Learning all the time – Am I failing?

Are you learning all the time?  How can you tell?

Are you failing some of the time?  What does that feel like?

Are you a teacher, home schooling parent, or a student of life?   Well, if yes, this blog post is for you!

Today, dusting book shelves, I pulled out John Holt‘s, Learning All the Time, and thought, today I want to find my blogging inspiration in this book, and pay homage to one of the great pioneers of home learning and unschooling.  I sat to open the book, taking a short break from my cleaning, and fell upon the page where Holt describes Leon, a young black man and his experience with being at the bottom of his class throughout school and what changed for him the summer before his upward bound class where he met John Holt.  This story has stayed with me over my years of raising my son so far and my research into how we learn and how we fail because it rings SO TRUE!   This young man had been labelled almost illiterate, yet, had during the summer months before the class made his way through a lofty and long piece of literature – he had essentially come to master reading on his own.  But why?

When it was this young man’s turn to stand u and speak about his school experiences, he held up a copy of Dr. Martin Luther King’s,  Why We Can’t Wait, with his voice shaking with anger, he looked about the room and asked, “Why didn’t anyone ever show me this book?!”  What Holt goes on to explain is that over his schooling years not one adult or teacher had suggested he read anything remotely meaningful to HIM!  He had never really ever had a reason to learn to read!

So, that’s why I am here blogging.  To celebrate those reasons.   To share my passions, my meaning in the hopes that I will inspire others.

I’m here is because I love learning and I love teaching, or providing the environment or passion that helps others learn.  I realized back a couple of months ago, that I wanted to jump back into photography, back where I started really learning a lot about it – Lord Byng High school, with Mr. McTavish; back when I still felt that I could conquer the world, back when awe and confidence was fresh and palpable.    With this realization at heart, I decided I would love to create and teach a work shop on pin hole cameras, the basics of photography, its physics, history and art, geared especially for home learning or outside-of-brick-and-mortar schooling youngsters.

So, what’s up with this course…where is it?  I ask myself.   I’ve hit a wall.  The initial inspiration has flared and spluttered.  I jumped right in a and announced to my local home learning community, HS-Vancouver, that I was planing a class for late spring or early summer, and was showered with interested responses.  I sent back a brief survey regarding class size, ages, cost and what have you, and got some helpful feedback.   Finally, I have put a lot of thought, and some research into planning how the course might go:  how many classes, what would be included, location, where to process paper, how much science / history etc.   And, then, finally, well….I kind of just stopped.

I hit the old familiar wall, that has scrawled on it, “you can’t do this, You’re not good enough!”  “Are you crazy?  No one will pay you to do this?”  “What if you look like a fool, what if you fail?”  and so on, sound familiar?  And, I just plain stopped, stalled in my tracks.

Yeah….like so many I know, young and old, I am afraid of failing, of being judged, of not measuring up.

But I have spent the last eight years studying, why children fail, why most of us in North America hate math, why many people need to move to think, why passion, and peak experience, and flow and project-based-learning, and child-centered, interest-driven learning creates life-long learners…..yeah, I have and it’s exciting, it changes everything.

Humans love to learn, WE ARE LEARNING ALL THE TIME!  So why have I stopped, why am I afraid?

Because I need to UNLEARN so much:

that it’s ok to

fail, fall down, start again

pursue something passionately for a while and drop it, that learning and creation often comes in spurts and bursts for many

look foolish, make mistakes

take risks

do something you love and share it with others

be bold, be shy, be reckless, be overly cautious, BE YOU!

that it’s ok to admit you are still learning!

So, here I am admitting all this stuff, guys, I am scared, this is the first time I am doing this.  I am afraid it won’t work, or that someone might laugh at me.  But, that’s ok, right?  it’s a pilot project.  It’s a group learning experience.   I am also struggling because I am finding it hard to balance my time, time parenting, time researching, time looking for a job.  This of course leads to the horrible fact of money:  I don’t have an income right now, and really need one, so do feel guilty when putting time into this blog and my work shop planning….maybe, this won’t bring me the income I need!!???  Maybe this is frivolous!  And, at my ripe old age of 43, I should finally grow up and face reality…..get a real job etc. etc.

Right?  Right?

I don’t know, well yes, I do know.  I know that I learned it was not ok to fail, not ok to do what you love, not ok to admit you don’t really know what you are doing, not ok to ask for help.   So, now, I am still learning, I am learning all the time, and so grateful for this chance to model life long learning to my kids, to join them in sticking to it, in over-coming the hurdles of fear, in sourcing out the material and knowledge I need to achieve my goals, in being gentle and patient with myself.

The process of this experience, not the product is important.  The way, not the end.  Yes!

So, I will keep going because what is most important to me is to pursue my passions: photography, nurturing and mentoring children and youth.  PLease join me on my journey, though the way may be twisty and uncertain, together we will discover many wonders, and learn an enormous amount about each other, ourselves and life itself.



the language of hands, like the language of eyes, light, movement, so much is captured in a gesture, I am grateful to photography and all those who share theirs, we are transported….

I am grappling these days with my freedom or lack thereof to post pictures of friends, children, strangers…freely, what of privacy, safety, copywrite?

Spring Equinox

light bursts fourth

springing through ages of wood

strings tighten

hidden memories dance

like dust particles

in light flooding shadows

shuddering with growth

will you open the door?

I am sojourning in this home of broken hearts, I accompany those leaning into winter storm, and miracle at their ability to welcome spring, I bow gracefully beneath the sun’s welcomed warmth, kneeling here at your hearth, my roots sinking in, green sprouting around my feet

today on the first day of spring I was moved to take some pictures of the miracle of light awakening in this home I will miss if I leave



The act of photography,

of taking and keeping photos as records or art in an attempt to capture or hold on to events, beauty, fleeting moments,

has long beguiled me.

In fact it has tormented me and tricked me, and taught me untold wisdom.

My son, has been the subject of my photos since he was born and there have been many times when he refuses to have his picture taken, he shies away from the intrusion, the exposure photography implies.  He gets angry even and refuses to let me take pictures.  I have had to honour his requests to stop taking pictures at times, though it has been so difficult, how could I not celebrate the beauty of my own child?  How could I not want to keep an account of my son’s discoveries, growth, learning?  AAAaahhhhch!  Well, you know, letting go of stuff is a BIG part of parenting!  Yep.  And that is hard!  But I am learning…My partner’s son, recently watched me put some of his pictures onto another blog I am building showcasing my portrait skills, and he asked me to not include his photos in it, while he enjoys me taking pictures and joining the celebration of his passion, skateboarding, he has difficult feelings around my using, cherishing his pictures – I am not his mum.  For me, pouring over pictures of these two boys, my son, and my partner’s son, is a way of loving, a way of being in love with my life, it is a creativity that fundamentally taps into my connection with the divine –

and, at the same time –

being able to let go of my need to capture, keep, and cherish their photos, is part of this connection too.

After a certain period, shortly after graduating from University, I realized that I had spent years taking up to four or five rolls of film daily, there were hundreds of photos documenting every aspect of my weekly life, but where was I?  These records, though they revealed me implicitly, did not show me in them.  I made a choice to stop.  It felt then that my observing eye somehow kept me away from fully being present in my life.

This experience that photography plays a tricky role, pushing me to ask questions of myself and of the nature of art and documentation is beautiful and challenging, it is a discipline of sorts, a way of seeing, a way of being.

There’s an art project that has been perculating in my heart for years and years, in fact I often wonder if I will ever do it.   It is based on beautiful, almost abstract photos with lot’s of blurred edges, multiple exposures, ghostly images, painterly swishes….the subjects are all people I love doing their thing.  I wanted to add to the images, add light streaks, flashes, paint on lines, change the texture, manipulate and so on, then blow them up huge and mount, print, project them in unusual ways…..this would be a HUGE, of course, making it even harder to actually do, ha ha, :), well maybe one day.   The essence of this show is to represent how the ACT of PHOTOGRAPHY in it’s attempts to CAPTURE MOMENTS and STOP TIME, in fact, does not, but rather CELEBRATES TIME’S PASSING.  The click of the shutter, the fixing of light on paper or on a chip is if you will an lovely illusion.

Instead, we are DANCING with light and shade, being present with it, WELCOMING it, and RELEASING it, perhaps……I love this act, and now as I start to devote a large part of my life to photography again, I am doing so with a deep understanding that we CANNOT FIX things, we HOLD ON and RELEASE simultaneously.

To see the World in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour…..

Inspiration: use what you got!

Letter to friends who are running an amazing workshop:


I thought I would share this as this workshop that I am sadly not available to take part in is still part of my process, and it’s facilitators have been a great inspiration to me.  Check out Sara’s blog and others above.

Hi S and C…Thanks for this, I appreciated the update, and feel a little tinge of loss that the workshop doesn’t fit into my parenting schedule right now….still wonderful inspiration knowing you two and others are dong it! Your posters, blogs, and this workshop and it’s intentions have actually been one of three main Inspirations to me. Please see my blog, which is my journal and my creative process:https://betweenthelightandtheshadow.wordpress.com/about/I started with morning pages a la the artists way, and realized what I so needed was a place to show up for my self……while I have hardly been able to stick to this process, in the meantime, just this simple act of showing up, acknowledging the need to present myself to myself, the need to for a location, a desk, a place to do the showing up in and the time in my case, the new easy to read because its big mac in Baba G’s kitchen at 6 am when it’s very quiet in the house, has made all the difference! it has opened up my spirit as it were, opened up doorways, caverns, damns, windows and crevices, light, breezes, and small shoots of green have been poking and gushing fourth. I am now starting projects, and can feel the boyancy of knowing some of them will come to fruition.

Wow, thanks!

I would love to be a guest…..when?

Also, when can we get together to talk about other projects…..this Monday, Tuesday?


What I am realizing now reading through S and C’s course notes and sharing my desire to be a guest in their workshop rather than a regular contributor, is that a huge part of my creative process here is USING WHAT I GOT:

I have a lot of constraints on my time, I have three children and a partner who each have very different  needs to support, I rarely get the quiet or space to work autonomously unless I’m awake after 10pm or before six am, I need to make money, AND, I have a life time of blocks to creativity that I need to wrestle with…or embrace.   So, using what I got, means for me, being gentle with myself and my life’s circumstances, being tolerant and accepting, knowing that what I got, is largely a huge juggling act, is a lot to do with coming to peace within myself during those fleeting moments, allowing the space to develope inside, enjoying the simple joys, quirky inspirations of children, sprawled availability of chaos – being totally ZEN with it, rather than fighting against it.

Just because I can’t join the Transform workshop on a regular basis, doesn’t mean that I can’t be part of it, that I can’t enjoy the music of it, or surf the current of it, from another position….just knowing that my friends are involved and are there for me in spirit, participating once in a while, exchanging ideas on line, and sharing this passion of:

USE WHAT YOU GOT.  Thanks guys!

Some notes from S and C’s letter to me that I found helpful:

If you are one of those people who gets stuck in ideas, why not try creative making as a tool for exploring?  I find when I pull out some paper and a limited number of mark-making tools and just let myself go I realize LOTS about what is going on for me.  Different kinds of associations come up.  Here is one blog post I did on the topic: BLOG: Gaaaah silver paper…

Do a free flow, non-stop write or draw
About any or all of these, when thinking about your potential daily practice, and more broadly about your excitements:
  • medium?
  • length of time?
  • topic / theme?
  • personal patterns you want to explore, transform, leave behind?
  • learning objectives, such as *new techniques*?

(note: this list is different from the one we worked with in class, because i forgot to bring the list!  The one we used in class is below.)

NOTE: *new techniques* may be something you identify that you want to bring into your work.  If yes, we recommend a date with yourself at the Downtown Library.  Or, come up with a plan where you can seek the learning you are after, perhaps meeting with someone who could share skills?  Whatever your aim, MAKE A PLAN to move towards it.

List used in class to Explore our Excitements:

-what excites you?

-aspects of yourself that you want to explore?

-dreams you wish you could actualize?

Thanks Sara!  I am so proud of you for doing this and hope I can participate in the next round.