Friday, December 26, 2008

Fireside Chat

I’ve been a part of so many interesting things since becoming Assembly President that it seems high time to report on some of my experiences.

So here are some random notes (à la Matt Garrity):

  • Work party (11/16): I did a bunch of detail work on painting the railing, following after broad-brush painters like Robert (14), Gregory (11), and Gabriel (10). While painting, I bored Chloe (11) with the maxims I derived from my misspent youth, caught up with Stephanie (staff), got Kevin (parent) to paint the parts of pillars that I was too short to reach, and turned down an offer of a “Kindness Cookie” from Jesse (6), only to come to my senses later and go get one--it turned out to be a totally fantastic chocolate chip cookie. I wore a beige sweatshirt, which my offspring pointed out was not a particularly wise choice for painting...but I only got one streak on the cuff. I guess it wasn’t going to be for dress-up anymore anyway.

  • Piloting the New Parent Welcome Wagon program: First I had a great talk by phone with a father who is philosophically on-board with the Sudbury model and very comfortable with the way Clearwater is set up, but who was still processing his reactions to the school. The veteran parent who introduced him to Clearwater told him this processing still goes on after many years. Then I had a very lengthy phone conversation with a mother with lots of questions about helping a younger child adapt well to Clearwater. I was able to remember what it was like for me when Gabriel started at Clearwater coming from a very structured preschool. She said she felt much better after talking to me, and I hope it was true! Later, I also made contact with two other new families who are feeling very happy with the school and don’t have any questions right now.

  • The first official Community Building Committee (CBC) meeting: We got off to a great start with mystery herbal chai and my raw-in-the-middle whole wheat maple quick bread. Martha (parent) agreed to head up the Family Game Day effort and to help shape the incipient Parent Handbook, though she was coy about whether she would join the committee or not. Sharon (parent) agreed to head up the revamping of the Parent Chat program to see if we could make it more relevant to parents and draw larger groups. I loved her idea of looking into alternate locations so that we could vary the neighborhood each time to make it more accessible to all. Susan (parent) agreed to be the first official Welcome Wagon parent until such time as she needs to call in reinforcements because of a deluge of new families. I was so thrilled with my delegating...but I still need to write up my recommendations for the Welcome Wagon.

  • Another graduate: I was disappointed that my job kept me from attending Claire’s graduation presentation. I’m always excited and proud to see Clearwater graduates reflect on their experiences at the school. I’ve known Claire for six years and she has always been an impressive and talented person—it sounds like I missed quite a performance. Shawna (staff) stopped by my house so I could add my signature to Claire’s diploma, my duty as Assembly President and a great honor. Sorry my signature isn’t very ornate, Claire, and best of luck in your new pursuits and adventures!

One thing I have discussed with staff and various committee members several times in the past few months is that our various efforts in support of the school sometimes keep people so busy that it can be hard to find time to update the broader community about our progress and to fully acknowledge everybody’s contribution. I hope this report gives a window into the commitment of the many people putting forth time and energy on behalf of Clearwater. I encourage all to stay in the loop by continuing to check the school blog. And please free to email me any time with questions.

Keep the enthusiastic participation coming!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Winter Break Started Early

Like many other Seattle area schools, Clearwater started its winter break unexpectedly early due to the snowstorm. But how many other schools can say that their students were disappointed by the early start of vacation?

Happy Holidays and safe travels, everyone. See you next year!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Caroling Rehearsal

Carolers rehearsing

For the past three weeks, nine students and I have been preparing for a school performance of Christmas carols. If the weather holds we are all excited to sing tomorrow at 3:30pm.

This project began soon after the Thanksgiving break, when some of us sang carols on the bus ride home. I asked the singers if they would be interested in practicing singing carols at school and giving a performance. They all thought it sounded like fun and we invited other students to join us the next day.

At our first meeting we all named carols we wanted to sing and sang samples of each. We agreed on eight songs: older, sacred, modern, secular and most of them lively. Several songs were unfamiliar to some, but everyone wanted to learn and sing all of them. We started out meeting once a week, but during the past two weeks we've met three days a week.

It has been wonderful working on this project and seeing the commitment each singer has to rehearsing, learning songs and singing in a group. They all practice the songs at home and at school, even when they're not in rehearsal. The singers are a high-energy group and have dramatically increased their stamina for standing together in one place for the length of eight songs. We have also had to negotiate whether to include the extra bits at the end of phrases in "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer". (You'll have to attend the performance to find out what everyone decided.)
If snow doesn't close school tomorrow, I will video the performance and put a clip on the blog. Happy holidays everyone!

Pledge Drive Begins

The Clearwater School announces the beginning of its 2009 fundraising campaign. End 2008 by giving a tax-deductable donation in support of our generous tuition assistance program!

Like other schools, families and businesses, Clearwater has been affected by the current economy. But even though our income decreased this year, our commitment is as strong as ever to ensure that any student who wishes to, is able to attend The Clearwater School. With our dedication to making our school available to families from all income levels, each year 40 to 50 percent of our students receive tuition assistance.

Give a little, give a lot. You donation will provide the additional funding needed for the school-year general budget, including reinstatement of approved staff salaries. It also represents half of the amount of tuition assistance we are providing to Clearwater students during the 2008-09 school year.

Contact the school office by calling 425-489-2050 or mail payment to
The Clearwater School
1510 196th St SE, Bothell, WA 98012

Monday, December 15, 2008

Joey's Background

This picture of the school is a wallpaper made by Joey using Inkscape and Gimp. It can be found in 4 sizes, below.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

All Quiet on the blog

The members of the PR committee are also members of the Fundraising committee, which has been very busy this week with the end of year campaign. We'll be back here soon!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Claire's Graduation Photos and Video

Claire's recent graduation was held on such a beautiful and sunny day. And yet, I don't know what was brighter--the sun or Claire's frequent smiles. She was glowing that day.

On a personal note, Claire has been a big part of my life. I first met her and her parents when she and our son Ian were only a year and a half. Seeing her at her presentation as a confident and articulate young woman filled me with pride. I could so easily click into my geezer voice and reminisce about all the memories... but I'll spare her that.

Throughout the presentation and the party afterwards I snapped a lot of pictures. I also shot some video of her hula dancing. I'll post a couple of pictures here, but I have put a gallery up on our family website.

Congrats Claire!

Photo Gallery

Field Trip Thursdays

Tucker is organizing a field trip on the first Thursday of the month to a museum. First Thursdays are free, and Matt takes them on the bus. Everyone chips in for gas, one whole dollar. Today they went to the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.

Artwork by Delayney

Delayney does paintings on fabric. She stiffens the fabric first by ironing it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Reading, Gaming and Getting Serious

When my son entered a Sudbury school, he was not yet a reader and this worried many of the people that we knew. He spent his days building forts, talking and playing with friends, and boasting to his friends in “regular” school that he did not have to wear shoes or learn anything at all. He was seven.

God only knows why this was OK with me; I clearly remember the intense desire to ‘crack the code’ of letters and words, and it was obvious to me almost from the beginning of my son’s life that this was not something we shared. Letters and words are, in a way, too two-dimensional for him, too precise. Once things are out of his head and articulated, they are too final. Even now the written word is not a part of his creative process; he simply remembers everything. But I knew that he would learn to read, and that he did not need to be enticed, badgered or embarrassed in order to learn. So I watched him pass a few years without really caring about reading, and then one week I watched him read the last Harry Potter book on his own. He was ten.

This is not a reassuring scenario for many parents. It’s practically an advertisement for not sending your child to a Sudbury school. How could I just stand by and allow my child to remain illiterate for so long? I could have hired a tutor, or worked with him at home, or sent him to a traditional school where he would have been sure to learn to read at grade level. But the reality was more nuanced than it seemed. He was doing a lot of casual reading every day, reading signs and cereal boxes, following along with Captain Underpants, and going over the Pokémon books on his own, for example. He kept much of this to himself, knowing there was a great deal of power, most of it emotional, that other people conferred on his ability to read. He did not let on that he could read at an ‘everyday’ level. He was like a magician, pulling a reading rabbit out of a hat. It was a game, a trick.

Now he is engaged in another form of illusion, another hot-button issue that worries many adults who are involved in his life or who are looking for examples of how Sudbury kids waste their time and do not do anything serious, anything worthy. He is a gamer. I see him playing games every day, all of the time. He loves games, really loves them. He prepares for a day at school by going through his complicated collection of Magic cards, assembling decks that he hopes to ride to victory. He plays with anyone who is willing, and he is not exclusive in the games he will play. He’ll play almost anything. He goes through phases, where one particular game will rise to prominence over all others. One week it is Magic or poker, one month it is World of Warcraft. He’ll spend a few days beating a video game, and for variety he’ll play Apples to Apples or some other board game that is currently hot. He’ll exhaust a game and go back to it later and find more joy in it. He is twelve.

The trust I had in him when he was seven is still there. What he is doing is not a waste of his time; he is developing social and strategic skills, and many more strengths I don’t recognize. Part of me feels that it is unfair to try to parse his gaming to extract some reassuring list of accomplishments. He does not play to further a long-range plan, he does it purely for the joy of it. I mention skills because I know that parents worry about them and want to see the light at the end of the dark tunnel. But for him there is nothing dark about what he loves, no light beckoning to him. He knows how he wants to turn this love of his into a vocation, and he has been actively getting to know video game designers and getting advice on what to study, where to do it, and what he needs to know before he gets to college. He meets these developers at a big gaming store where they get together and play Magic. He plays with them (and has begun beating them).

I have had moments of anxiety about all of this, most of them caused by conversations with people I know who are critical of our decision to raise a Sudbury student. But the faith I have in him is always there to reassure me. I am very glad that I have not spent the last six years wondering when he is going to ‘get serious’.

Karen Hyams