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!
I want to explain my thinking on parenting and education to you since coming to embrace this educational philosophy and I want to do it by telling you about our recent camping trip. We went to Breezy Point Beach and had a campsite literally ON the beach. It was amazing. The water was warm and we were in HEAVEN. As we put our feet in the water and began to get in, we noticed a jelly fish, and another and then another. Before long we were just sitting in the sand looking at the water.
Well, the next day, we found another beach at the campground that had been netted off so sea creatures couldn’t disturb our time in the water. We were so happy. We set up our umbrella, and all run to the beach. We’re splashing around, and then a JELLY FISH! There was a hole in the net and jelly fish were sneaking in. Well, my son got his bucket and started catching them and studying them. Then he would carry them to the unnetted area of the beach so he could set them free. My 7 year old, went out into the water, CATCHING jelly fish. They sting. They are dangerous. But he was so focused. He spent hours and hours, catching all types of jelly fish. Before long he would have small crowds of people around him as he talked to them about what he was learning about the jelly fish. He caught some that were eating a baby crab. He caught different color ones. He caught big ones, small ones. He caught some that were injured. He named them. He would just sit there and observe how they moved.
Was I nervous? Yes. Did I want him to stop? Yes. But he was following his interest which is his insane passion for animals. He was learning, exploring, experiencing, all without my interruption of his own designed learning process. I would ask him questions about what he was learning, but that was it. I did not interject or try to “protect” him too much. This is the epitome of what the school stands for. He NEVER got stung. My heart was in my chest the whole time and I stayed close in case he needed me, but other than that, he was free. This is the type of learning experience we are creating for every student that comes to the Living Water School. If this is what you want, you have to be brave, patient, full of faith in God’s ability to protect your little one and then be willing to set your babies free.