The last month has found us all in a very different landscape to what we are used to, and our normal has shifted so far many of us are questioning what ‘normal’ do we want to go back to. Over night everyone in Ireland became homeschoolers, first for what seemed a short period, and now we still don’t know when schools will reopen, if at all this school year. Although for many this is a very stressful situation, especially for those having to juggle working from home and children at home, for lots of others it has caused them to question our mainstream approach to schooling. Especially the high pressure exam and test culture and the impact this has on children and young peoples anxiety and happiness. There is a post circulating on Facebook asking if the children of this time won’t in fact be ‘left behind’ by the school closures, but rather be ahead. Ahead in empathy, compassion and reflection, as they have had a unique experience with an education interrupted. There are many articles (see links below for two I have found inspiring) on the internet discussing how we can’t go back to business as usual with regards to our economy and how we treat the environment, but what about education, can we go back to business as usual with education after such a different experience?
For those enjoying the freedom of education being shifted into the home, and witnessing their children’s innate ability and desire to learn, the Sudbury model offers something in keeping with this. Where children are in direct control of their education, are given the opportunity and responsibility to engage in the running of the school and are part of a functioning democratic community.
My children have had a very varied education so far and for them the lockdown experience of no school isn’t so different, having been home educated previously, and for me it is wonderful to have the pressure of work taken away (although this of course comes with financial stress) and just to be at home with them. Although of course we are all missing friends and going places! But now with school taken away they are both looking forward to the Sudbury school opening more than ever, as they are so enjoying the freedom of being out of the school routine, and instead are creating their own routines everyday. This isn’t all Instagram perfect activities and projects and is sometimes messy and confrontational, but it is living and learning every day. Something I have drawn from my reading around democratic education is that school shouldn't be to educate the future adult, but should be living. And that is what I think everyone is having to do right now, live in the moment as we are unable to plan ahead and think beyond the next few weeks. We are also extremely appreciative of, and grateful for the green space around us, emphasising how important green space will be for the school.
Despite the difficult situation we all find ourselves in, with life feeling somewhat on hold, the team here at the West Cork Sudbury school feels that continuing with our aim to open the school in September is more important than ever in order to offer choice for those who may be looking for a different normal to go back to when we get out the other side of this.
Jessica Mason - WCSS founder, parent, ecologist, dreamer and gardener.