Our creation story …
Beside a lake, on the side of a mountain, a baby was born during the first snowfall of the year. She was healthy, happy and curious about the world around her and delighted in her connections with her parents. Her father, a former educator, actually had no experience whatsoever with raising a young daughter. He and the child’s mother realized that they did not want to parent as they had been parented and yet realized that this meant that they did not know what to do. They decided to let this infant child be her own legitimate authority, that she was the best person to represent herself and that they as parents would be as respectful and supportive of this young author as possible. During these next four years both parents were transformed by the natural way this child learned to talk, by the brilliant display of human integrity and intelligence as she explored the world and language in the creation of meaning in her life. It was in this context of respect and mutual understanding that the father began to rethink his very definitions of what it was to be human and what it was to learn.
Then one morning in early fall this young girl of five years was sitting on a swing. It was a warm and delightful day with the leaves just beginning to turn yellow. The little girl was enjoying the rush of air and the swish of colour as she swung through the air. All of a sudden the bell rang and recess was over. The little girl had been at kindergarten for two weeks and on this morning she realized that she did not want to go into the school. She sat their swinging and thinking and understood that if she went in that building, she would give up control of her own life, that she could no longer do the things she loved to do when she loved to do them. That night when her father was tucking her into bed, she asked him if she had to go to school and explained what she had realized on the swing earlier in the day. Her father answered that she did not have to go to school and that he wanted to support her doing what she loved to do in her life and that her happiness was the most important thing to him. She didn’t go back to school that year and continued to explore the world with her enthusiasm to understand and with the respect and support of both her parents.
The next fall, the fall of 1983, the father asked this little girl if she was interested in going to school. She asked him if grade 1 was like kindergarten where teachers told you what to do and when to do it, and he said yes that was his experience. She thought for a moment and then asked her father if he would be her teacher, and if they could start their own school in their house so that she could learn what she loved learning about, and that she would share all her toys. This little girl’s parents took this request seriously and thought about it for two weeks. The father decided to do a one year experiment and support his daughter to learn from her enthusiasm. By the end of the year he was working with six neighbourhood children including his daughter and decided to form a non-profit society to support his daughter to flourish in this program that respected her interests and learning desires. Over the next twelve years this little girl grew up learning and living in respectful and fascinating learning communities that emerged around this seed of learning through loving. The program continues to this day and now hundreds of children are able to learn because they love learning and because they are part of a respectful and supportive learning community.
That school was the first SelfDesign (formerly Wondertree) program, the father was Brent Cameron, the mother was Maureen Cameron and the daughter was Ilana Cameron.