Measuring the Quality of Life + Land: Curriculum Notes from New Zealand

It's been 81 days since our Global School adventure began, and while I was initially a bit scared about navigating this experience for my 10-year old daughter Devon without a proven road map for success, I can't imagine having done it any other way.

The curriculum I designed for Devon centers on how we Define and Measure Quality of Life and Land, making New Zealand the ideal location for study and exploration. It has top rankings in The Human Development Index, Global Peace Index, and #1 in the 2016 Legatum Prosperity Index, and my beliefs and experiences in the country my third time around are in complete sync with its stellar reputation.  

As far as my personal rankings go, while I refine my lifestyle choices and redefine what it means for my family to be successful (happy, healthy, fulfilled) and living a life of luxury (prosperous connections with others, being able to be of service, having clean resources--food, air, water, and $),  New Zealand exemplifies the most sophisticated approach to living, as a country that advocates a work-life balance, peace of mind, personal safety, and a true love of nature.

However, the real reason I keep coming back to Aotearoa (the Maori name for the country), is because of a deep connection with the land.  Rooted in indigenous culture, and still felt today, Maori tradition aligns the earth to the female womb, from which all life is born.  Women are especially associated with the land since they both give birth to human life.  I first fell in love with New Zealand well before I knew about its rich culture.

Its peerless beauty is life-changing and unparalleled.  But there is more to it than that. Miraculous landscapes are not just protected and respected, but are treated as integral to life. The Maori had a knowing that as human beings, they would have no life without mother earth. That wisdom is more applicable to our sustainability than ever before.

During the months I've spent in New Zealand this time with my little girl, I've wondered about the world her children will inherit, and how our actions might affect their lives. The more I think, the more reverence I have for the place we human beings call home.  

As I edited Devon's syllabus before the beginning of the school year, I ultimately hoped she would cultivate her own relationship with the land. I sought to create conditions whereby she could engage organically with nature, free from the busy-ness, stress and mounting obligations that were affecting her quality of life.  

Of course, I prepared academic assignments and we covered much ground in language arts, geography, and history, as well as earth sciences ranging from farming and sustainability to endangered species and lifestyle medicine.  The math unit I taught was about practicality: learning how to budget, handle finances, and become literate in banking, currency, and investing.  She excelled in mastering technology, personal development, and life skills crucial to thriving in today's world.

Now at the end of the semester, I'm busy making sure that all of the academic boxes are ticked, and addressing my fear that I left something out, I am reminding myself why I did this in the first place: I wanted my daughter to enjoy life again, love learning again, have the freedom to explore her interests, have the opportunity to discover her passions, and connect to the world where she lives, land where she plays, and beings that share it with her.

The most valuable experiences unfolded when I just let her be in nature: running from the waves, searching for shells, building cities out of rocks, making an obstacle course out of sticks, taking care of alpacas, and bottle-feeding an orphaned lamb.  

Her innate intelligence and connection with the world around her was our guide all along.  

Truthfully, I had no idea though how any of this global schooling would go, but I trusted my gut, followed my heart, and answered the call of adventure.

I can't wait to see where it takes us next.