A Leap of Faith – A Parent’s Prespective

The mind is a fire to be kindled, not a vessel to be filled.  


I love this quote and was tickled to see that last part of the phrase on the outside of a garbage can at my son’s school…….. “ a vessel to be filled.”   Clever I thought.

My son’s school is based on a model of education called Progressive Education.  A model I stumbled across over 20 years ago.   I had been a Speech Pathologist and worked with children with learning disabilities for many years.  It was disheartening to see 7 and 8 year old students who had already given up on themselves, already felt like failures, already knew they were incapable of succeeding.  I became ravenous for ways to bring sunshine and brightness back to their spirit.  That hunger led me to discovering educational programs that inspired me, thrilled me and made me eager about the future of education.

However, my hunger and eagerness were from the perspective of a “professional” or even of a “philosophy”.  This perspective was also from the outside looking in; like a detached view.  I didn’t realize the shift that would take place as a parent who witnesses their child in this new paradigm or model of education.  My son started at his Progressive school at the age of 3 because at the time it went from age 3-18.   As an only child, it gave him a sense of family, siblings and was really fabulous.  He was free to allow his mind to be kindled.  He could be outside many hours in the day and go to where he was inspired……his spirit was free and his confidence grew.  We loved it.  But by age 9 or 10, as a parent my mindset changed.  It was subtle; yet pervasive.  Fear had crept in.  Was my son “keeping up” with others?  Was he “on level”?  The very measures that I knew as a professional that were limiting creativity and inspiration, were now all I could think of and see.  I wish I could say, I overcame my fear and stayed true to my viewpoint.  Well eventually, I did.  I first gave into the fear.

At 11 years old, I put my son in a traditional model of education, just to “get him caught up”, but mostly it was probably fear that I had made a mistake as a parent and that my optimistic, philosophical viewpoint was just a pipe dream.  Oh my son “made the grades” but his spirit, his sense of himself, his true, unique expression was replaced with fitting in and being like everyone else.  I was heartbroken.

It took three years to stumble around in the familiar world of traditional education before collectively we decided it was time to return to the place where he felt most inspired to learn and create.

I didn’t realize that as a parent, I would have to transform, evolve and trust when I wholeheartedly put my son in a Progressive school.  I loved the “honeymoon” phase of the school.  I wasn’t prepared for the fear or for the feeling of losing my bearings as he grew into the higher grades of middle school and high school.  I also wasn’t prepared for the gifts and wisdom that he exemplifies when I do trust, let go and witness his journey.  He loves to learn.  He loves to be part of a community.  He loves to contribute and serve in a community.  He loves it that he has the experience of a progressive education and a traditional education.

Little did I know that over 20 years ago, my experience as a Speech Pathologist would have such an impact in my life.  Little did I know that putting my own child in a Progressive school would enliven my spirit and life by expanding me to trust and enjoy the journey as I watch my son’s gifts emerge not because I had to make sure that happened, but because it is his true desire.

Janet is an inspiration to me every time I read what she writes, listen to what she says and see what she does.  She lives what she believes – and is confident in how her child is unfolding. Thank you, Janet, for sharing your experiences and perspective.

A Leap of Faith – A Series on Progressive Education

A Leap of Faith – A Teacher’s Perspective

A Leap of Faith – A Student’s Perspective

A Leap of Faith – The Wrap Up

Please jump on over to Carol’s blog to read about her children’s first year at Kino (a Progressive Education school)


About Rutabaga the Mercenary Researcher

I'm a research librarian for Public Television, story teller, bike commuter, baker, music fiend, lover of reading & books, mother, wife, friend - and many more descriptive adjectives and nouns.
This entry was posted in Childhood, Children, Education, Guest Blogger, Parenting, Philosophy, Progressive Education, Society, Teachers, Teaching and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to A Leap of Faith – A Parent’s Prespective

  1. Paul says:

    Interesting that his education could impact his mother so strongly. Great post Rutabaga

  2. Reblogged this on The Mercenary Researcher and commented:

    Here is part 4 – one of my favorite Kino parents ~

  3. Jennie Saia says:

    You know… not to go all capitalistic here… but I feel that many of the traits that very high-earning professionals tend to exhibit are the ones that progressive education models highlight: creativity, divergent thinking; problem-solving; community-building, etc. Because while there are clearly problems with the pay scales afforded to different careers based on what “society” values… what we both need and tend to reward monetarily are confident leaders who see beyond checking boxes. So, while there’s often an association between non-traditional schools and some kind of “hippie” mindset, and therefore (I assume) the misguided notion that graduates of these schools won’t be ambitious… I think that might be even more misguided than first meets the eye. I think, if the student wanted to go on to be a CEO or entrepreneur, s/he might be exceptionally well-placed to do so. Am I totally off base here?

    • I think you’re not off base at all – I think that people taht are motivated to do that will make it happen no matter what. They might be more willing to take more chances if they’ve been allowed to pursue their own interests and believe that they can achieve whatever they set their minds to.

  4. Pingback: A Leap of Faith – The Week Wrap Up! | The Mercenary Researcher

  5. Thanks for your insightful post, Janet. I think it’s kind of cool that your son had the experience of both a traditional and progressive school. Because you experienced both, it really cemented what you feel about progressive education. Your son will never wonder what it could have been somewhere else. I have friends who home school, and their kids want to go to a traditional school to have that experience, too. I can understand that. Kids really seem to thrive under the Progressive School model. If they’re happy at school, that’s a very good sign!

  6. stephrogers says:

    This was really interesting. It is often hard as a parent to trust that you are doing the right thing. It takes real courage to stand behind your convictions.

  7. Karen says:

    I love this series and I’ve learned a lot. I know that I’d have a hard time not having the traditional measuring stick to gauge how my child is doing in school but I can see how progressive education is so valuable. Is it fair to say that only place to get a progressive education is in private schools? The hardest thing for me as a parent has been getting information about the schools I’m interested in for my kids.

    • I think aspects of a progressive education model are something that can happen in different schools. Montessori might be a good place to look. Tomorrow’s post will have some information about what to look for in classrooms/schools that I think is valuable.

      It is hard to get information – everyone had good/bad experiences at different schools…we have that same issue. I found that several schools that I went to made my stomach clench – and that was a BIG red flag. Karen – you might check out St. Mark’s for pre/kinder (it’s on Alvernon/2nd) that was a marvelous school – and so many families whose PARENTS went there still support the school and send their children there. If it went beyond Kinder, I’d have continued with it for D –

  8. Carrie Rubin says:

    Another great read. You might want to put up a page on your blog linking to this series so that people can easily find it in the future or click it if they land on your homepage. It’s really informative, both for readers who are unfamiliar with progressive education and those already experiencing it. So happy you tackled it!

  9. Again, another fantastic insight. I can understand that uncertainty about whether it’s the right decision, but then that’s all part of parenting anyway isn’t it! I read Carol’s post that you linked to as well, very cool.

  10. I makes me feel reassured that the emotions I’m going through are pretty much par for the course! I find being open and honest about our fears can be the best way to conquer them and to realize that we are not alone –

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