An old petting zoo converted into a school in the jungle of a developing country. Children are barefoot, half dressed, and running amuck. There are no teachers, no whiteboards, no computers, and not a textbook in sight. There is no curriculum and no testing. In fact, it’s unclear who is in charge…if anyone.
This is the school my children will be attending and Im stoked! Why? Because, despite how it may appear to the untrained eye (or through the lenses of first-world glasses), this school is the future. This school is based on brain development, rather than content development. Its focused on a holistic view of the child as an independent, spiritual being, and believes the child is driven innately towards creating, exploring, learning, and loving. It is understood by the adults, who have over thirty-five years “teaching” experience”, that play is not only how children communicate, but it is how they learn. They incorporate learning into daily projects led by the children and provide a Renaissance-esque education for them that no public school in the states could ever provide.
I dreamed of this school a while back, which was either me putting it out into the universe, or the universe bringing it to my attention, but either way, we found each other. The past ten years have been bringing me to it’s doors. My years as a teacher in the public school system witnessing children with anxiety, depression, anger, and frustration built up a disgust for our education system. Listening to fellow teachers complain daily about the poor behavior from students, the lack of drive or ambition students had, the minimal parent support, and the bullying amongst peers in the classroom. I knew the drop out rates were increasing and the college attendance rates were decreasing and when I had my two boys I began experiencing my own level of anxiety about their educational future.
No, I don’t want Montessori, where they practice adult skills every day and learn shapes, letters, and numbers before they’re even three.
No, I don’t want a private school where they’ll likely be surrounded by elitist peers who care more about who’s wearing what and what their daddy’s do for a living.
No, I don’t want the Lord of the Flies preschool where they run around like wild banshees and their emotional needs may be overlooked in the “every man for himself” philosophy.
Then, I discovered the “House of the Seed” school via a mom blog and thought I was still dreaming! It exists! It’s real! A place where children lead their own learning and where culture, arts, and logic are all incoporated into the day. Where children learn to think, rather than memorize! A place set in nature that promotes respect for the environment and helps children understand how to be a part of the world, not just use the world. I fell in love and began begging my husband to take me there so I could see it in action.
Last week, I was fortunate enough to visit in person and I cried! I cried because I watched my boy’s faces light up from the inside and I watched the other children welcome them with open arms and show them things, teaching them without even speaking the same language. I felt I was finally at home and I knew they would thrive in a place like this and that my dreams for them could be realized if I could only get them here.
They can’t technically “attend” until age three, but I can take them daily since we will be living in the community part of the year and I can assist them in their transition and support their learning experiences daily. The leaders of the school encourage parent involvement because they understand the parent-child bond and respect the parent’s role in their child’s ability to learn. Parents enrich the experience rather than hinder it and they’re welcomed daily.
Some naysayers will wonder how children can learn without a clear curriculum or schedule. How can they learn history without a history class or learn literature without taking a Language Arts course? Math is so important to brain development and logical reasoning so how can the students be successful without that? The thing is- they’re learning ALL of this and more every day through projects, activities and play.
For example, while I was there I saw students building an organic garden together. They chose seeds from the kitchen to plant, they learned the different levels and types of soil as they used real gardening tools to prepare each row. They studied various insects before deciding which ones were helpful and which ones may be harmful. Some of the students didn’t care to help with the garden, but instead decided to make signs for it. They went to a construction zone and selected materials, measured, cut, and sanded the wood. Not only are these students learning life lessons, but they’re learning (and applying) science and math skills! They’re also learning about cooperation, communication, teamwork, patience, and nurturing the environment.
All of the materials I saw in the school were designed to provide concrete experience, and reach every type of learner, whether they were visual, kinestheic, or auditory learners. The students were engaged, happy, and self-directed. I loved every magical moment of my time there and can’t wait to go back.
Bonus? When the director noticed my son’s interest in animals and invited us to visit the stables so they could feed and pet the ponies. Winning!
Where is this place? I can’t tell you! I’ll keep this gem a secret in hopes it inspires people to create one in their own community all over the world and ignite change! It’s time to unschool and raise children to be lifelong learners who know how to think rather than memorize.
We finished up our day with a dunk in the Rio Macheuga! Feeling the earth on your skin is so therapeutic! Dirt, water, sun, air…