Can we have a Free School?
Being free in decision-making, Empathic Conflict Resolution, stress elimination, spiritual freedom may be applied in the family, but what about having that freedom in school?
If a child attends regular school they have to give up their personal decision-making power for the main part of the day. Even about their main physical needs. They live under constant stress of following instructions. Their creative being is requested to work on moments set by the teachers. The teachers are under stress of not staying in control of a large group of creative minds and bodies and fighting against all the individual needs. The schools are under stress of giving the test scores to the district. The district has to show face to the state and is compared nationwide. All that pressure trickles down on the children.
It is time to change. Many children tell us they are bored, don’t learn anything (even if they get the proud-making A’s), show us with destructive behavior or apathy that they are in stress, or they even tell you that this is a ridiculous system.
Yes they may already do so at the age of 4.
LEARN WHAT YOU CAN
The first day my youngest son went to Kindergarten at the age of 4 he came home unhappy. With great indignation he told me:
“You first have to raise your hand when you need a pair of scissors to cut something, and then you have to wait and wait and you don’t know if they are going to allow you to get one.”
4 Years old and the complaints about this strange and unfair system were poured in our home every day he came from school. In Holland where we lived, homeschooling was only for very strict religious groups or for handicapped children, so under pressure of the law I had to bring him to school, back, every day.
I made myself as helpful as parent as can be in the class-rooms. I even was allowed to talk about peaceful conflict resolution. I offered the Teacher Effectiveness Training to the school, as I was certified.
The headmaster was going to look into it. When we met again he said that he thought it was an amazing program but that he could not do it in his school. It would have so much impact, it would change the school completely and he just could not do that.
We changed schools. Again I made sure to be in every possible assistance role to support my children. I got a chance to set up a school- parliament. (Kindergarten, Elementary and Middle school are one school in Holland)
I did it with the principles of Sociocracy(In U.S. also referred to as Dynamic Self-Governance.
With Sociocracy children were at least equally represented. I trained every class-room in the 5 principles and the teachers were in for it. We did a major event when the school joined an international invention-contest in New Zealand to celebrate the Change of the Millennium. The invention was chosen sociocratically. It was such a joy.
The children often ran the parliament by themselves as teachers got ‘too busy’ and parents could not make it. They changed several things in their school.
At the end of the school-year there was a change of headmasters. The New headmaster said she did not know anything about Sociocracy and wanted to start ‘normally’.
Meanwhile however my son had continued his complaints and as I tell Parents to change complaints into wishes I told him one day that I was going to interview him about the school that he thinks he and other children would feel comfortable, happy. That was all I needed to say.
He started talking and talking. I hardly could catch up writing.
The outside should be larger than the inside.
All ages should be mixed.
Eat, drink, use bathroom whenever you needed.
You could learn what you want,
when you want it,
with whom you want to,
where, inside or outside, anywhere in the building,
how much, and
how long you wanted.
In short you learn whatever you can, you want, you discover, beyond any standard.
Doing research on line I found that it matched most the Free School concept as the alternative education was offered in the Sudbury Valley school (www.sudval.org) in U.S.
In the years that followed he mentioned that adults should trust children that they are learning all the time; but that you learn something specific for you when you are ready to learn it.
When he was 8 he said:
“On Sundays I am free, right?
Then I can start my own school on Sundays!”
I could not get away with it no longer. I told him to design his logo and that we were going to send letters to friends to invite them for the school in his vision on Sundays.
4 Years later the Free School he envisioned opened it’s doors officially:
It was one of the few first alternative education schools in The Netherlands.
I wrote a little book LEARN WHAT YOU CAN about my son’s discontent with the traditional school system and his ideas of a school in which he could be free and happy.
CAN WE MAKE CHANGES IN THE OLD SYSTEM? Are there alternative initiatives in your area? Found out on Alternative Education Revolution (Resource) Organization: http://www.educationrevolution.org
SCHOOL AND CREATIVITY