The Art of Hosting

hosting children at an AoH gathering - preparing for the Learning Village at Statenberg Manor in Slovenia, August/September 2012

For the upcoming Learning Village at Statenberg manor in Slovenia, a group of people is preparing the settings for hosting the children accompanying their parents to the gathering.

We are looking not only into the practicalities of play and rest space, enough materials for creative play, special food setups etc ... We are also and maybe even more looking into how to truly integrate the children in the gathering, as full participants according to their capacities and wishes.

If this speaks to you, please join the conversation.

It will for now be very practical in terms of what we need to bring to Statenberg, but we are definitely also looking for good practices from other gatherings.

How can needs of children and adults be honoured?

I am putting this conversation in the category of 'community of practice' because I prefer to see it as a gathering ground with practical application around the question of 'children at gatherings'.

update: on a 2nd thought, the conversation fits better into 'exciting new developments' - it is not linked to a location, and it is a truly exciting new development ;-)

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Some thoughts for integrating kids into our week:

We can have activities that concern the children, and we can have those where adults and children happily work together and get both inspired. One big resource we will have there is nature: In addition to bringing things we can use stones, sticks, branches, leaves and feathers. Who does not remember the negotiation in front of the car, after our often still small children dragged enormous branches through the whole forest, in order to decorate their bedroom with it? Now this is the time of dirty sticks and heavy stones. Let’s collect them, and get inspired by the creative ones on what to do with them. Maybe different art works will show up every day? We might want to bring material to put them together like strings, nails and hammers for landart creations.

 

I heard there are ponds around, so any type of water games, with paper boat competitions and the like might develop.

Building huts in the forest is probably an adventure for many ages, and then one can visit each other in the huts of the other tribes for tea.

Building a labyrinth together on a lawn, collecting the stones, ordering them and then arranging them can be great fun for all ages. If that is too complicated, a medicine wheel would also work well, and then serve us for activities during the week, letting each age group walk and sense the different parts of it.

 

 

When we have visitors and our family system meets some other family systems, we always find it useful to do heck-in and check out circles with everyone. At the beginning to see what everyone would like dream of doing, or really need to do. Ant the end, on what was great in the day, and what we can let go for the future. Those are great learning moments, and very inclusive.

 

There are also a million games one can think of doing without accessories. Last night we spent two hours in the car, and the kids invented a game of thinking of taking a word, and put the letters together in a completely different way, and the others have to guess the word. Once in a while we had English or international words, which we thought could be used in Slovenia in an international or English speaking context. The game is so hilarious, even adults will find it fun! There is another one, where the aim of the game is to find out what the rules behind it are. That one would serve well for mixed groups also, with adults, for example in a morning circle of small circles of five or so. It reminded me of the quality of the wicked question game. That one itself also can be played with kids and adults together. There is a whole set of games one can play using ones body and gestures, I am sure you all know some, where one needs to perform something, and the others have to guess what:  a profession, a thing, an activity. I remember those moments were often the best ones at parties after midnight, with everyone cracking up laughing on the floor. Smaller kids often find that funny to watch, or else just will start their own activities in the gravel somewhere.

 

We might need some space where to discuss how to open up activities for mixed groups, and in what way.  One area of attention is how to build in the weaker members of our gathering? Only then all will be and feel included. We all know how to moderate and adapt games to different age groups. When palying hide and seek with a four year old, we make it less difficult than for the ten year old. This is a natural tendency we all have, and it is now just a question of how to do this in a collective way.

And last but not least, maybe this conversation can be extended to everyone, as there might be adults who do not have children who are creative and have thoughts on what to do. (Just thinking of Griet Hellinckx, who for many years has worked as a teacher of Waldorf teachers).

Looking forward to seeing you all soon!

Ursula

a 2nd more detailed email will go out to the parents and children!

both will be send out sometime after 5pm today, Thursday 23 August

Ulrike von Ruecker said:

hello and THANK YOU for all the insights, comments, and encouragement!

Tonight Waltraud and me are preparing an email to be sent out to all registered participants of the Learning Village - we will share it with you here as an example of how setting the scene for a gathering with 25 children.

Attached to this post please find an edited version of the harvest of a skype conversation a group of parents had with members of the hosting team, back in July. We have come a long way since then!

sharing the mails we sent out to set the scene for the coming week, to both parents and children
***

dear fellow parents and families:
building on the mail that is going out to all participants in a while (or right now), here some additional reminders, comments, ideas ... to prepare our part of jointly hosting the children at Statenberg!
We also send a short letter to the children/teenagers, please share with them, thank you!

Since not all of you have been part of the previous conversations - and some have only recently joined the gang ;-) - we thought it a good idea to share (again) the essentials:

1. THE LOCATION

The manor is located in a huge park, and has an inner court yard. Overall it is more or less child-friendly and safe, even for the very young ones.
We can play and explore the yard, and there is much nature around.
A napping space will be available, and a separate play-room, too - especially for those not staying at the manor.
2. FOOD
Special arrangements are made to have some kind of 'refreshment buffet' available for the children all day long.
You may want to bring along some extra juice, fruit, water and biscuits, to share (please ideally no chocolate or very sugary sweets).
3. ACTIVITIES
Since we are located in the middle of beautiful nature AND in a castle, the location itself will provide plenty of ideas to build on!
We have prepared some basic arts and crafts materials - you are invited to pitch in. See the list below for some ideas.
Besides activities for children only, we can have activities where adults and children happily work together and get inspired both.
There is also the option to organise excursions/walks in nature.
The sky is the limit! and LESS IS MORE!
LIST OF THINGS TO BRING
list of materials & things to collect and bring with you (if you have space to do so), for everyone to play with, do some landart creations, for upcycling crafts and other exciting activities:
·        string, wool and/or thread, thick and strong, also to fix things on walls/trees, ... (pins, tape,  ...)

·        nails

·        hammers

·        wallpaper glue (a lot!)

·        gouache paint (the washable kind  ...)

·        finger paint

·        glue sticks

·        liquid glue

·        some balloons

·        tooth picks

·        pottery materials (be it earth to be mixed with straw or real clay)

·        brushes thick and thin

·        outdoor clothing including waterproofs

·        different types of costumes, old clothes and accessories clothes (not needed anymore), make up, face paint - for dress-up

·        old blankets and covers, to build tents and things

·        old newspaper

·        yoghurt and other plastic cups

·        egg cartons

·        empty food cans (if cut in a good way, like with the special can opener, so kids cannot hurt themselves)

·        paper boxes and cartons

·        sports equipment such as (foot)balls, frisbees, slack line, badminton rackets, etc.

·        books to read

·        music instruments

·        etc.
... always keeping in mind: preferably bring stuff that you don't worry too much if you don't get it back - the plan is to pass on what we do not use to the local kindergarden afterwards.

4. INTEGRATION OF CHILDREN IN THE FLOW vs FREEDOM FOR PARENTS ...

We do want to include the children in the general flow, however, there are limits too.
Applying open space to coordination of child care will be one of our attempts to co-host and care in a new way! We will offer a matrix where everyone interested can sign up for 'playtime' and 'babysitting time'.
If and when children want to be away from the parents, or parents would prefer their children to be taken care of, there is a need for child care.
Of course this may also very well develop naturally, but ...
In general, the idea is to do check-in and check-out circles with everyone:
At the beginning to see what everyone would like to do, or really needs to do during the day.
At the end of the day, to share and reflect on what was great in the day, and what we can let go for the future.
 
5. SOME GENERAL REMARKS ON mobile phones, ipods, nintendos and the like ...
one FAQ: What is the policy on electronic games, mobile phones and other gadgets for all participants? Should we consider an electronic free zone?
We need to have a conversation about that. If we are not on the same line, we need to make an agreement of how not to disturb our maybe diverging parent politics. 
 
With all of that – we wish you a pleasant journey and look very much forward to meeting you all soon!

The Children's Hosting Team
Attachments:

and as a last example here the 'safe travel' letter that went out to all participants

***

Welcome Statenberg!

 

Dear All,

 

As we set off literally from all parts of the world to gather in Statenberg/Slovenia for our week at the International Learning Village, we’d like to give you some latest updates and wish you a very good and safe journey!

 

THE MANOR …

… awaits our arrival! Marjeta after her last visit said: “I was touched by the greenness, serenity, beauty of the place”. Our local friends under the guidance of the proprietor Franc Kociper have put much effort and energy into making the space as  good, functioning and welcoming as possible for us – repainting walls, (re)installing sanitation, renovating bedrooms, setting up WIFI, park manicured, wooden benches set up, pot flowers added, some shadow (simple tent style), tables on the terrace etc. and taking on board how to cater for our many vegetarians.

 

The WEATHER FORECAST …

… at this stage looks promising. After some rain over the weekend we should have a sunny week with temperatures around 25°.

 

LOCAL COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS …

… Franc also has some ideas how our community could connect with the locals - who are proud that their village hosts such a gathering: perhaps the mayor would come (informally, in jeans) to say hello; or local teenagers could come and fetch our teenagers – to show them some place around; or a local folk dance group could visit … let’s see what will emerge.

 

ABOUT HOSTING OUR CHILDREN…

In July, a group of participating parents started a conversation on how we would like to approach the fact that 25 children and teenagers age 1 to 17, from different backgrounds, speaking different languages, are coming to be part of the process unfolding for a week. The aim is to have the kids be a full part of the gathering instead of organising a “child care program”. So let’s see together: What do we need and what do the children and teenagers need to make this a good and fruitful week for all of us? How can the older participants ensure that all their and the children's needs are met and everyone can both enjoy and contribute?

If and when children want to be away from the parents, or parents would prefer their children to be taken care of, there is a need for child care. Applying open space to coordination of child care will be one of our attempts to co-host and care in a new way! We will offer a matrix where everyone can sign up for 'playtime' and 'babysitting time'.

DON’T FORGET TO BRING….

* yourself

* camping equipment, sleeping bags etc. if applicable

* your Bokken (if you have one…)

* music instruments (guitars, drums etc. would anyone be able to bring an e-piano?) and some music sheets

* sports equipment such as (foot)balls, frisbees, slack line, badminton rackets, etc.

* books to read

and maybe also an object that symbolises your work in Art of Hosting.

 Also: For a colourful gifts table which we will enjoy together, you may want to bring some sweets or some other small products from your country or place you are right now .

 

With all of that – we wish you a pleasant journey and look very much forward to meeting you all!

In order not to get lost, here the GPS coordinates for the location N  46⁰ 19.541′ and E  15⁰ 40.330′, and also the link to the directions on the learning village website http://internationallearningvillage2012.withtank.com/getting-there/

Learning Village Hosting Team

Learning Village Logistics Team

WOOHOO! went there and came back, what a magic place, great people, lots of learning! and beautiful children almost running their own open space ;-) Harvest and learnings to be shared soon, it is sinking in, needs to be digesting and then will be fed back into the Art of Hosting practice.

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