Setting up a SOLE school is not for the faint hearted. It requires a belief that education is about more than what we grew up with. It is about recognizing that education is personal and self-driven. Education must follow the interests of the child so that they can develop their skills and ideas to help them become successfully educated people who from childhood are working to fulfill their dreams.
A SOLE school would be a school that would look radically different from other schools. Gone would be desks and lectures and structured lessons. Gone would be the adults making the final decisions. In their place would be the students learning about the things they are interested in. It would be cooperative decision making with adults and students being equals. The adults would provide the guidance and moral reasoning. Teachers would be inserting the curriculum into the learning where it was necessary. Some language arts concepts would be taught through drama, dance, art, music. Laptops and research would be cornerstones in the educational development of the kids. Direct, hands on experience would be integral in their education.
In order to have a SOLE school become a reality it involves hiring the right people for the position. No longer required are the type A, structured, by the book people who now inhabit our classrooms. Required are open minded thinkers who are flexible and adaptable in understanding that curriculum is to be taught within the boundaries established by the children in the room. They must be ready to pursue any angle to help the children grow. Curriculum must be woven into the children’s learning. It should not be the sole basis for their learning. This must be done from Kindergarten forward as children are capable of doing modified forms of SOLE at the early grade levels.
As important as all this is students need to be exploring a world in which they live. Their learning should have technology and resources available to facilitate research and hands on learning. There should be an understanding within the community that all students should receive hands on experience where their interests lie. If someone wishes to explore auto mechanics they should have time in a garage and then spend time researching the things they are trying to understand. Along with this students need to understand how speaking, presentation, social skills affect their place and understanding in the world. Students should also have a social conscience. In exploring an area of the human condition and their world they need to see and understand firsthand how their actions and behaviours impact the rest of the world. In the past children would learn trades/jobs from their parents. If your father was a storekeeper you would learn how to run a store. If your father was a farmer you would learn everything you needed to know about farming. As we moved more towards urban centres we have moved away from the concept. We need to revive this concept with SOLE so that kids may explore and understand the world around them.
Teachers and students need to explore ways of self-funding. This teaches the students about handling money and developing their interest and abilities in entrepreneurship which allows them greater freedom to pursue their interests.
I want to stress here that the curriculum will be covered, not just in the way that formal education has seen it done for the last century. If we are simply teaching curriculum for the sake of teaching curriculum we are wasting our time. The teaching of curriculum must be done in a more practical way that evolves as the child grows. If they need to write a letter they need to be taught letter writing skills. We can no longer afford to teach children skills that they may or may not use in the future. The curriculum is like many government laws. They are added to in order to make them stronger but in so much detail the enforceability is lost. There are too many things in a curriculum to cover satisfactorily.