You Learn More When You're Not in a Hurry: Norma Young's Interview

Norma is another person I "met" online years ago. (But neither of us are going to say how many.) She was instrumental in getting me to understand that freedom is not only important for successful homeschooling of our children, it's important in all areas of life.

That started me down the road to learning more about libertarian philosophy and I've never gone back. As a matter of fact, I've gone even further because now, I consider myself a voluntaryist.

Norma lives in Pennsylvania, a state notorious for its regulations over homeschooling families. She has been involved in helping other homeschoolers for years and she's now on the advisory board for the Pennsylvania Home Educators Association, a statewide inclusive coalition of homeschoolers from around the state.

But even though she's always busy helping people homeschool and understand the ideas of freedom, she still takes the time to just sit and observe the beauty of life unfolding...

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

My husband and I never really thought about sending our daughter Jacky to school. Neither my husband or I had very good experiences in school. We had no reason to believe Jacky's experience would be any different than ours.

But she wanted to try kindergarten so she went for a short time (1991) It really did not work into our family life very well so we stopped going. Jacky learned at home all through her "school" years. We were / are unschoolers. She "finished" in 2003.

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)?

Oh boy. The list is endless.

One of the main benefits is the flexibility to learn what you want, when you want, if you want.

Jacky wasn't very excited about reading on her own. We spent endless hours with me reading aloud from books we picked from the library. She told me later she was afraid if she learned to read, our reading time together would stop. With our learning lifestyle, she could delay that aspect of her education without fear of ridicule or punitive measures against her.

At age 10, she wanted to read Garfield and Calvin & Hobbes. I was busy doing something and she had to wait for me. That did it for her, in about 6 weeks she was reading at or beyond her "grade" level. She never did really enjoy reading for entertainment until about 5 years ago at age 19 and now at 24, she always has her nose stuck in a book!

The unrestricted age exposure and interaction. We got together with other families and the older children would help out the youngers with things. With Jacky not having siblings, that interaction with older kids - the kindness and helpfulness they displayed, really bolstered her confidence. That is something I doubt we could have achieved in an institutional setting.

Continuity is another benefit. We never had to stop doing something just because a bell rang or another subject was scheduled. She was able to pursue an interest until she was satisfied. And if one subject led to another interest, we could go down that path too.

Sometimes those paths would dead end but she didn't have to feel like she "failed" if her interest in something waned. I was also able to pursue something I was interested in side by side with her. She got to see first hand that learning never stops.

My husband is a contractor, we have our own business. With me not working his days were very long and tiring. If Jacky had been in school, her schedule and his schedule would never have given them time together, they would be passing in the hallway! By having the option to choose our schedule, they got to do things together. Our vacations could be when it was best for our family - vacations in the summer when he was busiest did not work for us.

We only have one child and it was very important for us to be able to develop our family relationships without limitations. To this day my husband and daughter have a loving, fun, close relationship. I do not think that would be the case had their time together been limited by school schedules.

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?

Movie Days!!

Jacky and I were just talking about this the other day and saying how much fun they were. Once a week or so, especially in the winter, we would have a Movie Day. Sometimes it would be just random movies we wanted to see.

Other times we would pick a subject (like an animal, a person, or historical event) and try to find movies that included that subject. We always tried to get an old movie and a current one to compare.

We would also get movies based on books we had read to see if they translated well. Some Movie Days would be light, happy days, other times it could be somber and thoughtful as in All Quiet on the Western Front. But we always learned something! And nothing beats being curled up with hot cocoa in our pajamas on a snowy day knowing we don't have to go anywhere!!

Another fun thing was all the people we got to meet throughout our days. Older folks especially seemed attracted to our educational choice and would engage us in discussions and show the kids things they might not share if we had been in a hurry.

When Jacky was 6 or 7, she found a luna moth in the process of laying eggs. It was injured and dying and Jacky was very distraught. We put it in an aquarium and
she laid all her eggs and died. I had no idea how to care for the eggs, or if it could even be done. When we went grocery shopping the next day, we were discussing this and an older gentleman overheard us.

He turned out to be a retired entomologist and gave Jacky great instructions on luna moth care. We did a lot of research ourselves using resources this gentleman had given Jacky. That turned out to be one of the coolest things we ever did. We must have raised and released hundreds of luna moths over the next several years. That led to butterflies and preying mantis and to this day, Jacky has a knack for observing and appreciating things that require patience to really see.

One of the benefits for myself was the exposure I had to so many unique individuals with wonderful, exciting ideas and thoughts! I was able to see my daughter surrounded by other adults who were interested in nurturing children in a non judgemental, non competitive manner. I was (and still am) continually stretched and challenged to learn new things and look at life through many different eyes.

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

Jacky was about 7 and used to go to my parent's house to spend time with my mom. My dad's office was in their home and she would sometimes sit in the office playing while my mom was finishing up some work.

After spending a day with my parents she came home concerned about my dad.

"Mom, I think there is something wrong with Grandpa. All day long he kept telling people to sign their John Hancock! And that wasn't even their name! And doesn't he know John Hancock is dead?"

1 comment:

sarah haliwell said...

What wonderful stories! I told my daughter the one about the luna moth and we were both utterly charmed by many aspects of it. This is what homeschooling has been like for us too - being able to tap into the great wisdom that is out there in the community, because we are out there too.