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Life's Lessons: My Mother & Homeschooling

Every now and then I browse through my Facebook newsfeed and eventually I wonder why I wasted time reviewing people’s lives when, a few years ago, I would have gone on with my daily life not knowing of friends’ inconsequential outings or newest hobbies. However, this is the age of social media, and it can be worth a moderate investment considering the opportunities to learn and be informed by other peers and acquaintances. I mainly take interest in the links, articles, videos, and blogs shared via Facebook and find that many of those resources are the catalyst for other personal thought processes and exploration.

For example, the title and subject of my post here is inspired by a former fellow Psych major’s link to a mommy-blogger’s post about homeschooling/unschooling. The Nesting Gypsy‘s philosophy of teaching her children at home, her supporting details and resources were cause for me to reflect on my own unconventional academic journey and it’s life lessons.

My three older brothers are the smart ones so I say when I tell the story of my place in our family tree; my parents chose to homeschool them while they lived in Germany, and then they decided to homeschool me because I was the slow one. Actually, nobody in my family ever dubbed me that; I just thought it of myself as a child. My mother was 41 when I arrived on the scene, much to her surprise, and as her last child and only daughter it made sense to teach my lessons and nurture my maturity in the home.

As I grew out of the “initiative vs guilt” stage of development – formulated by psychologist Erik Erikson – and onto the industrious stage of grade school, my parents both noticed my delayed reasoning abilities, social awareness, and coordinative skills. They were not really concerned, as my mother believes that children grow and develop at their own individual rates, so they had confidence that eventually I would “catch up.”

With that in consideration along with many years of trial and error homeschooling under her belt, my mom undertook to guide me in the foundational tenants of education – reading, writing, grammar, arithmetic, science, and history. She quickly discovered that I was not a conventional learner, though she did not understand at the time why that was the case, so instead of demanding and torturing me with structures and formulas and studies that made no sense to me she developed creative strategies for me to learn. As she has often said through the years in looking back, “I didn’t know what she would be capable of doing, but I knew I could help her to read, write and reason and that those skills would unlock the world and its opportunities to her.” (a general quotation) For that, I am indebted to my mother and her efforts, as out of the box as they had to be, to help me grow up and develop as my own person.

She’s always been a dedicated, purposeful, practical woman by nature of God’s design; by God’s design out of wit, she was given a quizzical, creative, colorful daughter who is extremely imaginative, which may have made up for her lack of brightness.

The simplest, seemingly mundane, academic necessities took me hours of struggle and exhaustion to perform and comprehend. I was quite literally an unconventional learner. My brave, determined mother devised all sorts of ways to help me, to guide me along in the process of learning – poems, songs, rhymes, exercises to music, random sequential activities,  colorful cards and drawings, craft projects, hobbying, make-believe stories and pretend, live reenactments, field trips, scrapbooks and journaling, movies and plays. (That’s nearly an exhaustive list.) Her goals through all those avenues were just three things: 1) to build character 2) to facilitate reason and discernment 3) to provide skills for learning about the world and myself in it.

Unschooling formed and grew in the late 60s into the 80s; its now trending again among some home-schooling types. Obviously, there are a variety of reasons and beliefs for unschooling as a way of family life. I think that my mom did a form of unschooling with me, though she wouldn’t call it that. The fact is, I never made it through all the particular grade levels of American education, because I was slower than most, and my mom came to accept that was a type of educational style that did not work for me; she knew I would still be educated though, because I would have the tools for learning. Based on my educational experience in conjunction with my observations of the American school system and working in it, unschooling is just a vague term to describe a noble endeavor, but the actual idea of unschooling is an excellent one.

The Libertarian Homeschooler – a politically conservative mom and her flock who post on Facebook and a blog – shared these quotes and this statement: ” ‘Pick up any book about normal reading development and you will find that young children progress when they are ready—at their own pace. ‘The American Academy of Pediatrics notes the critical factor as to how a student will learn to read “is not how aggressively,” the child is given instruction, but rather their “own enthusiasm for learning.’  They also state that many early learning programs “interfere with the child’s natural enthusiasm” by imposing on children to “concentrate on tasks” when they aren’t ready.” (Nancy Bailey, Setting Children Up To Hate Reading). The idea that a child reaches cognitive milestones at a predictable age is damaging. Books that give lists of what children should know and when they should know it should be approached with the caution usually reserved for eating pufferfish or cobra wrangling.”

The filmmaker, writer, musician Astra Taylor describes in her articulate and persuasive presentation the “unschooled life” which is actually the well-learned, well-versed life:

Sara Jannsen elaborates on her style of playing and learning with her three daughters: http://www.nestinggypsy.com/unschooling/

a child learning about nature and herself in a safe place, in surreal purity

And I – this curiously inspired blogger of diverse subjects – am the product of homeschooling; having completed my first year of college by age 17, having obtained the status of Phi Theta Kappa, having developed my fine art skills and displayed them, having completed the undergraduate program of psychology within 3 years, having become a Vision Therapist for a developmental optometrical practice, and having composed this coherent and comprehensive entry…

me and my mother

me and my mother

Have been given the tools to learn life’s lessons. In gratitude and humility, I attribute my abilities to pursue, gain and contribute to the unconventional homeschooler, my mother.

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