Tuesday, February 23, 2010

a children's author with his own school

Are You Sure This is the Right School For You?

We encourage an active engagement with the world. That includes using public transport to explore Melbourne, playing in the school’s extensive gardens and 1100 acres of bush, riding bikes, climbing trees, going on many camps and trips.

Students will be using toasters, stoves, blenders, microwaves, cutlery.

According to our assessment of students’ maturity and abilities, we may teach them to use axes, log splitters and chainsaws.

Similarly, we may teach students how to light fires, and may expect them to start and maintain fires in fireplaces, and fuel stoves in classrooms.

We comfort students who are upset, we hug, we’re tactile. We may play rambunctious roughhousing games like British Bulldog, Animal Ball or spotlight.

During maintenance activities students may be up ladders, on roofs, changing light globes, using hammers, saws, mattocks, vacuum cleaners and electrical tools.

We are very happy for parents to be involved in the life of the school, in all kinds of rich, exciting and rewarding ways. We work on an `invitation-acceptance’ or an `offer-acceptance’ basis. In other words, we may invite parents to contribute to the school in some way, and they may accept our invitation; equally they may offer to help us in some way and we may accept their invitation. However we are not happy with parents who want to impose their own agendas on the school, and we don’t tolerate parents who attempt to bully the school, teachers, or other students.

Of course as teachers it is up to us to raise students to a level where they can engage in the activities mentioned above in a safe and mature way. That is what a teacher does. That’s what the word teacher means. “Aim not where they are, but where they should be.”

Renowned children's author, passionate educator and founder of Candlebark School John Marsden's words to prospective families on his school's website. If you are a regular reader of this blog I think you will agree it goes without saying that I LOVE the things that happen at this school, so I'll put that aside for one moment and concentrate on Marsden himself.

Marsden is clearly a man who tells it like it is, a refreshing trait when you are searching for the right school for your child. In this article in The Age Marsden tells parents to throw the school's prospectus in the bin, not to even bother listening to anything the principal tells you and to give the MySchool results a wide birth because they are "morally indefensible.

Never backward in coming forward, Marsden has always been outspoken about the education system in Australia. Phrases like "overbearing rules"; "rigid structure" and "cumbersome frameworks" come to mind. He is also a man who puts his money where his mouth is. After years of talking about what would make a good school, he decided to build one himself.

The result is Candlebark, set amongst 850 acres of beautiful Australian bushland and catering for kids aged between 5 - 14 years of age. If I were to start a school, it would look a lot like this one.

If you built your own school (or preschool) what would it be like?


  1. Last year I wrote a blog post about my views on the education system in Australia. I am not sure why I cannot place the link here (I've been trying, but it just won't happen) It can be found in my Archives, the first blog post for March 2009. As a former teacher, now SAHM, I am concerned about some aspects of the education system and have expressed my concerns in this article which was publisehd in Brisbane Child magazine as well as other capital cities around the country.

    I have only just discovered your blog and have scrolling through your recent posts. We always use pipe cleaners, pieces of fabric, buttons etc when playing with play doh and today we did the same with blocks. I noticed that you recently wrote a post about this as well.

    I am going to add myself as a follower to your inspiring blog.

  2. Thanks for the comment Elise - I'd love to read the article you wrote. I've bookmarked your blog so I can have a good old read tomorrow. Jenny

  3. I'm kind of jealous that my son can't go to your school. He started preschool this year, but we live in the NT so we don't have a lot of choices. Luckily, the NT has it's own natural wild exuberance, so he is able to learn from that. What I would like to have more of in schools is simply a chance for children to follow their interests. I think that would help to make learning so much easier for everyone.

  4. You commented on a post about things to do in Darwin on my blog, Adventures With Kids. I can't find another contact for you, so I thought I'd leave it as a comment - but I'd love it if you could write about your favourite thing/s to do in Sydney with kids. You can email me at adventureskids@live.com.
    And btw, your blog is very inspiring, you've given me lots of wonderful ideas for our outside spaces at home, now I just have to implement them.

  5. Along with my business partner, I built my own school however we are small and it's a work in progress. Getting ready to start year 2. Getting closer to my vision! So much fun! Love this post! You guys rock.

    Our pre school is The Natural Child Learning Community at http://www.thenaturalchildlearningcommunity.com

  6. I too have only just discovered your blog and was reading through some of your post.

    I noticed that the last photo of horses and children in this article is actually a photo of Village School in North Croydon Victoria. www.villageschool.vic.edu.au

    My two boys attend Village School and love going to school there. One of the learning opportunities they have available to them is horse riding. Students are paired for riding lessons. They are not only taught to ride but to care for the horses and one another. To check if the equipment is put on correctly. To lead the horse until their partner is ready to go it alone. To notice indications of the horses mood. To watch out for things that might alarm the pony and cause danger to the rider. To be responsible for themselves and their partners.

    I am finding that my children are very much engaged at school, as they find real life learning exciting. Experiential learning allows children to 'do' their learning first hand which makes a much greater impact and gives them greater understanding than being told about it. The children can experiment and explore the depths of their imagination, as outcomes are not predetermined, they can learn through trial and error.

    Your blog is fantastic!

  7. Really? How did I get that mixed up! I've always been interested in the Village School - they have a wonderful website. To have horses at school is amazing. And I'm finding the same thing with my kids at Kinma - they are so engaged and happy to learn. Just try to stop them! Thank you for taking the time to comment, Jenny