Philosophy


CO-OP COUNCIL ORGANIZATIONAL PRINCIPLES AND TIPS

COOPERATIVE RESOURCES

Communication & Conflict
Conflict Resolution
Specific Agreements

CONSENSUS DECISION MAKING

Consensus
Six Basic Practices
Tools & Processes
Benefits
Challenges
Consensus Process
Cooperative Basics
Facilitating Kids’ Council
Pre-School Expectations
Creating the Atmosphere
Key Words & Phrases
Pattern of Conflict Resolution

LEARNING RESOURCES

Frameworks for Knowledge
Learning Styles & Multiple Intelligences
Resources
Well-Balanced Learning
Committed Citizens of the World

CO-OP COUNCIL ORGANIZATIONAL PRINCIPLES AND TIPS

1. Set things up as simple and stress-free as possible
2. If a job can be done by one person rather than 2 or 3, make it so. Communication and meetings take significant amounts of time, so only do them as needed.
3. Avoid changing meeting or event times at all costs.
4. Avoid any last-minute changes.
5. Be flexible: if things don’t go as planned, look for the new opportunities.
6. For all meaty agenda items, have a couple people work up a proposal beforehand.
7. Limit decision making meetings in size. A small, ongoing group (such as co-op council) builds trust and continuity, and enables good process.
8. Good facilitation is essential to minimize frustration. If one person is talking too much, be willing to kindly intervene. Ask specific people for their input if they have remained silent. Make note of points for later discussion, but keep on task.
9. Honor the work that has gone before; do not shift direction just because new people come to meetings.
Drafted by Joanna Juzwik, spring 2009.

COOPERATIVE RESOURCES

Since we are building a learning community, how we communicate and interact with each other is important. We are creating a space where each member feels safe, welcome, and respected. We work together to encourage each of our children to develop as strong, capable, and confident individuals who freely use their gifts on behalf of the community. By engaging with each other—talking, listening, exploring and discovering—we set up relationships of trust through which children and adults can learn to act in loving and cooperative ways.
Adults model this way of being together in their actions and by initiating conversations about positive communication and problem solving as needed. Adults and older youth use positive language, gentle guidance and, when necessary, redirection to teach communication and conflict resolution skills, and to maintain a nurturing learning environment. Adults act as responsible friends, teachers, and models, not enforcers: we do not use physical or emotional violence. We encourage kind words (“please, thank you, excuse me…”) and talk about cooperation and sharing: “everything we have here is for sharing.” Flexibility, humor, and creative problem solving keep us from getting bent out of shape, and help us to learn from each other. We do not expect perfection from each other.
Every problem has a solution. If there is no solution, it is simply reality.
Adult interaction. Adults practice open communication amongst themselves, working out problems and working through differences of opinion as they arise: individual disagreements are first taken up among the particular individuals involved, and brought to the whole group as appropriate or necessary. We offer mutual trust to each other as parents, respecting varying styles of interaction. If one has a problem with a particular adult’s interaction with a child, we discuss the situation later, or if urgent, ask to speak with the adult privately for a moment. If adults reach an impasse in problem solving amongst themselves or with children, they should ask for mediation or assistance from the coordinator or another adult.
Providing guidance for children. Adults are responsible to keep track of the whole picture so that each child needs to be responsible only for his or her own behavior and for trying to solve problems in which he or she is directly involved. Adults should not jump in too quickly if children are positively working through a problem on their own. We want to encourage children to find resources in themselves to handle conflict, and to recognize the choices available to them. If significant conflict arises among children, two adults facilitate the conflict resolution process. They communicate with the parents of the children about what happened.
When a child reports that someone is bothering him or her, an adult may encourage the child to tell about him or herself. “Tell me about what you did, how you feel. How could you explain your feelings to your friend?” “Do you need help telling your friend or getting your friend’s attention so you can talk with him or her?”

Basic Procedure

  • Instead of accusing one another of wrong actions, we use “I” messages about what we are feeling. “I feel ____ when you _____.” With children, it may take some simple questions or conversation to identify the authentic feelings involved.
  • Listen to each other attentively in order to understand each other’s perspective.
  • When appropriate, consider how we might feel in the other person’s shoes.
  • The individuals involved in the conflict consider how the problem might be solved. If necessary, assisting adults or older youth may suggest possibilities and help the younger folks to reach agreement on how to move through or beyond the conflict.
  • Encourage children to say, “I’m sorry” only if they are really sorry (want to be friends again); we don’t want these words to become a meaningless way out of their quandary.

Specific Agreements

We remind each other how we’ve agreed to behave. Use positive language. Rather than saying, “Don’t run,” for example, one might say, “Remember, we agreed that running belongs outside.”
Weapons and fighting. We are mindful of the proliferation of violence in our world and teach both the reality of weapons as well as nonviolent alternatives to conflict resolution. We also recognize the role of children physically engaging each other in play—as age appropriate—which can potentially help children become more aware of others’ boundaries and their own, as well as to channel exuberant energy.
  • Physical weapons: Learning co-op does not own any weapons, real or pretend. If weapon toys are brought from home, they should be put away or left in vehicles until the appropriate use time.
  • Tools such as knives, bows and arrows, and hammers are used only for appropriate constructive purposes.
  • Preschool age: “No weapons are needed in a safe place.” “We are all friends here.” Toys or other objects that are turned into weapons, pretend or real, need to be returned to a constructive purpose or put away for a while.
  • Older children: Physically engaging play among older children (such as dueling or wrestling) is acceptable under the following conditions: (1) outside only, and (2) with an adult present who agrees to advise and monitor the play. (3) As needed, the children and adult should work out mutually acceptable guidelines around physical play before they begin, as levels of acceptable roughness vary from child to child.
Quiet Places. When a problem has developed and the participants are upset, we have Quiet Places in which one or more young people may cool off, gather themselves or talk. An adult may accompany a young person if that is necessary or helpful. We don’t threaten kids with “time out”; this is not a punishment, but a useful resource for children and adults.

CONSENSUS DECISION MAKING

At RCLC meetings, we make decisions using the consensus process rather than voting. Since this process that is not familiar to all, we offer this introduction to guide our group process.

What does “consensus” mean?

From the word, consent, which means to “Be of the same mind” or “to agree in opinion or sentiment.” Consensus is a practice of gathering the collective sense of what is best for the group at this time.

What isn’t it?

Consensus contrasts with Robert’s Rules of Order or voting. It is not a unanimous vote or a rigid set of rules to follow. It does not necessarily lead to a decision everyone agrees with in every little detail. As facilitators help participants in the decision making process find their common ground, there are not winners and losers or particular people who are always in charge and decide what is best for all.

So, what is it?

Consensus is an inherently cooperative process that recognizes the common interests that we have in the group. Rather than eliminating anyone or any particular views, consensus process builds creative agreements by gathering ideas, concerns and views and weaving them together. A crucial role in the process is that of the convener or facilitator whose task it is to guide the process of the group as it comes to clarity on its decision. This includes recognizing who will speak next, encouraging a variety of viewpoints, summarizing points of agreement and disagreement, and testing for consensus.

Six basic practices

  • Respect the guidance of the facilitator.
  • Use a frame of silence and reflection during the consensus process.
  • Be an accurate listener.
  • Be a direct and clear speaker.
  • When raising concerns or questions about a position or statement, refer to it explicitly, not to the person who presented it.
  • Withdraw a concern or proposal when you are convinced that new insights suggest a better way to proceed.

Tools and processes that can help a group to reach consensus

  • Choice of a facilitator who is able to refrain from advocating for a particular position, a person who will listen deeply, help each to hear the others and articulate the points of agreement and the questions still unresolved. The facilitator works to keep discussions on track so that the time of participants is not wasted. A group may want to rotate facilitation or, in a particularly difficult decision, call in an outside facilitator who does not have a stake in the decision to be made.
  • Presence of the appropriate people.
  • A clear statement of the question at hand.
  • Listing the responses on a marker board or, if one wants to have a record of the process, on large sheets of paper.
  • Restatement of any points of agreement.
  • Questions: “Do we have consensus?” “Do those who haven’t spoken have any further comments or concerns?”
  • Expression by the facilitator of what he or she understands to be the “sense of the meeting”, the agreement that has been reached. This is what belongs in the minutes.
  • Setting aside plenty of time to come to agreement, trusting that time taken at the beginning on the major issues will prevent problems and wasted time later.
  • “Standing aside”: A position that can be taken by an individual who has personal reservations about a particular decision, but accepts that it is best for the group at this point.
  • “Blocking”: A position that must be taken by an individual who is clear that this agreement is a dangerous and seriously unwise choice for the group to be making. One does not block purely to protect one’s personal interests. Since a blocked agreement cannot proceed, groups often decide early on how they will proceed when one or two people block a decision agreed on by the others.

Benefits of consensus process decision making

Making decisions by consensus requires a deeper listening so that the group can come to an understanding that is best for the group, rather than for only some individuals or a particular interest group. The process calls on persons to be truly creative as they look for a third or fourth way that takes into account the variety of concerns and ideas that are expressed. New ideas arise in such a creative atmosphere that may not have been discovered otherwise. The group does not divide into winners and losers.

Challenges of consensus process

Consensus process takes practice, especially in a context where most decisions are made by voting or by the force exerted by powerful interest groups. The verbal participants need to learn to quiet themselves and listen; quieter folks need to stretch and take a chance on speaking up. A good facilitator draws out the voices of all, discerns and checks on the direction in which the process is moving, calls for quiet when it is needed to let ideas settle, and checks that all have been heard. A careful minute taker will also reread the decision to check that consensus has, indeed, been reached.
Decisions in all adult meetings and committees are made by consensus. The facilitator and minute taker for each meeting or decision-making process are responsible for making sure that consensus is reached before action is taken. The members who are in attendance at officially called meetings make the decisions called for by a previously distributed agenda. Decisions made at meetings stand until there is a sense that they need to be put on an agenda for reconsideration. We find that consensus works better if issues get plenty of informal brainstorming and discussion before meetings and that many details of previously agreed work or events can often be worked out in this way, but we do not make major decisions through informal or email conversations.
The children also make decisions by consensus. They meet in facilitated Kids Councils to discuss ideas and to problem solve. They learn to listen, express ideas clearly, brainstorm, and work together for the good of all. In some cases, their decisions are reported to the adults for their action or response. At other times, the adults join the younger people in a common meeting to work towards a mutually acceptable decision.
Written and compiled by Janet Futrell, including gleanings from an Earlham College student handbook, 1998, and a Communities magazine #109 article, “Building Creative Agreements: Using Dynamic Consensus to Empower Ourselves.” Updated as needed by the RCLC Council.

COOPERATIVE BASICS

The mature [person] lives quietly, does good privately, assumes personal responsibility for his actions, treats others with friendliness and courtesy, finds mischief boring and keeps out of it. Without this hidden conspiracy of good will, society would not endure an hour. — Kenneth Rexroth
Get to know each other. Talk, call, get together, and hang out. Knowing each other’s reality leads to greater understanding.
Be flexible. Expect imperfection from each other and from kids. People typically are doing their best, but will still make mistakes and blunders: it’s how we learn. Let things go. Laugh off screw-ups instead of taking offense. Perfectionism=Stress. Offer compassion, understanding, and honesty to each other.
Kids’ needs, feelings, and behaviors also change as they grow, go through stages, react to changes at home, even as the season or weather changes. Family situations change and parents have more or less patience, time, or energy.
Take initiative and responsibility. All members hold equal responsibility for how co-op is going, so make your perspective known! Make suggestions. Give opinions. Offer your leadership. Do your share of the work, finding tasks that fit your capabilities & schedule. When organizational problems arise:
  • Bring the problem to others’ attention in a proactive, respectful way: brainstorm solutions with others informally
  • If the problem can’t be resolved by informal consensus, put it on the next meeting agenda for your age group or the coop council, depending on the issue
Stay informed. Either attend meetings or read the minutes. Seek out information rather than expecting it to come to you.
Learn to listen and reach consensus. We have lots to learn from each other as we cooperate to benefit all our families. The best idea is probably a combination of the thoughts of all of us.
Know your limits. Only agree to take on something if you have the time. If you take on a task and later find you cannot carry through with it, let others know as soon as possible so the work can get done by someone else.
Hold safe space for all children. We are responsible to help each other and all our kids learn how to behave in a group. Parents, stay neutral when your children get upset from a conflict. We are responsible to help children work out their conflicts from our broader perspectives, not to take sides.
Written by Janet Futrell and Joanna Juzwik.

FACILITATING KIDS’ COUNCIL

Set-Up. Sit in circle. Have easel ready if needed. Have drawing materials on hand to occupy hands. Older kids need separate paper so as not to get distracted. Don’t bring toys to the circle—too distracting
Beginning. Ask kids to sign in for the record of who was involved (plus they love to do this, an acknowledgement of their presence and importance). Ask for a note taker to record decisions (among older kids). Get clear about time frame of meeting at the start, and check in on time and how kids are doing along the way. Start by clarifying the goals of the meeting time.
Introducing topic(s). Facilitator represents/explains parents’ thinking & decisions to kids. Frame up outstanding questions to the kids so they can solve them (rather than the adult proposing solutions). Ask for their concerns and ideas; help clarify them if needed, and suggest ways to plug those ideas (or solve problems) into the flow of co-op. For younger kids, offer options/ideas as appropriate to prime the pump. Young kids need more help from the facilitator with problem-solving and application.
Along the Way. The essence of the role is deep respect for and intuitive connections with each one in the circle. Listen deeply to words and body language and vibes. Affirm positive process as it happens (e.g. kids speaking up for other kids’ interests, not just their own). Ask for input from kids who aren’t saying much. Summarize decisions. Look for opportunities to insert respectful humor, especially directed at oneself, adults, or our common situation.
Compiled by Janet Futrell and Joanna Juzwik, 2008.

PRE-SCHOOL EXPECTATIONS

What should we expect?
  • Beautiful Imperfections!
  • 3,4,5 year old behavior
  • A safe, nurturing atmosphere for all
  • The absence of aggression (including bullying, whining, social exclusion), violence and winner-take-all reality
  • Respect for each other’s total persons (children and adults), including feelings
  • Adults are attentive to total reality in room. Anticipate what is coming…
  • Don’t jump in if kids are talking through a problem and can work it out positively themselves.
  • Model respect for all, careful listening, and problem solving.
  • The coordinator help s to set the tone, model nonviolent resolution techniques, and give cues for parents to pick up on. If in doubt, get help from one of them.
  • Consistency.
  • Careful choice of positive words. Tell children what you want them to do, NOT what not to do.
  • Flexibility and sensitivity.
  • By being friends, teachers and models, NOT enforcers.
  • Safe place language is a simple way to explain why we cannot allow a child to hurt another child with words or actions. “This is a safe place. We are all friends here. We cannot let you hurt your friend (or your friend to hurt you). We can help you learn to solve your problems.”
  • Encourage kind words (please, thank you, excuse me…) and talk about cooperation more than about defending one’s territory and stuff. Everything we have here is here to share.
  • No weapons belong in a safe place. Toys that are turned into weapons, pretend or real, need to be returned to a constructive purpose or put away for awhile.
  • “There’s no problem that can’t be solved. (Barbara Colorossa says that, if it has no solution, it is not a problem. It’s reality.) “How could you (we) solve this problem?
  • It’s time for you to go to a quiet place to cool down” (or “discuss what happened” or “relax so you can talk about your feelings”). Ultimately, it is about actions, not feelings. Note: The Quiet Place at Kids Co-op is not a place for punishment, but a place to think about what happened and, when ready, to talk about it and resolve the problem. We don’t threaten kids, even with “time out”.
  • Help children to use “I” messages about what they are feeling. “I feel ____ when you _____ .” It may take some simple questions or conversation to identify the authentic feelings involved.
  • Help the children to listen to each other attentively.
  • If appropriate, help children to think how they might feel in the other person’s shoes.
  • Ask the children how the problem might be solved. If necessary, suggest possibilities.
  • Only encourage children to say, “I’m sorry” if they are really sorry (want to be friends again); we don’t want these words to become a meaningless way out.
Written by Janet Futrell.

LEARNING RESOURCES

FRAMEWORKS FOR KNOWLEDGE

Academic Disciplines and Our Learning Environment
School classes are often discrete units listed under the name of one academic discipline or another. In a context where learning arises from the inner curiosity and expressed interests of individuals or small groups, the ways that we organize our learning experiences are often less neatly compartmentalized. For us, following a textbook from one cover to the other is a less typical approach for finding out what we need to know. Each project, club, exploration, and invention calls on a variety of skills and concepts that are classified as part of more than one academic discipline.
Red Cedar parents and mentors have spent some time considering the role that distinct intellectual traditions and frameworks have in the flow of our learning activities. While we are not inclined to move away from our free flowing, interdisciplinary, experiential approach to learning, we also recognize that the distinct languages, histories, and basic assumptions of the various intellectual realms are sources of vast amounts of information and ideas in our modern world. Information is based on often unspoken assumptions, and ideas are couched in the often-specialized language of particular intellectual traditions. We want our young people to bring understanding and critical thinking skills to the flow of all this information, have access to varied conversations based on the information, and to live powerfully and well in a communication-based environment. Knowledge of foundational concepts enables one to ask good questions. Exposure to the variety of ways that people think about, describe and experiment with our natural and social worlds will open exciting paths of further exploration for children (and adults) to follow.
With those goals in mind, we have identified a basic list of the intellectual frameworks to consciously engage within the yearly flow of our co-op learning experiences: linguistic/literary, mathematical, philosophical/theological, psychological/sociological, and scientific. (History is not a part of the list as a distinct framework because histories underlie every realm of knowledge and experience. Attention to these background stories is an important part of all of our explorations.) The co-op will call on mentors who are conversant in particular frameworks to support this process. As we work with our children, we are trying to recognize what is distinct about each of these basic ways of exploring and describing experience and, over time, to become conversant in their languages in order to make greater sense out of our cultural conversation. At the same time, we are always aware that there are other intuitive, deeply felt and sensed ways of knowing that cannot be contained within these or other purely intellectual structures.
Note: See “Working with Learning Groups” in the Red Cedar Membership Manual for practical applications.
Written by Janet Futrell, August 2009.
 
As parents and facilitators of learning at Red Cedar Learning Cooperative, we are aware that there are as many approaches to learning as there are individuals. Research in the areas of learning styles supports our observations about the variety of ways our children learn. The theory of multiple intelligences can help us to expand our understanding of individuals’ gifts and to broaden the goals for our learning processes. When combined with an understanding that development happens at different paces for each of us, an awareness of various learning styles and multiple intelligences gives us further insight into our work with individuals and small groups of children.
Learning style theory helps to describe each learner in terms of one’s customary approach to information and experience. What stands out to each learner? What type of stimuli is most likely to draw a learner into a particular learning experience in a focused way? The descriptions include visual, auditory and kinesthetic (tactile) learning styles. Others involve more complex profiles of an individual’s most common type of reasoning and strongest personality characteristics. Learning styles are usually identified through a personal inventory type of test. An understanding of the typical learning style of oneself or a young person can help facilitators to focus or broaden the types of approaches and activities related to a learning goal so that each learner can more easily engage in the process. Over time, a learner may develop other styles or aspects of her or himself.] As this happens, one can learn more easily through a wider range of experiences. Learning style identification is of particular value for suggesting entry points for an individual’s learning.

Multiple intelligence theory goes deeper than most learning style inventories, opening up a greater understanding of how learning can and does happen. Intelligence has often been defined as a fixed, perhaps inborn, reality that can be tested and described by an IQ number. The theory of multiple intelligences, developed through extensive research by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner, has identified eight “ways of viewing the world.” Multiple intelligence theory defines intelligence as “… the ability to solve problems and to fashion products that have cultural value.” As a result of thirty years of study, Gardner has identified eight discrete types of intelligence: linguistic (reading and writing); logical-mathematical; spatial (involving mental visualization); bodily-kinesthetic; musical; interpersonal; intrapersonal (self-understanding); and naturalist. Gardner says that we should not try to test for these intelligences. Rather, we can begin to understand their characteristics and to discover and describe each child’s learning potential and progress in all eight kinds of intelligence. Any academic material can be approached in terms of all eight intelligences in order to give each child access to the subject at hand and to support balanced, holistic development.

Note: See “Working with Learning Groups” in the Red Cedar Membership Manual for practical applications. Listed below are some basic resources for further study of the ideas introduced above.
  • Look up “learning styles” online to find several checklists one can use to identify one’s current dominant learning styles. Notice that such a search will also bring up postings related to multiple intelligences. The two continue to be lumped together in an inaccurate way.
  • Gardener, Howard. Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons in Theory and Practice. Frames Of Mind: The Theory Of Multiple Intelligences.
  • Armstrong, Thomas. In Their Own Way; Discovering and Encouraging Your Child’s Intelligences (Armstrong does an excellent and accessible job of applying Gardener’s theory for used by parents.)
Written by Janet Futrell, August 2009.

WELL-BALANCED LEARNING

Excerpted from “Implications”, a paper written by Janet Futrell in 2001 for her masters program Human Development class.
Balancing Unencumbered Exploration and Instruction
The philosophy of the learning center refers to “playful, exploratory environments” for “lifelong learners” who “have innate needs and abilities for learning.” Both Piaget and Liedloff would approve of this approach to learning. Liedloff goes so far as to say that curiosity and desire define one’s capacity for learning and should never be interfered with by adults who provide any kind of instruction. Vygotsky, on the other hand, would say that learning is not only constructivist (entered into by an active learner), but also interactionist. He emphasizes the social nature of learning. Development, according to Vygotsky, is a dialectical unity that involves interaction between changing social conditions and the biological substrata of behavior. (Steiner and Souberman, p. 123.) He identifies a more clearly defined role for instruction and adult involvement than do either Piaget or Liedloff. This tension between following the lead of the learning child and adult concerns that children learn certain concepts or cultural information is, I think, a creative tension when adults trust children to be learners, to want to learn and when children trust adults to support them in their learning. Liedloff says that, as children grow, they will want to become productive members of adult society and will find their place there through apprenticing themselves to capable adult models. Piaget sometimes seems to say that development will unfold naturally from biological roots, but that adults will, at some point, have to impose the requirements of the workplace onto young people almost in opposition to their natural learning. Vygotsky’s perspective takes seriously the natural ability to learn and also insists that learning development depends on the roles of cultural modeling and instruction. All three of these theorists point to changes in the ways that children learn as they mature.
So how might parents think about the balance between learning that is initiated by children and often carried out independently of adults and learning which seems to require participation with and instruction by more mature models and may not be always be sought by young learners? I would bring several aspects of developmental theory to the discussion.
Nearly all these theorists seem to agree that, up to about the age of 6-7, children learn best through unfettered exploration and play. Their play will vary, Vygotsky and others would insist, depending on the tools and values of the culture in which they live. Exploration of this sort provides the basis for a child to develop what Vygotsky calls “spontaneous concepts.” (Thought and Language, p. 148.) Note: Homeschool researchers Raymond and Dorothy Moore of the Hewitt research Institute might extend this period to ages 8-9.
The theorists would also agree that learning is dependent upon readiness, that children cannot be forced to learn beyond the stage of biological and social development they have reached. Homeschool parents are able to be sensitive to this reality in ways that standardized schools often do not allow. Piaget makes all learning dependent solely on an inner biological imperative. Vygotsky, however, identifies what he calls “the zone of proximal development”. In other words, there is a range of learning that is possible at any one time, an area in which learning can happen if opportunity or instruction is provided. (Thought and Language, chapters 6 & 7) Learning is gradual and progressive and always influenced by the child’s physical environment, the cultural tools that are available, and the modeling and instruction provided by adults. Vygotsky insists that the development of “scientific concepts” requires instruction by more mature persons. He says, however, that the instruction is only the beginning of internalizing a concept. After instruction, the learner takes in this new structure for understanding the world into subsequent experiences and explorations. Cognitive development, begun with instruction, requires personal action and social interaction to develop.
A major conclusion I draw from these observations and interpretations of learning is that homeschooling parents and children will do well to be aware of the interplay between these two aspects of learning and their respective roles. While children need some instruction, it is essential that they have plenty of space to explore and create without having their parents or other adults in their way. All the theorists point to the need for privacy in which to collaborate with their peers as another crucial aspect of learning and development. (Shaffer, p. 263.) On the other hand, they need adults to be available to them when they seek help with an activity, an idea, a problem, or a concept that they cannot manage on their own. It may often be best that adults are busy with their own learning and routine activities in close enough proximity to the children that they can be called on. This way they are modeling the value of lifelong learning at the same time that they are ready to teach. When called upon, more mature learners can help younger ones by introducing concepts, teaching them memory and attention strategies, sharing the stories of their culture and opening the way for them to be exposed to those of other cultures, and help them to become more organized and efficient problem solvers. Adults can help children to gain what Vygotsky calls “consciousness”, that is being aware of how their own learning happens so that they can develop “deliberate mastery.” (Thought and Language, p. 170.) Vygotsky’s description of collaborative dialogues between more and less knowledgeable members of society is especially helpful in clarifying the role that adults might serve in a child’s learning.
The parents who are working together to create a cooperative center approach the question of learning, as they do many other questions of our time, from an aware and critical stance. Their struggle with the values and biases of the culture in which they live is part of what energizes them to try something new. They understand what Vygotsky means when he says that human psychology is “historically shaped and culturally transmitted.” (Steiner and Souberman, p. 122.) There is, therefore, no such thing as “timelessly childish” behavior or learning; rather, a child’s development is “historically childish” (Thought and Language, p. 57.) If learning center parents model a critical and aware approach to the mainstream culture, a powerful component of the children’s experience will be to learn to make decisions about which cultural values are harmful and which helpful for our participating in building a loving, sustainable society. Such abilities would surely be a holistic approach to education and could involve an examination of our reality from spiritual, psychological, sociological, and historical, and numerous scholarly points of view.
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