For the past 8 years, I took my free time and poured it into education.
Not mine, directly, but my sons.
It started with a simple telephone call in 2002 from my best friend when I was traveling for a year when Hans was 3. She told me about this idea she had for starting a charter school in our home town, and she wondered if I would be interested in helping her when I returned home. “Sure,” I said. “That sounds interesting.”
And oh, was it. I learned about the word pedagogy, Steiner education, legislation, public school boards, meetings, grant writing, mobilizing people, public speaking, hard hard work, late hours around a kitchen table. For me, it was a year of my life dedicated to trying to provide a what is usually a private school education to the public. Sadly, it didn’t work.
I took a few weeks to lick my wounds, and then poured my heart into Hans’ (private school) Kindergarten, and in the years that followed, the Board, the fundraising group, the outreach group, and basically any crevice or corner of his school that needed help. For Pete’s sake, I volunteered to be on the finance committee when I can’t even balance my checkbook. I wanted to help that badly. I had the good fortune to become very intertwined with a number of wonderful, complex, loving, interesting, wacky women (and some men).
I won’t go into the hairy details of why, but I was compelled to be a founding family at yet a third elementary school when Hans was in the middle of 4th grade. We started the school in a home, moved a few weeks later to a room in a church, and finally took over a truly frightful rental property and turned it into a sweet school with 14 kids. But like a pendulum, at some point, the arc of my enthusiasm for dedicating my free time to Hans’ school waned at the same time Hans’ desire for a bigger pond to swim in increased.
It was time to leave the fold and strike out into new waters. That sentence, short and concise, hides the complexity of feelings, alliances, relationships, and the deep impression that zillions hours of time dedicated to a common cause make on a human being. I felt a bit like a bird jumping from the nest for the first time. A little freeing. A little terrified that things would not go smoothly and I would bounce off the ground. Excited to see what the world of public education actually looks like up close.
Hans, of course, jumped with abandon. Very Zen of him. He has slipped into the bustling and swirling world of 290 children, STAR testing, and 5th grade school play with a chin-up attitude that makes me so very proud. He did a ukulele solo in front of the entire school (parents and kids) with his plaid pants and purple button-down shirt, introducing himself with his music.
If he’s been afraid at any time, he hasn’t shown it.
He has inspired me.