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 or university. 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 tinkerer-with-wood-and-machines. Miranda is a former GP and Suzuki violin teacher. She was a mostly stay-at-home mom when the kids were at home, and now volunteers with a bunch of community organizations, manages the local cowork space and freelances on violin and viola. The children are Erin (1/94), Noah (9/96), Sophie (11/98) and Fiona (1/03).
Erin plays the violin with the Calgary Philharmonic and various other chamber groups in the Calgary area. Unschooled from the get-go, she chose to attend our local tiny public high school part-time beginning at 15, 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 has a BMus and MMus in violin performance from McGill University and 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. He did most of a BSc in Interactive Arts and Technology at Simon Fraser University in Surrey, BC, working at the intersection between the creative arts and IT. The pandemic caused the project-based nature of his program to dissolve, so he grabbed a sweet full-time job with EA Games in Burnaby and has been busy with them since then.
Sophie began school in Grade 8 and discovered a love of academic structure and 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. Studied mechanical engineering at UBC and then moved to the Bay Area to work for Tesla on the Cybertruck.
Fiona did a mish-mash of unschooling, online schooling and part-time regular schooling during her high school years. A lifetime of trying to keep up with her super bright siblings made her a pretty precocious kid both socially and academically so she ended up starting school 2-3 grade years ahead. She finished early, took a gap year that was derailed by the pandemic, and then headed off to university where she is studying Physiology and Philosophy (ethics).
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 was a highlight for all the kids growing up.
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, cougars, 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 was in the realm of motorized transport. We’re nowhere near public transit and we just couldn’t find a way around driving most of the time. With deep and abiding passions to support, requiring contact with specialized teachers and mentors, we did a lot of driving.
Nowadays the older three are working full-time in their urban jobs and Fiona is supremely self-sufficient at university. The parents are sidling towards something that will more resemble retirement. Miranda is busy with three busy non-profit organizations: the Trails Society, the Fine Arts Society and the Cowork/Community Kitchen Hub.
You can reach us at blog at nurturedbylove dot ca.