Thank you for helping set me on a path one year ago when I emailed you my PhD proposal and you replied how flattered you were “to be seen as an inspiration along with Thoreau” since my thesis title was “Walden Meets Ken and Gray: Journey as a Search for Knowledge through Nature, Creativity and Play.” The conceptual framework linked your book, Free to Learn with Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and Ken Robinson’s Learning to Be Creative.
In your first email to me, you mentioned that you will be in Taiwan in July as a speaker at the Asia-Pacific Democratic Education Conference (APDEC). Because of you sharing that information, my friend, Donna and I ended up attending that event and after hearing and meeting all these inspiring people, we dreamed of one day holding APDEC in China and the Philippines. We formed a small of group of interested people on Chinese social media but at the back of our minds, we want to someday have an alternative kind of school in our countries. I thought this wouldn’t happen till further in the future when we’ve done more preparatory work on this field or when we’ve gathered more people passionate about self-directed learning.
However, as I told you during my visit to your house last week, I met Laksmi who started the Gopala Learning Haven that in my mind perfectly fit the picture of a Sudbury School set in nature with its forest and stream but it’s operating concept is more like the Macomber Center because it serves primarily homeschoolers. You suggested that I visit the Macomber Center during my research in America which I did plus I dropped by the North Star Self-Directed Learning for Teens. Now, I have this idea that Laksmi can be the one with the younger kids and I’d be the one with the teenagers.
It’s tempting for me to go back home to the Philippines to pursue this dream project but as I told you there are too many family and personal issues that hold me back from returning. Life in China is simpler and more affordable so it’s the easier path for me, but the opportunity of realizing this dream that has been over a year brewing is not as apparent as the one in my own country. After talking to you last week, it seemed the only thing as usual holding me back is fear. After talking to you, I felt courage to take the more challenging route but I don’t know if that courage will last when I step on Philippine soil and beyond.
Even if we have met briefly, you have impacted my life in more ways and for this I am very, very grateful. You knew about this road trip across America from the start and it’s amazing that we would meet up at your house when we are near the finish line of our three-month journey. Thank you for welcoming me into your home and for the lovely ham and peanut omelette lunch. Thank you for listening to me blabber about the schools I visited. I think Donna is the only other person who could listen to me talk so much about those schools and learning centers.
The PhD concept in the beginning is evolving from something academic to immediately applying research to real life which I think is a good development. However, I still wish I can write a book about all this that will be published in English and Chinese. It’s funny how Donna and I were so bent on holding a talk on self-directed learning in Manila but we had to cancel because we needed more time to spend on the camp for Chinese students traveling to the Philippines plus there’s the more practical matter of the learning haven. So it’s not merely talking about self-directed learning but practicing it and seeing it in action, not just a topic of conversation.
These are my blog entries about the schools and learning centers visited throughout this trip. There are around five more that I still need to go to in Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey.
I’m visiting AERO (Alternative Education Resource Organization) in New York and hope I can contribute some articles. I was wondering if any of these articles would be useful to the websites you are involved with, Alternatives to School and Alliance for Self-Directed Learning, or if I could edit or re-write any of these articles so that it’s in a more useful format to those sites. Please tell me as I’d love to be contribute in any way possible to the movement.
Thank you very much.
Joei : )