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Marilyn Mosley

interview by Douglas Eby

Marilyn Mosley is the Director of Laurel Springs School in Ojai, California, which has an online program for students through high school level anywhere in the world, and a homeschooling program that enrolls many gifted students, including a number of young television and film actors. 

Also a ballet student from age five, Mosley joined the Plexis Dance Company in Ventura, CA, and choreographs youth dance productions, sometimes included in Laurel Springs graduation ceremonies. 

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"The thing I've noticed is that if people feel appreciated and acknowledged," Mosley says, "and their style of learning is valued, they flourish and they want to continue, and their inherent love of learning really comes forth. Our focus for all our students is to really provide a very loving, and secure and safe environment in which to learn.

"The other thing that's really important is to empower each individual to really find their passion. Each of us has a different interest and love of learning. Joseph Chilton Pearce, who wrote the book 'Magical Child,' said that if the model of education matches the individual, then true learning occurs.

"So our goal is to make sure that the curriculum a child is involved with really matches the model of what they need to be learning, and want to be learning. Then it's exciting. It isn't a chore; it isn't something they're doing for someone else."

One reason the school attracts so many gifted students, she explains, "is oftentimes because they feel they weren't recognized or supported in public schools, and, worse than that, sometimes they actually experienced a negative environment in which to learn."

One of the school's advisors is Frederick Hudson [of the Hudson Institute in Santa Barbara, CA] who believes, Mosley notes, "that adults go through different passages in their lives, depending on their age, and that if you're attuned to these passages it can be an incredibly enriching process. 

"His premise is that in our jobs and in our life, you learn a subject or you take on a job, you work towards a goal, and reach the height of your goal and plateau out, and at that point most people stick with their job and go into a dying process, where it's no longer exciting and alive to them.

"He teaches people how to either transition to a new job, or rejuvenate the process you've been doing, so that it doesn't become dead. His work is so invaluable, and I use his information all the time.

"In terms of some issues like self-esteem affecting students, what I've seen is a general, overall malaise of the public school system. We have a premise at our school that before you can really teach content, you need to work on self-esteem and positive life skills.

"All the content in the world is not as valuable as coming out of Laurel Springs feeling good about yourself. So we try to create a curriculum that enhances a child's self-esteem, and their life skills: their ability to really function in the world."

Along with a number of other educators and leaders, Mosley thinks "The culture in general doesn't especially support giftedness and gifted people. I would think it's not all that different for adults or children. You sort of have to recapture yourself, and reevaluate who you are, so you're not letting other people define who you are as an individual and as a learner. 

"I know that one of the things that's so healing about Laurel Springs is that students regain themselves in the process, so they can stand back and evaluate what they went through before, and understand that part of the problem was simply that other people couldn't see them for who they are, and therefore they were subjected to gross injustices.

"But once you understand it's not you, it's other people and their inability to accept greatness, it's almost easier. I think once you can navigate your own learning, whether you're an adult or a child, you can make incredible leaps, because you're not being held back or suppressed by people who might just be very threatened by who you are, because you don't conform.

"One of the most important values for our students is to realize you're not alone, and that there was nothing wrong with you, but you were in a system that blames the individual for not conforming.

Referring to the John Gatto book "Dumbing Us Down", Mosley recalls an MSNBC show [including a segment on Laurel Springs] that said "that's what our system is doing, that kids are coming out of high school unable to write and do math, going into college needing remedial work, because the thought process is not toward excellence.

"What happens in high school," she adds, "and what people end up having to recuperate from for years, is the peer pressure is immense, and it comes at a time in a child's life when they're trying to grow up and individualize.

"So they bond to a peer group out of a need for approval, and often times these groups may not have the same needs and standards as they have, and so they lower their abilities in order to join, or they're ostracized from the group because you're different. 

"And either way, you don't get to be yourself. You don't get to experience the joy that you're okay as you are.

"There was a study recently with homeschool high school students that found they had much higher self-esteem. They bypassed that middle period of high school when most students are motivated by wanting to be accepted, and they were able to move from their family connection to looking at what their own life was about, what was their life calling. They felt good enough about themselves that they didn't need to seek outside approval from others.

"With respect to my own growth, my family was and is very supportive. My father was an artist, and my mother was always very supportive of me expressing myself through the arts. I got to a point about eight years ago where I realized that I needed to just dance for the joy of it, and that I didn't want to dance professionally. Probably that's a stage of your adult development, when you realize you don't need to do it for the outside world."

Mosley thinks dance and creativity are "an incredible gift" and that "we all need to express ourselves creatively. One of the first things we do with children who come to our school, if they're really burned out from public school, is we design a curriculum that is very creative.

"It's such a healing process for them to get back in touch with their own inner, emotional creativity. And I think that's true for us throughout life. I always think we're all children at heart.

"One of the things I've liked about the process of encouraging talent is that it's always changing, and that once we can heal ourselves of our past wounds, we can move on. And the future is completely open. There's no stopping us, and there are all kinds of opportunities available."

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site: Laurel Springs School

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  related Talent Development Resources pages :

GT Adults blog gifted/talented/high ability

giftedness : articles

giftedness : books

HSP & gifted books

intensity / sensitivity

intensity / sensitivity resources : articles sites books

introversion / shyness.

introversion resources : articles  sites  books

perfectionism

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