Good Day! We hope that everyone is safe and well. Recently, I saw a quote that said: “In one school year, children spend around 900 hours at school and 7800 hours at home so which teacher should be more accountable?” A relation of mine responded to this by saying she couldn’t have been doing too well then, especially since she’s been pulling “double duty over the past year” being mom AND teacher due to Covid. I thought about her statement.
This is a mom who has two beautiful daughters. This is a mom who fishes. This is a mom who beads. This is a mom who dances Traditional Women’s. This is a mom who works a full-time job. This is a mom who, now, is a full-time Master’s student. She posts pictures of herself doing her school work with her two daughters seated beside her doing their school work. She posts pictures of her daughters playing outside with their cousins. She posts pictures of her daughters with their grandparents. She posts pictures of her daughters fishing. She posts pictures of her daughters picking berries and medicines. She posts pictures of her daughters learning from their cousins and family on the land. She posts pictures of her daughters in their jingle dresses.
I told her: You’re an amazing mother. Children learn on the land. They learn from their grandparents, their aunts and uncles, their cousins, and their community. They’re learning even when we think they’re not because they are watching and observing. And your daughters see you. They see you going to work and to school. They see you beading, dancing, laughing, visiting, fishing, and picking. Your girls are getting a beautiful, well-rounded education. One that can’t be replicated in a classroom because education isn’t only a classroom.
While many might feel like the past year has been a loss of “classroom time” and young people will be “behind” after this year, it’s important to remember that children learn at home too (even without homework packages). It’s been a very difficult year, but it was also an opportunity to reconnect with many things including learning at home and on the land. And with the onset of a third wave, there is still time. We often tend to measure children’s learning by Western standards. While we value Western education and we strive to balance it with our ways, we remain cognizant that it is not the only way.
Take that little one out on the land for a walk. Identify the trees, flowers, birds, and animals. Ask him or her to research the names of any unknown trees, flowers, birds, or animals. Ask him or her to find the Anishinaabemowin names of them. Ask him or her to retell the story of the walk. Write it down or record it.
One seemingly simple walk has so much learning. The most important is reconnecting to the land. And if possible, the language. Our ancestors knew science, botany, anatomy, biology, ecosystems, math, and much more. All of these existed in their systems of knowledge. And the learning took place together out on the land.
So let’s try not to worry too much about Western standards of learning and education. They aren’t going anywhere. They’ll always be here. And children are resilient, as are we, so don’t be hard on yourself. Take this time to get back to the land and the language in ways that are available to you because education isn’t only a classroom.
Renew and revitalize. Miigwetch.