I was invited to a panel discussion called “Life After Village School,” in which I participated last night. Village School is the alternative grade school that I attended and a place with which I’m still engaged.
Where did you go to school after the Village School (please list all)?
- Preschool: Village School - Royalston, MA
- Kindergarten through second grade: Sacred Heart - Gardner, MA
- Third grade through sixth grade: Village School
- First half of seventh grade: Narragansett Regional Public School - Baldwinville, MA; almost attended the Chicken Coop School in North Orange, MA - it was their first year. My Village School classmate Isaac was at Narragansett, but I didn’t end up seeing him much in school.
- Second half of seventh grade through first half of eleventh grade: North Central Charter Essential School - Fitchburg, MA
- Second half of eleventh grade through high school graduation: Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter - South Hadley, MA
- Gap year: Practical Farm Training Program at Maggie’s Farm of the Farm School in North Orange, MA
- Year of traditional college: University of Massachusetts at Amherst - BS Program: Systems Engineering
- Two years of untraditional college: Gaia University - BS Program: Integrative Ecosocial Design with a specialization in Cross-Cultural Translation; included a ton of facilitated educational experiences
- Opted out of graduation
How was your transition from the Village School to 7th grade? Please include comments: academic or social challenges, how long it took you to adjust, and what could have been done differently.
I’ve never adjusted, and don’t plan on it.
I’ve always both felt as though I need to try harder than my peers to keep up, and have had the curiosity to explore much deeper than them. For example, in my first semester at NCCES, I had to stay after in math class to learn the relationship between graphs and algebraic equations. But I was a math tutor in ninth grade. I had a math tutor during my senior year at PVPA. But I taught math to an advanced group of Chicken Coopers when I was at Maggie’s. This is still true today; I’m a slow reader, but I read more than most of my contemporaries, and do a lot of writing about what I read.
Maybe an underlying assumption we have is that success lies in following the things we’re good at. Sometimes, success is met through preserving in an area that remains perpetually challenging. This keeps us on top of our game.
Did you feel well prepared for 7th grade? If not, what could the Village School have done differently?
I’m not sure how to address this question. I’ve never become competent at “studying” but when it comes to research a topic, writing an essay, or creating something, I excel.
What was it like for you to go from a small academic setting to a larger academic setting? What was hardest for you/your child, what was easiest?
A little like vacation at first. Narragansett didn’t really have anything to do with learning in my experience - it was all about social things and politics. This was new and different for me.
I was more at home at NCCES, a pioneering school, just like Village School.
I felt phenomenally at home at Maggie’s which was just like Village School - tight-knit, immersive community experience focused on aesthetics other than just knowledge.
UMass was probably the most displaced I’ve ever felt, and with a student body of almost thirty-thousand, it’s understandable. I spent the bare minimum amount of time possible on campus - down to two days a week by second semester, although I was living in the dorms. My main friends were those from PVPA, upperclassmen, and graduate or post-grad students.
Gaia - again, same as Maggie’s and the Village.
Words of wisdom
If you’re going to spend money on your child’s education, spend it inversely proportional to their years. The younger they are, the more formative they are. Grade school is vital, and middle school is very important. Returns start decreasing after that with high school and college. Most people spend the most money on college or other forms of higher education, when at that point, it’s not really necessary. People can get the most messed up as kids.
Village School isn’t a place parents send their children to create normal humans. We send our children to Village School because we believe they are special, and that they are intended for special work. They might not do as well as some in traditional settings, but I doubt that you value this kind of success if you feel at home with the Village School.
Village School was a place of magic and wonder for me. I once was in a teacher-training program [for permaculture]. In this program we reflection on our educational experiences, and out of the thirty-or-so participants, I was the only one there that would describe my educational experience as perfect. Before this I’d assumed that most people loved their educations; it was eye-opening for me that this was not the case. I think this illustrates what a great time my friend and I had at Village School.
Two of my closest friends were in Village School with me, and I’m still good friends with a number of other Village School.