[permaculture] Sustainability and invisible structures

Michelle Maggiore mmaggior at mindspring.com
Wed Jul 12 21:12:09 EDT 2006

When one chooses to learn something, or at least is an observant frame of mind, what is observed will stick and hopefully provide some valuable lessons.....I am sure I was told ("taught") many important things in school but the learning depended upon me, and at the time, I was not really there to learn. I had the feeling that I had no choice, and consequently skipped school as soon as I could and tried to go to unique places like museums, and the beach, and places that me and my friends would joke were more educational! So, I find school to be an interesting concept.

The classes I have since attended that I got to choose for myself were definitely more valuable to me overall- it sometimes saddens me to think how much time I must have sat and possibly heard interesting things, but did nothing with the information.Perhaps it was the school systems I was in, partly, but most likely it was my frame of mind....who knows. 

It was this reflection on my early education among other things  that prompted my husband and myself to consider homeschooling. Our kids are now grades 5-8, and in general, we have  enjoyed the flexibility and also the breadth of classes, workshops, groups, teams, etc. around here that our kids have been involved in. 

I think my main concern with homeschooling has been cohesiveness with a group, meaning if a class or workshop ends, it is not guaranteed that my kids will ever see the participants in that class again. I could be more aggressive :"Hey! Our kids are the same age! Let's get together" and sometimes that approach has been fruitful...However, it is somewhat awkward and my eldest child does not like that at all.  Therefore, for my oldest at least, her most cohesive group has been our family, at home and extended, and a few special friends. And lately, the families in our barter network. 

It may be because of too  many years in the institutional school setting that I sometimes worry about this set-up, guessing kids will be better off when surrounded by many others of the same age (when else does this happen in our lives, anyway?)  However, this year some people nearby began a Sudbury Valley homeschool group, hoping to start a school. If you have not heard of these before, they are definitely worth looking into. The permanent school idea here is coming along, slowly but surely, but the original school is based in Massachussetts and has been around for well over 30 years. It is child-led and democratic, and it is surprising how many things kids will do in a day if not coerced or required. (Similar to "unschooling", but without full-time parental involvement, and at a separate place other than home).It is the first time I have considered sending them to a school, though it really does not much resemble much of what we would consider to be "school". Anyhow, if the social aspects of school concern you, it is an option worth looking into:

Since there are not really teachers  in a Sudbury school (unless the children arrange a class themselves or ask the facilitators to ), I cannot say this will lead to more ecologically aware children. However, with a homelife of people who are concerned with permaculture ethics, and interaction with a group of friends on a regular basis at the Sudbury School (which is actually a camp of 750 acres of fields, woods, lakes, and rivers)  I think it would be difficult to end up with children who don't care about their surroundings. People are less likely to intentionally hurt something that they feel a part of, whether it be a group or a place. 

I know this is not something that works for everyone, but for our particular way of life and outlook, it has worked surprisingly well and I cannot believe it is more than halfway through.  And if a Sudbury school ends up happening, I think it will be a bonus. Anyway, your kis are already priveleged in that you question  how the experience can be made better or changed, and they pick up most of what they learn, I think, at home.

Creating sustainable options right here at home:

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