Welcome To The Edge

“Come to the edge, he said. They said, We are afraid. Come to the edge, he said. They came. He pushed them… and they flew.” — Guillaume Apollinaire

Beyond academics, we are mindful that we are working and playing with whole beings, people we hope will hold the world powerfully, gently, compassionately, knowingly. To that end, we pay a great deal of attention to how we speak with and listen to each other, and how we bring respect for ourselves, each other, and our environment into our expressions and actions. Mannered behavior, courtesy, grace, and integrity of word and action are regular talking points, and character development figures prominently in our conversations and reflection.

Children who exhibit a consistently high standard of decorum and dignity, and who are at least ten years of age, may be invited to “The Edge.” This distinguished group of children receive the honors due to wise elders in a clan. They are able to lead stewardship efforts, be partnered with community adults in mentorship and shadowing opportunities outside of school walls, act as school ambassadors and spokespeople, and travel extensively and internationally as part of our school community.

This honor is taken seriously by children and adults. It is not given lightly or quickly. It cannot be rushed; it is not a race. At The Edge, responsibilities and privileges are entrusted to children who are known throughout the school for their leadership, contributions, commitment to others, and common sense.

Characteristics of scholars at the Edge:

  • Organizer — able to collect, arrange, and make sense of resources and materials, including time and space, for a best effort in learning
  • Resourcer — able to gather, invent, and repurpose supplies, tools, and experiences
  • Peacemaker — able to ask for, and help find, constructive ways to solve human concerns, often acting as, or seeking out, a wise person for advice and reflection
  • Challenge seeker — able to push boundaries thoughtfully to extend options and thinking beyond what is basic or expected
  • Problem solver — able find appropriate entrances, exits, and pathways to arrive at a resolution, in project work, human interaction, and life adventures
  • Time keeper — able to make and keep personal commitments that involve time
  • Mind bender — able to demonstrate flexibility and fluidity in thinking, changing course when reason and good results suggest a new course
  • Encourager — able to support the efforts of others with joy in their accomplishment
  • Contributor — able to share ideas and information that advance the learning of our entire community
  • Service-minded — able to find the gaps that provide opportunity for initiative and selfless acts of kindness for the greater good
  • Leader — able to rally the spirits and efforts of others to a constructive cause, with clarity and openness
  • Full participant — able to give total focus and effort to learning
  • Web weaver — able to make connections among ideas, materials, people, expertise
  • Fact checker — able to locate information for the purpose of verification, often consulting several sources
  • Respectful — able to look at the other with soft eyes and understand another point of view, acting then with the grace that flows from knowing more broadly
  • Responsible — able to assume the results of and response to decision-making and its corresponding action
  • Generous — able to give beyond the expected, often resulting in the growth and appreciation of others
  • Thoughtful — able to see a need and fill it with the intention of creating beauty, hope, and community
  • Courageous- able to go further, with reasoned risk, to make the world a better place
  • Horizon-seeker — able to judge the space between “here” and “there”, see the potential and take the road that follows the possibility
  • Appreciator — able to see the gifts that arrive and hold the world gratefully in its abundance
  • Question poser — able to see the holes, gaps, changes, and unanswered, and wonder why, using any pausing places for further inquiry and musing

Letter from the Edge

Ren is a family and your child is “ours.” Precious children. There is no marked curtain call for the final performance of childhood. There is no specific finish line ending a walled raceway with speed-bumps, off-ramps, entrance signs, or chutes. The progression is ragged and colorful, textured, and sometimes convoluted!

You have spent years with your child nestled under your wing, or nearby, knowing there will be a time when your sphere of early influence becomes your youngster’s trampoline, a launchpad into a realm of influences beyond your own… a portal to possibility, an usher to the unfamiliar, a catapult into a new era. That is “the edge….”

…the edge of conversation
…the edge of learning
…the edge of exploration and invention
…the edge of possibility

It is with that understanding, the acknowledgment of pride, trepidation, and excitement as your child draws closer to that new phase of self-discovery and independence, that we lovingly write this letter to you, the precious parent.

How do I get my child to “the edge?” You may be asking.
Is it a club? Is it a place? You may be asking.

We offer another perspective on this question: “How do I support my child’s development of ‘edge’ qualities, recognized by others, that allow entrance and confident participation in a world inherited and shaped by a mindscape of leadership and service?” The connection and recognition, in that question, are created outside the safety and familiarity of homefires, afield from the cautious certainty of early childhood. Action is in relationship to others yet unknown, in circumstances yet undefined, untested, and changeable. The child becomes an integral part of a thriving, pulsing community, expanding beyond “here and now.”

Such is the passage to “the edge.” Such is the passage from childhood.

Each child has a unique set of calibrations, taking the time needed to build the bridge from “here” to “there” with strong materials and a good design. “The edge” is not a destination, a single spot marked with coordinate cross-hairs. It is a pulsing portal, the sort that can only be claimed by those who pass through genuinely, with authentic awareness. It is a horizon that keeps moving as we walk toward it, forever widening, always just a ways off. And we are undaunted by the movement as that constant motion is life.

“The edge” offers glimpses of “beyond,” a geoscape often requiring broad wings, an ability to ride air currents, strong muscles, and navigational sense. We do not push children off cliffs before they develop the ability to fly. It is like reading… or writing…. we can put the lessons before the learner, but we cannot manipulate the mind to actually become a reader or author until it has absorbed the skills required. A masterful reader/writer will take the skills, examine their constraints and application with practice, and create something uniquely beautiful in the imagery and offerings they produce. Such is the work of an “edge child.” It is life-long, the scrutiny of skills that become magnificently and wisely twisted into a work of art, actions of heart.

“The Edge” characteristics were developed by children who created a cache of aspirations during our fist year in the theater. We looked for ways our ideas naturally and neatly fell into categories, and labeled them in our next year in the bakery. The list remains virtually the same. But its realization is as unique as the child who expresses them. The qualities are enduring pursuits, taking on different tones and textures as maturity and circumstances arise, calling for grace.

“The edge” is spirit. It is unlike a merit badge of earned beads, a vote, or a single prize to be won. It is not acknowledgement of simply being “good” or “smart.” “The Edge” is a recognition of interaction with the world beyond its soft making at our feet as experience shifts to greet the strange, the troubled, and the beautiful, sometimes all at once! It is about reaching out, walking in the unknown, carrying integrity, and helping to create a future that is brighter for all. “Edge” people welcome possibility, revel in ambiguity, seek clarity, and see gnarly challenges as playful mindspaces. Those are lofty goals, and many of our children sparkle in the presence of that sun. Others are watching, learning, attempting, and thriving… advancing.

“Edge” children are leaders and role models. They are strong examples, seeding our community with kindness, respect, and compassion, even when no one is watching. “Edge” qualities are on display daily in our public work, in our common spaces. They have become the air we breathe, infusing and inspiring us all. “Edge-oriented” children set personal goals related to those very internal questions about becoming.

The “edge” is an integral cornerstone of the ethos of our school. Our work is to build a “bonfire,” to light the world with embers. This makes Ren special, noteworthy, even enviable. Our children are known in the community, even in greater spheres, for their decorum, dignity, appreciation, and contributions. It is in the best interest of our children that we keep these aspirations from our founding days in front of us, as common-held values. The edge takes work, intention, the support of others… it is not cheap, shallow, or simply defined as an age-based rite of passage. There is no car, there are no singular track roads, there is no road map, there is no chauffeur, there is no final destination… It is a journey, a path unique to each traveler. It is a poignant protrusion into new space, a promontory…. “the edge.”

My Son

My own eyes have turned ash-grey
And a fine silver mist
Has settled on my hair
My shoes are worn and wet
As I lift water from the old deep well.

While your own bright color burns
With each barefoot step
No water will sate your thirst now
The moon has kissed you forehead
And the sun has blessed your path.

We once belonged together
Your gold curls bouncing, shoelaces trailed
With dandelions and little pebbles of our spring
Across the garden you ran shouting
And buried your soul in mine.

I watched and loved you
As the summer turned to fog
We danced in morning’s kitchen
And filled our pail with chestnuts
And blood-yellow leaves of my fall.

And I, sheltered from changing weather
Behind the milky window glass,
Lovingly envied your adventures
While you ran further
And jumped the gate on coming back.

Now you cast eyes hill-ward, above our land
Tomorrow you climb from childhood home
Where you once reached to catch the highest branch
Well beyond your little hand
And chased brothers down the road.

Everything awaits, just beyond the cresting
I will stay behind the old wall
And watch and always love you
And hope that you will remember
To turn back once more and wave.

On your eighteenth birthday,