I would like to address the idea that I hear expressed from time to time that there is no point in sending your kids to a place like the Macomber Center if all they're going to do is play video games all day, which is something that they can just do at home. For me, this misses the heart of what Macomber offers.
Whether it be music, art, cooking, science classes, walks in the woods, games of tag or four square or video games/screen time, the Center offers a chance to come together with others and experience different perspectives and share new ideas. An artist friend of mine (who works in a completely different field for a living) rented some studio space a few years ago. She did this, rather than set up space in her own home, so that she could be near other artists and gain insight, encouragement and companionship from them. At lunchtime at a homeschool program at a farm, everyone comes together and you either share a dish or wash dishes. By sharing a meal with a diverse group of adults and children, you are exposed to new foods, or foods prepared in ways you have not previously experienced. The same thing happens cooking or eating lunch at Macomber – it is simply lunch, but it is an amazing learning experience.
Board games, outdoor games and video games all have rules. But when playing with people outside of your family, outside of your immediate circle of close friends, you may learn new interpretations of those rules. Or you may be inspired to combine different interpretations and make a whole new game. Collaboration and inspiration are at the heart of most music and art – seeing and hearing new patterns, new ways of doing the same thing or perhaps something completely different. In short, playing around with ideas. And play, as most of us at Macomber agree, is key to all learning.
I really feel that the magic of Macomber lies in the fact that it is so much more than the sum of its parts. Any single person attending the Center could probably do what they are doing there at home. But the experience becomes so much more when it is shared in a supportive, open environment where there is no wrong answer and play and experimentation are encouraged.
This semester at the local university where I work there was a teach-in about a topic that has been in the news all year. Professors reported that up to one third of their students were unaware of the issue. These students tended to be from small schools, came to the university with a group of friends, shared the same interests and likes as their friends and because of the way news and ideas are spread on the internet, have never had to look at anything outside of their interests and perspective. This topic was simply not on their radar, so they were completely oblivious about it. In this age of Internet and screen time, there is more need than ever to get together in person and share experiences and knowledge. Macomber provides this and I feel fortunate to have it in our life.