Re: DSM: 1st meeting advice?

From: Allan Saugstad (asaugstad@vsb.bc.ca)
Date: Fri Apr 20 2001 - 19:43:43 EDT


Laura, Robin, Connie, et all,

Well, here's our vision. Sorry Connie, it's not a statement like I said; it's a
rambling 3 page document we are working on.

You will notice that there is quite an emphasis on family, which is different
from the sudbury model. We want it to be a place where both children and parents
feel comfortable being and learning; we are hoping that parents will be involved
in mentoring children and each other in numerous ways. The only limit on this
would be the choice of the children; obviously if my child didn't want me around
I would stay away. We are a group of families who have valued our connection to
our kids and we want to extend that connection as our children grow, while
respecting their need to grow away from us and be influenced by others.

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We have a wish. Our wish is to be a part of a learning community which gathers
in a place where there is friendly company, inspiring resources, and people
young and old sharing what they have to offer; A place which is an extension of
each families home, a comfortable space suspended between home and the larger
community.

We envision creating a space where:

• children and their families can gather to share learning experiences,
resources, passions and interests with each other

• we can guide children in learning from their own experiences, where they can
formulate and ask their own questions, experiment, play and learn freely and
happily

• people of all ages can make things, explore and discover, and through these
processes learn self-evaluation and develop individual learning paths

• the skills and energy of parents, children, and interested community members
provide learning opportunities and mentoring to each other (as we all know, kids
are mentors too; they share their big spirits and we are challenged and bettered
by it!)

Our Philosophy

We believe that self direction within a varied and supportive environment is
essential to deep learning. Here’s an explanation of where our understanding is
now. We are aware that our children learn by what they experience. And we’ve
noticed that if they fully experience something with an eagre and open heart,
they learn in a way which is authentic, in that they feel the learning naturally
fits them. Their hearts can only be open to something they choose. If they have
the freedom to choose, then they have ownership of the choice, which means they
experience the power of responsibility. If the experience fits with the child’s
inherent truth (natural sense of honesty, compassion, and responsiveness) the
child learns wholely, with integrity. If an answer is given before the question
is asked, it’s not an answer but an assumption to be adopted, for there is no
inner space ready and searching. We have noticed that if a child is forced to
follow another’s interests, values and goals rather than following what they
feel ready and searching for, they may cope by overriding or dis-attaching from
their true sense of curiosity, attentiveness, and responsibility. This is why we
believe a curriculum, or a set of learning goals, which is not sought and chosen
by the child, doesn’t optimize learning. We’ve experienced that an open heart is
protected by an environment free of threatened judgement (grading) and
competitiveness (comparative evaluation).. We envision a learning community
which aims to trust each childs' positive intent and self-authority. This
explains some of our present musing about curriculum, required attendance, and
grading. It also explains our parental struggle to trust childishness despite
some of our conditioning We, as adults in this community, are excited to share
our lifelong learning process, both by sharing what we already know, and by
learning with the kids a whole bunch of stuff we don’t know yet. And we look
forward to our family members being in the company of other family members who
are developing their interests. We know that inspiration is catchy!

To achieve this, we imagine the learning community and it's gathering space:

• will strive to respect and value the uniqueness of each child and hence will
be a cooperative, non-comparative, and non-competitive environment where
diversity is celebrated.

• will, in respect for self-directed learning, strive to create an environment
free of extrinsic reward, punishment and other forms of coercion, and hence will
not subject the children to grading

• will maintain the integrity of a non-coercive environment by accepting that
children's attendance and participation in activities will be of their own
choice and will not be required.

• will entrust children to make their own choices in their learning, and entrust
families to directly support their children, maintaining overall responsibility
for their children’s education.
• will be cooperatively run with a paid ( hopefully funded) coordinator and
democratically directed by both adult and child members in the spirit of “open
space technology”. The coordinator would, following the direction of members,
order supplies, manage learning center space, keep track of finances, coordinate
activities, organize field trips, and be a constant presence willing to offer
help, when appropriate. We anticipate that having a coordinator would avoid
parent burnout in administrative and organizational tasks, and allow more energy
for supporting children directly, both at the center and in other environments
our children are learning in (home, community and the big wide world!)

How would this look practically?

• We envision a "Drop-in" space several days and/or evenings a week where
children and parents (or children on their own if they choose) can use the
resources available in the space ( books, art supplies, science equipment etc.)
and can take part in spontaneous activities supported by our coordinator and
volunteers; a place where people can just come to hang out with friends. Courses
and field trips could be planned based on children’s interests.

• We also envision using the space for other family events

• One option we are exploring is to obtain independent school funding for our
project. If we can do this without compromising our principles it will allow us
to cover the cost of the coordinator and some of the costs of maintaining the
center. Allan is researching this option and is quite optimistic. Al is
currently working in the public school system and is working with us to bring
this vision to a reality for his family.

We envision a community which cherishes families and their individual needs and
perspectives. It follows then, that the structure and decisions around the
learning center will be reflective of this respect for each family's needs (in
keeping with the philosophy of children’s choice being respected). Practically,
this would reflect the wishes of parents with work commitments as well as
parents who wish to be more involved with their children days. Hopefully,
through a combination of the gathering place’s offerings and supportive
friendship, parents could plan to both meet some work commitments and actively
share in the learning community.

As individual families with positive intention for our children and our
community, we look forward to working together honestly to support each other,
sharing our passions, and working with our differences to build something
wonderful.

May our children learn freely by passion and responsibility and may we as
parents learn alongside them.

Allan



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