To give you a snippet of our unschooling lives, I’m passing along my article “Great Moments in Homeschooling” which was published in the May/June 2010 edition of Home Education Magazine.
Great Moments in Homeschooling
Wow, it’s been eighteen years of unschooling bliss! My oldest, Caitlin, is now a freshman studying music business at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. My youngest, Jessica, is now a high school freshman studying Shakespeare, United States history, chemistry, music, and art at home. Looking back over the years, there have been many memorable moments. Here are a few of them:
Caitlin reading for the first time
One morning, twelve years ago, then six-year-old Caitlin sat down at the kitchen table with an early reader book in hand, one we hadn’t read together. She proceeded to open the book, read the one or two words on every page, close the book, and smile proudly. She had officially entered the reading world.
Over the years, the question, “No school today?” bothered my daughters more than any other. Other questions include: “How do you have the patience?”, “Do you teach them year-round?”, What about college?”, “How do you know they’re learning anything if you don’t test them?”, “What about prom?”, “Won’t they just sit around all day if you don’t force them to study?”, and my favorite, “Is that legal?”
Jessica and I walking our golden retriever, Noodle
We generally do this in the morning but have the option of doing it anytime throughout the day. These walks lead to wonderful discussions about a variety of things such as whether Tricia will get out of the woods in Stephen King’s The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, what it means to be a good friend, whether Kris is better than Adam on American Idol, what Jessica would like to study in college, and why Noodle wants to chase a stray cat but not the flock of wild turkeys.
Going to homeschool conferences and evolving
At my first conference, I envied older homeschoolers because they were already successful. All that worry about whether they were doing the right thing was behind them. At subsequent conventions, I was glad I wasn’t an older homeschooler because I still had those wonderful homeschooling years ahead of me. Now when I go to the conventions, I’m confident enough to teach a workshop.
At one homeschooling conference, I volunteered at an art workshop. A grandfather had tagged along with his grandson and asked if it was okay, assuring the workshop leader they’d be quiet. The leader told him that they could be loud, too. The grandfather later confided to me, “This is my first homeschool convention, and it is amazing. It’s what childhood should be.”
Jessica and I taking yoga
She’s always the only kid mixed in with ten to fifteen middle-aged and or older adults, but it never fazes her and thankfully has never fazed the instructor or other attendees (The wonderful thing about yoga people is they never ask, “No school today?”). We leave these classes discussing how easy it was to hold our tree poses one day and difficult the next but always feeling better for doing them.
Homeschooling throughout Europe
People were surprised we would continue to homeschool when we moved to Brussels, Belgium for fifteen months, but when a family we knew had to pass up a weekend trip to Chantilly, France because the children’s school required them to attend weekend soccer practice, I knew we had made the right decision. We had no school schedule to adhere to, so we floated on Venice’s Grand Canal in gondolas, skied in the Swiss Alps, attended a Mozart festival on the grounds of a Belgian castle, rode horses in Wales, watched a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe Theatre in London, lounged on a beach in Crete, and toured as much of Europe as time allowed.
Caitlin receiving her first college acceptance letter
Okay, we knew she had done well, not only had she completed the Clonlara Home Based High School Education Program with flying colors, but she had gotten straight As in all her community college courses. Still, there was this nagging feeling that somehow the world of academia wouldn’t accept our nonconventional way of doing things. When the letter from Drake came, we hugged and danced around the room. Eventually, all four colleges she applied to accepted her. Drake, her first choice, offered her both academic and music scholarships–which will pay for more than half of her tuition!
Days where we stay in our p.j.s, read books, play board games, watch movies, bake, do art projects, play musical instruments, write letters, ride bikes, do whatever strikes our fancy.
Jessica learning simply because she loves it
The last time I went to pick her up from her private art lesson, I interrupted Jessica as she added shading to the cheekbone of the Indian model in her drawing. She was surprised to see me, shocked that the two hours had already passed. This happens for her even with subjects she doesn’t love. This year, Jessica is recoding her activities for the Clonlara High School program and has created her own schedule. More times than not, she doesn’t follow this because she’s so caught up in the subject (even math) that she doesn’t realize she’s gone beyond the scheduled time.
Caitlin’s high school graduation ceremony
We invited family and close friends and asked them to share words of wisdom or a story about Caitlin. Her friend, Courtney, read from Dr. Seuss’s Oh the Places You’ll Go while another friend, Maria, read an excerpt from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Several friends performed a hilarious skit about missing Caitlin once she heads to college. After the ceremony, my mother-in-law confided that over the years she had been concerned about the girls’ socialization. However, after witnessing the strength and beauty of their friendships, her doubts vanished.
These are but some of the wonderful memories of our unschooling adventure. I look forward to many more as the effects of learning through living follow my daughters throughout their lives.
What are your great moments in homeschooling? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!