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Taking the Parental Approach, Part 1

By Michael Leppert

We homeschooled our son with what we call the “parental approach”. As his parents, we believed in the traditional idea of the three R’s, the flexibility of the unschooling approach  and the creativity of the eclectic approach.

The following scenario provides an example of our lifestyle when Lennon was about 10 or 11. One evening we were working on our first book, The Homeschooling Almanac, 2000-2002, in our little office, the extra room in our house.

While we were all there, Lennon converted a vacant desk into a science lab, pulled out some Wild Goose kits he’d used years before, and made slime—all the while joining in on our conversations about the  book. While writing the trivium section, we were looking up terms and reading the dictionary definitions aloud for all to hear and discuss. It became a mini-prelim course in the trivium for us all.

If one were to analyze that scenario in terms of “educational” style, it could be considered unschooling because it was driven by Lennon’s own interest (he pulled out five old science kits from the back of a closet at 10:30 p.m.); classical because of the nature of the discussion; eclectic because while we were discussing rhetoric, he was filling a balloon with air using a bicycle pump, both of which were attached to pvc pipe he had assembled. Charlotte Mason would have loved it because we were living in a “rich” educational environment!

If we chose to be self-critical (which happened occasionally), we would worry that we were shirking somehow by not following a school-at-home regimen. Of course, now that Lennon is grown, we see that such concern was unfounded. But for all of us who attended school, the temptation is always there to think that the school way is the best way. It is not.

Our society has lost the flexibility that once allowed families to let their children work alongside them—on farms, in family-owned shops, restaurants, and delicatessens. Our quest to “get educated” and “give our children what we did not have” has cost us our ability to be real, true, organic people who pass who we are on to the next generation.

That night writing, we were just being who we are, and our life is how we homeschool our son. We write for a living, put out our magazine, produced a conference once a year—and Lennon was intimately involved in it all. When we cooked for people and held various other newspaper jobs, he was right alongside us, too. Whatever you do for a living, wherever you live, you are  your child’s parent and guide his or her life. You can have an educational plan, raise the child up “politically correct” or not, in a religion or not, exposed to or sheltered from a wide array of ideas. This right is a gift of being a parent—and it’s greatest fun. Be yourself, relax, be patient, and experiment—take the parental approach! MjL


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