We enjoyed another prom on the Spirit of Washington! It was a beautiful night with the theme of Comic Con (see Bumble Bee and Optimus Prime?)!
We had our second graduation since we opened in 2015! Our one and only graduate was given the freedom to design his ceremony, even down to what he wore. He insisted on a black cap and gown and even chose his march in song, which I was “People Get Ready” by Seal. We never tell our students the format, but through a discussion of what they envision for their ceremony, we help them pull it together. (I will sure be glad when one of our graduates decides to do something completely non-traditional!!)
One funny moment is when his mom called us and asked us to have him wear a blue gown. When we talked to him about it, he was resolute and said, “I AIN’T wearing no blue gown! I’m wearing a black gown and blue tassel!” LOL! We love that he felt freedom to say that. He is 18 for goodness sakes! I also love how his mom supported his final decision and just rolled with it.
Another beautiful moment was when students of all ages, staff and family gathered around him to pray for him. Students from ages 4 to 18 laid hands on him and wanted to pray for this young man. We all prayed for him as we gathered around him in a circle. It was so organic, and so beautiful.
We will miss him, for he was such an inspiration to all of us. He came to us 2 years ago and wanted a different learning environment. His last year with us, he did an apprenticeship at a local nature center, where he volunteered 2 days a week. We are proud to say that they want to hire him as official staff, which is exciting to us because of his intense love of animals and caring for them (he has 5 bearded dragons!). We don’t know where this path will lead, but we know he is ready to take on the world!
It’s the end of 3 years. We can hardly believe it! We can also hardly believe that we are actually going into year number 4! Only God brought us this far. It has taken us 3 years to finally settle on the logo that we feel represents who we are. When we first started there were of course no students so we just put something together that we thought represented what we stood for, but it did not take us long within the first year to realize that original logo did NOT capture the unique philosophy of the school.
Into our second year, we tried again and although the community liked this logo better, it had nothing to represent the students and again our philosophy. It was just only “Christian.” Don’t get me wrong! We are proud of our faith, but our school has a very central focus on students and how they grow, live and learn. We kept this logo for the next 2 years and continued to toy around with how this new logo should look.
Students insisted that we keep a logo with a cross, but find some way to show the students. Then one day it hit me as I watched students playing by the pond and climbing their favorite tree that sits by the pond. Every day they go out, they hang out by this tree. They climb it, make swings on it, sit under it. Watching them enjoy this freedom opened my eyes to the beauty of the school. The freedom for kids to be kids, to get dirty, to climb trees, to look for tadpoles in the pond. This tree and this pond are really quite symbolic of our life here at the Living Water School. So why not make our logo represent that?!
The tree by the water. Thinking of that causes me to think of several verses: “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water…that bringeth forth its fruit in its season.” (Psalm 1:1) and I also think of “I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you…then you will bear much fruit.” (John 15:5). This is the heart of everything to us. We have a deep respect for the Sudbury Model and because of that respect and because of it being a model that encourages schools not to adhere to any type of religion, we simply say we are mainly inspired by this model, but within the context of our faith and Biblical beliefs. Even still, students attend our school who are not Christian because part of our philosophy teaches the importance of giving students the freedom to choose their religious path. We also strive to respect all people regardless of what they believe. This is why there are no formal Bible classes or theology that is taught. The environment is Christian and the community only comes together once a day to have devotions in the morning, but further Bible study is a choice with one of our ministers.
We do believe that children should be free. They should be free to learn as God created them, free to pursue their interests and passions, free to have a voice in how their school runs, free to figure out their own personal relationship with God….they should just be free! However, as a Christian school we seek to inspire students to explore freedom within a Biblical context. I think finally after 3 years of this journey we have finally found the logo that expresses who we are and the freedom in Christ our students enjoy every day.
Seems like yesterday (it’s been 3 years now), when I walked into Fairhaven School. I was on a journey. My son was starting kindergarten and the realization that most schools were not ANY place I would want to send my child had hit me like lightening. What a relief I felt instantly as I walked into the building. I felt something I had never felt before, not even at the schools where I’d been a teacher or principal. I immediately trusted them (unfortunately, I could not afford them at the time, but I guess that was God, because I probably would not have started this school! LOL!). I trusted that even though the philosophy was so different from anything I’d experienced, I trusted that those who founded the school knew something about children and education. I think traditional schools have done a lot to damage parents’ trust of educational leaders. The system has a reputation of letting kids fall through the cracks if parents do not advocate and/or stay on top of their child’s progress, so it is instinctive for a parent to come into a new school, feeling as if they are fully responsible for their child’s success, that the school itself does not care about the child. It has become a norm for parents to feel that way.
What made me trust Fairhaven? Because there was an undenying confidence in what they stood for. I could feel it in the way the founder and other staff members spoke to me. The confidence was so startling, that at first I thought it was rudeness, but I get it now. They understood that most people are just not going to “get it.” The person who truly wanted this type of experience for their child, would do the reading and research necessary to “get it.” I had not done that part yet. I trusted the Sudbury model with my heart first, before I trusted it with my mind. I also realized that this confidence came from people who had come out on the other side, watching their students make it all the way through their program and succeed. It came from people who had experienced the system (found in both private, religious and public schools) and realized there has GOT to be a better way! I remember walking to my car and my mind was going so fast. “You mean they just let children go, and learn organically?” Then I realized that my own children could walk, talk and speak and I never TAUGHT them how. It clicked for me at that point. I realized that I would have to trust the philosophy, regardless of what pace my children learned. I had to trust nature. In my case, being a Christian, I had to trust God. I also had to trust that those who founded Fairhaven would not have gone through so much trouble to build the school if it were a lie. Why would someone spend so much time, money and energy creating something that would doom children (You have to read their book LIKE WATER…Its amazing!)? That just does not make sense! They were not part of the government. They could easily keep their feelings of job security and work for a public school and make a good salary, but they stepped out of that safety zone and did something as radical as start a Sudbury school.
I think the hardest thing for us at Living Water School is bringing our parents to fully trust us. It does not matter that most of us have children of our own who are educated at the school (why would we as parents place our children in a place that was not the best for our own children). I believe it is because most of these parents have been fighting the system so long. They are just used to not trusting. The other day, as I tried to convince a parent to stay with us, I asked her, “Do you trust me? Do you trust that I would not promote a philosophy that would harm your child?” She had to be honest and say, “I love you, but I don’t trust anyone.” What has the education system done to our families? Our children? A school is supposed to be a partner with parents, where they can leave their kids and know that they are going to get the best care and education they can provide. Yet, parents no longer trust schools.
The one thing I am asking myself now, is how do I bring parents to fully trust the process? How do I bring parents to fully trust us who advocate for this type of education? It’s hard to do when so many parents have been so abused by the system. It may take years of students going through our program, graduating and achieving. It may take time to prove ourselves. In the mean time, we keep pressing on in faith with what we believe. I am thankful for the parents who trust, who read to understand, who journey with us into educational freedom. I am thankful for those parents who like me, trust with their heart and are joining me in the process of trusting with our minds as we watch our children grow and learn as God and nature would have them to.
Happy Thanksgiving from our Family to Yours!Psalm 100
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
She was the very embodiment of what the Sudbury model should look like. She completely designed her own education plan. She decided when she should graduate and set goala for accomplishing that. She designed her entire program even choosing to do a traditional program complete with cap and gown. She chose her own processional song, twirling around as she walked down the aisle. And now she asked to come bacl and teach a sewing class. Proud, is am understatement of how we feel. Here she is!