I was one of the younger members of the Red Family Commune and the only one, to my knowledge, with a background in developmental psychology, which had been my major at Berkeley.
Looking back we had an unfortunate proclivity for names with color. Yes, Blue Fairyland (thank you, Christopher Scheer) was sort of non-threatening, but to me the process was a lesson in why you don't let a three year old name a school. Cute, sure, but also embarrassing when you had to say where you worked when you were a 22 year old male.
Calling ourselves the Red Family, sounded more than vaguely communist - not to mention exclusive - and it didn't much help with outreach in the community. I think we were by turns both horrified and proud that so many people considered Red Family members elite and separate.
We did try to be disciplined and approached the political and cultural issues of the day with upmost seriousness. Sometimes maybe with too much seriousness.However, the decision to start a pre-school for 3-5 year olds was definitely ahead of its time in most leftist political circles. Even though it would be 10 more years before I had kids of my own I was happy to be assigned (within the Red Family) with helping start (ahem) Blue Fairyland.
It certainly was never designed to be a cadre school but it was dedicated to exposing pre-school age children to a multicultural experience and developing some certain skills that would set them up for later learning. I tried to make sure we had enough of the equipment and tools that Piaget, Montessori, and others had developed for very young developing minds. It would be decades before research would prove that between the ages of 2 and 5 human minds undergo their greatest development. They can never fully develop if they are not properly stimulated and socialized during these formative years.
The fact that parents' participation was mandatory at Blue Fairyland was a great decision and also ahead of its time in terms of the mainstream. I was one of the few non-parents working in the school and my relationships were focused more with the kids then with the parents but I don't remember any duds on the parental score.
Scheer made sure food was a constant topic of discussion. Well prepared, locally sourced, and delicious meals were yet to be known as California Cuisine. At the time I thought this was so bourgeois, as if eating brown rice and vegetables was the only authentic way to eat. I so wanted to be authentic and in the vanguard, but maybe I had just a wee bit too narrow a POV. Not the last lesson on that score.
Economically, I'm not sure if we actually implimented this but we certainly talked endlessly about having a sliding scale for costs based on parents income. Another progressive idea ahead of its time.
I also remember spending a fair amount of time taking the kids in the puke green Dodge van on various field trips around the community. Kids got exposed to a lot but not too much for their level of development and we had a lot of fun.
One thing to clear up here. Jane never was part of the Red Family. She visited the Red Family. Tom was living with Ann Weils and Christopher. I think Scheer was living with Susan Lyne around this time or soon thereafter.
When Jane was on location in northern California making Steelyard Blues she left Vanessa with the Red Family during the week and she would come back on the weekends, sometimes staying in Berkeley, sometimes going back to L.A. I was the one assigned to take care of Vanessa and we have a bond to this day.
Tom was long kicked out of the Red Family and moved to L.A. before he really hooked up with Jane. After Tom went, I too left the Red Family. I was nominally "reassigned" to San Diego to organize against the coming Republican Convention (later moved to Miami because we were too successful in organizing according to the RNC).
Ironically, but maybe not so ironically, I moved back to L.A. after the Republican Convention moved from San Diego. I hooked up with the Indochina Peace Campaign, led by Jane and Tom. In organizing events Jane and I (and sometimes Tom) started a game (theoretically) that asked the question, "If you could make any movie you wanted, what would it be?"
That "game" resulted in my researching, co-writing, and Associate Producing Coming Home and then totally changing careers by forming a production company (IPC Films) and developing and producing China Syndrome, 9 to 5, On Golden Pond and many other projects with and without Jane. It wouldn't have happened had it not been for the Blue Fairyland so I guess I should stop complaining about the name.
I often wondered what happened to the Blue Fairyland. I'm was so glad to hear it went on in some form and that there were so many good experiences.
Kids, parents, and staff really tried to make it a great experience and I know while I was there for its first year, it largely succeeded.