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by Linda Dobson
My son, Adam, was speaking on the phone with a friend when her 12 year-old cousin interrupted because she wanted to call a boy from her school and tell him - well, something too inappropriate to write about in a family publication such as this. As life in a small town often goes, it turns out the boy in question lives next door to us. We’ll call our neighbor David.
Adam has literally watched David grow up, commenting occasionally on how quickly it seems to be happening. But after relating the above incident to me he added, "David’s not old enough to be thinking and talking about things like that."
We conversed only briefly before it became clear to Adam that "not old enough" is a problem that transcends David and his friend’s cousin. It’s a problem reaching into the greater community, apparent just about anywhere you go. You can see it in little girls who buy into the unspoken promise - and spoken sexual innuendo - of every cosmetic and fashion ad thrown at them. You can hear it on the street, in a store, and shouted across patrons’ heads in a restaurant. Out of the mouths of babes comes language that would make a sailor blush. You can feel it when you walk into a school and wonder if you accidentally stumbled into San Quentin. Children are skipping childhood.
As we talk my mind wanders to images of Adam at age 12. Central to his life were deep involvement in Boy Scouts and fort building in the woods. The care and feeding of Bandit was his responsibility; loving Bandit was his choice. Interestingly, all of these elements are similarly present in David’s life.
Yet in the deepest of winter, David boards a school bus in morning’s frigid darkness, and returns home just prior to sunset. For ten months each year, school attendance dominates his time, ending the similarities between his life and Adam’s.
In the time available to him because he learned where he lived, Adam experienced at the same age the personal thrill of commencing ?work? a couple of afternoons each week, dusting, sweeping, and ever-learning in the rock shop in town that fascinated him. He shoveled walks and driveways all winter, as so few others were available to do so for the neighborhood’s senior citizens. He accompanied me on daily business. He talked, he read, he daydreamed. He participated in support group activities, he fought with his brother and sister. He got bored. He tackled puzzles - so many puzzles.
The telephone episode left me muttering gratitude for homeschooling - yet again. It also got me thinking about the time I questioned homeschooling parents about what they experienced as homeschooling’s greatest benefit. The five top answers were improved academics, greater social opportunity, stronger families, increased safety, and improved health. All of these aspects of homeschooling are beneficial to a child in and of themselves, but when woven together into a lifestyle, when they underpin the environment in which a child grows, they nurture childhood.
In homeschooling we see childhood regained. Within a culture annihilating childhood, homeschooling is a last refuge ensuring that at least a handful of children experience life’s natural rhythm.
Because of continued criticism from many sides, we homeschoolers spend an awful lot of time trying to convince others that yes, our children are just like children who attend school, our children can pass academic and social tests, our children experience cultural diversity.
But before we reach the point where homeschooled children are the only ones blessed with a childhood, maybe we need to learn to admit that our children are different. Not only is there nothing wrong with this, I believe the fact that they are different can light the way toward repairing some of the woes infecting our children and our culture. Only if we admit our children are different can we begin to direct focused attention on why. Only in this way can we make a meaningful comparison of childhood lost to childhood regained. (Yeah, I know. Just as media coverage of homeschoolers’ socialization such as that on National Public Radio last February declares our children ?the same,? I’m upping the ante. It’s the only way to keep the quest for moving homeschooling from ?accepted? to ?embraced? on a steady forward track.)
Go ahead. Try it. Think, ?My children are different.? Now say it out loud. That wasn’t so bad, was it?
Noting the distinctions between the results of Adam’s 12th year spent homeschooling and David’s 12th year spent in school was not difficult. I’m happy Adam was different than David at 12, and even happier that at age 17 he’s aware enough to recognize the problem. I’m ecstatic that he talks with me about it. But then why shouldn’t he? Allowed a childhood, he’s had the time necessary to learn to think as an adult.
This article was reprinted with permission from the author, Linda Dobson. Linda is a popular columnist and author of many books about homeschooling. Her newest book to be published in November 2002, The Ultimate Book of Homeschooling Ideas (501 Best Learning Activities for Kids Ages 3 -12) Prima Publishing, surely is the ULITIMATE. The title is no exaggeration. Based on Linda’s careful scientific research into the minds and learning laboratories of the world’s finest educators – parents, these are ?mom-tested and kid-approved? real learning activities. OVER 501 have been organized into helpful categories but better yet, every chapter includes wisdom from the author’s years of homeschooling, years of researching homeschooling and years of practical understanding about TRUE learning.
So, the Ultimate Book of Homeschooling Ideas is much more than - a helpful, well organized list of things to do on a rainy day... This is a RESOURCE which not only includes fun things that you and your kids (of all ages) will want to do over and over again, but also the kind of information you’d find in the best ?how to homeschool? books. Here’s a book that will answer the ever-present, nagging question, ?I wonder what other parents do to teach...?? Your search is over. If you can’t find it between the covers in this book, then you’ll just have to roll up your sleeves and turn to your own laboratroy - your children and when you come up with the answer, make sure you let Linda know so she can add it to the ?revised? copy of the ULTIMATE IDEA book.
Look for all of Linda’s books online at Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com or at your neighnborhood bookstore. Just type in Linda Dobson in the search line on an internet bookstore or give her name to your local bookstore salesperson. She’s written too many to list here!