Parents in business: Lucy, Lea and Jen of Beyond School

Meet the three co-Founders of Beyond School. Together Lucy Power, Lea Jovy-Ford and Jenn Sutherland-Miller make up a world class team of global educators changing the education paradigm, with an online learning approach for whole family learning, prioritising positive mental health, educational development and life skills.  

Beyond School serves children AND adults, as the team’s approach to creating individual learning adventures and bespoke curriculums has been readily embraced by parents who feel the education system is letting them down, by families who want to embrace whole family learning, and by those who want development opportunities to support their mental, emotional and physical health right now. 

How did Beyond School begin?

Beyond School was born as a children’s provision out of the passion of Jenn Sutherland to shift the educational landscape and her 20+ years of experience helping families create world class educational experiences outside the four walls of a classroom. When the pandemic hit, and the need for educational support grew exponentially, Jenn partnered with Lea Jovy-Ford and combined their decades of experience in working remotely and building global teams to build a solution for families that leverages the best practices gleaned from their experience working remotely and educating their own kids differently. In October, Lucy Power joined the team and, true to her name, powerfully developed the adult online learning segment of Beyond School.

While the pandemic accelerated the need for educational solutions and alternatives, Beyond School is built on a solid foundation of decades of experience and tried and true solutions to remote learning and living.

What challenges have you faced along the way?

The primary challenge has been the increased need for families to build alternatives to what schools are offering. We’ve been scrambling to keep up!

It also took us a couple of pivots to find the sweet spot of providing the kind of support that is most effective in providing the educational resources the whole family need in a way that is truly self directed, freeing to parents, and effective for both families who are seeking enrichment, and those who are looking for full solutions to the educational crisis they are facing.

The final challenge we’ve faced is resources. The available solutions, ours and others, are predicated upon families having the financial ability to pay for the education and support they all need. Because Beyond School is built firmly upon a foundation of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, this doesn’t feel good or seem right. Having perfected our paid model, we are rolling out a “pay what you can” model that will allow true equity in education and personal growth and make it possible for EVERY member of every family to access world class educational resources and build an educational path as unique as they are.

What has worked well?

It’s been incredibly rewarding to work with individual families to build solutions to their immediate needs over the long arc of the pandemic. The overwhelming relief on the faces of parents who have been stressed to the max when they realize that there IS a better way and it is NOT more work for them is beautiful!

Building Beyond School with an intelligent, intentional and conscious approach to meet the needs that families have expressed has been a lot of fun, instead of simply fighting fires in a reactionary way that helps a few people but leaves most families stranded. We’ve managed to meet families where they are at, while equipping them to make the shifts they need to to cope with the changed educational landscape and find a joyful and inspiring way to learn together. That kind of work in the world feels good to do!

The other thing that has worked incredibly well is the synergy of experience and ability that the co-founders bring to the table. Between Jenn’s deep experience in alternative learning provision and qualifications in education, Lea’s proven results as a visionary business builder and entrepreneurial mentor, and Lucy’s qualifications and experience in psychology, Social Work, Psychotherapy and Coaching in addition to building her own successful business, we are a powerhouse team. We love working together and between us we’ve got the bases well covered!

How do you fit work in with the family?

I worked remotely from the beginning and raised four kids while working and traveling full time for a decade of their upbringing. They’re all adults now, but the patterns established while working alongside raising kids in the remote world still serve me well. My secrets for working remotely while raising (and educating!) kids are to prioritize your own needs, set boundaries that create clear space for work and family time, and focus on integration of whole person learning and work experience rather than trying to insist everything remain in it’s own box. When they were young, I found my work hours in the early morning and in smaller chunks throughout the day, often with a little person balanced on my lap!

I’m currently still in the trenches pf parenting and home educating, with 2 children of my own (7 and 11) and 2 stepchildren (8 and 11). I have home educated my two from the beginning – acutely aware that the education system would not prepare them in the ways I know are necessary for the world of work they’ll be going in to – and we now home educate all four of theml together. I have worked for myself throughout (and since 2006) and typically been the primary breadwinner of the family. These days I work in partnership with my wife to agree how to manage our daily and weekly needs, both individually and as a family. It is a constant work in progress and we are explicit with the children about their roles and responsibilities within our family unit and the need for them to be part of the team. It requires trust – in ourselves and our children, boundaries of (loving) steel and the acknowledgment that flexibility, adaptability and teamwork (and the agreement that we all want the same end results…a happy, harmonious and healthy family) to make it work!

My kid is an adult now, I flex my contact with them around my work, holding boundaries around my work whenever it isn’t an emergency. In relationship to my work AND my parenting responsibilities, I ALWAYS prioritise my own needs so that I can be assured to approach them both with a grounded and settled energy.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I often say that if I could give myself (as a young mother) one gift, it would be an afternoon with my adult kids now. SO MUCH of what stressed me out and kept me up at night was completely unnecessary worry. I would remind myself to do my best every day, to acknowledge that my best varies, and to live authentically with my kids. It turns out that our best is often enough and the example we set for our kids in how to live, work, and learn in a holistic way is EVERYTHING in the end. I’d also remind myself to focus on relationship first, because in the end, we want to have deep, connected, rich relationship with our kids above everything else! Learning happens everywhere and happens always. The best of it happens within the family when we set our intention to a life of educational adventure!

To have the courage to be and stay true to yourself and your absolute deepest needs and desires; I came out in later life – at age 39 – after spending 2 decades in a happy but not totally fulfilling relationship with the father of my children. It was only with the prospect of regret – of living my life not coming out – that compelled me to make the difficult decisions and changes necessary to live a life that was true to me.

Lucy: I would let myself off the formal education and good grades hook. When I was a kid, all the pressure I experienced around grades being related to the quality of my entire life removed my passion and interest from learning and growing as a human and left me experiencing anxiety and depression, feeling ‘not enough’. As a consequence of this learned aversion, it wasn’t until I hit my 30s and re-entered formal education that I found my passion for learning  igniting for real. I would tell younger Lucy that ‘learning happens everywhere’.

What impact do you want to have with Beyond School?

We are committed to building Beyond School into the best online learning platform in the world, for children AND adults.

We will pull from our own experiences of learning, growing and becoming, of educating our own children and helping thousands of others to change the face of education for children and adults for whom the existing and conventional education systems are not a good fit.

We intend to inspire families to a different way of looking at family life and education.

We are committed to building Beyond School on the cornerstones of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in a way that is truly game changing and not just lip service. Including resources built to include and support people of all genders, races, abilities, and ages. Our vision for education is one of whole person development that is self directed and empowering, meeting people where they are now and helping them build towards a future that none of us can imagine yet!

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