I have thought all day about how to word this starting caution. I have found that educational choices are really polarizing. It is so very easy to feel that anyone who educates their children differently than yourself is, themself, uneducated and unethical and essentially a terrible parent. Children are different. Parents are different. Circumstances are different. What works beautifully for one family would be torture for another. I get that. I am the weird one here.
Nearly twenty years ago, I decided that I was going to homeschool my children. I had two reasons. The first was that my younger cousin, who was homeschooled, was academically amazing, years ahead of other kids his age. The second was that my brothers, who were not homeschooled, were so far behind other kids their age. They had ADHD and sitting still in school, even with medication, for 8 hours a day was the most worst punishment they could imagine.
I graduated from the University of Illinois with the long term goal of being a homeschooling mom. I once had a classmate ask me why I even bothered attending college if I wasn’t planning on actually using my education.
Over the years, I have found numerous opportunities to work with children or in education. I have worked in daycares and preschools. I have taught Sunday School and college level English as a second language. I also learned a lot about myself. The biggest thing is that, although I was never diagnosed with ADHD, I am pretty scattered and hate to follow directions in prepared curriculum. I can’t even stand to follow a recipe exactly. Trying to teach the way someone else says that I should makes me grouchy, short tempered, and unimaginative.
One would think that would make me rethink this whole homeschooling thing. It did. I decided that I wouldn’t use a prepared curriculum such as Abeka or Classical Conversations, even though I know some amazing moms who have found that those work great for them. I also decided that I wasn’t going to follow the whole “school schedule” thing.
Finally, 15 years after I decided to homeschool, I finally had a child to school. Only, wouldn’t you know, he was a baby. Who schools a baby? So I did what I did best. I read and I talked. I mostly read books for myself, occasionally reading to him. I talked about everything that he noticed. I repeated myself all the time. I used adjectives and adverbs. I pronounced everything as clearly as I could. I didn’t say, “Does lil’ baby want da car?” I would, instead, say, “Onen. Would you like the little red car, or would you prefer the large blue car? Red car? Blue car? Car.”
Once I started making sense of his gibberish, I added letters and printed words to the things that I talked to him about. “This is the letter B. It says ‘buh. buh. buh. Balloon. Blue. Box.” I knew that this was stuff most people saved for preschoolers and kindergartners, but I had waited years for this, so I started with my toddler. I did lots of talking, but very little of the educational stuff that people advise for babies. I didn’t play classical music. I didn’t read to him every day at a scheduled time. I didn’t come up with fun little activities. I didn’t constantly entertain him.
As his language skills progressed, I started answering his questions with as complete an answer as I could in a way that he could understand. This past week we have discussed DNA and chromosomes and how they contain the instructions for our bodies. We have talked about weather patterns and why it is cold and how wind blows from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure. We have talked about how important it is to be gentle and kind to people today and not to put it off until one is older and wiser. He read his first chapter book. We listened to a ten minute audiobook about how General Washington gained the respect of his enemies by returning his foe’s lost dog.
We don’t have curriculum. Neither Onen nor I would enjoy sitting down at a scheduled time to do “schoolwork.” He will not be starting kindergarten in August. He will “graduate” in May, 2027 without spending 13 years sitting daily at a desk. He will go to college if that is what he needs to do in order to be qualified for his chosen career. Until then, we will enjoy talking together about the things he wants to learn, or the things that he is learning in the books he reads, the documentaries he watches or the games he plays. We will live life, value curiosity, and pursue our interests.