One of the best things about my kids’ experience at FCA is the thoughtful and relevant lessons they are offered. It’s the secret sauce in the school recipe that enables them to dive deep into a concept and still have time to be kids who build forts and indulge in serious hobbies. Their projects are often cross-curricular in nature, resulting in more meaningful work that efficiently satisfies the requirements of multiple subjects at once.

With no busy work, I never hear the dreaded, “When am I ever going to use this in the real world?”  I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that we’ve all had the gut-punch feeling of being asked that question by our kids and secretly thinking “Never.” With FCA, I’ve been able to kiss that feeling goodbye because the kids have stopped asking. The intrinsic value of every lesson they are given is evident, and as a result, they’re eager to engage.

One of these brilliantly planned projects was my fifth grader’s assignment to design a tiny home on a specified budget. He spent time looking at property listings in different areas of the state and weighing light fixture choices by prices listed on Home Depot’s website. I don’t even know which skill was the primary focus of the project, but by the end, he had dabbled in calculating area, art and design, budgeting, and comparison shopping. He was even outraged over property taxes like a true Oregonian! It made a momma proud.

My sixth grader learned about interest rates by choosing an entrepreneur from the Kiva.org listings to receive an imaginary microloan. He looked at several people’s business proposals, selected a man who wanted to make better prosthetics in his rural community, and then made a repayment schedule with calculated interest on the loan. Culture, business plans, and interest rates all in one beautifully designed project? Yes, please!

In addition to having a knack for multi-tasking lessons, the FCA teachers have shown a real passion for empowering kids to take the lead in making their school experience what they want it to be. This is evidenced by “passion projects,” bonus assignments, and sometimes just a really invested teacher stepping in to make a school-related wish come true.

Each of my kids has a “passion project,” which is a course they design for themselves based on an interest that they have. They set the goals, evaluate and monitor those goals with a teacher, and create the grading criteria based on what they are hoping to achieve with the project. My fifth grader homemade a Google Home from a Raspberry Pi, my sixth grader catalogs animals native to Oregon and makes presentation slides for each species he encounters, and my freshman is trying to make a Raspberry Pi surveillance camera to figure out which sibling is sneaking candy when no one is looking. I’m really rooting for the candy cam to be a success so that our repeat offender can finally be brought to justice. The projects can center on just about any area of interest.

Skyla is an author and former middle school math and science teacher. She loves sharing a pocket of the Corvallis suburbs with three free-range kiddos, a small menagerie of well-loved critters, and a charming intellectual property manager. When she's not obsessing over misplaced modifiers, she enjoys dog-earing the pages of vegan cookbooks, painting, and volunteering with her restorative justice team on juvenile offender cases.