Homeschoolers "Testing" School: Laura's Interview

Laura and I have several things in common, but the most important for me is that she understands the importance of respecting french fry cravings. When french fries call, we listen.

Laura and her family live amongst the cornfields of Northern Illinois and she has a blog called, umm, Wistful Wanderlust and she's, umm, a former public school teacher who, umm,

(I'm sorry but that picture of french fries is making me hungry. But surely I can finish this introduction. Let me continue.)

Anyway, despite her best efforts as a teacher, Laura realized that the constraints of institutional school, umm, stifles the freedom needed for enjoyable learning. She even, umm, amazingly, umm, oh heck, just read the darn interview will ya?

I need to go get some fries.

1. How long have you been homeschooling (or if finished, how long did you homeschool)?

We've been radically unschooling for 10 years. I was a public school teacher and my oldest son (now 16) went to kindergarten - we both quit and we've been happily pursuing our passions ever since. My younger son (12) has never been to school.

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this freedom and flexibility benefited you (your family)?

The real beauty is in having the time and freedom to discover *who we are* and *what we love.* School kids don't have the time or freedom to discover what they really love to do - I know because I was one.

Homeschoolers - and unschoolers in particular - get to dabble in all sorts of things and find their passions. They often specialize; they delve deeply into a topic, hobby, or interest, and adapt their lives around these passions. Unschoolers find ways to say yes to every consideration, and being free of school's rigid schedule allows them to go where their passions take them. It's a beautiful way to live!

While schools work to force-feed learning to children, my kids don't have enough hours in the day to do all the things they want to do. As they engage in their activities and projects, all self-chosen and self-designed, they are vivacious, curious, and deeply engaged; often excited and chatty, sometimes quiet in deep concentration.

I remember how my 4th grade students looked when I was a teacher - bored, apathetic, distracted; at best sitting straight in their chairs in obedient attention but that was more to please me than due to genuine interest - and I was a teacher who tried very hard to make school interesting and enjoyable.

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of homeschooling?

Just a few?

Really, our goal is to make every day fun. If not rip-roaring, gut-busting fun, at least comfortable, pleasant, satisfying. It might sound all pie-in-the-sky, but we really don't have too many bad days.

If you want examples that demonstrate what we have up on school, though, I'd offer the following: taking trips whenever we want, visiting public spaces during weekdays when we have the places mostly to ourselves, tea parties with grandma, sleeping in and staying up late, and having all-night video game parties.

Oh, and eating whenever we're hungry and sleeping whenever we're tired. And seeing everything - and I mean *everything* - as learning.

And loving learning because someone else hasn't turned it into work.

And getting to be outside whenever we want.

And dropping everything to hang out with the friend who's just called.

And taking off for french fries 5 seconds after the craving hits. Shall I go on?

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one of yours with us?

After radically unschooling for 8 years, my oldest, Brady (16), decided to attend a private, college-prep high school for his freshman year. Mostly to play soccer. He passed the entrance exam (even though he'd never used a text book or taken a test before - ever), but still, I couldn't help worrying about him as he went off for his first day of school.

After dropping him off and breathing into a paper bag for a while, I decided to take my younger son, Jonathan, to Starbucks for coffee and a hot cocoa. Then we'd take our Scrabble game to a riverside park - something fun to pass the time.

But I couldn't go into the Starbucks because I couldn't stop crying. I was missing Brady and mourning the end of our unschooling time together. I sat in the parking lot, trying to get myself together while Jonathan played his Nintendo DS in the backseat, shooting me the occasional worried glance.

But then my crying turned to laughing... as I thought about going into the Starbucks in tears... imagining the conversation...

Starbucks Barista: "You ok?"
Blubbering Me: "Yes. I just dropped off my son for his first day of school."
Starbucks Barista: "Oh... kindergarten?"
Blubbering Me: "No. High School."


Postscript: After successfully completing his freshman year - even making the honors list - Brady decided to return to unschooling. He missed doing the things he loves. And he'd proven to himself he could do it. (Wahoo!)


piscesgrrl said...

I just read this! How bad am I? I was out of state when it posted and forgot to leave myself a reminder for when I got home. Sheesh! Thanks for having me - I'm linking late!

Hey, wanna grab some fries?

Andrea said...

I love the interview! I'm going to have my husband read it; every little bit of info on RU helps him let go with us just a little more.
Andrea (RU for 5 months)

dharmamama said...

You have infected me with your french fry cravings all the way to North Carolina.

Love the interview!