Would you unschool if you did it all over again?
I received this email today:
I had a coaching call with you last fall about closing my business and becoming a SAHM. I did close the business, and I’m now taking care of my daughter. My husband has been thriving at work, the family runs better, and I’m happier!
I’m also eight months pregnant with our second child, a boy. I want to know, are you still on board with unschooling? I read a comment on your blog where it looked like you now advocated for a more structured approach in some areas, like math. What would you do if you had to start over now with a newborn and a 4-year-old?
Here’s my answer: Unschooling until third grade was great. I didn’t do any curriculum with the kids before third grade and it worked just fine. I loved seeing them do things for the first time. They are so eager to share things with parents, and they can explore endlessly. I think about how much I missed not taking them out of school right away. I don’t even remember the years they were both in school because I was so detached comparatively.
But if I did it again I would have sent my kids to top private schools. Here’s why:
If you are homeschooling so kids can be self-directed, that’s great. If you’re going to do curricula with the kids when they’re young, just put them into a really really good school. Parents don’t do curriculum well. And parents who care about curriculum don’t do better than good private schools.
As kids get older, good private schools are way, way better than homeschooling. If you don’t prepare your kids to get into a good middle school they will have a tough time getting into a good high school. If you don’t get your kids into a good high school they will have very few options afterwards unless they are extraordinary at something — olympic athlete, chess champion, etc.
The biggest mistake parents make is not wanting to pay for a top school and lying to themselves that they are in a good school district, or not paying for a top school and thinking they will “just do it themselves” but it costs way more to give that education to your kids at home — tutors, travel to courses, tuition for programs, etc.
When it comes to college, kids are put in groups — extraordinary, recruited athletes, family income under $65K, and everyone else. This means your kids will probably be competing against private school kids, so you may as well spend the money to make it possible. Economists say that the more stratified the social system is, the more important it is for parents to invest heavily in their kids. This is why.
Educating middle school and high school kids is a big job — they should be learning things you can’t teach them. If you can teach them everything then you aren’t giving them enough freedom. The biggest joy of homeschooling is being with the kids and seeing them grow. The older they get, the more they shut us out of their milestones — so they can become more independent. I think going to a great school with great teachers and peers is a wonderful way to make that shift.
That ended up being exactly what we did and I’m mostly happy with it. Pulled them out when they were 8, taught them successfully until 13 and then private school. They adapted so well teachers can hardly believe they were at home for 5 years (2 unstructured, 3 mostly structured). I’m still not so happy with their school, but I no longer had the time to teach them properly.
This is a good blueprint. I also think if you want your kids to be able to choose their own destiny, you need to give them an education that allows them to choose to be alternative-track kids or not.
This is so depressing. I followed you bc of homeschool but it’s about not being able to afford private school. Why not just live in a nice area w good schools. You seem to be ok with small places. This is so disappointing. You’re pretty much a woke
Elitist wanna be social climber. Blech. Not a hip free thinking homeschooler.
You’re right – I’m not hip and free-thinking about school. Because I realized I have two kids who are rule followers. Unschooling means following your kid’s lead, and my kids like clear, linear paths. They are not interested in the alternative routes I always choose.
You don’t get to be a cello prodigy by being a hip free thinking homeschooler. We followed insane amounts of rules and programs — they were just music lesson rules instead of school rules. When my son lost his hearing in a car accident, he had to pivot. He pivoted to other linear, structured, paths for education.
My older kid is trans. Or maybe gender neutral. I am not sure they even know for sure. But they know that where they can fit in — school — they want to. It’s not that fun to be an alternative hipster because your mom is. A kid’s life shouldn’t be centered around what their mom is. It was a tough change for me to think in terms of following a set path, but a real unschooling parent does linear curriculum if that’s what the kid wants.
As for social climbing: I don’t know a lot of people who have fallen as much as I did. I grew up in a family where everyone had a trust fund. We had coat-and-tie birthday parties and crystal-and-silver Thanksgiving. We were so sick of black-tie dinners that the kids would just stay in the pool. Now I don’t own a house or a car or a dress for a dinner. I thought it would be okay to live this way for me — I’ve been a rich kid and it wasn’t all that great. But sometimes I feel bad for my kids that they have uncertainty in terms of where they are socially. I think it stresses them out. Maybe I took certainty for granted.
The also made me think: all kids are rule followers! It’s just a question of whether the rule is to follow rules or to not follow rules. I realized that I was a not rule following parent and this made the transition to school so hard on my kid. But I’m glad I did it early on because I think I would have made it impossible for her to mainstream at all if I didn’t. And that would have looked a lot like neglect.
I couldn’t agree more with Penelope. I went to a high achieving middle school and 9th grade school in the DC metro area and then on to a high achieving Department of Defense school where the education was top-tier. I wasn’t aware because this was the standard and norm for me. When I started college I witnessed many kids struggling with the core curriculum for freshman because their schools didn’t adequately prepare them. Apparently, my education was comparable to private education. Now, I understand the importance of putting kids in the highest achieving middle and high schools a parent can.
I agree 100%. I’ve decided school is all
About who you know. The better the school the better the network. That goes for university. A good University (I’m a Canadian) is gold. I had a moment for my son and was going to put him into a private school for grade 5. We did the tour and almost enrolled. I regret now that we didn’t and kept him home. (Can’t remember the reason now) Community is important.
I feel incredibly frustrated with this post. Sending your kids to a top private school is out of reach for many. I looked at private schools in my area. The “top” schools cost well over $50k per year and would be a one-way commute of 30-50 minutes. My husband and I do fine, but I would call us solidly middle class. At those tuition prices, it’s more than our mortgage for one kid. It’s simply not feasible especially given that we have 3 kids. We have decided to send our oldest to a local private high school that is more affordable for us. I have no illusions that it is a “top” school, but it’s the best that we can do.
I’ve been reading your blog for years. I often disagree with your opinion, but I find it interesting to hear your perspective. However, I think you may have finally driven me away. The other issue is how you seem to have driven your life into a ditch. I don’t know how you are doing now, but previously you’ve discussed your money issues, living on a place that seems far to small for your family, your kids feeling like there is not enough food and a social worker giving your family gift cards for food.
Your whole point with the post seems to be that people need to be elitist social climbers to be considered “successful.” But does that make a good or happy person? Does that make a person who is useful to society? Your position seems to be very focused on outward validation. I would argue that this is not actually healthy for people and it is a recipe for always feeling like you’re not enough because you are constantly chasing something just out of reach. Just some food for thought.
The private school is not for outward validation. The private school is because we don’t have a meritocracy, and we basically have an oligarchy that is increase the rich-poor gap. In this scenario kids options close off really fast. We all choose to spend money differently. We choose to earn money differently. I don’t think there is a right way to spend money. But if you ask me if there’s a right way to educate kids, I’m not considering the cost. That wasn’t part of the question.
When I chose to homeschool my kids I didn’t think private school could do a great job. I didn’t know very much about top private schools though. Now that I know, I can see the immense difference. They do cost $50K/year. Most people would have to give up having a nice house to send their kids to private school. It’s a choice.
You are the second person to tell me I’m a social climber: hilarious. I didn’t let my son apply anywhere that wouldn’t give him a full scholarship. But my parents not only paid cash for my college, they also had to give a donation to get me in.
Admitting that private schools for middle school and high school are absolutely amazing doesn’t make me elitist. It makes me realistic.
I like the way you slice up the applicant pool: “extraordinary, recruited athletes, family income under $65K, and everyone else.” It seems true: no matter how special you think you are, you’re probably in that group, “everyone else.”
I’ve chosen all the options at some point or another: homeschool, public school, private school. I know that I could never have done homeschooling the way you did – when you say, “it costs way more to give that education to your kids at home — tutors, travel to courses, tuition for programs, etc.” it does not describe what we did, which was very co-op, groups of kids and parents. I think the costs that public school placed on me (endless fees and fundraising, jacked up prices on our only vacation weeks) were comparable.
I probably would have enjoyed homeschooling my daughter for elementary school – she was such a fun kid! – but that wasn’t in the cards. I was, however, happy that I started her with private rather than public school, and the main reason is that I felt that I got to spend more time with her than I did with my son when he was in public school at 5 and 6. The year is shorter at private school, and some of the schools are more flexible than public schools. That means not only better vacations with your kids (e.g. two weeks off in March, rather than one week in February and one in April), but also the possibility of taking your kid out to travel for a week with no repercussions.
I didn’t grow up going to private schools, so it’s a very unfamiliar world to me, and I feel silly for noticing things that others take for granted. They are sometimes very expensive (my daughter’s middle school costs more than my son’s college), but the degree to which the curriculum and the extra-curricular offerings wrap around the kid shouldn’t be underestimated. If my daughter ends up going through a “normal” college application process (my son handed me a fait accompli), I know how very much easier it will be to have the professionals in charge of it.
I have been reading recently about the increase of helicopter parenting in times of increased inequality. I wonder about the long-term effects of focusing so heavily on creating a college résumé for the child. I expect the pressure of that is linked to the high rate of mental problems of this generation. I have also heard professors bemoan how unprepared these hothoused kids are to take care of themselves in college. That target – college admission – is so small, when you consider how much bigger life is.
I liked what Ken Ginsburg had to say about preparing kids not for that one moment of selection, but for the rest of their lives, preparing them to be thirty-five, preparing them for their second job after college.
You describing your daughter’s experience reminds me of some research I read about autistic girls and high school. Most autistic girls can camouflage through high school. The thing that really messes them up is lots of unstructured time — it’s too overwhelming. But autistic girls who have lots of structure and extra-curriculars do very well in high school. I think it’s why private schools are so good for autistic girls — kids have no choice but to be involved.
Yeah, my daughter isn’t very big into structure, or discipline, or practice, or cleaning her room. And I’m not very big into driving kids hither and yon. So private schools, where extracurricular activities are required, are a plus for both of us.
It’s interesting you bring up autistic girls. I know a few. And what I see lately (though this may just be in my small sample) is these girls leaving my daughter’s excellent private school, in middle school, for schools with more intensive support. They are totally not camouflaging.
Maybe there’s a whole second group of girls I’m not aware are autistic, too. Or maybe the skills focus in elementary and middle school in today’s top private schools is sufficiently different from the skills focus in elementary and middle school in public schools a few decades back, in such a way that the girls’ autism becomes more apparent earlier now. I remember being kind of siloed – you were at your desk in the desk squadron, learning one subject at a time and taking endless tests. My daughter’s schoolwork is relentlessly group-based and interdisciplinary. I expect that’s harder for autistic girls than keeping their noses to the grindstone in silence.
The odd thing is that some of the MS boys are, to my sight, clearly autistic, and undiagnosed, unlike the girls. Is it that the teachers expect the boys to have poor social skills?
The thing I’ve noticed and experienced with my daughter is that it’s been so hard for kids to do school successfully- even, and especially kindergarten. It takes so much emotional support to get her up and out the door and dressed and then so much support when they get home to process their day, support them with any extra needs not to mention making dinner and then all the other bath time and bedtime things. By the end of the day it feels like all I’ve actually done is gotten her to school and back and don’t get me stared on what they do at public school all day in San Francisco. I try to remind myself that this kind of disciple to get up and be in the world consistently is worthwhile and that just doing that is enough for young kids.
But I have to fight the urge to take her out every day because some of the most amazing moments between me and my daughter are when she’s come into the room to show me something she worked on while I was working – some totally self directed or partially self directed thing that seemed to take off because 1) she had space to follow some impulse 2) I was equally absorbed.
One thing in exploring is a hybrid model where I take her out two days a week. The school will hate this but I think it might work for us.
Emily, it might be helpful to know that not all kids are like that, or not like that always, or not like that at all schools. There are certainly kids who are just happy to be there in school, even kindergarten, and don’t really need or want to talk about it afterwards. I have one of each: one kid who always wanted to give me a period-by-period debriefing and one kid who followed “Vegas Rules.” It was like pulling teeth to get her to reveal anything about school besides the French teacher was mean and lunch was good.
In saying this, I hope to encourage you to imagine that it’s possible your daughter will calm down with the post-processing demands eventually. It’s also possible that a different school might suit her better.
I would be very surprised if your public school were not horrified at your suggestion that you take her out of school regularly on purpose. My experience with today’s urban public schools taught me that they are not meant for people like you or me. They will have developed practices and policies based on the groups they focus on (not you or your kids), and if those don’t work for you then you must leave. Repeat truancy is not just a problem but a metric the administrators will be judged on. They will say whatever they can to keep you from messing with their performance stats, including threatening to hold your daughter back a year.
The reason hybrid doesn’t work is because when you send a kid to school the kid has to be part of the program. She has to follow those rules and do as she is told and believe in the teacher. So how do you explain to a kid that you don’t believe in the program so you’re taking her out a few days. What happens then is you end up leaving her to negotiate between her teacher who tells her being in school is important and her mom who tells her school is not all that important.
I haven’t posted in a very long time, but had to chime in on this one.
There’s so much to say. I love that you share your honest feelings of what you might have done differently, now that your kids are older. (Not sure why that upsets some people.)
I think you did the best you could based on what was going on in your life at that time, and maybe in an effort to avoid the horror that was your childhood, you chose a drastically different path for your own kids.
I can’t imagine homeschooling/unschooling as a single parent! There is no way I would have been able to keep my sh*t together if I had to do that in addition to financially supporting my family.
Also, it doesn’t seem that P has a family support network to lean on. It’s very hard to raise kids under those circumstances. (I know from personal experience.)
I love that you realized that your kids need/needed something different from what you need and sought it out for them. As mine get/got older, we did the same thing, and in one case it lead to enrollment in high school, another a conservatory program, and we will see where the youngest winds up.
As an unschooler, I am not against school. In fact, my eldest’s experience in high school has exceeded my expectations in every way. It was what was best for her at that time in her and our life. I do think that the grounding and self knowledge/awareness that she developed in her early years was a strong foundation for the success that she is enjoying now. She isn’t going to college right away, but is on a great path that includes work, friends, learning, hobbies, options, and hope.
We have found community through our family’s and kids’ activities and agree that community is very important, but it can look different for every family.
You have poured your whole self into your kids and love them as best as you can. Have a Happy Mother’s Day.
Thanks for the nice comment. I wish there were more parents sharing what happens as kids become teens and go off to college. Parenting becomes so different as the kids age. I am thinking that the majority of first-person discussion online is people with young kids because it’s so lonely and boring. But we still need to understand what is happening with kids as they get older, and I think we really benefit from hearing each others’ stories.
Agreed. It’s as if, all of a sudden, the kids needed things that I could no longer give them as a homeschool parent, so we pivoted. I never wanted my decision to homeschool hinder or limit their options in any way. For me, homeschooling has always been about following a path that was best for each kid, rather than being “against school.”
I am grateful for all of the time I had/have with them and how close we are. I don’t have the same kind of relationship with my own mother, and I realized along the way that that made my life so much harder. My kids know they are loved and what it means to have a loving mother. Because of that, they are WAY ahead of me already.
Maybe we could have created this bond if we had sent the kids to school from the get-go. But for our family, homeschooling has been a wonderful adventure, and through it, I accomplished my goal of creating an open, loving relationship with my kids. So for my family, I guess, homeschooling iwas never really about school in the first place.
I’ve been reading your blog since I was in middle school and I’m a junior in college right now. I’ve spent my whole life in private schools and the only problem I’ve had is feeling burnt out too early. However, I absolutely loved and thrived in private school and consider it the biggest factor to who I am today. One of the reasons I’m unsure about having kids is because of schooling. I don’t really agree with private schools politically but also teachers and students are struggling so so much in public schools right now. I think because I have experience and knowledge across the board (majoring in STEM, a social science, and humanities) I’d consider being a homeschooler/unschooler but your comment about having to fit into our current society to survive is such a great point.
Here was my experience with private school:
In preschool they taught me to read (I know this isn’t really recommended and I agree with that, but I read so so much as a kid and to this day and I’m very glad it was encouraged).
Then in elementary school, we were able to learn in such a fun and project-based way with teachers who were given enough freedom and money (private school teachers are often paid less but this wasn’t the case at my school) to actually be invested in us and their jobs.
In middle school, this continued and there was lots of time for extra help with anything we were struggling with everyday.
My point of reference away from these private schools comes from 9th grade where I went to a Catholic school in a low-income area (obviously still private but academically worse then other private schools nearby). The thing I realized that made the biggest difference for me was the other students. At my previous school, every student really cared about learning, participated in class, and I never felt like it was weird to love school (the popular kids did debate lol). At this school, though, I realized how mind-numbing and boring it is to have to deal with classes where no one participates, shares their opinion, or cares about what we’re doing. I think this makes sense because they didn’t have the luxury of the previous community I had, and many of them didn’t have the same material resources to have school be their only focus. Meanwhile, at my previous school, everyone’s material and emotional needs were met, and their parents’ cared so much about their children’s grades that it forced them to learn, though I think they ended up enjoying that process. (Kinda toxic for them but great for me haha). Because of my previous school, I was two years ahead in some classes and still got very high grades (when I was ‘average’ at my previous school, which I think was good to keep any ego in check).
The next year I transferred to a high school much more similar to my elementary/middle school and once again was learning and growing so much. There’s a joke about how the more you pay for school the less you go, and this was kinda the case for me where sometimes we’d only like 4 hours of class a day, which I think could be appealing to those who like the unschooling method.
Of course, this worked well for me (and I am still burnt out and suffer from perfectionist-based procrastination to the extreme) whereas for my sister it wasn’t great and the competitive environment led to her dropping out in 8th grade and going through various treatment centers. She’s at a more chill private school now and is going to Montana State next year, because having a more relaxed experience is better for her. (I do think that this is another issue that perhaps repudiates my whole post. Maybe we should just focus on paths that make us happy and fulfilled rather than this insanely competitive fight to top universities and jobs. However, the cost-of-living crisis is insane and it is easier for me to say this as someone with a well-off family to fall back on).
My elementary/middle school was in Orange County and was 20-25k a year and my high school was in LA county and was 30k a year. When I went to those schools I was the poorest person there, and the city I lived in was considered ‘dangerous’. When I was in 9th grade, I was the richest of anyone I knew and the city I lived in was considered super nice.
This was super long and I glossed over so many things. This is a societal issue that should be remedied by us actually prioritizing our children, which very few seem interested in doing. As a collective, private schools are hurting us but for individuals I think they are so beneficial lol.
It’s so fun to hear from you, Caitlyn! I learned a lot from hearing your perspective. I wonder if you are studying journalism or something similar? Your writing is great — it’s hard to write clearly and opinionated at the same time, and you do it well.
I imagine it is hard to write about your regrets with homeschooling on a homeschooling blog but I appreciate your honesty. None of us can predict the future and we try to make the best decisions we can. I know you love your kids and you’re doing great.
I am grateful that, for seventh grade, we decided to send our daughter to an excellent private school. Since second grade, she had been attending a small hybrid school with five other classmates twice a week and an artsy musical co-op on Fridays. Both programs had their pluses, but neither had any palpable peer pressure to excel academically. One positive aspect of the hybrid school is that it recorded grades, which helped us gain admission to the new school. The new school has higher standards and far better teachers, tapping into my daughter’s natural inclination to keep up with her new classmates, please her teachers, to attend study hall, and to “get with the program.” She has closed several knowledge gaps, and it feels like we made the move at the last minute.
With this new blueprint, what are the consequences? Does that imply that women (or men, though mostly mothers) ‘s career can get picked up when kids reach middle school age?
An alternative viewpoint: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/201812/parents-it-doesn-t-matter-what-college-your-kids-attend
I don’t feel qualified to argue either way: Firstly, I’m not from the US; secondly, decisions on educational paths surely come down to a highly personal interplay of family resources; parental values; the child’s disposition, needs and wants; and, yes, ‘reality’ as it is, out in the big-wide-world.
I do long for a day when many more of us define success differetly though. Income and standard of living absolutely matter – to a degree, and in varying degrees. Career and personal fulfillment options matter – to a degree. But the pressure many put themselves under is insane: hustle-culture and ‘performance & productivity’ have gone viral, it seems. But this can’t be sustainable. I mean, here in the UK – where we run a couple of teenage home education sports and youth groups – teenagers, aged 13 – 17, are exitng the secondary (high-) school system at a rate we haven’t seen before. We’ve been home educating since 2008. They’re dropping like flies because the pressure in school is too high, and we have kids leaving both state (the majority, I’ll admit) and private (a smaller number) schools. And the exodus started a couple of years before the pandemic, which just accelerated the trend.
Also, I thought I’d mention Mary Harrington here, and her recent polemic, ‘Feminism Against Progress’. I feel it speaks to the notion of success, progress and cooperation versus competition. Hey ho…I have no idea where one draws the line between idealism and realism. But I’m up for spearheading a new revolution…
The way I look at it, a private school education costs around £800k all in. For that, you could set your grown-up child up with a flat in a major city. Which has the bigger positive impact on life/career outcomes? I would say, as someone who has had both, probably early home ownership.
However, I understand that your post was an intellectual exercise in thinking up the ideal education for your kids. From that perspective, you’re right. Peer group is important, network is important.
My perspective is also different because I am from the UK, where top universities are selecting against private school kids in order to up their quotas of state school kids. Or, if they’re not doing that, they’re at least viewing applications ‘in context’. https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-oxbridge-files-which-schools-get-the-most-pupils-in1/
This makes private school much less appealing, as you are ‘just’ getting the network. Might still be worth it though, what do you think?
ps years ago I interviewed you for an article I was writing on David Solomon and millennials in leadership positions. The premise was ‘millennial leaders will bring better work/life balance’ (yawn). You told me that I was wrong and that millennials were terrible leaders and the ones that make it to c-suite are not the ones that care about work-life balance. You were right, but it was annoying to me because my editor had commissioned the article and hated your perspective. I think you went on to write a blog post on it. You were a nightmare interviewee but are a fantastic blogger. Please don’t stop blogging and engaging on here.
I remember this interview! It was the beginning of me realizing that I am not able to behave well enough to be interview. But it took me a while. I’ve had a problem for so long that I was thinking that the interviewers were interesting so it was a chance to talk with someone interesting. But then they never wanted to talk to me. So I’d just keep talking about things I thought would get them to talk. Now I see that made people not talk more.
Another thing about this. It’s so irrelevant to be right. I am right so much and it gets me so little. I feel really lucky that you’re here, still talking to me. Thanks. So many people who tell me I was right also decide that I’m too annoying.
My kids are 19, 16, 12. I contemplated homeschooling many times. Part of me will always wish that I had done it, but I now that I see how my kids are turning out, I have no regrets. When my oldest was in elementary school, my husband and I took a hard look at our preconceived notions about what success should look like for kids and decided that if the price for admission to “prestigious” university involved the sacrifice of our family time and relationships, then we weren’t interested in paying.
We decided to raise our kids in a small town that is a mix of agricultural and beach communities. They went/go to public schools that are fine in our opinion but would probably be seen as substandard by East Coast Suburban standards. Our property tax is low and our family is nearby. We used the money that we would have otherwise spent on private school tuition or high property taxes to travel, have family adventures, and save for college and retirement.
Since our schools aren’t pressure cookers academically (they have plenty of opportunities and AP classes, but just generally have a different mindset than elite private schools), our kids had reasonable amounts of homework and plenty of free time for free play. We did some sports including travel soccer, but we work hard to keep our involvement reasonable and prioritize things like family dinner. We encouraged a lot of reading, did a lot of goofy science projects, and participated in 4-H along the way.
My daughter was a strong high school student- hard to say how she would have done at an elite private school, but still scored 1540 on her SATs. She wants to be a civil engineer, and we found that the big state schools seem to have the most well resourced civil engineering schools with the best labs and the most cool research happening. We toured Duke and it was frankly underwhelming for engineering, so she leaned into places like NC State, Virginia Tech, etc. She would up accepted and offered generous merit scholarships to NC State, et al. She also got into Duke and Georgia Tech. She was rejected by Princeton, Cornell, Vanderbilt, UNC. She chose Georgia Tech and it has been a good fit for her.
I know that being a female from a rural area and a less populous state helped her get into the schools she did get into- which for me just reinforces the peace that I am slowly allowing myself to feel about our schooling decisions.
I anticipate my 16 year old son will have a similar college decision process- he’ll get into a few selective schools and a whole bunch of good programs at state schools and probably wind up somewhere in between. My youngest is very different- I think he may go to the bigger local high school that has more trade and agricultural programs rather than AP classes. He is currently interested in artisan meat processing. (Like aren’t most 12 year olds fascinated with butchering videos? lol). I’ll encourage him to get a 4 year degree of some kind- maybe business or food science, but being a meat entrepreneur (or whatever else) sounds great to me.
I share this story because I have a lot of friends and colleagues who feel that they are ruining their kids lives if they move away from a certain school district or stop paying private school tuition in favor of crafting a lifestyle that leaves room for purposeful family time. That might look like homeschooling, that might look like enhancing a public school education. You get to decide what success looks like and what feels right.