This morning, I came across two parents on a local group, “Practical Homeschooling” who are basically trading in the State-based, outside-in, approach to education by attempting to coerce their children into “focusing” on what they want them to do, rather than allowing them to unfold naturally out of their own desires. Here are those comments and my response to one of them (please enlarge on your desktop … sorry it’s so small):
In order to explain my stance further, let me take you back a little in time. My son, Jordan, was born two months premature over 20 years ago. After a delayed MMR vaccine, at 15 months, he regressed, losing all speech and eye contact and also began suffering chronic constipation issues so severe he was hospitalized seven times; once he was even put under general anaesthetic to remove the impacted stool manually. I made a vow that if Jordan was ever cured of his ills, I’d write a book about it illuminating what it was that had resolved his sufferings. That book is entitled, The Path To Cure; The Whole Art Of Healing.
It is about the system of medicine that I now practice. When Jordan started to unwrap himself, through Heilkunst medicine, he first attained the milestone of using the bathroom on his own; and then he subsequently achieved the milestone of saying “I love you!”. I realized that I’d been gifted with a second chance, a chance to re-do motherhood in a whole different fashion.
He was delayed in speech and cognitive processing and I sought out an environment to try and preserve his delicate immune system as he fired up his mental and emotional grid. The fanning of embers is a delicate operation, too much wind and the little flame is extinguished; not enough air and the flame is also extinguished. Allopathic, conventional school, for Jordan, meant further labels of ADHD and autism, constant add-in therapies for speech, cognitive development, and movement in order to get the help he needed to make the sound “shhh,” solve problems without tantrums, and learning how to keep his feet on the floor when drawing so that the trees in his pictures could form their own roots too. It was a form of ‘management’, at best; healative, but not curative.
I needed to bide our time while the Heilkunst process was unfolding. It was exhausting. Jordan became like a pet project while his baby sister flourished naturally, behind the scenes, unvaccinated and perfect in everybody’s eyes. All the focus remained on “Project Jordan” while the little village we’d created worked with him tirelessly to make him a “real boy” based on stats, mid-lines, and scores that were created by non-autistic-living authorities. I watched Jordan stutter, literally and figuratively, the flame sputtering, and then the lights all seemed to go out. He just wanted to be with me, not a myriad of therapists, and I just wanted to be with him too, his mother bear.
I was afraid that I would not be enough for him; I brought him home anyway. He came to work with me at my office as wholistic college registrar everyday; I drew, painted, read, and played with him on his terms every lunch hour and break. It was very rewarding and also very demanding. Jordan was a fount of endless questions; a seemingly unquenchable desire simply to know.
I ignored spelling mistakes, the speech issues, and the cognitive challenges and focused wholly and solely on what he loved. I let him drive the curriculum, on his terms, both day and evening. He was thriving and I was sputtering with exhaustion trying to hold down two full-time jobs with not an ounce of support. As a result, my marriage to his father came apart at the seams. When we later moved to a farm, I held an annual “Camp On The Farm” day camp for kids of Waldorf and homeschooling families.
The following year, we enrolled Jordan in the Waldorf school where they united with me and the philosophy of allowing him to dictate the pace in a wholistic environment. Their maxim was the same as mine; learning from the inside out. In partnership with Waldorf pedagogy and the local homeschool association, Jordan unpacked himself over 2 decades, naturally, while backing off false authorities; only learning what he loved and only when he wanted to know it. If he suspected that I, or his father, demanded something specific from him, he only just rebelled. I had to find another way; always another way with him.
As he got better, and his health was restored, I also had to take the focus off of him and find my own path for myself. Jordan demanded a mentor, not a false authority breathing down his neck, trying to get his lips up to say “shhh” on some arbitrary schedule. This was a very successful model until we ran out of Waldorf school rope at the end of grade 8.
High school presented a disaster when we moved to a close-knit farming community in a small town, in a mostly rural setting. The cliques did not include a new boy from 2 provinces away. By this time, Jordan had advanced so much in his academic ability that he held an average of 99% in math the whole year in grade 10, tutoring almost the entire class during lunch hour and breaks. He stated that this just didn’t seem right, as he was not being paid to be a teacher; he wasn’t even getting dental benefits! His words, not mine.
Jordan again came home and remained there during his adolescent years working part-time in our clinic, filing and doing lots of odd jobs requiring a myriad of skills. He was a further help when he got his driver’s licence. Jordan fell further in love with the martial art, Aikido, and then later joined a trampoline acrobatic club which also took his love of Parkour (free-running) to a whole other level of prowess. He and his buddy, Eric, ran a club for Parkour enthusiasts in our local village, helping other young boys to defy gravity and fly through the air. Little did we know that this red thread would become the cornerstone of Jordan’s work as a young man today.
At 18, Jordan decided to train as a Bowen Practitioner, a hands-on soft tissue modality requiring much of the same skills as a Registered Massage Therapist or Chiropractor. He graduated at the top of his class for which all of his more senior fellow students admired him. He also became a manager and mentor at the largest trampoline acrobatic centre in a large urban centre. He tells me that at almost 21 that he’s never been happier; this gives me great joy.
He let me know one day, that he always felt a little unsure of himself, that people might not think him capable because he was homeschooled. What he’s realized since is that his problem solving abilities and inner resourcefulness are off the charts; explaining why they’ve made him a full manager in less than 9 months at the acrobatic club. He’s jumped four levels in the hierarchy in a few short months to manage a staff of almost 20!
My daughter, Adie, has been mostly home educated as well. I never interfered with her pursuit of self-knowledge. She would engage with tutors on-line for Greek, in exchange for teaching them English. She’d buy bristol board at the dollar store, crafting elaborate maps of middle earth, or just seeming to randomly do a pictorial comparative analysis between Greek and Roman gods, all entirely out of her own volition. She’s read 1,ooo page tomes in 5 days, year after year, eating through books like she was half starved. I often wondered if I’d have to get a second job, just to keep her in books!
She would draw horses for hours; again, totally self taught and highly motivated. She taught herself how to play the piano and earned her own money to buy a keyboard to practice on. Adie also rode horses competitively, training in dressage, stadium jumping, and cross country. She even worked with the Canadian Olympic team one summer as a groom (aka barn slave) at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, with riders from all over the world.
Like her brother Jordan, Adie also just seems to innately know who she is and I completely trust her capacity to unfold her own desire program, naturally and with ease. No coercion or interference is necessary from me as she is totally self-governing and motivated. I was a little concerned when she applied to art college at 16 and was required to write the university level entrance exam in both math and English. I sweated over the math, thinking back in the recesses of my mind that we’d never covered any math; it just never came up in her pursuit of the arts. I need not have worried as she hired her own tutor the week prior to the examination, again, entirely on her own, and got 100% on the English exam and a 98% on the math. After a few short months at the college, they refer to her as a ceramics protege.
My hope is that I’ve helped to foster life-long learning for both of my children. They watched me struggle through a four year medical degree in Heilkunst medicine and also a post graduate study in advanced therapeutics in the same. My husband, Jeff Korentayer, and their step-dad, also shared the same pursuits as I did, fostering a culture of self-fulfillment through knowledge. Jeff has gone on to do a double PhD.
We never travelled very much, or took many vacations, but we took our own self-education very seriously. We also housed other Spanish-speaking international students from around the world over several years, exposing the kids to other cultures, languages, and a sense of a global community of knowledge-seekers. Perhaps now you will see why I responded the way I did in the post back at the beginning of this article.
I feel deeply that it is our job as parents and mentors to tease, lovingly and gently, an individual’s innate desires to know to the surface. If you’re nervous about trusting this God-imbued wisdom downloaded in your own child and their capacity to self-teach, then study everything that John Taylor Gatto ever wrote. Read Alfie Kohn and the Colfax’s book about educating their boys while building their house in the middle of nowhere in the mountains of California.
Read The Teenage Liberation Handbook and allow your kids to unfold naturally, gracefully, while having complete trust and faith in their inner process. I’m also here if you need a coach. I promise you that it will be the most awe inspiring journey you will ever have the pleasure of going on with another human being. Find inspiring individual mentors for your kids that speak to their specific, individual interests and perhaps you will find that along the way, you’ve also become one yourself.