean up since it’s nonstick. Pull it out at the restaurant, chop up baby’s food and let them just go at it. It won’t slip off the table, they can’t move the placemat/dish, and when you’re done, you just have to rinse it off or wipe it out. DONE and DONE!
EzPz Fun Mat, Shop Whole Heart

What would you add to this list?

My Beloved City, Seattle

Whole Heart is based out of Austin; however, we have “girls” all over this great nation! I invited a few of them to tell you why they love their city with their whole heart. Angie’s telling us all about Seattle!

My Beloved City, Seattle
There are so many beautiful things about Seattle. If I didn’t live here, I’d definitely move here. There are way too many things I love about living in Seattle (well I actually live in a suburb of Seattle), but this is still “MY” city that I refer to when talking with others. Let me tell you why I love this great city:

1. COFFEE SHOPS

Yes, it’s true that your big time coffee giant, Starbucks, originated here in the heart of the city, but if you are a Seattleite, you’d prefer a cup of joe from your favorite local coffee shop. Local coffee shops are all the trend these days when you are living in a cold, overcast, sometimes dreary day in Seattle. Going through your favorite drive through coffee stand, or stopping by your favorite cafe is almost a daily habit. My go-to hang out hot spot is The Spotted Cow Cream and Bean. They make their own coffee right in the shop, and the baristas have all crafted their coffee foam art.

The Spotted Cow Cream and Bean

2. BREATHTAKING VIEWS

Wherever you are driving, you are sure to see a beautiful range of mountains in the far off distance, especially on a sunny day. The mountains come alive, almost too picturesque, like a painting before your eyes. Seattle is on the inside of a peninsula, so it is surrounded by water and has lakes galore. The outdoors are nothing short of perfection up here in the PNW (The Pacific Northwest.) This was one of my favorite hikes, called Snow Lake….8 mile round trip and baby Sydney’s first hike when I was at 21 weeks.

Hiking Snow Lake

3. FASHION AT ITS FINEST

Fashion forward Nordstrom started, and evolved, here in Seattle. The flagship store is right in the middle of downtown. The extremes of fashion are quite comical. You have your big time corporate crowd who dress to the nines and are up to date with the latest trends, but then you have your hipster, black rimmed glasses, North Face and Flannel wearing group who are all about the rugged outdoors. Birkenstocks and socks are their style, which just so happen to be the latest fashion sandal trend as well. We’re definitely a laid back city, where you don’t need to dress to impress, but you can still show off your own unique style, and be accepted and embraced as you are.

4.THE 12TH MAN

Yes, all you Aggie fans first coined this term, but Seattle has been proud to become “The 12th Man” for our Superbowl champs, the Seattle Seahawks. I know, I know….what was the call on the 1st yard line? We will NEVER hear the end of how we blew back to back Superbowl Champion titles, but nonetheless we are the BIGGEST football fans in the NFC. It is incredible to be a part of such a supportive city. Anywhere you go during football season, total strangers become your best friends because of our intense passion and love for our Seahawks. The Seattle Sounders and Seattle Mariners also get some love too.

Superbowl Champs
5. THE BEST SUMMERS

It’s true! Seattle has less rainy days in July than Phoenix, and the days last long into the eveningS, well after 10pm on the longest days of the year since we further north above the equator. We have the perfect mix of warm summer days and cool nights, the humidity is so low it’s barely noticeable. To top of it off, we have music festivals, farmers markets, hydroplane races and lots of water to play in. Though this perfect weather only lasts about 4 months out of the year, we truly know how to appreciate it and soak it all up.

What are the best features of your city?