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Starting a School of Your Own

This third installment in a series on starting a school examines administrative concerns such as finance, supply, and coping with regulations.

| January/February 1972

  • starting a school
    Starting a school of your own allows for a more varied curriculum.
  • starting a school - health form
    One example of a health form.
  • starting a school - storm tossed boat
    This is how you might feel trying to comply with ā€” or finesse ā€” arbitrary and impetuous state regulations.

  • starting a school
  • starting a school - health form
  • starting a school - storm tossed boat

A very few free schools, completely isolated or underground, seem to avoid the dominant culture altogether, their space secure—for the moment at least — that mountain-valley vision seemingly true.

But for all we've said so far about getting free of the dominant culture, the painful reality is that most free schools are attempting to build fear-free unhassled envelopes of free space deep within the heartlands of the dominant culture. This almost always requires some degree of accommodation, the mastery of requirements, laws, details.

It is difficult to generalize about this. The degree of accommodation obviously is a sensitive matter, dependent on the authenticity and focus (how much "in" or "out") of your life styles; and the diversity of lifestyles present in the group who are starting a school. Which culture is your group most loyal to: that which makes the laws, or the one which, if it takes the dominant culture's laws seriously at all, takes them with a wry relativity?

Super-intricate strategies for second-guessing authorities don't often work. Some new schools in a mood to go underground try conning the bureaucracies by an apparent immense loyalty to every facet of every law (the school that calls up inspectors!), losing everything because they are unable to mask what they're really about. And another school may go underground and not bother anyone and fail when found out because they didn't lightly con what could have been a fairly sympathetic bureaucracy.

We can say (rather nervously) that most free schools that seem to be making it don't seem hung up on the details, the reasons ranging from totally ignoring the details to giving them to one super absorbent soul who takes them on and silently solves them without dumping them — or the almost inevitable paranoia — onto the rest of the school.

We advocate facing the realities, quickly, then getting to the business of doing the alternative school; not naively, but realizing that the joyful freedom you want will always be out of context amidst vast details and bureaucratic demands, and you've got to go ahead with what you know you want. Someone, one of your group, will eventually have to deal with a lot of stuff. That doesn't have to be a bummer.

Carlos Gomez
8/29/2008 4:25:19 PM

Hi, I am a Disabled Individual with a Doctorate and am trying desperately to start a Vocation School for Air Conditioning and Refrigeration. The best place to start it is Florida an I find very little info on How TO GO ABOUT DOING IT. This was a good article but my focus is on Adults, yes, the ones that were left behind in the George Bush economy. I also have an Invention that I am trying to find someone to help me Patent in order to pay for my School.(Yes, its completely green too!) I was astonished to find out how many hurdles a person has to go through in order to teach people and actually make them trained to go about servicing a AC unit. (I Love Mother Earth News) I have been reading it since I was a kid in Vermont. But trying to find out how to go about starting a Vocation School for Adults is near impossible, add to the mix, I am Disabled, and you come up to a very Negative Conclusion! I wish someone may point in the right direction? So I can help these young adults to properly be trained to service, install and maintain a Residential Air Conditioner. But its pretty close to impossible. Wondering if anyone there has any suggestion's? Thanks - Carlos Gomez

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