When I was growing up, my brother and I suffered from lots of different forms of abuse, but probably the biggest one was neglect. When I was in second grade and he was in kindergarten, we started waking ourselves up to go to school and we put ourselves to bed at night. There were days we didn’t see our parents. I still have burn marks on my leg from our babysitter, which is why we told our parents we just wanted to be alone. And they said okay.
We were late to school. We had open charge accounts at all the local stores, and the local cab company. There was money in the drawer in the dining room and we specifically were not supposed to call our parents at work to ask if we could buy something. “Just buy it!” they said.
It’s hard to think of what to buy if you’re in second grade. We knew everyone had a TV and we didn’t. We didn’t realize we could just buy one.
The same is true of haircuts. It didn’t matter that much for me. My hair was straight, brown, down to my waist. But my brother’s was thick and stiff and a big fat mess.
When we each got old enough to realize something was wrong, one of the easiest ways to tell was that my brother looked homeless in all his school pictures.
I’ve been in therapy since I was five. The first ten years of therapy was to help me survive mentally while growing up with my parents. The next ten years was to deal with post traumatic stress. Then therapy turned to childrearing, because family trauma usually passes from generation to generation, and I needed to learn how to not repeat the same family trauma with my own kids.
So you can understand why it’s scary to me to homeschool: I’m so scared of being neglectful.
And, to add to the fear, I am unschooling. For a normal person—someone raised by loving parents—unschooling is not so high risk. Normal parents love their kids too much to be neglectful. But unschooling terrifies me because the line between letting kids lead and neglecting them feels so dangerous.
My son’s hair has been wild and unruly for most of his life. Then I realized how much he looked my brother when he was my son’s age, and I got scared. I cut off his hair. Crewcut. I hated it, but I told myself I hate it because I’m not used to a little boy being taken care of.
Then people said, “Where’s his hair? I love this hair! His hair was so cute! What happened?”
So his hair is long again. I like it. I like that he looks fun to me. But also, I like that it requires no taking care of.
Homeschooling requires the parents to unlearn so much: what is reading, what is math, what is socialization. But we also have the freedom to make up our own rules for parenting. And the truth is, I am scared. I am certain that my kids will learn enough. But I feel so uncertain that they will feel loved enough along the way.
I will never be completely comfortable with my kids being easy, independent free spirits, because I wanted someone hovering over me so badly. But I like when I hear other parents talking that way about their kids. To allow that in your children is really a loving self-confidence.