In 2013, when my daughter was 5 years old, my wife and I decided we didn’t want her to go to a traditional school anymore. Things had been building up for a while, but the tipping point was when she was visited for a couple of weeks by her grandmother, and we pulled her out of school for that time. When she returned, she was told she needed to ‘catch up’ on her missed learning and ‘playtime’ was used to do the worksheets required. We were also concerned about the messages home about preparing the children ‘academically’ for first grade.
One of the problems we faced with her changing schools was I was the Middle School Principal at the Kindergarten through twelfth grade school she attended. It suddenly occurred to us that we didn’t want her to attend the school I was working at.Normally, parents would find a new learning environment for their child, more aligned with their philosophy of education. We decided to start a school.
In the summer of 2013, we moved from Belgium to the States and set up a school in rural Montana on a Native American reservation. A school where we trust children to take responsibility for their learning and their lives.
There was always a dilemma for me when I was a teacher and then administrator in traditional schools, “How to engage and promote a child’s natural instinct for learning within an environment not set up for individual and personalized passions and interests? How do we move education to where children are in the driver’s seat of their own learning?
Children now are preparing for a world where some career options are not even known to us yet, and some jobs which exist now won’t exist in the future. Children today will likely have multiple jobs and professions throughout their lives and so they need to acquire the flexible and varied “survival skills” needed for an unknown future. Tony Wagner in his book ‘The Global Achievement Gap’ says that children will need:
Children at self-directed, democratic schools are given an extraordinary amount of time and space to learn these survival skills. They are given opportunities to lead remarkable and interesting lives on a daily basis and they gain trust in themselves, and the tools and confidence to forge their own paths according to their innate drive and passion.
My career has taken me from inner-city state schools in the UK, to middle school Principal at two of Europe’s better known and prestigious International Schools in Germany and Belgium, to setting up my own school in the USA, and now, for probably the most exciting move, Head of School at the Learning Project, Ibiza.
I’m sure that The Learning Project will become an internationally known environment for self-directed learning. A place where children mix freely across ages and where the core of the philosophy is Freedom, Democracy, Responsibility and Respect.
As the new Head of School, I look forward to sharing with you the exciting learning opportunities The Learning Project can offer your children and how we can work together with your family to offer the best environment to nurture their natural instincts and keep their curiosity and passion alive into adulthood.
My wife and daughter (who is now 13) and I look forward to meeting you in person.