The Bike Playground!

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When internal and external accusations of workaholism abound, it’s time to take a break and head for the long overdue, much delayed, long planned visit to the Bike Playground!  And it’s our family’s new happy place indeed!  Jimmy was off to a rough start being his disobedient self, not following what the coach said.  After a while, he out-biked everyone else and nobody could stop him from owning the other-worldly looking course.

The two boys and their dad were naturals but the mother was a scared chicken content to stay in the island in the middle of it all, laptop out and working away while the soothing breeze funneled into the covered court.  It was my resort for the day sans the beach and the sea.  I laid on the black floor designed with international standards to serve stunt bike enthusiasts, now serving a mom on a break.

I think I want my dream house to be in the middle of an alien terrain for bikers.  I want to have a rock- climbing practice wall on one side and giant trampolines on another.  Hanging nets, bridges and hey, while we’re daydreaming to the hilt, how about the whole new wing of the Singapore Changi airport with greenhouse and infinite options to play.  Then again, that would be too much for me.  I’d like it to be for Abot Tala instead – space surrounded by garden, forest and room for a variety of sports.

At one point, I mustered the courage to don the bike helmet and push the bike to the starting line.  One look at the height of the curves I had to plunge into, I backed out and retreated, whimpering without even trying.  I was content to admire my boys’ bravery and energy which I only had for doing something equally crazy as an alternative to traditional school.  Many moons ago, I was a mountain biker with more guts but even then, I walked the bike at some steep slopes.  Age has made me fear some things but there are also things that I face with more courage.

Jimmy fell, got up many times and stood back up without hesitation.  That’s a lesson we have been wanting him to learn – to stick to something despite the pain and difficulty.  Taekwondo didn’t do it for him but now biking (not on flat road but on curved surfaces) and potentially break dancing are giving him the platform to do so since they fit his inclinations.

We stayed in the Bike Playground from 11am to 6:30pm.  My pockmarked legs tell me I have to bring a beach towel next time I want to lie on the center island.   Towards the afternoon, expert bikers came flying and dominated the course but Jimmy still wanted to strut his stuff.  At night, we rewarded the action-packed day (for the boys) and uber-relaxed day (for me) with unlimited Korean barbecue.  Hooray for Samgyupsalamat and the Bike Playground at Circulo Verde!

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Notes from a Conference We Didn’t Attend Except in Spirit

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We wish we could have been there but it was impossible unless we could be beamed up from the Philippines to the U.S.   The conference was scheduled around the same time we were moving into our own space in Taguig.  Thank goodness for audio recordings that make its way to us almost instantly through email.

Since August of last year, Abot Tala has been a part of the Liberated Learners, a network of centers modeled after the North Star Self-Directed Learning for Teens.  Every year, the founders and staff meet, share experiences and lessons from running the same type of space where teens can direct their own education.  Adults are not there to tell them what to do or study, but to facilitate the process.

Last night, two of our members spoke with Catina as they were trying to put together their “story” to be used in our outreach efforts. One of them used a beautiful metaphor of a flower. She said that often she has felt as if she were like a flower trying to grow with a big rock on top. She has had to grow crooked and deformed to accommodate this rock. She feels Embark has simply, moved the rock allowing her to grow in the way she was always meant to.

So, my quest: Move the rock. Don’t be the rock.

                                             Andrea Cubelo-McKay, Founder                                                                                       Embark Center for Self-Directed Education

Being in Abot Tala almost every day these past weeks, struggling with the challenges, sometimes, I feel like the rock that has to be moved away.  Listening to the recordings and reading Ken Danford’s book are great reminders about why Abot Tala exists.  But the best reminders are the kids themselves.  When you talk to them and get to know them and know you are in the presence of precious souls.

Daniela Gonzalez, one of the guest mentors at Abot Tala took down these notes from the audio recordings:

  • Relationship, building trust, being part of the community is the most important element in supporting teens in what they want to do.
  • Mentoring is the service that parents value most.
  • Freedom comes with great responsibility.  Teens aren’t ready to take on that responsibility and need help with it through mentoring
  • Mentoring allows to have quick feedback from members regarding their social relationships and learning at the center (e.g. if someone is making them sad, if they don’t like one of their one-on-one learning sessions, etc.)
  • Being a mentor sometimes means repeating the same thing multiple times over many sessions before a teen considers it.
  • Teens feel valued when asked about the things they do that interests them (e.g. “why did you like that movie?” “what do you like about that game?” etc.)
  • Through mentoring we can help teens to have more agency in their lives.
  • Mentoring indirectly builds trust with the parents and the whole family.
  • For teens who say they will do X number of things and then don’t follow through, it’s a good idea to talk after a month or so during mentoring and say “Hey, so we have this action item here and it’s been four/five weeks and you’ve been saying you were going to do it but perhaps there’s something holding you back? Perhaps there’s something getting in the way.  Let’s analyze . . . “
  • Some kids need spontaneity and flexibility, others need structure. The “superpower” of the model is that it allows for both.

These are points which I highlighted:

  • Everyone is working on themselves to be better.
  • You are capable of more than what people have decided you’re capable of.
  • Let’s build this together because we don’t want this to go away.

 

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