The Orphan Wisdom School
Stephen Jenkinson’s
Teaching House

The Orphan Wisdom School is crafted specifically for all those people who will fail to live forever, who have come to the idea – or been driven there – that their yearning for a deep life must be tethered to the plough of labour and learning to harrow the hardened field of sorrows and solitary, grey news that has become our corner of this beautiful world, so that children can one day soon be born into to a real, detailed, laboured over Better Day that we ourselves are now unlikely to see. Because none of this can be done in weekend workshops or homeless conference centres, we ask that you commit yourselves to what we call learning in real time, to gathering together for five days, twice a year, for two years, at the School’s home in the Ottawa Valley in Ontario, Canada, as a start. This a binding deal between us. It is the same commitment I make to you, irrevocable and faithful, and it tethers us honourably to crafting something worthy from our bewilderment and bedraggled dreams. As always, that bewilderment and those dreams are welcome. There is a programme for graduates that continues beyond this two year introduction.

The learning and the teaching will be part history, all culture, mostly spirit, hugely ancestral, very local, ultimately practicable and hand made, each time about living, working and dying, purposefully delivered and achieved together in the belief that the rudiments of being a true, life serving village person lay waiting for water and light in all of us. If you stay with it long enough your hands will know as much as you will, and even your consternation will be articulate.

The Orphan Wisdom School is for anyone with a desire to be useful to those who will inherit an endangered and often dangerous world. It is for those who have an instinct and a desire to be an ancestor worthy of being claimed. It is for those wishing to learn something of the skills of grace in a graceless time, of mentorship and fierce and exemplary compassion. It is for elders in training.

Young people need and deserve real recognition of their worth and purpose in life, and a living example of enduring discernment and courage for the hard and often empty times that are upon us all. The esteem of parents and friends can only go so far: elders must bring the rest. Grandparents must be grand not only for their children’s children, but for all the young ones coming into the world now. Their status as grand people comes from having wrangled wisdom from experience, and from having become elders more than senior citizens. Grandparents must now be elders even – especially – when no one asks it of them.

Whatever you have read or heard about the Orphan Wisdom School, that and your own many wonders and longings for a saner place in which to plant the little banner of dreams for your coming days will end up having to be reason and information enough by which you’ll wrangle your decision about attending. There’ll be no other descriptions beyond the ones on the Orphan Wisdom site, no other reading lists or prospecti sent out. No allegations about what you’ll learn or become. No certificate. It isn’t much with which to make your call, I’ll grant you, but fool’s gold is a description of something that hasn’t happened yet, something that would be changed in an instant by your decision to attend.

It is a school that requires no previous experience with living people, dying people or dead people – though you do have experience with all of them – and no particular employment, religion, educational standard or way of life.

The youngest scholar has been maybe fifteen years old, and the oldest about eighty. The place is open to every shape, persuasion, style, language and hue of person with a heart inclined for opening and learning and being undone. Each of us deserve the chance to learn something deep, alive, human, urgent and mandatory. This is at the heart of the Orphan Wisdom School

Would that our endangered and dangerous days be remembered, years from now, as a time when some gathered and rose up and, truant no more, learned their lives. That is where our learning together will begin to be tethered to something vast and thrilled and burdened with purpose. The School is, you could say, a kind of psychic/poetic craft guild, and the torments and travails of our time – political, personal, primordial – are the timber and stone of the trade.

To put your name on the list to be notified should new school classes be announced, send us a message by selecting ‘School Registration’ using our Contact Us page form. This will subscribe you to the list of recipients who will receive an advance email notification that school registrations are open. School registrations will be on a first-come, first-served basis.

Please consider attending one of the public events listed here. Should you be interested in hosting a talk where you live, do be in touch with us using our Contact Us page form.

Upcoming School Sessions

Dates Session Name Registration Location Status
2020 New Orphan Wisdom School – Ontario Class – 1/4 Add Your Name to the Notification List Ottawa Valley, ON, Canada First of Four Sessions – Open to New Scholars
Aug 19th to Aug 23rd, 2020 Big Tent Register before June 30th Ottawa Valley, ON, Canada Graduate Scholars Only – Closed to New Scholars
May 24th to May 28th, 2020 Those Come From Away 4/4 Learn More Wales, United Kingdom Closed to New Scholars