Asked to describe my own experience inside Open Classroom, I find myself beyond words, for something so crucial and sacred, which saved my life and those of many around me, is beyond explanation. But, if pressed, I will begin with this: 

Community is the core of humanity. Children are born with an instinctive sense of community. From the instinctive knowledge of their childhoods, adults form advanced communities.  Therefore the quality of those units seems to be founded upon the quality of the environment in which children are nurtured.  And the way I see it, Open Classroom guided me in developing those instincts into my own sense of self, and my place within my community. 

There I was; fresh from preschool and kindergarten, I’d spent two years worth of my freshness and innocence learning the concept of learning itself. As helpful as this was, it left me with just the concept of advanced culture & sociology, which, while important, is far more challenging, especially during such formative years. 

I was caught then in an historical change in education; the militant system of churning children through a regimented conveyor of orders and deciplines, while effective for some, began to demonstrate its flaws, and both children and educators began to crave a more intuitive method, inclusion of students in their own education, and overall integration. This, indeed, was a movement which eventually spread to all of society, and to the fields of government, culture, and sport, from the 1976 Olympic Games to the renaissance of music during that era. 

During my tenure in Open (as a proud pilot student) our curriculum was basically formed around emotional learning & the role it plays in terms of education, in comparison to the general issued curriculums. We were given objectives like self-actualization. I never felt as though anyone demanded me to define myself through any equation but more so by virtue of character for willingness to learn & understand what learning is, then pry strength from the knowledge therein. 

It is one thing to teach children to have manners or answers to equations, but far more important to demonstrate  how to live (as the parents themselves emerged into the classrooms & stood up with each other).  It made all the difference in the world to me. 
Education is not simply sending your kid off on the bus each day, to do whatever as long as they go through the motions; it must be a community of nurturing and trust, a place where every grownup cares about every kid, even the ones who would be tossed to the sidelines in traditional education. 

Traditional education is based upon checking boxes and taking orders—training, essentially— but what kids need to be taught, rather, is to live by their own skills and for their own merit. This is knowledge on a level beyond academics, and is the building block of humanity itself. That knowledge is bestowed on every child when they are born, but in it they have to be nurtured, and nurtured also in self confidence and eventually developing a personal sense of what self means. 

The truth about education is this; because kids often keep their thoughts to themselves, and they live instinctively from day to day, the educator often does not know how their lessons affect their students while engaged in teaching. This is the beauty of seeing a child grow, to see all those lessons pay off, in the form of wise, skilled, and intelligent adults. 

By that rationale, I can honestly say that alternative education has played an integral role in my existence  and self actualization, more so than my family could, and without blame just reminding us all that we are everything to each other & that was the point all along. 
When I was young and my parents weren’t able to be along, other parents helped me.  My take away from that was to help others in our community and ultimately form my life around this concept. 

There is nothing more valuable than education of course, and it means exponentially more so now in terms of social integration, classism and humanity. I started Open in 1976 during the bicentennial & it was the most liberating moment of my young life for sure.