Archive for September, 2012

A Sister School in the Netherlands

Sudbury schools exist worldwide, with groups advocating liberty and responsibility for young people in Germany, Japan, Israel, the United Kingdom, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, and across the United States. New schools seem always to be starting, as traditional schools continue business as usual. Every single school that exists is a testament to hard work, trust, and commitment.

One sister school, De Kampanje in the Netherlands, has undergone a remarkable struggle in recent years just to operate their school. (For context, Dutch families who choose to home school risk jail terms. This is the level of government animus regarding educational freedom! A similar attitude prevails in Germany. Here in America, Sudbury schools experience a wide range of acceptance or opposition, depending upon state, town , and county regulations. Thankfully, Fairhaven School has always enjoyed a healthy relationship with the state of Maryland.) Our colleagues at De Kampnje recently lost a lengthy court case, causing great personal, institutional, and financial hardships. Nevertheless, the school continues, and for the time being, families continue to send their children. Colleagues at other European Sudbury schools are bracing for the possible repercussions of De Kampanje’s setback.

Here is a link to a blog post by Dr. Christel Hartkamp with her perspective on the experience. Reading this is equal parts sobering and inspirational, as bearing witness to important struggles always is.

We at Fairhaven School stand in solidarity with Christel, Peter, and the other remarkable people of De Kampanje, and we begin this school year with a new appreciation for the very real freedom we have enjoyed all of these years to operate our school exactly as we please.

Mark McCaig

September, 2012

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As Children’s Freedom Has Declined, So Has Their Creativity

In the 1950s, E. Paul Torrance developed ways to measure children's creativity that have proven to be valid predictors of adult accomplishment. A new study using Torrance's measures indicates that children's creativity has been on the decline for the past 20 to 30 years.

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Early Morning

My schedule this year at school includes two days opening the school, and these always afford a different Fairhaven School experience, these first hours before the hurlyburly to come.  Empty rooms invite.

Morning light brightens the Circle Room.

It is difficult not to think of the notion of tabula rasa: each day brings a clean slate, both for the school and its students. Of course, even a wiped slate has some vestige of what came before, and this applies to the new morning at Fairhaven School; nevertheless, unlocking the buildings and turning on the lights conjures one important word: possibility.

What will we do today? Who we will we do these things with? What will we discover today, about ourselves, about each other, and about this world? Somehow, the stillness creates these and many other questions.  One answer, on this morning, was for two students to sew a torn couch in advance of a pending JC case.

Sitting on the repaired couch.

For one, the day began more simply with another thing that bespeaks possibility: she took the quiet time before her friends came to read a book.

Mark McCaig

September, 2012

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This post finds another year commenced on the educational forefront for Fairhaven School. New students mixed with old yesterday, and we all checked in about both our summers and our plans for this year. The day was smooth and remarkably drama-free: some played basketball and football; some played Legos; many got certified for computers, the grounds, and kitchen appliances. The JC convened to hear two leftover cases.

New students gathered in the middle of the day for an annual ritual: comparing notes about the injustices and frustrations of traditional school. Only two minutes between classes. Twenty minutes to eat. All of those worksheets. For these, Fairhaven School will begin with decompression, with rediscovering a sense of agency, with ownership of time and responsibility. This is my life, and I will live it on my terms. Here is the radical mission we enact.

The horsey girls set up jumps on the porch. An older girl on a mission came in even though she felt sick to set up her writing class. A colleague’s car sported a brand-new Temple University sticker in honor of her freshman son who graduated last year. How me miss him and the others who have left! Carrying on,  his brother and other members of the Electronics Corporation built two computers. We sang Happy Birthday and ate cake to celebrate another’s birthday, and I believe she’s fourteen, the same age as the school itself.

Do we take it all for granted, this unique environment where the young people spend their days blissfully being themselves? Do we recognize the countless achievements simple liberty allows? Today is the second day of our fourteenth year. Let us celebrate, and never overlook those parents, staff and students who have come before to make Fairhaven School possible. Today, let us rejoice in what has become ordinary for those of us who get to be here every day, those of us who understand the new student who joins many others in calling her new school Fairheaven.

Here’s to the best year yet!

Mark McCaig

Fairhaven School

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