Friday, August 12, 2016

On Rock 'n Roll and waiting for it...

I'll write this one as a dad, and a very proud one; both for my patience and, of course, the gift of a prodigy the gods of Rock have given us all: OWEN JAZZ IV.

The out-of-wedlock-child-of-1940s-Blues, Rock 'n Roll, scurried into ears and veins during the long family trip vacations, I hated at the time but cherish deeply now, through the Atacama desert. Alongside my 3 siblings, crammed into a 1988 Nissan Sentra, our missionary father ventured into the rebellious nostalgia of his pre-conversion days and blasted with an extreme sense of loyalty and duty-of-passing-down the endless hits of Wilson and his crew: The Beach Boys. My mother, far more traditionalist consented with this "playing with the devil" solely because it eventually led to the infamous Emmons-4-part-harmonies which come dinner time are only topped by the Vontrapps at the peak of their career. 

Fast forward 20 years. Now it's my turn to infuse my kids and their friends with the sound antidote the gods have given us to make it through adolescence and its reoccurring waves through adulthood. 

Owen Jazz, my first son, has been getting music since his days swimming in the womb. When it came his turn to make music he was keen towards the hand drum. I attribute this largely towards the insurmountable stories he has witnessed always to the beat of the eagles heart. He knows not of a story told without a drum.

But for almost the entirety of the 2 years in our kindergarten in Jinan, I had hoped for him to gather around for a tickling of the ivory. There was no way. No interest. And on my end I stayed true to what I have learned: continue to create the peripheral learning and interest possibilities while from time to time bringing up the question again and again.

Towards the end of our time in Jinan, bordering age 6, already far later than when I had begun playing piano, I started playing Rock and Roll videos for the kids of KeyU Kindergarten while they were working on their drawing. God bless my buddy Matt Thiessen and his soothing melodic punk rock. Owen and his friends were hooked. Next time I was by the piano I started playing Relient K's 2005 hit: Be My Escape and, just like that, the piano became cool! Owen could be found at the keys at all times. His friends soon joined in with drums and vocals and Jazzers first band was born, as they call it: THE ROCKERS.

Last week they performed with the ease of a seasoned touring band on their 25th date on a state-wide tour. Check it for yourself:

Now, there is no stopping them. In the Originateve Holistic Kindergarten we developed programming for, one part of the program was to have SHOWS every 2 weeks. The idea behind it was to make ART a way of life rather than something saved for the "special occasions". For this last show, Owen was not impressed and did not buy into the whole "SHOW" quality. In his own words he said, I WANT TO PLAY A REAL SHOW. Go figure, him and his friends had been juiced up with the Jack Black classic: School of Rock. Now, they are shooting for the stars and they've sure got the rock in them. 

(See also: Owen Jazz covering punk rock classic: At Your Funeral by Saves The Day (Covered by Owen Jazz))

Monday, August 1, 2016

From a Holistic School into a Holistic Integration of Home and School

It has been a good two years since rounding up my offshoot of the Emmons clan, tucking them tightly into my Journeyman-bundle and setting flight half-way around the world to Jinan, China to commence what suggested to be a life-transformative adventure of introducing Originateve's Regenerative practices far from anything we knew as home.

Back in those days, the query abounded, "Why China?" Our answers always spoke of:
  1. A place where neither I nor my beautiful wife, Glow, had ever lived before. This needed to be a strange place to the 2 of us.
  2. A culture that stemmed from a language that was neither English nor Spanish for as a family we already spoke these. 
  3. A non-christian nation. 
China met the three-tiered criteria seamlessly. Two years, now, into all of this it is hard to feel like a stranger anymore. A few weeks ago, as we landed in the Jinan airport upon visiting our next destination, Fujian Province, Glow giggled out loud, as she caught herself in what I guessed to be but the tip of an epiphany yet unfolding and said, "It feels so weird to be arriving in Jinan and feeling that we are home."

Hooligans at Home in their Garden
Home. What a word! As all words should be! Bigger than the space that lies between what home means to me and you, or any of us. But say it any way: Home. We do our best to fill our cups with meager attempts to speak of what cannot be uttered. To hell with that. Say it anyway! I couldn't agree more, it's good to be Home. Yet deeper still, the grief of being far from Home back in the west and the hopes of the possibilities promised of our new Home down south sooth us in the complexities of this tremendous 4-letter-word.

Some say we came to KeyU Kindergarten in Jinan to teach but as good mentors we know how much we have been here to learn: if lucky to be struck by the hand that holds the rock eager to strike the clay pot of potentials before their time. One of many learned lessons has been that of having successfully introduced a Holistic School Model of Kindergarten Education while unfortunately slighting the need to make sure every Home, the kids we've grown with, ventures into the equally transformative garden a Holistic Lifestyle can feed when tended to. 

One of the many beautiful messes
made by Alan and his gang of hooligans
Thankfully, the wild has always thrived with or without our intervention. As we prepared our first farewells to a brood of thankful parents I met them with somewhat of a clashing perspective regarding our time here in Jinan:

"We also feel that much regeneration has taken place in the lives of your children. But unfortunately one aspect of their growth was realizing that HOME and SCHOOL are as different as WILD is to MONO-CROP, or as the idea of home is to you and me." 

They asked what I meant and there within I began to outline my concluding remarks that just so happened to be the opening statement for the new Home we plan to grow down in Jinjiang, starting serendipitously on October 13th, my birthday, when my offshoot of the Emmons clan, tucked tightly into my third-year-Journeyman-bundle set feet, slightly south of our new home, half-way-around the world from our home, to take a second jab at what promises to be a life-transformative adventure of introducing Originateve's Regenerative practices not only into the classroom but into the HOMES of families we can't wait to work with!

But as mentioned, the Wild runs just fine in her wildness without, but also perhaps because of, us. In good season, our seeds, tucked and guarded sometimes for years awaiting the due rain, sprout. More often than not in unsuspected moments where we are blessed with a peek at the magical process of regeneration we are a part of.

A show of hands rose in the farewell meeting and one of the mothers began to share that we need not feel so bad for much of our work in the kids had indeed begun to transform their homes. Wangli, mother of 5 year old Alan, who started at the beginning of our program, 2 years ago, brought-tear-to-my-eye. I boldly gave her the homework assignment to write down her story which I now share with you:

“It has been almost two years since the first time we decided to choose KeyU for my son’s kindergarten education. Now, when we look back on why we decided this, we find that there are two reasons: 
  1. We always hoped Alan could enjoy a carefree style of early education 
  2. We were always very interested in Originateve's belief in education. 
Many friends warned us that Chinese children did not benefit from this type of preschool. Concerns on how they will find it hard to catch up in primary school in comparison to other children was often spoke of. Nevertheless, we insisted on our decision. Time has proven that we made the right choice. In the past two years, we continued to receive (witness) many surprises from our son’s growth. One of these I would like to share. 

Ever since he was born, buying toys for Alan has been an issue. Often if he sees anything he wants in the toy shop, he will cry till he gets his way. However, this all changed one day. I remember it happened during the period when Captain American was first in cinema. My son was so into the movie. He was hooked on the idea of having the shield from the movie when he saw a neighbour’s boy playing with one. But the boy didn’t share the toy with him. So he came home asking for one but I didn’t agree to buy it. From that day on, he begged one every time when we walked by the toy shop after school. One day as usual, after begging without a satisfying result, he asked for a box instead. I was busy cooking in the kitchen and I thought that he might want to store some things away. So I told him that he could fetch one from the garage. When I came out from cooking I saw something that stunned me. The floor was covered by all kinds of tools: scissors, colour pens and glue. I decided not to interrupt him but observe from a distance. I saw him cutting a circle off the cardboard and then colour-painting it. To finish it off, he taped it to become his shield. Then there was this most exciting voice from him: “Mum, look, Shield from Captain American!” 

Without any help or the need to buy things, my son had made himself his favorite toy. From then on, we have always saved a few recyclables for him and he often makes all sorts of things from these such as boats and nunchucks.”

Alan, Wangli and I...making me feel at home!!
How can my heart not be overjoyed by reading this story of Holistic Education making its' way into my Kindergarteners Homes, as my kids become the mentors of their own parents? Likewise, how can my heart not be broken by our leaving? 

I am thankful in these times for the indigenous wisdom passed along by Martin Prechtel regarding our need to learn to carry with grace all of life's grief and praise. And so as we finish packing up our last items to take down south I tuck away all of the memories made in Jinan. 

Fujian Province Families GET READY to be transformed.

August 8th, 2016