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.