As I’ve been trying to figure out how best to approach setting up my “school-at-home”, I find myself also thinking a lot about my own education: What I remember most, what I loved and what really shaped me — and how all this translates into what I hope to create and achieve for my son.
Looking back, my primary and secondary schools included a pretty mixed range of experiences from: Montessori, three years at a Catholic school (even though we’re not Catholic), four years at gifted school within the Toronto District School Board, four years at a fairly academic and competitive public school just outside of Manhattan, a year at an international school in Bahrain and then a year at a Canadian private school Switzerland. After that I went to Vancouver for university, then law school and then a part time LLM while I was working.
While law school taught me how to wade through masses of information, what shaped me the most as an adult were the competitive sports I played in high school (check out my grade nine picture!) and the way my grade four, five and six classroom was structured.
During those years, I was in a gifted program that was experimenting with self-directed learning and a “contract” system between each student and the teacher (for the record, the classes were really small).
Each week we were given a list of work to do by Friday — but when and how we did that work was completely up to us. This meant, apart from the obligatory class that day (usually math), I spent some days just reading in a bean-bag chair.
This arrangement also gave us a real ability to pursue our own independent projects and interests. For me, this meant spending most of grade four immersed in the lives of the pioneers.
It’s an approach that’s been adopted by Avenues, a recently launched “elite” New York City school (think $40,000 a year tuition) which is moving away from the standard set schedule to allow children to learn and explore however they want. It also emphasizes helping children to focus on their interests and passions.
It’s an approach that really worked for me (and as an entrepreneur and writer, forms the basis of how I run my career). And, even though we increasingly hear how over-scheduling can be both harmful and counterproductive, I’m nervous about how to find the right balance between structured programs and just letting him to do his thing, the way I had the opportunity to.
And apart from the obvious — no TV and video games — should there be some kind of restrictions on what my son can and can’t do?
While I try figure out how the balance of his day should look and what I want to recreate based on my own education experiences, I’d love to hear from you.
How did your educational experience — whether positive or negative — shape the choices you are making for your children? Leave me your story in the comments section and I’ll respond or get in touch directly.