Homeschool

Someday I’m going to write two books.

The first will be a detailed treatise on a limited number of the jewelry arts associated with crafting components for traditional fishing tackle.  It will be a rousing look at forming frames and hook tenders; polishing stones; wrapping bezels; welding and/or soldering joints; and applying oxide finishes.  This little tome will be the culmination of my life’s work as a craftsman.  Approximately 1000 fellow craftsmen and women will read it with interest – mostly folks who use products like mine and who are curious about how the little widgets are made.  A hundred might make some of the simpler hook tenders.  Ten will make a few guides.  One, maybe one, will use the resource to help set up shop and build something of a livelihood out of making obscure parts for traditional fishing tackle.

The second book will be my polemic on homeschool education.  I’d love it if a million folks read it.  Nine tenths of those who bother to read it cover to cover will condemn it, but that remnant ten percent will be the ones that change the world, if it can still be changed for the better.  The most critical, positive, thing about homeschooling is that a hundred thousand sets of parents raising a few hundred thousand kids will lead to real diversity in terms of the next generation’s skill sets and mind sets.  This, as opposed to our public schools screaming for diversity while enforcing the very worst sorts of conformity.  Mass mental conformity leads to intellectual inbreeding, a monoculture of memes (meant in Dawkin’s original sense, not the simplistic little pictures spreading across the interwebs, though I appreciate the skewering of groupthink offered by the gray-faced NPC memes) is as devastating as a monoculture of genes, a population so small, or so entrained, so ‘pure’ in its breeding, that it becomes unhealthy and devoid of spontaneity generation to generation.  This book will not be politically correct.  It might make you chuckle, or wince.  And if I can get you to laugh, or to flinch, I can get you to read.  If I can get you to read, I might infuse your thinking with an idea or two.  Think of my antics as CRISPR for your mind, performing a radical meme edit.

Follow me.  But only long enough to want to go your own way with your own kids.

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When I was a kid, I read.  A lot.  My parents bought me John Steinbeck’s, Travels with Charley, when they left me with relatives to go traveling themselves.  I loved it, and eventually I read most of the books he wrote.  At the end of one of them, The Red Pony, I believe, there was a short story called, “Junius Maltby.”  Steinbeck was saying all sorts of things about wealth, poverty, social status, and whatnot.  As a kid, all I cared about was that the boy in the story was a free range kid, and he seemed better for it.  Social order, compulsory schooling, ‘for his own good,’ wreaked havoc.  And I was in middle school, under compulsion, five days a week, with half my Sundays ground up and wasted by the additional routine of getting cleaned up for Church, going to Church, mucking around in Sunday school or confirmation class, and driving back home.  I was lucky if I could change back into mud clothes by noon.  Life, for me, was comprised of running around with a net, a rod, a gun, or sitting still with a book.  In school I was cursed by the nickname, Nature Boy, largely on account of the treasures I kept in my locker.  Out of school, I had parents who, after originally introducing me to books, spent most of the rest of my childhood trying to induce me to stop reading.  They paid my brother to read.  They begged me to stop.  They signed me up for swimming lessons, for piano lessons, for trumpet lessons, for the soccer team, for art lessons, for Cub Scouts, for Boy Scouts, for extra academic classes, for ballroom dancing.  I climbed a large oak and refused to come down until my mother’s ballroom dance lesson money had been well wasted.  The music lessons didn’t take.  I loathed ball games.  The other activities, in my rearview mirror, were probably good, but they only came about in an effort to distract me from books.  And shooting things.  They don’t offer varsity letters for compulsive reading, but I did earn them for Rifle Team and Pistol Team.  Woohoo.

The point of all this?  Only that had I been left to my own devices, I’d be a much better read man than I am now.  In the main, my public school hours – a dozen years of hours – served to distract me from my purposes.  Think about the hours.  Six or more hours every day, plus transport time, lunch, recess, etc., times 180 days per year times twelve years.  Conservatively speaking, that’s 12,960 hours that could, for the most part, have been better spent.  I can’t recoup the loss, but I can gain the lesson and my kids can benefit.  So can yours.  So you can you.  I had a client write to me the other day through my company website, just a short note:

Thank you – you’re homeschooling me and I’m 71 years old

He was referring to the technical ‘how-to’ articles I’ve got posted on our company site, but clearly he had read one of the few which mention that I’m a homeschool dad.  That’s pretty cool – one of the nicest little thank you notes I’ve received this year.  This homeschool thing isn’t just for kids.  In fact, you’re wasting your time if you only school them.   Homeschool should become your opportunity to school yourself.  First, as you work with your kids you will have to refresh yourself on the basics of grammar, the Pythagorean Theorem, and new stuff like CRISPR.  Second, you can lead your kids by example by picking something you want to learn, but which you are baffled by, and setting out to learn it.  They’ve got twelve years each.  If you have multiple kids who aren’t all part of a single womb-cycle, you’ve got more than twelve years from starting the first to graduating the last.  Start to learn things.  Yes, for my part I’ve read a few more books, but where I’ve pushed myself have been the arts, both visual and musical.  I have half a knack for sketching and can enjoy that, or watercolor painting, if I make the time to sit down with art supplies.   I have ZERO musical ability, but for several reasons I wanted to learn to play an instrument properly.  It has been my greatest recent challenge.  When my kids see me struggle – and trust me, I flail – they know it’s ok to struggle, to flail and to fail, so long as I keep hacking at the project the next day.  Some things come easy, some don’t, but hours invested wisely always seem to pay off.  You get better.  They get better.

Anyway, I was complaining about compulsory public education destroying my time.  Little did I know how easy I had it compared with what was coming down the pike after I cursed out my dad and challenged him lock me up in a military academy.  Aggressive, hormone-addled, teen male stupidity.  I lashed out.  He dug up the funds.  Before I knew it,  I was doing time in Happy Valley (Valley Forge Military Academy), the school used as the movie setting for the fictional Bunker Hill Military Academy in Taps.  In my only recognizable brush with fame, I briefly looked like Tom Cruise….white teenager, short hair, same uniform as everyone else.  Excepting a few sons of South American dictators, and one black kid, I think we all looked like Tom Cruise.  Unlike the actor who played his role and moved on, I still have nightmares about the place.  It was not 100% bad – my harshest English teacher also wound up being one of the best instructors I ever had.  But it was bad.  The conformity was crushing.  I blended in, busted my ass, and did well, if only to prove I needn’t spend another year wasting my Saturday mornings playing at Mandatory Fun (football, usually) in a girl-less hell.  On the last day of the year, despite my good grades and the opportunity to return the following year as a member of the Senior class officer corps, I told my folks that if they sent me back, I’d scale the fence and disappear forever into Philadelphia and beyond.  I spoke in earnest, and they believed me (or they were sick of paying the tuition, even though it freed them from dealing with me).  I escaped Happy Valley, got into college “early admission” based on my junior year grades, then proceeded to do what every kid should do.  I skipped school – lots of school.  I skipped so much school that I had to take turns skipping school with two different groups of friends because none of them wanted to skip as much as I did.  What a year….rock climbing, hunting, fishing, train hopping, bridge scaling, kayaking.  My grades did suffer, but what a year!  If I hadn’t managed to finish up my Eagle Scout project in the middle of all that, I think Franklin & Marshall college would have rescinded my admissions offer.  They were not enchanted .  As it was, they made me retake Trig that summer with a tutor.  Uggghhhh.  But I got in.

Steinbeck’s little story about the weight of conformity may have provided me with the my first inkling that there was another path forward, not so much for myself as for my progeny.  It took me many years, and many false starts, to get to where I am now as a parent in the tail end of the childrearing years.  My last child is being fully homeschooled.  It’s a blast for both of us.  I’d love to convince you that homeschooling is the best thing, in terms of an extended experience, that you can ever do with your kids.

Kids are far less rebellious if you allow them to learn what they want to learn.  Once their interest is piqued, the speed with which they learn is so great that you’ll realize you don’t need many sticks as long as you keep the carrots dangling.  For my daughter, her carrot is each month’s next class or set of classes at The Sugar Arts Institute.  More about her and her classes later.  For now, here’s the first half a bit I’m working up titled The Arts of Cursing & Cursive.

 

This page has relevant links, some of which are subpages of the Homeschooling page, some of which are elsewhere on Goat Waters:

 

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Credit where it is due.  The red eyed leaf frog at the top of this page is my freehand art, but not my original image.  On the backside, this one indicates I was working from a photo by Thomas Marent in the book FROG.  If I remember correctly, I used Derwent Inktense Watercolor Pencils, followed by a light wash to blend the colors a smidgen.