Our eldest son, Tenzin, has embarked on a new path of non-traditional learning with some dear friends on the upper peninsula of Michigan. Jan Zender and Rochelle Dale homeschooled their now-grown children and welcomed the opportunity to bring an enthusiastic, fresh pupil onto their 130-acres of off-the-grid property. In the 17th and 18th century, their land was part of the Middle Ground, where Algonquin Indians and French coureurs des bois (or “runners of the woods”) exchanged goods and culture. Both Jan and Rochelle are accomplished artists in reproducing and interpreting the material culture of that period. They make finely decorated clothing and accessories, traditional Indian pipes, trade-silver jewelry, and birch bark canoes.
Like Eastern Woodland Learning, Jan and Rochelle's approach to education is an integrative one that follows the interests of the student. Tenzin is exploring ethno-botany, metallurgy, living history, mechanical engineering, applied arts, archaeology, and anthropology, as well as the traditional subjects of math, reading, and writing. He will also have the opportunity to try his hand at canoeing, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, and dogsledding.
As Jan, Rochelle, and Tenzin share pictures and information with me about his educational experiences, I will document them here on his behalf.
Tenzin hit the ground running after we said goodbye to him at the end of August. By his third day he had already completed a leather carrying case for the knife his dad gave him.