I decided it was time to stand up and be counted so I signed us up to speak at the WPNS Elementary School Forum last week. My daughter was so brave - wanted to come on stage with me while I spoke and even said her name into the microphone. I felt my own public speaking jitters but we did it! Here are the notes from our "2-minute pitch" :
My name is Kristen Wong and I am in the very very early stages of starting an alternative school, called the Life Lived Freely Spirit Center.
It was actually my 7-year old daughter, and the issues that she had with traditional school, that helped me to think about what kind of school we would design if we were to start from scratch.
I think most of us can agree that the best way that babies & toddlers learn is through exploring their environments with minimal interference from us. But for some reason, we’ve all collectively decided that we can no longer trust that natural curiosity once our kids hit grade school. We’ve also all agreed that kids will be best prepared for the Real World, not by actually living in it, but by being extricated from it, in a place where their minds can be filled with information for a dozen years or so, and only inviting them back once they supposedly know everything they need to know to be well-rounded adults.
In our current model, kids really only interact with adults in 2 settings. The first, is when their parents are home from work and are, for the most part, enjoying their down time. Because children don’t have the benefit of seeing their parents at work, this idle lifestyle is the model they see of what it means to be an adult. The other setting where children interact with adults is at school. There, they spend each day with people whose job is to make sure that the children learn to perform on command. And although the teachers do care about their students, this fixation on the children teaches them that the role of adults to control other people.
It seems to me that these types of interactions with adults are neither natural nor healthy.
What we would love to create is a setting where the adults are able to let go of the explicit intention of teaching children, and instead simply model living our own lives with passion. I think kids would benefit so much from interacting with community members who come to the school not to fixate on whether or not the kids are performing certain tasks, but instead to share their enthusiasm for their own interests and giving the kids the opportunity to do the same.
There are so many things that kids are naturally curious about. But with school, homework, and other activities, there’s just not much time left in the day. Imagine the message of empowerment and trust our kids would receive if we flipped that around and made school time the time for them to really dive into their passions.
In a lot of ways, the ones that really need training are the adults - to start to see children in a different way. It can be helpful to look at our children as fellow souls on this earth who are here to teach us as much as we are here to teach them. In order to pass down not just our knowledge but our true wisdom to the next generation, we need to be able to see and value their contributions as well. I imagine this Spirit Center not just as a school for kids, but for adults too, for those of us who may have forgotten how to listen to our inner wisdom and allow life to flow freely through us, through deep present moment awareness.
I believe that what children really need is not more instruction & direction, but more practice in believing in themselves, trusting in their instincts, and developing the confidence that comes from the awareness that they each have a unique and important role in this world.
I want to bring that faith back into the educational system. Faith in the ability of each person’s soul to effectively guide them through life. The world is changing at rates we can’t even imagine, and we owe it to our children to set up an environment where they will be able to own their educational experiences and, really, to own their own lives.
For those of you that are interested in learning more, or if you know of others that might be interested, I’ll be giving an Informational Session on Thursday December 11th at 7PM at the Westchester Community Room. Feel free to go to our website at LifeLivedFreely.com to sign up for our mailing list for more information.
I am so excited about the unpaved path that lies ahead and look forward to connecting with others who feel the same way. For the record, I never thought I'd be starting a school, so if you're curious about the concept, please don't let the new-ness overwhelm you. Come join us - these are such exciting times!