Monday, August 13, 2007

Life Lessons From York

Everybody in the family went to school while we were in York except me. However, I got an education as well. Every time I stepped outside my house I encountered a situation that made me think. There were teachers around every corner. They seemed like just regular people but I learned a lot from observation. My bus didn't take me to a school, but it took me to some places of learning.

1. Yorkshire folks do everything in the rain. We flew kites, went to the beach, had picnics in the park...none of the locals batted an eye. Josh went spelunking with the scouts for a week with torrential rains the whole time. The boys did a 45-mile hike (that started at midnight) across the moors in muddy bogs filled with frogs. The weather report was always "bright at times, showery at intervals." Life Lesson: You'll miss a lot of fun if you wait for perfect conditions.
Lyke Wake Walk Marker

2. The beauty of a home has nothing to do with square footage or interior decorating. We had friends who lived in row houses, with tiny gardens on narrow streets. Pete played with his friend in a pub the father managed. The family lived upstairs. Our neighbors ran a hotel, and lived there. We lived in servant's quarters. Life Lesson: Don't confuse a house for a home.

Blossom Street across from our house

Dale Street next to the school

3. Parents come in many varieties. I waited for my kids everyday outside their school with people I was scared of at first. It was 1985 and punk had not arrived in my neighborhood at home. Tattoos, mohawks and piercings signaled danger to me. That was before I saw how they interacted with their kids, swooping them up and carrying them on their shoulders, examining spelling tests and essays. Before long I realized I was naive, arrogant and condescending. They, on the other hand, were friendly, interested and hospitable; in other words, nicer than I. Life Lesson: Don't judge a person by their hairstyle.

Punk Rocker Parents

4. Just because a school is older than your state, or your country, it isn't always old-fashioned. Our primary school was Scarcroft. It was built in about 1840, and looked like a haunted house. There were still gas masks on the shelf from World War I! We were warned it was in a "roof (rough) neighborhood." But the teachers were wonderful, the kids were taught Bible stories and they opened each day with prayer! The headmaster took our kids under his wing and made sure they were integrated into the school quickly. They were each inundated with friends and invitations.

Dee attended classes in the King's Manor, built in the 1600's, and his workshops were in the York Minster (built in about 1100) where they studied the restoration of stained glass, among other crafts. The older kids took unfamiliar subjects like Latin, and were placed in 4th year French classes (they'd never studied French) because they had no lower levels. They learned cricket in Games and now understand the British education system and terms like O Levels. Life Lesson: Modern doesn't mean better.

Scarcroft Primary School, York

Scarcroft Green

Kings Manor, Part of University of York

5. Never sell your kids short! In fact I learned to follow their lead. They jumped into experiences just because their friends were doing it. I'd always heard, "Well if your friends walked off a cliff, would you do it, too?" I'll let you judge for yourself:

Community Dance Festival (we're on the right)

Community Christmas Panto (Pantomime or Play w/ cross dressing leads--very traditional)

Life Lesson: It's OK to do things you've never done before, and might never do again. Don't compromise your standards, but jump in with both feet, and be a good sport.

Major Life Lesson: There is a world full of hard-working, God-fearing, family-loving people who are very different from me. They are trying to make the world better by living decent lives, that are different from mine. The world does not revolve around me, or the USA. I am not better. Differences make us interesting, and similarities make us strong. Other people don't want to be like me, any more than I want to be like them, so I won't presume to force my ideals on them. I will cram myself full of all the goodness they share with me, and I will be a better person. Now, I consider that understanding a good education.

To be continued....


Kay Dennison said...

Great post!

I think that such an experience would be so wonderful!

Frankly, I think we Yanks have a superiority complex and need to rethink our culture. Our way isn't necessarily the best way.

Gramafolly said...

I'm glad I got to see where you lived that year! It was fun visiting spots you had desribed and staying right across the street from where you lived. What an adventure!

mama jo said...

i love your comments...that's what i love about travling learn about the people, the culture...realize that we all want the same things..