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© Allison Usavage

Lantern School

The Lantern School offers home-schooled children an opportunity to be a part of a community that emphasizes learning through a connection to the natural world and socialization through play.

A Q&A with Julie Nichols Kulik, the Director of Earth Arts and teacher at the Lantern School.

 

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What is the Lantern Program?

The Lantern Program is a home-school opportunity for ages 5-8 to come 2-3 days a week to the old schoolhouse at the Foundation of Light. It runs 9-3, regular school hours. It’s an eclectic, loosely Waldorf-based program strongly influenced by outdoor ed. Anna and I both have pretty strong backgrounds in outdoor education and kinesthetic teaching.

 

© Allison Usavage
Who is the program good for?

The program is good for parents who want to home-school their children but still need time to work. There’s this whole shift that has to happen when you decide to home-school. They can send their child here 2-3 days a week and still be involved. There’s not a lot of opportunities for part time… It used to be either go to public school for 5 days a week or you’re home-schooled.

What change are you trying to make?

I think the change that’s the most important to me is to help children stay alive, awake, and alert in their senses, because that’s not happening in a lot of places. When you tap into your senses you lose your worry-mind… this generation is going through an incredibly uncertain world and they can either tap out or they can tap in with all of their senses alive. There’s all this scientific data now about being outside.. well, duh! You know? When we’re outside we’re synthesizing information constantly with all of our senses; we’re using more of our brain and we transfer that to all parts of our life.

 

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How does this impact our community?

I really believe that these children go home and teach their parents all those things I just talked about. The awareness, it’s awesome.

We do something in circle that we call sightings. We pass a talking object around the circle and they say something that they’ve seen recently or smelled or heard in nature. All of my Earth Arts instructors become these beacons in town. When we’re out and about in the community people just come up to us with their sightings, their sounds… and I feel like our faces represent that. “Oh yeah, I have to tell Julie about that cool snake I saw!”  I think that when you educate a child in this way, they go home and they naturally want to share what they learned. For example, parents are now eating wild edibles that they never knew were edible because their kids are teaching them about it.

 

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What struggles have you encountered?

Financial is the biggest. It’s really hard to pay teachers adequately and to have a small enough program where the child is getting that individual attention, so this year we’re really upping fundraising.

What should we be celebrating?

When I get depressed about the status of the world, my friend is constantly reminding me, “well Julie, you’re part of the solution.” So, just keep doing what you’re doing. This is totally part of the solution.

We have non-violent communication on Monday afternoons, and on Tuesdays we have Courtney Schroeder coming to teach children’s yoga. These children are learning how to quiet their mind, control their mind and emotions, and communicate peacefully with each other. And, by the way they learn their letters and numbers and writing. That inspires me, that I do feel like I’m doing something, and I can go to bed at night feeling pretty good about myself.

 

© Allison Usavage
Any final thoughts?

Our theme song is “This Little Light of Mine” and that’s basically the Lantern program! We have a group of small children with some caring adults who all know their light, know what gifts they have, and we all recognize each other’s lights and gifts. The grand experiment is, what does that look like as a community?

Your support helps to keep tuition affordable and provides scholarships for families who can’t afford the tuition, expanding the opportunity of nature-based education to families with a greater financial need.

Learn more about the Lantern School at earthartsithaca.org

 

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