This fall marks the 8th “school” year of home learning for us, and, as every year unfolds and the kids get older, we are given new opportunities of inspiration to consider. The mornings of mist and fog settle around the golds and browns of shifting leaves, easing us into the soft and still warm breaking through of the sun. The changes sometimes seem sudden, like the darkening of the evenings, but also natural and embracing. It feels this way with my oldest daughter’s decision made within 6 days to attend the local elementary school for her 7th grade year.
One week we were snorkeling together on a thursday afternoon, and the next tuesday she was on the school bus heading to her first day of being in the class room. There were many conversations, both practical and heartfelt, that led her on this journey.
Many of her close friends had chosen this year to switch from our home schooling group into the school, each for their own reasons, and she was feeling a strong need as a twelve year old to connect with similar aged friends within her learning environment. A natural shift from learning mainly through play seemed to be taking place in the last year, but with an unknowing of how to continue to create interesting, integrated, experiential and fun learning projects on her own motivation. This led her to be inspired to expand her experience of learning- we discussed how every experience has something to offer, in this case, study skills, self discipline, being an individual learner within a directed group, group projects and discussions, and diverse social situations. Moving out of a comfort zone and seeing what there is and how to respond. She equated her educational journey to a spiral- with each experience leading the spiral upwards. In life learning, everything is education, no matter what the structure is- and it will all be a part of what shapes and directs her journey. In the future, she may chose from a variety of learning situations, and she was quite excited to begin getting familiar with a few of those options. She told me one night that she felt she really believed in herself, in her own strength and abilities to overcome anything that felt challenging. If she doesn’t like it, she understands that she can switch back to being at home, with her own schedule, and with a deeper understanding of her own motivations and preferred environment. Here on the Gulf Islands, we have a 4 day school week, and an incredibly supportive principal. Surrounded by good friends and a familiar place, she enjoys her teacher and the absence of desks in the class room- all factors that have made the transition for her a positive one so far. She has already taken part in an overnight camping trip to Saturna Island’s SEEC program with her class, (which we have done many times with our home school group in the past), a combination of outdoor activities and peer group learning that is perfectly within her educational desires at this time. There have been some doubts along the way, related mostly to early mornings and being inside a lot- both being practices of discipline and commitment. She has also noticed a disconnected sense towards our land- a place we have slowly developed in the past 6 years and on which she has spent most of that time outside and keenly aware of the nature around her.
When we began home schooling, it was my belief that the first few years, the youngest ones, the most impressionable ones, were the most important for a grounding of and a knowing of the self. My experience of school as a primary aged student, which followed into the rest of my adult life, was the disappearance of myself in a crowd, and the conflict of wanting to be seen and acknowledged, and yet, never to be the focus of attention. I realize that that may not have been the experience of my kids if they were in school, and I was willing, of course, to support either of my kids if they at any time, chose to take a different path, but neither of them had until now. Taeven now has a strong, inward sense of herself, with a solid foundation of values and unique qualities to share with her classmates.
My younger son, who is 9, has no interest in attending school at this point. He is fueled by riding his bike around and building things all day- and being entirely in control of his own time and activities. (With a little math and reading direction from me.) He has a great group of similar aged friends in our Spring Leaves Family Learning group, and very much enjoys the time we spend together doing a variety of seasonal, especially outdoor, activities. He misses his sister, and she has expressed a mutual feeling, so we try to spend off school hours together as a family- at home, in the community, or on short trips to the wild west coast to surf together. I am grateful that we have been able to create a supportive educational journey for our kids, one in which they are able to nurture their inner sense of self as well as their infusion into the one world around us. We are empowered by our own choices, and thus create the life we dream of.