by Tania Ceron, Open School parent
April 8, 2017
Being a parent to three amazing little people at The Open School has been such a blessing, a challenge, and one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. This is our first year at The Open School, and in these short seven months I have seen so much growth in my children in all the important things in life, what really matters.
As parents, we all try to do what’s best for our children. When I chose this school for my kids, I did so for very different reasons for each of them. It’s rare when you’re able to find an environment that suits everyone, in which they are able to grow, and thrive, and be so happy and excited about every day and about all the ups and downs of life.
My eleven-year-old son, Isaac, had been in the public school system since the age of three, when he started preschool, up to the fourth grade. I remember him being a very happy child, curious about the world, about how things worked, building with Legos, making art, and always making me wonderful little gifts. The things he was excited about, what made him come alive, weren’t things that were tested.
I went from having a happy child to a 9-year-old who felt defeated and thought that life was pointless so why even bother trying.
He felt that no matter how hard he tried, his best was never good enough. He would hide his feelings but lash out in other ways, by being angry all the time, yelling at everyone around him, and pushing away those who loved him most.
All through fourth grade I spent time working with his teachers, and he improved his test scores and bettered his reading a bit, but the whole time he was still miserable and felt like life wasn’t worth living. We both cried a lot last year and were at our wits’ end.
If you met Isaac now, you would think I was talking about a totally different child. Everyone who knew him before has seen a drastic change in his maturity and in the value he places on himself as a human being and on his happiness. He’s happy and you can tell in the way he carries himself and in the way he treats others.
“Why do we have to have a break? Nobody even cares about this holiday. I want to go to school!” ~ Isaac
My eight-year-old daughter, Silvia, started her schooling at age 5 in kindergarten. She was quick to pick up reading, writing, and math. She is the type of person who loves to learn and seeks knowledge. She followed directions very well, and that is precisely why I decided The Open School was best for her.
She had a lot of ideas for things she wanted to do, but didn’t know how to do them and we didn’t have the time to pursue them. The Open School has allowed her to follow one of her passions — cooking and baking — and find out if she really wants to become a top chef when she grows up.
She makes friends easily, but at her old school she was having a hard time setting boundaries and saying no to things she didn’t want to do. I remember one day she came home crying because a peer told her she wouldn’t be friends with her if she didn’t do something everyone else was doing.
Since then, Silvia has learned to be confident, to try new things, to respect herself, and to demand that others respect her in all ways as well.
“Why did you do this for me? It’s my responsibility, not yours!” ~ Silvia
My six-year-old daughter, Emma, started preschool at age three. At four, she joined a preschool program that mixed neurotypical children with children with high-functioning autism. Emma was supposed to model how someone her age is supposed to behave. She excelled rapidly in her class and was often repeating the lessons for the other children. However, she found it boring to repeat things she had already learned.
Emma has a lot of energy. She is outspoken, confident, compassionate, and very blunt. Having control of her own time has allowed her to focus on what she’s really passionate about, but it has also helped her to become more responsible for what she does and says.
People who meet her can hardly believe she’s six, because of her maturity, her vocabulary, and the way she carries herself. I love that she believes that the things she’s passionate about are worth pursuing, and that she has no doubt she can accomplish what she wants because she hasn’t been told she can’t.
“I think I can, I think I can, and I did it!” ~ Emma
My children are exploring who they really are, and they are becoming these amazing human beings inside and out. The challenge for me has been to respect them, trust them, and believe that if we allow our children to direct themselves they will learn to make good choices.
They have the freedom to choose how to spend their day, to make decisions, to make mistakes, to learn, to try again, to become responsible for their actions, to resolve conflict, to make meaningful connections, to do meaningful work, to make lasting friendships, and to be themselves.
All of this is forging their character. I’m not going to say that every day is a walk in the park, and I’m not going to say that this choice to raise independent, self-directed kids is easy. But it has been so worth it. I have become a better mother for it. My children are happy and feel proud of themselves with every obstacle they overcome.
The founders and staff at The Open School have been incredible in helping each individual child get the most out of their experiences, and I am so grateful and happy. This year I’ve cried many times — all tears of joy.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman