“No school today, kids?”

“Nope, we don’t go to school - this is our classroom!”

After a bit more small talk, the person passing us on the track leaned over to me: “You will make sure they’re still learning, won’t you?”.

The world has gone down a strange path. Somehow the four walls of a room within a school building have become our gold standard learning space. The best, and really only, place to access a rich and varied education.

Really think about that for a second. A small classroom, an often outnumbered, overwhelmed and overworked teacher delivering a prescribed set of topics at a prescribed pace. A group of children gathered by age as the primary criteria. A tight set of standards, measures, deadlines and accountability governing them all. A specific, narrow definition of success that is taught early and reinforced often. A place where the thought of failure chips away at our children’s mental strength almost daily, exacerbated for many by the potential of it happening openly in front of their peers. A place many, many children and teenagers slump their shoulders on the way to, and celebrate any break from.

That - that - has become accepted almost globally as the place where all the best learning happens. Has to happen. If you’re out in the world during school hours, eyebrows will be raised.

Back on the walking track - among the wildlife, plant life, changing weather, interactions with people in our community, physical exertion, and fresh air - we reflected.

None of what we were surrounded by matched the accepted definition of the best possible learning space. None of it looked like what learning was supposed to look like.

We folded our map, zipped up our packs, tightened our laces, and - sun on our backs - carried on up the hill together.

This was today’s classroom, and we had much to learn from it.

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