Outside School: Antithesis to the Public and Private School Model

K-12 Schools with Immediate Openings
East Bay
Kinder, School-Aged, Preteens, Teens

I created Outside School as a three-day per week program as the antithesis to the public and typical private school model, while allowing time for typical language and math lessons, as desired. Last weekend I was asked, “What do you teach?” My unusual answer prompted surprise, “I don’t know!” And then I laughed and gave some examples of why that is.

Yesterday, we went on a walk through the park to view some ruins. We viewed reflections in rain puddles, saw how mud swirled when the puddle is stepped in, and had reminders about asking for consent when one child purposefully splashed another who does not like being splashed. We walked up a steep hill and asked for breaks when we were tired. We saw how much the grass has grown since the first rain, noticing the hills are becoming green instead of golden. We heard frogs. We climbed over logs that crossed the trail and either stepped in or avoided mud pits, depending on personal preference. We ate snack within an old foundation and wondered what had been there before. We found a fallen palm tree and noticed where we should stop climbing to avoid poison oak. We spent the rest of the day nestled within the overwhelmingly huge branches of a giant, ancient Live Oak. The children made a swing out of the rope I always carry. They decided together that in order to use the swing, one must have helped create it. Sometimes they asked my advice and sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes I offered my advice and sometimes I didn’t. We looked at the watering trough. I showed the children how to know whether a water pipe is turned on or off. I showed them the float and looked at the high and low drains. A hat-throwing game ensued, and children practiced their social skills with it as everyone giggled but reminders of consent came up, “No means no.” A child came to me to complain about an interaction with another, but didn’t need me to do anything further than listen to the complaint. We ate food and drank water, and laughed when our lunch items rolled down the little hill on the slippery oak leaves. We heard an owl. I was asked to explain the similarities and differences between “instinct” and “reflex,” thereby settling an argument and pleasing the winner, who stated they normally can’t win an argument with their sibling. We collectively cleaned the hands of a child who slipped and landed in rain-reconstituted cow manure. At afternoon break time I didn’t have time to read a chapter from the book we’re reading, so substituted with a quick lesson in the two major divisions of flowering plants, monocots and dicots, of which I had picked examples from the many sprouts surrounding us. We timed our walk back to the parking lot: 24 minutes, including a race back down the steep hill. I emailed the families photos and stories of the day, and considered posting some of it in my blog and social media.

So, what do I teach? I don’t know. The children and I get to experience it all together. I could not have planned the curriculum of life exhibited above, but I do have the lifetime of skill and knowledge behind me to structure and support it. This is what I do, an antithesis to what happens in classrooms everywhere.

I do have space for more kids this school year and next, and invite those who are interested to view my website, www.outside.school.

“Kindergarten Teachers Are Quitting, and Here Is Why: Comments From Exasperated Kindergarten Teachers Throughout the Country”

By Peter Gray, PhD


Heather Taylor
teachoutside [at] gmail.com