Searching for Answers

As I search for a good message to write for the newsletter, I find myself coming up with more questions than messages. This is possibly a sign of why I chose to be a part of the LiHigh endeavor and why I so passionately believe in this model. Because it’s the questions that matter most.

The one question that keeps coming back has to do with the ongoing assessment of our model and of myself as an administrator: are we doing enough for our students? It’s a question that comes to me not only as the co-director of the school, but also as the mother of one of our students. My experience as the parent of a 9th grader has deepened my understanding of our model. I now understand more fully some of the struggles and triumphs that stem from enrolling at LiHigh School.

Since we opened the general education program at LiHigh School, I’ve witnessed the transformation of attitudes and values that parents and students have to endure while engaging with our model. Because our general education program offers an “open playground” where the students can explore their passions and interests, both students and parents are often challenged to reconfigure their idea of what “school” means. This is challenging for everybody involved.

Those who went through years of compliance with a traditional education seem to need what the home-school community calls “de-schooling” — a period when the student and parent need to let go of previous notions of what education should look and feel like.

My daughter, for example, was a straight A student in a traditional school, but she has struggled with the skills she needs at LiHigh School. She is expected to learn to monitor her own time, identify her own desires, and take an active role in investigating her interests. Her previous schooling had not provided her with these skills. She didn’t know how to value her dreams or how to be a partner in designing her exploration all the way form an idea to an in-depth investigatory study.

I have to admit that it has been painful to experience self-doubt as I wonder whether I am doing the right thing for my daughter. She was always so studious and responsible, but now I’ve asked her to take on the responsibility to engage in designing her educational pursuit. I know that LiHigh School will help her slowly form an understanding of what is important to her, what values she holds, and what she expects from herself as a student, and the end result will be someone who is a lifelong learner, but the process…the process is demanding.

The only conclusion I’ve come up with as both an educator at and a parent of a student in LiHigh School is that an authentic, meaningful educational model can be practiced only when the student, parents, and advisor and mentor join forces to create positive and meaningful stepping stones for each student’s educational journey. It is the merger of intention and collaboration that makes the magic happen.

I still don’t have answers to all my questions, and I still wonder if we’re doing enough for our students. But when it comes to wondering whether I’ve chosen the right school for my own child, I’m starting to realize that I want her to attend a school that offers endless opportunities, compassionate support from adults, and a lived philosophy within the school where everyone is constantly engaged in shaping their own educational values and where each staff member is intimately involved in helping each and every student achieve their dreams.

In the spirit of LiHigh School’s growing understanding of educational values, I would like to encourage you to explore and share your own thoughts about this topic.