Our neighborhood had leafy lanes and wide sidewalks and neighbors—not just people who lived next door—and no kindergarten. There weren’t enough five- and six-year-olds together to fill a classroom; fifth and sixth grades had been combined and third was on the cut list. We held a meeting in the empty playground, sat on swings and seesaws and talked about what we wanted them to learn and what we didn’t. Several of us had been teachers, so we knew what we were doing. We couldn’t let them come here anymore. We found a room at one of those churches of God that always seem to have a room to spare and furnished it with what the local library didn’t need and started teaching them our way. We teach by example and experimentation and use the materials at hand. We didn’t require any funding but we wanted a flag for the room and nobody had one at home to lend us so we made our own in art class with some bright new colors and we wrote a song in music class to sing whenever we faced it. We told the kids to keep the school a secret and once they spread the word around enrollment soared. We reached out to other secret schools but only spam came back. My daughter has started to question what she’s learned. She still has notions of college and wonders how she’ll do on tests. I sat her on the seesaw where our uneven weights give me the advantage. Think hard, I told her, about what college has done to me. That’s right. We can stop this cycle now, or we can pass it to another generation. She clutched the grip bar for all she was worth and tried not to look down.

Copyright © November 25, 2007 David Hodges