If You Could Create a School From the Ground Up…

Spring cleaning is well under way around here. There are several projects already in varying stages of completeness. Living in an old farm house means there’s a never-ending supply. Fortunately, Cait usually likes to help. It’s a chance for us to have some uninterrupted talk time, while I apprentice her on the finer points of home repair.

As Cait and I were painting , the subject of one of her school projects came up. Her assignment was to create a utopia. I asked her how it was going, thinking that would be a fun assignment. To my surprise, she complained that it was an impossible task.

I asked her to explain. She said that for every utopian idea she had, it created several more problems that would need to be solved. The conversation fully engaged us for the entire time it took to finish our painting.

But it got me to thinking…

At some point in my life — I keep saying when I’m in my 70s– I plan on starting a school. A utopian school. A school that children couldn’t wait to get to in the morning, and wouldn’t want to leave in the afternoon. I’ve spent years reading and researching and collecting contacts, so that when I’m ready to get going I’ll have a lot of the leg work already done.

While the 3 R’s would be taught along with other traditional subjects, they would be taught in non-traditional ways, where books would play a secondary role to direct experience.  On sunny days, classes would take place outside.  Life skills would also be taught, along with an emphasis on maintaining a close connection to the natural world. And so on and so on. In other words, I’d take the best of Montessori, Waldorf, public school, private school, and home schooling and ditch what doesn’t work.

I would only hire the best of the best teachers and I’d pay very high salaries, because I’d have very high expectations of them. I’d accept no union teachers because I’d reserve the right to hire and fire based on performance. “Classrooms” would be set up more like “Life” rooms. There would be multiple adults and varying ages of children combined in small, fluid groups that would shift and change based on what was being learned.

That’s just a small peek at what I have in mind.

As I’m always looking to pick up more ideas, let me ask you — if you could create a school from the ground up, what would you include and throw out? What do you think is important for a good education? I’d love to hear.

9 thoughts on “If You Could Create a School From the Ground Up…”

  1. I just started reading your articles and find them interesting, thank you. I agree with Cindy in saying you’re a “kindred spirit”. Schooling, of all types, is something I think about often. My son has done private, Montessori and public schooling. Private was great for field trips, parent interaction with the classes and the school, and more varieties of classes. Also, we are Christians and like that God is included in their teaching. Then Montessori was great for many reasons, like: multi-age classes, independent passionate work, outside garden work and animal care, great field trips(I love field trips) and great music and art. Finally, public school has produced the best reading, writing and mathematical skills. This could possibly be because of his training in Montessori math. I’m not sure! We have never done the Waldorf, but that seems great for the artistic student. Which my son is and public is not as valuable in that department. There is also, gifted public. I’m still thinking about that option. Last but not least “homeschooling”, I love the idea. Because of my interest in all the above mentioned information, it seems like a no brainer. But, here’s the kicker…he doesn’t want to! He thoroughly enjoys school, friends, teachers…the whole process. I too am proud…he is much like me!
    So…currently, we make the best of public. I teach more on the topics he learns in social studies and science. Take him to art classes and music later. Let him help around the house and garden. Share God with him and trust he will be well rounded…with a LOVE for learning!

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    • Trish, sounds like your son is very lucky to have such a great mom. Yes, I’m basically doing the same for my daughter. In the end, I agree, the goal is to help our children develop of LOVE for learning. Thanks for stopping by.

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  2. Tom, learning styles definitely matter and would be incorporated.

    Justine, yep, teachers make the school go ’round. As for hiring, the requirements and qualifications would be as rigorous as if they were interviewing for a ceo job of a major corporation. Unfortunately, I would not be offering the multi-million dollar bonuses those guys get though. : )

    Heidi, I agree. While there would be ongoing evaluation and feedback of students. There would be no grades.

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  3. I’d throw out grades. Pass/Fail only. Like Brown. Let’s teach kids to learn how to love learning, not how to learn to memorize to take tests and then forget what they memorized as soon as they walk out of the classroom.

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  4. I like your idea of paying teachers well to get the cream of the crop. Without good teachers, it doesn’t matter what else you change.

    I’m wondering if you’ve thought about how you would evaluate them?

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  5. I think schools are starting to take into account that kids have different learning styles. I think that would be important to expound on.

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  6. Karen, you can count on me for support. I would love to partner with a like-minded spirit. I am open to any and all possibilities, in whatever way I could serve. This is noble work, only to be blessed and expanded upon.

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  7. Karen..
    Just another reason to think of you as a kindred spirit! You have the right idea my dear…oh so right. I have ALWAYS wanted to find the “right” school for my girls, one that encompasses all the things you mention, but alas, where are they? And at what financial cost? I would add subjects in “conflict resolution”, “money management”, “spirituality” (yes, but in an nature based way, inoffensive and inclusive of all), “how to be a good life partner” (another yes). As our world and culture evolves, (and it is evolving, it’s what people want, it’s just the media doesn’t show the good side of humanity), our way of teaching young ones will have to follow suit. You are splendid in your dreams for this school…..”build it and they will come”. I would help you create it in a heartbeat….and that’s the truth!

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    • Yes, definitely. Learning about finances. Understanding that countries are now what states used to be — we are one world. Learning about how to create healthy relationships. And more…. So, Cindy, I can count you in then, when I’m ready to get started? I’ll be needing lots of help.

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