GETTING DIRTY AND ROOTED:
HOW I GOT HERE AND WHY I CAN'T STOP GROWING
Some of you know none of this story, some of you know some, some got me growing, some of you I see in my future. Here's the whole scoop.
Human garden cultivator, that is how I would describe myself currently. Along with mom, wife, health and fitness fan who is always working on more zen. I started off a public school elementary teacher, then became a stay at home mom, then morphed into a community outreach director, then came back to education...I missed teaching kids. I missed the sparkle in their eye, and I longed to see the wonder, curiosity and creativity, and imagination. I missed the community. I missed watching children grow right before my eyes into strong, confident, competent learners.
My teacher friends said, "don't come back, you won't like it." It's worse than when you left. The advice was from multiple teachers in multiple states. Not one teacher told me I should go back and y'all these are dedicated, men and women. These are elite teachers who love teaching were telling me not to come back. These were teachers who love teaching kids as much as I do and they were telling me to run for the hills...what was going on?
The next day, I turned on the news and part of the WHY was staring me in the face...it was a hearing for a high official regarding education on Capitol Hill, and it completely undermined our children's education. What was proposed was ridiculous. I was outraged because our children were being used as pawns in a massive game of chess. My children, the community, the children of the US. That day, education of children became simply fallout from a massively corrupt system of governmental bureaucracy. I knew I had to do something to undo the unjust.
I went out to my garden to meditate
Meditation, at that time, was a relatively new approach to my life. I had only been practicing for a year or two; however, I had seen what a fantastic impact it had on myself as a mother as well as my family. I thought some good, old meditation might bring some clarity to what I was supposed to do with both what I had just watched and with the despair I was feeling regarding the state of education in America.
In the garden, I began thinking about kids. I started thinking of them as plants. They seemed to be wilting under the current climate in America. With the pressures of testing, bullying, obesity, stress, social media, poverty, abuse, overcrowded classes, understaffed, underfunded schools (you catch my drift) it was no wonder they weren't thriving. It seemed as if one rainstorm, or drought, or wind would knock them right over. They were bending stems to drugs, pregnancy, obesity, mental health issues, physical health issues, I also thought about my own three children. I did not want my kids to be another statistic. How was I going to make sure that didn't happen? What did my kids and every other kid need to make it through life not just surviving, but thriving? I wanted my kids to live with purpose and passion and to be confident and secure enough to open up and become whatever flower they chose to be.
I meditated and it hit me like a lightning bolt. That's the beauty of meditation. By being quiet and focused you tap into resources of clarity you never knew you had.
We needed to start looking at educating our children from the roots up, and we needed to start doing it as soon as possible.
We couldn't wait around for a politician to finally "get" education and make educationally sound decisions for our children in families. We couldn't wait for the red tape to untangle itself. We needed to change how the learners learn and empower them to become the change in themselves. Change the learner, change the game. If the learner changes, the system will have to adapt to serve them.
So, I thanked my moment of clarity, got excited about the revelation and then ran in the house, told my husband (who is also an educator) who promptly said: "sounds awesome, how?"
HOW? HOW? HOW?.... I mean can't we just take a moment and celebrate my moment of clarity? I knew the HOW was going to be a bit more involved and cause me to take my caterpillar of clarity and change it into a butterfly of action.
That is when I started growing the ROOTS movement. I started researching like crazy to find out what we needed to do as parents, teacher, and community to help children thrive. I started with the statistics. They were, and still are grim. I will go into stats in another blog post, but here is the takeaway. If you were to raise your children on a SAD diet for nutrition and health (Standard American Diet) the projection of the health issues they will incur later in life is dire. We have heard that food can be the best medicine or the slowest form of poison and if a child follows the SAD diet, they are slowly being poisoned. The same is true of the Standard American Lifestyle (SAL). If you currently raise your children following or not questioning the SAL, it is likely they will ecru some mental health and health implications.
Because you are not giving them what they need to thrive. In plant terms, you have grown a plant and sent a seedling out into the world without anything anchoring it into the ground. You didn't give your plant roots to be able to withstand the storms, droughts, and bug infestations of life. The rich nutrients the plant needs for strength are stripped away, and it is weak from both the inside and the elements of the outside. We see an epidemic of children without robust and stable root systems who are withering...just turn on the news. Drug epidemics, school shootings, bullying, obesity, social media and gaming addictions, mental health issues...and that's just the top news stories of the day.
So, I became what I call an "edu-hacker". An education hacker. I looked at the stats, the data, and the brain. I decided to look at education and well-being, not from a traditional education perspective, but from what the data and research tell us about what makes a person feel fulfilled, happy, motivated. How do people learn? What conditions need to exist in our brain and body to facilitate optimal learning and thriving? What "fertilizer" could we put in the root system of our kids that would help them become strong, resilient, happy individuals who could learn more and apply learning due to the alignment they felt within themselves.
My children were the first guinea pigs. At the time my children were 10, 7, and 4. I began researching and then applying the research to see if it worked. At the same time, my community outreach director job was engulfing me with projects, and if there is one thing that is precious to anyone today, it is time. I recognized that time spent away from my family was having an effect on all of us (also for another blog). At my current employer, there was a space to open a preschool. I jumped at the chance into the first steps outside my own door of my ROOTS MOVEMENT. I wrote a curriculum called ROOTS UP.
The Roots Up Curriculum is a guide for how to optimize brain and body development to help facilitate as much neurological growth and connection as possible that will have a lifelong positive impact on a person.
The preschool-aged child seemed precisely the right age to introduce this curriculum. Children at the preschool age are still in the most significant neurological growth of their human lives. Neurons are how your brain communicates. They send out signals to other neurons and "talk" to each other using neurotransmitters. We can all geek out about neurotransmitters in another blog, but the more two neurons "talk" to each other, the quicker the communication because they begin to develop neural pathways that become superhighways of information from a group of neurons to another group of neurons.
And guess what a healthy system of neurons resembles? A root system with lots of healthy roots reaching out to talk to lots of other healthy neuron root systems, firing up the brain and allowing many avenues of processing and connection to occur. The roots connecting information in the brain are like a giant electrical and chemical game of telephone, passing data back and forth. In optimal conditions, information flows seamlessly and excites many different neuron systems. However, if not properly cared for or exposed to chronic stress or trauma the root systems can't grow lots of nice, big "root systems". They can only build small, limited "root" connectors which limit one's ability to make connections and learn. As children mature in their later elementary school careers, their brains begin a process of "pruning" in which, based upon which neural pathways have connected, they begin to prune out pathways that are unused. Therefore, you can gather that establishing as many connections as possible would be beneficial to brain function.
Now, there is a much more that we will be discussing in this blog about brain health, neurons and synapses, parts of the brain, etc. but even with just this information, you as a parent are probably asking...
How do I get my child to connect those brain roots for success? What could I be doing to help my child create optimal connections and increase their learning and brain function?
How I can help you and your family
What I have witnessed in my preschool is that the Roots Up Curriculum works in helping children become optimal learners. Laying the foundation as early as you can (yes even in utero) helps wire children to handle the pressures and stresses of life.
Is your child past the preschool year? Did you miss the window? No, no and no. For a time, by day I was teaching preschool, and at night I was teaching a health and mindfulness class to grown ups...with the same curriculum components. The entire program applies to all people no matter what their age because it is universal in helping brains and thanks to the brain's neuroplasticity any person at any point can add these ROOTS into their lives and gain results.
I am not going to lie, wiring your brain from the start and creating a network of neural superhighways that support optimal health and well being is easier than trying to re-wire later as an adult, but we know it is possible thanks to your brain being...well, smart!
So here's the jam...
My Rooted mission is to help families find their purpose. Helping families find their purpose is helping a family develop a map or a gameplan. It is guidelines by which you can choose to live to help your children grow in purpose and direction that also really makes life easier and happier for everyone in the family
Everyone's purpose plan will be unique to their family. This is not a "this is how to raise your kids" idea. You develop and share how you want to raise your family, and then I help by giving you the research and template to figure out your family purpose. I will guide you in helping you make a plan that works for the goals and dreams of your family. I'm sure you have heard the marriage advice of "don't focus on the wedding, focus on the marriage." Well, this is the same concept. For many, starting a family, having babies, raising babies is a whirlwind period. Loss of sleep and the dependence of little people can take all of your focus. What you come to discover is that the learning curve keeps going up. There is no finish line, and you are just trying to stay one step ahead of whatever your child's needs are.
The problem with trying to stay one step ahead
Families get swept up in the day to day living, focusing on what's right in front of them. Trying to run down a dream instead of living it. I know because I started that way too! In a whirlwind of the baby phase my husband and I did not ever stop to ask ourselves, what do we want for our children, what are our goals as a family, how do we want to live out our time here on Earth with the people we love?
We weren't rooting our family. We weren't feeding our roots, or our kid's roots cause we hadn't even discussed what to put in our soil. We didn't evaluate our family to see what would be the best fertilizer and nutrients to accomplish our dreams for these little sprouts. This, of course, caused strife, anxiety, stress, inconsistent parenting, and confusion which then leads to worry, behavior issues, and disorder in our children and sometimes, if left, continues to lead to much worse.
And anxiety, behavior issues, and confusion are the last things we want for our kids. We want them to feel safe and loved and thrive, which is which is why finding our purpose and creating our plan was so important.
Getting your family rooted in the garden now is critical for preparing for when life throws you a drought, hail storm, or bug infestation. If you wait until the storm comes and your kid's don't have roots, they get swept away in whatever the issue is and so do you.
So, I hope you and your family choose to join me in the garden.
I hope you decide on a course or workshop to help your family either start getting rooted or growing deeper roots. I hope you subscribe to this blog and that it is beneficial to you and your family and it helps you think about how to improve your lives. Please share this with everyone you know who has a family so they can get rooted. We need to change the way we are raising our families. I don't want anyone's kids to become another sad statistic, and I don't want any parent to go through the parenting experience not feeling confident and secure that they are helping their children thrive.
Please contact me if you would like to have me speak to your parent group, church (see Spirit Roots), school, group of friends, etc. I have many program options available to reach families at every level. I would like to spread this message all over, so even if we don't live close, I would love to travel to meet your family group.
See you in the garden...let's start digging in,