The Dinner Party
“What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his or her best option in life was to stay home and be a full-time parent and teacher?” asked the dinner party guest.
The first to accept his challenge was a mom who replied, “I am an Epistemologist. I foster curiosity and encourage rightful inquiry, into anything and everything. I am also a Motivational Exemplar. I write every day, so my children, heeding my example, often choose to write, too. And we all read: together, by ourselves and to each other. We love to listen to books on tape when driving anywhere. I’d say what I do is culture the pure love of knowledge like some oyster farmers culture pearls.”
“And I am a Benevolent Overseer, supervising a wide variety of learning activities,” another mom said. “For example, when asked I will check the copy editing when my kids write thank you notes or letters to the President. I am willing to help with spelling when they are instant messaging and emailing their friends! Of course, I am also a Cryptographer, lauding my kids for learning and developing their interesting coded and abbreviated instant messaging language.”
And one of the dads chimed in, “You want to know what I do? I am the Universal Promotions Director; the one who rolls out the universe before my children’s eyes when we camp out in the back yard and stay up half the night to watch the meteorite showers and observe the constellations, or track the planets. I plant seeds of wonder that might grow into a love of astronomy and physics.”
“I am the Construction Project Foreman, observing while my kids figure out just how much lumber and other materials it will take to build the rabbit hutch they want, watching them draw up plans to scale,” said the first mom. “Then I encourage them to figure out what they will have to do to earn enough money weeding the garden, or mowing the lawn, or raking up the neighbor’s leaves to buy what they need for that rabbit hutch. And I support them all the way, until they figure it all out, until the rabbits are in the hutch making bunnies.”
And the stay-at-home dad said, “I guess you could say I specialize in Paleontology and Forensic Investigation. If requested, I organize paleontological digs, watching as my kids’ eyes get big when they dig up a spectacular crynoid or a cephalopod or a trilobite. And I enthusiastically encourage thorough examination when my kids find an old opossum skeleton buried in the back yard.”
“I chair the Freedom Committee at my house, assuring that my kids will never have to tremble in fear that their teacher is going to call home and ‘tell’ Mom or Dad something bad about them,” said one of the moms who used to be a full-time teacher. “Nor will they have to fear that they will get demerits marked on a checklist just because they got annoyed waiting and squirming after asking permission over and over again to go to the bathroom, or to get a drink of water or to sharpen a pencil.”
“What do I do?” said another one of the moms,” I am an Event Co-ordinator, organizing events upon request, then chauffeuring excited kids on visits to our local Asian, Indian or Mexican grocery stores; or on a tour of a huge steel plant to see how a chunk of ore gets turned into a beautiful car; or for a midnight tour of our local state-of-the-art newspaper printing facility; or to feel the chill and taste the freshly made flavor-of- the-month at our community ice cream plant. Or to arrive serendipitously, as happened recently on a visit to a local dairy goat farm, just as a doe was giving birth to two kids!”
“We are just plain Support Personnel for happy self-directed children who know how to choose what they want out of life, how to go about getting it and how to enjoy the whole process.”
“Well, I am the Taster at our Home Education Academy of Culinary Arts,” said one mom.“So I get the first piece of hot-from-the-oven homemade bread when one of my youngsters decides he wants to learn to bake and produces his first loaf of whole wheat bread. His big smile tells me that he feels like he’s just won a gold medal in a bake-off.”
“I am an Adjudication Observer when I see my child helping to peaceably resolve a neighborhood playground dispute then teach others to find non-violent solutions to their playground problems, coming away feeling like she has just been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize,” added another mom.
“Yeah, and I am a Family Adjudicator who sometimes helps a child who didn’t keep her word, didn’t fulfill a responsibility, to recognize what she did wrong in such a way that she feels inspired to design and make a card to tell me ‘thank you’ and ‘I love you for being such a good mom and helping me understand’ that particular life lesson,” another mom continued.
“Not to be presumptuous, but I think I’m speaking for all of us,” the dad said, “when I say we are all FOF, Fortuitous Observers and Facilitators, there when needed to help our kids understand that they already have all the intelligence required to do anything their hearts truly desire. We love them bunches and gently but firmly encourage them to follow their hearts and find ways to fulfill those desires.”
“You want to know what we do?” said the mom who had been first to answer the man’s challenge. “We are just plain Support Personnel for happy self-directed children who know how to choose what they want out of life, how to go about getting it and how to enjoy the whole process.
“We think our kids will make a significant difference in the world. Does that answer your question?”
Norma Curry has pursued her own self-directed path most of her life, first choosing to earn a degree in writing, then trying on many different career hats: from teacher to astrologer, to clothing designer, to journalist, to bed and breakfast owner, to homeopathic practitioner, and - when this article was published - wholehearted cheerleader and support person for her very self-determined 15-year-old figure skating daughter. Norma founded CATCH, an inclusive non-directed community-based home education support group in Cincinnati, Ohio.