We are two educational idealists; though our experiences with education are radically different. David, educated k-12 in public schools and with two post-graduate degrees under his belt, is the poster child for traditional education. And while I think his education served him pretty well; he is a huge proponent for innovation in the educational process. I, meanwhile, am the poster child for non-traditional education. Homeschooled K-12, got my two year degree while still in high school and much much later went back to an online college to finish my bachelors. I haven’t done traditional schooling a day in my life – something that my kids sometimes throw in my face when I try to give them advice nowadays. (And Naomi is now riding that school bus I always longed to try!)
Both of us, however, believe in guerrilla learning, a term we picked up from a book by the same name that is a MUST read. The basic idea is that you can learn wherever you are, whatever you are doing. Education is a choice, it is always self-directed. We always choose what we want to learn and we can always find a way to learn whatever interests us. We believe in this 100% and as a family, I feel we’ve kind of proved it. We unschooled Naomi for K-1, moved to Africa where she joined a “one room schoolhouse” missionary school for grades 2-5 and then back to America where she was part of a private school for the next three years. Now she is in public school. We also homeschooled Quinn for a year in the middle there (different than unschooling!) Ten years in to our children’s educations, we have now used public, private and charter schools. Sometimes it feels we have done it all just to meet the needs of our kids and our unique living situations.
We are learners, all five of us. All of humanity, actually. You’re a learner and everyone you’ll talk to today is too. Schools are one way to learn, being outside of a school is another. And you know what? One is not better, more creative, or more intuitive than another. They are different! Home schoolers have the ability to learn to do family really well – they are with family 24-7 and that shapes them in certain ways – good or bad. Meanwhile children in schools learn to do relationships with peers and in community really well (or really badly.) They learn about structure, boundaries, authority and organizational life in a way that most home schoolers don’t have access to. They’re different; but both places are places of learning.
What I think few people realize is the lessons kids are learning at school and at home. The subconscious lessons that these spaces and places are communicating to our kids. Sometimes kids at home learn that they don’t quite fit anywhere, that they are outsiders. Sometimes kids at school learn that too. Sometimes kids at school learn how wildly brilliant and creative they are. Sometimes kids at home learn that too. Life lessons are everywhere.
But this post in praise of schools. Because, as a life-long homeschooler, I now have three children in three different schools.. One is in private school, one in public school and one in a charter which is arguably a kind of combination of the two. And all three are stellar schools with amazing opportunities, incredibly people and wonderful challenges and joys. Every morning I make my rounds to drop my children off for a full day of learning without me. And although I have treasured being WITH my children so many hours for so many days of their lives, I feel now the value of their opportunity to learn and grow outside of me, outside of what I provide them. I see them, straining toward the light, learning to navigate peer relationship, teacher relationships and subjects that challenge them. I see how good it is.
And, as a mom still adapting to an older-child international adoption, it is such a gift to drop off three happy children who love their schools and be able to just be ME for half of the day; a writer, a coach, a consultant, and so much more. Then I return to pick them up and share what I have learned, how I have grown, as I listen to their stories too. It has made our family stronger to have children in school. And I’m so grateful.
So this is in praise of schools. And really amazing teachers. And helpful administrators. And in praise of learning: which is so organic, so beautiful, just a natural gift of God to us. And if you home school it can be in praise of that too. There are wonderful learning situations everywhere and bad ones everywhere too. I’m just so grateful to have found places of growth and goodness for my three.