Monthly Archive: December 2008

Reschooling With Poetry: Field Trip, 1988

This is one of several poems I’ve come across lately about childhood, school, and growing up.

I’ve always written more prose than poetry, and most of my poems are from my teen years, when I was having trouble accepting that I was growing up. The poems are filled with nostalgia for a simpler past and often have a tinge of melodrama, since I use strong language when I’m passionate about something. This one was modeled on a Sharon Olds poem, inspired by a photo of myself at age seven on a school field trip to a local bird preserve. Remember that I was 17 when I wrote it, so please forgive any hints of cheesiness.


Feelin’ the Christmas Cheer

I hope that you are all making merry during this long weekend. I’m feeling particularly content at the moment after one of those days that helps me put my priorities in order. This fall I’ve been operating in overdrive, not allowing myself much decompression time because I’ve worked mostly from home. Today I had a real vacation day where I did my favorite activities: exercising, envisioning future possibilities, indulging in incredible food, and feeling inspired to pursue my passion. Best of all, I shared these things with some of my favorite people on earth. It was a day that reminded me how I want my life to be, and how it’s up to me to make sure it ends up that way. Here’s the rundown of events:

8:45 am: 5-mile jog after a full night of sleep. My sister’s fiance, Brian, and I kicked off the morning with a run through the sunny Sonoma backroads, past vineyards and rolling green hills. It felt good to move after indulging in so many rich holiday delights.

11:00 am: Cohousing Tour in Cotati. Many of you know that one of my most important goals is to live in a community setting one day, with multiple families living in separate homes built on a shared property. Cohousing developments are one possibility, like condo complexes owned by the residents and designed to have large common spaces. Gill, Bri, Darren, and I toured a cohousing community in Cotati that had a toolshop, vegetable garden, dance/music studio, and a couple of costume closets. They had me at “costume closet.” I am crossing my fingers that our own little enclave, perhaps in the south, is in the cards in the next few years.


Snapshots of Reschooling

Now you're all in big, big trouble.

The photos taken in and out of the classroom this fall tend to be among people’s favorite things about the project, especially those of me looking like Will Ferrell’s Buddy among the elves. I’ve uploaded some of them to Picasa and Flickr, and I’ll continue to do so over the next couple of months. I’ll let you know when I add more.

Shots from each of the schools and me in action. Highlights include the Middle School Dance, Middle School P.E., and College Dorm Life.

First days of elementary school:

Remember This? #36 Desk Cleaning Day

If you do, leave a comment!

Remember cleaning out your desk before the winter break? This one stayed open by itself, but other kids needed to prop theirs up with rulers. Most modern desks have a flat surface and cubbyhole instead of a hinged lid, but these are relics from the old days. Mr. Neubacher believes that it’s important for kids to have a home in the classroom and learn to take care of their own space.

Reschooling with Poetry: Fern Hill

This is one of several poems I’ve come across lately about childhood, school, and growing up.

I read “Fern Hill” for the first time in high school English. It captured my nostalgia for what I remember as a fairly idyllic childhood, which gave me a bit of a Peter Pan complex. Why grow up if being a kid is this magical? I’m sure it wasn’t actually quite so perfect for any of us, but like many, I tend to romanticize the past. I especially love the last line of this poem.

Fern Hill
By Dylan Thomas

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.


Mulling Over Memories & Spiced Wine

I’ve taken a breather from blogging in the past few days to let my fall reschooling sink in. It feels good to take a few days of real vacation, probably the first that I’ve let myself have since August. When alone, I work myself into the ground, but when I’m with friends, they thankfully wrench me away from my workaholism. And whenever my sister Gill comes to town, as she did this weekend, then the wild rumpus starts.

During the holidays, I’ll be blogging sporadically. Gill and her fiance, Brian, are in Sonoma this week, and Darren arrives tomorrow. This means there will be lots of carousing and posing for ridiculous photos, but not as much writing. Next week I’ll be buckling down and gearing up to spend the spring in Jackson, so I hope to get rid of the piles of CDs and bags of yellow pads that seem ready to swallow me whole.

I’m still mulling over and making sense of my time in the classrooms. The final step of revisiting the past will be processing “personal artifacts”: old photos, home movies, and keepsakes. Perhaps most importantly, I’ll read the writing that I’ve saved from my school days, such as newspaper editorials, humor pieces, journal entries, personal statements from my college applications, and the short autobiography I wrote my senior year of high school. My teenage writing is rife with school stress and nostalgia for a carefree childhood, and it helps me understand the powerful influence school had on who I became.

I spent so many years wishing that I could just be a kid again. Now that I’ve taken the opportunity to relive my childhood in many ways, I’m finally ready to let it go.

Classroom Phase Complete!

I officially completed my classroom reschooling today, almost four months exactly after I began August 20th. I’m glad that I decided to spend a week tracing my way back through the grades. It felt good today to see all the kids I’ve connected with over the fall and revisit the school spaces. I spent yesterday with the fifth, fourth, and third graders and today with the second and first graders, ending with kindergarten at the very end of the day. Coming back to where I started gave me a strong sense of closure. I’ll write a longer post soon about my last week of reschooling and how it all feels. At the moment I’m running out the door to various appointments and holiday parties — onto the next thing right away as usual!

In the next few weeks I’ll be doing the following:

  • Sharing stories that haven’t made it into the blog yet
  • Sorting through old journal entries, photos, and other keepsakes
  • Clearing major clutter and preparing to spend the spring in Mississippi
  • Reflecting on overall lessons learned and personal progress during the fall reschooling
  • Making plans for the spring, including what I want to learn and how to proceed with writing the book

As with the end of the college phase, my brain is brimming with information, images, and ideas. It’s so overwhelming that I feel like I need to zone out watching some awful reality TV just to let it all sink in. Maybe when I get home tonight, I’ll fashion myself a homemade diploma with Crayolas and construction paper, so I can make my graduation official.

Five Observations While Coming Full Circle

This week I’m revisiting my schools in reverse order to record descriptive details that I couldn’t focus on while participating: students’ hair color, teachers’ vocal inflections, and so on. I went back to high school on Tuesday, middle school today, and am finishing up at elementary school tomorrow. The timing just happened to work out that way, but it feels right to come full circle and end in kindergarten where I began four months ago. Here are five observations so far as I return for a second round of reschooling:

1. I feel that I’ve neutralized the emotional charge that school used to have for me, and I hope it lasts. While I still feel compelled to help transform public education, I’ve come to appreciate the great things about my schools and have stopped dwelling on the not-so-great ones.