What does educated mean to you?
When I was a child, I loved to read books. I still do love reading, but I don’t devote nearly as much time to it as I should or as I did back then. I would read in my room at night by the light of the moon after my parents declared bedtime and lights out. I would read in a tree. I would read in my classrooms when I was supposed to be doing other mundane public school tasks. I would read on the playground. I actually go in trouble sometimes for reading “at the wrong time.” My mother had to fight on my behalf to allow me to check out books that were beyond my grade level from the school library. When I was in 7th grade my grandmother gave me a Test of Adult Basic Education–I scored college level.
I tried to convince my parents to let me pursue alternative education avenues. I looked into boarding schools, military schools, homeschooling, skipping grades, etc. For whatever reason (finances, fear) I was shot down. Eventually, I developed a disdain for school, even though I loved to learn. I was bullied by other children for a variety of reasons. I had few friends. I had zero self-esteem. Whatever talents I possessed, I hid and didn’t develop. I dumbed-down my language to suit those around me. I didn’t speak up for myself. I sang softer and softer in the choir; I didn’t try out for solo parts. I was content being Anonymous Nonverbal Villager in a play.
I’m 30 now. My mother says nothing I am now is her fault, that I shouldn’t blame her parenting on me, that she did the best she could…she tearfully recounts all the ways in which she did well as a parent. I don’t intend to discount those things at all. It’s just that, when you know better, you do better. I now know that some of the ways in which I started out parenting my own children were horrible to the development of their psyches. I now know that the education I received in my childhood and adult life came mostly from the books I read and independent research. I know that even when I spent nearly a decade obtaining higher education, most of what I learned came not from the classroom but from the world at large.
I know that I still have quite a bit to learn. I know that life is a constant journey. I know that I will continue to advocate for my children. I know that I will become the loving, gentle, soft-spoken, understanding, caring parent that I originally set out to be. I know that I will not yoke myself to another man who perpetuates a cycle of abuse. I know that I will make sure my children are learning and getting an education, not just going to school because it’s expected by mainstream society.
So what have my children learned so far in this homeschooling journey?
It’s difficult to put words to it all. Curiosity comes naturally to a child, so natural learning is amazing.
My eldest (8) will watch a movie or read a book, then come tell me about some minor detail that I hadn’t noticed, and want to do research on the subject more thoroughly. She also recognizes setting in films quite quickly. She has an interest in film-making, art, dance, graphic fiction, and much more. Plenty of possibilities for future careers.
My middle (5) will randomly ask about a creature or about skeletons or some other seemingly out-of-the blue subject and suddenly I’m on a Google journey. She’s also fascinated with copying words off of everything from books to nonperishable food products. She loves dancing, singing, and dressing up among other things. I think she could have a career in the arts if she chose to. Then again, she’s also into dinosaurs and dirt, so maybe a paleontologist?
My baby (2), he’s talking up a storm. He has an excellent vocabulary and grammar for a his age. He also recognizes that letters make words, though he hasn’t been able to say them from the page yet. He’s quite into tools and what he calls might machines (farm equipment, construction equipment, mining equipment, etc.), so it’s possible he may eventually want to enter into manual/mechanical trade.
There’s really no reason for me to stick them into boxes and say they’ll be this career or that one at this point, but it’s part of the old thinking that I am still trying to get out of. What’s important is that they’ll be themselves. They’ll have diversified interests, develop skills, learn, grow, evolve, and I’ll get to observe it all.
But right now, I’m preparing lessons to teach my college students about writing, because I chose a career that is contrary to everything I’m now learning about learning. If only I could incorporate natural learning into a traditional brick-and-mortar university setting.