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The pre-history of atypical homeschool – He said

I grew up on a homestead type farm in rural New Brunswick (Canada), a younger sibling in a large family. Andrea grew up in what was the largest city in the province at the time. We met in college in the ‘80s. We were enrolled in different years in the same computer programming diploma program. About the same time that I graduated, Andrea came to the decision that programming wasn’t really what she wanted to do.

With what little charm I had at my disposal, I succeeded in persuading Andrea to join me at my own part time homestead. For the first year or so, we lived in an apartment close to where I worked and saved as much money as possible. The next spring, we started building a house ourselves. I suppose it would have been the homesteading thing to do in any event. However, in our case, it was necessary because I was considered self-employed and no one would have given us a mortgage. So, we bought the materials as we could afford them and I worked more hours a week on ‘homesteading’ than I did earning an income.

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In the mid ‘90s, I was looking for a change in employment. Rather than look for a job somewhere else, I started a consulting business. The upside of the business was that I got to spend a lot more time at home. This came in really handy during the last half of Andrea’s pregnancy with Emma (last half of 2000) and during the first few months after we brought her home. The downside was that I discovered that I really didn’t like traveling 3-6 months a year.

There were two other things that we had to come to terms with. The first was the dual life I was leading. It was wearing me out. We decided that we could endure a cut in income in exchange for a less brutal pace for me. The second was that as the children grew, we were spending an enormous amount of time driving (getting groceries was typically a 4 hour trip). So, we decided to move. We cast about the province looking for places that were within the price range of a single income self-employed family that was also closer to the things we were spending so much time driving to.

We eventually chose Miramichi because the housing prices were really good and we had been told that the technical college here was in need of programming instructors. Beginning in 2002, I taught a wide variety of programming courses at the college for 2 ½ years. I was hired to fill in for the full time programming instructor who had been seconded to another project. And when the secondment was over, so was my contract. We purchased a turn of the century Victorian home (December, 2001) and I spend much of my ‘free’ time doing a restoration project similar to what you might have seen on PBS’s ‘This Old House’. But you will have to picture the program running in slow motion. We don’t have the budget that the show’s producers did and I am doing most of the work by hand.

If you are new to us, you may not have been to our sister site, atypicalife.net. A little over 6 ½ years ago, Andrea started an online journal in the web space provided by our ISP. After about 2 years she also started what was at the time the latest fad on the internet which was a blog. For about 6 months she tried to maintain both the journal and the blog. In the end the blog won out. A little less than 3 years ago, I bought her atypicalife.net as a gift. Beside being somewhat catchy, there were 2 main reasons that I had for choosing the name. First, over the years I had worked with people from all over North America and some from overseas and I really felt that ‘atypical life’ captured the essence of what we were doing. Second, I could not resist the irony in that ‘a typical life’ and ‘atypical life’ meant essentially the opposite thing. So a reader could take us to be which ever of those 2 they liked.

Our history of homeschooling is somewhat easier to tell. Before any of our children were school age, we had decided that we did not want our kids to go to public school. When Addison was five we enrolled him in kindergarten in a private Christian school. He also started grade 1 at the same school. In the winter of that school year, there was a collision of events. First, Andrea noticed that some days Addison would come home in an absolutely foul mood. Second, unrelated to us, there was a heated staff-parents meeting at the private school. Last, sometime within a couple weeks of that meeting, we heard a new term: homeschooling. At the time, the attendance laws didn’t require that he be in school anywhere so we withdrew him from the school. In the months that followed, we investigated the homeschooling option.

We discovered there were other homeschoolers out there. Many of them strongly suggested we join the HSLDA. Given the fee they charge, I felt that a visit to the public school district was a worthwhile investment. The coordinator that I met with seemed genuinely impressed that parents would be that interested in their child’s education. I was fairly sure that I would not need the HSLDA. The next year, I returned to the district office with the necessary forms in hand. I asked for the coordinator and she came out of her office and we had a great chat. Then she told me that she was no longer the coordinator, that so and so was. She introduced us.

The impression I got from the brief conversation I had with the new coordinator was that of ‘already homeschooling, nothing to see here, someone else has already looked into this and decided that these folks know what they are doing’. When we moved here, at registration time, I took the whole family in. So, in addition to the impression above, the coordinator here got to see that the children were bright, normal, intelligent, etc.

Like many homeschoolers, we started with school in a box. It was the same box that the private school got their materials from. After 5-6 years of it we decided it was not for us. (In some subjects we had already started using other materials). We discussed giving it away. We settled on burning it in a bonfire. I think burning it did Andrea and I as much good as it did for the kids.

Now we decide on learning materials by mutual consent. We sit down with each of our children and discuss what they want to learn that year and those things that we think ought to be included in their year. Our youngest is turning 5 this fall. We have been and plan on continuing to unschool (don’t take this to mean unparent as some unschoolers insist is part of unschooling) her for the duration of her ‘school’ years. So, as homeschoolers we have pretty much run the gamut on homeschooling style.

This spring we decided we wanted to do more than was practical in a single blog. We have been dabbling in other technologies. Over 2 or 3 months we batted around a number of domain names. We settled on atypicalhomeschool.net for reasons similar to those in the selection of atypicalife.net. Making it atypicalsomething.net associated it with the blog. Over the years we have encountered many homeschooling families on the internet and I have found it unusual if they are typical of the public stereotype of homeschoolers. So, in a sense, the irony I find here is that atypical homeschoolers are typical.

Welcome aboard!

Read Andrea’s view point here.

About Ron

Homeschooling dad of 4 (ages 27 – 14), grampy to 3, WordPress core contributor, former farmboy & software developer by profession.