Building the Heyimas
What’s happening at school this week?
Well, it's frosty and bright outside, and I have my first cold of the winter, so I'm writing this post from my bedroom while Esme and Oakley holler and run around right outside my door. Not the ideal writing environment, but I'm grateful for the warmth and the crisp, bright sunlight streaming through our big south window.
It's been an active week at school, with things feeling more in the flow than they have been lately, a welcome relief for me. Last week ended on a difficult note, with an eruption of conflict and challenging behavior, so this week we started off by having a sharing circle during Kid's Council about our experience of aggression and rowdy play. There was some sweet and vulnerable sharing, and it seemed as though some important messages got across. It is often so much more helpful for the kids to hear from each other about the impacts of their behavior than to be berated and badgered by me. To follow up on the conversation, we played a few different games exploring consent and boundaries, practicing negotiating with each other and developing our felt sense of the difference between consensual and non-consensual touch. It's not the first time we've played these kinds of games, but it seemed to me that they were able to grok it in a new way.
The rest of our Monday Deep Dive was devoted to designing a small, temporary building to house and display some of the crafts we are making at school, such as bamboo cups, clay bowls, and a variety of other containers. I'm calling it a Heyimas, after the building described in Ursula K. LeGuin's Always Coming Home, a combination of a temple, library, meeting place, ceremonial ground, and storehouse for the products of farms, gardens, and workshops. In the story, she describes how people bring offerings to the Heyimas, small beautiful things that they have found or made, food they have grown, pieces of writing, and they are all kept and tended in a beautiful and reverent manner. I have a vision that someday The Village School will have such a building, and the children can learn to tend the offerings with that kind of reverence and care. For now, we are building a very small first prototype out of found materials.
This project has really grabbed the kids attention in an exciting way. It's the first time in a while that we've all been engaged in the same project together, so there has been some difficulty in finding everybody a role, but for the most part they have jumped in wholeheartedly. We began by looking at the space in which we were going to build and discussing design and materials, what shape the building would be and how to make it. Then we broke off into small groups and drew designs for the building in our journals. It was wonderful to see the ideas that everyone came up with, from hanging baskets, to windows made of old glass bottles, to a garden with flowers out front. Once we had a design in mind, we began collecting materials, chaining bricks from a pile into a wheelbarrow, gathering bamboo, bringing tiles form the storage barn. So far, we've done a bit of rough landscaping in the site, assembled an outer wall of bricks, and set posts to hold up the roof, which we plan to make from tiles of split bamboo. I can't wait to see the finished product!
Another exciting development in school recently has been the two week writing project that the kids have embarked on in Mary-Hannah's Language Arts class. The combination of the freedom to write about any subject in whatever style they choose and the structure of an ambitious goal stretching over a two week time period seems to have been profoundly liberating, and several kids who have been having a hard time getting into writing are feeling much more motivated than before. I haven't yet had the pleasure of reading their work, but I can tell from their concentration and bubbly excitement that something profound is happening in those journals, something that would not have been possible for them just a few short months ago.
What are we reading at school this week?
Jack and the Giant by Silver Gabriel Morningstar
This is a story that I told on Monday to compliment our discussion of aggression and consent. It was created by a fellow camp counselor of mine at Camp Winnarainbow, a circus and performing arts camp in Northern California. A variation on the ancient theme of Jack and the Giant, this story has Jack as a tiny pipsqueak of a kid who bravely confronts the terrible giant, only to discover that the giant's awful behavior is a tragic expression of his unmet needs for belonging. Jack brings the giant down to the village, introduces him to the people, and they all find useful work for the giant to do in exchange for the occasional goat or chicken. In addition to being powerful medicine for the reintegration of "the bully" in a group of kids, this story is hilarious and beloved by all ages.
The List of Things That Will not Change by Rebecca Stead
Looking back from the lofty heights of twelve years old, Bea explores her memories of the time period following her parent's divorce, and recounts the challenges and triumphs she experienced as an 8-10 year old. This book is rich with useful tricks and tips for small people encountering big emotions, particularly rage and anger. Bea's relationship with her therapist is particularly insightful. In the end, Bea is able to look back on this difficult time with gratitude for everything she has learned, a soothing image for anyone struggling to see past the intensity of big feelings that seem like they will last forever.
Update on our Winter fund drive
We have reached our $500 goal for our winter fund drive! Thank you so much to everyone who donated. The support of our village is such a crucial and important part of this project and it feels so good for the school to be fed and cared for in this way. We are now in excellent shape for the rest of this semester, and starting to look forward to next semester. We will have an ongoing need for donations in order to provide scholarships and keep the program affordable for all our families, so please consider becoming a patron with a monthly donation. It takes a village to raise a Village School!