I wrote this post in response to everyone asking “what about school?” over on our challenge Facebook page. I thought I’d sit down and try to explain what education means to us. I hope this gives you a slightly different perspective 😊
For us education is about so much more than just schoolwork, it’s the way we choose to live our lives and the future we choose to build for ourselves and others. It goes way beyond the confines of 9am-4pm, five days a week, beyond classrooms and books and screens. I’ve often heard the quote ‘if you feel like you don’t fit in this world, it’s because you’re here to help create a new one’ and I think education is the same – if we don’t fit into the system (and who really does?), maybe it’s because we’re here to help shape the world we really do want to live in. It is the choice and responsibility of us all to play a part in creating the future we want.
Because of their own life experiences, my Mum and Dad decided to home educate us because they wanted to raise us to value things like community, hospitality, individuality and collaboration. They are not professional teachers or academics who thought they could do better than the education system, they’re just people who want their kids to care about others – not as an afterthought, but because life is not always about just personal gain and success. By trying to make a difference and by connecting with others doing the same, by talking to people and hearing their stories and perspectives on life, we learn what’s important.
Being educated in this way, I feel like I have control over my life and my future. I’ve felt like I’m missing out before, like people at school have something I don’t, like their education and lifestyle is some elusive prize that’s just out of my reach, but when I talk to my friends and they tell me that being surrounded by people all the time just makes them feel lonelier and doesn’t necessarily equal good friends and that they’re not motivated to learn any of the material they’re taught because they don’t see the relevance to their future, when they tell me how restricted and stifled and moulded school makes them feel, I realise what a privilege my education is. Tell me, is education supposed to stifle young people and squeeze them into a box they don’t fit in or is it supposed to prepare them for their future?
My education is preparing me for my future. Maybe not the future everyone else is aiming for, but the future I want and am trying to create, a future that looks brighter. I can equip myself with the skills I need, pursue my passions and work on my weaknesses. And I want to be a voice for all those other young people too and bring them with me into that brighter future.
The honest truth is that we definitely haven’t got it all worked out, it’s not easy doing things differently and we’re all constantly learning and failing and growing, but we make it work because we believe in it.
As for the practicalities, life on the road teaches you a lot in itself, as well as all the opportunities to learn that trying to rebuild community and give a voice to ordinary but amazing people making a difference presents. When you listen to people of all backgrounds, cultures and walks of life and join in conversations, when you step outside of your comfort zone to go somewhere and meet people you’d never normally interact with, when you have to motivate yourself to make things happen every single day, you learn pretty fast.
To give you a bit of an idea of what our education has looked like recently, my sister Irys wants to be a marine biologist when she grows up and so she has got in touch with several rock pooling projects on the South coast and has met up with two of them over the last week or so. She’s been rockpooling with two different experts, asked questions, taken loads of photos, learnt about a ton of different species, gone back and researched them all and then written about them on her wildlife and photography instagram account.
My brother Evan has just started writing his Junior Survival manual to share what he learns about the wild and inspire other kids to get outdoors. He’s currently working on a chapter about attitude, reflecting on his own struggles, talking about the importance of remaining positive in all situations and including the thoughts of several people that he’s been in touch with, including Craig Mathieson – an explorer who started Polar Academy, taking young people on expeditions to make a difference in their lives, which is something Evan is aiming towards for his future.
I continue to do all our social media, writing and communications for this challenge and for our CommuniTea events, as well as organising visits to community projects. I am also constantly trying to be a voice for my generation through making connections with individuals and organisations empowering young people to be leaders and change makers, through my writing, through my blog and through pursuing my dream of working in sail training because I’ve experienced how it changes lives.
This is on top of the conversations we have daily with a wide variety of people on a wide variety of subjects and all the day to day challenge stuff, from finding places to ask for water to exploring a different local area every day.
And then people say “well, what about exams?” and yeah, it’s a good question because surely we can’t get anywhere without the stamp of approval of the education system? I consider life to be our teacher and life to be our exam, the experiences we have test us and teach us and at the end of the day, they are what we have to show for ourselves – what we’ve experienced and what we’ve learnt from it.
And if my very unique ‘exam’ results prove that I can talk to just about anyone, understand the importance of community in our society today, am compassionate and can see things from other people’s perspective, have the motivation to make things happen and knowledge of the world around me (good and bad) then I’m happy and if an employer doesn’t want to take me because I don’t have conventional GCSEs then that’s not the path I want to go down.
And now the big question – will this put food on the table? Well, my education has taught me to be resourceful, it’s taught me that a family of five can live on a tenner a day and travel the entire UK coast on that budget and yeah, maybe I won’t live in a huge house when I’m older, but does that mean I’ll be any less happy? We’re all so conditioned to think that money equals big house and nice car which equals happiness, but I’m learning is that no, it really doesn’t. Contentment and materialism are not the same thing. However, contentment and community are always connected.
Our education is far from perfect and it’s a constant learning process for us all, but when you put yourself and what you believe in out there for everyone to see, you do start to find your place in the world.
What are your thoughts on education? Do you go to school? Are you home schooled? Pros and cons? What do you want for YOUR future? How are you working towards that? Tell me everythinggggg💙💙