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by Michael Leppert

Greetings, readers of The Link! The 5th annual Link Homeschool Conference in Los Angeles has come and gone. This year’s conference was the smoothest and most enjoyable by all accounts, by our own observation and from the Evaluation Forms we received. As usual, we had a great line-up studded with the best speakers in the country. Names like John Taylor Gatto, Dr. Mary Hood, Jim Wiltens, Cafi Cohen, Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis, Dr. Richard Prystowski, Diane Flynn-Keith, Victoria Kindle-Hodson, to mention a few. Most of these people formed our keynote montage, wherein each presenter was asked to speak for five minutes about homeschooling.  Because each person had such a different background from which to speak, this approach proved very effective, as each one provided a very focused insight that served perfectly as the kick-off to the weekend. It gave the audience a clear picture of some of the things to expect from each presenter. It was somewhat like seeing light through a stained-glass window, with each “panel” shedding a different light; it lets you see the whole window differently, too. The children’s’ activities were better than ever, and Jim Wiltens was a very popular addition to our conference line-up. Thanks very much, to all of you who made The Link conference part of your lives! (See pictures and story in next issue.)

Homeschooling: Verb?, Noun?, Adjective? Which is it for you?

Mary shared with me the fact that while she was conducting the Homeschooling 101 workshop with Diane Flynn Keith, she had a major revelation.

When Diane and Mary were planning the contents and form for the workshop, they agreed to put the curriculum, legalities and academic parts at the end. In the beginning they wanted to share their experience of homeschooling and talk about the real issues first – such as what a typical week was really like; covering the “S” word (socialization); to tell the audience their particular stories; and Mary likes to begin a workshop by asking the participants what they would like to get out of it.

In the actual presentation, however, the topics on most participants’ minds were academics, legalities and curriculum. Throughout the first portion of the workshop, people kept asking questions like “When you homeschool, what time do you do it?” “How often do you do it?” “When are we going to talk about curriculum?” (i.e. The thing you do “it” with.) People really wanted to know: “Is it legal to do it?” While these questions kept popping up like mushrooms, it became clear why Diane and Mary did not want to spend most of the session talking about the legalities and curriculum – because all of us who have been “homeschooling” for any length of time know that homeschooling is not truly a verb. In the middle of that session, Mary realized that every time she experiences problems as a homeschooling parent, it is caused by thinking of homeschooling as something one does, rather than as a way of living. Homeschooling is not a verb!

Over the years, we have had many days with Lennon that were filled with things like walking, cooking, talking, laughing, reading and listening to each other. On many of those wonderful days, looming in the background, were the guilty feelings that we didn’t do “it” – home-school-ing.

In these times, Mary was thinking of homeschooling as a verb – something that we should DO.  How often do child members of homeschool families say to one another something like “Did you do school yet? When can you play?” I am not suggesting that we avoid using the word “school”, but I think we should stop unconsciously slipping into the habit of letting “school work” be the pretended core of what we are doing. We are being parents, above all else -- teachers, certainly, but we are instructing values, such as morals, ethics, appropriate behavior, thinking and possibly, love. Then, of much less significance, we are “school” teachers.  Whether or not a maladjusted person reads well, he/she is still maladjusted, and that is the condition that has the most impact on his/her life – not the academic consideration. Our goal as parents is to try to raise people who are as well adjusted as possible. The way we choose to do this is by being with our kids, just as parents did from the earliest days of human existence. 

When we stop and think about the most important aspects of homeschooling -- of keeping our kids at home, being 100% parents, developing a living relationship with our children and creating an environment that we are in charge of  -- the academics fade into the background. The system of institutional schooling has created and foisted upon parents the idea that children are born with an immediate need to have their heads stuffed full of “education”. This idea is false -- ask any parent or grandparent. They will tell you, that the truth is that children are born curious and will remain so until thwarted -- usually by having their curiosity and soulful desire to know  “educated” right out of them. The modern homeschool pioneer, John Holt wrote about this extensively and his books, although more than 30 years old, are true and timely today. ‘Til next time, thank you for beautifying America by homeschooling and thanks for reading The Link.  MJL

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