After months and months of construction, inspections, changes, more inspections, and (finally) approvals, we managed to open our new campus on Wednesday, September 24th (at 1:35 pm, to be exact!). It has been a whirlwind since then, as we have settled into our new space, changed our Law Book, helped our four new students get adjusted to the school culture, and done all of the things we normally do around here. Things like our annual pumpkin patch & Cornbelly's trips, lots of chess games, Odyssey team meetings, reading many books, Judicial Committee meetings, School Meeting...
I could go on, but you get the idea. It has been, for the most part, a normal school year around here so far! Of course, 'normal' for us is not 'normal' in most schools around the world. Our staff, and a few students, have spent quite a bit of time this year discussing the differences between what we do, and what most schools do. This is not a new conversation for us, but we are finding new ways to frame who we are as we discuss these differences. Here are a few things that we are highlighting in our conversations:
1. PLAY. We have always known that play is important, and is an integral part of what we do. In fact, even our very early literature contained statements and articles about play. Our December 2003 newsletter (published 9 months before we even opened the school!) contained an article about playing in the snow, and the October 2005 newsletter included an article about a mixed-age four square game that was played at a Sudbury Valley school summer conference. Currently, what we are experiencing is that the world is catching up with us. For example, the International Journal of Play began its' publication in 2012, and the peer-reviewed articles focus on the importance of play throughout the lifespan. Peter Grey recently published Freedom to Play, in which he discusses children's natural ways of learning through play. We have been using the hash-tag #playmatters in many of our Facebook posts, as play remains a central theme in the activities one can see around our campus every day. Allowing our students, and staff, the opportunity to learn through play is critical to our mission of Learning Through Living.
2. UNSCHOOLING. Yes, we know we aren't technically unschooling, after all we are a school. However, there are MANY similarities between what we do, and what unschoolers do. People in both environments get to choose what passions they are following at any time; both groups agree that learning is not limited to a classroom or the walls of a building; both groups use adults as resource rather than having teachers whose job it is to impart knowledge on the students. What more and more people are discovering is that when you allow the child to set his or her own goals, learning happens at a deeper level. The world of intrinsic motivation and learning (as opposed to the extrinsic model followed in most schools) is where we find true learning, and a desire for a deeper understanding of the world and the 'subjects' at hand.
3. AGE MIXING. It has always been part of what we do, but with our current population we see very clear groupings of 'littles' (4-7), middles (8-11), and teens (12-16). Watching how the 'middles', most of whom were here as 'littles' themselves, interact with the youngest of our students has been fascinating. We recently experienced some of the 8-9 year old students complaining that a new 5-year-old was "too immature" to be a student with us. When we talked to them about what it was like when they were younger, and had to learn how to interact with the school community, many of them could not remember ever being so young! They have all grown more patient and more understanding as our new littles make the transition to being full responsible community members.
The bottom line is that there is nothing new here, and there is SO MUCH new here! We all love having a REAL campus again (last year was quite a challenge!). Being in a space where we can create, that is OURS... well, words can't quite express what that entails. We look forward to enlarging this space and re-growing our community. And we look forward to more conversations with all of you!