Introducing the Kent Family
(Originally published in the Fall 2019 OC Magazine)
Please describe your family constellation: Parents, names and ages of young people.
Margaux, Walter, Søren (11), and Silas (8)
How long has your family been on this path of self/ family-directed Open Education?
We officially began in September 2018, but we have been exploring alternative paths since Søren was born in 2008.
What led you in this direction?
Listening to Sir Ken Robinson’s “School Kills Creativity” Ted Talk and hearing the Kent Family Homeschooling Stories. (Walter is 1 of 12, which is a great place to start…)
How did you get involved with Open Connections?
Ruthie (Walter’s sister and and fellow OC parent) invited us to an Open Connections Open House. Having not seen Ruthie and family in ages, we went only to visit them and escape the city. Besides, there was no way I was driving 2+ hours a day to take the boys to school. Within 20 minutes of our visit I murmured, “Walter, I think the drive would be lovely…” and thus began our official homeschool journey. Our best decisions are made quickly, and this was no exception.
Soon afterwards, we made another quick decision— we left the city for greener pastures. We found a Frankensteined House whose origins began in the 1700s and we settled in as if it was built just for us!
What programs do your young people attend at Open Connections?
In the fall both boys will attend OC three days/week. Søren will be in Group Tutorial III and Choice II and Silas will be in Group Tutorial II and Choice I.
How do your young people spend their time when not at Open Connections?
Drawing, reading, journaling, collecting creatures, playing with Lego, adventuring near and far—though since we moved, most often at our new home, which we have given the name, The 5 Acre Wood. Also, eating sushi, watching movies, biking, archery, exploring, fishing, bickering, and most recently—skateboarding!
What are some of the key pluses to this educational approach for your family?
Freedom! We work and live for exploration. We now have the ability to work and play and travel without being held down by some alienating system and daunting schedule. Best of all, we get to learn how to learn, something that isn’t available in many traditional schools. Why, just yesterday we learned that a garter snake will forgo a bit of its tail when held by it, spinning itself wildly like a top until it is able to twist away!
Ever since Søren and Silas’s escape from the Public School System, their days have been filled with what we used to jam into weekends—the life experiences and learning that happened around the hours of school. Our first official homeschooling adventure was going to the Philadelphia Free Library on a “school night” to hear Jill Lepore talk about her new book These Truths.
When I pick up Søren and Silas from OC, the car is filled with steady chatter about all of the things they experienced in the day—a far cry from the grumbling, uniformed kids that used to greet me in the schoolyard, with a “thank-goodness- THAT’S-over-BUT-there-is-still-tomorrow-angst” in each heavy word they spat out.
What concerns or challenges have you experienced along the way? How have you addressed them? Do you have any concerns as you look ahead?
It is sometimes daunting to buck the system—a system agreed upon by so many—and to follow an unknown path, particularly when it comes to making that long-term decision on your youth’s behalf. I am always fond of what mysteries lie beyond. But will Søren and Silas thrive in that same way? We negotiate this regularly but knowing how much they are enjoying life in contrast to previous years, I cannot help but to feel a stronger pull on the, “you are doing just fine” side.
What is your approach regarding academics? Real Work? Play? Self-direction/self-motivation?
Our approach is to explore the possibilities. To us nothing is set in stone and by spending our days focused on what we love and challenging ourselves, many unimaginable things can happen. We love finding the magic in the world around us and seeing the fruits of our efforts. We do struggle a bit with schedules but make an effort to turn them into habits with a weekly checklist hanging in the kitchen. Daily, our boys read and write in their journals. Thursdays are for documentaries, and proper math instruction (via Khan Academy) is three days a week. But most of each day is for exploring and putting the skills we learned into practical use. We delight in visiting historical sites (even with their suspicious truths!) and parks and museums. Art is an incredibly important subject in our world—so whether home or out, we are scribbling. And Søren and Silas learn a LOT about life through the goings-on of our business, Peg and Awl! They are very self-motivated boys and are often working at one thing or another.
What resources—people, books, curricula, places or organizations (museums, art centers, scouting, 4-H, businesses, etc.)—have you found helpful? How have they contributed to your youth’s development? This past year, our first year of homeschooling, we were mostly finding our way. Endless adventures await, and since our recent move to West Chester, everything is a new adventure for our family. Some of the places we have enjoyed are the Brandywine River (both in the canoes and out), the Chester County Historical Society (where we picked through old maps as we tried to find the history of The 5 Acre Wood), the Chester County Art Center, (where Søren took a graphic novel workshop and Silas made monster vessels with clay), as well as the Chester County Public Library. We also joined the Delaware Valley Mineralogical Society, which led to us finding the sparkly magic of amethysts rising in the freshly plowed field of an Amish farmer. Equally important is our time spent on the Bike Trail or at Stroud Preserve, where we talk and walk and go sledding. And this summer, our friend and author Michael-Patrick led a writing workshop for The Brothers Kent (and I joined in!) at our home.
From your young people’s perspectives, what could OC do to further enhance their OC experience?
Margaux: Guys, what do you think about homeschooling?
Søren: I love it! I love OC, and I like Choice the most! I love drawing and reading and making graphic novels. Homeschooling is fun. School was boring.
Silas: What do I love most? Being free! I love being outside so much. And I get to learn about snakes! Homeschooling is covering everything and it is making it fun, and we are learning more this way. I love OC, especially Thursdays and Tuesdays.
Looking back to when your family was new to OC, what events (Open Campus Days, Parents’ Meetings, Open Mic Night, etc.) helped your family become more connected to the OC community?
The Mudder was great! Walter and I (unexpectedly) joined Søren’s group for quiet, muddy connecting! We also loved assisting Group Tutorial I coptic bind their year-end appreciation books. The 24 hours of Awesomeness (OC Camp Out for Thursday Group Tutorials II and III) was grand, and the Pausing Ceremony was so sweet.
What could OC do to further your (the parent’s) experience, help you reach your unmet goals, or pursue them in a more effective or enjoyable manner?
We are really happy with how things are going and don’t have any suggestions for an improved experience!