By Marteé Davis
Parents that seek alternatives to standardized education may choose to homeschool or embrace a different, more social approach to learning. Vicki Johnston, the founder of Living Ethics School (LES) says, “When I was 9 years old, I was unhappy when my fourth grade teacher shook her finger at a boy. Right then and there, I decided to grow up to be a ‘nice’ teacher. In seventh grade, a wonderful teacher, Mrs. Trader, encouraged creative writing, class plays and fun, hands-on projects; she served as inspiration for the kind of teacher I would become.”
By 1985, Johnston was armed with credentials, including a Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees in Education and Montessori certificates. Johnston wanted to teach differently, so she founded LES to serve Pre-K to sixth grade on six pastoral acres in Fairview.
Living Ethics School offers students and their families an organic, nurturing, joyful learning environment, with a mission of following The Harmonies Way, a process of teaching to nurture the heart, balance the feminine and masculine, enjoy sacred connections, cultivate innate genius within each child, foster a supportive communal embrace, synthesize science, art and ethics and live The Four Harmonies.
Now, 32 years later, Johnston has also founded the Inspired Learning Academy (ILA) to continue the LES philosophy, but with more respect for the psychology and needs of teens. Jill Baumann, who heads the ILA, says “Inspired Learning Academy is here to serve the parents who have grown weary of homework battles and want to reclaim family time; the students that are experiencing an overwhelming amount of stress and anxiety over school or are bored, feel stifled or have a unique genius that can’t be fully expressed in a strictly regimented school environment, and want the freedom to pursue their interests in greater depth and at their own pace. ILA can also be accessed part-time for homeschoolers who are looking for greater exposure to mentors, collaborative project work with peers and a consistent community of friends.”
ILA utilizes the book The Self-Directed Learning Handbook: Challenging Adolescent Students to Excel, by Maurice Gibbons, as their guide, as well as drawing from the experience of the public charter school located outside Denver that Baumann says has been using this model with great success for nearly 40 years.
Baumann says ILA utilizes the Agile Learning Center (ALC) (AgileLearningCenters.org) model, which employs Agile management tools she says are popular in the business world, particularly in software development, to support self-directed education and to intentionally create a culture of self-challenge, self-reflection and productivity. She states, “In the ALC culture, students feel they are heard, they belong and that they make a difference. As social creatures, adolescents thrive in this kind of vibrant community which builds confidence, improves communication skills and brings out the best in them.”
Living Ethics School and the Inspired Learning Academy are located at the intersection of Old Stacy Rd. and Country Club Rd., in Fairview. For more information or to attend the monthly Tea, Talk and Tour or the upcoming May Fest, call 214-544-8338 or visit CenterForLivingEthics.org or InspiredLearningAcademy.org.