If I were to describe my life as a homeschooler in one word, I would say chaotic. Fortunately, I can’t describe it in one word without thinking what an oxymoronic crime that would be, so I’m afraid you will get the whole scoop. My heroic mother of seven handled the greater portion of my education with the aid of an umbrella-school. This gave us the benefit of a consultant with whom my mom could have quarterly long-distance consultations about our progress and requirements.
However, my education through this school has been an individualized one because our particular consultant had a way with maneuvering my schoolwork so that in the midst of all the requirements, I was able to do not only what I had to do and study, but what I actually wanted to do and study. As a result, many things that were enriching yet were not specifically listed as part of such and such syllabi fulfilled some requirements for school.
For example, during the year of high school when I was studying the Civil War, I had the assignment to write a paper about one of the great generals. You can imagine how overjoyed I was that I got to write another paper! Actually, you can’t. Joy isn’t even a sufficiently opposite word to describe the feeling of the inevitable monotony would soon make it’s home in my stomach if I were to write another paper. So, having approved the plan with my high school consultant, I instead watched a thorough documentary about the Civil War while sewing a ball gown from the fashion of that time period (our homeschool group would put on several actual civil war balls each year).
I then wrote a non-report-like summary of everything I had learned in the 7-tape series. Consequently, I was not only able to obtain credit for something I was excited to do, but probably learned the information a whole lot better because that creeper had not settled in my stomach! (Yes, I also learned to sew and to appreciate mothers). The next time a paper came along, I felt refreshed and rearing to write. Thus, the second and more important word to describe my education is custom-fit.
Additionally, I was blessed to have several of my friends’ parents teach classes in their field of expertise. One instance is my high school sciences. We had a friend guiding six of us through homeschool biology and chemistry textbooks—making our experiments come alive and letting us ask questions. Class happened in her house. Also among the most valuable classes I have taken, are ones that my dad has taught for my group of peers in highschool. Some of these include writing, economics, and Socratic discussion classes on literature, worldview, and apologetics. The third descriptive word here would have to be interesting.
Finally, during my sophomore and junior years in high school I participated in competitive speech and debate through the NCFCA. As this was demanding and rigorous, it was also the most formative experience of my highschool education. Not only did I have to learn how to give a speech without quivering knees, the very culture of competitive debate provided me with the motivation to be constantly improving myself. Giving impromptu speeches about international policies while using evidence that I had accumulated and analyzed myself was a top-notch experience for my formation in more than an academic way. That experience, along with my custom-fit education at home made me realize just how attainable and rewarding the pursuit of becoming a good, true, and beautiful thinker can be.
And yet, I always think to myself: who am I to call myself educated, ever? It isn’t enough that I dedicate a bookshelf to learning materials. It isn’t enough that I graduate. Christ says in Luke 12:48, “And to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required.” By the grace of God I have been given much in the way of knowing ‘what a good education is.’ However, the ‘much’ that is required in return is not to have as much knowledge as I can or to get the best GPA or degree, but rather, to zealously foster my natural curiosity.
If this may seem strange to you, picture yourself in the shoes—or bare feet I guess—of a little child. Because her natural curiosity has not been deadened, that little caterpillar for all its fuzz is more thrilling to her than anything else. She wonders… wonders how it moves, why it is so much smaller than her kitty-cat, if it will hurt her, and so on. She asks questions. Is not the very process of trying to find the answers what we call thinking? Like this child, for as long as our curiosity leads us to ask such questions, we will be thinking, learning, and refining our knowledge—a knowledge that sticks because the subject interests us. This is the aim of a true education.
Not that we should forever remain oblivious as to the nature of caterpillars. But there is no limit to the things which one may be curious about. Not only did curiosity kill the cat, it also formed some of the greatest minds in history. Several of the signers of our U.S. Constitution didn’t even get to go to school. Yet they wouldn’t let go of their natural curiosity—and look where it led them.
What is beautiful about homeschooling, is that a child ought to likewise never have to let go of his natural curiosity. There are essential things he must learn like mathematics and reading, but past that… the world can be his playground of learning. I feel very privileged to have witnessed the wholesome effects of this mentality in my younger siblings and other children I have taught.
In conclusion, my homeschool education has given me a lot of important information and skills. Yet I do not consider myself educated. Rather, I have been given the understanding that I need to become as a child in order to truly learn. I want to thank my parents immensely for the choice they made to homeschool, despite the many difficulties and sacrifices. I am so grateful for the unconventional ideas they have engendered in me. But I am especially grateful to my dad for not only being my encyclopedia, but also my inspiration.
Copyright 2008. Fiona Pudewa. Reprinted by CHEA of California with permission of the author.
Fiona Pudewa is a former homeschooled student and the daughter of the director of The Institute for Excellence in Writing, Andrew Pudewa. She recently gave a talk on how to write and think using the IEW method. Throughout high school she participated in Drama and competitive Speech & Debate. Currently, she is a full-time student at Thomas Aquinas College.