"I hate school" is a too often spoken phrase in our modern culture. The institution of education as it exists today was not created for the child's well-being. The goal of school was to create obedient workers and soldiers that would not question authority or the status quo. Nowadays, thankfully, there are several more progressive programs that are child-focused that encourage creativity and innovation. Still, though, children are regularly coerced to learn, tested on content that isn't their forte, and kept indoors and in front of screens.

Taking from the philosophies of Democratic schooling, PETALS curriculum is child-led with qualified educators guiding where needed, motivating when appropriate, and assisting when asked. PETALS members work with children of all ages, believing in the Montessori priority of multi-age grouping. We pull on the ideas of Reggio Emilia in our belief that children are competent and powerful; in the model of Waldorf in that education should focus on the whole and particular child, holistically; and, from the unschooling model where young people learn because they want to, not because they have to. We also support student working on passion projects, as a group or as individuals a la Big Picture Learning. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, we draw from the concept of Forest Schools since we believe children thrive when in wild nature, learning from their natural habitat on planet Earth, because what use is everything else if our species continues down an environmentally destructive path.

A group of parents in Topanga Canyon share these goals for their children and, thus, PETALS Learning Community was born. Families no longer have to commute out of the canyon, study alone, or pay exorbitant tuition to access alternatives to the traditional model. We welcome you to reach out and see if PETALS is right for your family.

More . . .

2018 WWF Report says humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles, leading the world’s foremost experts to warn that the annihilation of wildlife is now an emergency that threatens human civilization. Climate change has been declared an emergency by over a dozen countries and countless local jurisdictions. If we continue educating children with the colonizing, hierarchical, coercive modality that is considered the norm, won’t we just continue down this destructive path?

What if, instead, we learned from our ancestors? The recent UN Biodiversity report has tragic significance, but offers hope if transformative change occurs. The report alludes to this change coming from adopting an indigenous worldview, one that honors place, all beings, nature connectedness, spirituality/mystery, natural cycles, humility, generosity, music, play, and more.

Could that be more in line with guiding children to grow to be happy, healthy, and connected?

For hundreds of thousands of years, children educated themselves through self-directed play and exploration. Agriculture and industry forced children to be laborers. Play and willfulness had to be beaten out of children. In modern schooling, the same power assertive methods that created good workers and soldiers, are used where children are not encouraged to question authority, question hegemonic instruction, think creatively, etc. This is why some of the most successful people of our time were “drop outs.” Now, learning is considered the work of children. And children are coerced (often bribed or threatened) to do that work. No wonder so many people love summer vacation.

What if learning was as exciting as summer break? For 99.9% of human history, it was. Hunter-gatherer children had an enormous amount to learn to become successful adults in their culture, and they learned it all without being taught. They were given enormous amounts of time to play and that play often included emulating adult activities.

What does that play look like for us today? How can we do “school” more indigenously? Do we want our children to care about where they live, to become activists, to understand diversity and relationships among humans and the natural world, do we want them to practice art, cultural awareness, build community and positive character, see value in other life-forms, be strong in mind and body, know history and current events from multiple perspectives, learn because they want to not because they are forced to, learn through projects that are interdisciplinary, be respected and valued by adults, play games, do art, read books, enjoy music…..

Self directed education is where learners chose activities and experiences freely. It includes classes, lessons, play, cooperation, projects, mentor guidance all motivated by curiosity, playfulness, and sociability rather than being imposed and motivated by rewards or punishments. Its goal is uniqueness rather than conformity, nurturing rather than suppressing. Our species was designed to learn by intrinsic motivation.

The home school collective PETALS we are creating here will provide opportunities for play, reverence for Earth, tinkering, arts, language, and strength of mind and body.