In my last letter, I shared about my son, Tucker, and our exploration of “homeschooling” one day per month. Over the course of just two sessions, he went from expecting me to play the role of teacher (planning the whole day for him) to co-designing the day with me and taking charge of what he wanted to learn. What triggered this dramatic shift?
Last November (a few weeks after our first homeschooling session), Tucker attended SparkHouse. As a 9-year-old who attends a school-centered environment, I wasn’t sure how he would handle working in a group of 15-22 year olds from learner-centered environments.
On day one, he was reserved and quiet. As he soaked it all in, he would sometimes hover near me, while at other times join various table conversations. By day two, though, he was acting in a skit and talking like a chatterbox at lunch and dinner. He came alive.
I wasn’t aware of what he gained from the experience, but something had certainly changed. And, weeks later, he shared how frustrated he was in school—the pace, whether too fast or too slow, never fit his needs. With a little encouragement, he reached out to his four teachers with links about learner-centered education, requesting a meeting to discuss their reactions.
The night before the meeting, Tucker wanted to properly prepare. Being in meetings all the time, I didn’t realize how much there was for him to learn—stating the purpose of the meeting, setting an agenda, and anticipating what they might want from him. In a short hour, we accomplished all of these tasks, with me acting as his scribe. Tucker knew his plan backwards and forwards, and when it came time for the meetings, he only had to pull up his Google Doc once to remind himself of his plan.
The teachers listened and asked questions, showing mixed reactions to the materials Tucker shared. But, the outcome of the meeting was less important than the exhilaration Tucker received from the experience. He took initiative, was taken seriously, and had a conviction that something he had done could make for a better future. It was the first time he was allowed to say something about how the learning was happening in school. He realized he didn’t have to just accept the way things are; he could impact how they might be.
I could see this change in our second day of “homeschooling.” His perceived role in learning had shifted from being a passive recipient to one with agency and a voice.
Enjoy this week’s issue of Pioneering!