I have been rereading my past writings when my daughters were young to look for material I want to share on my blog. I wrote this in 1982, when we were struggling with the issue of home schooling. I would have had to submit a petition to the Bangor Board of Education. My second daughter Michelle was miserable in the traditional Maine public schools; I was having great difficulty getting her to first grade. A week after I wrote this, we found a wonderful private school whose tuition–$900 a year–we could afford. Skitikuk was unique; it had 45 children ranging in age from 5 to 18 and 4 gifted teachers. Situated across the road from the University of Maine at Orono, it made imaginative use of the university’s resources. We found what my daughters needed at Skitikuk, so we didn’t school them at home. Twenty-four years later, they still enjoy reminiscing about Skitikuk even though they only spent two years there; we have kept copies of the students’ weekly newsletter.
When we moved in Long Island in 1983, we were not happy with traditional public schools, but the schools were reasonably responsive with an excellent gifted program, so we didn’t consider home schooling. Our circumstances were different; I was heavily involved helping my mom cope with my dad’s Alzheimer’s Disease. I was planning to go back to school. I still wish I had tried it, at least for a year or two. One dilemma was that my two middle children would have thrived in home school, but my oldest daughter and I would have squabbled most of the time. Anne needed a much wider world than I could have provided at home.
“For almost 9 years I have spent most of my days with at least one child under the age of three. Therefore I have thought very seriously about learning for babies and toddlers, who are the very model of what one would wish learners to be–boldly adventurous, endlessly curious, resourceful, energetic, and confident. No one has to worry about motivating them. Every mother soon learns that if her baby is dull, apathetic, listless, she is certainly sick.
Surely these 9 years laid the roots for our eventual decision to take our children out of public school and try home schooling. They needed a school that encouraged them to explore and make sense of the world around them in ways that most interested them. Tests, grades, sorting children into narrow age categories, textbooks, workbooks are barriers to learning. Thank God no one teaches babies to talk the way older children are taught to read, yet learning to talk is a vastly more complex achievement. Even the third time around, it seems a breathtaking miracle.
When the girls became mobile, we childproofed our home as much as possible so the kids would be free to explore. We never used playpens or closed off any area of our apartment to our children. Safety, not adult expediency, was the only justification for locked doors. If the baby wanted to empty out the kitchens cabinets five times a day or systematically take every book off the lower shelves of our bookcases, we could put up with more mess and work. Our confidence in our children has been richly rewarded.
How much energy has been dissipated in doubts, agonizing, second-guessing, endless discussion about their schools. What has been so maddening about Michelle’s problems this year is that we really can’t do anything about them. The contrast between Michelle at home all day and Michelle after a full day of school has been truly spectacular.