Joe Brodnik is a father and kindergarten teacher in northern New Mexico. His partner, Silke Markowski, co-founded the Taos Waldorf School, then left to form Taos Earth Children, an outdoor kindergarten with no school building. From 2016-2018, the two worked together, exploring canyons, rivers and their imaginations with the children. In the fall of 2018, Joe split off to form a first-grade, a group he plans to take through the eighth grade. Four days a week, Joe and Silke are outside with their kids, rain, snow or shine. Follow them as they bushwhack through the wilderness of education, gender roles, fatherhood, motherhood and more while exploring the mountains, forests and canyons of the southern Rockies.
The tips and photos posted below are like bite-size versions of the material more thoroughly explored in the blog. You can find these and more on our facebook page @offgridkids.org
Stories help shape our lives by introducing us to what's possible. Many of us want a different sort of world, especially for our children. At the same time, our modern lives are already stuffed with ideas and advice. Add to this the daily stock from the nightly news, and we're sometimes ready to just stare at the wall. We are empathic creatures, and it's hard to break out of the cycles of pain and loss when we hear about them so often. Violence, whether at home or abroad, is real, but so are fat black beetles running along sand dunes and frogs thrumming in the hazy desert night. Not everyone will find joy in these things, but if you are struggling to remember that they even exist, then it's time to try a new story.
The tips shared here are meant to be brief, taking only a moment to grasp, but sometimes a lifetime to assimilate. Most are crafts, games or ideas I've picked up from others, but some are just funny jokes, or insights gained after long, slow days with a handful of children in isolated canyons. It takes great patience to work with children, and ourselves. The earth has time. I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, a city boy through and through. It's taken years, decades really, to slow my mind down to the pace of canyons and rivers, or child's play. This quiet, reflective pace reveals the children in their fullness. They are incredible beings, whether in clefts of rocks or under kitchen tables.