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Understanding the Purpose of "Strikes"

By Zach Lahn on December 02, 2021

There is a lot talk at our house lately about “strikes." As a parent, I become confused: I am uncomfortable, to say the least, when I hear my child has two strikes. Being asked to stay home or be removed from the community doesn’t seem right – especially when I’m paying to have my child in school. This feels like punishment and contrary to the method of Wonder.

Why would a school that is focused on individual genius and self-paced work lace it with a punitive system of behavior control?

Here is the answer of which I must remind myself:

The Wonders themselves created these systems of accountability.

The Wonders want a community that upholds high standards of work and integrity. They want strong guardrails that help keep everyone on the path of a Hero’s Journey. They want to govern their own community.

Our very own children are tougher than we are when it comes to holding boundaries. They have created systems – after much discussion and many meetings – that give them power to check each other and prod each other back onto a pathway that nurtures learning and growth.

I am reminded, then, that the Wonders have bunches of carrots in their daily life at Wonder: free time, recognition of heroic character traits, solid check marks on their goals lists, choice in how to work, freedom at lunch, games, respect, leadership opportunities, squads, quests, and town hall meetings to air grievances and solve their own problems.

When things don’t go well and the carrots aren’t enough?

The Wonders want the power to manage each other and guides who will help them through the process. They are learning hard and important lessons about their own power and motivation. Yes, at times they like to test this feeling of power and at times conflicts arise. These missteps become hearty meat for group discussions based on ideas such as: What does it means to have freedom and real responsibilities? Is it harder to give out a consequence or to receive one? What if it’s your best friend who has crossed a line?

It is a difficult experience when a negative consequence is delivered. I believe that is the point.

Our words when a learner hurts another learner, or breaks a promise are these: “We love you. We are excited for you to make the choice to get back on track. Fail cheaply and often for that is where learning happens. The main point of the Hero’s Journey is not that we will not fail. It is that we get back up when we do.”

It won’t be long before driving or dating are a part of our children’s lives. This is when failing is not cheap. Now is the time for them to learn that every action they choose to make each day has a consequence. There is no “flying under the radar” at Wonder. Each person matters deeply. Each person is known.

Our children are dealing with this reality together and safely with loving guides to follow. These are prime times to have meaningful family discussions around choices, consequences, freedom and responsibility.

An added layer to this topic is that we have a meaningful conflict resolution process at Wonder. Our children learn how to have difficult conversations without damaging a relationship. We role-play, share stories and practice in the studio what it means to be a true friend, holding each other accountable to being the very best humans we can be.

Thank you for honoring the Wonders as they explore with freedom the big questions of life together and as individuals.

[Blogs or portion of blogs may be adapted from the blog of our partner school founder and advisor, Laura Sandefer.]