Before having children, my husband and I had every intention of sending our children to public school, but after trying the nursery school path for a year, we found it too restrictive for our oldest child. After removing him from nursery school we decided that "life without school" would be the best path for us. When he started kindergarten, we first attempted "school at home," since it was all we *thought* we had known. We found that a bit too structured, so we explored interest based learning and found it was a good fit. After all, that WAS the method our children followed while learning to walk and talk during their early years.
Interest based learning helped form who I am today because as I investigated how an individual learns, many of my philosophies started to make sense and I began to really appreciate the family I was born into. Although neither of my parents had gone to college, they both lead interesting and full lives and were always pursuing their passions whether they were reading, traveling, antiquing or working as activists to find resources for my handicapped sister. Extended family gatherings always included my artistic and articulate aunts, uncles and cousins who also had a great influence on me. I came to realize that unschooling or just following our natural interests was not very different from how I had lived my whole life. The only interruption for that had been parts of public school. I say parts because I did have some excellent teachers in elementary school who loved children and had provided me with some sensational resources that sparked my fire for learning. It wasn't until I reached jr. high and high school that I met the standardized boredom that quickly put that fire out.
As we pursued the path of life without school, I realized that we needed to be deschooled. Really, since only one of my children attended any school at all and that was just a nursery school co-op, the deschooling process was needed for my husband and myself. As we slowly shed the layers of structured learning, we both began to realize that we were lifetime learners as well.
I have had countless mentors over the years, but a couple of them taught me skills that have helped me to become a homeschool activist. The first is my Mom. In the early 70's she visited many institutions and saw the deplorable conditions that handicapped children were living in. She and others worked tirelessly and helped to form a private group home and that first home has grown to many, many more that now provide safe, clean and loving environments for handicapped adults. This year I was blessed to see her given a life-time achievement award for her continued volunteer work in that community. At 81, she continues to be a tireless advocate. My second mentor is my good friend Peggy Daly Masternak. Peggy taught me almost all I know about research and the legislative process and I will be forever grateful for her patience and willingness to share her skills with me. Both those woman have helped me to learn how to be my own best expert and to understand the importance of knowing and protecting my freedoms.
So, to answer the question of "who I am?," I am a life-time learner, I am a Mother and I love that unschooling has showed me I could remain my children's biggest fan and not need to be their most difficult task master. I am a wife and I am thankful to be married to my best friend who encourages and completes me. I enjoy getting lost in my passions such as reading, hiking, gardening and exploring the great outdoors. I cherish the individuals I've come to know as fellow homeschool volunteers who have become lifetime friends. Their love and support have shaped who I am as well. I am an editor and researcher and I am humbled that I am able to work with Home Education Magazine while pursuing what I love. That is a little about "who I am" and how I became that individual.
Mary Nix is an editor and writer for Home Education Magazine. She enjoys traveling, long walks, exploring new places,reading and spending time with her family and friends.