Village Free School

A very good friend of mine from college is one of the founders of a very interesting place. It’s called the Village Free School in Portland, Oregon. I’m afraid to say very much about it because I don’t want to tell you lies, I’m honestly not entirely familiar with what they do, other than that they are a very good school and their philosophy seems to be in line with my own.

My understanding of what a “free school” is is rudimentary. I think that the essential idea is that the kids and teachers work together to determine what the lesson will be on and how it will be taught. Whatever topics are piquing the interest of the kids at any given time are explored thoroughly until their curiosity and interest has been satiated. Teachers are there to facilitate, and I’m sure they can inject any good ideas they might have into the learning process if they are so inclined.

I compare this to my experience in lower and middle school. I went to a Montessori style school from pre-kindergarten until I entered undergraduate. The way our school worked was that we had to fulfill certain requirements; say, four “humanities” assignments, three “math and science” assignments, and two “writing” assignments. We were given fairly large leeway to do these things, and a range of activities to choose from. You could generally also “think outside the box.”

For example, my favorite activity was the “shark report,” where you choose a type of shark and write a few paragraphs about it, making sure to answer some basic questions. One day, a friend and I were working on an assignment, and my pencil point hitting the paper was bothering him a lot. So, we got together and decided to learn cursive (I think this was in the second grade). All we got done in a single day was one shark report, but since it was in cursive, we had impressed the teacher enough that she said it was okay. That’s the kind of good feeling that comes from taking initiative, following through, and accomplishing something you can be proud of, and that feeling can only come when you have the freedom to do those things.

The free school seems like it’s even more along the lines of what I support. I support freedom, in all its forms, and giving people, especially kids, the ability to learn responsibility, entrepreneurship, and self-motivation. I think the free school is an exemplar of this attitude, whereas public school is the exact opposite.

The Village Free School in Portland is accepting gifts of money or materials so that they can continue their mission of providing a great learning environment for their students.  Just taking a look at the materials they are looking for gives you a sense of the enabling environment they are building.  I plan to donate and I hope you will too.


Enlightenmentors in Relationships

Every once in a while, in (I hope) everyone’s life, someone comes along who helps show you things about yourself that you never knew.  They facilitate learning about yourself and help you discover truths that you weren’t even aware existed.  From that point on in your life, you are changed and even if you tried, you couldn’t go back to the way you were again.  I like to call these people Mentors.  Yay, capital letters.  A Mentor is someone who will challenge you to be a better person, and who cares enough to ask you to explain yourself just so that you yourself will learn about what and who  you are.

This is heavy stuff.  But, I think everyone can think back on their lives and find an example of one or two people like this, at least.  If not, I suggest you find one, because a life lived unquestioned is a life not lived at all.  What I want to explore in this post, though, is what happens when your significant other (SO) is such a person.

There are four scenarios as I see them:  First, that you and your SO both mentor each other.  Second, you are mentored by your SO.  Third, you mentor your SO.  Fourth, neither of you mentor the other.  I would like to explore them one by one.  Keep in mind, though, that I don’t have very much experience with relationships, so I could be dead wrong on any of these points.

First I will address the case where neither of you mentors the other.  I would imagine, even though I don’t know, that such a relationship would be exhausting.  Each person would be unchallenged and stagnant.  If both parties are very very secure and comfortable with themselves and each other, they may be able to get along without growing as people.  I think, though, if one of them did find someone who could challenge them, it might end this relationship.

Second, if you are being mentored by your SO, I imagine you will feel insecure.  Your growth and possibly your self-esteem will be dependent on interaction with them.  I also imagine that it would get very tiring to be moving through stages of life that simply blow you away while your fellow traveler is where they always were, not being challenged.  You run the risk of becoming a very different person who will not be comfortable in the relationship any longer.

Third, if you are doing the mentoring, it can feel very good.  You are helping someone you love improve themselves and learn about themselves.  You are taking care of them and watching them blossom.  I feel like this is what I did in the earlier stages of my life with Melissa, and I enjoyed immensely.  I hope this is not an unfair characterization.

Finally, you mentor each other.  I think this is a very difficult situation to find.  Each person has to have something unique and powerful to bring to the relationship.  Each person cares enough about the other to want to see them become all that they can be.  I imagine that this can be very fulfilling.  If either of you are having an existential or philosophical or ethical crisis, the other will be there to provide guidance and get you through it.  If the spark stays alive, you can learn and grow and improve for the rest of your life together.

I feel like I’ve experienced only one of these four types of relationships, and I think I would like to experience more of them.  I don’t know which is the right one for me, but I think it could be the last one.  I am pretty solid in my understanding of my own world and belief system and philosophies, so I know I can help others see what I see.  However, learning is one of the most important things for me.  I would like someone who makes me do that for the rest of my life.

You are getting drowsy…

When I was in high school, or maybe it was junior high, we did this exercise in drama class where the teacher read a script that made everyone relax. The purpose, I think, was to learn to be able to control our bodies, de-stress them, and generally become more in control of ourselves emotionally and physically. I think it worked rather well; I can still relax my shoulders and most of my body on cue. I still remember the feeling and the experience itself.

So, I was thinking about this lately; about how I would like to be able to help other people relax who are stressed out and tense in this way. So, I did what any red-blooded American would do: a Google search. I found a few of these relaxation scripts, and they seemed like they could really do the trick, but most of them are on hypnosis sites!

I wonder how hard it is to learn to hypnotize someone. These scripts and a calm, soothing, even voice seem to be all you need. I don’t think I would want the kind of power that hypnosis supposedly gives (I don’t really believe in it, per se, though I think it can work when the person being hypnotized wants it to work). But it is interesting that there are internet sites devoted to teaching you how to do this stuff.

I’ve heard the horror stories / urban legends about guys hypnotizing girls to get them to do their bidding, and I worry that if I got into this stuff at all, it could be poorly received for that reason. However, I’m a good guy, and everyone who knows me knows that, so I don’t worry too much.

So what do you think? Hypnosis? Anyone have any experience with giving this a try?