Monday, May 21, 2007
When I was discussing with Dr Pugh (UVA sociology prof) what I'd be talking about during her class, she also asked me how homeschooling had changed me, or what it had done for me as a person. I didn't get much time to talk about it during her class, but I had thought about it in case I could address it, or if a student asked me.
I think the greatest thing that homeschooling my children has done for me is to give me a sense of connection with the community I live in, and freedom to grow and explore. So first some background. When I was working at Sperry Marine, I would not say that I had any true friends from work. I was new to the area, as well, and found that it was difficult to meet people outside of work--I never was a bar-hopper, and I don't think that would have really netted me the kinds of friendships I would have wanted or that would have lasted. Who knows, though.
Then after Emily was born, I quit work and soon formed a playgroup with my sister-in-law, whose son was just a couple months younger than Emily. We had a small group, usually about 6 moms and 6 kids, and we met every week. It was a lifeline for me as a new mother. And we continued to meet for about 5 years, until all the other kids entered kindergarten and Emily didn't. It was even difficult as these kids started preschool and my child did not. I started to feel disconnected. I had such different ideas about childhood and education than my friends did. And now I almost never see these moms that I was so close to for years, and I'm sorry for it.
For the last five years, however, and especially since AlbemarleHomeschoolers got started almost 4 yrs ago, I've seen a real change in my life. I have met so many wonderful people, and their children, that I feel my life has been greatly enriched. I found out that I really enjoy meeting new people, and I love trying to help others learn about homeschooling, and I love advocating for homeschoolers. I have a much fuller social life than I ever did before.
I became a 4-H leader. I organized field trips, game days, park days, got others involved in our homeschool group and have benefited greatly from their interests and skills. I started taking taekwondo again (after 17 years), and taught it to a co-op class. I've started learning to be a public speaker--I've spoken a number of times now, but I have so much to learn! I serve on the board of directors of The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, as treasurer. I volunteer in other ways as well. This year I am the registration chair for our July homeschool conference. Would I have done these (or similar) things if my children had gone to school?
Homeschooling my children has given me time. Yes, they would have been in school for hours every day, but I'd have been volunteering or doing something else school-related. I wouldn't have had the truly free time I have now to learn what I want to learn, to try new things, develop skills I already had. I learn just as much from our field trips as the kids do, and I'm embarrassed to say I ask a lot more questions than I probably should!
Our homeschooling is child-led, or interest-led, because that's what I do, too. I am interest-led. I don't study economics because someone told me to. I have an interest, so I'm following it. I didn't learn to sew because I had to, but because I wanted to. Native plants, vegetable gardening, Spanish, macrame, origami, Buddhism, dog training, raising chickens, volunteering, libertarianism, the FairTax, personal finance, bookkeeping, permaculture, archery, American history, linguistics, anthropology, Monarch butterflies, poetry, history of education in America, the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, local and state government issues, non-violent communication, multiple intelligences. I even participated in a talent show! Never would have happened before all this. I know I'm missing a lot of other things, but you get the picture.
I may not remember everything I've been interested in learning about. But when I felt the need to learn about something, I did. If it's not something I need to know anymore, I may forget. But I am free to learn, I have the time to learn, and my children can see me doing this. Believe me, they know when I'm on a kick to learn about something new!
Realizing that an education can be what you want it to be for your children also helps you realize that it can be what you want for yourself as well. No, I don't think I'd have stopped learning if my kids had gone to school. I've always followed my interests. But I do think I'm exposed to more ideas and experiences this way. I think looking for opportunities for the kids creates opportunities for me. Finding friends for them has brought me great friendships, too. If we stopped homeschooling, maybe most of the friendships would fade, as they did for our playgroup years ago.
But I don't plan to stop, and the community of homeschoolers is a wonderful one to be a part of. We're not forced to "socialize" or hang out with people we don't really want to be doing things with. We join this group or that for different activities, nothing is formal, no requesting to switch teachers or subjects--just join in! And so we learn from everyone we meet, and enjoy our time spent with them. I know whole families, not just classmates. Again, homeschooling is often a community event, not an isolated experience. For me it is a way of life we have chosen for our family, not simply an education we have chosen for our children. And I continue to grow.