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    Yesterday I proposed a “Math Club” at ALC Mosaic. Last year, we had a bunch of kids working on Algebra with me and I thought there would be interest.

    …but only Charlotte came!

    So what did we do? We decided to hold coherence for math at ALC Mosaic anyway. And it turned out pretty incredible.

    First @charlotte and I went through my old John Van de Walle book from college and practiced some activities from chapter 12, “Whole-Number Place-Value Development.” In college, I had a very progressive math instructor that used this text with our class – and started my love for math and math education. As many of you might know, at the last school I taught in, my area of focus was math and how to bring math to children in a way that is more developmentally appropriate. Most kids actually can think mathematically but have their logic and problem solving skills stripped away from them as they go to school and learn to do math “how my teacher showed me.”

    In my experience, kids love engaging with numeracy. They love money. They are little entrepreneurs. They compare each other’s ages. They count objects. They play games that involve numeracy all the time. They want to tell time. Why do we feel the need to sit them down and “do” math in a way that teaches them that you put numbers in a magical arrangement, “carry” the one and like magic, an answer appears?

    In my opinion, children needs lots of time to play with place value. They should never be taught algorithms until they have had time to invent their own ways of solving problems.

    Ideally, kids could work together solving a problem that’s fun and challenging, and then share with one another how they solved their problem and compare strategies. When I’ve done this with kids, I’ve been blown away by how their invented strategies make so much logical sense and mirror the logic of traditional algorithms. It’s after kids have invented their own strategies and understand them that they can be shown other algorithms, and when they see them, it makes sense!

    Back to our Math Club – Charlotte and I decided to investigate together some of the activities in Van de Walle’s book to educate ourselves on how we can introduce numeracy activities to the kids. We did a couple of number games that led us to some fun ideas of how we can naturally include math at school without a formal math club! Dean joined us at this time as well and here is a Math Jam brainstorm list we made:

    • In our small groups, ask the kids to figure out how many eyes are in the room (for younger kids, counting by 2’s)
    • We then thought of other silly challenges we could pose to our small groups – like how many teeth there were in the room! Charlotte and I have 57 teeth together, by the way.
    • Challenge our kids to measure items in their own hands and feet. Charlotte, Dean, and I then measured our hallway in our feet and strides. We found out some cool things during this activity – for example, Charlotte has smaller feet than I do (duh!), but she took fewer strides than I did. We realized that she has a super long stride, (probably why she kicked my butt hiking Grandfather Mountain this weekend, she walks really fast!) This then led us to a mini lesson on the history of measurement!
    • @Dean said he’d love to start a “Discovery Book” where kids could record cool discoveries like these and challenge others to new challenges and discovery making!

    So, Math Club wasn’t a flop after all!




    Language Club Meet-up 9/3/2014

    Our Reflection: 

    We reflected on our list of “Ideas to learn a new language” that we made together during our first language club meet-up. Our list included:

    • Duolingo
    • Flashcards
    • Language Workbooks
    • Ask for volunteers
    • Read a book in another language
    • Watch movies/shows in other language
    • Play a game in the other language
    • Practice the language at school with friends

    Alona and Hermione reflected that they have been practicing Duolingo together every time Hermione comes to school. They also gathered words for flashcards, but Alona isn’t into making them anymore.

    Nancy has been practicing Duolingo almost daily and building vocabulary. She and Liberty have also been reading Esperanza Rising every day in Spanish and English to help each other. They are both at an intermediate level.

    Isabella wasn’t here for our language check-in, but the language club members shared for her that we know that she’s watched some Spanish videos with Tessa and she also joined Lib and Nancy for one day of Esperanza Rising reading.

    Elisha has been working almost daily with Nancy to learn verbs and nouns. She started a binder last week to keep track of the words she has learned and her notes.


    Our goals for the week ahead: 

    Alona and Hermione: To practice Duolingo together every Mon/Wed for 30 minutes. Alona wants to complete the basics two level by October.

    Elisha: To work with Nancy 30 minutes a day from 10:30-11:00am.

    Liberty: To read Esperanza Rising with Nancy every day at 10am for 20-30 min.

    Nancy: To read Esperanza Rising with Lib (and hopefully Isabella) every day at 10am for 20-30 min, and to practice Duolingo for 15 minutes every day.


    • This reply was modified 4 years, 10 months ago by  NancyT.


    @sweetirene @jesslm

    I just had an awesome “Minecraft Jam” with Gabe and Tino. Since I couldn’t answer Jess’s questions myself, I enlisted the support of our two most experienced players, who are wanting Jess’s brother to come in and help them build a server. But first I just asked if I could watch them play and if they would be willing to tell me about what they were up to. They told me about the treehouses they were building and that they had plans to connect all of them with bridges and fences. They told me about a new update that just happened and now they have to relearn how to build fences again. I observed them working together and communicating as they were creating.

    Then I told them about Jess’s brother wanting to come in to build a server and they were excited! I showed them the questions and typed in responses verbatim. @jesslm, please share their responses with your brother and we can move forward! Is it possible for him to come in and meet the boys and learn about how experienced they are and capture some of their goals for the server?

    From our conversation:
    – Do we have a physical space where a server could “live”? Yes we do

    – If multiple people will be connecting, he recommended that we need a machine with at least 8G of RAM to act as a dedicated server (vs someone’s machine also acting as the server) Yes Tino says he has a ton of RAM. He doesn’t know exactly how much but he knows he has a ton.

    – How would we designate an admin within the game Tino says you have to be able to trust the admin and it’s good to have a friend be an admin because you know you can trust them. Tino and Gabe say there are rules and the admin has access to ban people who are breaking them. And the owner and co-owner also have access to this. Tino agrees that everyone who wants to build the server together need to decide together who the admin (or admins) is/are.

    o Adult vs child as admin Tino says it depends on their knowledge of minecraft. Tino says he’s been planning minecraft longer than anyone in the school and Gabe says he’s been playing since last year and knows a lot about it. They said they feel comfortable being admins if the group feels comfortable with that. Tino adds, “because I like helping out and banning griefers if they are doing bad things.”

    o Makes sure that game is running smoothly, everyone is following agreed upon terms for play From Tino, “We just need to make sure everyone is playing safely and not griefing, trolling or if they are an admin not banning anyone for no reason or they will get banned.”
    From Gabe, “I want to get an accurate plug in or ban detecting system because there is a server he played on where he got banned for no reason. I was thinking about it, that the ban defecting system wasn’t accurate.”

    o Should be someone who is mature, enjoys playing the game and can help less experienced players From Tino, “Well, that’s me!”

    – Do we want the server to be password protected Tino says, “No because we are going to have a hard time because we are going to have to tell everyone the password.”
    Gabe says, “Yeah, definitely just incase if someone suspicious comes on to be more protected.”
    Tino says, “We can just ban them.” Gabe says, “But I want a more accurate server.”
    From Nancy, “Looks like there could be more discussion about this!”

    – Do we currently have internet access at the school? From Nancy, “Yes, but it goes out from time to time which is frustrating. From my knowledge, we need to get CAT 5 wiring to the downstairs and then set up our own TWC account. A proposal can be made about this to the finance working group.”

    – Do we want a “Vanilla” Minecraft build, or one with mods already built in? Both boys, “Vanilla.”

    – Safety and security for kids possibly visiting Minecraft Community sites. There are lots of “click-bait” type adds on these sites.” I’m not sure exactly about this – Tino isn’t either. Gabe says, “Sometimes there are inappropriate ads.” Tino adds, “Plus we don’t want to advertise for it yet.” Gabe, agrees, “We’re not going to put advertisements.”




    Thank you @ryanshollenberger for taking a break from packing to respond here! I’m thoroughly enjoying the connection that the forums on this site are making possible for our ALCs :)</span>

    Ryan, what you bring up really resonates with me. I think the hard part for myself, and perhaps parents here, is trusting that children can learn from their own decision making and discerning if there is a child who actually has a need for clear boundaries to be set for them.

    I posted two quotes on our facebook page recently that I think apply to what you bring up:

    “…the fact is that kids learn to make good decisions by making decisions, not following directions.” –  Alfie Kohn

    “Children who are allowed to make their own choices, in an environment where they have real choices and where their choices pertain to real life, learn far more, far more efficiently…” – Peter Gray

    Logan’s comment to you is insightful – here’s a kid who had space to reflect on their decision and then used their reflection to make a different choice for themselves.

    What I’m seeing at Mosaic, which is really cool, are parents who are helping their children reflect on their decisions at school without saying that what they are doing is bad, but just having conversations with them. I had a long talk with @jesslm after school one day and I’m really appreciating how she conversing with Zack at home around videogames in a non evaluative way – just talking with him and letting him decide when he wants to bring his DS to school. I know @sweetirene and Rachel are having the same conversations at home. I wanted this videogame forum to exist so we can see how thoughtfully and intentionally each family is interacting with their children and their use of videogames.

    My hope is that we continue capturing in our small group time all the things the kids are desiring to do at school and then, in daily and weekly cycles, show them what they are actually doing with their time. If their goals all revolve around building in Minecraft and they are achieving their goals, I do not have a problem with that.  However, I see kids interested in goals involving Minecraft but then we lack the support to help them take their Minecrafting to the next level because our staff is just not really in to videogames. So I think that with the support Jess’ brother or another adult facilitator that knows what is possible with Minecraft, they could really take off and see more value in their time using Minecraft.

    Additionally, we also have kids who say they want to do all kinds of things (fieldtrips, learning science, another language), and then are spending lots of time watching others play videogames. This week, we showed kids in our small groups a print out of what we saw them doing each day. Next week, we’ll add a section that shows what they intended to do that week. I’d like show the kids that they are empowered to make their experience at school and make anything possible for themselves.

    One change that has happened this week though was an agreement with one of our avid Minecrafters to close the computer at 2:30 and to get physical exercise before our clean up and closing meeting time. Charlotte felt strongly that when the boys stay sitting all day and then stop right at 3pm, they are very challenging to get to meeting and clean up because their bodies suddenly remember they are young boys with lots of energy and need to run around. I actually just pointed this out to this student, and then the student HIMSELF came up with the idea to stop playing early and go outside. Now we’ve been doing “Physical Exercise” time together where we run laps around the building barefoot and do jumping jacks, push-ups, etc., which has been super fun. I too can tend to stay indoors all day and I am loving getting out with the boys 🙂 We usually have 2-3 others join us for “PE” each day too!

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 10 months ago by  NancyT.



    Thank you so much for your response and I’m very excited to see where we can take Minecraft with someone who knows what they are doing!

    On Sunday/Monday when I send out our weekly email, I’m going to include links to all the new forum topics created and make another request to families to create their log-ins and begin engaging with the site. So hopefully we’ll get some feedback to your questions after that since I personally have no idea how to answer them!





    A logistical note – Charlotte, Luc and I were planning to drive up to DC Wednesday night, Oct 8th, and then drive the rest of the way up on October 9th. That has us arriving a night early – Bear is this ok, or do you want us to arrive on the 10th?




    Thanks Gaby!

    And I just read it over and tried to fix all the grammar…oy! I posted without re-reading first!



    This week I had one kiddo in my small group announce that he wanted to be a leader. When our small group discussed what that meant to him, at first the idea was to tell people when to do things. For example, when to eat lunch, when to read books, when to come to our end of day meeting, etc. I let his description sit with the other kids and refrained from chiming in, “Uh…that sounds kinda bossy.”

    After a small bit of silence, one of our group members (our group is called the Fire Falcons, by the way), chimed in, “Well, I’m okay with those ideas, but I really don’t want to be told when to eat my lunch.” We then talked about leadership for just a little bit, and about gentle leadership.

    Our conclusion came to this: the budding new leader in our school would initiate a time to read books in the library with other kids the next day, as well as start inviting kids to our end of day meeting by saying, “Come on, Fire Falcons, it’s time for our meeting!”

    The next day (today), my intention was to support this child in having this reading time. Hearing his desire to tell others in the school to do things made me think that what he really wanted was a set time where other kids would do something with him that he wanted to do: read. This told me that it was hard for him to motivate himself to read quietly on his own without peers. I decided to find him peers that would read with him at any cost! I hunted down kids that I felt I had a strong relationship with and asked them, “When ____ comes to ask you to read, will you please go in the library and support him?” I got 5 girls together, and Book Reading Together (BRT) time was a go!

    Interestingly, during this first BRT, (while I got read myself), I ended up reading chapter 13 of Blake Boles’ new book, “The Art of Self-Directed Learning.” The title of this chapter is “Alone, Together.” I’ll include a little excerpt from this chapter:

    “Self-directed learners often find themselves facing solitary challenges, simply because they’re not doing the same thing as everyone else. Then they give themselves a hard time for not feeling motivated.

    But self-directed learning isn’t about doing everything by yourself. Putting yourself in the right atmosphere, with people who share your interests, and with the right amount of structure, can make all the difference.”

    As I read this, I looked up at this student who initiated the BRT and realized that he was craving time to be “Alone, Together.” In a school where the kids are not made to do everything at the same time, he was craving a little more of a school-like feel. Perhaps he missed those times in traditional school where kids just sat still and did something all together at the same time.

    And guess what? We can actually give this type of experience to kids who want that in our Agile Learning setting. This is the role of the facilitators. See the children. Know them. Support them. And ask kids to support each other.

    Next I looked over at another student who joined our school last spring, a lifelong unschooler that joined us because she wanted friends to learn with. She’s an avid writer and the chapter I just read was about a writing camp where teens go to write together. I stopped and read the chapter to her and proposed an idea to her.

    The idea was born yesterday in a brainstorm session between me and the only teen we have our school. We decided we would promote and offer a class for homeschooled teens for FREE in Charlotte. This would help get more older kids in here to interact with our only teen.

    My idea after reading this chapter is to offer a free “Writing Together” time for homeschooled teens (and maybe pre-teens) to come here in our library and just have time to write together each week. It can be anything, but the point is to have space with others write.

    I’m imagining some social time too, they are kids, lol!

    We could run the time in an Agile way – have the kids come, announce their intentions for their writing time, do a solid 45 minutes of independent writing, then we could go outside and talk, hangout, and potentially share our writing with one another.

    I think it’s worth a try!



    • This reply was modified 4 years, 10 months ago by  NancyT.


    This week, I feel like the beginning of a cultural reset has occurred. I’m valuing how the kids have been a part of this process and are able to co-create our cultural norms with us.

    Yesterday (Wednesday 8/27) a couple girls performed a dance performance for us for our closing whole group time. As I saw the whole community together to watch and support them, I realized that they WERE the culture group – students that are helping make our school fun.

    The first week of school, it was tough to gather the kids as a whole group and feel unified. However, the staff kept trying for it because we feel that having every kid can be in the same room once a day helps bring us to the realization that we are in community as a whole. Yes, we pursue individual passions and interests, but we must be able to do so in community with others. There is beauty in just seeing all of us in a room at one time.

    However, the kids don’t want to sit in a circle and hear 20 voices speak about what they did that day. It takes a long time and they didn’t seem to be connecting to the reflections as much as we hoped.

    This week, Charlotte came up with the idea to perform a poem for our group time Tuesday afternoon and invited the kids to sign up to share something to the group at the end of the day. Yesterday, we came together for the girls who performed. Then we split into our small groups where we closed out our day.

    In my small group, it was then that we could actually reflect on our days and try to close the daily intention/reflection feedback loop. I asked the kids, “Was there anything you did today that you didn’t expect to do at the beginning of the day?” They were all so excited to add things to their done column that they hadn’t anticipated in the morning. Then we looked at what we did accomplish from the morning and moved those over, while keeping items on our kanbans in “Get set” for what we didn’t do but wanted to get to the next day.

    It was beautiful. I’m hoping we can settle into this adjusted closing rhythm over the next week. I’m seeing what is possible and I’m so thankful for the gift of being able to work with this community!

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 10 months ago by  NancyT.


    I also see a lot of possibilities here! I think that it would be awesome for the kids to celebrate their year and school by making their own memory book 🙂

    Dave, I’m thinking give it another month for us to “settle-in” and get into a groove, then let’s introduce this to the Culture Group to facilitate telling the kids about this project! The main role of the CG is to help create a fun and happy environment at school – capturing our adventures at school for yearbook sounds like something they can hold coherence for.



    Charlotte and I hung up our Conflict Resolution process is every room! This morning when I asked my small group (Tessa, Elisha, Nate, James & Jackson) about the steps – they all remembered what to do 🙂 They also told me about the agreements we came up with.

    Here’s what they added on our Community Mastery Board:

    We’ll keep you posted here on our Community Mastery Board agreements 🙂



    Awesome, Sara!! Thank you!

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