Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Free-range Kids

I want The Sandbox to be a viable alternative to all families, regardless of ability to pay or even contribute to the work of the Co-op. I want it to be available to those kids who are really having a difficult time at school. Those kids who are unruly and disruptive, have big authority issues, inability to control their reactions, etc.

I've been a little worried about that. What are we letting ourselves in for?

Of course, if the Sandbox cannot provide adequate services to a special-needs child, we need to own up, openly. There may be some kids we're not going to be able to handle.

But I've been thinking that our district's Tech Center experiences fewer behavior problems than the high school, because it is a choice for students to be there. They love it and they can get kicked out of it.  Kids will try harder to be cooperative at the Sandbox for the same reasons.

But I was missing the point, wasn't I?

This post this morning made me realize why.

"The same way the pigs look mean and stupid in confinement is the way the boys look unruly and unfocused in school. My favorite part of my life right now is seeing pigs and boys in ways I've never seen them before. We are all lively and engaged if we get to do what is right for us."

Penelope Trunks believes in the act of setting kids free. So do I.

More than just the free-range aspect of our Co-op which is important enough: kids will be part of the decision-making. In a democracy, citizens are free. Emancipate, empower and enfranchise kids and let's see how that makes things different for them and the community they live in.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Want something better?

I’ve been arguing with myself lately.  

One one hand, I believe that three things will make it more than likely that you will do well in any school system you get thrown into.

  1. A stable household
  2. An adequate family income
  3. A family interest in education

Statistically, those folks who grow up with those three things in place will do better in school and in life. Society believes they have what it takes. They will do fine. They’ll get into college (if they choose), work hard and have a career. Probably.

But I am ignoring, then, the number of folks who are intelligent, self-sufficient and living lives of great satisfaction who hated school and couldn’t wait to leave. Who had a hard job recovering from the damage school did to their perception of what they could accomplish.

My assumption, above, also ignores the fact that while well-off people are more likely to “succeed” in school, the fact is that the quest for "good grades" is only the acceptance of the limitations the school system places on children's learning. Good grades, adult approval, and successful competition with other students are not synonymous with great learning.

So who DOES the current system of public education work for?

There are students who understand that they are playing a game. They are aware of the artificial nature of “doing well.” They don’t allow school to limit their learning. And they have a family who are able to support and nurture their drive to learn.

These kids  will succeed in school without allowing it to hamper their innovation and creativity.

But, see, that’s not fair. There is innovation and creativity in every single student in every single school. They all deserve to be set free from the limitations of standardization and testing. They all need to take off the yoke of good grades and fixed expectations.

You might think that The Sandbox, a Passionate Learning Cooperative will best serve those kids who do badly, get bad grades, can’t sit still or keep up.

I don’t believe that’s true. I think The Sandbox is for all kinds of students. Nobody should accept any limitations. No-one should have to “go for the A” as a badge of honor, status symbol, or guarantee of adult approval. It might be all those things, but it is not learning.

Just as grades impose limitations on students, standardization and high-stakes testing imposes limits on our schools. These, of course, get passed down to students. But we as adults and caring parents don’t have to accept those limitations.

Want something better? Join us.

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