We’re different… and here’s HOW

I read the most fantastic article this week about Madeline Levine’s new book Teach Your Children Well. The title of the article really grabbed me: “Why Kids Need Schools to Change.

I can think of at least 100 reasons why kids need schools to change! After more than 10 years teaching in the public school system, I know all too well what isn’t working. But that’s not enough. We need to figure out what DOES work.

My favorite paragraph from Dr. Levine’s new book may be this one:

“There’s probably no better example of the throttling of creativity than the difference between what we observe in a kindergarten classroom and what we observe in a high school classroom… Take a room full of five-year-olds and you will see creativity in all its forms positively flowing around the room. A decade later you will see these same children passively sitting at their desks, half asleep or trying to decipher what will be on the next test.”

So what does work?

If you listen to the kids playing in their playground, you’ll hear some very inventive games and scenarios!

1. Teach our kids to THINK for THEMSELVES! If you’ve been following Schoolhouse for a while, you know that one of the main reasons I left public school teaching was because I refused to be forced to “teach to the test.” There’s a certain amount of rote memorization that is required in education, of course, but kids need to be taught–wait, let me restate that: we need to get out of kids’ way and let them figure things out for themselves! Business owners lament the lack of skills shown by high school graduates these days. Well, how would they have any real skills? School has been reduced to the practice of cramming students’ brains full of facts. How could they possibly develop the skill of figuring things out for themselves? When would they have time?

2. Give kids plenty of free time/play time–whatever you want to call it! At Schoolhouse in the Woods, our day starts with half an hour outside. After sitting on the schoolbus for 20 minutes, they need to stretch their legs and stretch their brains! They need their blood flowing if they are going to be able to concentrate and be the best creative, curious creatures they can be.

Music is good for the developing brain!

3. Arts, arts, ARTS! I grew up in California in the post-Proposition 13 days. (Prop 13 was ameasure passed in California in the 1970s that drastically slashed school budgets.) My generation was the first one to see art, music, dance and drama classes cut down or cut out. I think this has done inestimable damage. I refused to allow that to happen to my daughters. While I was homeschooling them, they always had dance and music classes. Now that I have a full class, music and art are integral parts of our curriculum. We spent time learning the guitar. We sing. We dance. Because kids are little humans and they need it!

4. Allow our children to be fully-feeling human beings. Tears, anger, or frustration in a public school setting gets kids put in time out. We do things differently at Schoolhouse. Last Friday my oldest student, 5th grader Charli Kate, was having a really, really hard morning. She was homesick and emotional. Hormones? The full moon? Who knows why. What’s more, who cares? It didn’t matter why she felt that way, and it wasn’t up to me to fix it. My job, as her teacher and as an adult with a pivotal role in her life, was to validate her feelings. Dr. Levine calls this a “Climate of Care”; I call it kindness and common sense! I also texted her mom to let her know what was going on. Her mom sent her daughter an encouraging text, and I could see Charli’s tension ease when she read it. So instead of being told to “calm down” or being berated or belittled for having a rough day, Charli was able to move through those feelings and have a very “successful” day at school.

Is it a “successful” day when students make a volunteer tour guide feel like this? We think so!

5. Redefine success. Some of my students’ most successful days have been days where they didn’t appear to accomplish anything concrete. Days they spent frustrated and felt like they were failing. Maybe even days filled with tears. But those are often the days when they make tremendous leaps forward. Dr. Levine says that letting kids fail is “one of the most critical things” parents can do. When you fail, then figure it out for yourself, doesn’t that make you feel like a million bucks? So why in the world are we taking that away from our kids?

There’s no one right way to teach every kid. The beauty of Schoolhouse in the Woods is that I get the chance to get to know each kid and figure out the best way to reach her or him. And that is the reason I went into teaching in the first place–to truly reach kids!

If you would like to tour our school, or have your child spend the day with us, give me a call! Remember, the Schoolhouse in the Woods Bus picks up and drops off in Sandpoint every day, and transportation is included in tuition!

If you’d like to have your child attend school with us for a day, give me a call today! 208.304.1285

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