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From every corner of the world of home education, I pulled images of how ‘our school’ might be – most of them in conflict with each other, and none a perfect picture of how ‘our school’ actually was.
I could see our classical school – kids neatly dressed, friends over for chess and dialectic – turning out scholars like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein. I dreamed of “Lifestyle Learning,” with education tucked into every moment of the day – museum-like collections on every flat surface, illustrated notebooks for each subject, a microscope at hand in the kitchen, backpacks always ready with nature journals and good pencils.
Unit Study seemed so appealing. We could be immersed in the Middle Ages via salt dough, period costumes, Usborne books and stew in stale-bread trenchers. The Fast Track had its appeal, too. I pictured my kids pointed to The End via a series of neatly ordered lessons. The only limit to their release into freedom would be their personally chosen speed of attack. They might say things like, “If I get my Phd, will you buy me a new bike?” Their own incentives would move them forward almost effortlessly and we’d have a stack of tests and certificates to prove what they had accomplished.
Unschooling was a lot like a “learning lifestyle,” but easier yet, because it would be “delight-directed” and require no record-keeping. We’d practically live at the library. At home, I’d happen upon children engrossed in projects of their own choosing. I’d try not to point out the educational value, and keep them supplied with high-quality tools and materials in timely fashion. We’d bake…we’d travel…we’d garden…or, not.
The way it actually turned out was a strange and changing mix I called “Eclectic” to make it sound more like “Education.” New babies kept throwing us ‘off our groove,’ but in a good way. Just as I hit my stride, they all grew up and went on into college…or, not. The thing I miss most – oh, ouch…. – is reading aloud to them. I know I could have done a lot better at many aspects of homeschooling, but overall, I’ve enjoyed these years and been happy with the results. Meanwhile, I got an education along the way that is a priceless treasure.