04 September 2018

First Day of School 2018

Today was a momentous day in the Gamel household, the start of our newest adventure as a family.  It was the first day back to school - at a brand new school - for Oliver and Bennett.  (Avonlea had her first day back to school at her school a few weeks ago.)

We are all so grateful for such a wonderful year homeschooling last year.  A year of homeschooling was like water to all of our souls.  We were able to rest.  We were able to gain back family time.  And the boys were able to gain back self-confidence after having had challenges the year before with both cystic fibrosis and dyslexia.

A year and a half ago, I struggled to figure out what the best school option for the boys would be moving forward after a difficult year.  Should I homeschool?  Might another school in our area be able to better meet the boy's needs and the unique needs of our family?  I contemplated opening my own school after discovering a fantastic school model in Austin called "Acton Academy" that I would have loved to replicate in Waco.  I was even awarded a grant last fall and attended a 3-day think tank in New Orleans with 4.0 Schools for people around the US who want to start their own schools.  But, alas, I struggled to feel settled that I could run a school, take care of 3 young kiddos and deal with Bennett's ever-unpredictable cystic fibrosis.

Ultimately, our family chose to homeschool last year and we were very happy with that decision.  The only downside was that my boys, having been used to attending school daily, missed learning within a community of their peers.  Homeschooling was so good in so many ways.  But, since we didn't join a co-op our first homeschooling year, we found it could also be lonely.

Having experienced the beauty and flexibility of homeschool but also the community and connection of traditional school, Brian and I wished there was another option - something in between homeschool and traditional school.  This is where that little school in Austin called "Acton Academy" looked so interesting to me.

Well, low and behold, this summer, I heard from a friend that there was someone in Waco who was creating a school called "Acton Academy."  I couldn't believe it.  I called up that someone, who now is a friend of mine, and shared our story.  It was then that I knew, our boys would be 2 of the 22 founding students of the school now officially called "Acton Academy Waco."

Oliver, First Day of 5th Grade

Oliver, 10 years old

Bennett, First Day of 3rd Grade

Bennett, 8 years old
The boys were very excited to go to school this morning.  This new school seems like a great match for what they need.  It's a school that is focused on helping each child discover their abilities and talents, in addition to mastering their academics.  CF brings Bennett a lot of challenges but also brings him a lot of gifts.  Dyslexia does this for both boys, as well.  I look forward to seeing how Acton Academy will help the boys discover, in a self-directed way, how to use their strengths as leverage over their weaknesses.  

Some things I love about Acton are that it offers a mixed-age classroom, gives no homework (yes! let them play!), focuses on building character, uses socratic discussions, uniquely integrates technology, offers alot of freedom to the students and is overall very intentional.

I don't believe there is one school or one school model for all children.  Just as children are different, so are their needs for different school models and communities.  Brian and I consider it a great privilege to have a choice in the way we educate our children.  We realize so many families never get that opportunity.  Brian and I are evaluating each child and each school year as we go.  I'll homeschool in a heartbeat again in the future if any of my children need me to.  But, I'm also just as happy to kiss them goodbye and wish them a really great day at school.  

Of course, I can't fail to mention that there's another little Gamel experiencing a new adventure this year.  Avonlea started Kindergarten three weeks ago.  It's hard to believe our sweet baby is a kindergartner.  But it makes it easier when we see how much she loves it!  

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