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This place has teachers carefully screened for character and for a great mesh with the particular needs of the student group they will teach. Parents sign kids up at birth (or before!) and provision begins being made immediately for their ‘individual learning program’. Teachers-in-training (all are trained on the job by this school) begin interacting with, observing, and preparing to meet their individual needs way before first grade begins. Their teaching skills grow with the cohort they teach!
Classes are intergenerational, because teachers sit in on one another’s classes, invite elders from the community to learn and teach here, and pass students on a mastery basis rather than an age-basis. A few older students, grandparents, and friends volunteer time as teachers and teachers’ aides in order to support the faculty and keep their salary-and-benefit package high. They get great teachers because there is an on-site day care run by the Child Development classes (high school level). Teachers meet students in spaces they have been allowed to fully personalize. A few were given studio space so kids could watch the progress of their real, grown-up art projects (a couple are professional artists/musicians on the side).
Each teacher has in-class hours, of course, but also visitor hours (parents, students, people from the town can drop in) and private by-appointment hours during school time. They can take a whole day each week for consulting, continuing ed., other work, rest, or whatever they like in trade for sharing about what they’ve been up to in living-room-style seminars one evening a month, and at daily lunch time talks. Every seven years, this school has teachers design a dynamite sabbatical project and covers their expenses! Some of the student field trips piggyback on these experiences.
I’ll tell you more about this amazing school in Part 2!