Thursday, November 19, 2015

Mom, Dad...Are You Willing to Learn?

In the last two months, I have slowly released my angst about "Am I doing enough?"...I went from thinking I had to do curriculum for a certain amount of hours every day to allowing our natural thirst for discovery to guide our learning.  Yes, "our" learning.  I did not just rescue my daughter from the School to Prison Pipeline.  When I pulled Nani out of that hostile territory (school), I was saving myself, as well.  And, this is what most parents struggle with - understanding we too, must detach ourselves from "schooling" and be willing to learn.

How can you pull someone from a burning house if you refuse to leave the same house, yourself?

So many of us begin our journey with a terrible amount of fear, worry, anxiety and even, guilt.  We fear we won't competently teach our children.  Our irrational fear ignores the reason why we rescued our child in the first place; the current educational system of rogue memorization and standardized curriculum in the western world is failing.  We worry our children won't be properly socialized.  We have anxiety about how much learning our children are accomplishing so we set unrealistic or overwhelming daily, weekly and annual goals.  When we fall short of those goals, we punish ourselves or our children with guilt, anger and self-proclaimed failure.  Often times, at the Mulberry co-op my daughter and I recently became a part of parents (moms mostly) share our daily tears and triumphs which lead to in-depth discussions on our different and common struggles.  Most times, I find the core problem is we {adults} are trying to force ourselves and our child(ren) to process information at a rate (speed) or in a method (presentation style) that simply just does-not-work because - we are trying to fit a mold not created for our individuality.  With this understanding, I am allowing room for learning to happen as organically as possible.

I am beginning to meditate on truly allowing learning to happen naturally for my daughter and, in order for this to happen I have to accept this gift myself.  Liberated learning can only happen in a "judgement-free" trusting environment.  We have to allow ourselves the liberty of not having the solution to a problem - right away and trust everything happens for a reason.  Nothing is random, or coincidental.  We learn from what we do not know just as much as from what we do know.  Not knowing, stimulates our imagination; stretches our mind. Thus, we grow in this curiosity of wanting to know.  Our creative genius is triggered when we do not have the answer; we discover our hidden talents.

What we do or say to our children, we do or say to ourselves and, vice-versa.  You may be thinking "I never actually tell my child S[H]e is a failure or they are not doing enough."  Have you ever been deep in thought only to discover your child staring at you who with a concerned look asks "mommy (daddy) what's wrong?"  Perhaps you were contemplating some bill or family issue, or pending task.  It is humbling how intuitive our children can be; they know when we are beating ourselves up and it beats them up too.

Some of us struggle with letters, their sounds and meaning while others struggle with numbers, their value and operation.  Whatever your struggle, start with what you are strong at and build from this point.  For many reasons, numbers and math have caused me to feel insecure, unintelligent even.  Of the many blessings which have come from "liberated learning", one perfectly illustrates my point about allowing ourselves the liberty of not having the solution to a problem right away and welcoming this as an opportunity for growth.  

 Pride or, our ego is a massive barrier to learning and growth.  In other words, those of us who were told we just weren't good at math or any other subject (at a young age) feel insecure about appearing unintelligent or incompetent.  As a result, we might avoid situations, jobs, relationships, opportunities and even blessings simply because we did not want to be exposed.  For instance, we don't apply to a job because it requires a math test.  Perhaps we don't pay attention to our finances, implement household budgets, save, monitor our spending or even pass on dating someone because of their math acumen.  Eventually anything we are running from will determine how or if we relate to others - in our job, life's work, family and friends.

So what is that blessing I mentioned earlier?  I am now more conscious of when I am functioning out of pride or confidence.

Pride tells you to reject anything (anyone) that will expose your insecurity - including yourself...
Confidence takes you by the hand, walks you right up to your fear and says "introduce yourself."

Nani's lesson review on Angles.

Fourth grade math is where you learn how to divide and multiply numbers.  Many of us were told to memorize a times table then taught long division and perhaps, fraction operations.  But, if you learn how numbers are a part of each other - the basic function of relationships then you learn how to do mental math.  Liberated learning has given me the confidence to accept I am free to (re)learn how basic numbers relate.  Last Monday, my 11 year old and I sat for four hours going over mental math strategies.  We laughed at ourselves, celebrated ourselves and, I finally felt competent doing mental math.

Nani does not struggle with numbers, nor with reading; she is an avid reader.  Her struggle is with critical analysis of literature.  Like any kid she just wants to read for fun. The way reading, writing and grammar happens in schools however is very mechanical and focused on rubrics and metrics completely detached from any real creativity or study of the literary art form.  In other words, our children are not provided the space, time or instruction to develop a love of culturally-based written works.  What our children are reading at school is void of (relevant) culture or their history.  If schools are (in fact) teaching our children to read for meaning but, our ancestral foods, music, traditions, dance, art and sciences are absent then, our children are now severed from "reality" or, the legitimate story.  Consequently, the subliminal lesson is: you are not meaningful.  At an early age, schools program our children to NOT see themselves as meaningful.

If the programming is successful (the child learns to identify meaning from a written work of which they are never a part) the child learns to become okay with being invisible in every part of their life.

My child told me "mommy, we don't read books; we read booklets."  I was horrified.  My child wasn't being exposed to a canon of authors, to whole works but, to propaganda texts about The Patriot Act or isolated excerpts about individuals without past, present or future context.  It's sort of like giving a kid pizza without the cheese or sauce - a flavorless crust will never make a mouth water.  Similarly, reading short texts or excerpts about one particular person or occurrence within a culturally relevant context will never stimulate the requisite curiosity, imagination and creativity required to envision the plot, setting, characters and theme of a work of Literature.

Replacing the indoctrinating propaganda booklets with a well-rounded literary list of works became one of my top priorities.  While I am by no means a master...writing and reading (not) grammar happen to be my strengths; in fact, they saved my life.  I am ever grateful to my elders: The Nuyorican Poet and playwright Dale Olandersmith who stormed into my life and introduced me to Toni Morrison in 1993.  Entering the world of Morrison's literary work Beloved, could only be compared to taking the pin off a grenade; every page a bright, reverberating, jolt of sound, color, texture, flava' and the bitter-sweet aroma of trial and triumph.  Later, Maya Angelou, Octavia Butler, Jamaica Kincaid, Bell Hooks and Esmeralda Santiago's literary canon held up a mirror where I learned to develop meaning, in literature but also, in life.  So, of course, this is the heritage I pass on to my daughter, proudly.  And, here is our fruit...

I Love Freedom 
By Nani

I do Love
I Love the bees
I Love the birds
Yes, I do Love these
I Love the sound of my mother's powerful voice
I Love the strong wind
the crushing waves of people
Yes I Love these
I Love the sound of exhilaration while I scream
I Love the marching feet of tens of thousands of people screaming FREEDOM!
Yes, I do Love these
I hate the fact people are evil enough to kill A BOY
But, I Love they don't know what they did only woke people up
That they only made us stronger
So yes, I do Love these and every one of these
Because I Love FREEDOM and I know that SHE Loves me.

This is my libation to my literary elders, rest in power.


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