I’m not going to buy my kids an encyclopedia. Let them walk to school like I did.
— Yogi Berra
Charity, Nora, Nick and I sat down for our meeting in the primary dome at Fern Hill.A small geodesic structure erected under an overhanging tree, the dome had interior walls covered with artwork, chalkboards, and hanging charts.
There were no desks. Cubbies overflowed with notebooks, markers, and the bric a brac of inquiring minds.It looked like a school room, except that nothing here was the result of compulsion.
As far as I was concerned, Nick was pushing the school philosophy to the brink. His tardiness had been going on for a month. My fear was that the inmates were taking over the asylum.
“So, Nick,” Charity said. “I’ve really been missing you at morning meeting.”
“I don’t care about morning meeting,” said Nick.
“Well,” said Charity, “I’m wondering what’s taking you so long to get here.”
“It’s my clothes,” said Nick.
His clothes still made him itch. They still didn’t fit. They still were stupid.
“It would be fine with me if you came to school in your pajamas,” said Charity.
Nick considered. “That’s crazy,” he said.
I said, “Nora and I have things to do. We can’t stay home with Nick all day.”
“What do you think about that, Nick?” said Charity.
“Nick, would you be willing to help us think of some ideas that would work for both you and your mom and dad?” said Charity.
A long silence.
So far, other than the pajamas-to-school idea, the conversation echoed many we’d had at home with Nick.
“Is the meeting over now?” said Nick.
“It sounds to me like your parents are needing to make other plans in the morning,” Charity said. “Nora, what time would you need to begin your day?”
“About the time morning meeting starts,” said Nora.
“That sounds pretty clear to me,” said Charity. “Why don’t we write it down.”
This is what we settled on:
Nora and Wolf will begin their day at 9:15 am. They will have time to take Nick to school before then.
“What happens if I don’t get ready?” said Nick.
“Your mom and dad will need to begin their day.”
“What about school?” said Nick.
“No school that day, I guess.” I said.
It was balm in Gilead to know there was an end point. Having Nick home all day was not something we wanted. But at least we could make a plan to deal with it.
Nick got up from his chair. The situation was beginning to sink in. He picked up the paper and threw it on the floor.
“I’m not making this agreement,” he said. “I’m not making myself sign this.”
“Nick,” said Charity, “This isn’t really an agreement. It’s more of a limit. You don’t need to sign it.”
“Well, I don’t agree with it.”
“You don’t need to agree to it,” I said. “It’s mommy’s and my limit.”
Nora and I signed the paper. Nick didn’t.
It was Wednesday.
“This is a lot to take in,” said Charity. “ Why don’t we give Nick a few days to get used to the idea. You can start on Monday.”
In the car ride home, Nick feigned indifference.
“Looks like I won’t be going to school anymore,” he said.
Nora and I looked at each other. I supposed we could have home schooled Nick. We had considered it. Nick was against it. The three of us loved Fern Hill. It had resources for empowering Nick that we couldn’t match at home. He was thriving there.
What had we gotten ourselves into?
. . .
You might also enjoy:
Why Schools Don’t Educate by John Taylor Gatto
When a Child Says “No” from The Natural Child Project
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Just for fun:
Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Steve Martin, in concert! Singing “Late for School”:
. . .
Childrens’ art credit: The Night Candy House. Colored pencil. Caitilin L. Age 9,
Ontario, Canada. ©2011 The Natural Child Project. Used by permission.
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