Since homeschooling was legalized in 1985, hundreds of kids in Washington have been homeschooled, and are now adults. About three quarters of the adults who were homeschooled in their childhood said that they were glad they had homeschooled, and over half stated that they would homeschool their own children (Homeschooling Grows Up study). Jolene was homeschooled as a child, and is now unschooling her three adorable children whom I babysit often. I was curious about how it was being homeschooled back then so I asked her a few questions.
As a child Jolene and her family moved around a lot, including various parts of Oregon, Arizona and Montana. It seemed easier for her parents to unschool her than to put her into public school. She was homeschooled from birth to about five weeks before 8th grade, when she began public school. “My mom taught me to read from a young age, but this is what I wanted. I wasn’t forced to study anything in particular. I enjoyed traditional methods of learning/education such as reading and doing workbooks,” Jolene shared. Jolene liked homeschooling; she enjoyed the freedom to study what she choose and to study whenever she wanted. She also loved that she was able to stay up late and sleep in when she wanted. Despite her enjoyment of homeschooling, she often wanted to learn through the school system. “I really wanted to be involved in some of the activities that were offered through school, but my parents did not want me to go,” Jolene stated. According to Jolene, there were limited activities for homeschoolers unless the parents could pay for it and there were not many opportunities for social activities.
Jolene has been unschooling her three children (ages 7, 3 and 1) since their birth. It is Jolene’s intention to homeschool them unless they want to go to school. “I believe that learning happens all the time, and that curiosity and a desire to know about the life around us are innate,” Jolene says. She also thinks that forcing her children to do things they don’t want to or controlling their lives sends the wrong message and teaches them negative lessons about the use of power. And that it teaches them that they do not have the ability to determine what they need to be successful in this world. She says “I want them to grow up feeling empowered to make decisions for themselves, and not constantly look outside of themselves for the magic formula for success or for approval of who they are and what they love to do (which are ideas sold by the educational institutions, and unfortunately by the broader culture).”
Jolene says that she is homeschooling like her mother; following her children's interests and needs. “For me,” she says, “it just feels like living life rather than homeschooling.” She has more money to facilitate her children’s needs then her parents had. But so far she doesn’t see it translating into much of a difference. “In the future, I imagine the wealth of opportunities for them will be more obvious as they become more interested in certain activities or classes,” Jolene states. Right now, her kids enjoy staying at home and enjoying the natural world, having a few play dates here and there. So far, Jolene’s oldest isn’t as interested in reading as Jolene was at his age, “I have had to learn about his particular intelligence, how he learns... I have had to read about why he might not be interested in learning some things yet, and how I can support his skills,” Jolene says.
According to Jolene, the homeschooling community has grown. There are a bunch more resources than when she was homeschooled, and there are a lot more homeschoolers than when she was growing up. It’s cool to think that I am part of the second generation of homeschoolers since it was legalized again only around thirty years ago.