Communities of Learning

Matthew Lindberg-Work's Program of 
Personalized, Self-Motivated Learning  
Age 8-18 -- 1989-1999

-- An Example of an Alternative to Institutionalizing Children --

envirothon team 1998
Matthew's environmental studies team and coach, Log Cabin Learning, Maryland's Blue Ridge Mountain. Ready to leave for the local county's round of the 1998 National Envirothon Competition, April 22,1998.


Duncan, Lisa, Matthew
The Lindberg-Works:  Duncan Work, Matthew Lindberg-Work,
and Lisa Lindberg. After high school graduation, visiting
Matthew's college, Maharishi University, July 1999

Lisa Lindberg

A father sees his son nearing manhood.
What should he tell his son?

“Life is hard; be steel; be a rock.”
And this might stand him for the storms
And serve him for the humdrum and monotony
And guide him amid sudden betrayals
And tighten him for slack moments.  

“Life is a soft loam; be gentle, go easy.”
And this too might serve him.
Brutes have been gentled where lashes have failed.
The growth of a frail flower in a path up
Has sometimes shattered and split a rock.  

A tough will counts.  So does desire.
So does a rich soft wanting.
Without rich wanting nothing arrives.

An excerpt from the poem, "The People, Yes"  -- by Carl Sandburg

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Personalized, Self-Motivated Learning Programs -- An Alternative to Institutionalization

The early years of life are a particularly crucial time of exploration, a time for young people to both widely investigate the outer world and also to learn about their own inner selves. In my treatise, Communities of Learning, I have developed a discussion about cultural evolution and social thought -- about how people think and feel about being alive here on Planet Earth.  And that a culture -- both consciously and subconsciously -- embeds into its educational system the images and feelings of its worldview, thereby reinforcing and perpetuating it.  

Emotionally insecure adults often try to deal with their feelings of unfulfillment by compensating in the lives of their children, and become pre-occupied with the reflected glory their children's prestigious success can bring them.  These adults feel life to be a stressful competition based on scarcity, which justifies their felt-imperative to prepare their children for the reality of the "real world."  They therefore constantly pushing their children to excel, telling them they need to prove their worth -- to show they have the "right stuff" to be successful in a highly competitive world. 

The results of forcing onto young people the stressful qualities of adult life can be quite damaging.  It is also counter-productive; success in t
he future does not result from preparing our young to be a cog in current societal structures. 10-20 years after any point in time today, 90% of the fulfilling work positions have not even been developed yet. These activities will not be created by people who have thoroughly hued to the Rules of Yesteryear. Rather, they will be envisioned and developed by people who have valued and grown in the qualities of flexibility, fluidity, creativity, ingenuity, inventiveness, to openness, to expanded possibilities for discovering what human beings are capable of experiencing and creating together.

How do these qualities develop?  Not by
the Old School approach.  Rather it is by understanding that t
he learning process is one in which young people play the primary decision-making role -- with adults as guides.  It is by understanding that learning involves developing relationships of depth with :

To optimally develop these relationships, adults can best help channel the energy of young people by introducing them to the world around them, by exposing to them the things the adults themselves find interesting, by sharing this enthusiastic interest.  And also in culturing in young people the ability to vigilantly listen for and trust their "inner voice" which speaks in subtle, quiet feelings. This inner voice speaks in the incessantly bubbling up intuitive promptings which draw a person to the areas of life they find infinitely intriguing.  It is an inborn human ability to discover and lead them to unfold their unique path in life -- their "dharma," their own personal flavor of greatness — be it ‘large’ or ‘small.’  The activities people find infinitely intriguing are those they will continue to enjoy even in their difficult aspects.  When young people are encouraged to listen for and develop these inner promptings, they grow in inner strength and integration.  They will draw from this inner stability to create the most satisfying connection between their inner selves and the outer world, the most fulfilling paths for them to travel.  

In the end, life here on this Earth is not about being a part of a massive competition, becoming King/Queen of the Dung Heap, amassing accomplishments and possessions.  But rather, being here is about the feeling of bliss that fills you when you are doing something you love doing.  

There was a child went forth one day,
And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became,
And that object became part of him for the day 
Or a certain part of the day,
Or for many years or stretching cycles of years . . .

- - Walt Whitman

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How Our Family Applied This Approach to Living 
For a Learning Program For Our Son, Matthew 

In the decades of the 1980's and 1990's, our son Matthew spent his early formative life with my husband and me. In the last decade of his being with us --1989-1999 -- together we developed a personalized learning program for him. This is often called "home schooling," however, our family did not do "school at home." I played the role of being his Resource Guide - - assisting him in searching for, evaluating, and choosing, and arranging learning opportunities with people with whom he would enjoy working:  independent work, mentored activities, and formally held classes in the sciences, social studies, and the arts. 

At the top of this page, the photograph on the above left was taken at the Log Cabin Science Program on Maryland's Blue Ridge Mountain where Matthew took classes from 1996 to 1999. The Director of this program, Lynda Bell, is a NASA geophysicist, a dream-come-true science teacher, a real-life, living-breathing environmentalist who uses as classrooms the porches, fields, and woods surrounding her home, and refers to the young people who come to her classes as "all my lovely students."

One day Matthew's dance teacher, Rima Faber asked me this question: "What have you done to help Matthew develop his intellect? From personally being an artist, I can
tell what you've done in the area of art; but how have you done in the realm of the intellect ?" I thought for a moment, then said, "We live by a pond. And we only rush around when we want to. I think this has given him the opportunity to allow his mind to go deeply into both itself and the subject he is investigating."   I think this reflects the best thing we gave Matthew for his learning about life : conveying our fundamental approach to learning and living -- that it is important and necessary to take time to reflect on and make sense of experiences, that taking time to become intimately acquainted with the inner workings of ones mind and heart brings incalculable richness to being alive.

Creating his own program of personalized learning helped Matthew find his path in life. With never any feelings of pressured competition, by age 18, he had a 2-1/2 page resume of professional work in his chosen field of environmental work. On his graduation transcript, he listed an estimated 540 community-service hours : both volunteer and paid staff work at our local natural foods co-operative food market, and volunteer work and internships with the following local and national environmental organizations :

Regarding testing, after leaving formally-arranged schooling in 1989 at age 8 at the end of 2nd grade, Matthew didn't take another test until age 14 in 1995 - - a self-selected one at that: the National Geography Bee, which he took sitting in front of the TV during its national broadcast. He answered as many questions correctly as did the national winner (who walked away with a scholarship check for $20,000). The next tests he took were in 1998 and 1999 for our local county's round of the National Envirothon Competition, for which he captained his team both years to win 2nd place out of our county's 20 teams. The next -- and last -- tests he took were 4 of the SAT tests : the standard two, plus 2 SAT II Subject Tests. He did stellarly : two almost-perfect scores, and in the national top 15% overall.

Our total expenditure for Matthew's 10-year period of personalized learning, for resource materials and class tuitions for both standard academic classes and also for standard "enrichment" opportunities
:  $500. Total. This works out to be $50 per year.

Current tuition at American public and private schools ranges from $10,000 - $20,000 per student per year -- which for 10 years works out to be $100,000 - $200,000.  This is 200 to 400 times as much as the $500 we spent for 10 years. A large amount of money is not the primary ingredient for creating good opportunities for our young to learn about the world and themselves.  Rather, goodhearted resource guidance can make a shoestring amount of money go a long way.  

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College Work:  1999-2004

In Fall 1999, Matthew started college at Maharishi University in Fairfield, Iowa, and enjoyed it very much. Our family has a page on the university's site about Matthew's experiences there.

There, he has continued his chosen path of eco-activism, and has also continued to gain renown as a world class whistler, performing in many concerts.

He was one of the organizers for the campus's “EcoFair 2001: Designing for the Next Seven Generations,” an event which turned out to be extremely well received by the entire campus as well as the visiting consultants. The student EcoFair organizers posed the following fundamental -- but unspoken - - question to the administration : “Is your conceptualization of Sthapatya Veda big enough to incorporate ecological sustainability and growing systems?” These students had this question because these are the aspects of architecture that capture the imagination of young folk. Over the course of the Eco-Fair, it was brought to light what was blocking the inclusion of these aspects into the planning and design process. The student planners' endeavors of bringing in the highest-caliber consultants in this field broadened MUM's conceptualization enough to make the reply to this question an enthusiastic, "Yes." In fact, one of these consultants was hired by MUM to advise on these matters for the campus reconstruction. See Follow-up articles in the MUM Review, Vol. 16, #17, May 23, & Vol. 16, #19 June 20.

Eco-Fair 2002: 2,100 people attended the various workshops and events. Noted gardening expert Elliot Coleman drew a crowd of 450 for his presentation.

MUM Review, Vol. 18, #10, February 19, 2003: eco-news
-  "University Unveils Visionary Plan for "Green" Campus"
-  "Planning for Eco-Fair Begins, National Speakers Commit"

[ 2001, 2002, and 2003: more news to come ]

In February 2003, Matthew and a fellow student taped a segment for the University of Iowa affiliate of National Public Radio (NPR), with their topic being the ecological projects MUM students are involved in. They are waiting to see if their story is picked up for wider distribution, e.g., by NPR's "All Things Considered."

In June 2004, Matthew graduated from Maharishi University with a Bachelor's Degree in Chemistry.  He is now passing on to high school kids his love of chemistry, physics, math, and ecology -- and being an eco-activist.

More information and photographs to come.

(Note:  I am not at all in favor of laize faire child-raising -- which I call "lazy fare."  I am very pro-active, and think it is an adult imperative to help young people in their life lessons, to help them gain clarity about the effects of their choices.  In this way -- thru a combination of experience and understanding -- young people can learn how to not continue to make choices they have discovered have results unhealthy, damaging, or hurtful to themselves or others.)  



Communities of Learning