Ryan's early school life began in a school that focused on outdoor education and within that setting he thrived. Spending his days hiking in the woods or splashing in streams, riding horseback and watching chickens peck their way through his schoolyard. This time outdoors suited him well but before long, I sent Ryan off to a typical public school where he spent much of his day indoors. This lasted for four years at which time Ryan began to rebel against going to school and I began to try and understand what was going on. A recent Wall Street Journal article called "I hate School Extreme Edition, What School Refusal Means and How to Fix It" talks about school refusal and suggests putting an immediate stop to it, suggesting that some sort of psychiatric disorder is lurking for those young people whom hate school. There is no mention of what may be wrong with our schools, resulting in this dissatisfaction.
Rather than put a stop to Ryan's school refusal, I tried to understand it, pulling him from the public school setting that seemed to be causing all of his frustration. The freedom which resulted from not attending school allowed Ryan to spend more time outdoors visiting nature centers and hiking or biking along trails in natural areas. What I didn't realize at the time was that I was re-engaging Ryan's Intra-indigenous consciousness. Getting him to spend time in the natural world of which he and his ancestors had come from. Here is a definition of Intra-indigenous Consciousness taken from James Neill's website on Psycho-Evolutionary Theory of Outdoor Education:
Intra-indigenous Consciousness (IIC) is proposed as the cumulative psychological knowledge of human evolution which is genetically stored. It is the vestigial indigenous psyche within each person which can be activated through direct experiences with nature and natural processes and systems.
Basically, it is saying that we as humans have come from the natural world. It only makes sense that we are most comfortable there to both live and learn. By separating ourselves from nature as we have in the modern world, we have stepped away from an important part of ourselves.
Ryan just started high school at an alternative school in Pennsylvania (yes, we have moved again, which explains my recent lack of posting). The act of learning is achieved in both a natural environment and in an natural experiential way. Maybe Ryan's connection to his indigenous way of living and learning was much closer to the surface than mine as he has seemed to know what he needed in the form of education all along. It appears the act of learning outside, feeling the wind when it blows, or watching the dragonflies and bees fly by invokes something in him that allows him to learn in a way that works for him. In a way that would probably work for all of our children.