One final day until our kids walk out through their school gate for what should be the last time in their lives.
No, we don’t have a couple of teenagers finishing high school. Our boys are 7 and 10, and after making the call recently to excuse them from school permanently we’re looking for alternative ways to educate them.
To help prepare ourselves for the beginning of the rest of our lives, my wife Kate and I sat down to put in writing what we’re setting out to achieve as a family. The important stuff – everything that matters to us and, by proxy of not making the list, all the stuff that doesn’t.
This is not about what we’ll be learning (we’ll get into those details later) – it’s the why and the how, the guiding principles we’ll hold to as we navigate life together.
We’ll ‘homeschool’, but we won’t be ‘schooling at home’
A good chunk of why school hasn’t resonated with us is its rigid structure and outdated approach to learning, and we don’t want to bring any of the old paradigm into our brave new world. We definitely won’t be fitting the classical homeschooling model of desks, worksheets and schedules.
(Side note: it’s hard to find a word that describes what we’re doing – especially when trying to explain it to others. A mix of ‘homeschooling’, ‘unschooling’ and ‘hackschooling – coined by the inspiring young Logan LaPlante – will do the trick for us until we come up with something else that sticks!)
We’ll seek out our village and tribe
We’ve always felt like square pegs in a round-holed school scene. We’ve had friendly relationships with other parents and families, but not many real friendships have formed. They’re happy with what their children are learning and how they’re learning it, we’re not. They embrace negative social interactions as character-building growth opportunities for their kids, we lie awake at night thinking about them. They’re celebrating the end of the school holidays, we’re quietly hurting (yes, hurting) at the thought of being apart from our kids again.
We’re different, and when we interact with other school families we find ourselves chipping off parts of ourselves to fit just the way our kids have had to.
We need to embrace those differences and find a group of people who share them.
Our children will steer their learning
There’s enough research out there now that shows learning comes naturally when a child is interested in something, and that it won’t if they’re not. We’ll embrace and leverage their passions to help them learn more about whatever interests them at the time, weaving in our own thoughts, ideas and encouragement. When their interest moves to something else, we’ll go deep there. They’ll learn, and they’ll develop autonomy.
They will never face a rote mathematical exercise for the sake of ticking an assessment box again.
Who they are as people will be more important than what they do
On my 21st birthday, the closing line of my father’s speech was “Always remember: it’s not what you do, it’s who you are.”
15 years later and a day hasn’t gone by where I haven’t thought about that. What you’re going to do with your life shouldn’t be your primary focus through those school-age years. If we spent more time helping our kids grow into who they want to be, we’d have a heck of a lot less people out there depressed about their jobs and longing for the weekend.
We’ll slow down the pace of life to appreciate the simple things
Rushing through the rat race is exhausting, and it quickly takes our eyes off the prize. The flower patch that smells like summer. The snails and ants hiding underneath. The passing dog wanting a pat. Clouds forming shapes in the sky. Yes yes, it all sounds a bit dreamy and silly – but the world around us is beautiful, and I don’t think many of us slow down enough to really appreciate it. I know we haven’t, and that’s going to change.
Building on that, we’ll help them grow a sense of adventure
It’s a big old world out there full of endless adventures waiting to be had. Kate and I have always embraced change and uncertainty, always ready for new chapters, and we want to foster that same adventurous spirit in our children.
We’ll travel whenever and however much we can, exploring and learning as we go.
And with that penned, it’s time for our new life chapter.