As parents and teachers, we design our homes and classrooms for thriving. We all want the best for our children. In order for children to thrive, we all must thrive. One cannot thrive at the expense of the others. This is an essential tenet for cooperation, belonging, and sustainability. So, how do we create homes and classrooms where we flourish together?

In the following blog series, we will unpack how the principles of designing can be overlayed into our schools and families, serving our way of approaching complex problems. Also, as we apply these principles, we offer children a model and practice for adapting and advancing in life.

A Case Study

Let’s say you are busy parents of three children, each very different. Your three children have unique learning profiles, personalities, and diverse extra-curricular interests. Both parents are working full-time trying to keep all the balls in the air. Lots of energy is focused on the day-to-day schedule and tasks-at-hand.

Then, you learn that your middle child is struggling with his academics at school. When the teacher sits down to discuss it with you, you feel like you can’t process the words or information, never mind ask intelligent questions. It is emotional. One thing is for sure, this won’t be solved overnight; it is complex.

However, there’s lots of good news. We don’t have to rush. We can slow down and design for thriving. Despite unique learning differences, everyone can thrive. The journey can be positive because it invites everyone from both home and school to engage, including the child. While everyone will have to adjust, learning adaptability together is a wonderful competency and necessary for thriving in the future!

Designing is Inclusive

We begin at the Table of Learning.

The Table of Learning places learning at the centre and invites parents, teachers, and students to engage in the process. The Table welcomes, ignites imagination and offers an inclusive process. Finally, the Table of Learning is a space where we can tackle big challenges. We all become learners and explore together.

Everyone at the Table designs for thriving.

Obviously, parents focus on designing for home and teachers focus on designing for the classroom. Students must participate in both places. I don’t mean where the furniture is placed or the paint palette. I am discussing designing an experience of life and learning for everyone!

Designing is a Process

We can address complex problems through a design process. Understanding the design process steps helps us simplify.

If you google design process images, you will find dozens of models that offer graphic representations of processes. While my life often has a very messy middle, the simplicity of a model offers us clarity in how to work through this process. Learning is process-oriented.

Here, I must credit Dr. Susan Crichton, my colleague and friend, along with the Innovative Learning Centre she founded. Crichton is the pre-eminent Canadian researcher working on design thinking and making in schools. Her leadership resulted in a re-imagined Applied Design, Skills, and Technologies curriculum in our part of the world, and I highly recommend her Taking Making into Classrooms Toolkit for ALL educators.

The foundational process defined by Stanford is:

So, how do those five steps overlay with designing learning or even life?

What is essential to understand, for teachers and parents, is the iterative nature of designing. We do it over and over again. There are steps to take in an order that makes sense.  We begin with empathizing and understanding. We are learners.

Now, back to our case study. Most families or educators aren’t going to sit down with this graphic and work through these steps to address complex issues we come across in our homes and schools. Our process may be linear or it may be more intuitive like a bird building a nest. However, I do believe we benefit from a deep understanding that designing for thriving is a process we repeat. We never perfect our designs, we improve upon them.  And, the more intentional we are, the more our children will benefit.

Designing Tackles Compexity

Learn Forward exists to help parents and teachers simplify. We exist to nourish our sacred work with children. So, we offer inspiration, models, frameworks, processes, and systems to help you tackle your most complex challenges, because life isn’t easy.

Your powerful rituals in designing with the children in your life will transform everyone’s experience. You will model process-oriented problem solving, and adapting to change effectively.

Crichton describes it as, “heads-in (content); hearts-among (empathy, curiosity and purpose); hands-on (skill sets)” to address “complex” or “wicked” problems.

Do you have any big issues you’re facing in life?  I do. Sometimes all I see are the mountains I must move, both in our family and in our school. That’s why The Builder and I spent considerable time this year in a goal-setting process, designing our year. We desire to intentionally tackle complexity and simplify. We intentionally design to create something sustainable, generative, and nourishing.

While many authors, consultants, and therapists are available to help professionals with goal-setting and execution and there are many parent bloggers and psychologists supporting parents and there are many educational practitioners coaching teachers, I wonder if there is a universal process to help us all thrive? Let’s tackle this wicked problem and design so children thrive.

What are the ways you already engage in designing for thriving? What benefits are evident for children?

For the sake of the children,


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