Journey to MatituckPosted: October 29, 2009
Earlier this week, with great reluctance, I signed on as a parent chaperon on a school trip out to Mattituck, Long Island. I have been out to this beach house before as a guest with my wife and son. But now I faced the daunting prospect of being out there with 14 children and 4 adults.
We loaded into four cars. The age group for this venture was 7-10 year old boys and girls. They were about evenly split as to gender, as it is with the rest of Brooklyn Free School. Getting through Brooklyn traffic took a bit of manevering, but after the delays, we were on our way. Within 90 minutes, we had reached our destination, with daylight to spare.
Getting 14 children to act as a unit would seem impossible, but to my surprise, this group was extremely cooperative. Despite the natural wildness, and the immediate urge to give in to their exuberance, they were able to come to agreement on conditions without any argument. David, their fearless, and energetic leader, kept things in constant check. Our first adventure was to head to the beach.
Immediate explorations began. some headed toward what was called the Stick House. Oren, who is our Huck Finn representative, found a discarded broken boat, and immediately fashioned it to b a raft. He had no problem getting wet in October, ans soon threw off his clothes (his skibbies remained) in order to face the challenge. Noah found an unusual shell formation. The girls had their own game going. Time to go back and make dinner.
Getting the grill going took some time, but dinner came off without a hitch. I was suffering from a headache and the cold was penetrating my bones. But a couple of hot dogs, and sausages changed my perspective. My body heat returned. The children played more games after dinner. Kick the can or Dark Tag, I am not sure which. But then they invented a scenario where they pretended one of the other houses were haunted. They kept running away, back to the our place, with real world panic at having seen a pretend ghost.
David really impressed me when he organized the sleeping arrangements. He called everyone to a meeting where he explained that not everyone was going to get what they wanted, and that concessions would have to be made. And after all what does it matter where we sleep, when of course, we will be asleep.
I crashed early, before the end of The Fisherman and his Wife. I had a 5 AM rise to get Mariano to the train. Went back and slept another 2 hours. I was awakened by the slow building chatter of the girls up in the loft. Soon the whole house erupted with excited noise and Noah yelling that he cold not sleep. I guess this meant it was time for breakfast and definitely, coffee!
More tag. Made lunch ahead of time. More tag in the rain. And finally it was back in the cars and home.
David related to me that this was not an exercise in going on retreat, but in building community. I watched how these children related to each other and I was impressed. We looked at them in awe, with the envy that I wish my childhood had had. And mine did have some of this, bu not with this much freedom. And us parents also begin to find our way to this kind of community. Even though we have different approaches and philosophies on life and especially diet, we come together on fostering resourcefulness in our children. This adventure just solidified the closeness we all feel as a group who is working agianst the tide of ignorance in relation to education. Can’t our elected officals see that the current policies and the antiquated approches have failed miserably?
That evening, Noah and I watched an episode of The Simpsons on Hulu.com. The episode dealt with education. Marge sees over crowded classrooms, teachers in blatant apathy and burnout. When she goes to Principle Skinner to complain, he offers her a cocktail, and tells her not to think about it too much. Now, I do not know about you, but when a popular cartoon series on a major network TV channel begins to express its concern with a decaying education system, I believe it is time for America to worry. And once you have forsaken worry as a solution, it may be time to take action. After all, whose life is this?