Guidepost Helped Our Son's Light Shine Brighter

A conversation with Guidepost parents about how our virtual program has supported their son’s growth, even through an incredibly difficult period of his life.

Mark and Cristina Matthews are the parents of Isaac*, a 4th grader in Guidepost’s virtual program. Mark and Cristina chatted with us about how Guidepost and the Montessori approach have helped their son flourish, even in the midst of a life-changing diagnosis.

Guidepost has become a part of our family

Our son Isaac is currently in 4th grade, and he’s been with Guidepost Virtual since October 2020. At that point, we had been homeschooling for six months because of COVID. It was fun, but we knew he needed something more, something to spark him further in the direction he was going.

We knew we were looking for a real, complete Montessori experience, but we also wanted something new. We had tried in-person Montessori with a different school, and we weren’t satisfied. But then we found Guidepost and I (Cristina) just fell in love with the virtual program.

Isaac was in 2nd grade at the time, and he was a little hesitant. We told him, “Why don’t we try it out and see how it goes? And it’s totally up to you whether or not you’d like to continue.” That’s how our journey began, and we couldn’t be happier. It was more like a leap of fun than a leap of faith.

Guidepost has become a part of our family and our community. We are absolutely enthralled by the program. I (Mark) like to say that we’re not just believers, we’re converted. And not just to the Montessori approach as a whole, but to how Guidepost does Montessori and the virtual program. 

The virtual program offers a bridge between Montessori and technology

Guidepost has brought Montessori up to par with what is a big part of everybody’s life now: technology. They still fully embody Montessori, but they merge it with modern life. Isaac’s old school really had him shy away from computers and so he was pretty timid in the beginning. But now he has become so tech savvy!

Guidepost has him use the technology in really profound ways. It doesn’t stop his creativity or critical thinking. He’s doing research, planning projects, and doing a ton of hands-on work. He’s taking initiative and building his leadership skills, while using technology to think outside of the box. Guidepost creates a really nice bridge between the two. 

The relationships are part of the magic of Guidepost’s program

Our son has built far stronger relationships with his classmates and teachers than he ever did in his in-person school. Just the other day his dentist was making small talk and asking him whether he liked his teachers. Isaac was caught off guard and had to pause before he answered. He said, “Like my teachers? I love my teachers!” After that, they went back and forth talking about how exciting 4th grade is and how much he loves his class. I wish I had thought to videotape it!

He’s very protective and supportive of his class and teachers. At parent-teacher conferences we learned that there was one day when his guide was not feeling great. Isaac noticed and he stopped her and asked, “Do you need a hug?” She was taken aback and so happy that he sent her a virtual hug. We were amazed. Here’s this guide who’s based in Michigan and this nine-year-old kid in the Bay area. They’ve only known each other since the school year started, for around three months, and it’s amazing that their wires have connected on such a personal level. It’s just part of the magic of Guidepost’s program.

Our son’s school life is a part of our life

A really great part about Isaac doing virtual school is that we both work remotely, so we get to be more involved in his development. At his previous brick-and-mortar school, it was very hands off. We didn’t have a window into what he was doing every day. But we don’t feel that way with Guidepost at all. The teachers are so accessible and friendly.

Part of what makes it possible for us to be so involved is Guidepost’s flexibility. Isaac has an hour and a half for lunch, and so we schedule our lunch breaks at the same time. Even though it’s the middle of the day, we can go on a family walk and eat lunch together. It’s wonderful! We can even do extracurriculars. Isaac does karate and instead of having to wait for lessons until the evening, we can do it during his extended lunch break. Whatever we do with that time, we always have a way to touch base with him halfway through the day, to see how things are going, and talk about our days.

We also get to be there and see Isaac’s progress daily. He has his own little office space—he calls it his laboratory—but our whole home is filled with his schoolwork. It’s overflowing, it’s a little chaotic, but it’s a good mess. There are projects. There’s a theater setup. His school is in our lives. It’s not school on one side, and the rest of life on the other side. We have this amazing integration and get to experience so many things about his life that we would miss if he was in a physical class setting. 

Guidepost was a shining light during our son’s treatments

Our situation last year was unique. Though, unfortunately, not as unique as we thought at first. Isaac received a life-changing diagnosis and was in the hospital from about March to September. And even through all of the difficult things he went through last year, his love for school has only been enhanced. 

Guidepost was actually like a shining light, because it was the one area of consistency in his life. He could go to class in between his appointments and there was never any pressure about falling behind. His teachers knew what was going on and they never skipped a beat. They looked past everything and were just happy to have Isaac in class. His classmates never made him feel singled out. They never bothered him about looking different or losing his hair. He was treated like he always was, an important part of the community. They allowed him to just be himself.

Our son is the light of our life, and this has only made his light shine brighter. That’s how we see Guidepost’s role in our son’s life. And it wasn’t just us! The medical staff, the doctors, everyone saw him doing school and they were amazed and curious about the program. They got to see part of his world. He wasn’t just a sick kid to them. They talked to him about his projects and what he was learning. It was really heartwarming and touching for them to see how strong and capable he was.

He’s profoundly committed to his class

Isaac has been home and doing well for the past few months. He loves his class so much that he gets up on the weekends, before we’re even up, and he wants to work on his schoolwork. It’s not pressure. No one is asking him to do this. He wants to be organized. He’s committed, and that’s just an extension of the confidence and self-esteem that have brought him through this difficult period.

Even when he was in the hospital, he would get up and tell us, “I want to be in class.” He has a need to commit that’s springing from a deep respect for his teachers, his friends, and the work they’re doing together. That responsibility and initiative and self-direction are the exact real-world skills he’ll need in the future and he’s already practicing them now.

We became better human beings and better parents

We’ve learned so much from watching Isaac. Before Guidepost, we were kind of like tiger parents. It can be really easy, as parents, to be too uptight and to not give kids space. Understanding the Montessori approach has helped us see that it’s the better teaching and parenting style. It’s not the mainstream, but it’s the right stream.

Having Guidepost has been such a relief. We don’t have to have all the answers because our guides know things we don’t know. The guides have been so open and flexible. It’s a collaborative effort, and we work together for his betterment. We’re a team, it’s not just one way.

And through this whole process, we’ve learned so much. We’ve changed. We’ve become better as human beings and better as parents.

*This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity

*Names have been changed for privacy