We are a family of six with a home outside a small town in the beautiful mountains of BC, Canada. We learn enthusiastically and by choice. Sometimes that means unschooling. Sometimes it means school. Sometimes it means bits of both and more. All the children were unschooled from birth until they chose to attend school somewhere in the teen years.
Chuck is a small-town GP, amateur blacksmith and amateur blues guitarist. Miranda is a former GP, semi-professional violinist and sometimes-teacher, mostly stay-at-home mom who likes trail-running and volunteers for a bunch of community organizations. Our children are Erin (1/94), Noah (9/96), Sophie (11/98) and Fiona (1/03).
Erin plays the violin and is well along her way to a music performance career. Unschooled from the get-go, she chose to attend our local tiny public high school part-time beginning in the fall of 2008 while commuting monthly to Calgary for violin lessons. She spent her “Grade 12” year living independently in Montreal, finally getting access to the kind of rich weekly musical experiences (lessons, orchestra, ensembles) she had never been able to get in our small remote locale. She now has a BMus in violin performance from McGill University and will be attending grad school at New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.
Noah is our computer guru. He enjoys tinkering with scripts and files and hardware, avidly follows the computer game development industry and is completely at home with modding, html, on-line communities and digital media of all sorts. He also plays the viola and for years sang baritone in a fabulous youth choir called Corazón. Noah began attending school full-time in Grade 11. In the fall of 2014 he headed off to Simon Fraser University in Surrey, BC, where he is pursuing a BSc in the area of human-computer interactions at the School of Interactive Arts and Technology.
Sophie began school full-time in Grade 8 and discovered a love of academic challenge and a particular interest in STEM fields. At 15 she was craving more than our local school had to offer, so she moved an hour and a half away from home to live semi-independently while attending the larger high school in Nelson where she had access to labs and classrooms with fellow-students studying at her level. She excelled academically at the new school, and has also excelled when it comes to living on her own. She is off to study mechanical engineering at UBC this year.
Fiona is a violinist and ballet dancer who has continued with a mish-mash of unschooling, online schooling and part-time regular schooling over the past few years. A lifetime of trying to keep up with her super bright siblings has made Fiona a pretty precocious kid. She is entering full-time school in the fall of 2016 taking an even split of Grade 10 and 11 courses.
We’re a second generation Suzuki family, and although the prescriptive sequential nature of the approach might seem incongruous with unschooling we find a lot in common between the two when we look beneath the surface. We have a small but warm and friendly Suzuki program here and we play host to a summer Suzuki Institute in our town every August which is a highlight for all of us.
Our primary home is a small log house with a mish-mash of extensions and outbuildings on an acreage in the forest, a few kilometres up a mountain pass from a village of 600. Bears, coyotes, deer, hawks and various other wildlife wander through our property. Our village has a culture defined by tolerance, self-sufficiency and ecological awareness. We find ourselves straddling the line between mainstream and alternative in an area populated by hippies from way back and anyone looking for a slower pace of life. We try to live simply, with a sense of connectedness to the world around us and an appreciation of our global footprint. While we’ve made a lot of socially and ecologically conscious choices and kept our lives largely safe and simple, our big downfall is in the realm of motorized transport. We’re nowhere near public transit and we just haven’t found any other way around it. The kids’ passions and commitments are interests that burn bright, so we have travelled a lot.
In the past couple of years we’ve reduced the travel by taking up a second home in the town 90 minutes away that has been our bi- or tri-weekly destination for choir, dance, piano, violin, gymnastics and various other activities. Splitting our weeks and our family in two locations has brought its own challenges, although it has removed more than it has created on balance.
You can reach us at blog at nurturedbylove dot ca.