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I Was Homeschooled and I Just Didn't Know It,
by Elaine Edwards

A friend of mine was recently complaining about the poor education he feels his kids are getting in public schools. The conversation got me to contemplating my own education in California schools up until 1952, when I graduated from high school in a Los Angeles school system. I attended schools in Los Angeles from 5th grade to graduation, and during that time, the L.A. Board of Education adopted “Progressive Education”.While I attended junior and senior high schools, I learned Social Studies by reading comic books, finished all my homework in a Home Room class, and graduated with all A's. Seventeen years later, I started college with the intention of becoming a CPA. I passed the SAT test with flying colors and in three years, graduated with honors from Cal State Univ. at Fullerton. How could I have done so well when I was a product of a poor school system?

After recently hearing about home schooling and reading some of the articles and philosophy of this wonderful way of life, I realized that, in fact, I had been home schooled, and that is the reason I am a well educated person today.

My parents were my teachers in everything that we did. Both of them were college graduates; but I was born during the Depression, so my Dad worked for the State Fish and Game Commission in fish hatcheries in Yosemite and Tahoe. Living in the mountains meant that we were out of doors much of the time. Hiking, fishing, swimming, camping - no matter what we did we learned - simple things like getting up early to have plenty of time to hike10 miles to Fallen Leaf Lake, carrying warm clothing and wearing good shoes.

Along the way, we learned to identify trees, shrubs and flowers - to look for chipmunks, squirrels, birds and wild life. In addition, we learned how to find our way out of the woods if we got lost, how to survive on our own and when the stars came out we learned the constellations and planets by name and location. Back at the fish hatchery we watched our Dad shoo a bear out of the fish hatchery after the bear had climbed up on the troughs and had a light snack - all Daddy did was to hit the bottom of a big wash tub and away went the bear.

In the home, we learned what food was good for us, how to prepare it and how much it cost. We were taught piano lessons and listened to Daddy and Mother play and sing together. Music and the great composers were an everyday part of our lives. In the evenings, we read books out loud to each other and heard all the classics and the lessons that come along with them.

All of this was just LIFE. No one said - "OK, now you are going to learn this or that" - all the time we were learning, we were having fun with our folks. We had a family that taught us every day of our lives and I am still learning things that were started many years ago. I have a thirst for knowledge that I hope I never quench. I have bird books, flower books, tree books, atlases, books on Tai Chi, Yoga, healing, dogs, etc. etc. A day doesn't go by that I don't learn something new from a book. None of these things came to me through the public school system - we absorbed all of this through our family and in our home.

I believe that up until the 1950's this was the way most children were raised. School was where you were sent to learn some basic skills - reading, writing, arithmetic - that maybe your folks didn't know how to teach you. But after that, home was where you learned how to live life and be a success in what ever you wanted to do. I still see this, today, happening in families that live on farms and in very rural areas. Some churches have good family oriented programs that provide a nurturing place for children to learn.

If I had children today, though, I would take them away from the public school system and teach them the way my parents taught me - allowing their own interests to guide what they learned and exposing them to as many different ideas as possible. I would give them the gift of being self-motivated - allowing them to find subjects that interested them and letting them learn at their own pace and in their own style - just being there to give them access to resources and information as they needed it.

I would take them as many places as time and money could afford - I have read that Army brats are the smartest kids in the world because they have traveled so much. Concerts, plays, museums, the Exploratorium, the beach, the desert, the mountains, any library, - it needn't cost anything except the time and the pleasure of sharing a new experience with my children.

What a grand way to raise children - always knowing where they had been and what they had been exposed to - being with them as they surmounted obstacles and being there to share their triumphs. Always knowing that the teacher had their best interests at heart because they and I would be the teachers!!

If you have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or any young person near and dear to you, I encourage you to look into home schooling. Helping them to get set up in their own private school at home could be the most important gift that you will ever give them. Perhaps, you might even participate by teaching them some of the wonderful things that you know and have never had a chance to share with anyone. I believe this idea will produce adults that take responsibility for their own welfare and happiness - who are doing what they really love to do and contributing to our world in a positive way. Parents will know that they have done what God intended them to do - teach their children about life.

I am proposing a motto for home schooling – LET'S MAKE LIFE OUR SCHOOL - NOT SCHOOL OUR LIFE!!

Elaine Edwards

Elaine Edwards was born during the Depression, and her dad worked for the Fish and Game. They lived in Lake Tahoe and Yosemite until she was 9 years old and her family spent most of their time outdoors - hiking, swimming, skiing, learning about the stars, the clouds, history, and how to enjoy life. Neither her parents ever complained, argued or got mad. From them she learned to tell the truth, be happy, and love learning -- all from their everyday living.

From there to here is a long road, and her only regret is that she didn't know about homeschooling when her children were young. Her two daughters had Cystic Fibrosis and died before they were 12 years old–she feels it would have been such a blessing to teach them at home where they could be comfortable, cared for, and by her side during their short lives. Her grown son, David, is what she describes as a “holistic attorney.” He and his wife, Shirley, spend all their time with their daughters, ages 21 and 14; and everything they do is done together and with lots of fun and learning and love.

Right now she is “homeschooling six dogs,” has a busy tax practice, three rental units, and is a Work Experience Coordinator at Yuba College in California.

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