It’s Messy.

Starting a school is messy, as you have undoubtedly witnessed this last year on our blog.  It is easy to notice the actual messes: construction dust, sandy shoes, dirty lunch dishes, half-sunburned faces due to hastily-applied sunscreen en route to the beach.  The really messy areas at Brightworks, though, sometimes are where you least expected them to be.

We think a lot about food in the Brightworks community.  Our families’ belief systems regarding food are very diverse, but all of our school’s families are thoughtful about the food they serve their kids.  That care is expressed in different ways: some put a lot of thought into where their food comes from; if it is organic, bio-dynamic, sustainable.  Some make careful decisions about where to shop, mindful of the political and environmental implications of where food comes from.  Some families serve food that has provided comfort, familiarity, and love throughout generations of their family, but are willing to bend a few rules to maintain those traditions.   Some must prioritize food lower in their family budget and focus on value, and preserve family funds for other priorities.

Today eight of our oldest students made lunch for the school, beginning new traditions of service to the school community and thinking of the needs of others.  Throughout the week, they divided the jobs, planned the menu, altered the menu to accommodate dietary needs, and created an aesthetic plan for the tables.  As the first band to prepare a community lunch this year, they did an amazing job of meeting the needs of the community.


When I was sent on an emergency run to the store this morning for last minute ingredients for the students, though, the shopping list written by these excited children included vast quantities of rainbow sherbet.

This is where Brightworks got messy, today.  Aside from the state of the kitchen (out of control, fyi), it is these messy heart-and-mind moments that paralyze us at Brightworks from time to time…these decisions between adult values and child-led moments.  Do we as a school community support low-quality, fake neon-colored rainbow sherbet in a plastic bucket?  No.  Do we support empowered kids to show their love for their community in ways that they all agreed would make everyone happy, given the guidelines (or lack of guidelines) they had?  Yes.  I paused, but I bought the sherbet.

At lunch, the other kids devoured the chicken and sausage stew, biscuits, and salad lunch that the band had prepared for them.  When the dessert course began, however, excitement at Brightworks reached a new fevered pitch.  Oh, the colors!  And the handy plastic bucket it arrived in!  The ingredient list that contained so many mysteries!  New student (and aesthetically gifted) Thea garnished each small scoop with a raspberry, and we sent the sherbet out to the students (and plain raspberries to some.)  The oldest band served dessert and began clean-up while the younger three bands devoured their curious treat.

There will be another time for teaching these students about the food their put into their bodies, and the choices we make as food consumers.  That day will be messy too, as some children may hear from others at the school that the food they are served (and love) at home is sometimes looked down upon by other student’s families.  Those are important conversations to have, and we relish these tricky moments to discuss diversity, belief systems, differing family cultures and traditions, and sensitivity towards those who are different in so many ever-evolving ways.

But for today, the scales tipped away from the importance of food education, and towards the importance of honoring these students’ gift to us, their pride in making choices, and enjoying a school community’s unbridled excitement at being offered a dessert which is both strangely fake, and oddly beautiful.

Everything is interesting.  Check.

Moderation in everything.  Check.

year two, day one
















A second year at Brightworks has begun!


Bands met and got to know each other.

Some in their treehouses…



…some on the move.



Each band took time to start the year out in celebration and adventure.





Park has become more than free play every day and includes group games for the first part of every outdoor time.


The community gathered for lunch, made by Kristie, as a community-building experience to start the new year off to a warm and belly-filling start.




Our community has grown. The circle fills the cork floor. Things feel ready and intentional, busy, focused. We’re so excited to take on this new year.







What can we do now but cheer that we made it to the first day?

Get ready for tomorrow! School’s back in and the daily blog is daily once more. More adventures to come!

1 day

Who has first day of school jitters? Raise your hand! I’d say that’s about everyone.

Today we were all hard at work again getting the building ready for tomorrow: painting, moving, organizing. The staff have desks and work spaces, the library is small but books are getting categorized, the cork floor is ready to be played on, movable walls made so the space is usable. The shipping container now known as the workshop got a second coat of paint, there are chairs everywhere waiting to be sat on, the bathroom walls are freshly bright white. The collaborators have the day planned out to the minute and the admin staff is working hard to get the last minute details in order. Things may not be one hundred percent perfect and in their places, but the exciting thing about this school is that the students can build it up along with us and shape what they want to see in their space. How neat is that!

It’s promising to be an amazing day and we all look forward to telling you about it – the first day of the first year of this very new, exciting school.

Wish us luck!

3 days

Saturday. Three days left. Ellen and Gever were out sick yesterday and we’re all trying to stave off exhaustion and sickness as the days fly by. Luckily, though, we have a huge group of volunteers helping out with moving heavy furniture (like the immense whiteboard table that had to be dragged up two ladders to the top of the mezzanine), painting the office yellow, finishing the cork floor, painting the inside of our new shipping-container-workshop, and building walls to partition out the space. Wow’s and thank you’s abound – we couldn’t do all this without our incredibly dedicated volunteers of all ages. Will the space ever be clean? Will it soon look like a school? Stay tuned as the drama continues, all weekend! Oh, and don’t be shy if you want to come volunteer yourself!

4 days

Can I say “one of the best nights at Brightworks” to describe the parent potluck dinner last night? We’ve all come so far since the beginning of summer – and frankly since the beginning of this adventure of starting a school – and the closeness that I felt with all the parents, kids, and my fellow staff members was one of the best parts of this whole place for me. The building looked great with all the new furniture and was filled with kid things to do: drilling holes, making cardboard caps (or totem poles or stovepipe hats), playing with magnets, computer painting, getting buried in beanbags, and drawing on a rolled out piece of brown paper. The parents stunned us with the amazing collection of food, the chatter was loud, the laughter was heart-warming. There’s been – and I hope always will be – such an outpouring of support for everyone in this process of becoming a school and a community, and I just have to marvel again and again over how excited I am to get to know every single one of the kids joining us on Tuesday. As one of our future students said as he left the potluck, “I’ve never been so excited to come to Brightworks.” Hear, hear.

5 days

To be brief in a fast-moving day: CPR and first aid training with the teachers at Parker School for eight hours in a field of thirty training mannequins that, splayed on the floor, looked like a terrible kind of doll massacre; plumbing and floor drilling in between our CPR trainer’s talks about emergency situations; some furniture arranging. Oh, and prep for what promises to be a great night with our enrolled families at a to-school potluck to kick off this school year. It feels like a race to the finish – but at the finish line is yet another, more exciting race to start running.

6 days



Today the whole crew went to pick up a huge amount of furniture from a going-out-of-business office under the freeway. Swivel chairs, wooden chairs, desks on wheels, desks on four legs, short bookshelves, tall bookshelves, tables, wheeled tables, boxes of National Geographic… Later in the day thirty stools arrived, kid-height and stackable. With all this in the building, it looks like we’re going to be able to make a place that looks like a school with shiny floors, instead of the echoing warehouse! Now all we have to do is move everything out of the pile and make it functional.

The cork flooring project has begun, as well as laying sheet rock in the storage space. The windows are clean. The floor is swept. And 6 days? No sweat.