The World as our Classroom
Wherever we go, we are looked at in wonder. The children an exotic mix of Caribbean, Asian & European roots. Happy, smiling faces with heads full of bouncing curls. Their skin tanned. Their clothing casual. They could easily be local, yet there’s something different about them, something different about us. There’s something that cannot define us as Costa Rican, or Colombian. We will never be Ecuadorian or even Dutch any more. ‘Where are you from?’ A question I had always answered with ease and certainty. We are ‘Dutch, ofcourse!’. Yet now I hesitate. We lived in several countries, befriended the locals, turned houses into homes. We left pieces of our hearts shattered all over our beautiful planet Earth. We are now world-citizens. We are not Costa Rican, Colombian or Nicaraguan. Nor are we European or Dutch anymore. We are simply inhabitants of this earth, this world. We are not traveling, we are not tourists. We are living.
This renewed way of being also reflects the way we look at education. When we left the certainty of our European home, the safety of the system, we were not ready to completely follow our hearts yet. We dragged along tons of books, to try and keep up with the educational system as we knew it. However as our hearts and souls expand our trust also expands. Books are gradually used less and less. And there comes more and more room to just be. The children had needed months to rediscover themselves. They had always been told what to learn, and when. Now they are suddenly free to follow their own pace, their own interests. Free to think for themselves, free to be themselves. So who are they? What do they really like, what are their passions? I believe living in different countries, mingling with people and cultures, brings them closer to their very core. Within months they started to speak multiple languages. They are slowly transferring from being followers into being leaders. They are moving to the center of the court, and they are confident about it.
In Costa Rica Sheree (8 years old) joined the local circus school. An inspiring bunch of artistic people from all over the world. Sheree dived in with her heart wide open, within days she took on the roll of English-Spanish translator. She just started to speak Spanish, but she was confident & had no doubts whatsoever. Watching her grow and learn in this free and natural manner touches my soul. It seems like she doesn’t needed the strict and regulated ways of European learning. She needs to be free. She needs to be without boundaries. She needs to explore. And so she is. In Nicaragua she joined a local Tae-kwon-do club. In Ecuador she joined the kids theater. Every where we go there are new learning opportunities.
Silvana, a teenager, began this journey insecure and without any real passion for life. She was a good student, and was liked by many. Yet she was also very much formed by the system. She became what people wanted her to be, she became an expert in living up to expectations. However just months into this adventure I could see her blossoming. She started to make her own educational choices, coming from an authentic and intrinsic motivation. She wanted to learn languages. She wanted to learn, and I never needed to tell her what to do. She would get her books out to study. She started socializing, talking to the locals in their own language. Within months she was able to communicate freely in three languages. She discovered her passion for surfing and spent hours and hours in the water. She had a gift, and she was passionate about it. Three years of traveling later, she is becoming everything she is meant to be from the beginning. She is Silvana.
Susy was just three years old starting this journey. However she was always her own spirit. She was never mine to own. She needs to roam freely, even at this young age. Sure, I am there to guide her, leading her away from danger. But apart from that learning always comes natural. She wandered off on her own, going to the playground in Panama. She went parapenting in Ecuador, did ballet in Costa Rica. She speaks an Universal language only to be understood by the heart. She is Susy, and Susy is her own personality. A beautiful free spirited human being I could never restrict to the four walls of a classroom.
So what about their future? Shouldn’t they get a diploma of some kind? Am I being selfish denying them a chance on a real future career? Yes, I admit having been scared. Terrified even. But slowly we regained confidence in our own gifts and talents as human beings. We are not preparing for a future, we are living the present. And I believe by finding ourselves, reconnecting with ourselves and nature, we will have everything we need to succeed in life. Even if they decide to want to go to University at some point, they still can. Actually, the very best Universities in the USA are actively looking for home- and unschoolers. They are mostly excellent students, critical thinkers and very motivated.
For me, if we would have to go back to Europe now it would have been all worth it. Just seeing the children find themselves, their passions. I have absolutely no doubt about this world being our classroom.