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The Real School aka Dragon Valley

July 6, 2010

I just visited The Real School aka Dragon Valley in the Houston Heights. It’s a really remarkable place – a school for unschoolers.

The Real School began in May 2006 as an idea, shared among several students and their parents, that young people should be able to choose every aspect of their education. This idea turned into a physical entity that September, when said group purchased a house in the Old 6th Ward and got a full-time staff member. The community was just a few kids

at first, but it has grown to include twelve. The Real School has moved around a lot, and the staff has both changed and increased, but the institution is here to stay.

When I visited, there were only four kids there, along with Pravin Menon, the main staff person there. Pravin and I talked for a while about how the School started and what kinda of things happened there on a daily basis. The “students” are given free range to learn and do what they want with the materials at the School,

and there are occasional group activities, like yoga lessons and discussions. The staff people give them help whenever they ask for it, but mostly they are just there to monitor.

Everything at the School is decided by consensus – the kids and their parents and the staff get together regularly to make executive decisions about group activities, materials to buy, and specific problems to solve, and everybody must agree on a solution before it is passed and acted upon. Even the name of the school was a compromise between the cool-name-seeking kids and the professional-name-seeking adults.

The kids who were there when I visited ranged in age from what looked like seven to sixteen years old, and they all were happy to talk with me about the Real School and their experience there. Although they all seemed very relaxed with me there, they spoke to me respectfully and intelligently, as an equal. I was very impressed with this – most kids have a different way of talking to adults and kids who are older than them.

Real Schoolers peering into the pond at the Arboretum.

Although I’m still thinking I want my learning experience for this year to be an independent one, The Real School is very interesting to me, and I definitely want to keep in touch with the people there throughout the year. I would suggest this place to anybody in Houston who is looking for a different kind of education, especially if the idea of homeschooling or unschooling all alone sounds daunting – it’s a great way to be surrounded by interested and interesting fellow learners.

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