Why the Tree of Life?


Enki Conference

[Pictures coming soon, I promise! Chief Apprentice Photographer K helped out, and we ended up with around 1110 photos. Needless to say, there is a lot of culling that needs to happen, but we will have pictures up soon.]

We're back from the Enki Conference (or Enki Camp as K is calling it). Wow, how to put it all in a nutshell?? I learned so much, and K really blossomed in ways he hasn't before. D had a blast with so much physical freedom (he could leave the building without us having to worry about him immediately), and E got to spend lots of time just him and the boys. Neither of the boys wanted to leave come Friday, particularly K; and he is ready to go back next year. I certainly hope we can make it an annual trip!

We were at a beautiful Greek Orthodox camp in Contoocook, New Hampshire. Part of me is ready to move up there right now. It was hard to leave the 70 degree weather.

The conference was broken up into two parts: a workshop and then the homeschooling conference itself. We had Saturday off in the middle for exploring the area (and doing laundry!).

The workshop was called 'Rousing Intuition'. Basically, we focused on learning the basic techniques of mindful meditation and Tonglen meditation, and studied some of the different typologies regarding temperaments and learning styles. All of these are to be used as tools to help us be fully present with our families, to see things more clearly and as judgment-free as possible. Shelley blogged well about it over on Along the Crooked Path (she has some nice pictures of the camp, too). By looking more deeply at ourselves and by understanding more about ourselves, the hope is that we will keep from overlaying ourselves onto our children. When challenges arise, being more aware will help us as parents and teachers to respond rather than react. I actually hadn't been all that interested in the workshop when we signed up for the conference, but since we were coming from so far away, it didn't make sense not to do it too. But boy, am I glad I took that workshop! It turned out to be far more important and far more integral to the Enki approach (heck, to parenting or life as a human being in general; I'm not exaggerating) than I understood initially. It was eye-opening because I discovered facets of myself that I didn't realize were so strong, and I also, more importantly, realized that while it is of utmost importance (really central) to remain curious about our children and what makes them tick, we should never relax in the idea that we have them all figured out. I think I actually thought that was possible. If I just read the right books, I would have all the right answers. Nope, it doesn't work that way; and in my heart, I knew that was true, but I didn't know how else to be the best parent I could be. So, even though I may still be tempted by putting labels on my children (X personality children respond best to Y parenting), I would be misleading myself at best, and causing harm to my children at worst.

The second half, the conference, is much easier to explain! Beth took us through many of the activities that I will be doing with the boys, and she focused on the individual subjects. We looked at what the heart of each subject really is and how best to present them to our children. We did a lot of movement, song and verse work; saw how foreign language is woven in, got to paint, listened to stories and worked out math activities. And lots more! In a nutshell, I feel a lot more confident about what I am doing, and I got to have a glimpse of the road ahead (1st-3rd), and I am still pleased. I went to the conference prepared to be disillusioned (because this was my big fear), but I feel even more strongly that we are on the right path than I did two weeks ago. It is all really quite amazing how it pulls so many threads together. It's more work than any other approach on the market, I'll grant that, but it is also not pretending to give me a recipe to follow. They have a blueprint, but I definitely have to put in the time, care and effort to bring it to life in our family. And, it is the only approach that I have found that takes the whole family into account as a priority, not as an afterthought. It is not child-led, or parent-led. It is family-led; and E and even our extended family are as much a part of the process as I am and the boys are. So, I am feeling happy and inspired, and not overwhelmed. (When I start to think about adding in the possibility of a newborn, then I get overwhelmed, so we are not thinking about that tonight. Though there was one mom there who has 12 children. If she can do Enki, I sure ought to be able to do it with two!)

On the boys' front, they had a wonderful time. K joined in most of the activities toward the end of the week rather than being a watcher on the side. He started out the week refusing to do the zip line if any other children were around, but toward the end of the conference, he was right up there in line with the rest of them, several time in a row. Wow! and YAY! He also really took to the woodworking, so I think we will be incorporating that sooner than I thought. D took to the beach so much that he refused to leave every time they went down there. Both D and K loved the zip line they had set up on a hill between two trees, and E and I are both trying to figure out how to put one up in our yard. We may have to move.

Our summer solstice celebration is worth mentioning. It was really quite beautiful. We had a singing of fun songs after dinner in the dining hall , and then we all headed up to the firepit. One of the dads, Mark, is a naturalist and had brought his bow-drill for firemaking. While we all sang 'Rise Up O Flame!', he made fire. It was fascinating to watch! Then we took a candle down to the beach and lit more candles (that the older children had made) and set them afloat in the lake.

At the end of our time at Enki Camp, I think we were all sad to go. We were missing our own beds, but we were still having a wonderful time. We have met so many nice families and felt such a sense of community!



We went to Rockport Beach this weekend with some friends who were celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary. They invited everyone down who had been in their wedding party. We all had a really great time. K is ready to go back again sometime this summer. The beach was very family-friendly. We all stayed in separate cottages at the Little Bay Club. Their swimming pool was really neat. It had lots of levels and waterfalls that the boys could walk around and explore. At the beach, K had lots of fun surfing, and D co-opted every waterbottle he could for squirting into the sand.

Do schools today kill creativity?


Enki Co-op: What's working. what's not

We have five weeks of Thursday morning co-op meetings under our belt. All in all, it's been a lot of fun, but there are definitely some kinks to work out. Everything starts out great. The kids love chopping up the vegetables and getting our soup going first thing. We've been using sharp, little paring knives, but I have my eye on some vegetable choppers from Montessori Services. We have had a couple of cuts, and D put the blade in his mouth just this morning when I stepped away to get a bandaid for another child. We are very good about supervising all the knives, but those moments happen. So, I think the choppers would work better.

Then, everyone goes off and plays; usually very well. Though, one of the kinks is that when we have co-op at our house, K becomes a wild child. Something is overwhelming him: excitement, jealousy, being four and a half years old, hunger, I don't know what. Perhaps a neutral location would work better, something homey, perhaps at a church? A place with a kitchenette would be nice.

We've also found that we need to have a snack before circle, so we have incorporated a fruit salad beforehand. Food we seem to be good at! The soup and bread turned out exceptionally good today, and the actual eating of the meal when smoothly for the most part. But circle was another story.

We need to memorize all the songs and verses and movements in circle. The Enki guides recommend this, but we thought we could get away with one of us reading/singing on the sideline and the other leading the movements. We just aren't holding their attention. They all begin to wander off as we're stumbling along, and we completely lost everyone today. Part of the problem, too, must be attributed to my oldest child who was lying in the middle of the floor for most of circle and trying to grab everyone's legs. But we plugged along anyway until it was just us moms. Happily, the six year old daughter of my friend came back into the room when we had reached the time for the nature story (King Summer- prose version), and she sat, apparently happy to listen, through the whole reading. Of course, then we had lunch (more food!), which went more smoothly.

Pickup/saying bye is also going well. I am picking out 'Simple Gifts' by ear on the recorder to signal pickup time, so that is coming along, but definitely still needs some work. Unfortunately, I can play it almost perfectly at home , but squeak horribly when it really matters. I've been playing 'Golden in the Garden' to call everyone to circle, and I have that down much better (though I bizarrely completely forgot one note today and had to give up on it, even though I really have it down pat). Sheesh. Then, after pickup, we have a fairy heart chime that the children can make a wish on after they have put their shoes on and right before they head out the door. This has really helped with that transition. They all love shaking 'her' to tickle her and make her laugh.

So, the most important part of the morning still needs lots of work. Perhaps the majority of our children are just too young? Though D was much more interested in circle this morning than K! Well, it's a work in progress...