In the Sandbox, Thinking Outside the School Box

January 22, 2015 by John Andrew Williams

During my recent trip to Dubai, I had a chance to meet with several families to talk all things homeschool. We also had a chance to screen the documentary Class Dismissed, A Film About Learning Outside the Classroom.

(Full disclosure: my wife and I homeschool our two daughters, ages 8 and 5. We went as a family to see the Portland debut this Fall. It rocked. Afterwards I had the chance to speak with Jeremy Stuart, the director of the film, and we set up a screening in Dubai for a homeschool family there.)

The documentary explores the methods and actualities that families go through when they take education into their own hands and out of the traditional classroom structure.

The film is a great starting point for thinking about the limits of our educational system, and how applicable these concerns are internationally.

And really, when you consider the amount of time students are out of school for the summer, every family is a homeschool family.

Witnessing the reactions to the film that homeschoolers in Dubai were having, and speaking to them about it, made it clear how similar the need, structure, and functions of homeschooling is across cultures. While the reasons to homeschool may differ—religious, academic, or to further develop personal and emotional intelligence—the nuts and bolts, daily schedule, and mindset to homeschooling, were remarkably similar.

Some of what makes Dubai unique is the large population of people who have traveled extensively around the world. These are 3rd culture kids who are growing up in a culture different from the one that their parents grew up in.

We’re considering moving to Spain for a full academic year (in about 2 years!) to further learn the language and set up a European headquarters for Academic Life Coaching. The topic of alternative education is one that I care deeply about both personally and professionally, and what I’ve learned through comparing the US and the UAE experience is that people—no matter the culture of the background—have remarkably similar motivation structures. The main points I find in this discussion are:

  1. Human beings are designed to be creative and productive. It’s our natural state to get things done. We don’t need grades to get us going.
  2. Schedules and lists are absolutely helpful.
  3. Having children generate their own goals is awesome.
  4. People are social beings, and with the availability of various technologies homeschoolers will friend other homeschoolers, creating an ever-expanding network.

Also read: The Brain Science of Success

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