Pacha and Yani started a new school this year.
This has been a big decision in our home, with many hours of thinking and discussing and to-ing and fro-ing. Pacha, Yani and I talked together about the pros and cons, and went along to the school to meet its principals and teachers and look around the place before we made our decision. Interestingly, the main point that the Principal made several times during our interview was that his was a ‘happy’ school…
As most people who read this blog would probably guess, my feelings about mainstream education are mixed. I directly experienced the way my children learnt for 9 months in Ecuador (playing, singing, dancing, drawing, gardening, speaking different languages, being in nature) that did not seem to harm their ‘academic development’ in any way. I have faith that, provided with the tools of learning, Pacha and Yani will choose a path that is meaningful to them, nurtures life and gives service.
I always imagined sending my kids to alternative schools, or schooling them at home, but ended up sending them to a small local school and getting involved as much as I could in trying to help improve things. Maybe I got too involved…Through the P and C (PTA) we managed to get lots of good things done; food gardens, playground, a music teacher, better buildings, sustainability classes, etc – but it seems that a ‘silent majority’ of people sometimes felt threatened by ideas they thought were perhaps too new and too progressive. I’m quite certain that this view was not shared by the principal, who is a very fair and dedicated man and very much loved by his students – but there was not much he could do. Little by little I sensed a wave of social exclusion in the town and was afraid that this may start to affect Pacha and Yani.
Ultimately it has to do with a way of thinking that still shapes our culture, and one that, I confess, I’ve spent my life challenging and I hope that my children will challenge too. It has to do with dominance and control, of nature, of the disadvantaged, of those perceived to be not as high in social status, of new ideas that threaten the ‘way things have always been’.
One day at the school I vividly saw this struggle between wild and free productive, creative thought and expression versus order and control when I noticed that a passionfruit vine growing along the front fence had been ripped out. The vine had seeded itself and flourished in the watering and care given to the neat, ornamental garden at the front of the school. This plant (I had been watching and quietly celebrating over the past months), that would have provided lovely, organic, healthy fruit to the school children, was deemed out of place and out of order, out of the mainstream and conformity. It was a little thing (the majority wouldn’t even have noticed it), but a powerful symbol for me - I didn’t want my children to be like that passionfruit vine.
There is no guarantee that the new school will be perfect – I’m sure no school is – but I think it was important for Pacha and Yani to see that it’s ok to try something new and look at all the options available to you in life. Lets see how it all goes.