When my son, Jacob, was in kindergarten, he began a transformation. He went from being happy, eager, and relaxed to sortof sad, sortof withdrawn. A few weeks into the semester he finally revealed: “I just don’t matter there.”
I volunteered in the class every week, and I could see what he meant. He was one of the “good” kids, who were bright enough to understand the instructions/lessons and well behaved enough to not require disciplinary interventions. He may as well have been invisible.
I worked with his (overworked) teacher, but she didn’t get it. Jacob was a kid who thrived on emotional connection. All he needed was a smile here or a wink there, but this teacher was too busy with the 16/32 (depending on the time of day) other kids in his class.
So, after about a month of trying to work with the teacher and school, I sought out different options. The 11th school I went to had a very unique approach, a very creative headmistress, and very small class sizes. Both kids tried it out for a few days, and both liked it. And so, on December 21st, right before the Christmas holiday, I disenrolled them so they could begin the new school January 7th.
But, also on Dec. 21st, but at 3pm after all the offices had closed, I got an email from the new school letting me know that our family was not a fit for their program, and our kids would not be starting in January. That was the only communication I received from them. I guess I will never know exactly why (or when) they came to that conclusion.
In bed with a flare-up and utterly devastated about this school situation, i did a google search and ended up on the phone with West River Academy. Peggy Webb skillfully talked me down, and opened up a whole new world for me.
I never would have chosen to homeschool. I believed the “those people are weird” sentiments generally held about homeschoolers. I valued education and worked with many innovative schools during my career. But here I was, 4 days before Christmas, with kids expecting something and few options.
Peggy was truly a godsend that day. She told me we were all going to be ok, that this was probably a gift. We were going to take some deep breaths and find out what my kids were interested in. They were going to say, “Mom, can I do x” and I was going to say, “yes.” That was the formula. The rest would work itself out.
We thought we’d try it for a few weeks before going back to the school with our tails between our legs. Ha.
How our lives changed! The first weeks were just like any other school break. But in January, something started to blossom. We had never realized what slaves we were to the school schedule, the school priorities and the school assignments. Each day that went by, we recognized another benefit. The kids, stuck with each other, started to get along better than they ever had. We were able to go to the beach, Disneyland, whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. And no after dinner tension about homework, bath and bedtime. It was amazing. Our family and our lives began unfolding in an entirely different way.
Now we are a couple of years in, and for the last 8 months we have been “world schooling” with no set address and just a sense of adventure here in Europe. It’s certainly educational. And inspirational. And who knows where it will lead, but this ‘off the beaten path’ thing is really working for us…