Public schools are not the best choice if you’re looking to raise green kids. Not that we can only blame schools. How we act as parents matters more in my opinion, because our kids mimic our behaviors, but schools do play a role in green living. Most public schools don’t live up to their green potential based on time, money and staff constraints.
There are better educational choices than public schools for raising green kids. For example…
FREE SCHOOLS: Free schools are not as a rule, green-minded specifically, but in my opinion a free school education naturally leads kids to being more involved in their community which is a great first step on the path to green living. Kids who care about their peers, their community, and who know that they can make a difference are more likely to make positive choices about everything, because they know their choice affect change, green living included. However, note that because free schools focus on choice vs. pushing a topic, you should be spending time on green living topics at home to help plant the seed in your child’s mind.
Cons of free schools include limited availability of free schools across the country, a higher cost to parents (although many free schools offset those costs if parents volunteer), and they’re not for everyone. You really need to believe that your child is entitled to choices, respect, and responsibility or a free school won’t work for your family.
Below is a video about the free school that my son Cedar attended for a few years.
NOTE: My son’s school which is highlighted in the video above is located in Portland, Oregon. IF you’re not a PDX local you might want to do some more research about free schools at The Albany Free School website. The Free School in Albany, New York is the longest running inner-city independent alternative school in the US and they offer a huge page of Radical Education Links which offers links to other free schools along with links to info about free schools.
ECO-CHARTERS: Charter schools are tuition-free public schools established with a specific focus in mind, such as arts, science, or language and unlike public schools one-on-one attention is a rule rather than the exception and kids get more choices about their education.
In New Mexico Cedar attended a very cool eco-focused charter. The pros were many – kids grew gardens, saved rain water, played with all natural toys like soy crayons, wood building materials, spent tons of time outside and more, plus there was a HUGE focus on sustainable communities intertwined within all aspects of the curriculum. The major con to me was that charter schools still have to follow some of the rules set fourth by the public school system, which I’m not a fan of and since we’ve been an unschooling family (see below) from the time Cedar was born, that just didn’t work for us.
However, that said, this charter managed to pull off eco-integrated lessons, nature time, independence, and education in a way that is far superior to any other public school I’ve ever seen so if you like structured education, this could be a good choice for your kids. Sadly few eco-charters exist which is too bad since they’re leaps better than a general public school.
If you’re interested in green charter schools I’d head to the Green Charter Schools Network.
UNSCHOOLING & HOMESCHOOLING: We’re actually a former unschooling family, well or former in the sense that Cedar spent most of of his early years not in school but at home with me or his dad. Not former in that we still subscribe to the unschooling philosophy, as does Cedar’s current free school. Unschooling and homeschooling can be an excellent way to give your kids a greener education because you or hopefully you and your kids together are setting the rules (for the most part) about which topics to learn and discover. Cons of unschooling and homeschooling can include serious legal matters to sort through, family and friends thinking you’re nuts, and it can be hard to afford and find time for if you’re a single parent or if both parents work.
Unschooling is a big old topic; way too involved for a post (or really too involved for even fifty posts) so if you’re interested you can visit Radical Unschooling.
We’re three educational choices in, so I’m going to break now. However, there are a few other eco-education choices to choose from and hopefully soon we’ll take a look at those options.
For now why don’t you tell me – how are you greening your child’s education?