The “if dogs run free, why not we?” part of my hippie past always felt that school is a poor substitute for letting kids just run around and play in the neighborhood, park, village, fields, forest, etc. They would achieve great kinesthetic skills naturally just by running and jumping and climbing trees and skipping rocks and kicking cans. Their artistic and architectural skills would develop building forts, arranging pebbles, drawing in the dirt. Their musical skills would effortlessly develop singing while they played, whistling while they worked, banging on trash cans with sticks, watching the older kids play clapping games and jumping rope. Their math skills would soar counting by 5’s to a 100 and then “ready or not, here I come!” You get the idea.
And yes, kids still need lots of unstructured time like that and that’s what summer vacations were invented for. But lately at school, I can’t help but notice how dang happy the kids are! And that comes from four things:
1. They’re hanging out with lots of kids! Kids like to be with kids! Same age, older and younger. And they don’t have to arrange a play date! Just show up at school and for 6 to 8 glorious hours, there’s always kids around!
2. They need to be busy with their little hands and legs and hearts and minds and kids at my school are always doing something. And more importantly, doing lots of different things that call forth their full glory of human possibility. Painting, singing, dancing, reading, reciting, building, taking things apart, putting them back together, hammering, sawing, bouncing balls, kicking balls, playing catch with balls, writing stories, writing poems, drawing pictures, weaving cloth, kneading clay, cutting carrots, mixing dough, serving food, cleaning tables, petting ducks, acting in plays.
3. They get to do these things with just the right blend of exploring on their own and being guided by someone with expertise, be it a teacher or fellow student. They’re learning useful techniques and skills that are improving with focused practiced, considering organized concepts and ideas that deepen thought and reveal understanding. That wouldn't necessarily happen just running around the woods like a pack of wild dogs.
4. All of this is happening in a living, breathing, loving and supportive community, one dedicated to genuine celebration of the diverse ways kids’ minds, hearts and bodies are put together and helping them discover how to bring that to bloom and refresh the community with their color and fragrance.
In short, unraveling may be the horrific work of the cynics and greedy and terrorists and selfish, but there’s a lot of raveling going on in this world and let’s never forget that. And The San Francisco School is one such place. It's a good place to be in these hard times and is pushing my retirement date up ten years! In a time of unraveling, I want to be where the raveling (and reveling and revealing) is. I could also be in the Jazz Club or the Zen Monastery or walking the Camino de Santiago or tucked away in the family cottage on Lake Michigan. But school feels like the right place right now. And thank goodness—the goodness of happy children— for that.