Reshaping the Puzzle to Fit the Pieces
by Mark and Helen Hegener
We have always believed - and often said - that one of the joys of homeschooling is that parents get to learn right along with their children. Learning becomes a family adventure, a lifelong continuing process for everyone involved.
Most of us are familiar with the old argument against homeschooling that runs along the lines of "If you keep your children out of school and teach them at home, how will they ever learn to fit into society?" The underlying and not so subtle message is that if you don't go with the flow you'll ruin your children and they'll grow up to be social misfits with no hope of ever leading normal, productive lives.
There's one small but highly significant point that often escapes these naysayers, even though it's usually standing right in front of them. Homeschooling parents hear the beat of a different drummer. They don't necessarily want their children to be molded into today's society but to find their own place within it. They usually have much more interesting hopes and dreams for their children.
Whatever the initial impetus to strike out in a homeschooling direction, it will lead, sooner or later, to a rethinking of many of a person's ideas about life, society, and one's place in the general scheme of things. Life can be seen as growing process, always expanding and developing as new ideas and experiences are added. A small kernel of a notion might lie dormant for years-unknown, forgotten-and then suddenly one day the pieces fall into place and a light goes on, something clicks, something that was there all along, just waiting for the right conditions. Whether it's the finding of a key piece of information that suddenly makes everything clear and relative or if there's a sort of "critical mass" of information that's reached, any one piece of information could be the key to it all. For some of us, homeschooling has become that key. This educational alternative that once seemed like just a pretty good idea has grown and enveloped more and more of our thinking until it affects everything we do, until it reshapes our entire lives. For us, homeschooling has become-or always was-a key piece of the puzzle.
This family adventure called learning is continually whisking us off in new and exciting directions. As a schooled society it has been easy to instill a certain uniformity in most of us, and this uniformity in the past has been perceived by the majority as something good, something to be adhered to and upheld and transmitted to our children. We each still have our own filters of experience and perception, but to a large extent school has been a massive experiment in homogenizing these personal experiences and perceptions. Only the stubborn, independent minded students, those who questioned authority, maintained any real individuality.
The experiences and perceptions of homeschooling parents have led them to seek a different route for themselves and for their children. Instead of searching patiently for the pieces of the puzzle, they might reshape the entire puzzle to fit the pieces they hold in their hands. They've found that such freedom often comes with a stiff price tag, but they've also learned that it's usually quit a bargain as compared to the price of compromising one's beliefs and principles.
Homeschooling is one of the last major bastions of individuality, and as the heat to conform increases - as it most assuredly will - we will all find new lessons to be learned, new pieces of the puzzle.
And perhaps even some altogether new puzzles.
Mark and Helen Hegener are the parents of five always-unschooled kids: John (32, married, two daughters), Jim (30, married, two daughters), Jody Ellen (27), Christopher (27), and Michael (21). The Hegener family lives in both Alaska and Washington state, dividing their time between the two, and they enjoy fishing, sailing, gardening, and frequent travels, among many other pursuits. Since 1984 they've published the award-winning Home Education Magazine for homeschooling families, and over the years they have edited and published many books on homeschooling and alternative education.
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