Over the past couple months, the Coal Burned Spoon has been squished hard to the side of the driver’s seat of my life, to make room for a giant, bossy co-pilot I never really wanted or asked for.
This spring has undoubtedly been one of the most exciting times for the Sanctuary project, as we finally received our long-awaited DEP permit in late February, meaning, there is now nothing standing in the way of us closing the development loan and putting the petal to the metal with construction. Everything that we have worked so hard over the past 3 years to carefully dream up, design, plan for and prepare, is now ready to actualize. So I’ve had my work cut out for me finagling the details of loan closing, interviewing builders, lining up subs, honing the construction schedule, completing last-minute adjustments to architectural designs, and just generally preparing for warp speed ahead. I enjoy doing these things immensely as this is a highly chosen path; a deliberate culmination of everything I love and want for my life playing out in real time as the manifestation of my dreams.
Yet, as purposefully and carefully as I have crafted this role in my life, another role has weaseled in, and I remain feeling like its unwittingly possessed host: Homeschool Co-op Administrator. For all intents and purposes, it’s a lot like running a school. Only not just running a school, but also inventing it from scratch, from nothing, from a bare patch of wild mountain, and then, purchasing everything needed to make it real, writing the policies, developing the ground rules, recruiting the classmates and teachers, marketing it, answering parent questions, interviewing visiting families, coordinating logistics of visits, adjusting handbook policies to reflect realities that come up, stocking and re-stocking supplies, and then, oh yeah, actually admin-ing it on a daily basis: messaging about delays and cancellations, sending schedule and event announcements, PR-ing kid dramas that arise. Don’t also forget that I’m the janitor and I take out the composting outhouse’s poop bucket once a month. While our extremely competent hired Mentor, no doubt, bears the brunt of the daily duties with the children, I have found administration to be quite intensive in it’s own right! When John and I decided to have children, I never dreamed I would play such a critical, central, *hands-on* role in their education…Nor did I really want to!
Our Homeschool Co-op Indoor Classroom (used about 25% of the time.)
But let me back up and explain how we got here. In the US, we live in a society that teaches us that ‘education’ is something that happens in a big wooden box called a “school.” It contains many compartments called “classrooms”; desks and chairs; a rigid, important, non-negotiable “curriculum” which is comprised of “knowledge” that needs to be poured into the empty vessel of the young student’s minds; a version of history as interpreted by an unknown somebody (with an extraordinary blind spot at best and a sinister, self-serving agenda at worst); and is sanitarily administered at arm’s length by a collection of hired individuals whose job it is to minimize “distractions” like physical play, and to discourage discussions or explorations of the human spirit to the extent that that is considered religion, and therefore ancillary to true, scientific “learning.”
A traditional, Public School classroom.
But really, what is learning? What are we trying to teach? What is the goal of the “education” process? As stated on page 1 of our 5-page handbook (which is, you guessed it, written by yours truly), we think it is: To help create joyous, warm-hearted, intelligent, resilient earth citizens who are richly acquainted with their unique natural skills and passions, and poised to deploy them in service of the planet and humankind upon graduation. Let me tell you, this end game does not flow naturally from the traditional school scenario described above!! In fact, I believe it can be largely antagonistic to it.
One “room” in our Homeschool Co-op’s 500 acre Outdoor Classroom (used about 75% of the time.)
So what does aim a bit better our desired end game? Our thoughts are that self-motivated work and play in nature, in a mixed-age class, is the best vehicle through which to achieve this goal. When kids’ imaginations and hearts are captured by a topic because they are literally, physically engaged in it, the learning that occurs in that moment is real and forever imprinted. It needn’t be obligitorily memorized. So we use strategies like group projects, play in nature, practical work, experimentation, sensory experience, mentorship, storytelling and similar strategies at our co-op, to imprint our values and to achieve our long-term education goals for our member children.
The thing is, I’m pretty good at it. Administration I mean. Administrators must be organized. They must be detail-oriented and very good planners. They must like to keep calendars and be prompt with sending reply emails. They must be good communicators. For all I lack, this is a skill set I do, admittedly, possess. So, to the extent that our vision of a true education is at odds with the mainstream education offered in our society, I will continue to administer this Co-op, even as it squeezes against my primary role as project manager for the Coal Burned Spoon. I didn’t want it, but I got it, our kids need it, and I believe in the model, so….
I’ll just have to find ways to balance my time. I trust the plan.