Alicia Knight is a triangulated Gemini living a life of good example in a burgeoning exurb of Washington, DC. Her biggest challenge is in keeping her earlier wild child days deeply hidden from her children, who are now of the wilding age themselves. Prior to marriage and motherhood, she had a previous career as a powerful Congressional aide who managed a wide-ranging portfolio of issues. Although drastically underpaid, she sought some satisfaction in keeping corporate lobbyists and $350-an-hour K Street lawyers waiting, which was a satisfying flip of the power paradigm. Her use of idiotic phrases such as “power paradigm” is a vestige of her former Capitol Hill glory days. Be aware that she is also given to sprinkling clichés, such as “inside baseball,” “playing hardball,” “ducks in a row,” “keep your powder dry,” and the occasional swear-word in casual conversation.
Now settled into a more mundane but nonetheless satisfying life, Alicia runs a home-based child care business in addition to working for a local non-profit agency as a home visitor and training specialist.
Alicia has no hobbies, because her political activism consumes most of her free time, which truly is free time since she is no longer paid for such efforts. She does have some outside interests which she lists as things she will explore more deeply once the current election cycle is over. Unfortunately, it is never over in Virginia since there is an election every year and there is always someone running for office Alicia tries to help, in most cases, not enough to ensure their victory, but that is beside the point. But for the sake of appearing that she does have other interests here is the list, in no particular order:
>Read more by Alicia on LWOS
I’m an unschooling mom to two children, a daughter (14) and a son (10). Our homeschooling journey began about a dozen years ago, when an old high school buddy asked me if I’d ever considered homeschooling. I politely rejected the idea as insane. A couple days later, another friend innocently asked me the exact same question. This time, I was a little more receptive. Both friends gave me resources and encouragement, starting us off on an incredible adventure which has lasted over a decade and taken us to some amazing places.
Once upon a time, I had a clingy high-need toddler who couldn’t be separated from her Mommy, even for the occasional bathroom break. I had another toddler who found groups and crowds upsetting and threatening, and refused to attend birthday parties or other “fun” outings because there were too many people. Preschool simply wasn’t the best option for these children.
Today, my former “clinger” is a confident, talented young teen, out and about in the world. The little boy who couldn’t stand parties now enjoys participating in classes, day camps, sports teams, and scout troops, along with the occasional birthday celebration. They could handle school now, but are far too busy with other activities and projects to miss it or even seriously consider it.
My interest in protecting our freedom to homeschool led me to homeschooling advocacy. I am not a lawyer—I don’t even play one on TV! Yet I manage our state homeschooling organization’s legislative team, and help craft better laws and policies for homeschoolers all over our state. Just like being a mom, the pay is lousy, but the benefits are excellent.
>Read more by Celeste on LWOS
CindyI officially started my homeschooling journey just after experiencing the kindergarten pre-registration process with my first-born son, Eric. I chose to listen to the uncomfortable and uneasy feelings in my heart and mind that emerged from that brief hour and look into other ideas on how to continue the path of holistic living and learning that we had been implementing based on our Christian beliefs since the day he was born. I was fortunate to find a homeschooling mother who became my wise mentor who helped me discover my own homeschooling path. Her first order of facilitation was to help me discover what "style of homeschooling" I wanted to do? Huh? She gave me a resource that shared blurbs of the various styles utilized by homeschooling families, and she assured me that I would probably know the style I wanted when I read it. Well, sure enough, right there it was . . . what we've been doing all along since birth . . . the style called unschooling.
Even then, Eric had to show me how to fully embrace this way of learning after the expected "formal learning process" was supposed to begin. It's funny how naturally and easily it came in our home and interactions and learning style before the expected timeframe to formalized learning occurred: the magical age of 5. And, yet, somehow, crossing that threshold made me momentarily lose my mind. But, blessed be that Eric was born with a focus single to his own purpose in this world, and he was not easily deviated from the course that made the most sense to him . . . unschooling to learn. Luckily, having just given birth to my fourth child, a third son, I was easily led to his preferred method of learning and settled in to how he desired my role to be in his learning process . . . the person who would help him gain access to what he wanted.
Well, since that beginning long ago, each of my children has shared how they will live and learn in this world. No two have been alike. Just like Eric had a strong drive and singular focus in directing me to know how to live with him joyfully, three more children have had similar personalities, but with very different wants and needs. Adam showed me that Eric's path was the exact opposite of what he needed. I had to learn about a structured lifestyle, and how to act as interpreter to what Adam viewed as a very confusing world. He lives with autism. Then, William joined our family, and showed me that he needed both of these forms of living combined together. How in the world do you combine two styles of living and learning that seem to be in opposition to each other? Through yet another learning curve, we have figured it out together as he heals and grows from a difficult early childhood before we adopted him from the foster care system. Joseph completes our family at this time, William's biological brother, but he brought with him yet another strong and different combination of high needs that stretched me once again to grow and expand enough to carve out a way he can live and learn joyfully. It's all a process.
So, why do I find myself at this blog family as a featured writer? When I perused this site, reading the stories and the insights and the perspectives of the various contributors, I was pleased to discover an environment that celebrates the unique faces of homeschooling families, and the unique faces of each individual child who lives and learns. This is how I choose to raise my family . . . individually, being led and taught by each child whom I am blessed to travel alongside of as they journey their life. Parenting seven unique children has not allowed me to fit into any one box. If I did that, I would risk dampening one of my children's lights, and I don't choose to parent in that manner. However, I do still most often use the term "unschooling" to describe what I do because my definition of unschooling, which I developed at the beginning of my homeschooling journey through my readings of John Holt, Growing Without Schooling, Home Education Magazine, and hanging out with actual unschoolers, is learning at the feet of my children, honoring who they are and how they learn, and being a resource to them on their journey through collaboration, facilitation, interpretation, validation, and any other -tion they need from me to live the life that they were meant to live by a loving Heavenly Father.
I chose to offer support and encouragement to other homeschooling families who had children similar to some of my more unique children by creating two different yahoo groups. One is called aut-home-fam which provides support to families homeschooling their child(ren) with autism. It is an inclusive, supportive group that offers loads of ideas to help you on your path to living and learning with these complex individuals. Another group is called homeschoolingcreatively which provides support and good information to families homeschooling their child(ren) who are right-brained, visual-spatial, creative learners. This learning style underlies one of the two most commonly labeled children in schools, and it is time to learn to value their strengths and understand their learning path..
>Read more by Cindy on LWOS
>Read more by Cyndie on LWOS
Hi there loyal readers and excited fans!
Who am I and what the heck am I doing on this venue?
I am a single mom, who started homeschooling in 1992. We began when my oldest was entering 7th grade and my middle daughter was entering kindergarten. We have survived all those years with a variety of survival techniques, including tears, laughter, hard work, harder play, and lots of chocolate.
I have managed, or perhaps I should say, juggled the many responsibilities in a variety of ways over the years. And as this forum grows, I will share some of those strategies with you.
As of 2006, I have completed the official homeschooling of my oldest two and now have only my 9 year old that I 'report' about. But the most important thing about homeschooling for us - is that it became a way of life. A process through which we now look to discover the world and each other. A forever learning process. A celebrated forever learning process.
Much of who I am is totally non-traditional. I dont consider myself a radical - but I do consider myself WAAAY outside the box. I guess I would call myself a troublemaker - a person who makes people think about things and when they dont really want to - I push people out of their comfort zone. Not intentionally - it just happens.
As for the usual stats - I am as old as my tongue, but older than my teeth. Last time I calculated I was about 17 at heart, 150 from all I have been through, and ancient beyond imagination with all I see and feel. I have three daughters, currently live in that insane location called Northern Virginia (near Washington DC), and cant keep my mouth closed when someone asks for a volunteer. I am a technology expert, tend to be outspoken for those who have no voice, love to travel and write, love to learn, and usually try to create my own reality (it is not so easy - I can tell you).
I look forward to interacting with you through this forum!
>Read more by Linda on LWOS
I'm an unschooling mother of two young daughters, ages 5 1/2 and 3. When I'm not learning with my kids, I'm often writing about it, or whatever comes into my head on my blog, unclimber. I've been in the homeschooling community for three years now when I decided to forgo preschool for my eldest.
I continue to be astounded by the thoughtfulness, creativeness, and general lack of competitiveness in the homeschooling community. By 'lack of competitiveness' I mean that my homeschooling friends focus on living and educating their children without competing with one another through their children as is the case with many (though certainly not all) parents whose children are more traditionally schooled.
Life without school is such a great name for a blog. All life, no school. Turns out that life itself is the best school of all.
>Read more by Marjorie on LWOS
MarshaMarsha Ransom, who began homeschooling in 1990, is the mother of four children, two of whom have always been homeschooled. Ryan, born in 1979, began homeschooling in fifth grade, and completed high school in three years. He has an Associates degree in Applied Science, Automotive Technology, from Southwestern Michigan College, and is an ASE- and State of Michigan-certified automotive technician. He currently works as a certified teacher in the Automotive Program at Coloma High School in Coloma, Michigan. His previous positions include instructor and program manager at the Van Buren County Intermediate School District's Technology Center, in the Automotive Department, and working as a technician in automobile dealerships. Ryan is pursuing a degree in secondary education at Western Michigan University. He owns his own home, which his family helped him renovate, and has served on the village council, the police board, and is currently head of the Planning Commission in his community. Aaron, born in 1982, began homeschooling in second grade, and began attending community college at the age of 14. After high school graduation he began taking college classes in Marketing and Management, while working as an apprentice painter in the family contracting business. He became a journeyman painter at age 21, and joined his father as a partner in the family business in December 2004. With the help of family and friends, Aaron cleared some land and built a house. In August 2005, he married Kassi, who is a Radiology Technician, and they are putting finishing touches on the house. They are about to become the proud owners of a female black lab puppy! Ervin, born in 1987, was a toddler when his brothers began homeschooling. He taught himself to add and subtract using a calculator and a discarded math workbook when he was 4 and began teaching himself graphic design using the Internet and Bryce 4.0 when he was about 13. He has completed three years of CAD/CAM training at the VBISD Technology Center, was on the FIRST Robotics Design Team for two years, and was in the Academy program in CAD/CAM, for Southwestern Michigan College credit, during his final year at the Tech Center. He has completed several courses at Lake Michigan College and was accepted into the Honors Program at Lake Superior State University, majoring in Mechanical Engineering with a Robotics specialty. However, after a semester of pre-engineering classes at Lake State, he decided he didn’t like the full-time college lifestyle and was not cut out to be an engineer. He is currently working full-time as a painter in the family business while taking classes part-time at Lake Michigan Community College. He is working toward a certificate in Information Technology: Project Management and considering going into computer programming as a long term goal. Jacinta, born in 1990, joined the family as a 6-month old, in March 1991. Her arrival provided the impetus for more child-directed activity in the Ransom homeschool, a paradigm shift that proved to have staying power! Jacinta is creative and musical, enjoying painting, drawing, scrapbooking, playing the guitar, violin and piano. She has played violin in the public school orchestra for three years and the Southwest Michigan Youth Symphony prep strings for two years, and takes private violin and guitar lessons. Jacinta auditioned, in the fall of 2004, into the Southwest Michigan Youth Symphony. She is first chair, second violin in the high school orchestra, and also plays second violin in the youth symphony. Jacinta works part time for Ransom Brothers Painting and Decorating and does hair wraps each year at the local Blueberry Festival. The Ransoms are a family of avid readers, either ski or snowboard in winter, and enjoy boating on Lake Michigan in the summer. Do-it-yourselfers extraordinaire, if we don’t know how to do something, we know how to find out! A freelance writer, Marsha serves as a homeschool resource for her local library and has written articles for "Home Education Magazine" and a column for "Home Educator's Family Times." She has served on the planning committee for her local homeschool cooperative, taught creative writing, edited the newsletter, and been a member of the HUB (Homeschoolers United Building) advisory committee. Her book, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Homeschooling" was published in February 2001, and she has spoken at homeschool conferences and curriculum fairs in Texas, California, and Michigan. She also works part-time outside the home as an office manager for both the family business and at a local church.
>Read more by Marsha on LWOS
A long, long time ago, I was a teacher. I didn’t quite believe in the confines of public education, but I thought I could work within those confines, elbowing a little extra space, a little wiggle room. Instead, the perimeters narrowed even more and I learned that administrators got really grumpy when you tried to give your students a room to breathe. And, we’d started a family. I became very resentful of the time I was spending away from my daughter, advocating for other children and getting nowhere. It was exhausting and I was carrying my frustration home.
Eventually, after our third child was born, we decided to take the plunge into financial instability. I fled the classroom for good. By that time, our daughter was in second grade, our doubts about public school were growing, and the ever-present whisper in the back of our minds, the one that kept hissing “homeschool”, was getting louder. But, it was clear that our baby had serious health issues and much of our energy went to making sure he survived his first year. We spent so much time going between doctors' offices, hospitals, and school and we didn't feel emotionally or physically or practically equipped to pull her out yet. In retrospect, we could have and should have, but we were overwhelmed.
We finally pulled her out after her third grade year and started deschooling. I thought we’d eventually huddle together around worksheets; instead, learning started naturally, without a schedule or a plan or a curriculum. We've watched the joy return; we've seen her interests spark learning and seen her day-dreaming lead to creating.
My daughter, now 11, enjoys reading, creating plays and short stories, and writing cartoons. She loves art, and, in my unbiased opinion, is gifted with an eye for color, texture and medium. My 6-year-old son aspires to be a scientist, a builder/designer and president. He's quick with numbers, but claims he can't read (although I've heard him reading to his little brother.) My 3-year-old is aggressively pushing for equal independence, which is difficult to offer freely since he has severe multiple food allergies and an auto-immune deficiency. Strangely, he is addicted to the food channel (particularly Rachael Ray) and cookbooks. We’ve had amazing opportunities together that would have been lost if my children were inside a classroom all day.
I have given into peer pressure (hehe) and started a blog: caffeinated jive to give me a place to gather our thoughts and our experiences, to vent, to celebrate. In my spare time, I write, I hold myself back when my children forget that they love each other, and I listen with a strange sense of contentment when the three of them, regardless of their age differences, play and giggle and plot and create.
>Read more by Missy on LWOS
I’m a liberally minded mom with a strong independent libertarian streak who decided with my husband not to send our children, currently ages 5 and 8, to school. I’ve lived my life as a public school teacher, addictions counselor, career counselor, adult literacy teacher and administrative assistant for a fund raising organization. Today, I am a "homeschool mom."
I am a member of a local eclectic and diverse homeschool community with other moms and children. These moms and their children are our friends. They are all unique and appreciate diversity and individuality, as we do. We create park days, games days, seasonal celebrations, outings to interesting places, clubs of various and sundry inclinations and so on.
I am a member of the community at large around me, and I take advantage of the resources that the community has to offer us like yoga, horse back riding, scouts, music, community center classes and events, plays at local threatres and so much more.
I am the “Extreme Form of Parental Involvement” that Robert Reich speaks of in his "Case Against Homeschooling." I smile. I'm a Mother following her conscience, intellect and good common sense as they speak to me today. We are pursuing our right to life by living our lives as we choose. My children are happy, well adjusted, empowered human beings.
>Read more by Robin on LWOS
Although I enjoyed living in New England for two years in my youth, I am one of those reportedly rare native northern Virginians. A softie for wayward animals, I often find myself taking responsibility for wandering dogs, abandoned cats , and injured wildlife. My hobbies include genealogy, gardening, messing with clay, and experiencing a wide variety of food, music, song, dance, storytelling, and other cultural expressions.
I have been officially homeschooling my two daughters for eleven years, starting with a relaxed style and moved into unschooling as my children taught me that being didactic was not a way to reach them. My girls are now 12 and almost 16 years old. Their interests include theater, English literature, and history. Both write profusely each day: in their journals, to their pen pals, for the e-zine they publish, and for the older one's book and movie reviews list. My "almost 16" is also writing a novel that impresses all who are given the privilege of reading it.
Since I began homeschooling in Virginia in 1995, I have been involved in the homeschool community in a variety of ways, including: founding and leading the FOLC support group; founding the VaEclectic Homeschool discussion list; writing numerous articles for a variety of print and online publications, including Home Education Magazine; speaking to legislators and candidates; spearheading the grassroots coalition that changed the homeschool regulations in Prince William County, VA; and working with The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, where I am currently serving my third year as president.
My kids are turning out to be articulate, decent, happy, sensible people who love to learn, despite having been raised well outside the mainstream.
>Read more by Shay on LWOS
Where to start? I am a homeschooling mom to two sweet, lovable boys, Jason (9 years old) and Kyle (6 years old). We have been homeschooling in the Old Dominion (otherwise known as Virginia) for 4 years, starting when Jason would have been in kindergarten. I have been married to a wonderful guy, Jeff, for the past 14 years. In my previous life before kids, I was an IT consultant but I have been home with my kids and loving it for around 7 years now. We are die hard Virginia Tech Hokie fans (Jeff and I met while in the Marching Virginians there, way back when).
I am not what many people would consider a “typical” homeschooler. I actually enjoy the surprised looks I get when people find out. I am a Unitarian Universalist and support progressive causes (yes, liberals can and do homeschool!). I have recently become very involved in my inclusive, state-wide homeschooling organization and am finding that I have a passion for helping new homeschoolers get started. This work is extremely rewarding as I get to work with an amazing bunch of women and it allows me to exercise my “adult side”. I am addicted to homeschool email lists and am a moderator for a large state-wide list as well as several local lists. And I have just recently discovered blogging which could be very dangerous for me, as I seem to never know quite when to shut up.
I am not exactly sure of our homeschooling style…we do what seems to work for us at the time. And that is constantly changing as I learn more about the boys and myself. I guess you could call us very relaxed eclectic with strong unschooling leanings. For me it is a constant striving for that elusive thing called balance. A good friend of mine put it perfectly when she said “I always err on the side of freedom for my children and self-empowerment. I also feel the need to help them have a happy childhood...sometimes, and for us, that has meant compassionate boundaries.” Trying to figure out where to draw that line is the challenge for me and differs depending on the child.
I have found that I am utterly fascinated by how kids (and adults!) learn. And the fact that everyone learns so differently. There really is no "one size fits all" when it comes to education. What works for one, may or may not work for another. My oldest is a right brained learner, very visual, very non-traditional and very smart. Normal "teaching methods" do not work with him and he has led me to stretch what I had previously thought about teaching vs learning. My youngest, I am still trying to figure out. But he is definitely more traditional. He loves his workbooks, especially math. He is very tenacious...if he wants to learn something or figure it out, he sticks with it until he does.
This has gotten long enough, so I will end with my favorite quote (and where I got the idea for the title of my blog, ThrowingMarshmallows, which came from an unschooling message board:
"Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he's not interested it's like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating." –Anonymous
I absolutely love the imagery as well as the message.
>Read more by Stephanie on LWOS
In an official sense, I am the editor of one of California's state-wide homeschooling magazines, the California HomeSchooler. I run a local monthly homeschool information night, I speak at state conferences, I write articles about homeschooling, I write congressmen and letters to the editor, and I answer emails and phone calls from new homeschoolers. I also hold several advanced degrees, and some miscellaneous certificates which give me very little advantage in my current work as a homeschool advocate and mom.
On a personal note, I have three children (7, 5 and 2). I teach fitness classes (including Yoga and Step aerobics). I also like to run a couple times a week. I have a keen interest in eastern philosophy integrated with modern culture and technology. I enjoy video games, hanging out at the bookstore (I used to even work at one), and reading silliness on the internet. My favorite food is chocolate. My second favorite food is Merlot or Shiraz.
So why am I here at LifeWithoutSchool? I am, at heart, a philosopher. I think about issues from every possible angle I can imagine. No topic is off limits, and I'm willing to have an in depth discussion about anything, so long as there is no name calling. And one of my favorite topics is education: Not only education for myself and my own children, but education in general. I also like to look at the people around me, and I wonder - how do they learn things?
For me, part of the process of defining education is to question the validity of any possible Truth existing in this world, where so many cultures and personal perspectives somehow coexist. And in questioning these things, I've come to the conclusion that most of what we deem "necessary" is actually a necessity of our own making. How we educate ourselves and our children is an example of that. Looking into history, we can see how our cultural perspective has shaped how we educate our children.
I like to ask complicated questions like how does our culture influence us? What is the influence that parents, and other adults, have on children? How much of our learning comes from the inside, how much from the outside? What is the end result of education? What is it that education "gives" us. If education is so important in our lives, how does that create a definition of a human being and the value of their life achievements and perspective? How much difference can one individual make, and what circumstances allow for a person to have the most influence on their universe?
The world is always changing, and just when I think that I've figured something out, I get new information that changes my perspective just enough that I have to re-think everything all over again. To me, that's fun. It's like a giant puzzle of information that I'm piecing together everyday. And as I weave these strips of informational cloth together in my head, and in my writing, I witness the hard-copy of what it all boils down to - my children.
When I write, I'm not just writing about what I think about homeschooling, but I'm working out my perspective on how I want my children to learn to be who they are. I see them everyday, learning and coming to conclusions that I could never have imagined myself. The way they discover the world is a wonder to watch, and much more exciting and interesting (ok, and sometimes a tad more frustrating) than my own preferred direction. I have "the way" I like things, that so often gets tossed in the air as my children have their own way to do things. They are teaching me to be OK with them, by being who they are 100%. Watching a child grow is watching the process of a personality, of a person, unfold in front of our eyes. Why would I want to mess with that?
So, who am I? I am my children's mother, I am a casual philosopher and I am just another person with frank, but not necessarily "right", opinions. I invite you to ruminate with me, and come to your own conclusions—especially if you bring along some chocolate :) You can find out what I'm up to at my personal blog: http://www.jabober.com. And you can email me at tammy @ jabober(dot)com.
>Read more by Tammy on LWOS