Prehistory of Atypical Homeschool – she said

When I was growing up, I had never heard the term “homeschooling” but yet, the idea that parents could educate their children in their own homes wasn’t exactly foreign to me. Granted, the only time I’d heard of it was in books, usually with the word “governess” attached. I read a lot as a child, and I read early and often. I spent a great deal of my early childhood with my British grandparents, exposed to English children’s literature, Shakespeare, theater, and many other British ideals. And since I was a curious child, I was also encouraged to learn as much as possible as I wanted. Whatever questions I had were dealt with gladly by various adults around me handing me a book.

Needless to say, by the time I got to school, I was bored out of my skull. Yes, I was labeled as gifted and given the appropriate resources that were available, but the reality was that I wasn’t that much smarter than everyone else. I eventually figured I was good at finding things out and good at playing the school game, when I chose to do so. I felt that high school was an inordinate waste of time, and mainly showed up to socialize.

Fast forward to the husband and children, because it really was that fast. It made sense to us that since we had children, then at least one of us (that’d be me) should be around at all times to look after them. Over those years, I continued to soak up knowledge about whatever it was I was interested in. If I wanted to know more about gardening or canning or raising chickens and what we were doing, I read a book. Then I did it. When we needed to install our toilet, put up drywall, or build a closet, I read up on it, then Ron and I did it. When I wanted to know more about childbirth and breastfeeding and doing it all naturally, I finally (after the first two children, no less) stopped reading my outdated and scantily informed books from the 1960’s (thanks Mom) and got a new one. A very crunchy granola one.

I loved it.

When Addison became school-age, we looked around at our options and eventually fell into homeschooling by default. It really was Ron’s initial idea, and I don’t know why we never thought of it in the first place. After all, we had been doing many things around our home that were independent or outside the norm. Self-sufficiency was our focus.

I remember thinking, when Ron explained to the private school officials that we’d be teaching the children at home, that it seemed a little daunting – not for the actual teaching per se, just the extra work added to my day, juggling it in around cooking and cleaning and tending to the wood stove and two more babies. For surely, I thought – and quite correctly too – if there was only one “real” teacher in the (private) school and most everyone else just monitored or followed an outline in a book, then I could easily do it.

I hated it.

Addison was used to the format, so there wasn’t much of a day-to-day burden or excess on me. When we started the girls on their preschool program, it quickly became apparent that there had to be something different. Everything in it was outlined, written down and scheduled. Even bathroom breaks. Scripts were provided for what I was to say to the child(ren). There was nothing in it about what to do if one child didn’t want to sit still while I read out three full pages of a Bible story while the baby needed a diaper change, it only insisted that the sky would fall if I didn’t follow the program exactly. Add to that the expense of the program, with new books being around $4 each – 12 for each subject for each year, for each child, at minimum, and that it ran counter-intuitive to how I ran my own household. It was stressful, but the only method we knew of was doing it this way.

Something had to give in there somewhere, and there were many factors. Then came burn-out for me, the best thing that ever happened. I poked my head up out of the sand, cancelled all schoolwork and finally visited the nearest library (forty-five minutes away) to find books on homeschooling.

Imagine my surprise (and satisfaction) in finding out you could do it however you wanted. Okay, in retrospect, I guess I do tend to dive right in and do things up to where I get stuck, *then* read a book. Or a stack of books.

We had a complete paradigm shift in our whole household over a couple of years (1999-2001), culminating in the birth of Emma (December 2000) and our moving across the province. Somewhere along the way, in amassing all this new-to-me homeschooling information, I began passing it along to others, more in a “Did you know…?” and “Isn’t it interesting…?” kind of conversation.

When I moved here, I sought out more homeschoolers, re-gathering a disbanded group who had lost contact (and enthusiasm) with one another. Since we live in the city proper, and many other homeschooling families live on the outskirts, our house became sort of a central location. We had amassed more resources, too, and had easier access to things like the Internet, plus experience.

In seeking out more people to glean information from, I found the tables had turned and I was the one with the information – they had the questions. I found myself answering the phone, talking to strangers. Friends had given out my number to others because, as they said, I was “in the know”. And I’m happy to oblige.

Well, we have to do something, I said to Ron as we found ourselves repeating much of the same information – often too fast, hastily scribbled, while children interrupted or played at our feet. We needed a central clearing-house, not only to direct people to in time of their need so they could read at their convenience, but so others could stumble upon us as well.

So here you are. Would you like something to drink? A snack, perhaps? Anything else we can do for you, just let us know.

Read Ron’s viewpoint here.

Author: andrea

Older, possibly wiser, still forgetful.