Monday, August 18, 2008

Now That School is a Choice: A Homeschooling Legacy

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference."

--Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken, 1920

In the past few months, the Boychick has grown up a bit more.

He has added inches to his stature, his voice has deepened, and his interests have broadened to include socializing with girls. And he has taken more control of his education.

As I announced here, my Boychick has decided to choose schooling for high school.

As I go about the business of letting people know about the Boychick's decision, I am beginning to understand that most people outside the homeschooling world understand the decision as an indication of failure. The assumption seems to be that we are stepping back from homeschooling to a default position because N. was not learning or that homeschooling "didn't work."

Well, we all know that there are real problems with assumptions. First, I wonder how anyone can imagine a human being going for a whole twenty-four hours without learning anything? I cannot imagine it and I have been free from the clutches of compulsory education for thirty years. And as for the second assumption, that "it didn't work," nothing can be further from the truth.

In fact, I see the Boychick's choice as one that fits as well into the trajectory of our homeschooling journey as would homeschooling high school. As we progressed in homeschooling 'middle school,' we also progressed in handing over more and more of the decision making about his education to the Boychick. Over those years, we moved from being "sages on the stage to guides on the side" as our philosophy evolved from school-at-home to a certain kind of unschooling. The Boychick has become used to thinking of himself as the master of his education, as well as the learner. He has learned to take responsibility for his learning methods and goals. He did not decide to go to high school because homeschooling was a failure; rather, he was able to choose because homeschooling was a success.

Unlike most of the students who entered East Mountain High School this morning, the Boychick sees attending school not as something he must do, but as something he has chosen to do. He knows that the responsibility for his successes or failures lies on his shoulders, and that although there are people ready to help him and guide him, in the end, the secret to his education lies within. He has become a self-directed learner. I watched him in action last week at registration, when he took control of the meeting with his advisor and me. He spoke about what he needs to be successful and how he plans to accomplish his goals.

As a student, I was envious of my son in that moment, and as a mother I am proud.

I am envious because I realized that because I thought of education as compulsory during my own school-girl years, I did not reach such a state of self-direction until I was well into my first years of my first graduate degree. And for this reason, I wasted much of my time blindly following paths to goals that I had not set for myself, with no clear direction for how to accomplish what was only an inchoate idea of what I wanted for my future.

I am proud because I have come to understand how spectaculary successful our decision to take the road less traveled was for us.

It is not an easy decision to take "the road less traveled." Homeschoolers know that to defy the social givens means that a person must be prepared to articulate and defend their decisions in the face of ignorance, hostility, and assumption on a near daily basis.

Of course, as with all such decisions, the rewards are equal to the the risk taken.

Homeschooling, regardless of the individual's reasons for it, is a political act.

Making a choice against the received wisdom of the dominant culture forever changes how one views that received wisdom, as well as how one views the locus of control over individual decisions. In so doing, a person steps outside the herd mentality and lives liberty in reality. And succeeding in doing so means never being quite so willing to let others assert control over individual choices again. This is the legacy of homeschooling for us, just as it is the legacy of homebirthing, the legacy of living Judaism, and the legacy of growing up libertarian.

In a sense, one could say that we are no longer homeschoolers as of this morning.

Our last child has made a decision that has dissolved the Los Pecos Homeschool and he has gone forth into the world of organized schooling. And yet, there is a difference. Because the Boychick knows that his high schooled education is not, and cannot be, compulsory. It is a choice. When a person consciously makes a choice, he also consciously takes on the responsibility for it. The Boychick is no longer homeschooled, but he has developed an unschooled mind. He went to school today knowing that everything he learns is his own choice in his own hands.

What about us? We have also made a choice. And a journey. We have gone from accepting the assumptions that are social givens to questioning them, as good Ragamuffin Students do. We are no longer homeschoolers--because we gave our son a choice. But we have become educational anarchists in the process. We have become social libertarians. And once you have lived the richness of liberty, there's no going back. Not even the occassional whiffs of the "fleshpots of Egypt" are enough to give up the joyous responsibility for one's own life.

This, then, is the legacy of homeschooling for us, as we stand at the ending of our direct involvement in Los Pecos Homeschool, and as we give Boychick the freedom to try his fledgeling wings.

Even as I feel a sense of loss for our homeschooling years, I recognize with joy it's legacy: our unschooled minds as we continue on the 'roads less taken' of our unschooled lives.


Amie said...

Well said. How different school would of been for me also if I thought of it as something I chose, rather than something I had to do.

Debby said...

What incredible writing. Thank you so much for articulating much of what I thought about homeschooling being a radical freeing action. Since begining homeschooling, I've started questioning so many other things around me which before were just thought of as 'have to's. I don't know who has gotten more out of homeschooling, me or my son.

Also, just as radical is letting your son make the choice to go back to school. I know plenty of secular homeschooling families which wouldn't let their child do that, mostly out of fear.

You are an incredible woman/educator/writer.

Barbara Frank said...

"I am beginning to understand that most people outside the homeschooling world understand the decision as an indication of failure. The assumption seems to be that we are stepping back from homeschooling to a default position because N. was not learning or that homeschooling "didn't work." "

You know what they say about assumptions: when you assume, you make an ass out of u and me!

I think this is a wonderful post. Congratulations on raising children who can think for themselves. You've equipped your son for the journey, wherever it takes him. Now it's up to him.

I'm more concerned about you. As a veteran homeschooler myself, I know what you mean about the feeling of loss. What are your plans? How do you feel about leaving your active role as a homeschool mom? I'd love to read your perspective on the future of someone who put in so much time with their children.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Thanks for the wonderful responses.
Debby and Barbara, I think I shall have to write a blog entry to discuss the ideas you have brought up.

Amie--do you ever find yourself feeling a mite envious of your own children who are homeschooled? I know I do!

Mary B said...

Great article. My 1st chose public High School and there really was a difference in how they viewed the experience. Even in how they chose College. Still I struggle with the idea that #3 may make that choice next year-- I love having him in my homeschool.

Crimson Wife said...

Children have different needs at different stages of their lives. There is no "right" type of education, only what is right for the individual child at any given point. I hope that this charter school turns out well for your DS :-)

Dana said...

Thank you for this wonderfully written post. It is interesting that you note that the decision may be viewed as a failure. My choice to homeschool wasn't because of a failure in the schools. I chose homeschooling for homeschooling's sake and not to escape anything.

It is a big decision for a child to make, and learning to take ownership of education and decisions is one of the greatest lessons any of us can learn, I believe.

denise said...

Well said! There are so many assumptions with homeschooling, it seems, and no matter which way we go, there is some explaining to do! ;) Great post!

CarolS said...

Hi Elisheva,
I'm a home educating mum of three, my eldest is six. We are, in relation to your lovely family, new to HE and haven't tried school. We are in Dorset UK. I just had to say a big Thank you. I have thoroughly enjoyed your blog. Please may it continue. Your experience provides a much needed boost on wobbly days. As a family, we plan to HE for as long as the kids want to, I hope that if and when they decide they want to go to school, I'll handle it as well as you. I really enjoy your pictures, it's like a mini holiday. Your posts often wake me up and make me think! Thanks again for your great blog. Best Wishes.