The FLOW Model

What is the FLOW Model?

After over 20 years working in public and private schools, I developed a unique way to understand the way that children grow and learn. Much of this perspective has been inspired by the Sudbury Model.  This understanding gives children the freedom to evolve Spiritually, socially, mentally, emotionally and intellectually at the pace they were created to. The FLOW Model is first a way of “seeing” children as we work with them.  Secondly, the FLOW Model is a mentality that guides how we educate children.

I believe that each child was created by God with a unique design for how they develop  and I realized that when children are given the space and time to allow this growth to take place organically, they become happier, more confident and focused on reaching their goals and passions.

I believe that there are  3 stages that children FLOW through in their learning life.  These stages are named based upon how water FLOWS. Streams flow into Creeks and Creeks flow into Rivers.  Below are the stages with clear delineation of ages:

The Little Springs  (ages 2 to 5)                                                                                                    Streams (ages 5 to 10)
The Creeks (ages 10 to 13)
The Rivers (ages 13-18)

Although I believe that students are age mixing and freely FLOWING about the school building during the day, these stages help us to understand where a child is in their development as a person. I do not believe that children should just be with 5 year olds or 18 year olds should just be with 18 year olds.  The older learn so much by interacting with younger children and the younger learn so much by interacting with older children. These stages give us adults an age range for when children reach the various milestones of their growth and development.  Teaching, interacting and guiding students in school should be done with the FLOW Childview  always in mind.  For example, watching children naturally learn to read should not be filled with anxiety if a child cannot read by the time they are 3!  In my understanding all children have learned to read QUITE well by the age of 7 and that is without making them do silent reading an hour a day!  Children become even more advanced at reading by age 12, if reading is presented to the child without stress and follows the child’s level of interest and passion for it.  I have first hand experience with this, as my oldest son did not learn to read until he was 7 and now at 8 he reads well beyond the 3rd grade level ( I use grade level here, although I do not believe in grade levels, in order to help the reader to understand what I am saying).

I have noticed that in natural play, children ages 2 to 5 can interact quite well together and they learn from each other.  The other groups form naturally in the same way. How often have we met a 3 year old that we’re shocked is not in kindergarten? How often have we taught a 12 year old that has the mind and intellect of child who is ready for college?

I personally feel it is wrong to lock kids into one place. Even these groups should be treated with much flexibility, but I created these groups based on how I have seen children reach certain academic, social, spiritual, physical and intellectual milestones.  I have also watched children naturally group themselves in organic play with multi-age groups of students in these particular age groups. In fact, even if little ones are hanging out with teens, eventually they wander off to find their friends in the “Streams”.   Children flow into the next group when they are ready, just as these bodies of water flow into one another until they reach the Ocean (which to us means that we are preparing them for the “ocean of the world”), which is why the last ages overlap as you cross into the next stage.

I am careful to say the characteristics each group should have because I want those who follow this perspective to be completely open and free to just let the children be and present themselves to you as they are.  The teaching and learning that happens should go along with the FLOW of the child. It is a very organic process that involves “seeing” the child as God has presented him or her to you. However, below I use FLOW as an acronym of some elements that are helpful in developing a learning environment for the child:

Follow a child’s interests, learning style, and learning pace
Liberal Education is learning through reading and discussing Living Books/Great Books
Open to exploring and respecting others’ perspectives, backgrounds and worldviews
Worldview based on Christianity or any other spirituality/religion held by the child

As a seed comes with all that is needed to be a plant, a child has already been endowed by the Creator with everything they need to be the man or woman God wants them to be. Our job, just like in gardening, is to nurture, care for, support and protect them as they live, learn and grow.