Category Archives: Alternative / non-traditional education

School Days Reminiscences of D. Avery

School Days, Reminiscences of D. Avery

Welcome to the School Days, Reminiscences series in which my champion bloggers and authors share reminiscences of their school days. It’s my small way of thanking them for their support and of letting you know about their services and publications.

This week, I am delighted to introduce D. Avery, poet, writer, blogger. I met D. when she rode up to the Carrot Ranch, dismounted and took a lead role around the campfire with her humorous tales and witty conversation. I also try not to miss her posts on ShiftnShake where she shares poetry, flash fiction and short stories sprinkled with philosophical pearls of wisdom and creates characters as like and unlike any you may chance to meet. Whatever the topic, there’s sure to be beauty in her words, wisdom in her ideas and smiles to lighten your day.

Books by D. Avery

I have read and enjoyed all three of D.’s books and was both honoured and delighted when she quoted me on the back cover of After Ever. This is what I wrote:

An interesting and eclectic collection of short stories and even shorter flash stories, this collection has something for everyone. Whether the situation be mundane or mystical, tragic or cheerful, D. Avery records events matter-of-factly, telling how it is or was, and leaves it to the reader to choose how to respond. After Ever is great for reading in bites or as an entire feast.

I thought I’d reviewed all three of D.’s books on Amazon, but all I could find was my review of For the Girls:

After receiving her own pre-Christmas un-gift of a cancer diagnosis, D. Avery unwrapped how the diagnosis affected her personal journey and view on life. Written from her own need and for others facing similar situations, D. Avery explores through poetry, the emotions that fluctuate in intensity from the moment of diagnosis until, hopefully, remission is declared. Anyone who has endured the pain of diagnosis or suffered alongside another who has, will find something with which to identify. None of us are ever free of the fear, but hope has a stronger pull. These poems are food for the soul.

Before we begin the interview, I’ll allow D. Avery to tell you a little of herself:

D. Avery, writer, fisherwoman

Born and raised in rural New England, D. Avery is never quite out of the woods, though she has been in other fields. She has been a veggie vendor, landscape gardener, and a teacher.

Cursed with a compulsion for wordplay and a growing addiction to writing, D. Avery blogs at Shiftnshake, where she pours flash fiction and shots of poetry for online sampling. D. Avery tweets ‪‪@daveryshiftn‪‪ and is a Rough Writer at Carrot Ranch. She is the author of two books of poems, Chicken Shift and For the Girls. Her latest release,  After Ever; Little Stories for Grown Children,  is a collection of flash and short fiction.

Welcome, D. Now let’s talk school. First of all, could you tell us where you attended school?

I attended public school, my first three years at a K-12 school in Skagway, Alaska, then third through sixth grade in a four room graded school in Vermont, before attending a 7-12 regional school that serves a number of small towns.

What is the highest level of education you achieved? What work or profession did you choose after school and was there anything in school that influenced this choice?

I experienced a year of small private liberal arts college in Ohio and that was enough of that. After a year off from school I completed a two-year program at the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass Amherst, earning an Associate’s Degree in Science, Commercial Floriculture. This course of study had practical and immediate application for me, and served me well. I spent the off season from greenhouse work and landscape gardening subbing and volunteering in the elementary school and after a few years I decided to answer the call and get my teaching certificate. I got my Masters of Education at Antioch New England Graduate School and switched careers, becoming a fourth grade classroom teacher and more recently a sixth grade math teacher.

What is your earliest memory of school?

I have lots of early memories. I do think back on how cool it was to be in a small K-12 school that was the center of a small (and isolated) community. The entire school, K-12, took part in a Christmas pageant every year for the town to see. Likewise Field Day had everyone involved and the high school kids might be on the team of a kindergartner or would somehow be helping out.

What memories do you have of learning to read?

I was reading before attending school, something I picked up at home. We were read to, and there was plenty of print around. One day while looking through a comic I realized I knew the words. It was pretty exciting. I went through the stack of comics and numerous picture books. By second grade I had read all my brothers’ Hardy Boys books. And we had quite a stack of Classics Illustrated, classic novels condensed into comic book form; I started in on those at this time. When we moved back to VT I read every Vermont heroes and histories books on those dusty shelves of that old graded school. There was a collection of William O’Steele books too, historical fiction for kids, pioneers headed west. Of course there were the Little House books. Then they instituted the Dorothy Canfield Fisher program and our school library got built up with more modern young adult novels. I still enjoyed the historical fiction the most though.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

D. Avery was always confident as a writer

Norah, you might remember when I gave some detail about being taught to form my letters in school. It was kind of fun so here’s a LINK. But school did get better after that. My second grade teacher did a great job of integrating reading and writing. I became a writer the day that my writing was hanging in the hall and some of those high school kids were reading it and even complimented me for it. Throughout my school years some of my writing got some attention and publication. I had encouraging teachers and still remember the Poets in Schools program. I was always fairly confident as a writer, using it to baffle them with bullshit if I couldn’t dazzle them with brilliance.

What do you remember about math classes?

D. Avery: maths should be accessible and meaningful

I could neither baffle nor dazzle with math. Math was never taught very well, I realize now, and I did not like it. It was a lot of rote drill-and-kill work.

Fortunately, my great grandmother got me straightened out with times tables in one briefing so that helped.

I managed, barely, but never “got” math until a course at ANE Graduate School. Since then I have taken a number of courses. Now I truly enjoy math and have enjoyed demystifying the subject for students third through sixth grades.

I don’t remember ever having fun in math class, but my own math students have had fun. Math students need to see patterns and to make connections, to keep math accessible and meaningful.

I also realize that the best math practice I ever had, and what really built number sense, was not from school at any level but from my summer work as a teenager on a truck farm where there was no cash register or calculator. My mental math got quite good. Working there and earlier helping my dad out with different projects also built my math skills.

What was your favourite subject?

D. Avery: it's the people who make a subject more interesting and more accessible

I have always enjoyed history and social studies, and those were probably my favorite subjects in high school. But I also enjoyed Latin and English (reading and writing). I also was very fortunate to have had some remarkable people as my teachers. That’s what one remembers as much as anything; it’s the people who make a subject more interesting and accessible.

What did you like best about school? 

D. Avery, what did you like best about school

I liked learning. I found most of my subjects interesting. There were some excellent teachers and also an excellent library. School had books and magazines to be read, it was a place to pursue ideas and interests. It was a path to possibilities. And school was where my audience was, it’s where I performed and entertained. But I did manage to learn in spite of myself.

What did you like least about school?

I liked being with friends at school, but people are also what I liked least in school. Kids are always having to navigate the social waters and to find their own balance between conformity and individuality. It’s stressful. I was always grateful and glad to be home at the end of the day, where I could have quiet alone time in the woods.

I feel bad for the kids today who, because of their devices, are never able to be alone and to decompress. I feel bad for people who do not have the outside time and space. I know it was vital for my time in school to have good work and play experiences out of school and time to get re-centered. People now are never alone and never lonelier. I still require lots of alone time.

How do you think schools have changed since your school days?

School girl D. Avery coming in from skiing

With the pervasiveness of computers and social media parents have an extra responsibility, an extra worry now, and most don’t fully comprehend the depths of that. Technology has made teaching and learning more difficult; it has distanced people from nature, from each other, from generational wisdom- from their selves. “Knowledge” at our fingertips is not lasting; internet access in many ways erodes curiosity and problem solving skills, critical reading and thinking skills, and the stamina required for meaningful learning.

I know arguments could be made in defence of technology, but I rarely see a healthy balance. Gaming addictions, cyber-bullying, plagiarism and general distractions are some of the issues that impact teaching and learning nowadays. That maybe didn’t really speak about schools, but these phones are a huge change in our society and so our schools.

What do you think schools (in general) do well?

Schools have changed, but they are still staffed with people, most often good caring people who are educated in their subject area and also in pedagogy and in best practices based on research. Educators take into account how students best learn, and how to engage them in that enterprise.

More than ever before, schools look out for and provide services for a student’s mental health, their social/emotional wellbeing. A person with trauma or health issues is not the best learner, and schools are learning to take a more holistic approach to all students.

How do you think schools could be improved?

D. Avery "Schools should be creative safe havens"

Our schools don’t always seem to measure up, but what is the measure? Not everyone is measuring up to standardized tests, but if we really want to close achievement gaps, if we really want to leave no children behind then we need to reform much more than our schools.

While I think we should first focus on out of school factors, within school we have to do more than give lip service to Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. Which means schools need to not succumb to the testing culture; schools need to be less programmatic and prescriptive. Curricula should encourage empathy and build flexible and adaptive skills and strategies required for individuals to pursue their own interests and inclinations. Schools should be creative safe havens that sustain a sense of wonder and curiosity.

thank you for your participation

D., thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general. I would have liked to take your responses to the last three questions and make them all quotes. You express it all so perfectly.  It’s been a delight to have you here. I learned so much from and about you. I enjoyed learning about your own school days and totally agree with what you have to say about education in general.

 

Find out more about D. Avery

from her website ShiftnShake

Connect with her on social media

Twitter: @daveryshiftn

Purchase your own copy of her books from

Amazon

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Pauline King

JulesPaige

Look for future interviews in this series to be posted on Sunday evenings AEST.

Coming soon:

Christy Birmingham

Miriam Hurdle

Susan Scott

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your comments. Please share your thoughts.

School days, reminiscences of JulesPaige

School Days, Reminiscences of JulesPaige

Welcome to the School Days, Reminiscences series in which my champion bloggers and authors share reminiscences of their school days. It’s my small way of thanking them for their support and of letting you know about their services and publications.

This week, I am pleased to introduce JulesPaige, poet, flash fiction artist and creator of gems that sparkle on the page.

I met Jules at the Carrot Ranch where we both participate in flash fiction challenges set by Charli Mills each week. Jules is one of the most engaged and supportive participants. She always has something encouraging to say and is quick to offer helpful advice when a request is made.

We have wonderful conversations about education, parenting and grandparenting on her frequent visits here. I think we would have a lot of fun entertaining our grandchildren together, if only we lived closer.

Before we begin the interview, Jules will tell you a little of herself:

I use the nom-de-plume JulesPaige because words are like jewels on a page. I am a poet for over fifty years, writer of flash fiction, and crafty creative person. More than less retired and love learning, but on my own terms. I have included a shadow photo as I wish, at this time, to remain anonymous.

I’ve had poetry included in school and college literary magazines. Poetry has also been accepted in chapbooks, the local newspaper, and online zines and linked to both poetry and flash fiction prompt sites. Recently I earned two first places and an honorable mention in Flash fiction contests via Carrot Ranch. Some of my stories feature in The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol 1.

I am an active participant in several prompts for Flash Fiction and poetry:

Carrot Ranch

Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie

Pure Haiku

Thanks, Jules, and welcome. Let’s talk school.

 First, could you tell us where you attended school?

New York and New Jersey, USA.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

All public schools. The last being a two-year community college that I paid my own tuition for.

What work or profession did you choose after school and was there anything in school that influenced this choice?

The profession I choose was Early Childhood Education Assistant. I did not want to go into business or be in the same classes of a sibling who chose the arts. I wanted to help children with their educational beginnings.

What is your earliest memory of school?

I remember being in a kindergarten class and wanting to play house, I didn’t get too many turns there. Then in first grade I ended up in the same room with the same teacher – who apparently didn’t like me. Since during the first days of class she allowed me to play in the housekeeping section that had not yet been restocked. I don’t have many memories of early school. I had a family tragedy and withdrew from getting attention which ended up getting me labeled as ‘slow’.

What memories do you have of learning to read and write?

I do not have all that many early memories of school. But since I was labeled ‘slow’, my stepmom made it a point to help me learn to read by reading to me every night. Perhaps in 5th grade I was in what was called an intermediate school. That was when I was around ten. That’s when I had a couple of English teachers who encouraged creative writing. At that time in the late 1960’s in that school, creativity was more of a focus than basics. So my math and grammar skills are lacking.

What did you like best and least about school?

I was always the new student at my schools. The odd one out and did not have many friends even in High School. No bonds were made in College. I liked my art classes. I did not like the negative or lack support of either my parents or most of my teachers. I only had a select few teachers that encouraged my creative avenues. While I attended the same High School for all four years 9-12, we moved mid-way through, which made seeing the friends I had difficult, and left no chance of participating in any after school programs.

How do you think schools have changed since your school days?

I am not entirely sure that public schools have changed for the better. While addressing bullying, special health needs and catering to highly intelligent prodigies… there still lacks a complete need to address all children with equal fairness. This is from the experience of raising my own children in the local public school system and having to invoke my ‘Parental Rights’ for my own children’s needs. The Parental rights to fair education is not something that the schools promote. I found out about them through another friend who was a teacher.

How do you think schools could be improved?

Public Schools need to prepare our children by starting language in the early grades and not waiting until older grades. Special language immersion classes were available in later years (of my children’s schools) for a select amount of students who were selected by a lottery. Public Schools also need to make sure basic math and estimation skills are taught without the assistance of calculators or iPads. Public schools also need to encourage acceptance of differences.

If you choose to send your child to a public school, then you need to accept the parameters set therein. Public Schools also need to keep religion out of the schools. And if vaccines are a requirement, there should be no exceptions. Just one unvaccinated child can bring disease to a whole school population.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Jules. It’s been wonderful to have you here. I am sorry that your school days were not the most pleasant for you, but I am happy to know that you have done what you can to ensure the school days for your own children and others were more positive. It is always encouraging to hear stories of negative cycles being broken.

Read more of Jules’ work on her blog Jules Pens Some Gems.

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Pauline King

Look for future interviews in this series to be posted on Sunday evenings AEST.

Coming soon:

D. Avery

Christy Birmingham

Miriam Hurdle

Susan Scott

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your comments. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pauline King reminiscences of school days

School Days, Reminiscences of Pauline King

Welcome to the School Days, Reminiscences series in which my champion bloggers and authors share reminiscences of their school days. It’s my small way of thanking them for their support and of letting you know about their services and publications.

This week, I am pleased to introduce Pauline King, The Contented Crafter. Pauline and I have been online friends for a long time. I can’t quite remember where we met, but I think it may have been through Geoff Le Pard.

Pauline and I clicked straight away as we have a lot in common and share many similar views about education. At one time, each of us even contemplated starting our own school.

I wish I’d known Pauline and had the opportunity of working alongside and learning from her while I was still working in the classroom. Although Pauline says that she has left that part (teaching) of her life behind, it doesn’t stop her sharing the value of her experience and words of wisdom when prompted. We shared so many in-depth conversations in response to posts, that I decided to give more space to her views in posts of their own. Follow these links to share in Pauline’s wisdom.

Which school? I found one!

Reflections on living a contented life, teaching and school

On children and parents —more from the Contented Crafter

Pauline King the Contented Crafter

Before we begin the interview, I’ll let Pauline tell you a little about herself.

I’ve had many incarnations as wife, mother, student, teacher, teacher trainer and mentor, curriculum writer and advisor, community hub developer, new worker trainer, and [whew!] life coach.  In between I painted, crafted, hand worked, gardened and generally tried to create beauty around me where ever I went.  Oh, I forgot to mention ‘world traveller’!

These days I’m [mostly] a very contented crafter and pursuer of serenity.  And of course, I live with Orlando, a now elderly Maine Coon cat of great distinction and forbearance and a most delightfully joyful pup who goes by the name of Sid-Arthur [yes, a play on Siddhartha for those of you who picked it up].  They feature prominently throughout this blog.

I’m retired now and happily spend my days doing whatever it pleases me to do.  Sometimes, in between my crafting projects, I still coach now and again, gratis, as a thank you for this blessed life I’ve been given.

Welcome, Pauline. Now let’s talk school.

 First, could you tell us where you attended school?

Porirua, then a village, now a city.  In the Wellington area.  NZ

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

State school

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

Originally nothing. I was pulled from school by my mother before I turned 15.  I later gained School Cert and UE via correspondence as a young adult and at the age of 33, I trained as a Waldorf teacher.

What work or profession did you choose after school and was there anything in school that influenced this choice? 

It seems I always wanted to be a teacher, but the circumstances of my life dictated otherwise.  In my 30s I was finally enabled to follow that dream through the initial support of friends  buoying up my low confidence and a series of fortuitous events that allowed me to enter the Waldorf training despite not having a state teacher training  which was then a requirement of any Waldorf trainee teacher.  (It was here I heard for the first time that I was seen as a graduate of the University of Life — a designation that delighted me.)  I believe that meeting kindness and being encouraged in my early school years ignited the wish to be a teacher.

What is your earliest memory of school?

The first day of school, I was 5 years old and terrified.  My mother pushed me into the room and shut the door on me and I was crying as the teacher came to get me.  But the thing that caught my eye was the book display.  You know those shelves that hold books with the full cover showing. There were so many books and they all looked so beautiful and enticing.  I stopped crying and the teacher let me stay there looking at the books.  I still remember the first book I looked at, ‘Orlando the Marmalade Cat’.  I don’t remember anything else, but it was clearly a very important moment in my life.  That teacher went on to become a champion of mine and I never forgot her many kindnesses and through her my love of reading flowered.

What memories do you have of learning to read and write?

I don’t remember learning to read. It came very easily.  Writing too.  At age 10 my essays were entered into inter-school competitions by the headmaster.  Later he asked me to not write fantasy, but to write about ‘what you know, your life’.  That was the end of my writing career.  🙂

What do you remember about math classes?

I have no recall of maths classes.

What was your favourite subject?

I loved all the humanities classes – reading, writing, history, geography, social studies.  I loved music too, until I was pulled from a combined class practising choral singing and told to stand at the front of the room and listen as I was singing off key.  That was the end of my musical career too.  I never sang in front of anyone except for my babies for many years.

What did you like best about school?

Pauline King the Contented Crafter tells what she liked best about school

For me in those first years, school was a safe place to be and I was fortunate to have in the early years women who took an interest in my welfare and some who even tried to help intervene in my home life. Their kindness made a huge impression on me and was probably partially responsible for the longing I felt to become a teacher.  They also had made me feel so safe that when the harsher teachers entered my world and humiliation and failure became the norm, I still liked school.  It was better than home, I guess.  I know I was, from a very young age, gathering information and evidence about what made a good teacher and what made a bad teacher.  It would all eventually come in handy when I parented and later became an actual teacher.

How do you think schools have changed since your school days?

My initial experience of state education is my own and the first two years of my children’s education.  (In the final six years of my working life I came up against the failures of the state system when I developed programmes for youth at risk in job training.)

When I had children, I looked for something else outside the state system for them but had the resistance of my husband to work through.  Later after my daughters both had bad experiences with teachers he agreed, and we transferred them to the local Steiner School.  There I watched my children bloom and blossom and there I too found my place. It’s a wonderful thing when you find your tribe and I had finally found mine.

What do you think schools (in general) do well?

I think in general schools provide an adequate education for students who have an academic leaning.  But, as you know Norah, I believe that true education is sadly lacking.  It seems to me the role of education is to awaken the mind, to develop the skill of learning, to prepare people for a life of learning and enough of an interest in the world to want to learn about it.

The reality is we spend all our lives learning, yet so many think they go to school to learn the skills needed to get a job.  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a young person (or even a parent) complain that reading a certain book will be of no use to them after school and science or maths adds nothing to the skill-set they need for getting a job.

It seems nobody talks to them about the joy of learning, of widening horizons, of deepening understanding or even of exercising their thinking capacities and developing their brains.  I’ve met many 15- and 16-years olds who can’t write their own addresses down.  They have no self-esteem, are angry and confused and turned off from society.  They don’t have the skills to hold down any kind of job because they also haven’t learnt about taking personal responsibility at school or at home.

How do you think schools could be improved?

Pauline King the Contented Crafter tells how schools could be improved

I’d love to see a return to a balanced education that includes academia and the arts and life skills.  I’d love to see each classroom be a living community where all kinds of kids learn to get along, learn to appreciate each other and learn that not everyone is good at everything.  But that everyone, even the least able, has a skill and a personality that offers much.  Where tolerance is taught and practised, and respect is modelled and expected.  A place where different cultures and different beliefs are seen as interesting and intriguing and when it’s all boiled down, people are people and we all feel the same way over the things that matter.

I’d like to see geography and social studies and all kinds of real arts and crafts come back to life in the classroom, I’d like to see kids singing and dancing and playing together in between learning the Three R’s.  I’d like to see the slow expansion of a planned curriculum that ensures a deepening understanding of the natural sciences — again attached to the developmental stages and understanding of the students.  Never bring hard facts too soon to young people — they kill childhood!

I’d like everyone to understand that we live in a world that is changing so quickly that it is highly likely the jobs their kids will do haven’t yet been invented.  The only way to ensure their children will succeed as adults is that they will have a healthily developed sense of themselves, their interests and their abilities and be able to think, to assess, to understand the needs of the world and to have the entrepreneurial spirit to meet them.  It’s less about passing exams and more about an ability to learn; less about gaining the skills for a job, more about gaining an ability to learn new skills.

Thank you for inviting me to join with your esteemed guests Norah, it is very kind of you.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Pauline. As always, it’s a pleasure to discuss education with you and, while it was great to hear of your early experiences and the influence of kind teachers, I am in total agreement with you about how schools could be improved. If only we could get those who make the decisions to listen to and enact your wisdom.

 

Find out more about Pauline King

on her website: The Contented Crafter

Connect with her on social media

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/paulinekingnz

Twitter: https://twitter.com/contentedP

Browse her gift shop to purchase your own special piece of Pauline’s art or craft.

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Look for future interviews in this series to be posted on Sunday evenings AEST.

Coming soon:

Jules Paige

D. Avery

Christy Birmingham

Miriam Hurdle

Susan Scott

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your comments. Please share your thoughts.

 

Guest post on Sally Cronin's Smorgasbord magazine

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Family – Reflections on Learning by Norah Colvin

I’m over at Sally Cronin’s wonderful blog again this week, sharing another post from my family archives. However, this time the post author is my wonderful daughter who shares her thoughts on being home educated. We’d all love it if you popped over to read and share your thoughts.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Today is the last in the present series from the archives of Norah Colvin which is actually reflections on learning by her daughter Bec, and written when she was 26 in 2013… so I am sure that her PhD in Environmental Management is being put to good use. Bec shares her early memories of being home schooled until enrolling in school in grade 4.

Reflections on Learning

In a previous post To school or not to school I explored some issues I was grappling with as my daughter reached school age. I stated then that in future posts I would explore the effects of decisions I made upon my children’s (and my) education.

My daughter, Bec, now 25 and working towards a PhD in Environmental Management at UQ, has beaten me to the post by writing the following reflections on her schooling experiences. Who better to explore the effects…

View original post 1,310 more words

Charli Mills reminiscences about school days

School Days, Reminiscences of Charli Mills

Welcome to the School Days, Reminiscences series in which my champion bloggers and authors share reminiscences of their school days. It’s my small way of thanking them for their support and of letting you know about their services and publications.

First to share her reminiscences is Charli Mills, lead buckaroo at the Carrot Ranch where she challenges writers with a weekly flash fiction prompt and an annual flash fiction rodeo. She believes in the power of literary art to change lives and that it should be accessible to everyone. She encourages writers to find their voice in a supportive environment where everyone is welcome.

I have known Charli for almost as long as I have been blogging and was among the first to participate in her flash fiction challenges when they began five years ago this month. I have rarely missed a week since. Charli’s support and encouragement of my writing and my work has been unfaltering, even when she was experiencing her own tough times, and I am extremely grateful for it. I don’t know how well I may have maintained my yet mindset without her.

Before we begin the interview, I’ll allow Charli to tell you a little of herself:

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, is the award-winning goat-tying champion of a forgotten 1970s rodeo. Now she wrangles words. Married to a former US Army Ranger, Charli is “true grit” although shorter than John Wayne. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and gives voice to women and others marginalized in history, especially on frontiers. In 2014 she founded an imaginary place called Carrot Ranch where real literary artists could gather where she hosts a weekly 99-word challenge. She’s pursuing her MFA with SNHU, writing novels, and leading workshops to help writers with professional development.

Welcome, Charli.

Now let’s talk school. First of all, could you tell us where you attended school?

Sacred Heart Catholic School (Hollister, California), Sunnyside Elementary (Hollister, California), Diamond Valley School (Woodfords, California), Douglas High School (Minden, Nevada), and Carroll College (Helena, MT).

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

Sacred Heart was a private Catholic school, and so was Carroll College. I achieved kindergarten at one and a BA at the other. The other three were public schools. Diamond Valley was located next to the Woodfords Community of the Washoe Tribe. Our county was too small in population to warrant its own high school and the mountains cut us off from the nearest California option at Lake Tahoe so we were bussed into Nevada to Douglas High School, which was a horrible experience as we faced much prejudice as the “Alpine kids” even though not all of us were Native American.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

To date, I’ve earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English –Writing. However, I’m in the application process to pursue a Masters of Fine Art in Creative Writing.

What work or profession did you choose after school and was there anything in school that influenced this choice?

At Diamond Valley, in 7th-grade, Mr. Price made us write a spelling story once a week using the “prompt” of words from our spelling list. My stories were long and he encouraged me to write them longer. Then he asked me to read my stories aloud to the class every week, and I have loved reading my writing ever since. In high school, I struggled unless writing was involved. Ms. Bateman hit me hard with editing, but also taught me how to improve. She invited me to be on the newspaper team and I was the youngest member. By my senior year, I was co-editor. After high school I waited tables, worked road construction, and wrote for a daily newspaper, dreaming of going to college to be an archeologist and an author. Ten years later, I enrolled in a writing degree when my three young children started school. I often joked that I went back to kindergarten with them. My freelance writing took off while I was still in college. I never did become an archeologist and I worked 20 years in marketing before pursuing my author dreams, but my first novel will feature a character who is an archeologist. It’s all connected to my days at Diamond Valley School, and the skills I honed at Carroll College.

What is your earliest memory of school?

My earliest memory of school is being in trouble. I was highly imaginative and evidently, the nuns did not appreciate my drawings in textbooks. We lived on a ranch outside of Hollister California and my mother worked in town. She’d drop me off at a sitter’s and I’d walk to school every morning with the daughter who was in kindergarten, too. She never got in trouble. I recall wondering why I was so different and why the nuns didn’t like my freedom of expression. At Carroll College, I took an art appreciation class and wrote a paper on my theory of Greek influences on modern pornography. I worried I was going to get in trouble again for expressing my ideas, but the Jesuits loved it. I thought about sending that paper to Sister Margaret at Sacred Heart, explaining that I turned out fine, using my imagination.  Not sure she would agree!

What memories do you have of learning to read?

Books captivated me! I wanted to crack the code and would sit and pretend read. The nuns said I couldn’t read so the next grade placed me in remedial reading until the teacher caught me “pretend” reading a chapter book. She realized I wasn’t pretending. How I learned to read mystifies me. I couldn’t grasp the components, but I could read. Math was similar. I had the answers but struggled to show the work. Spelling escapes me but writing flows. Learning was always a frustration in school, yet I was always curious and even now I love to learn.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

Again, learning the actual mechanics of writing was frustrating, but any time teachers let me be creative or pursue curiosity, I could write volumes. Like reading, I just wrote. It wasn’t until high school when Ms. Bateman got a hold of me and drilled grammar into my head, and explained editing as a process. But I also felt it shut down my creativity. I didn’t learn until later how creativity serves as a bridge between my right and left brain. Once I understood that, I’ve made it a point to allow creativity to thrive in my work and writing.

What do you remember about math classes?

Pain and suffering! I never found a saving grace in math because I never found a way to be creative with numbers. In fact, creativity with numbers is frowned upon.

What was your favourite subject?

I loved history because it was full of stories. I’ve been a natural born story-catcher and history seemed to be a part of that. Where I lived was part of the old Comstock Lode and emigrant trails, and I attended school with Washoe students, learning their lore and history. My aunt used to take me relic hunting, and I had a huge collection of arrowheads, trade beads and square nails. I could spot a relic from on top of my horse. I learned to read the human imprint on the land, and when I was 17, I met a state archeologist who legitimized my ability and he coached me to record 11 archeological sites in my hometown area. So, in school, I loved history most.

What did you like best about school?

Charli Mills like skiing best at school

Skiing. In the winter, we skied once a week at the ski resort near our school for winter PE. It was the best! I don’t know of any other school that ever had such a perk. I remember waking up so excited on ski days. The resort was huge and when we were young, six and seven years old, we were sent to the bunny hills and taught to alpine ski. By the time we were pre-teens we were skiing black diamond routes. I remember #4 best. I loved #4! We’d take the #1 chairlift up, and ski over to the #2 chairlift. At the top of #2, we’d ski down a long, steep and remote mountainside where chairlifts #3 and #4 sat perpendicular to each other. After we skied down #3, we’d take the longest lift at the resort, #4 all the way to the top of a mountain so isolated and remote, it boggles my mind today that we got to do this as school kids. Here’s a link to Kirkwood today: https://www.kirkwood.com/the-mountain/about-the-mountain/trail-map.aspx. When we skied, there were only six chairlifts, but you can see how far away #4 was from the lodge. Funny story – by the time I was in 7th-grade and was writing spelling stories, my good friend Gerald shared his dad’s Ian Fleming novels with me. I went from Little House on the Prairie to James Bond! Gerald was my skiing buddy and we used to make the #4 loop together. We’d pretend we were British spies! Ah, it was good to have someone to share an imagination with. I doubt anyone else who answers this question will ever say skiing.

What did you like least about school?

Mean people. Kids and adults can be cruel and I don’t fully understand why – is it cultural? Is it human nature? The level of cruelty could be stunning at times. I think this is what taught me empathy. Bullies taught me to care about others. If I wasn’t the one being bullied, I found I couldn’t tolerate others being bullied either.

How do you think schools have changed since your school days?

For one thing, I don’t think students are turned loose on ski hills anymore! I think there’s more respect for cultural diversity than when I went to school. Obviously, technology has changed. Diamond Valley is still a small remote school, but it now has an alternative high school, which is a good change. I think bullying is better dealt with now and parents are more involved, perhaps too involved. In the US, the crisis of school shootings is unfathomable to me. Even with all my bad experiences of being bullied and witnessing it, no one was armed. But that mean spirit was always there and now it has access to guns and that is terrifying. Hopefully, education continues to be important as technology changes our societal landscapes, and through education, we can resolve this shameful American blight on our school system. Maybe we need to focus less on gun control and getting more to the heart of abuses of power in our nation. We need to heal from institutions of slavery and Native American genocide. We need less division and more dignity.

What do you think schools (in general) do well?

I think schools provide inroads to learning that are valuable to becoming productive and happy human beings. Schools are amazing, really. They have been a part of what is America at its worst and what is America at its best. Schools do well to create environments where real learning takes place.

How do you think schools could be improved?

Most importantly, schools need to be safe. Early on, we need to give children the gifts of education and not the burdens. I think citizens should be involved in their public schools even if they don’t have children. How can we be part of the improvement? I don’t have the answers, but I’m willing to be a part of solutions. I support EveryTown for Gun Safety, and until we deal with the hardest cultural issues in our nation, it doesn’t matter if our schools achieve awards or graduate students who score well on tests.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Charli. It’s been wonderful to have you here. I learned so much I didn’t already know about you.

Find out more about Charli Mills

at the Carrot Ranch: https://carrotranch.com/

and on her Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Charli-Mills/e/B078FV6JGB

Connect with her on social media

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CarrotRanch/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/charli_mills

The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol 1

Purchase your own copy of

The Congress of the Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol 1

via the Carrot Ranch bookstore: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/The-Congress-of-Rough-Writers

Participate in a

Carrot Ranch Writing Refuge (Keep updated at the Ranch)

Look for future interviews in this series to be posted on Sunday evenings AEST.

Coming soon:

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff LePard

Debby Gies

Hugh Roberts

D. Avery

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your comments. Please share your thoughts.

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives. The Accidental Home Schooler by Norah Colvin

I’m so delighted to share this post on Sally Cronin’s lovely Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life blog. It allowed me to see my thoughts from a completely different angle. Please pop over to read and let me know what you think.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

The second post in the series by educator Norah Colvin and this week Norah shares a concept that she had to offer an alternative to the government run schooling on offer in her area.

The Accidental Home Schooler by Norah Colvin

In a previous post “To school or not to school” I discussed thoughts I had pondered and issues I had considered when deciding the future education of my daughter.

Although the main focus of that article was whether to school or not, home education was not only not my first choice, but not even a consideration.

The merest hint of an idea of starting my own school had niggled away in the back of my thoughts for a long time. More than ten years before that article was written, I was in college studying the teaching of literacy when the idea popped into conscious thought. In response to an…

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Smorgasbord Posts From Your Archives – What You Don’t Know by Norah Colvin

I have the very great honour of being featured among the lovely Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives series on Sally’s Cronin‘s blog. Sally has graciously shared one of my earlier posts What you don’t know.
Thank you, Sally, I am delighted to be featured on your blog.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

We begin a series of posts by educator Norah Colvin who shares her thoughts on our approach to learning as individuals… we have all heard the expressions that ‘ignorance is bliss’ ‘What you don’t know won’t hurt you’ but shouldn’t we be the judge of that. The desire to learn and keep learning whatever age you are, is a gift that is not offered to everyone. Are we making the most of that gift?

What You Don’t Know by Norah Colvin

 One of my favourite quotes is that of Manuel in the BBC television series Fawlty Towers: “I know nothing.” I love quoting this but, just like Manuel, I too am learning. And what a wonderful gift it is to be able to learn.

Recently I read a post  This time it’s Personal by Tony Burkinshaw on his blog.

He explained unconscious incompetence in the following way: “

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