Wednesday, May 9

My Journey to Independent Learning

I've been passionate about changing education since just-about-forever.  I remember a burning desire, at 4 years old, to go to school thinking of all that I would learn and the follow-on disappointment when faced with the reality of kindergarten.  I kept waiting for the learning to begin.  Eight years of elementary school, five years of high school (I'm Canadian; we went through Grade 13) and two years of university later --and, apart from a couple of stellar teachers-- in my early 20's I had the nagging feeling that, even though this was all I knew, this was not all there was.  Something important was missing!

But I couldn't place my finger on what it was.

So, I left university and became an actor.  Part of the thrill of acting for me was the self-development, the personal study, the curriculum of self.  For the first time in my life, I planned my time around my goal to be both a good actor and, equally important, a working actor.  I took scene study classes, on camera classes, did vocal work and dance; I saw plays and movies.  I also explored and implemented marketing strategies and learned tenacity and self-confidence in the face of rejection.  I did therapy (yay, universal health-care) which gave me insight into my psyche and the emotional experience of people around me.  I went to the gym.  I did all kinds of personal growth experiences in order to understand the human experience and to live an intentional and self-actualized life.  Everything was related and I got to design it all around my acting goals.  

But eventually I left acting because I realized that in spite of being lucky enough to have a ten-year working career, the business couldn't fulfill some of my deeper desires.  While I'd created the process to be meaningful, deep and rich, the content just wasn't (I worked mostly in TV and film...which was fun and exciting but not very meaningful; nor was it rich in personal autonomy, something I found I craved more and more.

Fascinated with personal mastery, I became a coach.  My passion was helping people align their work with their best selves.  I helped my clients design their lives and their businesses in a way that reflected who they were and what they loved.  I helped them see their light and the unique perspective that was theirs.  Frankly, I was amazed to discover how many people didn't realize in a deep way that they were valid, that their desires mattered, that they could create businesses, let alone lives, in ways that fit them best.

Then I became a mother and my frustration with education and my passion for self-designed living was seen through a more vivid lens.

Of the many books I'd read to that point in time, two were particularly memorable in that they introduced me to the idea that perhaps my yet unborn child might have other options available to him/her than those I had, should Joe and I choose to go the road less traveled.

One was, The Day I Became An Autodidact by 15 year old Kendall Hailey.  This is Hailey's intelligent, funny and charming recollection of the year she left school in order to read the classics and write and learn on her own terms.  I finally had a name for the way I knew I learned best, by my own design!

Then there was a book I've never been able to re-find, which I read in one sitting while at a party with my parents, about a family with three kids who left their everyday lives for a year to travel.  At the time, it was a bit of a revelation albeit one that seemed so obvious after the fact; why not skip school to travel the world since traveling had always been one of the most amazing eye-opening growth experiences of my own life?

When our son was born my resolve became stronger to create a different learning experience for him than I had had myself.  I imagined meeting his individual needs and sustaining and nurturing his love of learning.  I felt sure that was not going to happen in school since it was clear when he taught himself to read before the age of three that he would probably not meet the typical developmental landmarks on schedule.  

Soon after research and exploration, we discovered homeschooling* and gravitated to it immediately.  We joined the local homeschooling group in San Francisco, where we then lived, and apart from a three-year attempt an expensive private school** have been homeschoolers in spirit ever since.  

* I use the word "homeschool" because it's a catch-all that many people know but I think it's a misnomer since most of the Independent Learning families I know aren't "home" all that much and because what many of us do is so different and more involved than simply recreating "school" at home.  

** The school was very good for a school but far too expensive to justify for us and not customized enough to meet my vision of enlivened learning.  

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