What is it?
This alternative school is situated in the nice bush landscape of Hurstbridge, one hour from Melbourne, in the state of Victoria. This is a primary school run by parents, who employ two teachers as well as parents running activities themselves.
This school is nothing like a traditional school. The parents want their children to learn of course, but also to have more freedom and to do what they really like and what they really want to do.
Don’t mistake me : this does not mean playing all day long! The children (aged 6-12) are free to decide if they prefer to do some mathematics, or some reading during the schoolday. They are the owners of their own learning. They are encouraged to develop their creative skills as well, thanks to all the musical instruments or painting and drawing material available. The school also benefits from a new area dedicated to theatre. This community provides children a positive and supportive environment, so that they have a natural curiosity and desire to learn. The Learning Cooperative aims at involving the children in their own learning, and have them plan their own schedule of what they are going to do and when.
This is also a good place for the parents to learn from the children, but also from each other. They learn together and share experiences.
How is it?
There are 35 children maximum in this school, learning all together. This intimate number makes it feel like an extended family.
Most of the children and parents arrive around 9am, the children start to play, and the parents gather around a cup of tea or coffee. Every day, at least 3 parents are involved during the morning, and another 3 during the afternoon, and propose some activities to the children, each one according to his own skills. The children are free to decide which ‘class’ to follow. They have different sessions all day long. In between these activities, there is a child-run meeting, when the children are heard; they express their feelings, what’s happening in their lives, if they have projects going on, etc. Around 3pm, it’s time to go back home. The children are asked to tidy up a bit and clean some stuff in the kitchen. There are also some chuks that need to be looked after.
There are sometimes ‘outside’ people coming to the school, to present some projects to the children, and help them to develop their imagination. Let’s talk for example about Zana Friallon who wants to have children involved in her next book. She asked them to imagine ‘if your country would be at war, how would you react?’. She gives the children some explanations, and then asks them to write a story, before sharing it in front of the school. Very instructive!
An initiative from?
This school was initially established in 1973, emanating from a community of families who wanted to give more stimulation and create an alternative to the mainstream primary classroom. Parents from suburbs collaborated closely with education innovators from Latrobe University to create this new concept.
Everybody can contribute to the learning and the raising of children. And children deserve a true voice, and to develop their unique passions. Passion is the heart of teaching and learning!
If you want more information, just go and check their website.