BACKGROUND & VISION
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
-Howard Thurman, author, philosopher, educator, civil rights leader, mentor to MLK
For as long as I can remember, what makes me COME ALIVE has been working with kids, guiding them as they grow and learn, getting to know who they are right now. I have early memories of helping my younger brother learn his letters and basic math, of coaching the little neighbor kids to join in the imaginative play of us big kids, of babysitting when I was little more than a child myself. I spent two teenage summers as a nanny and got my first real paychecks from the YMCA kids’ gym and after-school care programs. I studied English and education in college, taught in the public schools for about a decade, and worked as a private tutor on and off for years. I have spent the last decade leading various groups for parents and children, including an active, large homeschooling network I mostly built from scratch.
I decided to homeschool my daughter because I wanted an education for her as unique as she is. From my education classes in college, extensive reading in child psychology research, and experience working with children and teens, I knew that young people learn best when they are able to pursue their own interests, when they have choice in what to study, when play is the primary method of learning through at least age eight. I wanted all this for my daughter. From my teaching career, I also knew the glazed looks of burned out children and teens, the stress headaches and stomachaches of kids who were much too young for such things, the anxiety and depression becoming more and more common in young people. I didn’t want any of this for my daughter. From my circles of mom friends, I knew the frustration of parents with homework and seatwork at earlier and earlier ages, the struggle for balance between family life and school, the stress of dragging tired kids out of bed every morning. I didn’t want this for myself. So I took the plunge into homeschooling my daughter and sought out others on a similar path, creating a network of support and friendship for us.
I have been really lucky to be able to homeschool my daughter utilizing her interests as our guiding force. Essentially I kept looking for WHAT MADE HER COME ALIVE and supported her in doing more of it. I have helped many others in my homeschooling group on the same path. I've come to realize that there are a lot of people who are interested in alternative education but have various things holding them back from doing it themselves, such as a co-parent with different views, the need to work full-time, other practical issues/commitments, or it’s just not their passion.
SHINE Together was born out a desire to support those families, people who would like a part-time or full-time drop-off education option for their kids because homeschooling by themselves just isn't the best choice. Registering as homeschoolers allows for a lot of flexibility in scheduling and subject matter so that each child’s interests, needs, and strengths can take center stage. Part-time families get guidance and support from me as a professional tutor, and parents actively participate in homeschooling on other days. Full-time families are making the choice to hire me as a private tutor to homeschool their kids, though I approach homeschooling more as a guide than a teacher.
As a learning guide, I facilitate interest-led learning for individuals and small groups. Core subjects mandated by the state are included, of course, but the approaches and specific content are as varied as the children themselves. Beyond the academic subjects, social, emotional, physical, artistic and inner growth are valued and nurtured. Connections to nature, the world, and other people are cultivated. My emphasis is on relevance over so-called rigor, deep understanding and critical thinking over rote memorization, natural rather than coerced learning in all areas. Divergent thinking, creativity, and curiosity all blossom through self-directed education. Each child’s learning stems from whatever makes them COME ALIVE, with guidance and support and a rich environment for exploration and growth.
-Mandy Spiczka, Founder, President & Tutor at SHINE Together, LLC