Being real is getting tougher.

Have you found yourself wondering if being real with others is even possible in our current cultural landscape? If so, you are not alone. Learning to cultivate trust within a school environment is an important foundation for learning.

Whether you’re a busy parent rushing from errand to errand or your student is trying to discover himself or herself, it’s true. Cultivating safe, inclusive, authentic spaces where we can be real with one another is becoming more challenging than ever before. Building friendships at school is a little more complex when your child isn’t sure where he or she fits.

Even adults struggle with friendships and making connections.

Think about it. In the winter months, you come home after a long day and

  • Park your car
  • Walk inside and shut the door or the garage door behind you
  • Begin the mundane: opening mail, getting out something for dinner, cleaning up or checking your phone
  • Plop on the couch or at the kitchen table and rehearse your day in your head

And in the summer months?

It’s a little bit better because we typically don’t hibernate as much. But it still presents a challenge to being authentically ourselves.

We wonder about our place in the world around us or even just our place at work or at school.

These types of thoughts are not limited by age, socioeconomic status, or stage of life:

  • What will I/we do this weekend?
  • Will my friends invite me?
  • Do I have any fun things planned?
  • Will anyone at the ___________ like me or talk to me?
  • Am I part of the group?

Yes, making real, lasting connections can be a challenge, but hope is not lost. We have good news!

Authentic community — the art of being ourselves and allowing each other to be real — has not disappeared; in fact, it’s being cultivated in small ways right near you.

What does it take to cultivate trust so that you can be yourself? So that your child can be who he or she is and make supportive friends?

At Learnwell, one of our core values is authentic community because we want students, teachers, and parents to find encouraging, supportive friends here. More than a person to wave at in carpool, we want to facilitate the kinds of friendships where parents can be vulnerable, students don’t feel the need to pretend, and teachers truly see and value students for their right-now selves — not who they will be someday.

What does ‘being real’ look like? What is an authentic community?

Authentic community is when your students feel safe, seen, and so accepted that they can be the same person they are alone or with family when they’re at school or among friends.

What does an authentic community provide for parents of students at Learnwell?

  • A place where you are free to ask questions.
  • An environment where, instead of competition, collaboration is fostered.
  • You don’t have to agree on everything.
  • You feel comfortable enough to show up with a casserole or send a card when someone in the household is sick.
  • Accepting encouragement and support from other families is a common value and a school’s cultural norm.

How will students know when they can quit pretending and start being real?

It happens when they realize they’re noticed and accepted as they are. Maybe it’s a teacher who responds with grace when the student expected to receive a disappointed look. Or it could be that someone at school connects with them over lunch about a shared hobby or appreciation of the same kind of music. It can also happen when a student disagrees with another student and feels 100% supported in sharing his or her opinion without fearing what others will say. It may also be when a younger student high-fives one of the older students to whom they look up.

It happens when students understand that, like them, other students face challenges and have good and bad days. Students get to know one another during the school day and at school events, such as family fun nights, dances, field trips, and electives classes. Over time, students begin to build trust when they can recognize how they’re different and know that it’s okay.

When students experience their value simply as a child of God who is loved and has a purpose, they start to see themselves through a different lens.

What does community mean for a group of parents?

Some Learnwell parents work full-time, and they hire tutors, ask family members, or invite others in the community to help their child with at-home learning on the three days a week that students learn at home. Other families have a primary parent at home who is available to support their children during at-home learning. Regardless of what your family’s circumstances are, you can homeschool with confidence in a way that works for your family — without judgment, fear of being ostracized, or a sense of being left out.

As a school, it’s very important to us that every parent finds a place of acceptance here. No question is too small, and we are truly trying to facilitate a community of supportive parents through:

  • A flexible format that focuses on the “what” of learning, not the “how.”
  • Multiple ways to connect, such as parent coffee meetups, field trips, and private social media groups where you can ask questions or share ideas with other parents.
  • Parent Professional Development for all parents, where we share up-to-date information to help everyone from new-to-homeschooling families to homeschooling veterans alike.
  • Casual dinners are organized by grade level so that parents can get to know other parents in their children’s grades.
  • Events that you can bring the entire family to — parents, siblings, and Learnwell students.
  • Open lines of communication and true partnerships with your child’s teacher.

Why is it important to get an excellent education within an authentic community?

It is our foundational belief that an excellent education is made even better with the support of other families. Here’s our principal, Dr. Melissa Shipman, sharing more about this core belief and why it motivates much of the “why” behind the kind of community that we facilitate at Learnwell.

Interested in learning more about the way that Learnwell operates? Join us for a low-key informational night at our next Discover Learnwell event.