Free Range Learning: Laura Weldon's Interview

Laura tells us that her family is a bit odd but I don't think so. Just look at these quite normal photos she sent me:

See what I mean? A perfectly normal fun-loving homeschooling family. Laura and her perfectly normal homeschooling family live in Ohio, on a small family farm they call Bit Of Earth.

After you read her interview below, you might want to have more fun by visiting her website/blog where you can learn more about Laura and her new book coming out this spring, Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything.

But first, let's hear Laura expound on the finer points of growing toe bacteria...

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

We’re going on our thirteenth year.

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)?

More and more I see that following our interests (mine too!) is an extraordinarily powerful way to learn.

For example, my daughter got interested in forensic science when she was around 12 or 13, probably due to mysteries she’d been reading. Because she was interested she did the following, all generated by her own passion to learn:

  • She read anatomy and pathology books, even contacting some of the authors with follow-up questions.
  • She did dissections on her own and with other homeschoolers.
  • She performed necropsies on animals that died here on our farm (it’s actually quite helpful to know that a chicken died of a blocked oviduct and not a respiratory disease).
  • She conducted a systematic study of decomposition by watching a muskrat over a period of weeks as it went from road kill to dust and bones.

The phase of intense interest passed but this powerful introduction to science served her well when she entered college. She’d never taken a “real” science class or lab before becoming a college student, yet graduated summa cum laude with a degree in biology last year.

Our interests lead us all over. Because the rest of us are less disciplined than my daughter we pursue one thing or many things for a while, then drift off in other directions. I tell my kids nothing we learn is wasted. Skills and knowledge gained while pursuing interests stick with us.

The creative intensity and precision my son brought to making his own rocket designs from balsa when he was eight years old now benefits him as he delves ever farther into electronics, geology, music, photography and his other current passions.

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?

All of us are odd and sarcastic and completely ourselves, not caring much what others think of us. We’ve come up with homeschool projects that appalled our friends, such as the time we grew cultures from bacteria we swabbed between our toes. Yes, it became a competition as we checked on those petri dishes and no, we haven’t really looked at the winner’s feet quite the same way since.

We also suffer from the ridiculous idea that what we find fascinating could be fascinating to everyone else if we just explain it sufficiently, so our dinner table conversations are a zigzag of topics that tonight included caddis fly mating habits, plasma welding techniques, the best socks for backpackers and a Supreme Court ruling.

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

I’ll admit to dragging my kids around to a few art galleries one day, sure they’d find something thrilling. They weren’t entranced by the armadillo made of repurposed catcher’s mitts or the screens playing cartoons backwards.

They were, however thrilled to see me run full speed ahead toward the meter maid approaching our van with ticket book in hand. Justice had been served in their eyes. Now when I mention art galleries they remind me cheerfully the meter has expired on experiencing culture.


debra said...

Great stories. I remember when my now 18 yr old daughter asked her English Grandmother if she knew what the word of the day was. Grandma said that she'd be delighted to know. My then 4 or 5 year old proudly announced that the word of the day was, FLATULATE. And that is what we do all day.

Parsley said...

Great post. I love homeschooling but no one prepared me for the change of homeschooling from pre-K to Jr. High. I miss the days of mixing paint to decide what color it would turn know what I mean...the discovery was fun. Now everything is a bore to the teen. LOL

Would your family be interested in exchanging a state postcard with us?