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Learning at its Best

What is Conscious Community in the Field of Education (and Parenting)?

Community is created by individuals who share common values. Conscious community means that the well-being of the consciousness of all constituents is the highest priority. Implied is that nourishing consciousness leads to the best possible outcomes of all community members.

What do most educators know about a child’s consciousness? Given my 30 years of engagement in the field I confidently assert: not much, and certainly not enough. And as long as that ignorance pervades then, no matter how well intentioned, programs and curricula with have minimal impact. Inversely, were the consciousness of children the primary consideration, education would become vivacious, relevant, and a locus of growth and learning for all. Education would be potent.

If past experience holds, protests to this position will be many. I heard some at the AERO conference during the workshop I led on social justice.  Why was I emphasizing the qualities of the consciousness of children of different ages instead of talking about programs that could end prejudice or promote sustainability? My answer: hurt children make hurtful decisions as adults; healthy children make healthful decisions as adults. Nourishing a child’s consciousness insures optimal well-being. Hence, the quickest way to social justice is well-being in children. Attention there trumps all other endeavors.

Specifically, once the child’s consciousness is known, it becomes obvious that children of all ages make significant contributions to social justice. They don’t have to be taught social justice. That is old paradigm, top-down teaching. Nourishing the child’s consciousness effortlessly includes the development of their social justice contribution and, synchronously, their knowledge of themselves as connected, meaningful participants in their world. It is a natural process. Two immediate benefits ensue. Social justice is the norm. Social injustice is recognized and responded to. In other words, empathy, that most important quality of consciousness for social justice, awakens and develops.

What does it mean to participate in the consciousness of children? Simply, it means know how children of different ages organize their world. Specifically, it means a comprehensive knowledge that includes children’s perception of time, space, identity, respect, community, love, aesthetic, death, sex, and values. We have to know how children make meaning so that our interactions are meaningful for them.

Moreover, appreciation of the child’s consciousness extends to knowing their effect upon us. What happens to teachers and parents when they participate in relationships that nourish the well-being of children?

After much consideration and many experiences in intentional communities that range from a 12 person collective building a loft in Soho for performance art to leading a residential meditation community of 25 to being the Executive Director of a learning center for children and families with a staff of 28 I have come to see that only in participatory, emergent consciousness community can our goals be realized. And I wonder: Can social media be the way the self selected members of a conscious education community connect? This question amplifies the importance of social media for me.

Meanwhile, we, Josette and I, and the folks at Summa Institute, continually bring the consciousness of children to light in all that we do. Natural Learning Relationships is a recasting of child development that places their consciousness at the core, describes how they organize and make meaning of their world, and suggest relationships that bring optimal well-being. Josette has specifically addressed how providing these relationships stimulate the wisdom of the adult. Summa Institute, now searching for a building in Portland OR will provide a physical home for conscious education and parenting community.

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About Ba Luvmour

Accomplished in self knowledge and all matters pertaining to children, families, and education.Creator of Natural Learning Relationships.

Discussion

11 thoughts on “What is Conscious Community in the Field of Education (and Parenting)?

  1. Hi Ba, It’s great to have you here, and your shining light and passion!

    Because I’ve heard you present, I want to hear more about what “qualities of consciousness” adults should, and need, to understand better in children, so that natural inclinations towards social justice can emerge even more strongly.

    Can you get specific? I think it would help people here to understand more about yours’ and Josette’s theories about central developmental rhythms of particular stages of growth. (Yes, I used “rhythms” advisedly.)

    How might this inform our practice as educators?

    Appreciative of your insight and decades of work around wellness, the ways we are “called to greatness” developmentally, and for the force of well being to emerge,

    Kirsten

    Posted by Kirsten Olson | August 21, 2011, 3:10 pm
  2. Ba, thank you for asserting children’s natural right to – and affinity for – justice.

    While I agree with you, much of what I remember from my ed school child development classes dealt with how little rational or empathetic behavior we could expect from young children operating under relatively solipsistic, concrete algorithms.

    To echo Kirsten, what should we reconsider regarding the ways we teach child development?

    All the best,
    C

    Posted by Chad Sansing | August 22, 2011, 5:25 am
    • Sorry for the delay in responding. I didn’t get more specific because the material calls for an in-depth description. I have decided to create a web page on the Summa site with the details. I hope this won’t be too distant for those interested to access. Perhaps you and Chad (see below) can let me know if I should condense it and use it for a web posting.

      I will have the page up today or tomorrow. Thanks for your patience and I look forward to your response.

      ba

      Posted by Ba Luvmour | August 23, 2011, 4:25 pm
  3. Hi Ba,

    You know I am with you, and I appreciate your clarity here. First, I want to admit that it is hard for me sometimes in my practice with elementary kids, to bite my tongue and not preach or moralize when confronted with what looks a lot like “mean” or “unjust” behavior – even if I know intellectually that this child is just acting in a developmentally appropriate and predictable way given the setting and relationship variables at play. I try, but when Sasha whacks Jill and steals her pencils or whatever, I find myself lapsing into “how would you feel, if…” (on a good day) or even more direct and punitive language (on a bad day).

    One thing we did last year, which I found to be a very intriguing alternative approach, was host a “philosopher in residence” to come and work with the kids (age 8-11) for about a week last spring. This came out of a program developed and developing currently at UW by Jana Mohr Lone and colleagues. It uses developmentally appropriate kids’ literature as a springboard for very open-ended kinds of Socratic dialogue with kids about big moral, ethical and existential questions. I found that kids, through verbal discourse were able to use this venue to raise and challenge one another’s ethics and behaviors in a very non-threatening way.

    It was really interesting to me. Kids seemed to, in some cases, really begin to shift their consciousness or “way of organizing the world” directly out of certain conversations and repeated themes in the discussion – at least this is what seemed to be going on. It sort of reminded me of Piaget’s “zones of proximal development,” in that those individuals who were close to a developmental leap, when presented directly and repeatedly with a differing or more sophisticated world view, began to edge towards this wisdom. At the time the program seemed to have transformative potential, and what an improvement to character ed, kinds of approaches to teaching morality and ethics. Here’s a link to the program: http://depts.washington.edu/nwcenter/

    But lately, I’ve been wondering…From the perspective of social justice, do you think there is any harm in leading children across developmental thresholds? Is it possible to guide them towards more “mature” consciousness, or is it best just to nurture them where they’re at and leave them be? Can we nurture the developmental process of unfolding without coercion? Should we? Is that the goal? Can and should we embed this agenda in our learning relationships with children or does having such an agenda necessarily corrupt the relationships? I’d really like to know what you think!

    Best,

    Paul

    Posted by Paul Freedman | August 25, 2011, 10:56 am
    • Thank you this considered response.

      Did I ever tell you about my work with Stages of learning? This is not a child development organization but rather a non-profit of legitimate NY Broadway actors who bring Shakespeare to the classroom. They had great success as they spent the whole semester with the children, tried differing roles themselves, cast students is roles different from their gender, and debriefed the feelings of every aspect of their time together.

      Great, but still something missing. Why did it work so well. Once the actors learned and Incorporated knowledge of FeelingBeing into the program its potency and popularity increased exponentially. They now knew the “why” Disadvantaged children flocked to it. Attendance rose as did their competency in English and other subjects.

      I bring this up as an apt comparison to the philosopher in residence program to which you refer. It meets all the FeelingBeing needs. I have enjoyed many similar conversations with Feeling Being children in much the same format. And, were the underlying reasons for its success appreciated it also would increase in potency.

      You, and Salmonberry, can do this too. And to ally your concern, to do so provides the nourishment of feeling mentoring that is most important for the development of Trust. And Trust, (deliberately capitalized), is the organizing principle of the age.

      So go for it. Just remember that geopolitics is beyond their purview. And perhaps the expectation of teaching morality and ethics should be let of as well. No hidden agendas, just the free flowing emergent relational insights that are natural to the age.

      As to the challenges of your own anger, welcome to the club. Stay in touch with it. Inquire into it. It is helpful to many to do an Natural Learning Relationships autobiography. There are charts to help in the back of Optimal Parenting. The process is simple. Consider the organizing principle and nourishments for each stage. Then go through your life and see what happened for you. As the emotions arise don’t judge them. Feel, stay attentive, and self inquire.

      And of course, by meeting the children’s needs you learn about yourself. Please don’t judge that learning. That anger may well be pointing to unresolved wounds from your childhood.

      Greatefully,

      ba

      Posted by Ba Luvmour | August 25, 2011, 11:44 am
    • Paul, I wanted to address the questions in your last paragraph. I think Ba addressed most of the rest of your post, but he seemed to not speak directly to your question of leading children across developmental thresholds. Ba, chime in here if you disagree.

      Each developmental stage has an organizing principle, an expression in consciousness which the child has to fully grow into before they have developed what they need to in order to be open to naturally progressing to the next stage. This should not (and I think, can not) be hurried along. In NLR we talk about going through the open window, in other words, you have to work within the developmental capacities of the child. A simple example can be found in the idea of teaching manners to a 6 year old. 6 year olds learn through imitation, but they are not going to say please and thank you because they are truly thankful, that concept of socially respectful behavior (please and thank you at its best) is a capacity that can be easily thought to a 9 year old because they care about feelings and social relationships. 9 year old have the developmental capacity for understanding manners. 6 year olds do not.You can train them to say it like a monkey, but they won’t understand it. For a 9 year old, the developmental capacity is there, ripe for the understanding.

      You can not and should not stretch a child beyond their developmental capacities, and it is impossible to push them into a developmental stage that they are not in. They simply do not have the capacity for it. So with a 6 year old, you go through the open window, providing loving touch, flexibility, warmth, and opportunities for strength. This will allow a sense of rightful place to develop in the child and their capacity for learning will naturally blossom. If you come in with an agenda that is not developmentally appropriate you definitely can corrupt the relationship.

      I hope that helps,
      Amber

      Posted by ambersk | August 31, 2011, 1:03 pm
  4. Amazing post Ba – thanks!

    I love what you said here, “…hurt children make hurtful decisions as adults; healthy children make healthful decisions as adults. Nourishing a child’s consciousness insures optimal well-being. Hence, the quickest way to social justice is well-being in children. Attention there trumps all other endeavors.” Simple. Well put. Don’t preach to the kids and tell them what to do or what’s important to you as an adult (ie. any sort of social justice “curriculum”). Instead design an environment where they can grow and thrive and PRACTICE empathy and other relationship skills in a caring community!!

    After I met you and started reading Optimal Parenting, I started thinking about how Sudbury schools uniquely meet children’s needs for nourishment in their developmental stages as you’ve outlined. I’d like to share a few thoughts about this. First, there is a small (usually under 100 people) community of people ages 4-70+ who have constant access to each other. This may be a very overlooked aspect of education, but I believe that having access to a multi-aged environment, including kids of all ages as well as adults, is a much more powerful educational/nurturing model than may have been previously thought of. It’s always a real, authentic community where people know and care about each other deeply.

    Usually the adults in the community are a fairly stable presence from year-to-year, which allows for time – that precious commodity – for them to really get to know and appreciate and support the students in the unique ways that each child needs at any given moment – which of course change on a very regular basis! I’m always blown away at what the staff have noticed and responded to in each of my three children by spending time with them and observing their behavior over the years. Because there is no unasked for “teaching” of students in a Sudbury school, and no judgement placed on which activities a student “should” be spending their time on by the staff, the students get to feel and trust what having an authentic relationship with adults is all about.

    Then there is the student-to-student aspect of relationship and community. There is no age segregation at a Sudbury school, which allows for complete freedom of association for all students. At any given time younger and older ones are either interacting between “age groups” or often of course, as children do, they self-select themselves into similarly-aged groups. The “learning” and nurturing of each other’s growth as people in this environment is rich and profound, and could fill volumes (which I plan to work on one day!!) With deep trust, deep knowledge of others, deep friendships, deep respect of others and constantly practicing how to get along with others in a multi-aged democratic community I believe that Sudbury schools, even without specific knowledge of the stages you have developed, create an environment that nourishes kids so that they do become adults who make “healthful decisions”.

    I could dig deeper, and I will (; But that’s it for now!

    Posted by Alicia Richard | August 25, 2011, 5:56 pm
    • You have stated so well what an educational community can look like. Can we all toast multi-age relationships in which mutual respect and the recognition that self knowledge grows for all participants is an everyday reality? Every gift you describe in precious. Thanks, ba
      p.s. I know some public school teachers who have been able to do this on a limited basis as well.

      Posted by Ba Luvmour | August 25, 2011, 6:06 pm
  5. So, instead of imposing on children adult interpretations of the world, we need to understand how the child sees the world, how s/he reads the world. Exposure to issues at the level of the child through picture books, story telling (their own), and such seem to be some ways to understand the child’s unique view of the world in order to better engage in a teaching-learning partnership. Have I understood you correctly?

    Posted by Elisa Waingort | September 11, 2011, 8:38 pm
    • You have. We can simultaneously see through their eyes and through our own. Natural Learning Relationships offers a framework that helps us do this. Well-being inexorably plays through all of our actions and connecting the insights you have when being with children with an understanding of the way well-being organizes in each stage of life than powerful and meaningful relationship opportunities are natural and available. It all starts with careful open observation and I thank you for bringing this to the fore.

      Posted by Ba Luvmour | September 12, 2011, 11:46 am

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