Updated: Jun 19
We, the WEquil family, decided to drive down to Florida and spend a week with Austin and Amy Smith’s family. At first we did this because we knew we would have a blast! But as the week went on we realized we were learning a lot from immersing ourselves in their lives. In this article we share three things each family learned from the other so we can hold on to it and grow together.
When most everyone thinks about a “vacation” they probably think of cruise ships, exotic getaways, fancy hotels, and longs walks on the beach. But when Lulu and I asked our girls Sumay and Aila what they wanted to do for vacation they said, “Hang out with the Smiths!” So we packed up the car in Virginia, drove to Florida, basically hung out in their living room...LOL.
That‘s pretty much all we did...just visiting and playing together at their home, observing and discussing the concept of #LifeSchool, rethinking education, how to manage time playing video games, family rituals like prayer and sitting down together, and a lot more.
Joseph has known Austin since they were kids growing up in Oswego Illinois, but they only reconnected a few years ago. Austin found a blog post Joseph wrote called “My Tribe” which illustrated how people from different religions and political parties can come together and build powerful relationships based on “Shared Principles”. Over the past three years Joseph and Austin talked on the phone frequently and often for hours at a time. They found that they had so many shared principles despite coming from families with very different political and religious ideas.
When the pandemic hit, Austin and Amy Smith were two of the first people Sumay and Aila interviewed about education. Their conversation remains one of the most powerful learning experiences of our lives and set the stage for growing WEquil.School. The Smith family has not only been with us from the beginning...in many ways they were an inspiration.
We learned a lot from the Smiths...and we will continue to do so because even though we hold different beliefs, and don’t typically vote the same way, we hold many of the same values. Here are some of the things we learned / observed that we want to take with us and share...
Learning from the Smith’s
Temple of peace and love ... you can feel it when you walk into the Smith‘s home. They created a safe place where everyone knows they are valued. It’s something I could sense from working with Cadence through WEquil.School ... he could take feedback and direction without getting defensive because he is confident, and that confidence ultimately comes from growing up in a temple of peace and love. When I asked Amy about this she told me a beautiful story that I won’t share here...but it involved her doormat which reads...
"Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground." Acts 7:33
Family routine to keep house clean and organized…You would think that with six kids the Smiths would need to compromise on cleanliness, but their temple is also beautiful. The Smith family cleans together for 15 minutes after meals with awesome music! Everyone helps because everyone knows what’s expected. Amy helps manage these expectations using Google Sheets and helping the older kids mentor the younger ones.
LifeSchool is deeply engrained in their daily life. There is no real point in the Smiths day in which school is clearly differentiated from life. Life experiences are intentionally leveraged to create opportunities for learning. For example, if one of the Smith kids is experiencing negative emotions, Amy and Austin use the experience to help them recognized, understand, and manage their emotions in a healthy and positive way.
Learning from the WEquil’s
Seek first to understand ... The WEquil family spent a lot of time asking us questions about who we are, why we do things, and what brings us joy. Their deep interest in us and desire to help our kids makes us feel loved and valued.
Equilibrium through balance ... Lulu and Joe are opposites in so many ways, but they have found ways to leverage their differences to create powerful insights and opportunities. They seem to have taught their daughters how to take the best from both of their life experiences. You get the full spectrum of personality types, cultural differences, communication styles, and love languages.
A family is managing many different smaller relationships! Take time for one on one. We have six kids so it can be hard to find time to build that personalized relationship. When Mr WEquil came they took each of our older boys on walks by themselves. They created projects tailored just for them. This helped them to get some time to see themselves more as individuals with unique strengths and interests.
Smith Family Immersion turned out to be the perfect way to kick off our #LifeSchool #DemoDay. Vacations are typically thought of as an escape...a time to get away from day to day life. But instead we emerged ourselves in the daily lives of the Smiths. No fancy hotels, no cruise ships, just an intentional attempt to learn with another family that shares our principles.
The Smiths are so different...different religion, politics, culture, family structure...you name it and on the surface you might wonder why we get along so well. We talked about this a lot an the answer seems to come down to principles.
We love learning from the Smiths because at the end of the day we share deeply held values, like a relentless desire to help educate our kids, build deep relationships, cultivate curiosity, learn from those with different experiences, and provide service to others.
Turns out we didn’t need a getaway from life. We needed a fresh perspective on life from a family with so much love you can feel it walking through the front door.
WEquil Family ... in collaboration with the Smiths