Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dwelling in Possibility: Part One


The other day I was looking through my old writers' notebooks in search of something and I came across this quote:

"Always in life an idea starts small; it is only a sapling idea, but the vines will come and they will try to choke your idea so it cannot grow and it will die and you will never know you had a big idea, an idea so big it could have grown thirty meters through the dark canopy of leaves and touched the face of the sky."--Bryce Courtenay

I want to touch the face of the sky. I want to take active, giant steps along the path of my big ideas.

I have two big ideas. I've mentioned both of them before, so I apologize if you've already heard them. The first is that I want to start a public Montessori charter school in a diverse community. I want to help provide all children with the kind of high-quality education that is often reserved for those who can afford private schools.

I want the school to be a research center where teachers work alongside each other to figure out how to make authentic approaches to education work for all children. We will commit to high expectations for all learners and high expectations for the for the kind of learning environment we create for them.

We will educate the whole child, with time in the schedule for rigorous academics, community building and peace education, play, practical life (e.g., taking care of animals, cooking, gardening, etc.), and enrichment (e.g., drama, sewing, sports, dance, fine arts, etc.). We will be a values-driven school that cultivates living with integrity, eagerly learning, acting courageously, demonstrating persistence, excelling, and respecting and helping others and the environment. We will ensure that all students are bilingual and biliterate in Spanish and English by the end of 8th grade. We will collaborate with families to ensure that all of our children are healthy, happy, and successful.

The work environment will emphasize personal responsibility and relentless pursuit, while simultaneously cultivating an atmosphere of sustainability. We can't make the world better if we make our own lives worse. I want it to be a place where we feel excited to come to work and feel like we are developing and growing year after year.

In short, the school will be a microcosm for the kind of world we hope the children go forth and create.

It seems like Austin, TX, is the ideal place to pursue this goal because there aren't currently any public Montessori options. Further, Austin is a place where Matt and I would like to live.

My second goal is to start an "intentional neighborhood." I would work with others to create a small neighborhood of 6-8 homes that balances independence with interdependence. We would own and live in individual homes, but we would share communal areas (like an organic garden, natural pool, art studio, ping-pong table, etc.). All of us would embrace and actively embody interdependence, health and wellness, environmental stewardship, conscious consumption, and kindness.

The big building in the center is a communal area. The bottom floor has a banquet size table (there will be one outside, too), which we will use for communal dinners once a week or so. Upstairs, there's a studio apartment for an artist-in-residence (who receives free housing in exchange for art lessons), and the other half of the upstairs is a shared studio space. There's also a green house, chicken coup, compost area, and playground.

It's too small to be part of the co-housing movement. After reading this post at Progressive Pioneer and investing in the book, I realized it's actually a "Pocket Neighborhood."

So, after having these dreams for many, many years and taking wobbly, toddler steps toward them, it's time to fully commit myself to them. I'm already 33! Also, Henry's arrival in our lives makes this moment a good time for transition. My vision is to open the charter school by the time Henry is three, so he can enroll as a student. I need to start the non-profit organization that will apply to the state for a charter and design a website. I'm also enrolled in a training session about how to start a charter school in Texas. Woo-hoo!

Our plan is to move to Austin this fall, assuming that a) Matt can find a job and b) we can sell our bungalow in Houston without losing money. I told my school that I will not be returning in the fall. Our plan is to rent a cheap, cheap house so we can cut back on our monthly expenses and start looking for land to purchase for our intentional neighborhood. I hope to generate income by doing some educational consulting again, working on some projects through the non-profit organization that I start, and continuing to run Purposeful Conception: Preparing Your Mind, Body, and Life for Pregnancy. I might have to figure out how to start making a little money from this blog, since I pour so much time into it.

Phew! It's a lot to think about, and it's more than a little overwhelming. I'll just have to take it one day at a time.

Of course both of these audacious goals require collaboration and partnership. It takes a village! Perhaps one of you sees yourself participating in either of these endeavors? I'm crossing my fingers! Let me incorporate a little survey into this post, in case you want to express interest.






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14 comments:

Katie Billotte said...

Sara- Thank you so much for this post today! It is exactly what I needed to read.

Julie said...

These are awesome projects! If they were happening in Portland instead of Austin I would be on board for both. Good luck and can't wait to read all about it :)

Anonymous said...

Are you familiar with Michael E. Arth's work on New Pedestrianism? I think you would enjoy it.

Heather said...

This post makes me want to rethink our thoughts about moving to Austin - my husband and I had considered it before, but if you were to open a school there I would sign up our future children in an instant! I love this idea of ours of a small community where people work and live together. Now if only my husband shared the same ideas... :p

Andee said...

Sara! I'm so excited for you! Yes, awesome!! I love that you are making your goals public and including your readers. I wished I lived near you, but alas Montana and Texas are about as for away as we can get.

V. Wetlaufer said...

Wow, how amazing to really be going for your dreams like this! I have friends in Austin I've been meaning to visit! Maybe I will make it happen once you are living there!

How much would I love to be a part of your school? Alas, I am in no position to participate right now.

You have inspired me to make a few action plans of my own, though!

Kelsey said...

I am definitely inspired to identify my big dreams and work towards making them happen! Identifying exactly what they are is the tough part for me.

Bridey said...

It's so inspiring seeing people making big dreams and taking action! I'm looking forward to hearing about progress.

Elizabeth said...

I agree with Julie - if Austin were Portland, I would sign up in two seconds! My husband and I live in an intentional community in one house (the two of us plus four housemates, two dogs, one cat, and two chickens) and I think an intentional neighborhood sounds like a much better balance!

It is so wonderful to read about your dreams and plans for achieving them.

Rachel said...

I LOVE the idea of an intentional community living neighbour hood! I have lived in community for a really really long time and now, my hubby and I are on our own for the first time in ages. We'll be moving back in with my parents in a few months, temporarily but it really does take a village to raise a child! I know my baby prefers having more people around! And I don't mind the extra hands and conversation either!

ErikaM said...

Good luck! Sounds like you have a good plan to start with.

Matt, Lindsey and 'the spud' said...

You are so brave to actually give your "two-weeks notice" to your school. I love your idea of starting your own school and living environment. When I was a montessori teacher- and leaving montessori.... I dreamed of opening my own school- run the way it should be. less politics. more freedom of the child. and montessori for everyone. I can't wait to hear your plans...and I believe you can make them happen, if anyone can. Good luck in your dreaming and planning....sounds like a blast.

Bethany H. said...

Sara,
I started reading your blogs a couple of years ago (I stumbled upon '2000 Dollar Wedding' when I was planning my wedding in 2010) Since then, in this short time, I have gone through a divorce after my marriage ended less than a year from when it began, I have moved out of state, am in the process of FINALLY starting college, and found the true love of my life.

For the past two hours, I have been catching up on all of your posts since right after Henry was born, and am so happy that I did - This is amazing!! I so wish I was living in Texas right about now!

You're truly inspiring and have motivated me in so many ways. I just wanted to say thank you for your enduring honesty, strength and perseverance and for sharing it with the world.

Fondly,
-Bethany

Sara E. Cotner said...

Aww, thanks for helping me stay motivated to keep blogging, Bethany!

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