The half-way point
Updated: Oct 9, 2021
It’s December 30th, 2019. Our kids have been attending an ‘alternative’ school: The Innovation School.
What’s alternative about it? The differences I see are projects over tests, mixed-age classes, no grades or grade-levels, self-driven learning, freedom to choose what to learn and how to learn within the standards. Are these super out-there ideas? Depends on what experience you have had. By today’s standards, this is pretty alternative. And since all we have ever known is traditional public schooling, it is different for us.
While I have done so much research I feel like an expert on education, I still have my doubts. I mean, we are talking about my kids. MY kids. Not other people’s kids. Mine. Being a parent is scary and we so badly want to make the best decisions for our boys. But since I now know all this information about education, it is hard to ignore it. Hence, our decision to move them to The Innovation School.
I keep wondering what and if any large change has occurred in them. They are 7 and 9 years. Boys. So much energy and spunk. Little patience for sitting and listening. Just kids.
So I ask myself if our decision has been worth it. I have been contemplating this. Because we have made a conscious decision and commitment to a different path and investing in it through our children, I want it to be right for them. What kind of changes am I noticing after four months? Is four months long enough to truly answer these questions.
My initial thought is no, that is barely any time. But yet, I must reflect on what I have seen so far. I think if we do not reflect, we will miss the changes that are developing.
Brayden is happy. I do not know if he was unhappy at his other school. But I know without a doubt he is truly happy here. This one picture expresses the joy that he has found. (He is the one on the right in the blue shorts.)
Zander is discovering his strengths. While he is working through his own issues, he is doing it in a safe and loving environment. Each year he struggles to focus and follow directions.
Both have grown exponentially in their vocabulary and speaking skills. The words they use, the way they can negotiate, compromise, and really provide reasons for their thinking is so much farther along than that of most kids I work with who are at least three years older than them. When little humans are given more choice and treated like adults, they begin to make decisions and speak like adults.
I know what my children are doing each day. I see pictures of each experience they have - and there are so many every day - and have a link to standards that they are meeting through these experiences. I had no idea what they did at their other school. Lots of worksheets were brought home that were already completed and checked up with red marks. They did not talk about any experiences unless they were in trouble.
It is easy to get them up in the mornings. They seem to like the freedom of this school. The freedom that comes with choices and decisions. They are treated more like adults. They have a lot of choice and a lot of responsibility.
They bring home a ton of projects. Granted, a lot of it looks like junk to me but I know they have spent so much time creating each. They are proud to show it to me and explain it. And it’s the work of creating it, not the product, that I want them immersed in.
I really want to draw conclusions and say this has all been worth it. The money, changing our schedules, the arguments we have had over it. In my heart, I know it already is worth it. I can see that great big picture and know that it will be. But at times, it does not feel like it. If I am truly honest with myself, I am still looking for the big shift, the one thing that makes it all worth it.
Right now I am ‘in’ it. When you are in the thick of things like I am right now, it’s hard to see and big picture, the ideals that we believe to have made the decision in the first place.
I will look back at raising my little humans and hopefully see all the things I have wanted. I want them to love learning (not school), understand themselves and what they can offer the world, leave each person they encounter a little better for having met my boys, and lead fulfilling lives of work and play.
The Innovation School is a symbol of what education can look like. It is something I believe in with every fiber of my being. This trust in myself and the idea is what keeps me knowing all that I want for my boys will come to be in time.
As I look at my list, maybe four months has been enough. I am so excited for the possibility of what could happen, I need to remind myself of the little steps are what make the possibilities a reality. Four months down, five more to go.