If you could create the perfect school for your kids, what would it include?
Here’s what mine would look like :
- Teachers who are free to create their own curriculums based on questions their students have about real world ideas.
- Apprenticeships with mentors who are fluent in a foreign language and have cultures and expertise their students are unfamiliar with.
- Classes that focus more on problem solving and less on memorizing facts.
- Teachers that encourage students to figure things out for themselves instead of giving them all the answers and then hoping they remember them at test time.
- Real world tests that acknowledge there’s always more than one way to solve a problem and very rarely one correct answer to anything.
- Teachers who realize that giving children the answers won’t teach them anything.
- Students who are encouraged to express themselves freely and be proud of their individuality.
- History classes filled with discussion on the effects of historical events, not just the dates and places those events happened.
- Daily discussions where everybody has a voice and everybody’s opinion is valid and respected.
- Real life math lessons that can be used immediately and will be used again and again.
- Opportunity, time and encouragement for volunteering and community service projects.
- Experiments that teach students to trust their own judgement and be confident in their abilities.
- Lively debate and discussion about current events and politics with opinions from several opposing viewpoints.
- Entrepreneurship lessons from working, successful entrepreneurs.
- Long-term projects that teach students the value of self-motivation and self-assessment.
- Reading lists filled with books the student has chosen, on subjects the student cares and wants to learn more about.
- Project-based lessons where failure isn’t a grade, but an integral part of the learning process.
- Experience-based lessons instead of textbook-based lessons.
- Teamwork-building lessons that encourage collaboration, compromise and patience.
- Technology classes that encourage students to see the world in future tense.
- Career classes created by students, covering real-world job skills they’re interested in learning more about.
- Regular interaction and socialization with people of all ages, ethnicities and economic backgrounds, not just kids their age, from their neighborhoods.
- Year-round local, statewide, nationwide and worldwide travel opportunities.
And a few things my perfect school would absolutely never waste time on :
- Standardized tests that assume it’s results accurately measure a child’s intelligence or potential.
- Report cards that assume it’s grades accurately measure a child’s intelligence or potential.
- Arbitrary rules that encourage conformity and limit individuality.
I’ve always said that if this kind of school existed, I would move mountains to make enough money to send my kids there. I would scrimp and save every dollar for what I assume would be SKY HIGH tuition and it would be worth every single penny.
For four years, my kids were in the American public school system and they did fine. Straight A students, no disciplinary issues, no learning disabilities. Their report cards were always full of compliments and praise. They came home with folders full of papers they’d written and art they’d made. I have boxes full of their schoolwork that I absolutely cherish and adore and will never get rid of. Their public schooling has always reminded me of my own. I enjoyed school and always did really well, even without much of an effort. Unfortunately, though, I didn’t actually learn a damn thing. Every subject was the same. Read, memorize, test, forget. Repeat, repeat, repeat, graduate. And I know I wasn’t the only one. STOP! POP QUIZ TIME!
- Which battle was considered the first American victory in the Revolutionary War?
- Volume = 4/3 ∏ r³ is what mathematical formula?
- One isotope with 30 neutrons equals what?
- What large French fortress in Canada was besieged and captured by New Englanders in 1745?
- List the periods of the Paleozoic Era in ascending order.
How many did you get? Maybe one? Probably zero. Feeling a little bit stupid now?
You don’t know those things because the answers have absolutely no effect on your life. You’ve never needed to know any of those answers before this random quiz and guess what? Getting a ZERO on this quiz means absolutely NOTHING about your ability to succeed nor is it a prediction of how well you’ll do in the future. It’s 100% meaningless. So why are we teaching these kind of facts to our kids? Why do we expect them to memorize dates and formulas that they will never, ever need? Wouldn’t their time be better spent learning life lessons like the ones I listed above? Wouldn’t it be more productive to teach them problem solving skills or how to be helpful and successful in real-world situations? Why are we filling their days with useless information when we could be using that time to really prepare them for the rest of their lives?
Most of the teachers our kids had were good. Two of them really stuck out from the rest, though. One was my daughter Roxy’s second and third grade teacher, Mrs. Winemiller. She was WONDERFUL. Roxy has always been a bit wacky and over the top and I was always a little worried that she’d have trouble with her teachers because of it. Mrs. Winemiller encouraged Roxy’s uniqueness, gave her specific assignments based on some of Roxy’s crazy ideas and pushed her to be even more creative than she already was. Roxy adored her and undeniably thrived. The other teacher that stands out was my son Kai’s second grade teacher, Mrs. C. She was strict, unfriendly, unimaginative and VERY by-the-book. Kai, like every other 8 year old in the world I think, is a Minecraft fanatic. He would play that game 24 hours a day if we’d let him. At the school book fair, he was thrilled to find a Minecraft book with info about the game, tips and tricks, information about all the different building tools, etc. He brought it home, read it cover to cover and then stuck it into his backpack to take to school with him the next day. When he got home he said “Mrs. C says Minecraft books aren’t allowed at school and if I bring it again she’s going to take it away.” Ummm, what? 19% of kids in our school system graduate high school without knowing how to read and she’s discouraging my kid from reading because she doesn’t like the book he picked? This was just one of the many times Kai came home from school unhappy. Other days he came home with notes saying he had gotten into trouble for things like “asking another student for a pencil during writing time.” Really? REALLY? I don’t want to cross my fingers every year hoping we don’t get stuck with a Mrs. C. I shouldn’t have to. My kids deserve better. All our kids deserve better.
So what’s a frustrated mom to do? What all frustrated moms do, of course …
When you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself.
My husband Henry and I have spent years building our own businesses to give us the flexibility to work from home (or anywhere!) That flexibility is a luxury and we’ve decided to take full advantage of it. Last week we withdrew our kids from school. They are officially no longer students of the American school system. Now, they’re students of the world. Our plan is to teach them at home and out, traveling to as many places as we can, here in the states and overseas. We’ve always loved traveling and wished we could take the kids more places. One day I asked Henry “why don’t we just go for it?” He looked back and me and said “let’s go.”
McKinney Falls is a really popular swimming hole here in Austin that we visit sometimes in the summer. There’s a ledge of rocks over the water that people like to jump from, but we never did. We always just swam in the middle, close to the shore, safe, watching everybody else jump. The last time we visited, I told Roxy “we’re jumping off that ledge today.” She said “I’ll do it if you do it!” Up we went to the edge of the ledge. It’s not a crazy height, but when we looked over, both of us took a step back. Roxy was nervous and said “I don’t think I can’t do it!” I said “Come on, Rox! Be fearless!” She said “You can’t just tell me to be fearless. You have to show me how!” That moment was life-changing for me. I’ve always been a pretty confident parent, but at that moment I realized how much of an impact my insecurities can have on my children. If I’m too scared to take a chance, how can I expect them to take chances? If I’m too worried about failing to get out there and try something new, how can I tell expect them to not worry? Without another word, I turned back to the ledge, held my breath and jumped! A few seconds later, Rox jumped, too.
This is how World Schooling works.
Real world lessons. Real life experiences. Confidence. Fearlessness.
This blog exists to document our progress, our journey and our lessons learned. We’re not sure how long we’ll be traveling, but we know every day we get to be there with our kids, seeing them grow and encouraging them to find their own paths will be worth all the blood, sweat, tears, time, effort and money we put into it. We really hope you follow along, here and on social media. Click the “FOLLOW” link above to find us and leave a comment so we know you’re there! If you’re a world schooling, home schooling or unschooling family with a blog of your own, please leave a link to it in the comments below. We’d love to follow you, too!
Thanks so much for reading. More soon!
xo, Sarah Q