Home in the Woods

In the fall of 2017, we hosted a storytelling event called “School of Life”. Our intention was to bring people together in honor of one of our core beliefs: that learning is natural and happens all the time, regardless of one’s proximity to a classroom. It was a great event filled with unique stories and varied lessons, and so we thought it’d be fun to carry that idea forward into this space.

The first story we’re featuring was shared by Jeff Yoder, a parent of two children at Little Lake.


 

When I was a child I lived on a dead end street that backed into a city forest. It was about 15 acres of land and provided me and my friends endless hours of entertainment. We would build forts, climb trees, and make noise away from the hustle and bustle of life (and away from supervision). I loved it so much that I became convinced that my REAL family lived in those woods. I would tell my parents that my real home was in the forest and that I was just living in this house temporarily. Eventually they became concerned when my story didn’t change. One day my dad took me into the woods and said “show me where your real house is”. I excitedly took him around the woods, convinced that I would find my real family at last.  After a while, when I couldn’t find it, I had to accept that my real family did NOT live in the woods. I was sad but moved on.

Later in my life my partner and I got the chance of a lifetime to invest in a patch of woods just outside of Ypsilanti. It would stretch our budget but we felt it was worth it for the opportunity to one day have our own house in the woods. A few years later the housing market turned around and we were able to sell our beloved Ypsilanti home and start the construction process. I had always dreamed of building a house and finally had the means to make it a reality. I studied technique, made lists of tasks, made a budget, and convinced a bank that we could build it for half of what they thought. Using the resources available to me– YouTube, books, advice from tradesmen friends, and prior experience, we were able to complete each task. Our community came to our aid, giving us countless volunteer hours, and we pulled every ounce of effort to finish the house. Now my family lives in the woods, just as I always knew it did.

I feel that somewhere along the line I learned that I can find the resources to complete any task and that I don’t have to be an expert before I engage in the things I want to do. In the end, that skill proved more valuable to me than the specific information I picked up in school. Provided that my children learn that skill, I am confident that they will be able to do anything they want. Little Lake Learning Community affords our children an open, honest, caring, and respectful place to learn who they are, what they care about, how to gather resources, and how to serve their community. They have a great time going to school and look forward to each day and what opportunities it will bring them.


Do you have a story to share? 

-Where/how did you learn what was most important to you?

-Did you learn something at school that wasn’t on the curriculum?

-Who, or what, have been the greatest teachers in your life?

 

Submit your stories and questions to littlelakefs@gmail.com

 

Include your name and a brief description of the story you’d like to share, and we’ll contact you with details.

What’s At the End of Your Rainbow? Creative Writing Workshop with Pam and Ian

Ian and Pam brainstorm together about which fictional character to write about

Little Lake Learning Community has its own ongoing Creative Writing workshop!  Led by parent Pam Aronow and her son Ian (a former Little Lake student himself), the workshop aims to allow students the opportunity to get their creative juices flowing and express their thoughts in a fun, relaxed and supportive environment.  Workshops are held every Wednesday afternoon and have attracted interest from volunteers and students alike. This past session included Pam, Ian, volunteer Antoinette Moncrieff, and students Vera, Tuula and Adam.

A typical Creative Writing workshop lasts around 45 minutes and includes two writing “prompts” to channel inspiration and help shape participants’ thoughts.  Prompts range from the hypothetical (“what would you do with your own personal robot?”) to the active (“write a letter to someone you appreciate to say thank you”) to metaphors (“sitting on your pity-pot”) to imaginary scenes (“write a children’s story about people who are hiking in the woods when they are suddenly surrounded by hundreds of butterflies”)  workshop participants have 15 minutes or so to jot down their thoughts, after which they share them with the rest of the group, taking turns reading their composition aloud and listening to the compositions of others.

Tuula gathers inspiration for her composition

The most recent workshop session started off with the question: “If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be?”  Pam encouraged the participants to not just answer the question, but to elaborate and provide details that the reader may not necessarily know but may be wondering about.  Compositions included such characters as Harry Potter heroine Hermione Granger, Aang from the television show Avatar, The Last Airbender, A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, Newt Scamander from Fantastic Beasts and Mythical Creatures and dragon Julius Heartstriker from the novel Heartstrikers: Nice Dragons Finish Last.  The participants’ responses each included traits and qualities that they admired in their characters: Winnie the Pooh was valued for his patience, words of wisdom, home-iness and friendship; Hermione for her underappreciated moral conscience and staunch support of non-human magical creatures; Julius for the kindness and gentleness which set him apart from other dragons.

The workshop’s second prompt centered around an imaginary scene: “Think of a rainbow.  What’s at the end of your rainbow? What would you find?” Responses were unique and varied from the humorous (a magical fruitcake from Whole Foods with the power to shrink the author for 3 days!) to the whimsical and practical (a pile of six snuggly Australian Shepherd puppies and a box full of inspiration for the author’s story).  A few responses were more philosophical, exploring and challenging the traditional “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” metaphor; one response questioned whether or not the rainbow had an “end” and suggested that the “rainbow” might actually be all around us. Another encouraged the reader to always dream with the ultimate goal at the “end” but reminded the reader to focus on the process rather than the prize as the most important part.

Adam is hard at work!

At the end of the workshop, Pam posed some questions to the workshop participants, inviting them to start thinking about how they might structure future workshop sessions.  She asked them for feedback regarding what they might like to see happen . One of the options discussed included a “story starter”; participants would add to a collective group story every session for a few weeks in a row.  Another option would be to focus on one consecutive topic as a group for several sessions after the New Year. One student suggested incorporating creative writing into the “focus game” element of the all-school beginning and end-of-day meetings.

Creative writing with Pam and Ian is a highlight of the week for all concerned.  For student and volunteer participants, it is a chance to explore a shared interest with others, hone their skills and better get to know themselves and their fellow participants.  For Pam and Ian, who has autism, it is a welcome “place-setter” in the week, providing them with a chance to actively engage with the larger community. Pam and Ian have made great strides in the area of communication in the last few years, and are excited to share Ian’s thoughts in Creative Writing, both with the aid of a letter board and Ian’s growing confidence in reading aloud.  We are excited to see Ian’s skills grow and to have him regularly participate in activities at Little Lake!