Questions from Readers
In the last few posts I’ve talked about being aware that we were pursuing an alternative path. I’ve talked about having a sense of responsibility that was greater than my peers in school, and I’ve talked about being impressed with my mom’s bravery to create a childhood for us unlike how she grew up in public school.
What I haven’t yet said is that, as a kid, my young childhood could not have felt more natural. Even today, looking back, unschooling still feels like the most organic possible experience of childhood. Of course, it was my life; I have nothing to compare it to first hand!
I also don’t want the word “natural” to sound like a judgement. I’m not saying it’s the best way to parent, or the best way to grow up! But I wanted to express that feeling, in part, to acknowledge my own perspective slant. And the degree to which I may take some aspects of child-led learning for granted.
In that spirit, I wanted to address some reader questions we’ve received.
One reader messaged me a question about the first post. According to my mother’s journal about our “first day” of homeschooling, we kids chose to write letters, copy words, and learn about dinosaurs. Her question was, how did my mom introduce us to these things, in the first place?
Lindsey: So, mom, what would you say in response? How did you set the tone, and first expose us to ideas or activities?
Cathy: Before I had kids, I was away from home for 12 hours a day, working and commuting to my job as an editor at an educational publishing company. I knew that, if and when I had kids, I was going to quit that fun-and-rewarding job to have what was for me an even more fun-and-rewarding job: being a stay-at-home mom. And that’s what I did. I practiced what used to be called “the continuum concept” but is now called “attachment parenting.” It was something I’d read about, but attachment parenting also seemed super intuitive to me. It must have been basically how I was parented when I was teeny.
So…exposing you kids to stuff was pretty natural. I’d plunk a tape of kids’ songs into the cassette player in our car, and then later we’d end up talking about how the songs made us feel. I’d check out armloads of books from the library and read them to you guys over and over again, as many times as you requested, until they were due back. And we’d often end up talking about the stories — I’d ask you questions and answer yours. I’d often talk about the things we were seeing on our walks or drives — especially things in the sky, from sunsets and the moon to thunderheads and “falling stars.” Your grandma would talk to you about the names of plants and trees, because that came naturally to her, and your dad loved talking about animals and was especially good at spotting insects.
I would watch to see what sparked your interest, and that would guide me to the next “something” I would bring up. I also tried to find the time to listen to you kids playing. I felt that whatever entered your pretend play worlds had become a topic of interest.
Our outings and family trips were major exposures for you guys, too. Sometimes I was experiencing things for the first time along with you. Like cave formations at the Lewis and Clark Caverns. Cliff dwellings of ancient Native Americans at Mesa Verde. At the zoo we discovered how very large a rhinoceroses bladder must be!
Lindsey: I think we started with more themed activities when we were younger, and as we got older, we became more independent in our projects and pursuits.
Cathy: Right. So, before my first journal entry in 1987, you kids — especially the two older girls — were excited about “starting homeschool.” I had asked you guys what you wanted to learn about, and you talked for a bit and decided on dinosaurs.
Lindsey: Another question was about how we handled TV.
Cathy: I tried to limit your TV viewing during school-day hours. As you know, your dad LOVES TV and has it on all the time when he is home. And he taught high school, so the TV was going to be going on in mid-afternoon and staying on all evening. So I thought…Well, let’s NOT have the TV on during the earlier part of the day. I did put movies on sometimes, though.
Lindsey: I’m glad you’ve mentioned Dad a couple times. I can’t believe we haven’t gotten him into a post yet! He’s a big part of the story, too, of course. More soon!
Finally, several readers who homeschooled their children, and whose kids are now grown, asked what I consider the million-dollar question: Will I, and other adults who were homeschooled, choose to homeschool our own children?
This question is one of the inspirations for this project. I look forward to having this conversation with other adults who were homeschooled, and hear their aims for their own future or actual kids.
Homeschooled adults, feel free to contribute a comment here or on our Facebook page, or send us a message at noschoolkids (at) gmail (dot) com