I made the choice to homeschool my children early on in my career as a parent. In fact, my affinity for alternative education pre-dated even the idea that I might one day have children. As a young adult contemplating a college education, at one point I decided that I might want to go to school to become a teacher. An older friend of mine who had children that he homeschooled advised against that, and pointed me in the direction of John Holt, the man who many consider to be the grandfather of the modern homeschooling movement.
At that point in my life, the thought of having children was so nonexistent it was not even an abstract thought – it was a non-thought. However, I read some of the works of John Holt, as well as Summerhill, by A.S. Neil, and framed the principles of homeschooling and freeschooling in the context of my own life.
Growing up, I was the youngest in a family of 7 children. Either due to exhaustion, trust in me, or faith in the universe, my mother was a very hands-off parent. Most of the time, I was left to my own devices. I don’t remember there being a lot of rules in my house, and as I got older, I was the only one among my friends who had no curfew and who never got “grounded.” I also had a lot of freedom to do things like travel with friends and stay home from school. I took advantage of these freedoms in very positive ways. I would ask my mom to call me in to school so I could spend the day reading, for instance. Or, as I got older and started doing zines, I would stay home to write letters. Sometimes, I would be at school, and I would get the urge to walk around and write poems, so I would ask my mom to call the office and say I had a doctor’s appointment, and I would walk home and stop occasionally to transcribe the random thoughts that freedom allowed to percolate in my brain.
My mom took a chance by allowing me to have this freedom, and I feel like she made the right choice. Because I was allowed to make choices and do things that my friends weren’t allowed to do, I was extra careful to earn that responsibility retroactively. I did well in school, didn’t get into trouble, stayed away from drugs and drinking, and used my freedom to explore things that I found interesting and productive. As a result, I feel like I was better educated outside of my public school experience than I was inside. I will always be thankful to my mother for giving me the opportunity to explore my world without fear and with few limits. As a result of the freedom I was given, I have made some out-of-the-ordinary choices about what paths to take in life, and I have not had many regrets.
This is one of the main reasons I homeschool my own children, and why I am conscious of what I allow/disallow in their lives. I feel that as long as they are responsible with their freedom, exploring their world, and staying on top of the academics that will help them achieve their long-term goals (when they get around to figuring out what those are) they have the right to their freedom, as well as the responsibilities that come with it. And, as their parent, I should have the right to allow them to pursue that freedom, as well as the responsibility to ensure it is not to their detriment.