Seattle family redefines home schooling, creates its own 'school without walls'
This Hillman City couple wanted a different sort of education for their kids, so they created it themselves. Here's the result.
Yasmin Ravard-Andresen with Kavinder, left, and Anjali, have created a backyard “urban food forest” for learning.
PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON
The well-trod traditional path isn’t always the best for every family.
So when Yasmin Ravard-Andresen and her husband, Dave, who works in digital marketing, were considering schooling options for their children, they decided to make the bold leap into homeschooling. According to Yasmin, they were interested in an “alternative learning environment and a very different education diet,” with a delayed academic schedule to focus on art, movement, nature and more. After finding public preschool too traditional and tied down, and private options too privileged, costly, and with fewer faces of color, they chose to create their own educational pathway for their son Kavinder, 7, and daughter Anjali, 5.
Re-creating the traditional classroom was never their intention, and with their current layout, the learning experiences extend well beyond their physical house.
To carve out the 350 square feet in their home in the South Seattle neighborhood of Hillman City, one they designated for educational use, they knocked down some walls to open up the floor plan, and replaced the back door with a full window door, allowing for more natural light. They keep things as natural as possible, filling the space with plants, wood, wool, rocks and shells. They invest in long-lasting wood toys that won't break quickly. There are an assortment of musical instruments, including an upright piano. A fun addition is the indoor swing, encouraging movement for the kids during inclement weather. Or any weather.
PHOTO: JOSHUA HUSTON
Yasmin Ravard-Andresen has created a space for her kids to pursue their own educational pathways.
Yasmin describes their educating philosophy as “school without walls,” with an emphasis on the outdoors and a focus on topics such as permaculture, herbal medicine and forms of ancestral wisdom. They’ve spent hours gardening, planting trees, constructing a playhouse and welcoming chickens, bees and composting worms into their “little urban food forest.”
Their nature-oriented curriculum is supplemented with martial arts (Capoeira three times a week), music education, weekly wilderness school on Vashon Island, dance classes, and participation in their faith community, Valley and Mountain, along with lots of free art and play. Their flexible curriculum and schooling schedule gives them time to embark on unique, memorable family adventures like overnights on Vashon or day trips in the city.
Yasmin and Dave acknowledge that not all families are able to create the type of educational experience that they have; they’re grateful for the opportunity and have embraced their own brand of schooling. When asked about supplementing their children’s socialization, Yasmin explains that their “very lively and social neighborhood” is chock-full of kids, so friends are always nearby. They also enjoy their time with other homeschoolers at the Family Learning Program or the black homeschoolers community Odobo, which was founded by several black moms in Seattle. It pools resources and makes connections for diverse homeschool families. Together, they have fun educational experiences together, including nature walks, photography workshops and good ol’ bowling.
Yasmin loves being able to witness her children’s learning milestones, and have fun right alongside them, but she and Dave admit they are open to change.
“If they are interested in pursuing something within conventional society, going to a high school building and getting ready for college might be a shrewd choice,” she says. “If they are going to make music and run a pedal-powered music festival or be a poet or a dancer or a mystic healer, they might not choose to go to college.”
Regardless of what path will be just right for Kavinder and Anjali, the family will be flexible.
“We’ll know when we know," says Yasmin.