My Wife and I have been finding tons of information about alternative education programs. Our biggest driver right now is feeling like maybe our kids don’t need to be in school 40 hours per week, at such young ages. We love their school. Our kids are probably several steps ahead of where the national average is, all thanks to their school. Our added bonus is that they attend a private christian school, so they get to learn scripture, pray together throughout the day, and end up teaching us about god more often than not. As we try to figure out what the right balance is that we want, the biggest thing to remember is it really isn’t broken right now. We love where they are, but we want to know if there is something better.
In general, we want to a make sure are kids are not raised inside our safe bubble, and that they experience more of the world, and the fortunate, and the less fortunate. We want to travel with them more, teach them hands on, and try to find more opportunity to serve people in need, to help all of us appreciate more of what we have.
By accident, we think we have discovered the new system we want to try. I travel a lot for work, and for the last 4 months, we have had lots of family outings. In February we had a two week vacation from school with a combination of winter break where the kids get one week off, and we extended our vacation a bit. We didn’t focus on much learning, but we did a ton of active activities with them including long hikes, waterfall visits, and sightseeing.
The following month for their spring break, we spent a week traveling without much of a fun. We saw Crater lake and snow piles 30 feet tall. We went to wildlife safari where you can drive next to a wild rhino and giraffe, and an ostrich will act like he is going to peck your car to death. Then we spent time at the coast, the redwood forest, etc. This trip was super educational, and by the end of it, we had so many questions from them and they were passionate and excited. This was one of our first attempts to make a vacation, more of an adventure.
Next in April we spent a week in Yosemite. We went on tours with rangers, watched videos and went to seminars about mountain climbers, famous artists, etc. They learned so much about things we wouldn’t come close to learning in a classroom. Then on Sunday, we spent several hours at home completing their homework before they went back to school. They just spent a week hiking and adventuring, and learning, and when they came back, they weren’t behind.
Summer is almost here, and we only have one more month to practice before we come up with a great coordinated plan for next year. Next week they are joining me for a work trip, and they will go to Miami and see gators and swamp land, then a couple days later we head to Philadelphia. The girls have learned about the liberty bell, and George Washington, and we are going to spend a couple days immersed in US history there. As an adult, I am probably as excited as the kids are to see these things. This should be a great adventure to spend a week showing them hands on what they learn about in school, then when we get home, they will complete their homework and be all caught up.
For us, this is a very different way of thinking… I always trusted and loved traditional education, but the world is changing, and so much of what used to be important just isn’t. We aren’t quite ready to change to a school style that is only outdoors, or that doesn’t do grades or tests, but we do want to try something new, and this is a balance we are comfortable with.