As I stood silently on the trail bathed in the light of a full moon, listening to the lines of a long forgotten story whose message is that sometimes you don't need words, all you need is hope, I was overwhelmed by the knowledge that despite the internal struggle and financial challenges I had faced and overcome a year or so ago, I had, indeed, done the right thing.
You may recall that I once wrote about the tough decision I made on how best to educate Exhibit B who, while incredibly bright, was what I refer to as "the forgotten" child in a typical classroom. These are kids who are quiet, smart and never cause a moment's trouble and, therefore, are often overlooked by less than stellar teachers. In the end, I decided to send him to The Fancy Schmancy School (TFSS) because the educational philosophy there was so closely in line with my own, it was as if I'd written it myself. I felt strongly he'd be able to shine brighter there than anywhere else. I knew in my heart of hearts, deep down, there was no other choice to be made. Still, it wasn't easy.
However, the fact is, I've not regretted the decision a bit, and there are many times, including standing on that trail holding my youngest in my arms with my other children snuggled up next to me, all four of us taking in the wonders of a moonlit hike, when I am simply overwhelmed with gratitude and joy about being able to offer this opportunity to Exhibit B. For him, it is perfection, and I've watched, with pride, as the child he is and always has been on the inside has suddenly emerged and is more evident than ever from the outside.
When disaster struck in Haiti, I immediately received an email from the school stating that the middle schoolers were forming a leadership committee to determine how the students of TFSS would respond. In the meantime, the fifth graders, having completed a unit on natural disasters in the spring of their fourth grade year, became the school "experts" to advise the various grade levels on ways in which they could support disaster relief efforts.
As a side note, that unit they did included a culminating activity of creating and then actually following a recipe that could be made only from products commonly found in a pantry that people trapped in their homes could make and eat. There was a lot more to it than that, but the photos and descriptions of this activities when I visited for open house last year impressed me greatly because of the incredible amount of curricular integration involved (which I would now need to refer to as transdisciplinary since it's an IB program). This unit alone was one of the deciding factors for me, but seeing what transpired over the past six weeks made me realize that these chidren understand that their studies go far beyond the acres and acres of land they call their learning community.
In the end, it was decided that the 1/2 classes would raise money by creating a "world marketplace", if you know much about PYP curriculum, you understand that this makes sense. They sold all kinds and sorts of goods, including "I Helped Haiti" bracelets, and made quite a bit of money to donate to disaster relief. It was an amazing joint effort by all grade levels and every decision made was made by the kids.
In the meantime, Exhibit B's class was doing some research for environmental science when they stumbled across this website: http://www.kiva.org/. When the teacher explained a little about it, one of the girls in Exhibit B's class raised her hand and said, "Are we going to do that?". That's all it took. The class was buzzing with excitement over this program and wanted to get involved. The teacher told them they could do it but that they needed to raise the money themselves. With that, this 4th/5th grade class devised a plan.
They would put on a talent show and invite the whole school & all the families. They would have a guitar case out for "tips" to donate. They would also offer face painting and crafts. They invited the local nature center to come in and promote a special program they have. The nature center folks were so pleased with the effort that they offered to bring an owl and snake with them and do some animal talks. The night would end with a hike through the campus trails (BYO Flashlights... and be darn sure you put red cellophane over it) followed by hot chocolate, for which there was a small fee, that went to Kiva, too. If by chance you forgot to bring your own mug, there was an upcharge, of course (did I mention this is a green school?). In the end, they raised $500. on the spot, and one of Exhibit B's very generous teachers made a matching donation.
And so it came to pass that one night, not too long ago, I hiked on dark trails and listened for the sound of barred owls and other creatures of the night and, all the while, reminded myself of the importance of listening to my soul.