I recently answered a very long list of questions from a woman working on
an article for a local magazine. We had met at an informal info session
where I related the story of my oldest son's college application process
to other parents beginning the "apres" homeschooling journey. I have
realized, that my son's application process was a natural continuation
of the "child-led" unschooling education that my husband and I made possible
for all four of our kids. SOmetimes a scary and difficult method, it did
allow my son to narrow his "search" down to only two schools (that didn't
require SATs and happened to be tops in his chosen field of Animation),
and this after somewhat belatedly(in 11th grade!) realizing that he would
have to attend college as internships in his chosen field only went to
college attendees. What he did have going for him, in large part due I
think to being "unschooled" and allowed to spend countless hours pursuing
his passion ("set-building"— first in blocks and later in computer animation)
was conviction and certitude about what he wanted to be when he grew up.
In the hope that other parents may derive some encouragement to allow
their kids the same freedom, I am publishing below my answer to:
> What does your homeschooling look like (ie. what's a typical day)?
As the children get older it changes. For some reason their bedtime slips
later and later...though Oldest Son now keeps more normal hours again. Second
Son sleeps from about 4AM to noon....he loves the quiet and freed up internet
When they were younger, we would get up about 8 or 9, eat cereal, and then
for many years we would have "Second breakfast" which was waffles or
scones or pancakes or something extra yummy like that. The kids would
start playing sometimes together. Lots of block towns and cathedrals with
accessories made in paper and cardboard. There were banking games
involving real estate swindles...as in one kid selling a space in the
house to another, etc. Newspaper venders. SOmedays, we had somewhere to
go...music lessons, or homeschool group activity or friends came over. The
kids often asked me at night "what are we doing tomorrow?" and I would
answer, "Oh, we are just home" or "We go to violin lesson at 3 or
As they got older, I felt increasingly comfortable leaving them to teach 2
mornings a week, work in my studio for 2-3 hours, and also working at
web-design work and blog, etc on the computer.
There were occasional periods mostly with the oldest one and the third one
when I felt compelled to try to teach them to read before they were ready,
and so we would sit and try to learn to read a bit for a period of days
and then my confidence in unschooling would return and I would let it
rest. The 2 older boys both learned to read when they were 11. The 3rd one
actually turns out to have a vision problem and is still working on it.
My daughter taught herself when she was about 8. I read alot to Oldest Son until
he was 11 (and leaned to read) I sometimes read chapters of Howard Zinn's
"People's History ofUS" to Daughter(YOungest) and Youngest Son. Daughter(youngest)
has sometimes asked for instruction in specific things like geography, so
we go to the library and get books or look up info on internet...
I sometimes pull out a math textbook with the younger two (12 and 14) and
we do a few math problems on the kitchen table which is made of slate. We
sometimes review times tables on car trips. Their older brother sometimes
almost inadvertantly introduces them to math concepts and I will overhear
complex discussions about the concept of zero, or somesuch.
We do not have regular TV. We now have internet movies and all, but until
Oldest Son was about 12, we only had 2 or 3 videos...the English claymations of
Wallace and Gromit that he watched over and over.
My son and I went across the road to get maple tree branches for him to complete building an arbor for our garden gateway into our chicken yard. To get there, we had to navigate this field of pink fluff which actually cushioned our steps as we walked…expressions like “heaven on earth” and “walking in clouds” flitted into my mind as I walked softly. Imagine our happiness when we got to the top of the hill and discovered blackberry bushes laden with fruit that the deer had not yet found. We filled our pockets and my skirt folded up to be a pocket, cut some branches, and then returned back across the pink clouds to the kitchen where I baked a peach and blackberry tart.
Not all outdoor experiences are this idyllic, which makes one like this extra special. We were not swatting mosquitos, rushing, ignoring someone else’s problems, or sweating profusely.
The Stoics emphasized the appreciation of what is actually attainable, rather than the constant desiring and striving after things that come at too high of a price one way or another. Reading about the philosophy has led me to identify myself as a natural stoic…it is not anxiety that gives me pause when my three sons climb into the car to go play soccer in a neighboring town….it is a deep awareness of how tentative and fragile our experience is. They could be eradicated off the face of the earth in a second by an oncoming vehicle. It is the stoic in me who takes a minute to focus on the three of them with the thought of how much I love them before they set off, relatively immune to my call to them to “Drive safely!”
This is a great example of the clarity and energy that young people can have….my kids and myself are daily appalled at the lack of respect and trust that many adults feel towards kids. I would choose this young man for president way before I’d choose any of the actual men who have filled the office during my lifetime. His impromptu speech is a powerful wake-up to educators and schools that we are mostly not challenging young people to reach anywhere near their full potential intellectually. How many American kids (or adults for that matter) do you know who could talk with this kid and understand the conversation? I do not think he is necessarily brilliant, just passionate and focused on learning about his situation. In other words, we need to encourage all kids to aspire to this sort of passionate interest in the world.