February 6, 2014

26 Lessons You Only Learned In Progressive School

1st graders learning at Cure Organic Farm
Boulder is not like everywhere else.  Most readers of this column know that. You know because you live here. 

Friends’ School is not like many other schools.  You know that too, because you chose to send your child here. We do things a little differently than traditional mainstream education establishments.

Some of our parents choose a progressive school like Friends’ because you went to one as a kid, and you’re looking for a similar experience for your child.  Some parents, like me, had the complete opposite.  I was marched off in uniform to a traditional English boarding school at the ripe old age of seven, grew up and couldn’t wait to send my kids to schools that were just the antithesis of what I knew.

I wanted my girls to go to a school where they could paint glorious pictures, where they could pour water and dig in the sand, read and write stories of their own choosing, sew, build and glue, play dress-up and make-believe, learn math with blocks and color and songs, learn how to give and take and share, celebrate each other’s successes, hug and be hugged. 

I wanted to find a school where children felt safe, knowing there are clearly defined limits and high expectations, where they would be free to be themselves, to explore while learning, and to find success, where they are encouraged to take risks and they are guided as they learn from their mistakes, where teachers and children worked together to find out more each day about what kind of learners they are.

I wanted a school where my kids learned to articulate their strengths and worked to strengthen their weaknesses, where they learned to make a positive difference in numerous ways, where they are supported, trusted and loved, and on the pathway to discover who they are. 

It is not uncommon for me to hear from parents how much they value their kids’ experiences at Friends’ and how they had wished they had gone to a school like Friends’. Friends’ is just the kind of school I was seeking for my kids.

I recently came across this fun little photo montage on BuzzFeed: 26 Lessons You Only Learned In Progressive School.  This does not depict my own school experiences.  Far from it. But it might ring true for you. Click through and let me know what you think.

Some of my favorite lines:

Blocks. You were all about blocks. All learning starts with a block.

You didn’t just make art. You lived it.

You took a field trip to a farm so you would be less alienated from the growing and harvesting of your food.

After you got back from the farm, you wrote a play about it.

It was just that your teachers encouraged you to learn at your own pace and follow your passions, and sometimes that meant you were more of a painter than a reader.

“Can people learn anything without first making a diorama?” you would wonder to yourself as you took a diorama nap.

Some people see toilet paper rolls as trash, but you see monsters.


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