Last year, we received this affirmation from two of our member parents:
“We have been really happy with our family’s experience at Open Doors this year. Our son has thrived in the inclusive and accepting atmosphere at the Center. Open Doors’ teen-centered approach is very effective; teens and adults treat each other with mutual affection and respect. It has been exciting to see our son taking control of his education, developing talents and exploring new interests.” -Hilary and Mike Arthur
It can be hard for parents to visualize, but Open Doors is an alternative to school where teens learn as they were meant to learn, and they thrive.
If you want to help more families find a natural way for their teen to learn and thrive, please donate. We are a non-profit organization and our membership fees do not cover all our costs.
If you want to learn more about helping your teen take control of his or her education, contact us. We would love to talk.
A natural education. It’s an “alternative” that existed before schools did, and it’s still a valid educational option, yet we so rarely remember that humans are made to learn and grow and explore, with or without school. Contact us and find out more.
If you’re looking for educational options that respect teens — if you want to support those teens as they explore self-expression — if you’re looking for a community who can help you grow in these directions — contact us.
The Open Doors Summer Art Program, Prizing Your Power, began today. This week, we’ll be getting familiar with different media for creating art — painting, fabric, words, and more. Here are some pictures of today’s goings-on —
As we all grow more playful and comfortable with our creativity, the plan is to explore how art is power, and how we can communicate our passion through our art to the community. Stay tuned!
Prizing Your Power is supported in part by the Wege Foundation as part of the Open Doors “Your Life — Your Learning!” project.
“Fortunately for my brother, our mother was an incredibly nourishing person, and raised us in such a way to never think of any individual as useless because they may not be on a par with the status quo. That because a person might be struggling with whatever mental or physical condition they have been afflicted with, it does not mean they have absolutely nothing within them to offer society, or to contribute, be it artistically or another way. She instilled that in me, and though it was very difficult to grow up sharing a room with someone turning lights on and off, running the water in the bathroom for hours and hours, unable to throw things away; or to walk to school with him as he stepped on and off the curb while the other kids pointed and laughed- due to the way my mother raised me I was about as sensitive as a younger brother could possibly be.
“If I had been like a jock, or macho type of kid, I don’t think he would have fared as well. I’ll admit I lost it several times, but l never treated him as a hopeless lump of flesh. I encouraged him as much as possible, taught him how to play the guitar, and encouraged him to get into bands.
“When he found himself unable to deal with his problem and felt suicidal, he voluntarily admitted himself to St Vincent’s Psychiatric Ward for evaluation. That was when I told him ‘don’t worry, there’s a little genius in every madman.’
“We were not your average family. Our parents got divorced when we were very young. Our mother was an artist who encouraged us to recognize and express our individuality. I knew we were different from the other kids. My brother was not normal, and we lived in the same room, so neither was I. It was impossible for me to be. I shared his problems right along side him, and knew I had to, like it or not. We were both freaks. Fortunately he was able to tap into his inner strengths and realize them, unleash the incredible talent he had within him, and was in an environment that allowed him to thrive. And as fate would have it, thanks to rock & roll, it worked out pretty damn well for him.”
Supporting and accepting a teen for being exactly who he or she is — that’s where it all starts at Open Doors, whether it’s through our regular program or our Summer Art Program. There are many, many ways to be in the world — many ways to make a living, and many ways to contribute. Help us explore these many ways with our teens: donate or contact us to find out more.
Who: Any Teen in the Grand Rapids Area – Age 12 to 18
No Previous Art Experience Required
When: July 22 to August 28, Tuesdays through Thursdays, the center will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Come participate as much or as little as you want — you can still have your lazy summer days and make great art on the side.
What: Collaborate with other teens to create art for community display during Art Prize. Channel your passion for a social issue into powerful art. We believe that everyone can express their passions, whether or not they consider themselves artistic.
As a quick Google search revealed, there are a slew of Internet articles about how to handle boredom in your teens this summer. They suggest organizing your young person’s time, making sure they get up everyday, and limiting “screen time.” Though we can understand the concern that teens will curl up in their bedrooms with the blinds down, watching TV all summer, all these suggestions deal only with surface issues. Our culture has a long way to go when it comes to delving into what boredom really is for a teen and what it could mean for them.
1. Ask and listen.
We at Open Doors have noticed that “I’m bored” can actually mean a lot of things. Think about how boredom feels. It can feel restless and discontent — or it can feel lethargic or even despairing. If we can help our teens explore that, we can find the deeper truth underneath.
For instance, complaining about being bored often means is that a teen is looking for connection with a person they care about. They may be feeling disenchanted with the world and need help finding their inner spark again. They may mean that they have lots of half-formed ideas about their next direction, but they need help sorting them out. And many teens are remembering the playfulness of their younger days, and wishing for a way to recapture it. Only when you know the deeper need underneath the complaint can you work towards a solution that really fits.
Also, keep in mind that what a parent is seeing may not be what the teen is experiencing. If the same video game has been on for hours, check in and see what it means. The teen may be really enjoying the challenge and the chance to immerse herself in it. Or she may be feeling disconnected and unsure what else to do. Ask with an open mind, and listen carefully to the response to make sure you understand.
If you don’t feel able to connect with your teen in this way, that’s okay. Many parents were not treated with this kind of respect when they were young, and they find it hard to do so with their own kids. At Open Doors, we may be able to help with our Summer Art Program. No art experience is required, and your teen can participate as much or as little as they’d like. We can help them connect and sort things out — not to mention having a lot of fun along the way.
2. Be open to exploration.
For a parent, it can feel so different when a teen who was up early every day for school and activities starts sleeping later into the sunshine hours. But exploring a new sleep schedule can mean exploring the feeling up being up at night, when the world is quiet and the night sky invites reflection. It can mean the kind of intense half-awake dreaming that comes with dozing in the sunlight from the window. Our culture doesn’t value the rich inner life that can be explored by spending some time just “vegging,” but it’s there, and exploring it is an important part of teen development.
Our Summer Program has flexible hours so that night owls can sleep in and still connect with others in a gentle space that honors their journey.
3. Don’t compare.
It can be easy to comment, loudly, that the neighbor’s teens seem to be industriously running their own lawn mowing business, and hey, they’re not bored. Resist the urge. Every teen has his or her own journey, and you have no idea what’s going on behind-the-scenes in that neighbor’s home.
If you find yourself tempted to compare, re-focus on connecting, exploring, and playing.
4. Be playful.
As we mentioned in the first tip, many teens feel torn about growing up. That’s a natural part of the process, and it encourages us to bring the best aspects of childhood — playfulness, spontaneity, laughter, creativity, and our honest emotions — into our more adult lives. Model your own playfulness, and look for ways to support playfulness in your teen — whether she is with friends, family, or engaged in an activity. Play is such a revitalizing part of life.
At the Open Doors Summer Art Program, we look for ways to bring play and creativity into community life. We believe that a lot of adults would be more fulfilled if they found ways to integrate the childlike into their lives, and so we use all kinds of art as a medium for helping our young adults do so.
This post is part of our “Your Life – Your Learning!” series, designed to help the Grand Rapids community rethink teen learning, and brought to you with support from the Wege Foundation.
Sarah wrote: “I’ve done some research on your summer program and it seems like this would be a great opportunity for some of our refugee youth to join with local youth and become part of the community in a fun, artistic way.” We couldn’t agree more.
As Sarah says, many of these teens are in tight financial situations, and so they aren’t able to afford the program fee that we need to cover costs. Can you help?
Your donation can help two refugee teens find a fun way to be part of their new community.