22 Aug A Homeschool Manifesto: Why we choose life as our school
By Patrick and Jessi Kohlhagen
As we enter into our 4th year as a homeschool family, we are often asked why we’ve chosen to homeschool.
This question always leaves us smiling.
Because, while we can definitely offer a short and sweet answer, it could never do justice to the true and sacred meaning behind our choice to school our own children.
In honor of Parenting month at Lifebook, we’d like to share the deeper truth behind why we’ve chosen homeschool as our family lifestyle.
And while it still may not fully capture the essence of our purpose, we hope it inspires those looking to take on a deeper commitment to family education and holistic lifestyle, in whatever form that might take.
We hope you enjoy
Our Homeschool Manifesto (why we’ve chosen life as our school):
1. Life is incredibly brief. We’re making the most of it, together.
One of our greatest family values is togetherness. There is truly nowhere else we would rather be than exploring the world together, living, laughing and learning.
Life is incredibly short. Before we know it, it’s over, and we will no longer be here for our children. We believe that the single most important thing in life is to spend as much time as possible with the people we love, doing the things that we love – and we’ve designed our entire lifestyle with that in mind.
2. We believe that WE ARE RESPONSIBLE for our children’s education.
It’s up to US to teach our kids what they need to know to live happy, fulfilling, successful, adventurous, vibrant lives. We are our children’s greatest teachers. One of the most impactful educations they will ever receive is simply watching how we live our lives – the way we speak to each other, how we care for our bodies, the information we choose to consume, the things we give our energy to, the choices we make, and the actions we take every single day.
We’ve chosen to live our lives (and raise our kids) consciously and deliberately. We’ve chosen to be fully responsible.
3. We value FREEDOM and FLEXIBILITY.
We want the freedom to live our lives as WE choose — based on our unique and ever changing values, standards, wants and needs.
With homeschool, we’ve chosen a lifestyle of freedom and flexibility — spontaneity and adventure.
We get to learn what we want, how we want, when and where we want, and we get to do it together. We can shape our daily plans based on how we feel. We have the ultimate freedom to choose, which liberates our ability to think clearly and live passionately.
Whether we’re traveling the world, exploring our interests, hiking the mountains, camping remotely, surfing the web, or reading together at our dining room table — every day is different and exciting… a learning adventure waiting to unfold.
4. We want to be COURAGEOUSLY DYNAMIC.
We want to raise children who embrace change, and seek it out… Kids who have a clear vision of who they want to become and aren’t afraid to take leaps toward that vision. Kids who grow in every direction and know the value of leaning into their resistances and out of their comfort zones.
We want our kids to deeply explore who they are and never stop seeking their truest nature. We want them to continuously examine and challenge their strengths AND weaknesses, to explore and share them openly, to relentlessly improve upon them, and to cater their educations and careers around their unique talents, abilities, passions and callings on this planet.
Above all else, we never want them to stop cultivating and strengthening the relationship they have with themselves.
Homeschool encourages each of us (including us as parents!) to never stop learning, growing and trying new things – even when it’s uncomfortable. We live for challenges, which help us become stronger, more capable, more dynamically evolved human beings.
5. We DON’T want to condition our kids for the “real world.”
We don’t want to condition our children for the rat race that so many of us have come to know and despise. We don’t want to train them to obey authority without question and to regurgitate information so they can get into college simply for the sake of college, rack up massive debt, and end up in a 9-5 grind that they hate — where the brightest hope they have for their future is retirement.
We want to teach them how to live well — How to put happiness as an absolutely foundational priority — and how to model their entire lives around doing what they love, so that every day is a joy. The only way we can truly teach this is to live it, together.
Instead of shaping our kids to fit into an outdated world that’s handed down to them, we want to teach them how to create a new one — how to create the world they were born to belong to.
Homeschool gives us the freedom, confidence and creativity we need to dare to live differently everyday.
6. We focus on building CHARACTER.
What we know matters, but who we are matters more. Our character shapes our lives, and we want our kids to shape theirs consciously.
We want to teach them what courage feels like. We want them to embody grit and perseverance. We want them to know their rights as human beings, and not allow anyone to violate them. We want to nurture and grow their kindness, compassion and intuition. We want to show them the way of their spirits and teach them to hear and follow the wisdom of their inner voice. We want our kids to have perpetually great attitudes. We want our kids to be grateful, positive, uplifted human beings. We want them to understand that self-discipline is the key to freedom, and that everything worth doing takes effort, and we want them to experience the sweet rewards of simple labor and a job well done.
But above all, we want our kids to make good choices. We want them to understand that their incredible power to CHOOSE is their greatest freedom and their greatest strength, if they wield it well. We want to show them how to do just that, every day.
7. We want to foster deep-rooted SELF-RELIANCE.
Our children know that each day, they are not only building their education – they are building their LIVES. Homeschool allows our kids to experience more freedom and (as a result) more responsibility, which is hugely empowering for them.
They’re learning and practicing real-life skills that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Their education moves beyond just academics, and into whole-life wisdom… how to care for their bodies and use them in a sustainable way, how to keep a healthy emotional environment, how to practice important character traits, experience a spiritual connection with the world within and around them, interact with different people of all ages and walks of life, and explore who they want to become.
A huge part of our homeschool “curriculum” are simple, classic values from the past that we believe are crucial elements in shaping responsible, self-reliant, considerate humans… skills such as cooking, cleaning up after yourself, hosting, taking care of objects and putting them where they belong, fixing broken things instead of disposing of them and buying new, gardening and nurturing our fellow plant and animal friends, caring for children younger than themselves, respecting elders and recognizing the power of our words.
8. We teach them HOW TO THINK, not what to think.
With the exponential growth of technology, entire industries are becoming obsolete. Knowledge alone isn’t enough for the future our kids will live in — we need imaginative thinkers, artists, seers and feelers, creatives who can think for themselves — not simply recite information (after all, that’s what computers are for).
We want to foster in our children that which makes them human.
We want to foster an absolute love of learning. We want to encourage them to explore and pursue their passions, and to let those passions shape their environment and their lives.
We want them to never stop asking questions, seeking answers, and finding solutions to life challenges through creative experimentation. We want to teach them to distill the lesson and discover the beauty hidden within absolutely every life experience.
9. We want our kids to seek their TRUTH.
Homeschool encourages kids to ask questions, challenge conventional thinking, and experiment with different ways of doing things.
With homeschool, our kids get to consider EVERY angle to a situation, and decide what makes the most sense to them, based on the facts they’re presented with. This philosophy transcends mere academic education and touches every part of their lives.
We’re teaching them to have the confidence to listen to and follow their own inner voice… even if it means going against the norm… even if it means going against what WE believe, as their parents (within reason).
We don’t want our children to blindly follow something that doesn’t make sense to them. Above all, we want them to honor themselves, have the courage to stand up for what they believe is right, and nurture their ability to express that.
10. We want the WORLD to be their CLASSROOM.
We want our children to learn from everyone they come in contact with, and positively impact everyone they meet– from the grocery checkout clerk to the family at our neighboring campsite, from the elderly man at the library to their newborn baby cousins. We want them to explore every opportunity to find something, observe something, absorb something.
We want our children’s social lives to be filled with all kinds of people from all walks of life. We want them involved in the community, and learning with other children from all different grades.
We value age blending vs age segregation, especially when it comes to learning. Kids learn so much from older children, and from having to take care of and help guide younger children. Multi-age learning is the oldest and most natural form of learning in human history, and we believe that having a network of people involved in our children’s education and social lives — a tribe with a common purpose – is one of the secrets to successful homeschooling.
Above all, we want our homeschool curriculum to be eclectic, adaptable and immersive, changing and growing as our family changes and grows, custom-tailored to their personal needs and interests, and based on the firsthand experiences and places we are exploring together.
11. We want to CREATE BIG MAGIC.
In our family, we believe in LIFE MAGIC. We’ve experienced first hand the power of dreaming big, living wide open and following the light. We believe that we can create anything, if we do the inner work of fine-tuning ourselves to our vision’s frequency.
Albert Einstein said, “Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match your energy to the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.”
Together with our kids, we live in the light, and strengthen its brightness and clarity everyday through meditation, breathwork, song and dance, communion with nature, dreamwork, understanding and following the signs of the universe, honoring and metabolizing our emotions, and initiating rituals, ceremonies and celebrations for every possible occasion.
Each of these practices helps widen the opening of our lives to allow more light to enter and more energy to flow. And BIG MAGIC is created as a result.
We want to find what lights us up — what makes us feel alive and whole — and to infuse our world with it. We want to teach our kids how to turn ideas into reality. We want to train them in the magic of creation. We want the things that INSPIRE them to ENTIRE them.
(That gorgeous last line comes compliments of a beloved family friend / band, Troubled Hubble).
12. We want to live with MINDFULNESS and GRATITUDE.
It’s very important to us that we create an abundance of time and space in our lives to honor, celebrate and enjoy the world around us… to move a little more slowly and breathe a little more deeply… to find beauty and joy in the small, seemingly insignificant details of life, and to cultivate deep happiness and gratitude for all that we have and share together as a family EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Choosing to homeschool is choosing a very specific way of life. It slows everything down, and shifts us into what matters most. It changes how we parent, learn, play, eat, love, care for our bodies, nurture our souls, and do our work. It provides the space we need to recognize how lucky we really are, and make every action we take an expression of gratitude and beauty.
“May your life be like a wildflower,
growing freely in the beauty and joy of each day.”
– Native American Proverb
13. We want our kids to be good ANIMALS.
We hold tremendous value for the physical world we exist within… from the body we inhabit to the soil we walk upon.
We want to raise humans who are part of the solution to the world’s problems – who don’t take more than they need and who use every bit of what they are given. We want to show them the incredible truth behind “waste not want not,” and how to find greater abundance and freedom with less materialism and more sustainable solutions.
We want to be devoted to our bodies – to listen to them, nourish them, and honor them. We want to PLAY. We want to keep our emotional energy in harmony. We want our spirituality to be rooted deeply in the dirt and stretched far into the sky.
We want to be well trained in the knowledge of plant and animal life, to be at home and unafraid in the wilderness, capable of survival, and most of all – conditioned to roam freely and enjoy the beauty of our planet.
But most of all, we want to remember that nature provides a kind of happiness, peace and balance that can’t be found anywhere else. We value its worth far beyond mere usefulness for human ends, and we strive everyday to act in unwavering accordance.
14. Homeschool makes us better parents, and BETTER HUMAN BEINGS.
“When one teaches, two learn.” Robert Heinlein
Homeschool teaches us so much about how to live, how to never stop learning, how to love more openly, and how to trust more deeply in ourselves and our life choices. It continually inspires virtues such as patience, kindness, compassion, determination, discipline, wonder and adventure. It makes us significantly more well-rounded and interesting people and it makes our lives light-years more FUN.
Most importantly, being a homeschool family fulfills us deeply and blesses each of us with an immense sense of gratitude and amazement for our lives. It gives us the biggest sense of purpose imaginable. And it inspires us (and trains us) to be the absolute best we can be every single day.