Green School’s award-winning, open-air Heart of School bamboo building
“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that they are someone already, today.”
― Stacia Tauscher
For visitors to Green School, you will know there are beautiful bamboo classrooms but no hallways linking the rooms together. This is unsettling to many new parents as well as people who come on tours.
“I see you don’t have covered areas between the classrooms,” someone will ask. “What happens when it rains?”
“They get wet,” we respond.
“And the grounds don’t have paved paths. What happens when they fall?” they challenge.
“They skin their knees and get up,” we reply.
There is a momentary pause as they consider whether we are being rude, silly, or dismissive. When they realize we are being moderately serious they ponder, nod, not always sure whether to believe us or not.
We do have umbrellas. And when a child falls and scrapes their knee we help them up and give them love. We support and care for our students but we also know they are independent and capable. As a society, we have created a culture where we fear children getting wet will lead to illness and that a minor scrape requires medical professionals.
Middle School students learning in nature…in our campus mud pit!
We share a document with interested parents entitled, “Is Green School Bali the Right School for You?” A few of the highlights:
- Embrace supported risk-taking, for example, climbing, using tools to make things, knives in the kitchen, running in flip-flops, and climbing coconut trees.
- Accept as parents, that our children will lose items on the campus that may never be seen again.
- Know that challenges and difficulties are opportunities for growth – agreeing that it’s not helpful to rescue at every hardship and remove reasonable obstacles.
As parents, we believe we can shape our children to be the perfect being. If we read to them each night, teach them to kick a ball, have them master advanced algebra at 10, play an instrument, help them make friends, and assist them with their writing then everything will turn out just fine.
We know this isn’t true although we may not want to admit it. A voice inside of us continues to confirm we are doing the right thing. But all we need to do is look in the mirror and reflect on those around us to know the shortcomings of our parental control.
While there are thousands of books on parenting, anyone who is a parent will tell you parenting is not a science. Yes, it’s a good idea to help your kid read and do math. We don’t want our kids to smoke and drink. They should be kind. In the end, however, children are so uniquely different that when we try to Chicken-Soup-for-the-Soul our kids we find what helped Billy isn’t that great for Ingrid.
The unfortunate part of being a kid is that society will not just let them be. Parents look at their children through a lens of fear: “I was terrible at French so Tommy will be terrible so I am going to get him a tutor even though I know it will make him miserable.” First of all, who cares if your kid knows French? Second of all, maybe they don’t want to learn French. Thirdly, they will be just fine in this world if they don’t know French (unless of course if they live in France then this could be a handicap).
We are so afraid of just accepting that our kids are normal that we need to celebrate their successes on Facebook and Instagram, telling the world that they got a perfect test score or that they got into a top university. But we never ask our kids if they want us to be doing that. Why are we comparing our kids to each other? Is it for them or is it for us? All kids are great. All kids are normal. In the end, no kids are really exceptional. They do exceptional things BUT when you look at the total package they are pretty normal. This is OK. If we just take the pressure off of our kids then maybe they won’t have the same problems we have because of what our parents did to us.
Parents and students celebrate V-Day at Green School together
Books, workshops, therapy, and Podcasts have their role and can be helpful. We all learn differently and answers come from a variety of different places. But one of the best ways for us to be better parents is to be honest with each other and share our challenging stories. We all know the father who sits in a group talking about his perfect daughter is not telling the truth. He knows it as well. If he hears others talking honestly about their kids then he receives permission to share. While we say The Bridge @ Green School is a place for parents to wear their adult hats, the reality is we never stop being parents. Talking and sharing with others is a powerful way for us to support each other and develop.
Does this mean we should love our kids less? No. Does this mean we should let them do whatever they want? No. But it does mean we need to have an honest awareness of how complicated parenting is and in the end our only job is to keep them relatively safe and love them as best we can. We aren’t doing what we do because we hate our kids. We do it because we love them too much. And that is also our duty to love our kids too much. We just need to manage the fear component and trust them more.
You can try to protect your kid forever. It is scary to let go. But they won’t be happy.
As John Shedd tells us:
“A ship in a harbour is safe but that is not what ships are built for.”
Sail away, sail away, sail away…
Green School students sail on Gunter Pauli’s solar-powered boat