Not too long ago I spent the day with my husband, a construction manager/salesman, jack-of-all-trades kind of a guy. Our mission was to secure a building permit for his newest commercial building located in a new industrial park in our state’s capitol city. We were sent from building to building, up and down floors, office to office. As we stood in yet another line, we felt the tension rise among the others caught in the frustrating press of bureaucracy. One woman had made the two-hour trip to this particular office on four different occasions and was told something different each time.
I realize that most people live out their lives in this maze, but it came as quite a shock to me. Living as we do, miles away from humanity, surrounded by land owned by our family for generations, we can pretty much do whatever we please. Need more light? I would point and my husband would run a new electrical line. Need a window? My husband actually took a chain saw and cut a hole in the wall. Need more space for a growing family? We would stake out the footing, build the forms and pour the concrete.
In every instance, we quickly assessed the situation, made a decision, and moved forward. We had the freedom to do this because of who we are and the choices we have made. We chose to live in the country, far away from zoning ordinances. Over the years we have developed the needed skills to be able to build the life we want. We learned to trust our gut in shaping our environment.
In many ways, the freedom we chose for living was the freedom we chose for our kid’s education. Our school was the polar opposite of unschooling, but our days were flexible. We could stop and meet a friend’s need or take advantage of a beautiful day to go explore the creek behind our house. Year-round flexible school was just a way of life, so getting math done after an interruption fit with our mindset. During a financial crisis when the kids worked away from home two days a week, school fit in around the cracks on evenings and weekends. When one of my children would develop a consuming passion about a particular area of science or history, I erased by teacher plan and jumped into their joy with them.
In contrast, there are many educational choices that require bureaucratic permits and the resulting rigidity. When we pay someone else to take responsibility, we immediately give up choices and the freedom to follow our instincts. Our child may be at home, but another entity controls when class is held, when papers are due, what they need to learn. We must ask someone else’s permission for every move we make. Some programs (including gifted programs) insist on a certain sequence of classes – no deviation, no speeding up or slowing down. Many umbrella or charter schools leave no room for individual needs, giftings or fleeting opportunities.
I will grant that as kids get into the high schools years, the types of classes needed are more demanding and less flexible. We need a few AP classes in the mix. I usually recommend 4-6. It can be nice to have a community college class or two. However, my family refused to give up all our freedom. We were willing to be structured in my children’s area of interest – math and science, but we kept the spontaneity alive in our history and English classes.
There is nothing wrong with a structured education, but the choice to hold on to flexibility can yield rich dividends and produce lifelong learners!
Look Who’s Talking!
“There have been many challenging decisions and things to learn in the course of our homeschooling, but nothing had prepared us for the college application process. We felt very much alone and confused by the whole thing. Do grades matter when there aren’t any universal standards for how they are awarded? What is the purpose and importance of the essays? Is our daughter just a number in a system? Having someone who understood what colleges were really looking for, had excellent and doable ways of documenting our daughter’s accomplishments, and truly listened to and responded to our questions and concerns was a huge blessing.
Our daughter was accepted at every university to which she applied, received substantial scholarship awards, and was then free to choose the best possible option. What we appreciated most was the way Jeanette took the time to really learn about our daughter and our family. We felt that this wasn’t just a mechanical process for Jeanette, but a true ministry of helping homeschool parents navigate the process of getting our students off on the next phase of their educational journey. We couldn’t be more pleased by the experience, and would recommend Jeannette to any family.” ~ Sonja, WA
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