Strange and Wonderful

For my twelve year old son, Colin, this year’s holiday break had come and gone. As it was Sunday night, I asked him how he felt about returning to school tomorrow. His reaction was what many would consider typical: “This sucks.” I didn’t react. Then he really got my attention: “Actually dad, I’m happy to be going back. I guess I’m just used to not wanting to go back because of my other schools.” At age 45, I can still remember the feeling which conditioned his rote response. I understood him perfectly. There was a great calm knowing he felt positively about his experience at The Open School. The decision to attend was one our family had made together. We are all glad we did.

Last year Colin experienced the devastating loss of his mother, and moved from Texas to live with me and my wife. We felt that the rigidity of conventional schools was no longer the appropriate path for him. All three of us had researched free schooling, and The Open School in particular. We were excited for Colin to attend. As parents, my wife and I wanted Colin in a school that allowed for self-directed learning instead of compulsory education, a school that afforded free play as an essential learning experience, over structured classes and teaching to tests. This is exactly what we have gotten.

The experience has been strange and wonderful. This year, Colin is making decisions for himself. I see him involved in school and learning how to balance great freedom with deeper responsibility. Though I’m thankful for the self-direction The Open School affords, it’s humorously painful at times to watch as our son makes what I would call a mistake, but I’m constantly reminded that mistakes ARE LEARNING.

Below is a quote which I think embodies the spirit of free schooling and our experience with The Open School, because after only a semester, I realize that parents are also students at The Open School. We are all learning.

“The function of education, then, is to help you from childhood not to imitate anybody, but to be yourself all the time. And this is a most difficult thing to do: whether you are ugly or beautiful, whether you are envious or jealous, always to be what you are, but understand it.” 

Krishnamurti, This Matter of Culture

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