The unique structure and philosophy of Earthschooling taught my children and I some very important lessons over the years and it turns out those lessons are worth a lot of money!
I have to admit that when my children were toddlers I entered the Earthschooling world because I was attracted to the beautiful nature-based verses, stories and lessons. The process of watching wet-on-wet watercolors swirl around under my child’s hands, seeing the smiles on their faces as we sat for circle time and hearing the words “again again!” as I told them stories was unforgettable. We learned that taking time to enjoy, explore, and live in the moment is an important part of education and that following the mainstream structured KG classroom schedule did not fit our educational needs. However, imagining them in grade school was far from my mind.
As each of my children entered grade school I became even more immersed in the Earthschooling philosophy – the world is our classroom, each child has individual ways of learning and we can choose to learn using any of the tools and/or institutions available to us was so liberating! Education was so much more fun than I remember it as a child. My children were learning about plants by finding and preparing wild edibles from our back yard, we were telling stories (and not just doing worksheets) about the four processes of math surrounded by butterflies at the botanical center and we were becoming engaged in historical, mathematical and scientific stories rather than just plodding through them. We learned that two hours of immersion in a Main Lesson can be vastly more productive than an entire day following a traditional 9-3:00 schedule. And we learned that a three-day rhythm of learning made retention of knowledge effortless and joyful rather than forced and test-centric. However, imagining them in Jr. High and High School was far from my mind.
But before I knew it my eldest was starting on her path through High School and my youngest was by my side volunteering at a wildlife center and learning about animal husbandry and wildlife. My middle son started a project in biking that involved complex calculations of mileage and biking for endless hours on the bike trails behind our home. With each child in a different environment and on a different path we experienced that each child has different needs for education and that if you personalize these needs the child is happier and education happens naturally. I watched as my eldest enjoyed the challenges of taking college courses in high school, my middle child learned that emotional intelligence is just as important as IQ when it comes to success, and my youngest learned from real life experiences. They all learned how to become incredible independent thinkers and learners. As I watched my friends help their kids with homework I watched my children planning their own schedules, creating charts and helping each other. However, imagining them in college was far from my mind.
Then it happened. My eldest was ready to go to college. Since she had been part of the Earthschooling philosophy since she was younger she was not on any “set track” for where she wanted to go or what she was expected to do. We were able to sit down and make decisions based on her needs, realistic finances, and real-life goals. As we had done in the Earthschooling years before I let her know that everything was an option and that each option had its own choices, pros and cons. At that moment it all clicked together – the knowledge we gained in preschool that taking time to enjoy, explore, and live in the moment is an important part of education; the knowledge we gained in grade school that the world is our classroom, each child has individual ways of learning and we can choose to learn using any of the tools and/or institutions available to us; and the knowledge we gained in high school that following one’s own path and being independent was a valuable part of education.
Her decision was effortless, easy, natural and – completely against the mainstream.
She decided to stay at home (she helped contribute towards and build a “dorm room” in the basement), attend two years at the local community college before transferring to another college of her choice and work to pay for most of her college fees. She was not bothered by the fact that other children her age were automatically being shuttled off to college away from home. She knew she was not quite ready to make that step and that easing into complete independence would be wiser emotionally and financially. And she was able to see quite easily, by reading college literature (and not listening to the college recruiters) that she could take the same required basic courses she needed at any community college, easily transfer those credits to a different institution later, save a ton of money and suffer no losses.
What she experienced during those two years was amazing. Because she was at a smaller college she got involved in theater and had some amazing experiences on stage and directing that she never would have gotten at a larger school. Because she had no pressure to pay for housing or food she was able to focus on her studies and ended up earning scholarships and honors awards that will help her pay for the next two years of college. Because she was allowed to enjoy the experience without pressure or emotional transitions she was able to focus on finding her path. At some point during those two years she transitioned from slightly fearful “I have no idea what I want to do with my life” to “I am certain I want to be a doctor and I am going to apply to pre-med”. And because she didn’t have any housing, food or high tuition costs she was able to work part-time and save her (and our) money for the more expensive college that was in her future.
And the best part? It didn’t cost her $44,000.00 to do it. That is the 2-year tuition, books, housing and food estimate I just found in my inbox last week from the state (in-state tuition too!) college she is transferring too. And the second best part? Thankfully the money we were able to save during those two years and the scholarships and awards she earned during her years at the community college are helping to pay for those fees. So what we are saving is even more than $44,000!
As I breathe a sigh of relief that she won’t go into her future buried in student debt and that I won’t have to sell my home so she can go to college I am thankful that Earthschooling taught us all the value of finding our own path, being creative, learning independently and education as a tool and a joy rather than a forced path of life. I also reflect on how there is no way I could have taught my children these lessons in words. These are lessons that have been ingrained in them for years and woven into the very fabric of everything we do. When the time came for the college decisions to be made there were no lectures and arguments – there was just a natural progression of our Earthschooling years.