On Homeschooling

1. Home-schooling is a radical step. What caused you and your husband to take your children out of school and take their education into their own hands?

Money! That’s the embarrassing truth. I wish I could say that we had carefully contemplated this option from the moment of the kids’ conception-but that would be a lie. Once they were expelled we were forced to consider their educational history as a way of trying to determine our educational options for them. We decided to try and create an educational structure rather than critiquing one already in place; that way we could focus on their holistic development as spiritual, intellectual and physical beings.

2. Once you made the choice, how did you get started?

We started by developing a philosophy statement-the goal was to work towards the holistic health of our children. The next step was to develop a curriculum to meet that objective, which is why we crafted our own rather than purchase one. Once we established a curriculum we were able to decide which of us would teach what-everything else we decided to “subcontract”. So our next step was obvious, we began the process of interviewing and selecting our “faculty.” The final introductory steps included the selection of course materials and textbooks and the creating of an academic calendar.

3. How did your children feel about being taken out of school?

They hated it! There are lots of home-schooled families where the children genuinely enjoy the process. We were just not one of those families. Our kids experienced a range of feelings about being home schooled, and they were fairly consistent throughout the 9-year process. Initially they were confused because much of what happened was rather subtle and difficult for them to absorb. They felt a great deal of resentment because they wanted to return to school and to their friends and they were very angry that their arguments did not result in any substantial change. Those were the feelings they articulated to us on a daily basis, so I’m certain of those. What were less obvious were the feelings expressed through their actions. They felt a great deal of respect and trust for us and our ability to make sound decisions on their behalf as evidenced by their conduct. They were very, very angry, but they were also very, very obedient-they did everything we asked of them, which was amazing.

4. What about the socialization?

Be creative and open-minded. Remember, all socialization is not good; Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gasey, and Jeffrey Dahmer all went to school. Look for holistic, positive, stimulating opportunities to engage your kids.

5. You often refer to raising “holistically healthy adults.” What does this mean and did this goal play a part in your decision to home school?

Holistically healthy means balanced, with a conscious awareness of the equivalent importance of their spiritual, intellectual and physical selves. And yes, that goal was a critical component of our decision to home school. Our sons had never attended a bad school, but they had also never attended a school that expressed any conscious awareness of holistic health, as we understood it. They had attended schools with a strong emphasis on academic growth and competitive athletics and that’s good. We were aware of some good religious and parochial schools with a strong focus on religious growth, and that’s good. What we hadn’t been able to find, quite possibly because we hadn’t actually articulated our search, was a school focused on spiritual rather than religious, intellectual rather than academic and physical well-being rather than competitive athletics.

6. What are home schooled students taught?

It depends. There are commercially produced curricula/ae (sorry, my Latin is rusty). However, Charles and I created our own curriculum. We used our experiences at Dartmouth and Wellesley to establish a baseline for secondary academic preparation. One of the advantages of attending extremely competitive colleges is the awareness of how the admission process is supposed to work and what prospective students and their parental units should expect.