School’s Almost Out for the Summer

Photo by James Adamson

I’ve decided to end the official academic year of reschooling this Saturday, June 20th. I’d been thinking June 15, because it’s closer to the real last day of school for most kids, but June 20th has more significance for me. It’s exactly ten months after the first day of kindergarten (August 20th, 2008), and it’s exactly one year after I left my full-time job as Spark Co-Director. It feels like the right time to step back and reflect on my first year that I’ve educated myself on my own terms.

I’ve been spending the last couple days processing the Reschool Yourself experience as a whole, as I write a long retrospective piece for Santa Clara Magazine, my university’s alumni publication. Sunday was the first time I opened up the two top-spiral notepads full of my observations from the classroom. It’s a lot to process: the memories I’d had while sitting in my old desks, the conversations I’d had with my old teachers, and the mixed feelings that arose (regret, joy, grief, peace, you name it). Part of me wants to close the door on the whole reschooling experience, because it’s so much information to synthesize, but another part feels compelled to share how I’ve changed so that other people can go through a similar process of letting go and moving on. Above all, I’m determined to change the way we “do school” so that other kids don’t have to reschool themselves as adults. Ideally, they’ll maintain their natural wonder and the joy they take in learning throughout their lives.

An official project end date is important to me, so I can have a milestone at which to shift gears. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, reschooling has become more of a lifestyle than a finite project, so the blog will continue beyond June 20th. That date, however, will be a good opportunity to revamp the website and involve other people more deeply in the project. One idea is to profile folks who are reschooling in different ways (getting scuba certified, pursuing a higher degree, or changing careers, for example). I also plan to feature other projects and books in the vein of Reschool Yourself, because I’ve come across many over this year. I’ll also be looking more broadly at different approaches in education, as I’ve begun to do with the Op/Education series, and asking your opinions on them.

I can tell you now that I’ve undergone some major changes over the past ten months. I’ve grown to understand the habits that make me unhappy, and the reasons why I developed those habits in the first place. I’ve seen firsthand how school can change kids, in ways that help them develop and others that hinder their growth. I can tell you that I’m a lot happier and more balanced than I was a year ago at this time, when I was on the verge of stepping into unknown territory, and I look forward to summing up how that change happened.

Comments (7)

  1. Positively Present

    Your last paragraph here really hit home with me. I’ve been changing a lot lately, realizing what makes me happy and what makes me unhappy, and it’s so great to hear how far someone else has come. It’s so great that you’re putting all of your knowledge to good use as a teacher. I really admire that. My little sister is a teacher and I think it’s SUCH a great profession to be in.

    Reply
  2. Melia

    Thanks for the comment. To clarify, I’m not a full-time teacher but consider myself an educator in various ways. I ran a youth program, Spark, for four years, and I’m beginning to work on macro issues in education. I have a passion for sharing what I learn with others, and it seems like you do, too. I agree that teaching is one of the most essential professions and deserves to be recognized as such.

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  3. Keetha

    I’m looking forward! I think it will be interesting to see how this web site morphs and changes, still keeping in the Reschool Yourself mindset.

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  4. c myers

    while you were reading at the writer’s spotlight on saturday, i couldn’t help but see you in the place of adam sandler in ‘billy madison’. it made me laugh.

    but, on a serious note…with my future life change coming on really fast, i’m starting to appreciate this project more and more. hopefully, in a month or so, i will have some more substantial insight into what it means to reschool myself.

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  5. Melia

    Haha, have you seen my Billy Madison vs. Melia Dicker post? You wouldn’t believe how long I had the “Back to school…back to school” song stuck in my head in the fall. I definitely embraced the element of silliness, like sipping chocolate milk with kindergarteners and shaping letters of the alphabet out of clay. The cool thing was having “beginner’s mind” and experiencing these things as if for the first time.

    I’m very excited about your big move, and for you to try out new kinds of work. It takes courage to leave familiar surroundings to go on a big adventure. Reschooling happens best when you’re outside your comfort zone and start fresh, without old habits to depend on. Can’t wait to see what happens for you.

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  6. Margaret

    I don’t know how you choose the “Related Posts” to include, and I don’t often revisit these, but this time I looked back at the Storm Before the Calm entry. It is profound to be able to see such a difference- right there in black and white! Or red and green, as the pixels may have it. I have recently taken up writing again, and have been eyeing a journal I kept in Turkey, but I just feel not ready to delve into it yet. Whether I find that I haven’t changed much or that I was in a very different place, it takes some ‘coming-around’ of the mind before one is ready to address or face up to such big personal changes. Congratulations on facing this with so much courage! One of the things I have noticed is that your attitude toward food and body image and health in general has become more accepting and positive, which is a great source of encouragement and inspiration to me. Maybe you haven’t reflected on the ripple effects (remember that?!) of your project, but one of them is that you are better able to balance your generosity to others with generosity to yourself. I’m so glad I benefit! :-)

    Reply
  7. Melia

    The “Similar Posts” feature is actually automatic, so the blog pulls posts with similar tags and key words, I think. Thanks for pointing out the contrast between the “Storm Before the Calm Entry” and this one — I hadn’t gone back and read it until now. When things are good, I so quickly forget the hard times, and when things are rough, I forget what it’s like to feel good. I’m growing to understand the ebb and flow of happiness, that no matter what I’m feeling at this moment, “This, too, shall pass.”

    Fortunately, I’ve had fewer extremes these days. The peaks and valleys aren’t so dramatic, as I’m learning that most things aren’t nearly as big a deal as I make them out to be. You’re right that my body image has grown healthier. It’s about total wellness of mind-body-spirit, and not about dieting. Every morning I decide how I’m going to build exercise into my day, even if it’s just a walk down the block. My eating patterns are much healthier when I eat for nutrition and enjoyment instead of to fill a void.

    Of course I lose my balance (like this week, when I’ve eaten too much chocolate candy), but then I find it again. I know that there will be times when I over-indulge,¬†and the key is to be as understanding with myself as I would a friend. I’m glad that you’ve found encouragement in what I’ve been doing! You’re a regular inspiration to me, with your words of support and dedication to artful living. ;)

    Reply

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