No Homework and Recess All DayPosted: February 24, 2011
Just before the winter break I grabbed a few books off of the BFS shelf. I had forgotten that our friend and president of AERO, Jerry Mintz had written a book on Democratic Education. Being that I have been scheduled to give a presentation on this philosophy at the Park slope Food Coop in April, I thought it would be a good idea to bone up on some of the facts.
Jerry’s book No Homework and Recess All Day, is a very good introduction into the basic concepts that guide a Free School. His plain way of telling a story keeps you engaged while he lays out the positve results and experiences that take place as a result of this approach. He feels strongly that children need to be listened to, and how this can create some unexpected situations. He also makes it clear that when the balance of power shifts away from adults, the kids tend to step up and have some incredible solutions to daily problems.
One more point that I found unique to this book is that he he asks the question “Where do adults fit in?” This has been an interesting aspect of being involved with BFS over these years. It has had an affect on me as well as other parents. When a parent, whose child is enrolled with us, tells me that he/she still does not quite get it or trust it, my response to them is that they need to take the time to attend a democratic meeting. It is in this venue, as Jerry points out, that the most progress takes place. How children conduct themselves in the meetings. How it teaches them to listen to each other without interrupting (A feature in adults I find difficult to bare.) It builds confidence in a way that results in the students taking more responsibility for how their school is run.
The book is available at the AERO website. It is a quick read and lays out some of the many dimensions of a Free School. It lists many of the innovators who helped to build the education reform movement and lists many of the schools still in operation (as of 2003.) And the straight out story telling gives you a front seat into the adventures of the Shaker Mountain School which Jerry ran for 15 years in Burlington, Vermont. A must read for Free School afficianados.