The Muddy Schoolhouse is part of a world wide network of schools, homeschool co-ops and families using ALC tools to help children self direct their learning.
At The Muddy Schoolhouse we hold the vision of creating an all-ages Agile Learning Community for self-directed learners, as well as creating a mobile resource center for homeschooling/unschooling families. We use ALC Agile Learning Tools for self-organization and intentional culture creation to cultivate a deeply engaging learning space where people are doing what excites them. We may be mobile but we are rooted in values that embrace choice, along with collaboration across ages and throughout the community. We like to use a metaphor of a tree to help illustrate some of the aspects of the ALC educational model more clearly.
Soil & Roots
The Soil we grow from is trust:
in students, in each other, in ourselves. The biggest dividing line between The Muddy Schoolhouse and traditional educational systems boils down to this: Who do we trust to direct a child’s learning? Most educational settings come from a perspective that children are empty vessels who don’t know what’s good for them, so someone else needs to decide what they should learn, how they should learn it, and then tell them whether they’ve learned it well enough. We have a different view.
Some Reasons to Trust:
- It’s hard to learn to make good decisions if you’re not regularly allowed to make your own decisions.
- Children learn better when they’re doing things they’re actually interested in.
- The best way to learn to trust oneself is by being granted the gift of trust.
- Committing to trusting children creates powerful mutual respect.
- By practicing self-direction, children learn greater responsibility.
- Following children’s authentic interests makes them better attuned to their passions and hones their ability to listen for their deeper purpose.
In the soil of trust, the tree has four main roots that are the underlying assumptions of our educational model.
The Roots that ground us are:
- Learning is natural. It’s happening all the time.
- We don’t follow a curriculum, give grades, or expect physical/social/intellectual/spiritual development to happen at the same age, time, or in the same way for every child.
- People know their needs and have the ability to learn how to get their needs met.
- People learn best when they make their own decisions. Children are people.
- Can you learn good decision making if you’re not allowed to make your own decisions? Can you learn to stay firm when the heart rings true if you’re not able to set boundaries or consent to the learning? We’re always influencing our kids. But when an adult in our school expresses a preference, it doesn’t come from a place of authority, but rather from an authentic connection with the kids, which allows them to navigate that influence in an honoring way that supports them making better decisions.
- When we maximize opportunities to make decisions within a safe container, children experience how to go for what they want and risk mistakes, co-creating how they want to learn, how to resolve conflicts, and in the process, who they are.
- People learn more from the environment / culture they are immersed in than from the content they are taught.
- As facilitators, we recognize that kids learn from who we are in the world, how we make decisions, how we resolve conflicts, how we create the life we want to live. Information is easy to get, content is easy to get. What kids learn more than what we say is how we say it and what we do.
- The implicit lessons of the environment are the ones that stay with us. In most schools, the cultural message is passivity over proactivity, being OK with non-consent, fearing mistakes, power-over versus power-with. We, on the other hand, create an environment where authentic connection flourishes, where life can be whatever you want it to be, and where there are infinite possibilities to create and prosper.
- People develop strength and purpose through cycles of intention, creation, reflection, and sharing
- Learning to set intentions teaches us to identify our needs.
- Making intentions public and visible allows us to find collaborators and supporters who can help us more fully realize what we want to create.
- Reflecting on our intentions teaches us about ourselves and how we learn.
- Creating a cultural container where kids are documenting what they are doing teaches them how to share effectively in the world. They create value from their own learning. The world then gives them feedback, and they go deeper into it based on that feedback. They can answer questions like what do I want to do? what do I like to do? Is what I do valuable to anyone else? Does anyone else share my passion?
Cycle of Learning
These are the four basics questions that our learning cycles and core routines that we emphasize.
What do you want to accomplish today?
At the Muddy Schoolhouse we meet as a community to set and discuss our daily intentions or goals. This is where we would talk about any offerings or opportunities for play and learning that we might want to do individually and as a group. We display these intentions and offerings on a daily schedule board. Writing out these offerings and requests encourages literacy and builds time management skills. The children can offer up a class of their own or request support from a facilitator to make a learning opportunity possible.
What are you going to do about it?
The magic of self-directed learning unfolds as the Muddy Schoolhouse learners spend their days diving into their own interests – once we know what we want, we create it. Children can freely choose to explore, invent, collaborate, and play. They are allowed to listen to their own body and eat when they are hungry and are encouraged to ask for support from facilitators as needed.
What did you learn from your choices?
As part of our core routines we gather at the end of each day to check in on their intentions from the morning and to document or log in what they did during the day. This gives them time to reflect on whether they accomplished what they wanted to. Through this feedback cycle learners develop a deeper awareness of what worked and what didn’t. These documentation tools can be used to self-assess their progress toward their goals, notice patterns in their choices and use of time, and decide if they want to change up their approach to their intentions next time.
How can you share what you are learning with the world?
As we learn with and from each other…we document our work to record, exhibit, and share our experience with others. There are many ways that this is accomplished like journaling, photographs, drawing and performing. We encourage our older learners to build a portfolio when they are ready.
The Branches and Leaves
Branches are the practices, structures, and tools we grow and adapt to our unique community and setting. We are always reflecting as a co-created community on all that is happening in our space to ensure we are still deeply rooted in our shared values and shared intentions.
- Building self-awareness and collaborative awareness
- Conflict resolution tools, and positive and compassionate communication practices such as non-violent communication (NVC).
- Tools for creating connection to ourselves: self-calming, reflection, meditation.
- Whole person growth: physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual.
- Creating an empowering culture with agile learning tools.
- Respectful, supportive, inclusive environment
- Parents are always welcome to hang out, share their passions, and be part of our day.
- Honoring the diversity in ideas and people across race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.
- Providing opportunities for kids to be of service to their community, to do real work and make real contributions.
- Our combination of a mobile and farm environment creates opportunities for self-directed play
- 35 acres of outdoor space with trails and gardens.
- Tinkering/maker/art space with real tools.
- Quiet comfortable space for reading, thinking, etc.
- Ability to go mobile for satellite pop up community events.
- Bonding community connections
- Community days where homeschooling/unschooling families can join us.
- Playful activities, skill-shares, and service projects that create kid-grown up connections.
- Facilitated heart-opening and connecting practices offered regularly to families and the broader community.
- Parent support around livelihood discussions and collaborations, groups and workshops for sharing tools, sharing skills, giving empathy, parenting inspiration.
- Parents and other community members could also gather to re-charge, connect, do camp-outs, yoga, art and cooking classes, sing, dance, and address community needs together.
- A strong commitment to transparency and peaceful conflict resolution.