Journals are part of the English curriculum; teachers read them aloud anonymously in class once each week. The journal readings provide a time for students to share their thoughts in an honest, open forum and to hear their own voices, as well as the voices of their classmates.
Here's an example of a journal entry:
I never could have dreamed of waking up, the way I did yesterday, to the glory of a pink sunrise streaked with orange, the lines like those left after someone has waved a sparkler. When I was younger, I hated the city. I wanted to leave, to climb trees, to milk cows, to wake up to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s tin-basin bath.
But I have grown used to the city, taking too much for granted the proximity of museums and how easy it its to find an excellent school – or, rather, a whole host of them. And in the past few years, I have taken art history, coming, through the class, to a better understanding of the beauty of the art in those museums. I have relied on multiple public library branches for research papers, resources that may or may not be available outside of New York. I have even started walking to school through the park in recent years, watching the sun rise up 96th Street. In short, I have come to appreciate the city and its way of life. I have lost touch with the desires that pushed me so forcefully away from it, and I have settled into its conveniences. I felt Nature’s absence less strongly, compensating for its lack with my daily half-hour walk through the park. (I have, since third grade, intentionally capitalized Nature’s first letter.)
Life at the Mountain School is rougher. I don’t yet have the spiritual capability or possess the physical strength for life in Vermont’s winter. I can love the season’s visual aspect, but I am in no way prepared for snowshoeing up hills and pushing myself to the top. I have worked to find intellectual challenge; now , physical challenge has found me. I like the idea of it, and I hope that I will be able to meet it. The sense of time here is different and more beautiful. Not only am I allowed to admire the sunrise and look closely at the trees but I am expected to. Managing homework, in terms of time constraints, is still a challenge. But the challenge now is balancing school work with the outdoors, not schoolwork with more schoolwork. I have seen few sunrises but have had to rush onward to arrive at school in time for some sort of meeting or other. Now, I can stop for a few moments jus to stare at the heavens. That’s the real difference between the Mountain School and New York City living.
From the other side of the stream, there is an orange-ish, grayish rock that I can get to only by hopping stone to stone. This is my thinking rock. It’s just big enough for me to sit on and cross my legs. From there, I can meditate or just look at the water. I’ve meditated there three times, breathing steadily as I listen to the babbling water course next to me on either side of the river stone. I’m sitting on the rock now, as I write. And even though I’m not meditating, this rock makes me feel calm.
When I meditate, the water seems to guide me toward thoughtlessness, toward an empty mind, devoid of all but the sound of water. It rushes over the rocks, making it bubble and froth, but becomes calm again soon. After I open my eyes, the world seems kind of bluish Like the painting my parents have in the living room, blued by years of exposure to the sun. All color but blue is faded out, giving everything a surreal feeling. I could see this stream and forest as a painting on my living room wall, blued by the sun.