TSH Observations - "Follow The Child: Hula Dancers and Shredded Coconut"
Week of February 8, 2021: From Founder & Principal Mimosa Jones Tunney
Dear TSH Families:
There isn’t a day that goes by that Desi doesn’t ask me the status of Phil; Emerson this week wanted to know why the Principal was late… when I told her I had a doctor’s appointment, she bristled with concern; as I walked into Ms. Julie’s class, the Learners were creating a Reggio project and Colton was making the difficult decision of how to move his from the table… it’s not gonna work is it Ms. Mimosa? These are the journeys of the child working to make the adult man or woman. They are trying to figure out, discern, complete and regulate all of the information and emotion children are bound to explore in our human world.
Follow the Child has been misinterpreted for over 100 years. It does not mean the child does whatever they would like - quite the contrary - structure and discipline are necessary for a Learner to feel safe and supported. What it does mean is that any subject can be taught within the bounds of their interests. Last week, Duke and I were grocery shopping and he eyed coconuts in the produce section. I was reticent to buy them because although I grew up on coconuts, the boys would often take them home, take one sip of real coconut water and toss them. However, I once again conceded and put them in the cart. That night, John and Duke got into the coconuts… and it was a long ride emblematic of Follow the Child.
First, to pierce them you have to find the soft eye - which they thought was hilarious - and hammer a screwdriver into it (motor skills, precision). The first screwdriver was too small (measurement, control of error) so they fetched one with a larger diameter. Satisfied, they inserted a straw and started to drink. “Is this better for you than water?” This is not a story of a mom who always stops and follows, that would be impossible in a modern world. But it was Saturday night and being from Hawaii, I like coconuts. We looked up hydration levels for coconut water versus regular water (research) and the history of the coconut (biology). I told them about the meat inside and they asked their dad to hatchet it open (why do they almost always split exactly in half?) which he did. Then, they got out their pocket knives and started to scrape the coconut meat out, eating it along the way. Both boys were surprised at how perfectly the meat pops out. John wondered if this was how they made coconut oil. Yep, I said. We chopped the meat in a food processor. I told them the Hawaiians used lava rock which will shave anything… including your skin in the ocean! When they pressed the ground coconut between their fingers, they could feel the oil. We then put it in a pan to extract the oil, but it just burned (trial and error/scientific method). After some research, we needed to blend it with water, strain the blended water out and then cook it on a low temperature. We did not get oil… we hadn’t put enough shavings in the pan (disappointment). But they turned to the shells and I shared how the female Hawaiian hula dancers used to wear them. They wanted to use a sander to make them smooth and use what oil they could press between their fingers to make them shiny (using every part of a plant or animal to conserve resources).
The next day I woke up to a brown paper bag on the kitchen table. They were excited to show me what they had made in the early morning. Nine 6 oz (measurement) bags of shredded coconut for sale ($5 each). One cup of coconut water for sale ($3). AND in the last two packages, two coconut shell halves with red string for $20 each: a make your own coconut shell bra for hula dancers! I truly never laughed so hard… plus Duke had figured out that putting the string through the coconut shells was too difficult so he decided to sell it DIY (problem solving and commerce).
It’s not everyday that we have the time and space to give our children these long experiences where they follow their interests, but it is a wonderful example of how we strive to educate at The School House. This break… whether you are in Florida, Upstate or staying home… notice their interests and fold in the academics from there. Deep dive on information on any topic, give them the wealth of your own knowledge and see the miracle of how busy and preoccupied they can become when they want to learn. This is the joy we witness at TSH everyday and it makes us all feel like we work at the happiest place on earth... because we do. A place filled with your children... the very best of humanity. See you on the 22nd! Warmly, Mimosa