Updated: Sep 14, 2020
A child’s education should begin at least one hundred years before he was born. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
This quote comes up for me each time I’m thinking about my own education and the philosophies I embrace in the education of my children. I thank my lucky stars that I was born to parents, grandparents and great-grandparents who valued learning. My father’s grandmother chose to move their family to Blount County, Tennessee, from a small town in western North Carolina primarily because of the educational opportunities there, including Maryville College. My grandmother was a Maryville College graduate and all seven of her children, my father being one of them, graduated from college. My mother was the first person in her family to attend and graduate from college, coming a long distance from her New Jersey home to Maryville College where she met, and later married, my father.
I grew up in a loving family, surrounded by a community rich with people who valued and enjoyed learning. These were people who valued hard work and personal responsibility. They took courses, paid attention, and used their education to take leadership roles that benefited the people in their community. They passed down all sorts of knowledge–both academic and practical. They held expectations that their offspring would expand on that knowledge, add to it for the benefit of their community and pass those expectations down as well. All this was set in motion long before I was born, which means that I can take little credit for my education, because so much of it was an expectation and a gift due to my circumstances of birth.
When I had kids, I felt I had a responsibility to pay this gift forward. My actions and my values are a reflection of the legacy that was bestowed to me. The wealth of benefits I got from my family and community was a big reason why I not only decided to home educate, but felt confident that I was capable to do so. If my ancestors could pull off the wonderful works that they did, with the educational resources they had available to them, then certainly I could do as well with the plethora of information at my fingertips today.
Even with all my imperfections (and trust me the list is long), I felt strongly that I had as much, if not more, to offer my children than the best schools. This was a function of what they would learn outside of school, as well as negative habits and beliefs that they would not pick up. Together we learned about the world surrounding us in a healthy and holistic way. I considered this responsibility in everything we did and certainly with self-improvement efforts that I took on. I knew that whatever I did to become healthier, more peaceful or more resourceful would translate to my children. The more I practiced good communication skills, gained knowledge of holistic health or pursued activities that fulfilled me, the more I would be contributing to a legacy for my kids. Because all of my quirks and mannerisms, my knee-jerk responses to situations, how I deal with stress, things that I deem important and things that I deem trivial, all of these things are imprinted onto my children. The things that I do or say over and over again will likely be repeated to their children. This trickles down to how my grandchildren will be treated under either peaceful or challenging situations. The work of parenting, and for me the work of unschooling, is a constant effort to build the best possible pattern to pass on, to be always considering the education of that great-great-great-grandchild of 2115.
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