Yesterday was the last day of school for my girls in a traditional school setting (at least for now). Two giant boxes just arrived at our door and it felt like Christmas as my daughters and I unpacked the contents that will become our school curriculum for the remainder of the year -- books on health, biology, genes and DNA; science kits for experiments to learn about electricity, magnetism, and light; history project kits to learn about the election process in the USA, math books to cover everything from 4th-7th grade, and nearly 50 books to help us embark on a journey of learning about American History and literature this year. We are feeling really hopeful and "nervous-cited" to dive in and begin our Homeschool.
I'm also realistic enough to know this isn't going to be a bed of roses. It's going to be a LOT of work for me to truly be successful in this endeavor while continuing to juggle the demands of real estate, pursue my own personal interests, and maintain my physical and mental well-being. I'm full of optimism right now and have clarity, but I realize there are going to be rough patches when I want to quit. I know that about myself so I made a commitment to be purposeful right NOW to extract my "Why". On the rough days, I want to be able to go back to it so I can ground myself in discipline and purpose to keep moving forward. I anticipate this journey into Homeschooling is going to be an ultra-marathon that truly requires slow and steady commitment and discipline to finish.
My Why for Homeschooling my Daughters
I love my Daughters and will do anything to support them on their journey to become the best version of themselves. Being their mom is the greatest gift of my life--my absolute favorite role--and I don't want to waste a second of it.
I could probably stop after #1, but of course that's not how my analytical brain works so let's keep going.😉
Let me just get this one out of the way; though I realize this was only the catalyst--not the reason to choose Homeschooling--Prioritize health during a pandemic. Outside of wanting to keep everyone healthy in my own home, my kids are really close with their grandparents and we want them to be able to spend as much time as they want with them and not worry about getting our parents sick.
Education today is stuck. I desperately want something better for our education system. Why hasn't the current system grown, adapted, or evolved in a century? None of it makes sense to me, but I haven't seen the disruption needed to move the needle. I believe Covid will force disruption, but the changes aren't fast enough to help kids today. While I was having my pity party last week about what we were going to do for our girls' education this year, I gave Chris an impassioned plea for what my vision of education was for our daughters. Simultaneously, I expressed utter frustration that it didn't seem to exist. He got his very serious, wise Yoda look and looked me straight in the eye [this look always tells me to listen up because I'm about to hear something that will profoundly impact me]. He said "Isn't it interesting that you have such a passionate conviction about the changes you want to see in education and you've also just spent the last 3 years in flux trying to find your purpose and gaining clarity around what you are supposed to be doing?" I physically felt the profound impact of that question as my throat began to choke up. My intuition perked up and knew I needed to take action in shaping the changes in education that I wish to see. I could create the vision of education I have -- if only in my own house.
The world needs us all to show up as our truest authentic selves and I believe that must be nurtured--something our education system struggles to do. Our real gifts shine when we live from that space of authenticity. Young children tend to do this naturally, but slowly learn to "blend in". I recently heard an interview with Richard Koch, entrepreneur, investor, and author of The 80/20 Principle where the interviewer asked him: "What advice would you give to a smart kid who's now in high school?" Richard's response was: "Discover what you are best at doing and enjoy that is different from what all your peers are doing and that requires relatively little effort from you. Then put huge effort into honing that skill, so that it becomes monstrously greater than anyone else's. Keep demanding that each year you make your peculiar talent more peculiar and much more potent. Use the skill to make the world a more interesting place. Don't care about making money. If you have a fantastically different and useful skill, everything else you want will follow."
I am highly concerned about the anxiety and mental health issues young girls are experiencing today. This is a huge societal issue far beyond just school, but I find it unacceptable that, as a country, we aren't more alarmed by our daughters beginning to exhibit signs of chronic anxiety in grade school and middle school. These same girls are the "high achievers" that move into high school and then college with everything looking good on the outside, but tremendous underlying mental health issues that persist into young womanhood. I was one of these girls myself. I realize I can't protect my children in a bubble and I don't know what the answers are, but I know the definition of insanity is repeating the same behaviors and expecting different results. As a parent, I watched as the levels of anxiety in my girls seemed to deflate like a balloon as they moved into distance learning last spring and this Fall. We nixed the "busyness" in our house and slowed way down. I can't pinpoint exactly why their anxiety dropped so much, but I like the direction we are headed.
Flexibility to learn from anywhere in the world, anytime, and remove the constraints of a traditional school day, year, and location. Learning often starts when we get out and explore; not just when we are sitting in a classroom. Who am I kidding, this may be the 2nd most important reason to homeschool, outside of #1! I didn't connect it until this moment, but I looked back on my personal vision boards from the last couple years and everything ties in with the path we are on now, even down to quotes about "learning outside the classroom." I love the way the Universe works!
Foster a love of lifelong learning. I love learning and can think of at least 5 different doctorate programs I'd love to do right now. I want my kids to enjoy picking up a book and learning about anything they are curious about. By moving away from memorization-based textbooks, I'm hoping to encourage a higher level of engagement, critical thought, and discussion. Although I feel it's important to cover "the basics", I also want the girls to enjoy the freedom to explore learning about things they find interesting.
Encourage self-reliant habits and independence. My Renaissance Man multi-talented husband is our role model here. His greatest talents (music, cooking, art, thinking, and programming) are all things that he taught himself to do. By taking more of a de-schooling approach, my hope is that our daughters will 1) lean into their natural pace and curiosity and 2) become fearless about becoming self-reliant learners in anything they want to explore.
Prioritize emotional intelligence and independent thought. As we move forward into a more tech-driven world, I believe we our educational approach needs to evolve. The memorization-based concepts we once drilled into kids are now identified with a quick Google search so is that the best use of their time? People talk about machines taking many of the jobs people do today. There is truth to that, at least in jobs that are based on highly predictive behaviors or skills. However, we will beat machines all day long (at least for now) in emotional intelligence and independent thought. Let's evolve our educational approach to prioritize that!
Finally have the opportunity to share a greater part of me. My kids have been at a Catholic school for almost all of their formal education. My family is not Catholic. I have no issue with my daughters learning about Catholicism or any other religion, for that matter. However, I'm a very non-religious, but highly spiritual person. For years, I've wished I could gently introduce the girls to some of the tools that have helped me on my spiritual journey, whether it's meditation, breathing practices, yoga, or writing. There has never been room for that in their formal education and I fully expect them to be on their own journey, but I look forward to sharing that part of me with them.
I have no idea how long this experiment will go. I don't need to know that yet. I will view it as a success if we make progress in even just a few of the above areas. Learning is a lifelong love for me and I know I'm about to learn a lot.