Friday, September 08, 2006

Questionning The "Accepted Truth"

I think Winston and I are reading the same book. I can only imagine that he creeps out late at night, skims a few chapters and then behaves accordingly. After all, he can see how much I’ve been enjoying this book. In fact, it has set the tone of our days recently.

Just last week, my greatest joy was checking in with the source of all my theories about education. From time to time, I pop by The Antioch School’s web site. This tiny school in Yellow Springs, Ohio began my life long journey regarding best methods for helping children tap into their inner brilliance. In other words - what began as a search for the key which would magically train the beasts to become human - changed, overnight- to how do we tap the resources every blessed child innately possesses? Thank God/dess this transformation began before I had children.

When I lived in The States, I got their newsletter. It often reduced me to tears. It was always like reading a sacred text. It was like reading parables. It was so real and so out of sync with what I knew to be “real,” that I wept. Tears of grateful joy that in some small corner of the world, children were living a dream I held deep within myself. But - I digress. I cruise through The Antioch School web site to discover that a book has been published. I promptly order “Children Of A Child-Centered School” by Don Wallis.

Finally - someone has taken the time to put into print the philosophy and practical information about what I consider to be America’s leading school! (Or at least if more people knew about it, it would be America's leading school.) As a lone(ly) home educator in London, I am benefiting from the wisdom packed onto every page. What I have come to understand from the book, that there is no Antioch School philosophy. There is no formula. There is no magic method. So, what do they have?

They have adults who:
believe in the goodness of children;
have freed themselves from the concept of “guru,” “parent,” “sage,” “teacher,” “know-it-all,” and even “guide;”
are so secure in themselves that they cam embrace the role of facilitator;
refuse to accept that children don’t want to learn; and
trust a child’s process.

In this process, conflict occurs. Children make wild hypothesis. They invent, imagine and dream. This is okay. It is part of the process of discovery. Eventually, they will find their way to the “accepted truth.” We have to let them make their own way there. It is in these moments that information becomes knowledge. It is also in this moment that some small human makes unprecedented discoveries or advances. (Like computers or cell phones.) When you have the freedom to think beyond the “accepted truth,” anything can happen.

Suddenly, I realise why this book has never happened before now. It was waiting for a person who exemplified the above ideals and was willing to document the wisdom of seasoned teachers who have been so busy doing their jobs for 20 years that they don’t have time to write about it.

Tonight, Winston performed an elaborate dance alongside a song in a video. Believing myself to be supportive, I said, “I really like the way you were thinking about your body to make that dance so special.”

He looked at me funny, then said “I wasn’t thinking. I was finding it.”

I nodded and said, “Yes, you were.”

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