Family Jam Camp!

Building a house certainly requires a lot of dedicated hard work, but it also requires the balancing scale of summertime camping trips and lakeside music jams.  Considering the many years of hard work it will take to actually complete the dreams we have for the property, we would probably exhaust ourselves early if it were not for the times that we take to stretch other parts of our bodies and relax our busy brains- besides, it would be a disservice to our children to get so worn out and stressed with constant attention to the house.

Last July, we had the great opportunity to join the Jam Camp family up at Mabel Lake, BC, started by a young family with whom we met and became friends with on Pender Island some 8 years ago.  Thomas and Celina, with their three children,  together with Celina’s sister Theresa and her family, host Jam Camp as the Jam Camp Society, a registered non-profit organization. Camps have been held primarily in the Mabel Lake Valley, British Columbia since 2003, using the Mabel Lake campground as well as providing camps on the Shuswap River, Bowen Island, Japan, and new this year at Christina Lake.  We took part in the camp designed for families with children under the age of 9.  For 4 days, we camped with the multinational crew of facilitators, and explored music that celebrates life, nature, and cultural diversity. There were  instruction sessions, in which we could sign up to learn to play the fiddle, banjo, guitar, or explore the rhythms of African drums.  We had group sessions in which we explored percussion instruments, shared our voices in song, and made clay whistles.  Each day, we met in smaller groups and focused on writing a song about our groups’ animal that we could share along with an art activity in a final lake side performance.  Colin and I offered to volunteer for some of the instructional times, teaching beginner banjo and fiddle, as well as help the group leaders with song writing and crafting.  Believe it or not, we still spent a few hours everyday swimming, canoeing, walking through the forests, or resting on the beach.  It was during these unstructured times that jams could happen and collaborations would manifest- adding the all important skill of creating music with someone else in the moment of flow.  The role of the facilitators is to create a space where as musicians they can collaborate with the participants in creating new, original and improvised music. During the collaboration process, creativity and expression are emphasized over perfection and precision, bringing a wholesome, integral, and lighthearted approach to music into a world that is steeped in high-profile and competitive music industries.  Where making music is a regular part of family and community life, there is an important value of equal creative contribution upheld for everyone- young, old, beginner, or professional.  It is a gift to be surrounded by a supportive group of musicians extending their skills and passions for sharing such universal expressions of connecting through sound.  The heartwarming embrace of Mabel Lake and the forests of hemlock and cedar give inspiration to the beauty and richness in the simplicity of ancient songs and new melodies.

We will be heading to Mabel Lake again this year in August to deepen friendships, create new ones, and find those places where melodies, harmonies, and rhythms intertwine and overlap in unique expression- sometimes exuberant, sometimes playful, sometimes quiet, but always an authentic step we can bring back with us into the journey of everyday.

To find out more, please take a look at Jam Camp’s website, www.jamcamp.org.  Dates, places, cost, and information about youth camps (we can’t wait to get into these camps in a few more years!).  Biographies of the musicians involved in the camps are worth reading through for a taste of the diversity of styles, skills, backgrounds, passions, and instrumentation.  There are just too many amazing stories and talents for me to go into here!

Just Playing

There have been times during my journey as a homeschooling parent that I have felt  guilt settling in around my lack of providing fabulous learning activities and programs for my children.  When I realize that a week (or two) have gone by since  we cracked open the workbooks, or that our subjects of study are vague and seem to always end up with an elaborate imaginary story in which I silently drift off to the chores or the garden, unnoticed, I begin to question my own abilities and competence in directing my childrens education.  Finding the balance between structure and free time is a personal journey for every homeschooling family, and from what I have heard, it is not an easy balance to find.     In those times when the guilt shifts further in to my awareness, I am so grateful to have such support from our homeschooling facilitator, who sends out emails like the one below.

When it looks like children are “just playing” … here’s what they’re actually doing:

developing mobility of thought
practicing cooperation
following a mental plan
problem solving
developing a positive self-concept
developing number concepts
developing more elaborate language
developing a sense of story and enhancing story comprehension
developing eye-hand coordination
organizing and conceptualizing their world
learning how to take turns
developing gross motor skills
learning to “decentre” their point of view
testing their balance system
developing classification skills
making generalizations about the properties of various objects

Play must be valued as an important medium for learning. Indeed, play is a child’s learning work. Play experiences enable children to develop their own skills and accumulate their own knowledge.

Imagination and creativity are instinctual gifts that get overlooked in our society in favour of factual information and conformity.  The ability to have a limitless imagination is to also have the ability to dream into being the endless possibilities of the world, of our world.  Problem solving is creativity in action- for if what we already have and know does not work, then looking for something that is new and which we know nothing about requires the opening of the imagination.  Children live so closely in their imagination and for such a short time that it seems sacrilege to end this part of childhood even earlier than it will naturally, and with the possibility that as adults they could lose touch with the full potential of their creativity.  There is really so much going on in the natural process of just playing- when the children have healthy influences, available guidance and support, and an environment full of nature and earth connection- that we can hardly know what we tread on or what we allow to flourish.  Trusting in this process takes faith and the courage to let go of limited expectations.  When was the last time that you just played?

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