Heartwood Self-Directed Lunch Time!

Heartwood lunch time probably doesn’t look like any other school lunch time you’ve seen. Students are allowed to eat the food they bring when they want and practically wherever they want, but there is a regular “Lunch Time” on the daily activities board, and most students eat within this time frame.

When we returned from the post office it was time for me to eat lunch.

Every student brings their own lunch, and as I navigated my way into the kitchen to heat up my lunch, looking for utensils and cups, I stepped over and around students sitting on the floor with their lunch packs open, chatting and enjoying their sustenance. Students were happy to help me find what I needed, and I heated up my lunch, and poured some community juice left over from a recent event.

When I sat down to eat, one student was eating, another working on math problems.

Heartwood Lunch

I peaked over the shoulder of the young lady working on math, and talked to her about it some. She was working through a worksheet on Khanacademy.org. She had her pencil and paper and was solving math problems on a worksheet, by choice. How wonderful that is to see. She wasn’t particularly excited or discouraged, just concentrating on working out math problems.


I know this is how the philosophy of self-directed education works, but it was still amazing to see. Every moment doesn’t necessarily have to be fun and games, but when a student chooses to learn, they learn so much more than if we schedule it for them. I think students that work well within the framework of traditional schools would benefit from this approach as well, the hardest part would be getting the parents on board to trust the student’s choices.

While the young man and I ate and talked about our foods and basic yumminess (including a long discussion about a Hershey’s Cocoa Kiss, that included other tables of students as well) the young lady doing math kept right on working on her online worksheet, asking for help from staff when she needed it.

Upon reflection, I realize there are HUGE advantages to lessening distractibility that come from working in a self-directed environment. With lots of chatter going on around her, here was this young lady working diligently on math.

I on the other hand require quiet when I work. My classrooms in high school were quiet working places when we did our own work, and my mother insisted on quiet when I was at home studying, to which I never complained. So now, when I need to concentrate, I need quiet. I cannot focus with talking, music, movies and the like in the background. When they do happen (since I do not live in a vacuum), I put on my headphones and listen to thunderstorms to block out the unwanted noise. This has been an effective coping skill for me, but I do envy those who can concentrate amid distraction.

I wish I had gotten a picture of students sitting around the kitchen floor, but I was focused on eating!

I did get some of students outside eating. It was a beautiful December day!

Heartwood Lunch 6



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