Author Archives: Marie

Nashville’s Future Classrooms

Nashville's Future Classrooms

Y’all know that I’m a big fan of alternatives to the traditional classroom, especially for kids that really aren’t made for sitting still or performing developmentally inappropriate tasks or high stakes testing.

I’m also a big fan of women. Like, such a big fan of women. In Nashville’s underground world of alternatives to traditional school women are such bosses. All over town there are women starting small communities of families that aren’t quite convinced that being kindergarten-ready is the most important thing for kids. Women that are pouring themselves into creating and running schools so that there are options, especially for the kids that need options most.

Most people don’t know how many alternative learning options there are out there so I decided to reach out to some of my faves (more are coming, but this gets it started) and learn more about their schools and the needs they fill here in Nashville. Below are interviews I conducted with these schools so that y’all can learn about the many options available to Nashville and surrounding areas:

A New Leaf of Nashville – Elle is the founder of A New Leaf of Nashville. A New Leaf is a pre-school based on the Reggio model. In a culture obsessed with making sure kids are kindergarten ready, there is something really beautiful about what she has grown at A New Leaf.

Acton Academy Nashville – Carrie is the founder of Acton Academy Nashville. So excited about the growth that they are seeing, and think the Acton model is an impressive blend of the entrepreneurial and Montessori spirit.

Simply Sudbury Microschool – This one is mine. I just love the freedom within community that the Sudbury-model provides. In a nutshell, Simply Sudbury prepares kids for adulthood by letting them actually practice adulthood.

 

Nashville’s Future Classroom: A New Leaf of Nashville

NASHVILLE’S FUTURE CLASSROOMS: Many kids will not thrive in a traditional classroom so I wanted to highlight some alternative classrooms available to families in Nashville.
It is so exciting to know that these options exist because of passionate women that saw a need and met a need [insert all the heart eye emojiis].

Elle Harvey is the founder and director of A New Leaf of Nashville. A New Leaf offers a variety of Reggio inspired programs including a preschool (2-5 years old), Triangle Play (1-5 years old), and summer camps (3-10 years old) at their location on Charlotte Pike.

 

1. How did you learn about the Reggio model? What made you fall in love with the model?

At the All Austin Cooperative Nursery School in Austin TX when we moved there with our 2.5 year old. Parents had to spend a day a month as a teacher and I was there every day. The image of the child is very strong and the project approach is the best way for humans to learn.

2.  What ‘hole’ do you think A New Leaf fills in Nashville’s childcare and educational landscape?

We support families as they become new parents and scaffold social-emotional learning as we interact as a community during Triangle Play. We empower children to explore and learn from “100 languages” in the environment around them. We provided a much needed education during a very formative time for children’s development. There is a shortage in Nashville of preschools and child care centers, parents are desperate to have a place for their children to spend the day, let alone be meaningfully engaged and happy. We are the only ones to offer an education based on nature and only a handful of us apply the Reggio philosophy.

3. I love the idea of nature being one of the teachers at A New Leaf. How much time do kids spend outdoors at A New Leaf? What kind of difference do you think this makes for the kids?

We spend more than half of our time outdoors in clement temperatures and up to 100% of our time.  In cold weather we spend 1/2 to 1/4 of our time outside. We help parents find the best clothing. “There isn’t bad weather, only improper clothing” we often say. It makes a huge difference as they become part of the environment. They are nature too, animals are not just cute, they have life cycles, growth, needs, and fears. The plants and animals are respected for their own life and rights as well as all the gifts that they provide us.

4. Straying from the traditional model of education is scary because we wonder if alternative methods will properly prepare our kids for the future. How does A New Leaf prepare kids to become life long learners?

Research on development and neuroscience points to our approach as best practice. We aren’t so much alternative since constructivist theory of education is about 100 years old and  education for all is a fairly young concept as well. I believe we will converge towards best practices for respectful upbringing together as a world in the next 100 years.

5. What kinds of kids thrive at A New Leaf?

All of them!  If we have difficult cases, as long as the parents are engaged with us to assess problems and that we work together for individual solutions, everyone is successful.

 

Love what you read? Learn about Nashville’s other alternative school options: Simply Sudbury Microschool and Acton Academy Nashville.

Nashville’s Future Classroom: Acton Academy Nashville

NASHVILLE’S FUTURE CLASSROOMS: Many kids will not thrive in a traditional classroom so I wanted to highlight some alternative classrooms available to families in Nashville.
It is so exciting to know that these options exist because of passionate women that saw a need and met a need [insert all the heart emojiis].

Carrie Kinsley is the founder of Acton Academy Nashville. Acton Academy is a hybrid educational concept for kids ages 5-11 years old, located on Franklin Pike. Acton Academy Nashville blends Acton Academy principles, Growth Mindset, Montessori and other hands-on, self-directed models.

 

1. How did you learn about the Acton model? What made you fall in love with the model?

I came across Acton in 2015 when I was considering kindergarten options for my oldest daughter and did not feel Nashville had exactly what we were looking for. I was searching for something that incorporated a Montessori-like foundation but with a more modern approach. I also liked the idea of a homeschool hybrid for our family since we are self-employed, value spending as much time together as possible, and love the idea of utilizing the world as our classroom. The Acton approach works well for a five-day model as well as a three-day hybrid which is the option we decided to open.

We fell in love with the idea that education centers around the Hero’s Journey. The idea that we are all heroes and that life is an adventure in which you will encounter trials and tribulations, mentors, people who will challenge us, and a variety of learning experiences that shape our lives and that our response to these things and what we create for ourselves ultimately determines who we are. It is an empowering way of living and learning and an incredible foundation for success in all areas of life.

2.  What ‘hole’ do you think Acton Academy Nashville fills in Nashville’s education landscape?

I think our niche is we offer an empowering method of 21st-century education that prepares children for life much more than most typical schools but is tailored for families who also want to hybrid homeschool. The children come together three days a week for an incredible program that is self-directed but also built upon a strong sense of community with the flexibility of using the rest of the week to pursue personal passions, homeschooling in whatever method they prefer, extra family time, and travel.

3. I love the idea of the Hero’s Journey, and how it gives students control of how they see themselves and how their community sees them. Is there a story you can share that captures how the “Hero’s Journey” has worked for one of your students?

I reached out to our founding Guide, Lisa Florence, on this one. She shared, “We see this in all the Eagles (what we call students), every day. I think the way we most often see this come through is that they’ll recognize their challenges and successes as part of their story. They know failure or success isn’t a moment that determines who they are, but rather a moment in their story and they choose how they walk through. This is seen in moments like Core Skills, Team Building, Quest, or even learning how to be a good friend or leader.

We have one student who came into our program speaking in a very direct and sometimes judgmental way toward himself and others. It is through his awareness of his Hero’s Journey that he began to see that the challenges he runs into with communication are opportunities to learn about himself. It’s a way that allows children to step back from the emotion of a situation and see challenges and success as opportunities and growth. They become aware of their part and ask themselves questions to move forward. Life switches from ‘What makes a person right or wrong?’ to ‘What kind of person do you want to be and what does that look like?’ They know they are the creator of their story.”

4. Straying from the traditional model of education is scary because we wonder if alternative methods will properly prepare our kids for the future. How does Acton prepare kids for adulthood?

I think Acton Nashville provides a great balance. We incorporate Socratic discussions, self-directed Core Skills (reading, writing, and math), rotating Quests (hands-on, real-world projects), apprenticeships, and Exhibitions of Learning. Growth mindset and mindfulness activities are woven throughout the day and are the defining feature of Acton Nashville. Having a solid foundation in who you are, how to interact and participate in a genuine community, and practicing daily skills of mindfulness, growth mindset, and goal setting starting at age five is an incredible way to prepare for adulthood. We believe the combination of all these things along with what each individual family values in their homelife prepares children for adulthood in a much broader and balanced sense than most methods of education.

5. What kind of kids thrive at Acton?

We find that Acton works for most (but not all) children. Although we offer structure within our freedoms, some children may need more structure or the help of a learning specialist. Also, parents must be fully onboard. If you are concerned about test scores and traditional achievement, you will not thrive here. If you do not believe failure and mistakes are opportunities for growth, we are not the right fit. Our parents sign a contract with us and the Heroes sign a contract that they create with each other.

We opened in September and have been amazed by how much each child has grown socially, emotionally, and academically as well as a community who truly respects, honors, and loves one another. It has been a beautiful first year to witness and I look forward to what our second year brings as we double in size!

Love what you read? Learn about Nashville’s other alternative school options: A New Leaf Nashville and Simply Sudbury Microschool.

Nashville’s Future Classroom: Simply Sudbury Microschool

NASHVILLE’S FUTURE CLASSROOMS: Many kids will not thrive in a traditional classroom so I wanted to highlight some alternative classrooms available to families in Nashville.
It is so exciting to know that these options exist because of passionate women that saw a need and met a need [insert all the heart eye emojiis].

Marie McKinney Oates is one of the founders of Simply Sudbury Microschool. Simply Sudbury is located on Haywood Lane and is based on the Sudbury-model of education. Learners, ages 5-18 years old, have the freedom to spend their time as they would like and the responsibility to govern their community via a school meeting and judicial committee.

1. How did you learn about the Sudbury model? What made you fall in love with the model?

I learned about Sudbury after reading Peter Gray’s book, Free to Learn. I was already sold on the idea of unschooling, where kids learn via life instead of formal curriculum, and his book introduced me to the Sudbury Valley School where kids essentially run their school community via a school meeting and judicial committee. I really clicked with the idea that the Sudbury-model lets kids practice being a free, voting member of a democratic community long before they are an actual voting member of their community. Everything about it made sense to me.

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2. What ‘hole’ do you think Simply Sudbury fills in Nashville’s educational landscape?

I think there’s a lot of unnecessary fear and focus about test scores and evaluation in education so we took all of that away and let our kids focus on simply learning. There are few places for kids to just be themselves and explore their unique strengths and weaknesses. Simply Sudbury really is a place for kids and teenagers that are ‘too much’ or ‘not enough’ for traditional schools. We really believe this freedom is great for their mental health, and it gives them the opportunity to see where their gifts can serve the community at large.

3. I love the idea of kids ‘running the school’ and making the rules. Have any stories to share about what it looks like for kids to run the school?

Our school is small and new so we don’t have tons of stories yet. But here’s a neat example. One of the rules at the school, for right now, is that we can’t go down to the big playground because the structures aren’t particularly safe and there was some kind of wasp nest. Everyone agreed in school meeting to just stay away until we made repairs. Well, one of the staff members didn’t remember this rule and headed down to the playground with a couple of the kids. Another kid saw this and immediately wrote the staff member and her entourage up for breaking the big playground rule. The staff member ended up getting the most severe punishment because ‘she should have known better.’ It was beautiful to see kids empowered to ‘write up’ a grown up and to see them enforce rules they created.
Also, I think all of the staff was impressed with how seriously each of the kids took running the school. At the last school meeting they all agreed that the work they did, coming up with rules and enforcing them, was really hard.

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4. Straying from the traditional model of education is scary because we wonder if alternative methods will properly prepare our kids for the future. How does Simply Sudbury prepare kids for adulthood?

I think Simply Sudbury’s entire mission is to prepare kids to be adults. Without anyone standing above them telling them what to do or what is important to learn, they start wrestling with some really deep and important questions almost immediately: What matters to me? What am I interested in? What am I good at? What do I want to get better at?

And I think the school meeting and judicial committee prepares them for being a good citizen. They have to regularly ask themselves and each other if the rules they are creating are good for everyone, are they fair? They have to come up with systems that create order and protect communal property. They have to manage the school’s budget and make hard decisions about what’s best for the community, not just what’s best for them as individuals.

It really is a small community that they are given the freedom and responsibility to manage. I think this level of responsibility is grounding and build confidence for many of our learners (and staff!).

5. What kinds of kids thrive at Simply Sudbury Microschool?

It takes time to thrive, but I think all kids can and do thrive in the Sudbury-model. There is no mandatory curriculum or adult-driven agenda, so kids and teens really are free to listen to their own unique needs and then act on respecting those needs. However, you do need to have parents that trust the model and trust their kid. None of this works if the parent is unable to trust that curiosity is sufficient fuel for learning. But if a parent is either filled with trust or simply exhausted from trying to make their kid fit into a mold, the Sudbury-model could be a great fit!

Love what you read? Learn about Nashville’s other alternative school options: A New Leaf Nashville and Acton Academy Nashville.

Monster Jam Nashville Summer

Earlier this year Otis went on a Man Date with his dad and poppy to watch Monster Jam at Nissan Stadium.

The testosterone levels were high. Poppy couldn’t even get in because he forgot he was carrying his pocket knife (as a gentleman does) (Mark walked it back to the car).

Otis loved the whole spectacle.

Grave Digger was out in all his neon green and purple glory:

It was headphones-required loud in a “THIS IS AWESOME” kind of way (hat tip to our occupational therapists that made it possible for him to handle the sensory overload of all this!!):

And we can’t go to the gas station without Otis begging to open the window because he wants to ‘smell the Monster Trucks.’
(That request gets an obvious no.)
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We are definitely a Monster Jam family now, and we can’t wait to see the show on June 22nd at Nissan Stadium. And if you want to be a Monster Jam family too, leave a comment on this post with your favorite sight/smell/sound of summer and you could win a set of 4 tickets to Monster Jam!

Monster Jam ® , the unexpected, unscripted and unforgettable, most family-friendly motor sport in the world today will tear through Nashville for one adrenaline pumping events at Nissan Stadium on June 22. The 2019 Monster Jam season will see athletes on each tour battle it out every weekend from January to May to be crowned the tour champion and receive an automatic bid to Monster Jam World Finals XX that will be held in Orlando for the first-time-ever. Monster Jam drivers are trained, world-class male and female athletes who have mastered not
only the physical strength and mental stamina needed to compete, but the vital dexterity to control 12,000-pound machines capable of doing backflips, vertical two-wheel skills and racing at speeds up to 70 miles per hour to produce jaw-dropping, live motor sports action seen around the world. Now across all Monster Jam events, fans in every city will have the chance to vote for the winner in the two-wheel and freestyle competitions by real-time, in-stadium fan voting on their smartphones. Fans are invited to the pre-event Pit Party where they can get up-
close-and personal with the Monster Jam trucks and drivers, take photos and get autographs.

GIVEAWAY INFO:
1. One comment on this post is one entry. Limit of 3 entries per email address.
2. Have to use a valid email address because that’s the only way I can contact you.
3. Drawing will be done on Tuesday, June 4th at 9am. Winner will be contacted via the provided email.

 

 

 

Thank You Notes from the Heart and Computer

Sending ‘Thank You’ cards can feel so overwhelming to me. It starts with the fact that there truly is so much gratitude in my heart. Like, I can literally feel heavy with how thankful I am for so many people. And a thank you card never feels like it can properly hold the heaviness of my gratitude for the breakfast quiche that you made when I just had Wren or when you made my kid smile ear to ear with that compliment on his shoes or how you always make room for me and my crazy ideas.

How can a thank you card really let you know how my heart bursts when I think of you? And then, and this is horrible, the digital-ness of this world has made paper and stamps and post offices feel exhausting. And you’re worth the exhaustion, of course, but then the guilt that it took so long to say a proper thank you? That’s where I get crushed and would prefer to hide and hope you can feel my thankful vibes.

Enter Paperless Post.

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Paperless Post has these beautifully designed cards, invitations, and stationery that let you easily and quickly send a little something that’s more lovely than an email, but less exhausting than the post office (sorry, maybe that’s just me, but seriously). And the combination of quick and lovely and not exhausting means I’m becoming a thank you note sending queen.

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These are adorable, right?

Check out Paperless Post for easy ways to say “You’re invited!” or “Thank you!”

Who do you need to send a thank you to?

 

Show Me the Candy

Doctor appointments have never been fun. There was so much anxiety taking Otis to the wellness checkups. I always felt like I was holding up my sweet boy asking someone, anyone, to give me a stamp of approval that he was doing ok and, truthfully, that I was doing ok.

Otis hated these visits. He was a ball of anxiety. If the doctor so much as looked at him he’d start crying and crawling up my body like a terrified cat:

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“Oh, Marie! My kid did the same thing! But then we started practicing our doctor visits so he’d know what to expect. It’s like Daniel Tiger says, “When we do something new, let’s talk about what we’ll do!”

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Yeah. No. We did that. But he still acted like he was having an unmedicated C-section when the doctor looked in his ears with that flashlight thing.

Naturally, 6 years of these kinds of visits, I wasn’t expecting much different from Wren. Like, I didn’t expect her to lose her mind like her brother, but I did expect some questioning looks. Maybe a firm, but gentle, “No.”

The doctor asked to listen to her heart and Wren silently pulled up her shirt for the stethoscope. We went into the other area to get weighed and measured and she stood stoically for everything. There was this quiet poise. She was not scared and made sure to be as obliging as a newly 2 year old can be. Since our doctor normally has students on staff Wren even sat through a couple of these twice, once for the student and once for the doctor. Everyone kept commenting that she was especially calm for a 2 year old.

She wasn’t giggly or hamming it up. She was clearly wary on some level, but she was marching onward, staring this challenge down with a steeliness I’m not used to seeing.

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The doctor and I chatted as I put Wren’s clothes back on and packed up her diaper bag. The appointment was obviously winding down when all of a sudden Wren’s lip starts to tremble and she angry whispers, “My… candy…”

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That’s what this was about! The perfect appointment. The obvious determination to stick the landing.

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At the last appointment Dr. Chen had given Wren a lollipop. Like a Lannister and debts, Wren always remembers who has candy. And this child had made up her mind that she would get another lollipop from this lady. So she showed up and showed out.

You wanna look inside my ears? Sure.

Take my temperature? Seems like a fair request.

Want to weigh me even though it’s incredibly rude to ask a lady how much she weighs AND THEN DISCUSS IT IN FRONT OF HER? Fine.

And when she thought the appointment was ending without proper payment? She was not playing.

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Dr. Chen agreed and got the candy bucket immediately. She looked through the bucket and asked, I’m sure not expecting a response, what color candy Wren wanted.

Wren gave a curt, “Pink.”

And in that moment I learned a lesson. Be like Wren. Do the work, and make sure you get paid.

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If you’re looking for an amazing pediatric practice go check out Woodbine Pediatrics. They give out candy.

 

Low-Key Arbor Day Celebration

Yall know The Poor Mom is all about those free and low-key holidays, right? Which makes celebrating Arbor Day a kind of a big deal in our house, and this year Twice Daily is helping us celebrate

On Friday, April 26th (aka Arbor Day) Twice Daily locations will be giving out organic lollipops with plantable herb and flower seed-bearing sticks. So once your kid is done with the candy they can plant the stick and they’ve just low-key celebrated Arbor Day!

The kids and I will definitely be doing this to make up for our low-key Easter celebrations. Pro tip: It’s ok to make your kids fill their own plastic eggs. It’s called fine motor skill practice. Just as our OT.

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Make a point to fill up at your nearest Twice Daily location this Friday, grab some organic lollipops, and plant those bad boys when you get home. But don’t forget to take a selfie and tag @MyTwiceDaily on Facebook! Because, like any good holiday, pics or it didn’t happen!

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Treat Yo Self!

Sugar Bowl Bakery‘s treats are in Publix right now! Their Madeleines and Petite Palmiers are a perfect treat with coffee, tea, or your Lola:

Yall know I don’t bake so when I received the samples I knew they’d be my go to treat for things to take to Bible study. And Wren loved them so much so we’ll definitely add them to our tea party adventures, too!

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They are in Publix now (right in front, next to the registers if you’re in Brentwood) so go treat yo’ self this April!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Was Fun, Let’s Do Two

Miss Wren,
This year with you has been so much fun. We have watched you become a little girl filled with personality and charm. There was a sense during your first year on earth that you were going to be our serious kid. Hard to make laugh. Giving the world a knowing side eye.

But this year you’ve shown us your silliness. You are quick to giggle and dance and be a ham. There’s a wisdom here that I pray you carry with you the rest of your life. You don’t owe anyone your silliness. Give anyone and everyone that knowing side eye until you feel comfortable, until you know they deserve what you want to share. These are called boundaries and they are good, my sweet girl.

This is the year you learned the phrase, “Follow me.” I smile when you tell anyone to follow you because the confidence that comes with your directive is palpable. You know what you’re doing and where you’re going, and you’re confident that you can lead others there, too. You were born with a confidence and steadiness that people read books, go to conferences, and pay lots of money for. I’m excited to see you’re leading us.

There’s also a fearlessness in you that terrifies me. My “favorite” memory of this year is when the Big Kahuna was having a bit of a meltdown and was gearing up to try and hit anything close by. Out of the corner of my eye I see you and your tiny 1 year old body step to your 7 year old (much bigger) brother.

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You saw someone that needed to be put in their place and you were ready to fight the good fight. I held you back, and I guess I’m just amazed that I had to do that. Hold a 1 year old back from fighting a 7 year old…

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You sing so many songs, love your puddles, and take wonderful care of your baby dolls. You cuddle with your dad every night to watch babies on YouTube. You whisper “Bubba is sad” every time he is upset and sent to his room. You demand our cats play along with your Doc McStuffins dreams. And you nursh. A lot.

I love you so much, Sweet Girl. I pray and know that God will use the confidence and fearlessness He gave you to bring light into this world.

Love,
Mama Bird