This weekend, we held an impromptu paint party at my house, about 20 people putting a sunset and purple flowers to canvas via the instructions of a YouTube artist. It was kinda crazy, not just because paint was flying all over the place, but because of who was in the room. We had friends and in-laws and the more standard crew. But we also had nine Rwandans, aged 10 to 75, some of whom had emigrated to the US and Canada, one who is living with us short term, and some of whom are heading back to Africa in the next few days. Imagine trying to engage in a conversation mixing English and French and Kinyarwandan. Imagine when some of that conversation turns to Burundi, where the threat of genocide is hanging over some relatives of those at our party. Imagine 15-minutes of hugs when everyone is leaving.
Over the years, we’ve had three sets of eight Tibetan Buddhist monks stay with us for 10-day stretches. We’ve had an old friend who is a lesbian live with us for a year when she was in the midst of some difficult changes in her life. I suspect we’ve had more diversity in our home than most, certainly more than my kids engage with in their schools. And in many ways, I think my kids have learned more about real life from paint parties and monk visits and our various boarders than almost anything they’ve done in school. We’re not perfect parents, by any stretch, but I do think the efforts we’ve put into “real world” learning have made our kids (and ourselves) much more ready for what’s to come in their lives.
I wonder, when we know that these are the things we remember and learn from most deeply, why aren’t schools driven to provide all kids these types of experiences? Why is it so hard for us to bring the real world into the school walls? Why wouldn’t we want to do that?