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Nurturing Innocence & Naiveté
by Mary Leppert
I believe the confining institution that we call "school" strangles the true gifts and great things that life can offer us. There is an innocence and naiveté that I contend we are born with. We begin life with the pure gifts of enthusiasm, initiative, joy, curiosity, excitement and happiness. To prove this to yourself, watch a crawling, excited little baby in a safe environment. He will try to go anywhere and everywhere that is available.

It is important to keep these positive qualities alive and well in our children for as long as possible. We need to nurture that "toddler" sense of adventure and protect it from being squelched or suppressed. I feel it is important that we retain our innocence and naiveté through the journey of Life or we risk diminishing and ultimately losing the later versions of our precious "birth" gifts: Initiative, willingness to take chances, thirst to explore and basic happiness. If we "educate" out of our young people these birth gifts, they will not be able to shape new journeys, new industries or new fields of endeavor.

Complete homeschooling and home living - without school participation or indulgence in the current cultural fads -- allows our children to retain their innocence and naiveté longer; it allows them to remain closer to their true selves and develop more fully along those lines before the influence of the external world pushes in. In the period before the 1850s -prior to the full encroachment of institutional schooling into the private world of the individual family -- this is how children grew up into adulthood. Their main influence was the family and the immediate community around them. The values that a child stood upon throughout his life, what he chose to do for a living upon reaching adulthood, and whom he wished to associate with, were all shaped by the force of his family. It is more appropriate for one's family to perform this shaping function than for an indiscriminate institution to do so.

Children are to be raised by their parents - or their extended families. The biological truth of the human race is that mammal parents raise their young until they are ready to survive independently. No matter what else one may believe, it is a scientific fact that we humans are mammals. We need to raise our children in the way that suits our human nature . . . and they need to be raised by us in this way.

This is the core of homeschooling, in my opinion. This is how Man in nature has always learned. If you have read Jean Liedloff's book "The Continuum Concept" you know that she relates how the South American Indian children learn about all of the dangers and pitfalls - literally -- of their environment by observing their parents' behavior. The adults do not have to scold them repeatedly to make them mind; the children learn that to disobey the first warning from parents may result in catastrophe. While we do not face such dangers in our lives, our children still learn by watching and observing what to cultivate and what to avoid by our example.

For a personal example, I have always thought of my dad being the one who taught me how to be optimistic, to never give up, and that I could accomplish anything I wanted to do. I was trying to think of a time that he sat down and taught me these lessons. I realized that he never did. I learned these things just by being around him. I learned to be who I am through his subtle influence - not by being lectured to.

Our children are "The Silent Watchers" and we are constantly instructing them. This occurs in ways such as whether or not you watch television and if you do, what programs you choose. How you conduct yourself with others. Do you read books, discuss topics of the day, have opinions, play sports, have hobbies and other "outside" interests, attend church, maintain spiritual beliefs, admire others for their achievements? At this point, it becomes obvious that academic subjects comprise a small percentage of this lifestyle we call "homeschooling".

Our goals for our son, Lennon, are to not merely strive to achieve "A's" in the linear sense of school grades. Rather, we strive to keep, guard and cherish his birth gifts. Many people accomplish things in life simply because no one ever told them they couldn't -- that is what I mean by "innocence and naivete." It is important to us that he maintain his enthusiasm and willingness to explore. We also wish to help him avoid negative judgments of others Protecting his innocence and naivete will promote initiative and willingness to take chances and a thirst to explore.

I want him to walk a more all-encompassing path for a more fulfilling life. Let us not worry if our children have been sent off into that judgment world that we call school, to be weighed and measured. Not worry if we have confused notions of "education" and have sent our children on that twisted path already. What matters is that we are all here now together, and I believe that each day we can undo the damage that has been done and guide our children, each on the path that is meant to be his or hers by living this life we call "homeschooling."