when the kiddo wakes up before us, and we come down to find him tidying up!
unprompted. with no previous convo about chores. just straight-up took the initiative to clean house.
guess somebody got spring cleaning fever, and i’m totally here for it! these are the precious moments that affirm our decision to homeschool — to see the seeds we’ve planted, and water daily, are blooming beautifully. our son is not only demonstrating responsibility and an understanding of the value we place on taking care of our home, but also his own emerging appreciation for cleanliness.
…at least in the common areas of the house ’cause his room is not tidy at all! baby steps though.
Last year, I worked as a substitute teaching assistant for a preschool program and had the opportunity to observe the dynamics between teachers, program assistants, and students in several classrooms.
One teacher quickly won my heart when I heard her say “Kiss Your Brain” in praise of the kids’ engagement in a group lesson. It wasn’t about having the “right” answer or being the best and smartest. It was a simple celebration of their ability and willingness to use their brain power—thinking, imagining, problem-solving, asking questions—and sharing it with others.
I’ve carried this practice into my home as well as into my yoga and meditation classes. With my son and the children that I teach, this phrase is a seed of self-compassion to nurture confidence and a sense of competency. It has the power to foster a love for learning without the pressure of performing to a certain standard of achievement. I also see its usefulness in cultivating a teaching-learning environment where equity, collaboration and cooperation (rather than competition and criticism) can bloom—equipping our children with a skillfulness that will serve them in all their relationships.
For myself and adult practitioners, it becomes a gentle reminder to honor these brilliantly-designed brains of ours. As we learn more about our neurobiological processes and their impact on mind (thoughts, words, feelings) and behavior (actions, habits), we can discover tools to work with rather than fight against our brain/mind to generate skillful behavior. Kiss your brain can be used as a mantra or affirmation to generate a new way of seeing and relating to ourselves. Through this practice of self-understanding, self-compassion ripens beautifully.
Each day I rise, waking to a world of possibilities.
I breathe and smile, happy and ready to learn, grow and share.
I see the sky, sun, clouds above me.
I see the earth, plants, water below me.
I feel the air around me.
I breathe and smile, knowing that I am in the world and the world is in me.
I choose to see beauty in myself, my family, my friends, my neighbors, my teachers, my community, and all living creatures.
I choose to speak words from my heart that are true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind.
I choose to act from my heart in ways that are helpful, healthy, inspiring, and kind.
Even when I do not feel or act my best (whether I am sad, scared, confused or angry), I remember to place my hands on my heart and breathe.
I smile, knowing I can begin anew. I can ask for help and comfort from those I trust and love.
Each night, I rest, thankful for all that I learned and shared.
I see the sky, moon, stars above me.
I see the beauty all around me. I breathe and smile, knowing that I am in the world and the world is in me.
[originally written Fall 2012]
This writing has multiple sources of inspiration:
My experiences as an aunt, mother, and substitute teaching assistant for a preschool program;
My experiences as a practitioner and teacher of yoga and meditation, which is rooted in my practice of Zen Buddhism in the lineage of Thich Nhat Hanh;
My dear friend TaNesha Barnes, who asked me some time last year to create an affirmation for Beyond The Surface, the critical thinking and social justice academy she literally built in her own backyard! A 21st-century embodiment of Wonder Woman, TaNesha is a mother, entrepreneur (t. barnes beauty), educator and social justice advocate with a clear heart-driven mission to empower students to become “global thinkers for equitable living.” When she recently posted the draft version of this piece (typed one late-night and stored as a memo on my BlackBerry) on Facebook, I was not only honored that she announced it would be recited daily in her upcoming program, Breathing Beauty Rites of Passages for Black Girls, but also compelled to add some long-awaited finishing touches! I am so deeply grateful to have lived, learned and grown up with TaNesha over the last 19 years and, on this 50th anniversary of the March on Washington (#MOW50), am excited to continue collaborating with her on programs that merge spirituality and wellness with social justice.
Guerrilla Learning is coloring outside the lines, finding the shortest direction between two points, moving directly toward goals, doing the best you can with what you’ve got to work with now, making what you want for your kids and what they want for themselves as real as you can, asking people for specific kinds of help, getting out of theory land and into the trenches, realizing that schools could take centuries to significantly improve (or to get out of the way altogether) and that meanwhile your children are barreling through childhood…
In a nutshell, Guerrilla Learning means taking responsibility for your own education.And Guerrilla Learning is relaxing—knowing that you’ve made a lot of mistakes as a parent (and an educator) and that you’ll make a lot more, and that that’s okay—your kids are resilient; it’s not all up to you, and life will provide.
For young people, that includes thinking clearly and seriously about one’s own goals, interests, and values—then acting accordingly.
For parents, it means supporting your child in doing so.
It might mean giving your child a kind of freedom that may seem risky or even crazy at first.
And it also means continuing your own involvement in the world of ideas and culture, continuing to read, to think, to discuss, and to create––and being a walking, talking invitation to your kids to do the same.
MAGIC: A parent’s chore is a child’s greatest joy!
Here, K got in on the shoveling fun started by his Papa and Daddy…and made a game of switching shovels every few moments.
MINDFULNESS: Whenever I sweep the floors or scrub the tub, K begs to assist. I gladly pull out the extra broom so he can help clean up his cracker crumbs and give him the scrub brush and allow him to jump naked in a baking soda-coated bathtub to muscle out the bubble bath scum.
While K is demonstrating autonomy and initiative, I have the opportunity to nurture seeds of cooperation (all along chirping The Wonder Pets’ “teamwork” song) and an appreciation for taking care of his home and belongings as well as those of others.
So I say, let start ’em young! Guiding him through a task may take a few extra minutes. But the songs, smiles, and laughter—evoked by his proud cheers of “I did it!”—truly lighten the load.