Talking Hands Talking Feet has always been an education endeavor. The subtitle for “Our Story”
could be “All We Did Was Pay Attention”.
It began when our first little baby boy was almost one. He was born at home in the Southern Rocky Mountains of New Mexico, but now we had moved to The Emerald City…where every Sunday he and I would spend the entire day together – Sunny and Popi adventures!
It was always magic. But one grey March morning near our stomping grounds, the University of Washington, we were parked on “The Ave” waiting for a break in the rain and I sat there mesmerized by his hands meditation…the beautiful connection-making dance between head and hands. I started mirroring what he was doing…and in came the song, a hand song, a counting song, a dance of fingers…the whole thing complete.
It’s called “Five Come Alive”, and it’s been our starter-warmer-up song for hundreds of toddlers ever since…We didn’t know it, but that was the beginning of Talking Hands Talking Feet!
When friends came over with their little ones we’d always play, sing and dance…always. It became a thing…and gradually the repertoire expanded to more than a “repertoire”, but the early beginnings of a unique way to teach young children about…well, everything!
One of the moms became a serious advocate. She said to us many times – “You guys need to share this! You really need to get this out into the world! Parents will love it!”
South Africa, December ’96, spending a month with our relatives there…witnessing and utterly inspired by “the African Renaissance”, the vision came: Let’s offer workshops for children and their parents showing how songs, stories, music, rhythm and coordination work, movement, pattern and sequence choreography and dance can be used to help activate natural intelligence!
Yes! And that vision became a core premise for what we continue to do to this day!
It was Spring of 1997, our little family of three (and ‘one in the oven’) had recently returned to Seattle from South Africa. It was a rare bright and sunny morning around the kitchen table and we were trying to come up with names for a ‘company’ that would match this vision. Our son was 2, and like everything, he joined in the process with his ideas too.
Up to now we had been earnestly trying to create a rich educational environment in our home. For us, that had to include a whole spectrum of human expressive arts, from dance, music, movement and rhythm to story and drama, sculpture and drawing, multiple language arts, verse and song… How could an “educational environment” not include and integrate the human arts?
Discovery processes about everything was first principle in our little home school….everything! Nothing was exempt from discovery. And the Great Mother, the planet was as much a teacher as everything else.
Out from this, a bunch of really effective methodologies were born….quite organically, without reference to anything other than our own best understandings and observations of natural human development in the university of life!
All we did was to pay attention.
So…there we were, around the kitchen table…our son on top of, underneath and around the kitchen table…trying to find a name for this new school we were going to open in our home.
At one point, one of us said “Talking Hands” and our boy shouted out, “Talking Feet”! And there it was, “Talking Hands Talking Feet”.
Now we had a name. Somehow, the rest would follow.
We converted our cute but funky North Seattle detached garage into a charming little classroom with bright yellow walls (to offset the Seattle gloom) and a sea green floor.
We put out a flyer announcing Saturday morning family music workshops for toddlers and their parents and before we knew it, people were joining in…singing and dancing children’s songs and roots music from all over the world. It was an awesome beginning. Every week new material would appear; and the testing ground was infallible! Young children are not political. If they like something they join in. If they don’t ‘like’ a song…well, you, the songwriter, are in for a little personal development!
Two and a half years later we moved to Bainbridge Island across the Puget Sound from Seattle.
We converted a gamble barn next to our house into the most attractive little studio, put out some flyers, talked to parents and within 6 months we had 40 families engaging with Talking Hands Talking Feet!
In spring of 2001 we recorded our first album, the Rainbow Train, which received The Parents Choice Award! Talking Hands Talking Feet Records was born. The cool thing was, all these songs came out of the workshops. There was an intimacy, warmth and profound humanness about this approach to learning.
Now…seventeen years, 11 albums and literally thousands of young lives (newborns to 19 year olds), hundreds of workshops, dozens of curriculum based performances later, there is an impressive body of songs, dances and lessons called Songs To Educate – by Talking Hands Talking Feet.
The methodology is Arts Integrated Education…for real – truly incorporative and connective education of the whole person employing a versatile toolkit of natural human expressive arts.
There is a important saying: “Begin as you mean to go on.”
As it began…so it has continued.
We invite you to check it out; explore Songs To Educate and enjoy these songs with the children in your care…activating natural intelligence in young lives.