Notes from Windward: #64

The Home Schooling Chair

      More often than not, some of the people living here are children, and given the nature of what we're doing and the sort of people we attract, most of them have been very bright kids. Such children are generally not well served by the mainstream education system, and when the parents of those kids want to homeschool them here at Windward, we're supportive of that path, assuming of course that the parents are truly serious about embarking on that path, because homeschooling is as demanding for the adults as it can be rewarding for the kids.

      My intent here isn't to talk about how one should undertake to home school talented kids; no doubt, any one who's a likely candidate for this Chair already knows a good deal about what's involved. Rather, the focus here is on how that can work within the context of this particular sustainable community.

      The assertion that raising a young, talented child is a full-time job falls laughably short of the mark. Indeed, there are many who believe that children are nature's way of making sure that you never have any spare time or extra money. Fortunately, the challenge is eased when folks come together in common purpose, but in order for that to happen there has to be focused, dedicated leadership; i.e. a Chair.

      There's an old adage that rain falls on both the good and the wicked. Sustainable community works in part because, unlike the nuclear family, we are able to harness the twin dynamos of the Division of Labor and the Economies of Scale; we just use those principals to serve our needs instead of the needs of the consumer culture. By working together, we're able to accomplish things that we'd not be likely to accomplish alone, or at least not be able to do anywhere near as well, or for long enough to achieve the goal. Anything having to do with raising children has to be planned for the long haul, not just cobbled together in a desperate attempt to cope with the needs of the moment.

      Everyone's heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child, and that's easy enough to understand, but what's not talked about very much is the question of just how to go about raising a village. It naturally feels like the direction you want to go in, but it's not easy to find the right exit when you're caught up in the endless commute that's the hallmark of modern life.

      A task that can overwhelm one single parent is far more feasible for two, and if three single parents can come together and work as a team, then they're all far better off. The goal of the Home Schooling Chair would be to create that context of cooperative teamwork.

      Young children need a lot of attention, and when there's just an adult and a child interacting, the child's almost insatiable need to interact can drive a parent to distraction. But when two or more parents come together to create an on-site home schooling context, there's a profound shift in the interactive dynamics. Part of the shift involves the kids interacting with each other, and part comes from the parents being able to "spell" each other, with a result that the load isn't just halfed, but actually feels more like it's about a quarter of the stress a parent feels when they're going it alone.

      Add a third parent to the home schooling team, and what was once unmanageable becomes as close to ideal a situation as a low-income, single parent is likely to be able to create short of winning the lottery.

      And it's also an ideal way for talented kids to learn and grow. While Windward not very impressive when viewed through the eyes of someone who's used to high-dollar living, it's a place that very rich in stimulation for young minds. We have gardens and animals, and most importantly, bugs. The eyes of a child are sharp and close to the ground, and one of the things which a child finds fascination in is the endless variety of little creatures which inhabit the wild. Many times I've delighted to watch a city child be almost overwhelmed with excitment and fascination the first time they come face to face with a blue-tailed lizard sunning itself on a stump.

      And how much better for a child to spend time in the garden learning about nature instead of hour after hour in front of a TV watching Disney stories such as the one in which the beautiful young girl gives up her voice in order to get the Prince.

      Children learn through periodic repetiton. The first time a young child experiences the process of growning a garden, it is an almost overwhelmingly stimulating activity that's overflowing with things to see and experience. Come the next season, the one-year-older child is more able to see on a deeper, more comprehensive level what's happening, what it's all about, why it's an important thing to do.

      To us, that's what education is all about, regardless of how old one is. We may not be rich in material possessions, but we are rich in understanding of the basic systems upon which our welfare, and the welfare of those we love, depends. To us, that's what counts; the rest is just tinsel and paper mache.

       Those who wish to lead must never cease to learn, even if the only person they want to lead is themselves. We are all powerless in the face of that which we do not understand, and by comparing our life experiences, and what we've learned along the way, we're able to make better use of our resources, our time and our hearts. Windward already is a "home school" for adults, so a parallel program for youngsters isn't that much of a stretch.

      That isn't to deny that a cooperative homeschooling program is a substantial challenge which requires a lot of commitment and consistency. It's a program that needs a leader who can manage a team effort, who can help people see what matters so that they don't get caught up in what doesn't, and who can help people do the hard things, because if they were easy, then more people would be doing it.

      That's the sort of person for whom our Homeschooling Chair is ideal. That person hasn't arrived here yet, but we have no doubt that someday, perhaps someday soon, that person will.


For an example of another potential Chair, Click Here

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 64