There were tears from some of the older kids, lots of fried chicken, and plans for camping trip all together. Yesterday marks the end of the year at Alpine Valley School, and no one wanted summer vacation to come.
After almost a full year at Alpine Valley School I can say that A has found his place in the world. At public school he was bored and ignored, unschooling was good, but he was lonely. Alpine Valley is the right balance of educational philosophy and community. At first I was worried that 30 kids would be too small, but I think the advantage of a school that small is that there is not a ton of age separation. Sure A’s best friend is his age (fine A is about ten hours older) but he spends his day with kids of all ages.
When we started they asked us what hopes we had for him during the year. I said that I wanted him learn how to advocate for himself. He gets it now, how to ask for what he needs in life, how to look for answers rather than just waiting for things to happen to him. He is still a kind kid so he doesn’t always make a big deal of things, but he knows he can.
What about academics? We get that a lot. All I can tell you is that he can read well enough to go through the proposed changes to the schools by-laws and understand them, read anything he’s interested in, even articles from the New York Times. What about math? Again it just seems to be happening. I don’t think you could sit him down with a page of problems and get him to do them (but his issue would be about being forced to do them).
The thing about academics is that they are forced. My nephew asked how A would ever know if something interested him since he wasn’t exposed to it in school. There are plenty of things that interest A, Greek mythology, chemistry, words (especially homonyms), plants and farming, modern art, politics, and more. Some of these come from us others he’s just picked up on his own. Not a bad spread for an almost nine year old. In other words I’m not worried that he isn’t going to be exposed to enough without a set curriculum.
What about unschooling and those dreams? Well, I still have dreams of occasionally taking off for extended trips together someday. But that’s it. This is not a temporary solution until we can homeschool/unschool, it is an extension of those same choices. Being able to step away from that dream was hard at first, but as I watch A grow and I saw how AVS was staying true to our ideals and philosophies as a family I could let myself explore what else my own life could be.
I have just one favor to ask. If you see us around don’t quiz A on what he knows. We aren’t some novelty to be prodded. You are welcome to talk with us about our experience, trust me we all love talking about it.