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,
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
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
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.
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.