12.13.16

Our Fledgling School

Posted in Monthly at 11:41 am by Pasha

By Pasha Krise

It is hard to believe that just over a year ago our little group came together in unison against the status quo in education for our kids. We were tired of having few choices; luck into a charter school, pay for a high-level private school, do-as-they-say in public school or homeschool (at home).

We were ready for change, for a revolution, for Educational Freedom for All our families. We wanted to find a way that parents could be their child’s educational leader, but also have a space to call “school” and a community where they would not only grow academically, but also emotionally and physically.

And we knew it would be work, a lot of work. And we knew we would face obstacles. And we knew there would be problems to fix, things to work through and little minds to nurture.

There has been all those things, and so much more.

We started our cooperative homeschooled learning group, Wilmington Cooperative School (WCS), with more than 25 families involved, a huge space to overhaul and an entire program to create. Our first challenges were already coming fast and hard and were beyond callused hands building playgrounds, fences, gardens and a physical space. How could we support a capable teacher while 20-plus parents and students had their individual opinions of what WCS should be?

In that first rainy month of September 2016, our little school morphed and learned exponentially. We had a handful of parents that wanted a more daily curriculum focus for their children, we had programs and daily flows that were begging to be established and teachers whose challenges were greater than anyone could have known. We had group dissatisfaction and late night emails about disrespectful behaviors and peace amongst permitted chaos.

In just four short weeks we knew changes needed to be made. As a founding board, and then as a board with several of whom came in full force as the school began, we stopped, looked and listened. We decided to make more of a commitment to our mission and goals for Education Freedom For All. We looked closer at how we would continue our philosophy to help our children grow academically, as well as emotionally and physically.

As Hurricane Matthew approached Wilmington in early October, we faced our greatest challenge, beyond losing students, we faced losing both of our teachers at once. Both teachers who had managed that first month of hardships assured us that they were leaving to care for their own families. But we knew some of it rested on our founding shoulders. We should have established what WCS was before we started. We should have been in the classroom with them for the first weeks. We should and could have done more to bring our baby into this world. But hindsight, it is always 20/20.

Instead of recoiling against our great challenge by closing our school and letting down the remaining families who counted on us for a daily school community, we tied our bootstraps tight and figured it out.

Board members stayed in the school daily for the following month, teaching the children and establishing continuity and family support. We dug our heels in and created a program that is continuing to evolve but now has a solid backbone. And an eager-to-learn new teacher applied just as the storm drifted off to sea.

In the two months since our own little Hurricane passed, WCS has built and rebuilt as each challenge has come up. Our teacher has come through with compassion and joy for facilitating emotional growth and everyday learning for our kiddos. We have established routines and norms. Our children know what is expected of them and the level of respect that is needed to be a part of a community such as ours.

We have had a few more families part ways; some families felt their classroom dynamic was too young and another moved too far away. As those changes have taken place, so have changes in the children who have attended WCS since opening day. We have kids who have learned math far beyond their grade level, others are learning to read and write. We have storytellers and musicians, artists and clowns. They are grasping advanced science concepts and learning about current events like “Standing Rock.” Our kids are also learning how to respect a community that they value and how to build strong foundations through hard work and dedication. They have grown friendships and love. They have learned commitment to projects and value for the teacher that guides them.

Our children adore their school. In a group that touts being in tune with their kids, these ones emphatically and fiercely want to be at school each day, learning and playing. As a mother of a “kindergartener” who wants to go to school each day and is sad to miss even one, there is a comfort in knowing that learning to him is now equated with such positivity. Many of the youngsters have formed strong bonds and friendships. They play old-school games like “house” and “tag” outside and reclaim some of the childhood that we remember from our pasts.

The families and teachers that created, support and attend WCS have allowed us to move forward. As a true cooperative, each family and our teacher have stepped up to do all they can to nurture this fledgling so it can fly. Gifted parents have offered emotional nurturing and positive parenting methods for our classrooms, another has provided legal services to take on our landlord who ripped our second bathroom out in September and has yet to replace it, our parents fundraise and meet monthly to work towards community strength and goals. And our governing board is an endless fountain of can-do and will-do to make this revolutionary education move forward.

We still have so far to go, and boulders are continuously falling down the mountain. We face lesser enrollment than what our budget needs. We are working towards supporting our teacher while maintaining a business integrity that leaves no one person liable or responsible. As a community we are looking forward to building more focused programs and classes, tutoring for homeschooled children who need greater challenges, and remain consistent in the everyday emotional support that young children need to thrive.

Throughout history, all positive change has been shouldered by groups who have come together to stand up for what they believe. These groups of people worked hard, and more often than not were persecuted and unsupported in their movements. What we are doing here is all of it; challenging, revolutionary, painstaking, endless and lots of times thankless. But we collectively understand that nothing great can come to fruition without all the hard work and strength that each of us have.

At WCS, we believe that you should be able to choose the education and community you want for your kids, even if you work full-time. We believe that lifelong learning happens when you build a love of learning early on. We believe that our revolution, that Educational Choice For All, is worth the work and the fight that these early months have cast upon us.

***On a side note: Here is a link to help you understand what we are trying to achieve at WCS.
http://www.villagehome.org/what-makes-village-home/

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