November 11, 2013 by Angel Pricer
It was two years ago today that I first heard of The Hunter School. We were two months into 2nd grade cyber school, having opted for it over the full-time emotional support recommendation that was made at the end of 1st grade. I eagerly approached the concept of staying home all day with my boy, learning together in an environment I thought would be less stressful for him. People said it wouldn’t be easy, but what other options were there? Despite our best effort, it soon became apparent that recreating the classroom setting in our home only traded one kind of stress for another and robbed our family of the peaceful place of reprieve that home should be.
I recall sitting beside him one day as he raged over being expected to play the “stupid baby games” designed to teach phonics and, in place of his soulful brown eyes, I saw a steaming pot of boiling potatoes, starch seething up from underneath the half-cocked lid, and heard the words; “take the lid off.” I needed a break, and so did he. Cyber school is a great opportunity that works for some families; it just wasn’t a good fit for ours.
Realizing I had turned into a demanding task master in an attempt to show the doubters we could do it, I agreed to take the metaphorical lid off the pot with no plan for what to do next. I felt liberated, insecure and completely certain that something good would come of this radical decision, whatever that meant.
Soon after we put the books and supplies away, I heard the word “unschool.” ‘Sounds good,’ I thought, but what exactly does it mean? A few keystrokes later revealed pages of Google hits that all boiled down to one message. Our children have an innate desire to learn and each one has his own way of learning. In the two years since the term entered my awareness I have learned that, while the general principle of unshcooling appeals to me on a fundamental life-long-love-of-learning level, it didn’t translate into success for my son.
Maybe I didn’t stick with either method long enough to know for sure. Or maybe I stuck with each one as long as it took to see that they were not destinations, but steps on the road to something greater.
Two years ago I was pursuing alternatives in education because the ones that existed weren’t working. I was also shoving these alternative ideas down the throats of my family in a way that basically said “either show me a better way or get on the same page as me.” It’s easy to laugh now at my tendency to force a well-intentioned agenda onto those who didn’t have a better solution, but at the time…not so funny.
Though unschooling wasn’t “the way” I had been searching for, a lot of good came out of the months we spent focused not on academics, but rebuilding the bond between us that had suffered as a result of coerced education. Since his first preschool experience at age 3, I knew in my heart that the ‘normal’ educational setting was not going to work for this particular child of mine. The trouble was, there were no clear alternatives in our area.
I remember spending hours scouring the internet at my disheveled dining room table in search of something, anything, that would meet the needs of my son – my family – realizing at every turn that it JUST DIDN’T EXIST. At least, not here. Through my tears of frustration I realized we would either perish in the impoverished system that wasn’t working or I would have to CREATE A BETTER WAY!
That did it. I was flooded with ideas of blending the un-principles of unschooling with the structure I knew my son needed and more importantly the VILLAGE of people it takes to pull off such an endeavor. It even had a name; The Natural Learning Cooperative. As I let the name fall from my lips and into the ears of others, I opened to the vague but potent possibility that I was onto something.
This creative desire beamed from within my heart the night I attended the 11/11/11 Kundalini Yoga gathering where, after a mind-altering kriya, our group gathered for socializing and I shared this vision with my friend and creator of Women of Intention, Vicki Fox. She loved the idea and, what’s more, gave me a vital piece of information to bolster my sense that it was possible. She had recently heard of The Hunter School from Thom Hartmann, founder and author of The Edison Gene: The gift of ADHD and The Hunter Child. “Maybe it will give you some good ideas on how to start something similar here,” she said.
It’s been two years to the day since I first heard of The Hunter School and, to date, nothing like it has been created here. In these two years I have learned a lot about myself, my family, the futility of fighting against anything, and most of all the importance of working together for the greater good of the whole.
Two years ago, I never would have agreed to send my son to a school so far away. I believe with all of my heart that our involvement with The Hunter School is the next step in making something similar happen here so that my son, and children like him, will be able to be who they are meant to be. It is their collective voice that is being raised in the hopes that we will listen, take the lid off the pot, and be the catalysts for a higher vision of education, in every town, for every child.
I wonder what I’ll write two years from today…
photo courtesy of catalystforhealth.com