Phew! What a weekend we had here at Wellspring. I feel like I'm still recovering and processing all that went on. We had our first conference, Introduction to Holistic Education: Conversations with Ron Miller, with about fifty or so people in attendance. After Ron's amazing keynote address we broke up into smaller discussion groups, and then had a cocktail reception afterwards to give people a chance to mingle and socialize. I am working on getting the video of Ron's talk up on the Internet so you can still watch it even if you weren't able to attend - or re-watch it if you were.
In our small discussion group, the topic was brought up of how to get people to embrace progressive educational settings. The observation was made that when people come to Wellspring (and I'm sure other schools find this as well) they love it and feel what a special place it is, but once they leave their minds start to take over and they find a million reasons not to step outside their comfort zone and into our community. We talked about how people are often driven by fear, how they think that if they stay with what everyone else does, then at worst they won't be any worse off than most. It is scary to take a leap of faith and embrace something different from what other people are doing and have always done.
When Stephanie, our fearless director, welcomed everyone to our event, she told the story of the beginning of Wellspring. A bunch of families had been engaged in discussions for weeks about the viability of starting a school, and they had begun to research how much it would cost. The number they came up with seemed to be insurmountable, and there was a air of disappointment in the air as everyone sat silently for a moment. And then someone said, "So, what should we call it?" and the rest, as they say, was history.
So I've been spending a lot of time thinking about this story and how we are so often motivated by fear and avoiding what we don't want instead of by embracing what we do want. I think that a very large part of what makes the Wellspring community so special is that it is a group of people who have rejected the fear and decided to take proactive steps towards creating an educational experience for children that represents what we believe to be the best thing for them. That's not to say that we aren't afraid - everyone is. But the difference is, the founding families saw the obstacles (financial and otherwise) and decided to go for it anyway. They had faith that by moving towards their vision, that everything would come together and their vision would become reality. It is hard and tiring and messy, but it is worth it. The families who have decided to enroll their children in the school also have a vision of what we want for our children, and even though we don't have the hard data to support our choices, we know in our hearts that we are doing what is right for our children and that is enough.
Ron's partner Jackie was in our breakout group, and she called places like Wellspring "pockets of hope". I think that's a beautiful way to think about it. So many people complain about high-stakes testing, and corruption, and inefficiencies, and budget cuts, and all kinds of problems in the mainstream public education system, but at Wellspring we are not complaining. We are simply choosing a different way. We are rejecting that paradigm and building something new. I know that as we keep doing our thing, more and more people will begin to see the success of Wellspring and other places like it - places where children are encouraged to develop academically, yes, but also emotionally, socially, artistically, spiritually, and in every other way imaginable - and will come to join us in our little pockets of hope.