Pine Hollow: A Magic Space For Education

Bonnie Bryant, author of the Saddle Club books, has created a magic space for education:  Pine Hollow.  Surrounded by horses and vast fields, this space is truly what Ukrainian educator, Vasilii Sukhomlinsky called the school”under the blue sky.”  It is interesting to note that Russians have two words for education:  “vospitanie”(upbringing, but a better translation would be moral and social education, and “obrazovanie”(formal education.)  It is clearly the former that has the most significance at Pine Hollow.  However, a few situations concerning formal education do occur:  Lisa Atwood’s problems with geography and her mother’s threat to expel her from her riding classes at Pine Hollow Stables if her grades don’t approve, and Lisa Atwood’s advice to Rafael the gypsy to complete his school work so he can compete better in the “real world.”  But there is no joy in formal education here.  It is simply a requirement one must reconcile oneself to.  On the other hand, the unforced learning that comes from experiences at Pine Hollow is often a source of joy and wonder.  The teachers not only include the people that supervise Pine Hollow, but nature itself:  the expansive fields, the creeks, the mines, and surrounding wildlife.  The girls learn the importance of chores by mucking out stables and taking care of horses.  The girls learn to be more sensitive to other people’s feelings as well, which includes the often commanding, condescending Veronica di Angelo.  In essence, all the adolescents of Pine Hollow are taking steps towards learning”how to care, and be cared for”, a tenet from Stanford educator, Nel Noddings, so they can be wise and understanding parents in the years to come.  The girls are also learning how to express and recognize the different aspects of their personalities.  According to Rod Newton, Director of Hidden Springs Wellness Center in Ashland, Oregon, a healthy human being needs to come to grips with the different characteristics that make up his/her personality.  In the episode, Scooter encourages Veronica to do just that.  Veronica tries to behave like an adult and refers with derision to the “juvenile nature of The Saddle Club.”  She struts around with an impatient air of importance giving orders(like an adult.)  But her attitude causes her to be isolated and inwardly unhappy.  Scooter challenges Veronica to look into herself, and not suppress the carefree, playful child, which is also a part of her.  Throughout the series we witness Veronica’s struggles, climaxing in an intense inner dialogue.  Scooter’s probing question, “What is it you really want, Veronica?” reminds all of us to focus on what is truly meaningful in our lives.

About Robert M. Weiss
From an early age, I've taken great pleasure in reading. Also, I learned to play my 78 player when I was quite young, and enjoyed listening to musicals and classical music. I remember sitting on the floor, and following the text and pictures of record readers, which were popular in the 1940s and 50s. My favorites were the Bozo and Disney albums. I also enjoyed watching the slow spinning of 16s as they spun out tales of adventure. I have always been attracted by rivers, and I love to sit on a boulder with my feet in the water, gazing into the mysteries of swirling currents. I especially like inner tubing on the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. Since my early youth, I've been interested in collecting minerals, which have taught me about the wonderful possibilities in colors and forms. Sometimes I try to imagine what the ancient Greeks must have felt when they began to discover physical laws in nature. I also remember that I had a special passion for numbers, and used to construct them out of stones. After teaching Russian for several years, I became a writer, interviewer, editor, and translator. I continue to delight in form, and am a problem solver at heart.

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