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How can we talk about Kinma with others?

Kinma parents-3Many families who start the learning journey at Kinma are the first in their extended families to take a step out of the mainstream schooling paradigm . Whenever we do anything in our lives that is contra the mass, we are likely to meet resistance in one form or another. One reason why this may happen is because those who are close, share some element of a value system. If you challenge a key element of it, those folk may feel that you are threatening not only the friendship, kinship or bond you share but their very sense of the world.

Hence, in every interaction we share with people after stepping into the exciting learning Kinma experience, we plant seeds of the very learning/ unlearning/ relearning each one of us undergoes. For as you realise, it is not only your children who are exploring differently to how you did as children but us adults too, are being opened to new ways; new ways of thinking, creating, parenting, making decisions. We cannot help but consciously and unconsciously experience the amazing ripples for ourselves and all with whom we are in contact.

To this day I learn, unlearn and relearn at Kinma. That’s why I am here. Our staff are learning on a daily basis. And I would venture to say that one component of what draws and keeps them here is that they, along with their students, community and the land of Kinma, bring fresh ways of wondering about the world and living in and with it.

It does, however, require acknowledgement that it is a challenge to share ‘Kinma’. Many families with whom I have dialogued about this since 1999, have felt such joy in finding a place which offers what most people and places talk about. Sometimes, they feel it is so wonderful, that they are uncomfortable to tell others for they are not gifted with such a possibility. Others feel that in trying to share play with sand and words and ideas, community spirit, trust in children, responsibility for, and choice in, learning, that people don’t quite understand how this equates with ‘school’.

Defining Kinma

When asked to label what we do at Kinma, common terms used are progressive, alternative, liberal, democratic, child-centred. In the 70s, free and open were bandied around to highlight the opposite nature of a Kinma experience to the then mainstream regimented and institutionalised experience away from which many of the parents were moving. Every one of these words could be played with for hours in definition and little agreement would be reached. And that is exactly what happens at many of our gatherings… but then the goal is not the definition, it is an understanding of why we do what we do and how we can do it better.

A funny definition story unravelled at the first ever meeting of AAPAE. Hmmm What is that?

Kinma belongs to ADEC- Australasian Democratic Education Community. This was formerly known as AAPAE – Australasian Association of Progressive and Alternative Schools. Kinma also belongs to IDEC (International Democratic Education Conference). Together with other schools who practice by prioritising learning for children in community, these organisations aim to bring similarly minded educators, students and their families together to share philosophy and practice. One of our members is Sir Ken Robinson - keynote speaker at 2014 conference.

Some 15 years ago, at the inaugural Australasian gathering (international body had started in 1991), we spent much of the conference trying to reach consensus on the above labels to form a title for the organisation we were trying to build to represent who we were. The passions flowed thick and strong with people trying to defend their idea until we all realised that we were behaving exactly like a group of children at a school meeting who desperately wanted to ‘action an event’ but were at odds as to how to do it. We all were in agreement on the action- an umbrella community in which we could all learn from one another. Our debate was around what to call this community.

I recall so vividly being enmeshed in whether democratic was appropriate and we decided that it was not so it was left out of the label and progressive and alternative were included instead. I smile now, after the title was amended recently, also following a similar session to reinclude the democratic.

I have been looking into Lynn Stoddard’s work and his use of EFHG as a different label. Let me whet your appetite for next week’s newsletter piece, where he introduces the 7 I( capital I)s as the defining focus.. It has brought some real clarity for me.

Till next time, democratically positioned , progressively yours, in alternative spirits.

- Julie G, Educational Co-Ordinator