When I worked in the classroom in the campus setting as a teacher, I always felt this sense of angst that I wasn’t spending time or even had enough time to get to know all students equally. I felt like I was NEVER enough.
In the campus system, almost 95% of my time was often spent with 5% of the students.
Sad, but true.
BUT, I came up with a system to at least waylay my own personal angst. For each day of the week, I would focus on 6 of my students and genuinely asking them questions and talk with them. The chat would have been a few minutes to 5 minutes with each of these six students, but I felt closer to my goal of truly “knowing” my students. 5 days per week times 6 students = 30 students in my class. BUT, I was only spending about 5 minutes consistently, authentically communicating with each student each week.
Sad, but true.
As an online teacher with the school that I have a contract with, I am asked to do 3 home visits throughout the year. I also will Zoom with families a few times, on top of these home visits, to stay connected and in tune with any “successes to build on” or “struggles to shift through”.
As of Tuesday, I completed writing report cards after meeting with my eighteen families (39 students in total) between Kamloops and Oliver, British Columbia, plus many towns and cities in between. The total distance between Kamloops to Oliver is around 275 kilometres (170 miles). In the last few months, I spent about forty hours in my car plus over forty-five hours then writing report cards.
Not ideal, but worth every second.
At these home visits, students will read with me, show me work they are proud of and we will talk about math. I will go over their personal goals that we set for the year in September. (This is ALL on top of the weekly/biweekly learning samples they share throughout the year via the sharing platform, Seesaw.) I meet puppies, listen to piano, play basketball, have tea parties with homemade cakes, play Lego/blocks, cook, make crafts and I even paint with some students at their homes.
Overjoyed and true.
I spend HOURS upon HOURS with my students and their families throughout the year. I am privileged to be invited into peoples homes to see “behind the scenes” of the learning that is taking place. It is within this family unit that I am truly given a picture of what learning is like for the student: How they fit within their sibling unit, how their parents work with them and even how things are set up in the home, are all important for learning about how our children learn (in the online world and the campus education system).
Overjoyed and true.
Sometimes people wonder why I have chosen this path for my teaching career and how I can work with so many students.
First, I truly feel like I can help inspire and support my students because I have time to sit with them, listen to them and learn from them.
Second, I really get to “know” my students, which was never possible in the campus system I worked in. In the campus system, I always tried to see/meet my students outside of the unilateral learning environment of the classroom. I always volunteer coached, ran chess club, did breakfast club and spent extra time on the playground to try and get to know my students, but I never felt like I ever had enough time or ever got to know how they fit within their family.
Last, the online learning world gives me time because I oversee each students program individually, yes one-on-one, while their parents or even grandparents on the ground working directly with the students and also managing any behaviour. What a gift! My students don’t exist within a classroom setting with other students, I am working directly with them. Their learning plan is individualized and truly their own.
The gift of one-on-one time!
I am NOW enough.
Overjoyed and true.
I am grateful for the time with each of my families these last months of home visits. I am blessed to write report cards, yes official documents about each of my students, detailing all the amazing things that they can do and things they will continue to grow into.
Thank you Jesus for calling me back into this world in 2020. I am eternally grateful.
Have an epic Sunday folks and love what you do.
P.S. We also had a Ministry of Education Inspection on the day BEFORE our report cards were due. This means that everything needs to be up-to-date in our student portals including all communication notes and individualized student learning plans. It was seriously “full on”. Time to sleep and ski now!
Imagine a learning world where you are amongst 29 other young humans that are your age, not your learning ability, but simply your age. Next add into this scenario one or two adults, that we call “teacher”. This is the campus system.
Now, imagine a learning world where you are amongst your family, learning in your neighbourhood, community or even travelling around the world. Next add into this scenario people of all ages, that we call “teacher”. This is the online learning system.
Imagine a learning world where you must be “present” and ready to learn between 8:25am and 2:30pm every Monday through Friday. Next add into this scenario when you are able to have holidays or days off.
Now, imagine a learning world where you can listen to your body and wake-up later in the winter and earlier in the summer. Next add into this scenario that you are able to take holidays when you choose to.
Imagine a learning world where you are required to follow a certain book or program because everyone else is doing it in your group. Next add into that your individual learning style that is different from how the book or program teaches.
Now, imagine a learning world where you choose the book or program based on your learning style and what you are interested in. Next, add into the program, deletions or additions that continue to build on what you already know and don’t know.
Imagine a learning world where you are embarrassed to go to the washroom or able to eat when your stomach is growling. Next, add into the program other young people that might verbally tease you or simply comment on these two natural functions of being a human being.
Now, imagine a learning world where you have cold or hot food available to you all day and your personal washroom is just down the hall. Next, add in an environment where listening to your body and your bodily functions are encouraged and praised.
Now, imagine this woman writing this post growing up in this campus learning world and now being blessed and fortunate enough to give her children a very different learning world.
That’s what I did.
I am privileged to have discovered this second world in 2014 as teacher. And now, I have had the privilege to experience it with our own three boys the last four year. It is very humbling and it is incredibly profound. I do not take these years learning in the world with our boys for granted. I do know that this isn’t for everyone, but I am FOR everyone to have an incredible campus or home learning experience whichever system you choose.
Well, I must admit now that as I sit down and type this, that JC is our guy that I was most concerned about and most excited about this year as he was growing and learning. At the end of last year, fourteen year old JC had decided to stop doing gymnastics since starting it at 18 months old. In our experience in watching children as teachers, grade 8 or 9 is not the ideal time to be stopping activities as you have to wonder what will take the place of the activity? He was also getting quieter and quieter as his voice changed and he was our quiet one to begin with. Lastly, he started talking in one syllable words, with the predominate word being “good”. Oh no, what other changes were ahead for us?
This year, JC really grew in so many tremendous ways and it has been so fun to see his passions develop and catch fire. JC developed skills in the media arts, drones, photography, video-making, producing, writing music, pottery, and stunting. JC is now a pro at Adobe Premium Pro, Unreal Engine, 360 degree camera and GarageBand.
After encouragement from people placed in his life at the perfect moment, JC moved from gymnastics to competitive trampoline in September. He had success after success in the gym each week and has been keen to learn new tricks daily (like a half-half and a Rudy-out). In his first in person competition, he stuck all his landings and showed what a ‘gamer’ he is. He won 1st all around for British Columbia (level 1-4) in April and did amazing at Western Canadians in June.
JC continues to really loves hanging out with his brothers and his Winnie, skiing the Prospector Terrain Park, cross country skiing, reading and having time to create! It’s in these in-between moments of time that JC really thrives. His imagination always takes him to interesting and fascinating places. He made a cardboard Ironman mask one day, created a stunt where his younger brother, CC, flew through the air and through garbage bags covering a doorway and also worked alongside his little brother, OC, to make fascinating Lego building another day.
Now that we have made it to the end of grad nine, it is really hard to believe our oldest is going into high school next year, with a hybrid twist! (More to come about the hybrid twist!)
P.S. And yup, no pics again. Anyone know someone that works at WordPress and can give this loyal 10+ year blogger some more storage??
What happened after the “Radical Sabbatical in Europe” Joanna? I have been asked this question many, many times in the last 2.5 years. November, 2019 feels like a few months ago. So much has changed, hasn’t it? I wonder what has changed for you?
First, before we get into the newspaper headings from our lives, I want to send you a big hug with my eyes with the few more well-earned wrinkles around them. HUUUUUUG!
Second, here’s a few highlights since November of 2019 (and WordPress cut off my blog because I had used up all my storage!):
We are now on year three of our Radical Sabbatical and we are calling it “Best of Both Worlds”. After living at the ski hill for TWO, yes count them TWO University school years, we moved back to the city in May of 2021. We have been living here in the city and commuting on weekends to the ski hill, hence “Best of Both Worlds”.
The home learning life continues. We are going into year four of learning outside of a physical school setting and I truly wish that I had done it when the boys were younger. The boys are thriving and finding their true passions. The boys and I work together, as a team, each morning on specific learning mostly related to writing, numbers, French, Social Studies and Science. Afternoons are full of outside time, art, music, making things in the garage, hanging out with neighbours, classes and activities. It truly is a richer life than I could have ever expected. (Future blog post coming on the pitfalls and blessings of this type of learning!)
Sexy Neck has changed jobs! He moved back to the city where our house is to be one of the leaders in charge of a large 400+ student International Program. Coming from a program he led with 100+ students, this move has been a huge shift for him and our family. Yes, we are still happily married and we celebrated 25 years in May. WOOP WOOP!
In the spring of 2020, I was getting asked many questions about home learning and as a teacher, I felt called to head back into a school to help other families. Next year, will be my third year working with Heritage Christian Online School (HCOS), working with 15+ families per year (@40 students). I guide each student’s learning, meet with them, suggest resources and report on each child’s learning twice per year. I have done this job previously in 2015-2017 and I feel a real “calling” to be with this school, at this time, working with my exceptional, lovely, amazing, fellow home learning families.
Another questions I often get asked, are you still with Isagenix? Yes, yes, yes, yes. I am a lifer and we enjoy the #isalife every single day. My life sharing Isagenix looks a bit different now, as it fits in the corners of my days behind my faith, family, friends and teaching, BUT I will always be passionate about health, helping people with their goals and guiding people on how to use the Isagenix products. After doing 12 events in 5 years, I don’t see many events in my future, but one thing I have realized in these last years is that I truly love one-on-one contact with other human beings. At the events, I would have preferred to be stacking chairs or helping people register or wiping down sinks in the bathrooms that speaking or standing on a stage. I love these products and the people it has brought into my life. If you are one of those people that has asked me about Isagenix in the last 8 years, I am truly blessed that you asked, trusted me and shared your health journey with me. Yup, I am truly a lifer.
“The boys” are now going into grades 6, 8, and 10 in September. I cannot honestly even explain the growth that they have had the last 2.5 years. Our oldest is now taller than me! Our middle guy is going for his blackbelt in Taekwondo and our youngest is thoroughly enveloped in learning about Policing and being a Conversation Officer. They are such fun kids to hangout with too! More coming on “The boys” soon.
December of 2020, we introduced Winter, a goldendoodle, into our family of five. Winnie is truly each of the boys’ first love and they shower her with attention, walks, cuddles and lots of time together while they learn at home. (If anyone remembers our labrador, Summer, the name will make perfect sense!)
Lastly, tonight, I wanted to tell you that I will again be regularly blogging, sharing the journey that I have been on these last few years and also what’s coming. I realized the other night that often we talk about the pregnancy, baby and toddler stage way more than the teenager stage. Who remembers talking about breastfeeding, first foods, which diapers to buy, organic crib mattresses, milestones, toileting and so much more ad nauseam? As our second guy turns 13 this weekend and we are going to have two teenagers in the house, I want to use this energy they are creating by talking ad nauseam about this important stage in children’s lives. Strap yourself in folks, it is going to be a fun ride.
I love you all dearly, back soon! (well at least sooner than 2.5 year. HAH!)
Do you have any teeny tiny dreams that are wriggling around in your heart right now? I have had one for years. I didn’t know how it would be possible, or even if it would be possible, but it was wiggling and jiggling around. I wanted to take our boys to Europe. To see, smell, taste how we lived for three years in Europe before they were born.
We spent our first year of marriage, at the age of 23, in a northern town in France called Harnes. Sexy Neck was playing professional volleyball and I coached and played a bit too! I used to go running around Vimy Ridge, carefully staying to the trails as I didn’t want to detonate a latent bomb from WWI.
We spent our 29th and 30th years on this earth in Germany and Switzerland.
At 32, I discovered I was pregnant with our first son while travelling in Europe for our friend’s Patrizia and Roman’s wedding in Switzerland.
And now, we are 45, our boys are 12, 10 and 8, and we are taking our radical sabbatical on the road…. to Europe!
Hotels, hostels, a bible school, a mountain resort only accessible by tram, the Oberamerhof where we lived in Germany and dear friends’ homes will be our abodes for this adventure.
Over 3000 kilometres in a stick shift European automobile and on the autobahn to boot! Those little towns we lived in don’t even have a train station, so its car travel for this family.
Plus some gymnastics training thrown in for fun!
Where would you go if you could choose an adventure for your family?
Any advice on travelling Europe with kids?
Here we go folks.
The dream is unfolding in under a week!
We know we will get lost.
Meet the most interesting people.
See castles, villages, forests and cities.
Eat interesting food.
And get hug after hugs by our amazing friends.
I am MOST excited about this last one.
Friends we have known before we had children.
Friends who grew with us through living overseas, travelling and having children.
Friends who have walked the gift of grief with us from across the Pacific.
Friends who just “know”.
The words aren’t always known, but the feeling is unexplainable.
And now they get to meet our boys.
Dreams do come true!
Let this 3000 kilometre adventure unfold in His will.
What does this radical sabbatical actually look like and is Sexy Neck working? Are we divorced? Where are you? What are we doing? These have been the pervasive questions over the last month as we have lived this radical sabbatical. Some people have been inspired, some people have thought we are crazy and others have just looked at us with wide eyes as we explain how we are living.
Yes, Sexy Neck and I are 100% in this together. (And not divorced)
900 square feet.
On the top of a mountain.
At a ski hill.
With the cows.
Travelling to Europe and Asia.
Not volunteering for anything.
Taking a radical sabbatical from the life we previously knew in the city.
What does this radical sabbatical actually look like for our family of five?
The boys do formal schooling Monday thru Friday from 9:00am to Noon. This formal schooling involves the 3 R’s – reading, writing and math! And I am hitting them hard. Going over basic facts, teaching them grammar and helping them understand the basics of the english language. They are writing in a journal, writing stories and doing research. Our 12 year old is researching Ancient Rome and Tesla. Our 10 year old is immersed in simple/complex machines and robots. Our 8 year old learned everything he could about Bobcats. Did you know they pee in the water so that they don’t leave a scent? Previously, the boys have been in French immersion, so the older boys have been doing their math in french and our youngest continues to write in french. But, I haven’t been stressed about it. If we decide to dive back into french next year, we will do a bootcamp in the summer to help them get back up to speed. This year is all about filling in some educational gaps that I see and having fun learning about what they are interested in.
Now, to talk about Sexy Neck! Right now, he is in Mexico City sitting at a fair, promoting his school district to families considering international education. And he LOVES it! Sexy Neck isn’t taking a radical sabbatical this year, but we are one hour closer to his work, so he does have a shorter commute! We are looking forward to joining him on a few trips that he is going to be taking for work. Sexy Neck LOVES his job and couldn’t imagine leaving it. It is truly what he was meant to be doing: a combination of education, business, travel and working with people. His dream life! We are happy that our radical sabbatical works alongside his dreams and brings him freedom from his commute and a more relaxed mountain life. He also loves backcountry skiing, which he can do every day after work in the winter. Truly his dream life!
Everyone who knows us, knows our backgrounds in Kinesiology and our love for physical literacy. All of our boys have done gymnastics from very young to eight years old. After eight they could choose to continue in gymnastics and our two older boys have. They love the community of boys, their coach and being able to achieve their personal goals through gymnastics. Thus, our radical sabbatical involves two days per week commuting one and a half hours each way back to the city so that the boys can practice with their team. Other than gymnastics, our sporting life will involve exploring the ski hill we are living on and embracing every day of winter. The boys have a goal of skiing every single day of the ski season. We know it will be “Canntastic”!
Lots of people have been wondering about our daily routines. To recap, here are a few of our routines that we have established for this radical sabbatical:
The 3R’s Monday thru Friday from 9:00am to Noon. And yes the boys say it is hard. And yes, we do have a lot of fun and flexibility. The boys take a recess break when they choose and they also choose where they work within our 900 square feet. Sometimes it’s on the floor, on our bed, at the kitchen table and often it’s at their desk. Sexy Neck is teaching them guitar and I am doing the rest with their teacher and our friend, Michelle, from Traditional Learning Academy.
Sexy Neck is fully involved in his work as a Principal of International Programs. He continues to embrace his role working with his students, the homestay families, his amazing staff and of course travelling to promote his program.
The boys are continuing with gymnastics and loving every minute of it. It is very motivating and they love the goals they have set: our ten year old wants to do an 8 second handstand and our twelve year old wants to do a giant on the high bar all by himself. WOW!
Outside of these routines, I have been personally surprised by four different pieces of this radical sabbatical:
1. Our garbage and recycling has reduced significantly. From one large black bin of garbage per week, to one medium-sized black bag. To one large blue recycling bin every two weeks, to one medium blue Tupperware per week that I will sort at the recycling depot in about five minutes. This surprise feels pretty amazing.
2. It’s outstanding to see the people who have stepped up to support us on this journey. We know that it truly does take a village to educate our children. Not only did we take the boys to Barkerville, a town from the 1800’s to kick off the school year, we took them to Science World and the boys got a welding lesson from their beloved Papa in his beautiful garage. The two older boys learned to weld, drill, grind, sand, paint and create a rebar coat hook with their initial on it. This was really incredible to see!
3. Living in a condo with no balcony and no private outside space, I was worried about what our outside time would look like. If you know us, we spend a ton of time outside during a day, even when the boys were in brick and mortar school. The boys and I have LOVED the mountain life. We love the exploring on foot and by bike. We love the terrain. Sexy Neck has loved climbing to the top of the ski hill. Bring on the snow! I cannot wait to see what that life will be like covered in white!
4. As the daughter of a teacher and a teacher myself, believe it or not, schooling has always been a thoughtful, somewhat worrysome process. The interesting thing about homeschooling is that I am being more intuitive: watching the boys learn, seeing what lights them up and letting them lead. No yearly plans, just living in the moment and finding resources as I need them. No stress of the September startup: Wondering which friends they would be with and which teacher they would have. Throughout the boys schooling, I known the importance of a teacher and their influence on their students. We have been fortunate to have incredible teachers and we have grown through some excruciatingly inflexible and mediocre ones. I am incredibly proud and honoured to be my boys’ teacher this year for grades three, five and seven. We don’t know if we will continue homeschooling next year, but for this month, it has been magical. I have learned that my boys LOVE to learn. They have embraced all the new skills I have thrown their way, including making a meal (spaghetti and meatballs), taking them to my health and wellness conference (anyone need more energy, want to sleep better, perform better or get rid of your fluffy tummy I am your girl) and learning to sew (curtains for their triple bunk!) alongside those 3 R’s that I talked about. I have seen where my boys have gaps in their learning and I have been able to fill them: capitalization, divisibility rules, number patterns, phonics, oh my! My heart is full. And only two pencils have been thrown in the process by my ten year old! A boy after my own heart with his emotions right at the forefront. I feel very grateful for this time together. I am not surprised at how much I truly LOVE being their teacher.
On September 26th, we celebrate our youngest’s eighth birthday.
We celebrate one month of this radical sabbatical.
We sit atop this peaceful mountain and ponder the adventure to Europe in November.
The projects that we want to learn about and where our questions will take us.
I have always believed that the beginning of all knowledge is asking a question.
And I wonder where this radical sabbatical will take our family.