The Magic of Night School

Some of you began reading my blog through my association with Mrs. Q and the fact that I was leading my own private revolution against school lunch programs. It was that and a series of other events that caused us to change our youngest son’s school.

Now, there is no lunch program other than what we pack into his reusable lunch bag and a water bottle but let me tell you, whatever it is, it best not be rubbish or I may be notified.

Night School Photo by Director, Piya Jacob

I have no issues with that. I have watched my little guy go from a delightful pop-tart eating student, good at worksheets and rote memorization to an engaged learner chomping on vegetable crudites while busy discovering and reporting back. One day I walked into his classroom to find him on the floor under the table with a paintbrush and in total concentration. “What is it that you’re doing down there?” “I’m trying to see how it felt to paint the Sistine Chapel.” There you have it. They were studying Rome.

Their playground is our desert where they all don sun hats and explore. You can find them atop the “Ghost Eye Tree”, a rickety old mesquite. On Mondays, they cook and on Fridays, they perform and there is no shortage of creativity or fun in between. I wish all children could experience this magic.

These teachers are empowered to teach and are not bound by silly rules and the children behave. Their last field trip was to a landfill and my third grader can recite as much about methane production as some environmentalists. Can you see that this is a good fit for our family?

Once, each year, they hold Night School, where everyone gets to sleep in and instead of showing up in the morning, school starts at 1:30 in the afternoon and goes until 7:30 pm. They read about nocturnal animals, paint the sunset, do night time math and enjoy every minute of it. Campus is transformed into an enchanted garden with luminarias along the pathways. Everyone must bring a well-working flashlight and their dinner.

I got it wrong last year. I didn’t realize that dinner would be different than lunch and there was a healthy dose of second-grade disappointment over the fact that his cold almond butter sandwich paled next to hot buttery noodles and broccoli. Thank God for second chances and that broccoli came in our CSA this week. I must say that while all vegetables taste better fresh from the farm, I do believe that broccoli delivers the single best evidence.

Tanner’s Night School Dinner
Serves one

Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup broccoli florets
  • one cup of whole wheat pasta
  • 2 Tbs butter or sauce of your liking
  • mixed nuts, packed separately as a snack
  • dried fruit, packed separately as a snack
  • water bottle
  • thermos of chai tea

Steam the broccoli. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and add the noodles. Cook until al dente and drain. Toss the noodles with the broccoli. Add a Tbs of butter or whatever sauce you enjoy. Pack into thermos to be kept warm for dinner. Receive ample amount of third grade appreciation for getting it right.

For those of you still fighting the school lunch battle, don’t give up. Mrs. Q has a new book and it’s a war worth winning. After all, they are what they eat.

Previous Post
Leave a comment

78 Comments

  1. What a WONDERFUL school! I do wish ALL children could learn in such an environment!

    Reply
  2. Excellent! Starting kids out on the right path nutritionally is important in so many ways, not the least that it helps develop the habits they will rely on the rest of their lives.

    Reply
  3. Very cool! My daughter would love learning in this environment. He is very blessed for this opportunity!

    Reply
  4. Very cool especially for him. Looking at me education the only reason I’m not totally jealous is that as a small town boy I was taught by a series of women who today would be VPs CFOs and CEOs. Theirs a lot of consultation in that. Imagine if the world could get a bit closer to what you are doing. hey a candle huh. Still jealous. Cheers Paul

    Reply
  5. Tammy – Thanks so much for this post. We are going through San Francisco kindergarten application hell! Getting your child in kindergarten in this city is like having a second job. BUT we have seen some amazing schools with programs similar to what you described in your post. It has opened my eyes to the wonder that the right school can be for a child and his or her family. Your post gave me the encouragement I needed to get through the process. I love the magic! Jen

    Reply
    • Oh good. There is no decision that I agonize over more than where my children ought to go to school. Find one that educates the WHOLE child and see how you fit with the parents and school director. That’s been my best barometer.

      Reply
  6. Wow. I want my kids to go to that school. When I ever have kids. Your children are so lucky to have a parent who cares so much about their education–especially environmental education.

    Reply
  7. Recipe sounds like it would be delicious besides nutritious! Great school!

    Reply
  8. This blessed me in so many ways. So glad there are schools that meet the educational needs of your children on so many levels. :) Thank you for sharing! You encourage me!

    Reply
    • I hope you find something similar for your daughter?

      Reply
      • She’s 20 now Tammy, but I am blessed to have been able to homeschool her and still have opportunities for “special” learning each day! :) Thanks for asking and caring!

        Reply
  9. This is school! This is where the children will blossom and bloom with individuality and enthusiasm. Wow!

    This is giving back the opportunity for children to explore, discover and experience.

    You’ve made my day, Tammy.

    Reply
  10. Every school should inspire children to learn like that.

    The US has gone from being a GREAT country to a mediocre one . . . with crappy public schools ensuring that it will stay mediocre. It’s such a shame.

    Reply
    • We have too many rule Nancy. There are some fantastic teachers everywhere but they are so limited and are teaching to tests. It’s really unfortunate.

      Reply
  11. Kudos to those who put that school together!

    Reply
  12. What an amazing school, and well done for taking a stand! I think this type of schooling is so important :)

    Reply
  13. The public education system is Australia is reasonably good, though I did choose to send my boys to a private school in the hope that it would serve them better. Their school had good art and music departments, which I felt would foster their interests and abilities.

    A friend of mine sends her 6 year old to a Rudolf Steiner school. It costs $6000 per year. I think one would have to be really committed to the Steiner philosophy to pay that sort of money. Are the fees at your son’s school similar Tammy?

    Reply
    • I like the Steiner philosophy and had wanted to send my sons there but it’s just too far away (but tuition free). The school my son goes to is private and charges a handsome tuition but there is a tax credit program here for those in need so I don’t think that would ever be a limiting factor.

      Reply
  14. I would’ve loved my school to be similar to this, how wonderful!

    Reply
  15. Lisa H

     /  January 17, 2012

    The school sounds so inspiring! What wonderful experiences they offer for the kids. We are so fortunate that we have creative teachers at the school my kids attend. It certainly makes a huge difference in how they look at the world.

    Reply
    • Yep, teachers can make the difference and giving them the right environment to flourish can make it different for teachers too.

      Reply
  16. I wish i could find school like that for my son here. It sounds so fantastic :) the night school is such a beautiful idea :)

    Reply
  17. When I was still in school, my mom was very active in the parents’ counsil, and she contributed to a mensa being established for the students. Before, they’d have classes from 8 am to 4 or 5 pm, without having the possibility to get a proper meal inbetween. (Well, there was a kiosk at the school yard selling baked goods, and the older students were allowed to leave the school yard and could get a bread roll or bun from the bakery. But that’s not what you would call “proper nutrition”, right? And also, there’s still the question what they actually *offer* at the mensa …

    Honestly, I’d love to change the curriculum. I’d love that kids have theoretical classes about nutrition, and practicial classes about cooking. These are such vital knowlegde and skills, but they aren’t taught yet (at least not over here, in Germany). It’s a shame!

    Reply
  18. What a great tradition! Reminds me of ballet night at the ballet school–all the older kids go to the Friday night ballet performance and those with earlier Friday night classes often bring pasta to eat between class and departure for the show–never let your ballet teacher see you eating junk food!

    Reply
  19. What a school! Something about that photo is magical…must be the combination of the spiral, orange lights, and blue tint.

    -b

    Reply
  20. Sounds like a school well aligned with my philosophy of ed and sounds like yummy dinner.

    Reply
  21. This made me smile, “What is it that you’re doing down there?” “I’m trying to see how it felt to paint the Sistine Chapel.” Our kids have one amazing imagination. It’s so inspiring to see them so engrossed in discovering and learning things. I admire your dedication to your son’s school, particularly about eating healthy foods. The night school sounds fun and exciting. I bet your son would love the night out in school. Best wishes to you and your family.

    Reply
  22. You are so lucky to have this school for your son to attend. What a gift! (And that dinner sounds delicious. Makes me very hungry right now. And eyeing the broccoli in the frig.)

    Reply
  23. Tammy, what a wonderful school! I would so love to teach somewhere like that! This is such an inspiring post…

    Reply
  24. Pasta and broccoli is my absolute favorite eat alone meal, I like your son’s good taste!

    What I love best about schools that operate as your son’s does like is that they let kids be kids – curious, expressive, individual.

    Reply
  25. Reminds me of my school Tammy…more so my college. We used to have hours of Shakespeare under the tree or listen to Coleridge by the river. We had the best visiting professors there is in India and my favorite professor was from the university of Virginia who introduced us to this “beyond the classroom” learning. Thanks to letting us connect to nature, thanks to not restricting us to concrete that we still remember everything she taught us.

    A good school/ college is like a strong foundation. It shapes you. It is important to have a school where you won’t study but learn. So happy to see him in such a school.

    Reply
    • Sounds like a wonderful experience that you had Rukmini. Yes, teachers can make all the difference.

      Reply
  26. This is such a heartening post–if only all children could experience the magic of learning in that creative, nurturing environment! Indeed a perfect fit for your family. It just sounds incredible.

    nice work on the Night School Broccoli, too

    Reply
    • Yes, it is an amazing place. You know, I’ve had a couple of comments via email where people tell me that their older kids went there as children and how it has made all the difference in who they turned out to be.

      Reply
  27. This post made me so HAPPY!! what a blessing to have a great school!! lovely idea of night school!

    Reply
  28. What a cool & great school!
    Great post & that pasta dish is a really good one! ;)

    Reply
  29. I LOVE the picture of the luninarias. What a fantastic environment for your whole family. Meals in general are a battle with both of my children. It is exhausting.

    Reply
    • Hey – nice to see you Emily. The Director of our school captured that on her iphone and I thought it was awesome.

      Reply
  30. Sally Mom

     /  January 21, 2012

    What a wonderful blog and look at your responses! I agree that teaching nutrition and healthy eating habits are best started young and blogging about your experiances is starting a wonderful garden of ideas shared and passed on by so many. Great job!

    Reply
  31. What a magical place! It truly sounds like you have found one of the most fantastic learning communities on the planet. How very exciting for you and your little one. Oh and btw the warm broccoli pasta stuffed thermos sounds like a devine surprise.

    Reply
  32. Am I too old to attend Tanner’s school? From your description here (and in our most delightful visit) it really sounds so energizing and exciting. And i LOVE the night school idea!!

    Reply
  33. So liked that bit about your son trying to experience the feeling of painting the Sistine chapel. How wonderful if all of our schools catered to the building up of our kids’ curiosity and imagination.The curriculum allmost always kills whatever enthusiasm and childlike wonder they may have and makes studies so very boring.Thanks for sharing your experiences, Tammy.

    Reply
  34. Dawn

     /  January 29, 2012

    I loved this post. My son is about to start school next year and I feel like there are no options (at least here, in a small town, but even elsewhere?). Your description of night school was almost intoxicating to me – so good for a wee person. Can you elaborate on the school itself (or have you somewhere and I’ve missed that?)? Thanks Tammy…

    Reply
    • It’s a K-4 school and not in a proper school building. There is only one class of each grade level making a tight little environment. My son has 18 kids in his class. They call their teachers by their first names. Their day begins with singing and lots of it. My youngest is the only one that knows so many songs. Their P.E. changes frequently from dancing to outdoor ball sports. They put on performances every friday from simple joke telling to elaborate pieces on the violin. The Director is an amazing woman with vision and principles.

      Reply
      • Dawn

         /  January 29, 2012

        Wow… sounds like perfection. I don’t think there are any options like that around us, but you’ve inspired me to investigate further!

        Reply
        • My advice to you would be to find the school that is concerned with the whole child – artistic, scholastic, athletic, musical, etc…

          Reply
  35. Another cool, unique post! You know how rare that is, these days? There are A LOT of WordPress blogs out there but you’ve created something special. Well done!

    Reply
    • Thank you Hook. I know what you mean about the blogs that are out there. I have some that I love.

      Reply
  36. Great post!
    You are very fortunate ;-)

    Reply
  37. Night school sounds so great idea. It could fit to us during warm autumn. I am not sure we have them already. Sometimes pupils go to woods, pick flowers, make drawings etc.

    Here where I live few years ago pupils went to roadsides to pick up all the debris after winter when snow melted and placed them in big plastic bags. Later some car of municipal collected all of them. Doing these way pupils learned to keep nature free from debris!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: