What I submitted the “Massachusetts Notice of Intent to Pursue a Program of Home Education” to the school District when unenrolling Cambyr
for 8th grade 2019-2020 school year, March – June 2020 (naturally extending into July and Aug)
Free-form learning – introduction
I have always felt a strong desire to homeschool my kids. At first, I thought I wanted to have a solid curriculum and make sure they were exceeding school district requirements. But after helping out in the classroom throughout preschool and elementary school I realized they deserved more. They deserved to explore the world freely at their own pace and in their own unique ways. They deserved to be trusted. They have innate curiosities that need to develop on their own with their own guidance system in order to truly blossom. They deserved freedom to explore and be bored and find the creativity and passion within without someone else’s fears and anxieties influencing them into constant entertainment and distraction from who they really are. They deserved a new paradigm, one that will enable them to be powerful creators of their lives for the rest of their lives.
Watching my daughter transition from a very regulated elementary experience to a do-nothing fifth-grade year was an awakening of sorts for me. I helped her study and memorize and practice and work and perform all through elementary school. She struggled. She hated to write, but she loved telling stories, yet the markings on her paper told her her story wasn’t as important as all the little punctuation marks were. It didn’t matter that she understood concepts of math and science if she didn’t understand the confusing way the questions were posed on tests. In fifth grade, as she transitioned into middle school and becoming an independent student, I took a huge step back and away from her academic standing. Instead, I allowed her to be responsible for how she wanted it to turn out. I didn’t feed her with fear that if she got bad grades now it would ruin the rest of her life. I didn’t contribute any belief about the numbers on the papers she brought home determining her character or her path in life. Instead, I just waited, trusted and let go. While I watched her grades plummet, I watched her sense of freedom grow. I understood that like a seed planted in the spring which silently germinated without indication of progress until it’s glorious first appearance in the summer, so was happening with my daughter. And at the end of fifth grade with comparably low grades to the rest of the school, all that mattered was that she was happy. And that happiness turned into excitement and curiosity and desire to explore. Learning became a passion of hers because she found what she loved and just kept doing them. She owned her path. I watched her over the next two and a half years proclaim each year was getting easier and easier and that she never really studied because she just researched what she was interested in…so it was all pleasurable for her. Now, in eighth grade, she is a straight-A student and advanced in Algebra. And yet, none of that matters as much to me as the fact that she is happy, loves everything about herself, knows she has many interests and talents and loves to pursue them all, and that life feels easy for her.
This is how I choose to homeschool her now as we embark on the last 4 months of the eighth grade. I will allow her to design her own path and let her take the lead on the curriculum. I will follow my instincts and timing to wait and see, allow her the act of doing nothing because, in that beautiful art of allowing, we allow for something greater to be, something that is internally driving her instead of external forces pushing her in directions she may not want to go, be ready to go, or need to go. I will make the following topics always available to her but there is a good chance she will pick her own and dive deeper than I ever could have imagined. And most likely will both get a priceless education from it that will significantly enhance the rest of our lives.
Cambyr will be keeping a blog and vlog so she can continue to write essays, creative writing, and poetry about anything and everything we encounter along the trail. I foresee these including, but not being limited to, the culture of the people on the trail (thru-hiker mentality), observation of nature the seasons and outdoor environments, special and uncommon moments in connecting with others as well as herself. Insights into the human/animal psyche and behavior as well as her own observation of the journey from her eyes.
Cambyr will also have access to YA booklists from her former LA teacher as well as cell service and solar power to charge devices so she can both read and write each day she desires.
It will be quite an amazing experience to pass through 14 states of the US on foot. Feeling the actual geography every step we take for multiple hours a day. This intimate contact with the earth for such an extended period of time will instill lessons of the land more deeply than just reading could do. At each point of interest are placards that explain histories of the areas we will be in, and we will be able to weave together our own impressions of the stories we will hear. We are eager to take advantage of being near so many amazing historical landmarks on our journey and intend to spend some time visiting Washing D.C. on some of our rest days.
Cambyr has requested to be conversational in Spanish within the six months we are gone. I am conversational myself (having lived in Argentina for over a year and use Spanish every chance I get) and have laid the foundation with her this school year. It will be a joyous free-flowing experience that will be guided by her interest in communicating what is around her. The vocabulary will grow from need and the refinement of using the vocabulary will grow from fun. We are always making up games to help things flow and feel natural.
Cambyr will be accessing Kahn academy Algebra so she can continue to work on math at her leisure while we are gone. We expect to have a few days a month entirely off the trail to resupply and rest and on those days she has been excitedly planning to dive into math and take concepts with her on the trail to study in-between resting periods.
Earth and life sciences will be observed and lived while hiking for six months on the Appalachian Trail. I have a year of Herbalism school behind me and plan to focus on plant identification and use for nutrition as well as medicine. Physics will feel very natural to study as we work with energy in various forms and how it affects the matter that it is acting upon. And the various forms of matter we encounter on the trail and at campsites and their interactions will be our focus of Chemistry. We are also looking into doing a joint project (hopefully with either UNH or another interested entity) on water testing along the way if it is feasible to do with minimum weight requirements.
I will be bringing my backpacking guitar and exposing Cambyr to the joys of becoming familiar with the fretboard. We will makeup songs and find familiar tunes and learn strumming patterns and finger placement and play around with the vibrations that we can make. We also love to sing and will be singing along everywhere we go with and without the guitar. In doing so, she will be naturally introduced to rhythm, beats, timing, harmonies, scales, and triads.