As a writing teacher and a college writing center director, this project by Dave Eggers really caught my eye. He set up a storefront in his neighborhood in SF to help kids with writing. I saw Eggers last March at a conference in SF. He’s a smart and motivated guy (and a helluva good writer). This project of his is awesome. I can see myself doing something like this one day. Sometimes I feel like my life as a teacher can be a little bigger. I teach college writing, direct a college writing center, and help my son with his learning (some call that homeschooling), but expanding that to an even larger community might be really nice. I’ve been thinking a lot about community lately, and service, and a distinct lack of it in many places. Anyway, this project got me thinking. Check it out.

I’m a homeschooling parent. (Lately I’ve taken to calling that life learning, not homeschooling, but that’s another conversation.) When you say you home school (and the like), people take that as kind of criticism of mainstream schooling because, well, at least in my case, it is. There are many problems with the mainstream system, I think. The idea that it is a system in the true sense of the word is part of the problem. But I don’t think that means one should completely separate themselves from those within that system. Sometimes we life learners catch ourselves perpetuating a kind of homeschooling snobbery–most likely as a kind of defense mechanism against the prejudices we sometimes face. Of course, that is not the answer.

One thing that has attracted me to what Eggers is doing is that he’s bringing to public school kids what many life learners and homeschoolers strive for everyday–a real sense community, purpose, and authentic voice. The kids at 826 Valencia Street are really there–doing real and rewarding work, letting their voices be heard, enjoying the respect of adults who are really interested in what they have to say. These kids are participating in what Egger’s refers to as cultivating democracy and enlightened lives through the participation in community (and in the case of 826 Valencia via the primacy of the written word). These values are closely aligned with those of my family as we negotiate this thing called homeschooling and learning with others.