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Notes from the conference, day 2

This is my day off at the HSC Homeschooling Conference. Tomorrow I’ll be working again. But until then, I play…

I got to hear an inspiring talk by Linda Dobson, who homeschooled back before there was the Internet, even. I have to say, when I think about trying to educate kids with a library card and not much else, school looks pretty good to me! But in any case, anyone who homeschools appreciates going to talks by parents who not only did it and survived intact, but produced well-educated, productive members of society. So we’re not necessarily ruining our children’s lives… though I guess there are plenty of other opportunities to do that!

I finally got to hear another homeschooling Santa Cruzan — Wes Beach — speak. I’ve known about him for a while, but since I was homeschooling a little one, I thought I’d look him up in the distant future. Now that I’m homeschooling an 11-year-old, that future seems so much closer. Wes’s own son went to college in his early teens. Wes talked about how current research on how our brains develop shows that the life we provide our kids, does, in fact, affect them deeply. Kids who learn in an environment where it is assumed that learning is a task of mastering a set body of knowledge and skills are simply much less likely to become adults who keep learning and growing. I liked what he answered when I asked  him about my own burning question about this research: “One of the things I spend way too much time doing is trying to get definitive answers to complex questions.”

I know what he means.

Not that I’m trying, but radicalization seems to be a theme I’m chasing in Sacramento this year. The homeschool community is exploding in size, and many of those joining it are no longer the radicals that did it in the seventies and eighties. Most of the newbies are signing up for government-funded charters (or public non-charter homeschool programs like the one we belong to). For homeschoolers who follow the more radical ideas of John Holt or John Taylor Gatto, this is not a positive growth direction for homeschooling. In my case, I tend not to latch onto any one camp, whether radical or conservative. So as I look at it, the radicals don’t have to worry about their version of homeschooling. It’ll pretty much take care of itself. Those who are joining homeschooling by doing so through government-approved channels will or won’t become “true” homeschoolers at some point, but I don’t see that their existence will make that much of a difference in the lives of independent homeschoolers. Perhaps the one difference they’re making already is just to make it less likely that adults will stop homeschooling families in the street and ask them why they aren’t in school. The more of us there are, of all different flavors, the more acceptable the general idea will be.

One of my favorite homeschooling moments was when a neighbor asked my daughter why she wasn’t in school. My daughter said, “I’m in homeschool,” and without missing a beat, our neighbor answered with Santa Cruzan enthusiasm, “Cool!”

I ended the day by meeting up with a crew of Santa Cruz homeschoolers. Because so many of us are in [those evil, government-funded] public homeschool programs, we can be a bit clannish. People from AFE know each other, people in the SLV charters know each other, and on and on, but we don’t mix so much. So the conference is a time to meet up and compare notes.

I think we’re all pretty happy with how we’re doing it, and definitely happy with the level of choice we have in Santa Cruz County. In our homeschooling lives, it’s not the case that we’re searching for things to do. We Santa Cruz homeschoolers are constantly having to turn down all the opportunities for cool learning and experiences that keep presenting themselves. If we didn’t, we’d be even more familiar with Highway 1 than we already are, and we’d have to take the “home” completely out of homeschooling.

Posted in Homeschooling.

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