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The Second Generation

Jolene talks about her childhood being homeschooled, and how different it is now being the mother and homeschooling.

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.

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Shaun Ivory October 19, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Thanks for responding! I can certainly understand people believing they can provide a better education for their kids than a public, or even private, school. In many -- maybe even most -- cases, they are probably correct, and I am sure there are tools for committed families to ensure they are educating their kids thoroughly. What I can't understand is that there might be some people who think there is something so malevolent in public schools that they need to protect their children from *any* kind of exposure to it. After all, their kids are eventually going to come into contact with whatever it is they are trying to shield them from. Your family might not fit in that category, but I suspect there are some families who do, and I find that a little odd... and definitely fascinating!
Jennifer Hagander-Luanava October 19, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Shaun, I want to respond to this comment, specifically, "After all, their kids are eventually going to come into contact with whatever it is they are trying to shield them from." I think what some parents are trying to shield their kids from is the negative socialization found in some schools (i.e. bullying, hypersexualization, drugs, pressure to conform, etc). While you are right that eventually, the kids may come into contact with those things, giving kids a chance to build their foundation and find their own inner strength before throwing them to the lions, so to speak, is a reasonable goal. It's a lot harder for seven or eight year old being bullied to understand it's about the bully and not about him, than it is for a 12 or 13 year old who is a more secure and confident because they haven't had to deal with that for years. With girls, I've noticed that often in school and the broader culture, emphasis on appearance is much more prevalent (and begins much earlier) than emphasis on learning, and that is not what I want my girls to focus on. (even though they are beautiful!). I want them to grow up not worried about being smart, and so focused on what they are wearing or how their hair is done. Eventually, yes, that will be more important to them but I hope that with maturity they will know it's only one part of themselves. I hope that makes sense.
Shaun Ivory October 19, 2012 at 10:02 PM
It does make sense, although, personally, it sounds over-protective. But I was zeroing in on Jolene's quote in the original article that made it sound like her parents didn't want her to have *any* contact with public school students. Until Jolene herself clarified that it wasn't related to extra-curricular activities, but attending school in general, it sounded extremist to me. As a parent whose children attended public schools in and around Woodinville, the sentiment that any contact with public school children was somehow bad seemed pretty odd at best, and slightly offensive at worst. Although Jolene indicated her family wasn't in that category, there is a stereotype of religious homeschoolers that they think the rest of society is evil, and I am very curious about that segment of homeschoolers. They might not exist in large numbers, but the stereotype is pretty common, so there is probably some truth to it.
Jennifer Hagander-Luanava October 19, 2012 at 11:14 PM
I think one would have to make a big effort, in this area, as it is so populated, to keep their kids completely segregated from society. However, there may be those parents, who shield their kids, not just from school kids but from secular homeschoolers as well. I don't know anybody like that -- but that probably means they are an effective job "protecting" them from me! :) I always enjoy your comments, Shaun. Thanks.
Jolene Dongelmans October 20, 2012 at 01:33 AM
As a homeschooled homeschooler, I have to both agree with Jen about "giving kids a chance to build a foundation" AND I have to say that I was NOT sheltered, so I don't think that homeschooling, even if the parents are sheltering the kids from the school environment, does not necessarily equate sheltering them from the world. I also strongly believe that school DOES NOT reflect "real life" and the ways we encounter real life challenge and struggle. Okay, enough expressing my strong opinions. I'm really a very nice person, and I also appreciate your questions and thoughts, Shaun. Jolene =)

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