The Princeton Learning Cooperative is based on the same learning model as our center at Open Doors here in Eastown, Grand Rapids. Sit back with a cuppa and watch all the happy learning going on!
Recently, while I was cooking dinner, my husband read an article to me from one of his many sailing magazines about a family who chose to spend 5 years sailing the open seas. What most caught my attention were the first few sentences:
When I was a kid, I devoured Choose Your Own Adventure books. “If you think Mary should open the spooky door, turn to page 16. If you think Mary should turn away from the haunted house, turn to page 23.” I always read my way through all of the possible outcomes, cheering for characters who escaped the monsters with treasures in hand, and shaking my head at those who stuck to safe choices, too afraid to take a chance at the spooky door. Now that I live my own Cruse Your Own Adventure, I have mastered the agony of choice in the real world as well; although, in the end there is really only one fundamental decision in cruising: If you want to stay home, turn to page 48; if you want to move onto a boat, turn to page 11. I still remember how immense that choice felt when my husband and I were first kicking the idea around. As soon as we turned to page 11, though, we realized that we’d just jumped off a skyscraper only to land on a ledge three feet down. We were safe. We had signed on for a frustrating, exhausting and rewarding life, only to find that every page we turned to was a good one. The hard part wouldn’t be escaping the monsters – it would be having to let so many good choices go.
Immediately I thought of how closely this parallels choosing to “Opt Out and Jump In” to choosing and creating your own learning adventure. Because School is such an ingrained part of our culture, to most folks choosing a different option feels VERY risky. Though in many ways very rational and logical, it still feels like “jumping off a cliff”. It is, in fact, an immense, life changing decision. Yet, rather than jumping off a cliff, it is much more like plunging into a pool….. of enlivened learning, free to swim toward those wonders which draw you… encouraging you to Be you and explore the best direction for Your life.
You truly can Choose your Own Learning Adventure. Just turn the page.
In 1965, soon after John Holt’s first book, How Children Fail, was published, a teacher wrote to him, saying, in effect,
I have just read your book, and like it. But there is something you don’t know, that you should know. For over thirty years I have been teaching in the public schools of New York City. For over thirty years, along with my fellow teachers, I have been going to educational conferences, and training sessions, and workshops, to hear countless leaders in education talk, as you do, about the dignity of the child, and the importance of individual differences, and of fostering positive self-concepts, and building on the interests of the child, and letting the child learn from curiosity rather than fear. And for thirty years I and my fellow teachers, as we went back to our classrooms, have said to ourselves, “Well, back to reality,” and have gone on doing just what we had done all along which was to try to bribe, scare, and shame children into learning what someone else had decided they ought to know.
I, too, could have written these words to Mr. Holt when I was teaching in the public system. I would have added that my enthusiasm in learning new techniques which promised to deliver what I so believed in would have fortified me to “Instill change!” .. going back to my classroom with excitement and determination. Until they, too, failed. The fact of the matter is that you simply cannot respectfully force someone to learn or meet the individual needs of 20 – 30 people at the same time.
THE GOOD NEWS IS we don’t have to do that. Instead we CAN honor the dignity of humanity, appreciate individual differences, foster positive self-concept, and allow the teen to explore his/her interests and learn from his/her curiosity rather than from fear. There is a great option. We have the FREEDOM to educate outside of the traditional school system. It’s called “Home Schooling” and Open Doors is here to help you make that happen.