The building block of civilization is the family. Yea, I learned that in Sociology 101. And then I took the “Anthropology of the Family”, an entire semester study good for 3 credit hours toward graduation. That was a “3” or “4” hundred level course of study. (Hey, I gotta brag. I “aced” it!) But now, I’ve transferred what ever I learned to skiing.
As I posted “It’s All About Family” and spoke to planning a ski trip, it hit me how fundamental are the nuclear and extended families. My entire skiing experience, my whole life has been a strengthening of understanding of the role and importance of the family. The mountain experience has taught us many lessons and drawn our family closer.
Now the family is closely akin to the home. And the home has many functions. It is a sanctuary of peace and security. Yet it is also the window and door to the world. It is the nest where children are nurtured and instructed. But it’s the nest from which the eaglets spring to soar into the future. And it is a repository of memories that securely store the bank of memories that shape character and sculpt integrity.
Pretty heavy stuff this “family and home”, huh? Well now, add “friends and compatriots” and then pour in “teachers and coaches”; then mix and bake. Next, frost with “mentors and models” and we have the leaders of our culture – who incidentally will carry us through in our old age. This recipe is enough to make instruction meaningful and exciting. (Oh yea, and then there is “parenting”. But that’s another story; another time.)
When I teach skiing, children are my students in about 9 out of 10 cases. Note that my entire weekends are scheduled intentionally to serve the youth through our club programs. So my instructional schedule is definitely skewed toward the youngsters. But our society is youth centered. Our modern culture is focused on our children. Our club lives and has its being in our kids. If you seek to get a message out, in our times, sent it home through the students.
So there are a couple of things I have developed and regularly deploy in my classes. As a teacher, I feel more than sports is purveyed on the slopes. I like to develop a sense of community belonging and responsibility. So there is a team spirit. We are the “Snow Dogs” in Saturday’s Xtreme Team sessions. And we “Dogs” discuss safety, courtesy, rules, service, obligations, loyalty, and faithfulness over our eight weeks together. Sunday it’s the “Green Team” my moniker for my two groups formed out of the BSC Mountain Ranger program. Just a side note here: Our different weekend programs involve over 300 kids in about 200 families. Many of those households are “generational” – they grew up here and wouldn’t consider anywhere else unless they move from the region of Western NY (WNY).
But then we relate all to our family roles both nuclear and extended. So although we come together as a community, we are working our way down to the core unit. Everyone is encouraged to discuss all we have learned with their parents and siblings (if they will listen). there is more than sports. Not only are students assigned to take the day’s lesson to the family, but actually reinforce this request by asking how things went as I ride up the chair with the kids the weeks following. Each day I make a conscious effort to share a trip with each of the students, and expect my apprentices to do the same.
Each day I share the “Quote of the Day”. It’s always an aphorism that speaks not only to our mountain adventures, but can well extend to life in general. My favorite is: “Liberty is not the freedom to do what eve we please, but rather the responsibility to do want we know is right.” That’s commonly my opening day, and you can imagine how we move forward from here. I love the ancient philosophers – Greek, yes – but especially the greatest Middle Eastern sage. And these quotes are to be part of the “take home” to the family members.
Not leaving things solely on the shoulders of my young charges, I love to hang around at the close of each day. It is standard operations and procedure to keep the kids in tow until a parent presents themselves to claim and take their child. Well, what a great opportunity to review the day’s work! Now on each day we can really only effectively connect with two sets of parents. So a class list checked off regularly is the only efficient way to “keep score” and cover all bases.
We have a very low vertical at BSC, so the runs are brief, But this allows me to invite, encourage and press each parent to take a run together at least once during the season. Now I’m done instructing for the day! Enjoy the moment and observe how the family interacts. I always suggest the child lead the way and even “tech what we covered today. WOW! Do we ever learn a lot. And It is so much fun, because it’s not a ski lesson, it’s applying life’s lessons. And this IS living!
Again, after we’re done, the time is up, and the class is over, we offer 1 more run, and this run is a “family run”. It’s optional and voluntary so if my apprentices opt out, so be it. But unless they have pressing commitments, my assistants often enjoy the experience too. And I feel they learn as much as they dole out. But I invite and encourage Mom and Dad, “Come, ski with us”. And it’s all about the kids. Let ‘m show their stuff and teach the parents what they learned.
Now again, all parents can’t take this run every day. But there are 8, sometimes 9 weeks per season. So check off lists help ensure a personal invitation if not even appointment for each and every family. Lastly, we call on all parents to become involved and help in administering all our ancillary activities: the kids dance, smores at lunch, hotdogs on the hill, our sleepover, club race, carnival and more. We couldn’t do any of this within their help.
So the family is really the most important institution of learning. Yes, all learning is best instilled through degrees of discipline, especially in formal classes, it vital. But the family emphasizes a more effective element. That of love. Now don’t think “eros”. Romantic love was years ago as the nuclear family unit was birthed, We’re referring to “storge”, familial or extended family love, “phila”, brotherly (or community) love , or even “agape” love . “Agape” is a Greek term for the purest love of a perfect god, the highest, selfless concern for the welfare of others.
WOW! And you call this family concern a matter of skiing. Well yes and no. It is starts with the winter sport, but it encompasses life, and that should be the “life worth living”. And all this is “the good news”. So, let’s spread the word.