This was the first year I didn’t post photos of our kids’ first day of school. Something was changing in all of us and the reality of those changes needed to sink in. I needed to wait to talk about it because it felt like a dream.

I should back up a little.

I started a tradition of asking our kids on the first day of school,

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Our oldest daughter is 9. Her answers vary from year to year, but we are starting to see a pattern.

She has wanted to be a fashion model, a fashion designer, a youth pastor, and also The President. (She’d have my vote!)

Our youngest daughter is 6.

Since she was three years old she has wanted to be “an ice cream seller”. She’s the only first grader I know who has her own ice cream kitchen (thanks to her dad’s innovative work in our garage).

They both want to do great things.

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What do you want to be when you grow up?  It’s a good question.

But maybe there’s a better one?

Who will you be when you grow up? 

Or maybe even better than that…Who are YOU? How has God made you?

We came to the realization that maybe it’s healthier for our kids to discover WHO THEY ARE before they decide what they want to do.

  • What if their education was meant to be more unearthing and less standardizing?
  • What if part of their environment was more about excavating their passions and skills and less about hoarding a stack of achievements?
  • What if wonder and discovery is just as important as mastery?

I need to make it clear that we have had an INCREDIBLE experience with the public school system in Florida. Highlands Grove Elementary school is the best. THE. VERY. BEST. Each of our girls have had incredible teachers and learning environments. Many of their teachers have earned the honor of being named teacher of the year both in our county and in the state of Florida. It isn’t the people as much as it is the overall environment and standardized learning objectives we had been wrestling with.

Over the summer Coy and I began considering some alternative school options that have popped up in our community. When we learned about them, they seemed to answer a deep question both of us were asking each other. What if our kids could learn differently?

What if they could discover WHO THEY ARE while learning HOW TO DO things?

We checked out the schools–one being a better schedule for our family but both doing the things we were hoping to achieve with our kids.

  • We wanted learning to be relaxed AND rigorous. 
  • We wanted their developmental phases to be noticed and embraced.
  • We wanted them to have time to play, learning valuable social skills.
  • We wanted the amount of time they had to eat to not be hurried.
  • We wanted them to learn how to solve problems in unique ways.
  • We wanted them to invent more.
  • We wanted them to learn a language or learn a trade.
  • We wanted them to know their classmates and teachers like family.
  • We wanted them to be able to express themselves wildly.
  • We wanted them to dig in the dirt.
  • We wanted them to excel if they needed to.
  • We wanted them to have more time to take it slow if they needed to.
  • We wanted them to be given the opportunity to become the best versions of themselves.
  • We wanted them to learn math, science, reading, and history in a way that makes sense to the way their brains process things.
  • We wanted them to become leaders.
  • We wanted them to learn how to follow.
  • We wanted them to learn about each others needs.
  • We wanted them to have time for home-work…not school work…but hours with their parents and siblings and friends learning how to love.

Then we found a place that seemed to want the same things we do.

Three weeks ago our kids had their first day in a brand new little school, started by a teacher who wanted all of these things too.

I was nervous. I wasn’t sure how it would go. But all of my fears died when our kids came home curious.

There are tears streaming down my face.

The last three weeks have been life changing for us.

Our girls are coming home curious.

It doesn’t matter if it’s coming home from school, church, their friends house, we want them to come home curious.

We want them to wonder here–we want them to become here–we want them to find the value that God put in them here.

Mya, our six year old, came home the first week and told me that some of the friends in her class have special needs. Then she said the most beautiful thing,

“But I like it, because ALL of us have special needs.”

It was a beautiful thing to say–that we’re all special and free to learn uniquely. I LOVE THAT about R school.

My oldest took a book about CoCo Chanel to school on the first day. She doesn’t have homework but she has voluntarily spent the evenings making presentations, measuring and creating a pattern, borrowing fabric from our house, nabbing the dormant sewing machine and transporting it to school, learning measurements and math and problem solving…all while dreaming up a jacket design inspired by her hero CoCo, and then making it together with her friends.

Her teacher is uncovering her value–while teaching her valuable lessons about every subject she needs to learn.

So, here are the photos of their first day of school–but it was so much more than that.

It was…

  • The first day they chose their own outfits.
  • The first day they didn’t have homework or papers to bring home. (NO 20 lb. AGENDA! YAY!)
  • The first day they learned how to play chess.
  • The first day they got to learn how EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM shows up with unique and special needs.
  • The first day they got let their passions lead their learning.
  • The first day we started asking a better question:

Who are you?

How has God made you?

We hope that we can be a family and a church that teaches kids to come home curious, a place that uncovers the God given value in every person possible. We’re grateful for Ms. Wendy at R School for going for it. We’re so excited to be on this journey with you.

R School on Bay News 9

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Cover Photo: Victoria Bardega

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