Category Archives: Children

Does this make senses?

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Does this make senses?

“What do you think of this sentence?” I asked the class. “Is there anything wrong with it?

We don’t teach a grammar class, my friend and I, we teach creative writing at a homeschool campus that is an offshoot of the public school district. We are “parent helpers” not paid teachers.

It gets worse: For six of the last seven years we have been quietly, gloriously, subversively imploring our students to ignore grammar, spelling and format, and just write. We tell them that all that formality and structure can be ignored for 90 minutes. All of that can (and will) come later, after the creativity has been let out of its structured, school-system cage.

Should we be booted out? Reigned in? Given strict boundaries?

Perhaps.

Yesterday we had our largest class ever: 30 kids. In years past, our largest group was about twenty, with an average weekly class size of about 10-15.

“Mom, were you worried when you saw so many kids in there today?” asked my youngest after class, though she knew the answer already. Thirty kids in our classroom who were there by choice—who either already love to write or don’t but have heard, through the school grapevine that this writing class is different, fun? I could not have been more thrilled. I still am.

Does this make senses?

Our kids write (and often share) sensuous, funny, moving, oft-illustrated, brilliant pieces in genres they haven’t been formally taught (fiction, sci-fi, non-fiction, creative non-fiction, flash fiction, poetry, improv, fan-fiction, and more). This is what comes out of their funny, serious, deep, beautiful minds: sans mandates.

Yesterday one of our youngest students, a tender-hearted seven year old invited to class because his older sister already attends, shared his story with the class orally: over the weekend his precious fish died.

Last year, an older boy who had been viciously bullied in public school shared a poem so beautiful (and absent angst) that I was moved to tears (were it not for my teacher hat, I would have stood there sobbing).

Two weeks ago a boy with perfect handwriting but zero confidence as a writer stood up and read the beginnings of his sci-fi story. It was his first day in class. The story, brilliant.

Does this make senses?

If you think you are hearing tooted horns, think again. My friend and I are mere spectators, facilitators of creativity that is already pulsing inside these astonishing kids. Sometimes we see it first and gently coax it out. Other times, it bursts forward, unbidden.

Yesterday after our class on writing with the senses, a new student brought me a two-page essay he had written at home: “This is just for you to read,” he said, “I don’t want you to share it with the class, but I worked really hard on it and I’m proud of it.”

This makes perfect senses to me.

 

 

Infinite inklings


William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence was the first thought I had when I saw this picture in my haphazard portfolio of photo memories. To be clear, it was this small bit (the part most of us know) that came to mind:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the Palm of your Hand,
And Eternity in an hour.


William Blake (1757-1827) has seen fit to send me a personal augury (a sign or omen) today: this part of his poem, in a book of the same name; a gift from my mother, was one I read over and over again as a child. When Mom gave me a mustard seed pin, I would think of these lines yet again. Thus began my education about the power and beauty of tiny things. To this day I am fascinated by the minute: the artists who make miniature replicas of life from clay, teensy dew drops that only my macro lens can capture, microscopic particles, insects hidden under rocks and between blades of grass, and minuscule inklings about strangers.

My son’s find (pictured above), important enough to him that he stopped playing to bring it to me, made me smile then, but amazes me now. He is nine–and he loves nothing more than time outside running around with friends. That a small wheatish grain could stop him in his tracks moves me beyond words and into reverence. To see a world in a grain of sand…

Lately I have been seeing a lot of the microscopic; the importance of small moments within relationships, brought home by death, Alzheimer’s, illness and the steady march of time that grows my children up while I am blinking–unwilling to take in what I am seeing, yet embracing it all the same. There is no solace in ignoring what is before me. The greatest struggle, however, is not in the seeing, it is in my inability to refocus, or perhaps de-focus, to zoom back out and enjoy life without feeling everything at a cellular level.

I seem to be craving the opposite of Zen moments; it is oblivion and pure abandon that I crave (yet can’t imagine), but only because despite the blazing beauty of my current hyper-aware state, I am getting burned. I am living in constant awareness, attempting to make the most of everything even as life’s constant thrum stokes the fire that blazes within me. Is it okay to be this vulnerable, this open?

Fire swallowers, in order not to get burned, master the art of cutting off oxygen; sword swallowers, in order not to die, must not swallow. Surely there is a trick to living with eyes, pores, and heart wide open. I know so many who seem to clothe themselves with daily awareness as elegantly as Princess Grace; I just wonder how they do it.

Perhaps the answer lies in the kind of sloughing off one would do in a plane that is too heavy. Out would go the unnecessary items; in this case: guilt, regret, unnecessary and self-imposed expectations, insecurities, perfectionism, procrastination, fear, doubt, and that ever-present Everyman persona. Without these companions, I am already breathing so much easier that even my son holding infinity the palm of his hand won’t shake me.

Eternity in an hour, however, may be an entirely separate matter…

Das Fenster

Just outside this window there is a friendly dog–a handsome guy who looks like a black Golden Retriever–and a passel of kids, some of them mine, tossing him a branch-ish stick to retrieve. Down the road there are three horses waiting to be ridden; one of them particularly grateful for her new job, having been recently rescued from the scorching desert heat and someone’s unimaginably cruel neglect. Misery, they named her, a sweet irony to her newly nurturing life and what I could swear looks like a smile on her face.

A toothy llama, Rodeo, stands on the corner–not to be ridden–but to be seen, buck teeth and all. Her gentle, unassuming nature reminds me that in a small town, Julian to be exact, time slows down and pays attention to details missed in larger slices of society. I wonder what I have been missing in my own suburban town – what I might ought to begin to notice.

I nearly walk right past these incredible flowers, blooming freely in a very large pot on the sidewalk next to one of the local apple pie bakeries. It’s the color that stops me in my tracks. Are they blue? Are they purple? I don’t quite decide, I just take the shot and marvel at just how much I like particular shades of blue and purple; how soulful they are.

Later, much later, as I reflect on our impromptu jaunt into Julian, I vow to defect from the rat race and enter into a sort of distracted, nirvana-like existence; to breathe deeply like a nearly-comatose yoga student. Instead, I eat pie…lots and lots of pie, which is the other great way to become comatose. It really is that simple: appreciate what is right in front of your busy nose, eat pie, become comatose, and take a little nap–unless, like me, you still have a mountain to drive back down.

Words and photographs are the creation and property of author/photographer, Britton Minor and The Jaded Lens Photography

Weed

The other day, my youngest rescued a discarded weed from the ground. She walked into the ballet studio holding it.

Seconds later a little boy about four years old said, “Mommy, what is that? What does she have?”

With little patience and a dose of disgust she replied (in full earshot of my daughter), “It’s just a weed.”

We looked at each other, my daughter and I–a knowing look passing between us. I could hear us both thinking along the lines of, “She doesn’t know. She can’t see how beautiful this pretty weed is. How sad.”

And it was beautiful. It had been chosen for the way it stood out among the living, the way its faded glory contrasted the vibrant colors all around it, and for its unique shape, crisp from the sun.

Children often look at life without predefined boundaries. They see beauty and possibility in things others discard; things that go unnoticed by most.

I’m trying to see my world through their eyes more often. Children everywhere fascinate me.

I love their faces.

I love their conversations.

I love their ideas.

I love their haphazard treasures, their rambling thoughts, and their discarded “weeds”.

Balance (A Tribute to Children)

The timer dings! It’s time for the next group of excited children to rush out into the muddy muck and claim a raft. For the next five minutes, the children, who have grabbed a bowish oar and perched themselves precariously upon a piece of floating wood, happily balance and pull, balance and pull. One little girl loses her right shoe in the brown sludge but is too afraid to hunt for it. Another girl gets very close to the foot bridge, but with patience and strength, maneuvers herself free. A boy challenges another to a friendly battle as their rafts collide.

While I am watching, not one child falls in. Not one child calls for his mom or looks nervously to the shore. Is it because they know the water is shallow? I think not. It’s because balancing on these things is natural to them. Even with the initial “figuring out” that each and every child did in order to get on without falling over, there was no evident doubt, no giving up. Balancing on that board was a fact before it was a reality.

Perhaps, I think to myself, this is what I need to nurture: an innate sense of balance, one in which I do not question whatever obstacle is put in my path. Steady, one foot at a time, breathe, up comes the leg, then the other, breathe again and Wa-la! Success. Balancing. No doubt. No stress. Hey, this is fun. Let’s pull the oar a bit and sail through the murky waters with confidence…