Natural Life Magazine

The Gifts That Homeschooling Gives
By Leilah McCracken

reading, unschooling

It’s a given that homeschooling is wonderful for kids; we all know the stats, the studies, the research. We see the evidence in front of our faces every day as we watch our children explore their worlds in luscious, loving freedom.

But there are other benefits that are not so well known; it is not understood how richly homeschooling benefits us as parents. When we decide to home educate our children, we are making a grand gesture of self-respect. We finally break out of the educational straight-jackets that our society has numerically assigned us and distance ourselves from the unintuitive and rigid ideals of conventional schooling. We open up fantastic paths to our own learning and potential.

It is incredible how much I have learned with my kids. I finally know why the sky is blue; I understand why the grass is green; I know all about how clouds form and why it rains. I wonder now how I could have ever lived without knowing such simple truths about our world. How could I have ever walked out my front door and been so inert to the natural majesty of everything around me? Homeschooling has restored my childlike love and curiosity of all that is around me. It has also given me the faith to trust where my curiosity will lead me.

When I went to school, all I cared about was how good I looked to the teachers and how quickly the clock would hit three. I was encouraged to cram data into my head, but I could never digest and regurgitate facts fast enough to satisfy what was expected of me. I didn’t have time to draw parallels between subjects or delve deeper into any particular topic to learn more. When the bell rang, I hopped. When the day was over I fled – and always, always I never felt good enough, smart enough, focused enough to reach the “potential” the teachers sometimes said I had. I lived years of my life with profound doubt about my capabilities and of my self-worth.

But since I have homeschooled my children – allowed “unschooling” to reach fruition – I have learned to cast off the heart shackles that my school life had given me. I now know I am an intelligent person. I now know that my intelligence cannot be critiqued and banally measured by letters and numbers.

My children have taught me that intelligence is an intuitive thing, which is never black and white. How can passion be measured on a report card? How can curiosity be measured? And how could anyone have the arrogance to try to even capture such personal, intrinsic properties on a one-dimensional piece of paper? I used to think that the very core of me could be measured in such cruel, simplistic ways. But true intelligence is a living thing, a being of its own. And it must reside free.

"The freedom of thought and spirit that has come with homeschooling has juxtaposed itself into all parts of my life, most significantly, in my births. Just as my learning used to be regulated and enforced, my births had been as well."

The freedom of thought and spirit that has come with homeschooling has juxtaposed itself into all parts of my life, most significantly, in my births. Just as my learning used to be regulated and enforced, my births had been as well. I used to believe that the births I perpetually gave in the hospital were the births I was intended to give: stunted, charted, manipulated, inadequate. The obstetrical experts always deemed my body to be too less-than “Grade A” to give birth without endless interventions (four labor inductions and one cesarean, with all the badgering that accompanies them).

But as the years – and babies – went by, I realized how wrong all the educational experts had been about how my children learn. I saw my children teaching themselves how to read and write; I saw them master advanced mathematical concepts without anyone teaching them the “correct” paths to reasoning. It occurred to me that if all those “experts” had been wrong about how kids really learn, then maybe the birth “experts” were wrong about how I gave birth too.

When I was pregnant with my sixth child, I knew I needed to find out. I decided to give birth at home. It was an instinctive path I went on. It was a path into an unknown territory of pregnancy and birth away from doctors and hospitals. Often it was easier to feel fear than trust - trying to trust where there had only been crippling doubt was the trial of a lifetime. But I learned that the problems that so many of us experience while giving birth – problems leading to c-sections, inductions and forceps deliveries – are overwhelmingly caused by the fears and stresses that result from giving birth within a confined, artificial environment. (Just as learning is stunted in a schooled environment, birthing is stunted in a monitored, sterile institutional environment, even one with pretty curtains and a “homelike” appeal.)

And when the time came, my son was born easily and effortlessly into his father’s hands. That was it: no drugs, no needles, no tubes, no knives or scissors - for the first time I simply pushed my baby out and went to bed.

I had finally birthed free, and it made the difference of a lifetime. The birth created a spark in me to help women everywhere know the simple majesty and safety of what birth is intended to be. I began writing. And in the two-and-a-half years since my sixth child was born, I have written two books, created a popular website and have had articles published in magazines worldwide.

My writing has helped women acknowledge their own birth trauma, and it has helped other women avoid ever being traumatized in the first place. My ultimate goal is to empower women everywhere with the trust and love of normal, natural childbirth. And if it takes a lifetime, I will do it.

The writing, the dream, the reality of who I am right now would not have been possible if I hadn’t homeschooled my children. We have given each other the gifts of life. Passion, freedom, creativity, intelligence – these are the gifts that homeschooling has given me. They are gifts that every parent can receive. All you have to do is look deeply into your children, and into your own hearts.

Leilah McCracken lives in the Vancouver area with her husband and seven children.

This article was published in Natural Life Magazine in 2000 as part of our regular Natural Child column feature. That column became Natural Child Magazine a few years later.


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