EmI: Green Notebook – Happy Learning

Henrietta Davida Thoreau

I would make education a pleasant thing both to the teacher and the scholar.”

–Henry David Thoreau

We learn best when our minds and hearts are open through happiness, enthusiasm, inspiration, and love. A mind cannot learn when it is closed through fear, want, despair, and anxiety.

Let us provide first for our children’s needs, to remove want. And then, through abundance, let us open to joy. With joyful hearts, we will learn!

Henrietta Davida Thoreau

When the children are at school, I begin my shift as cook and housekeeper. Having tasted solitude’s sweets for fourteen long and silent weeks, these quiet hours of purposeful chores bring their own flavor of joy.

Henrietta Davida Thoreau

Cooking for oneself, knowing that the meals will nurture and sustain one’s own health and labor, carries a distinct reward. Cooking for others, understanding that the good feelings one puts into the meal contribute to its nurturing properties, brings an even greater satisfaction. These brownies will make the children happy, and the love I stir into them will help them feel that they are home.

Henrietta Davida Thoreau

The Emerson Institute, our home, for now is full. The foundation’s board and I have decided that, at least in our initial phase, we will limit the institute to five children. This is a difficult decision when we see so many other children who would make good use of these facilities, yet if we cannot provide the basic attention and care that each child needs, our institute will not be able to fulfill its mission. Better to limit our household to five children, at least in these early days, to ensure that each child receives the attention, affection, and guidance needed to thrive.

Thoreau

The children are settling in well. Dalton has gotten over his anger at having sisters. Initially, I felt that it was siblings in general that angered him–that he feared having to share my attention and share the resources here. Yet he welcomed both brothers eagerly. It was the arrival of each girl which angered him.

Dalton

His anger has faded, and he is now enjoying being the first to earn a B at school. His music studies have not yet begun in earnest. I am happy to proceed slowly, allowing each child to make gradual progress towards aspiration and personal goals. I feel it is essential for each child to first to gain a sense of stability, trust, and connection–to feel a sense of home.

Dalton

I keep a watch out for opportunities to share special moments with each child. With Dalton, it is easy to find a moment to share. I often turn around and find him there, standing behind me, waiting for a hug, or want to share with me a story or a joke.

He seems quite fascinated by Emilie and often gravitates towards her. The two have surprising vocabularies for children–both have read extensively and season their conversations with historical and musical or literary references. It will be beneficial for them to have each other to talk with. I remember in my own youth that often classmates would respond with impatience, boredom, or irritation when I would discuss my own particular insights or thoughts about my personal reading. I learned to keep my ideas to myself.

I am grateful that, at home at least, these two will have each other to listen to and talk with.

Dalton

Katrina has been happy since her arrival. This child seems to trust that the world and those in it are good. She brings joy into our home.

Katrina Thoreau

I am hoping that through time she will learn to slow down and savor good things, rather than always devour them. Yet during these early days, I want her to experience abundance and enthusiasm in her own natural way. There is plenty of time to learn to eat mindfully later. For now, the joyful zest with which she greets every experience–and every brownie–brings its own gifts and serves a purpose in letting her explore the nature of abundance.

Katrina

When she brings this same joyful zest to everything she does–and every one she meets–her approach seems more one to encourage than try to shift.

On her first day here, Katrina met Nancy Landgraab and told her all about the Emerson Institute.

Katrina

Nancy was fascinated by the idea of a progressive learning and child development institute here in town and has dropped by a few times to offer her services as a volunteer tutor. She asked a few oblique questions about the institute’s financing, indicating that she always enjoys being on the donor list of worthy charities. We are really in solid shape financially. I shared with her the contact information for the Gifts Director at the Emerson Foundation, however, as they always have plenty of worthy projects in need of funding.

Nancy Landgraab

That Emilie is thriving here comes as no surprise. The moment we saw each other, we felt that spark shared by kindred spirits. I was delighted to discover that she was a fellow writer, and her knowledge of literature–including 19th Century American Literature–astounds me.

Emilie

There is a look that writers recognize in each other’s eyes. Sometimes it reveals amusement, or compassion, or even bewilderment–but always, it shows the depth of thought and perception that happens through careful and sensitive observation of the world. Writers often see what others miss. Not much, I am understanding, will escape Emilie’s keen eyes, whether she is standing on the sidewalk before the Institute or walking in her pink nightshirt down its halls.

Emilie

What a joy, for Emilie and me, to have another writer and bookworm join our midst. Xavier seems to have shelves and shelves of personal stories in his mind, just waiting to be written. He held the notebook I gave him so eagerly, and immediately sat down and began to write in it.

Xavier

He’s an avid reader, too, and is able to lose himself for hours in a book–no matter where he is, even on the sidewalk!

Xavier

I will want to be sure to give this child plenty of attention. With his quiet ways, and his ability to entertain himself for hours through reading and writing, it would be easy to overlook him. Even self-sufficient children need hugs and kind encouragement. And each of these children have experienced pasts which leave them in need of healing.

Xavier

Emilie and Xavier instantly gravitated towards each other. I understand the synergy and mutual inspiration that writers can provide through friendship and collaboration. I’m thankful that the Foundation had the foresight to select two young writers to live here. I know that I will be able to provide useful mentorship, and they will be able to encourage and inspire each other.

Emilie

My greatest joy in these early days is to see the transformation that is happening in Conrad. This young child, who viewed himself as “A Challenge,” who saw himself as somehow “not right,” who felt incapable of sharing kindness towards or helping others, who felt alone, an outsider, unable to participate–he is now feeling that he is home. He is beginning to see himself as a welcome, loved, and contributing member of a family.

Conrad

His smile warms my heart like no other. And when he joins us at the kitchen table, I also feel the transformative powers of belonging, warmth, abundance, and love.

Conrad

Katrina, with her sunshine friendliness, makes even homework time a time of happiness and inclusion for Conrad. And Dalton and he have become true brothers already.

Conrad

When I saw Conrad pull out his phone so that he and Dalton could take a brother-selfie, I knew that here was a moment of commemoration. Conrad and his brother. Family.

Conrad

I realized that Conrad felt a sense of belonging when I found him doing his homework alone, upstairs in the room that he and Emilie share. Yet instead of feeling sad at studying in an upstairs room by himself, he was smiling. A happy child understands that time alone is nothing to fear–it carries its own happiness.

Conrad

What was wounded is becoming whole. The Emerson Institute is becoming home.

Conrad

I see that it was a good dream that came to me, this dream that asked to be made reality through my efforts.

Henrietta Davida Thoreau

These are the early days. We will of course, each of us, individually and together, face challenges ahead. Yet it is a testimony to the resilience of childhood–and the healing powers of a warm, loving home–that these children express joy this evening. And together, with the support and loving kindness that we offer, we will be able to face every challenge with intelligence, courage, hope, strength, and creativity. We have each other.