Dr. Huan Chen
Early Years International Association
2021 . 01 . 08
2020 has been for me, as if perhaps someone turned on the pause button. Like everyone, the outbreak has completely disrupted my plans. Time passed by, as I spent life in my late twenties working between home-based offices.
Thinking back, reflecting on life, and anticipating the future is an intricate process. I grew up as a child in the South West of China, left my parents and hometown, completed my studies, met true love and set up my own company. Perhaps to some, this would be the picture of a childhood dream, but before I knew it, life had been updated to the 3.0 version.
Standing at the edge of 30, I asked myself over and over again: What did the past mean? What should the future look like?
~ EARLY CHILDHOOD ~
Taken in early 2020 / at my Grandma's / going treasure hunting in the fields with my niece / just as I did as a child
My mother always said I was 'not so much like the others'.
It is easy for me to immerse myself in something. I deeply recall the moments when we were blessed with a warm winters day, I would take two chairs out into the yard, to spend the entire day absorbed in the landscape, just painting. I spent so much time cutting small figures out of cardboard and would sit for hours creating and designing intricate outfits, hung on tiny washing lines. I loved the open fields, the wildlife and animals, fascinated by all of natures beauties. I often walked along the river in front of my home picking up shells, wild flowers, looking for snails. When my black dog ran away one day, I cried and chased it all the way to the next village. When my peers caught a bird, I prayed for them to let it go, safe and free.
I didn't have many friends, but because the natural world was so busy, I never felt loneliness.
Early fall in my hometown / August 2, 2020
Even back then, watching the sun rise, I can still recall the fragrance of fog. On a summers afternoon I have clear memories of the birds above me chirping, the sweet taste of fresh fruits and vegetables, shells hidden amongst the mud, insects wrapped in rosehips; these experiences have remained rooted within me and always will, for the rest of my life.
I imagined growing up and going out into the world, but I didn't know dreaming and strolling in the countryside, is the spiritual harbour I would need to rediscover after 'growing up'.
~ STUDY ~
I recycled many books after graduation / keeping those that only resonated within my heart
I've written several essays documenting my growth. To me it is much like a self-heeling process, but it is hard to go deep within, you find many memories and experienced gone with the wind. I have never written, even knowing deep in my heart, about the struggles I have been face with and how I feel I have 'overlooked' many opportunities in these twenty years.
At some point, grades became more important than the insects hidden within the flowers, everything around me lost its vibrant colours, and the play, nature, pleasure, magic, all began to leave me. The centre of my life was becoming smaller and narrower, transforming into a "past" world, not "my" world. Wonder and questioning have all but been lost.
Reflecting on this period of life, I remember my mother quietly coming up the stairs at nine o'clock to check that I had fallen asleep, briefly relaxing with friends after the college entrance examinations, a one week trip around the island of Taiwan, and the dribs and drabs of love and wonder. But in those twenty something years, the most prominent memories I am left with are the chirping of insects before dawn, the walks home to bed under the light of the moon, and the long, overwhelming days and nights of preparing for every exam or report one after another, and another.
My mother strolling in the distance / September 5, 2020
I have been confused for a long time, what is the meaning of this struggle? Where is the exit ahead? Why can't I relax? Long periods of intense concentration are like a black hole, soaking up all the energy. Although I am exceeding in my studies, I felt as if I was loosing control of everything; weak and helpless in maintaining relationships, seeking love and care. After all those years, as I stumbled to the top of the education mountain, I remained, covered in scars.
Finally when the battle dust settled, I discovered my parents old in age, friends and family distanced. It was as if I had been away for many years.
~ FATE ~
At home, in London / every week I buy a different bunch of flowers to admire
After graduating with my PhD in my early 20s, instead of giving myself a gap year, I turned around and threw myself into a new job. In fact, I just followed my intuition, but I didn't expect many questions to be uncovered in this past year, not just in a professional context, but life questions too.
Last year, I began to see the children I had interviewed, the policy papers I read, and the questions I had faced to hold so much more authentic personal meaning. Quality education is no longer theory held within books, but concrete and tangible, holding strong values revealing the beauty of such practice. My thinking and early education journey began to unearth a strong connection to nature. Referring to nature not only as a playmate and spiritual harbour, but as the natural essence of childhood itself. The general life within early education, the play, the growth of teachers, the management of the garden and outdoor spaces; to all these enquiries, I finally have a heartfelt word to say.
Stone Hen Kindergarten / December 2019
Last year, in during the translation of "Nature and Young Children" I met Professor Ruth Wilson, and my dear friend Laura Brothwell, who have fuelled my passion and drive for such discovery. Laura is a year younger than me and is already a mother of five beautiful children. From working her way up from early years intern over 10 years ago, through progressive job roles within the sector, Laura became the founder of Stone Hen Kindergarten with a strong ethos and vision in mind. Such beautiful incite I was invited to discover, led us, together along a fresh, intertwining path. We founded an International Association for Early Education (EYIA), launched the 'Learning Effectively in Nature' Reflection programme, and joined forces with 7 countries, 12 inter/nationally recognised professionals, 600 graduates, and countless teachers, parents and students; all who have a passion driven by early childhood education.
Our small, beautiful team walks slowly but complacently. Because we have a long-term vision in mind, we are at ease, happy and embracing the present moment. The wonderful fate of England, half a world away from my childhood home, brought me back to the wonder, passion and peace within my childhood.
Sunsets captured across the landscape of home, and my new home / August & December 2020
Looking back, after failing in the college entrance exam, the headteacher recommended I fill in the application for the Northeast University, third year undergraduate, Taiwan exchange programme, where I fell in love with the creative education from the United Kingdom; After many failed attempts to stay in the UK, I finally achieved a CSC scholarship and gained UCL admission; After coming to London, I met true love by chance. And then through the ongoing foreign separation, only then the this wonderful story unfolded.
Any change in the present will lead you on a new pathway. Perhaps only the word 'fate' can explain all the coincidences. Maybe the confusion and insecurities of the past are all for the later encounter.
A forest is a haven for the mind / October 23, 2020
At the end of my doctoral dissertation, I wrote, "I have met so many lovely people who dedicated themselves to early education, now I am finally ready to join such passionate workforce." A year passed, and I am glad I lived up to my words.
Moving forward, I'm ready to finish our first book, perfect and release our 'Learning Effectively in Nature' program internationally, launch our second training programme, and embrace collaboration with UK and international universities, local governments and best-selling authors, and work with like-minded professionals around the world to implement what we do best.
I finally found myself after such a long time.
~ END ~
| Nurturing Childhood | Connecting To Nature | Celebrating Achievements |