What do kids learn at The Circle School? More than I can know or name, I'm sure. But what do we see them learning? Here's what some of the staff have seen in recent months ...
I have seen kids learn to value reading as a functional tool. They read the agenda for the School Meeting to determine whether or not to attend this week. They read about upcoming field trips and other events on the front door. When they serve on the JC they must read the complaints they are investigating. They read the muffin recipe, to divvy up the ingredients for various people to bring in. They read the school law book to determine what law was broken, so they can fill out a JC complaint.
I have seen kids learning to value writing as a functional tool. They discover that in order to be certified to use the telephone, they have to be able to write well enough to write down a message and have the certifier read it. They write letters to their favorite TV and movie stars. They must write down the bylaws of their corporations for approval by the School Meeting. They must compose clear and concise motions to be presented to either the School Meeting or the Assembly.
I have seen kids learn perseverance as they work on projects dear to their hearts, for hours at a time.
I have seen six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds learning basic math skills as they "play" a computer game, working together to solve 100 multiplication and division equations.
I have seen kids learn how to remind themselves that they must be someplace at a certain time. They independently and with no prompting by adults, gather their things at 3:15pm and sit on the front couches waiting for the bus.
I have seen kids learn how to devise systems to remind themselves to do their daily chores, and to check off their completed chore on the chore checklist. Their various systems have included signs at their cubbies reminding them or asking an adult to let them know when it is a certain time.
I have seen kids learn how to keep a clean and neat cubby, after being written up and having to appear before the JC one too many times for having a cubby that continually spilled its guts onto the floor.
I have seen kids learn problem solving skills, working with each other and adults to hammer out certification procedures for safe, proper use of the computers, the sewing equipment, the piano, and the upstairs.
I have seen kids learn how to enjoy being with an adult (formerly viewed as someone to avoid if possible). They discuss what they did on the weekend, the latest Star Trek show, last night's political debate, a book they were currently reading, or how to compose a rule that would address all the issues involved in messes made at school by groups of kids working together around a table.
I have seen kids learn to transfer skills from one area to another. They write signs for the front door using printing skills they had been practicing from a calligraphy book. They use paper folding tricks, also learned from a book, to create their handmade Valentines or to design an individualized birthday page.
I have seen kids learn how to deal with difficult interpersonal situations, by refining problem solving skills and becoming more flexible. For example, what rules are necessary for this game to be pleasant enough for all who want to to play? Should there be different rules for different ages? For different skill levels? What is fair? What is not fair? What is safe? What is not safe and might invite intervention by an adult?
I have seen kids learn how to monitor their environment and say to each other, "It's too noisy down here for us. Let's go upstairs where it is quiet. "
I have seen children learn to draw on community resources. A five-year old went with an adult to the library to find a recipe for pancakes and then to the grocery store to purchase ingredients to make them.
I have seen kids learn to control their natural inclination to move constantly, watching them attend a meeting of a corporation or a committee that really interests them -such as the ad hoc committee appointed by the School Meeting to recommend what to do about the television set at The Circle School.
I have seen kids learn to make mistakes, admit them, and make amends.
I have seen kids learn the value of advertising. They planned to make and sell food one day, but due to a lack of notification, very few customers had cash on hand and the food items didn't sell as briskly as they had hoped.
I have seen kids learn how to do things they don't want to do. They sit and wait and wait and wait through a boring School Meeting for the motion they want to vote on. They bite the bullet and clean up someone else's mess because they want to use an area that has been closed because it was too messy.
I have seen kids learn how to write IOU's so they can purchase a food item. I have also seen kids learn to remember to pay off their IOU'S, after being refused a subsequent loan.
I have seen kids learn that there are ways to learn, other than being taught by an adult. I watch them teach each other to throw a football, to multiply and divide, to knit, to write.
I have seen kids learn how to effectively run meetings. I watch them chair the School Meeting, attending to old business, new business, motions, discussions, points of order, votes, reports, and announcements. I watch them chair committee meetings, less formal perhaps, but still requiring orderly proceedings guided by an effective chairperson.
I have seen kids learn how to express themselves through painting, music, sewing, knitting, quilting, and dramatic play.
I have seen kids learn how to tune out distractions, intently reading a book on the couch while all around them others are talking.
I have seen kids learn to value themselves, as they see the adults around them honoring to the greatest extent possible their choices about how they spend their time and how, when, where, and what they choose to learn.
I have seen kids learn how to listen to themselves to discover what turns them on, what they are particularly drawn to and not drawn to, what they want to do next.
I have seen boys learning to knit -casting on, knitting, purling. And I have seen girls learning football -passing, catching, making downs.
I have seen kids of all ages learn to play physical games together -finding ways to avoid hurting younger kids while still challenging the older ones.
I have seen kids learn design skills. They create a design, then make a pattern from it, and then sew it into reality.