• Leslee Dirnberger

A‘Discovery Year' - The New Gap Year

Updated: May 26

Take this next year to focus on education, and not on 'school', to discover new interests and passions.

A 'Discovery Year' allows you to assess your options, explore different interests, and think about how to develop your children's gifts and passions.


Many families are considering homeschooling their children for at least the next year, and if the pictures from French elementary schools in this Family Research Council article are any indication of what's to come, I hope many more families will consider it. John Schilling, President of the American Federation of Children notes, "every single family with kids in school has been incredibly disrupted by the lockdowns. With 55 million students no longer in their normal educational setting, families are clearly considering new options and many are seeing the benefits of homeschooling and virtual schooling."


A RealClear Opinion Research survey of 2,122 registered voters shows that over 40% of families are more likely to homeschool or virtual school after the lockdowns are over.


I know it is tough to hit the pause button when you have your child’s educational plan mapped out. All good parents worry that their child will ‘fall behind’. The problem is, how exactly would they be 'behind'? Fall behind whom? Fall behind in what? How can they be 'behind' if they are learning new things every day, with a renewed energy and curiosity?


Education and learning can, and do, happen at any time, especially when we are open and free to explore and engage our natural curiosity.


I realize, however, that many parents are not ready to fully commit to the idea of homeschooling their children, or don't want to homeschool once we figure out the school quagmire we are in. If that's the case, then a Discovery Year could be just the thing you and your children need to rediscover a love of learning.


Over the last 10 years the concept of a gap year between high school and college has gained popularity for a variety of reasons. Some want time to earn money for college. Others are not sure what they would like to study and don't want to spend that much for a college education they might not use. Still others need some time to mature emotionally.


No matter what the reason, it is a wise choice for many people. My daughter took a gap year and considers it the most important ‘adult decision’ she has made thus far. It allowed her to take a step back, assess her options, explore different interests, and really think about how to use her gifts and passions to serve others. Despite her strong desire to go to college, she realized that there was nothing so urgent that she couldn’t take a minute to breathe and explore. She is now crushing it in college, and in the workforce, virtually debt free.


For all these same reasons, I would recommend that families consider taking a Discovery Year this next school year. With all the uncertainty in the public and private school arena, you have the wonderful, unique opportunity to take a step back, explore interests, reconnect as a family, and discover gifts and passions you didn’t know you had!


If you allow you and your children a year to decompress, explore, and reconnect, your children will be happier and, chances are, they will learn more than they would have in school. With the world as their school, there is no telling how high your children will soar. I know that may seem scary, but it is worth the effort!


Here is a checklist to get you started with a Discovery Year:


1. Make a list of each family member's passions

2. Each family member makes a list of things they want to learn about, do, explore

3. Make a 'Top 3-5' list for each family member *Tip - Look for overlap; those should make the ‘Top 3-5' list

4. Make a list of things you would like to know and explore for each of those 3-5 items

5. Map out a rough plan to pursue the top item on each list, making sure to include things that the whole family can participate in

6. Implement the plans and have FUN!


A Discovery Year can include structured learning, travel, service to others, internships, work, a new skill, and time to think! It will help you and your child to be successful, confident, and curious. It could be the best ‘adult decision’ you have made so far!


We will be posting more practical tips and options for building a Discovery Year in the coming weeks, including an e-book of amazing resources!

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