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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Vintage Homeschool



Recently while traveling in upstate NY, I was browsing at a flea market when I thought of a new blog concept: the vintage homeschool. I have a lot of antique, vintage and second hand stuff in my home, plus Amish furniture, my own collage art creations, and shabby chic influences. I had picked up the vintage Catholic school book I mentioned earlier, and something clicked. I want to give my child an old-fashioned Catholic education, but at home and without the mean nuns. Actually, I have heard mostly of nice nuns. Anyway, I googled to see if anyone else had come up with this idea already and found Karen DeBeus' blog, "Simply Living...for Him". She has two ebooks which I have purchased, so once finished reading I will review those.

Karen's take on the vintage homeschool is different form mine, but in a way it's along the same lines. She and a friend coined the term while discussing simplifying their homeschooling. She refers to the pioneer homeschoolers of 25 years ago, who began educating their children at home with none of the modern conveniences, such as large curriculum fairs and the internet. They must have relied on libraries and garage sales mostly...and God. Mostly God. While I was obsessively studying unschooling, it occurred to me that I was losing focus on my Catholic faith, and that wasn't a good sign. When I put my focus back where it belongs, I started to see the negative aspects of radical unschooling, and I wrote about them. I witnessed some worst case scenarios and couldn't see how a "freedom without limits" philosophy could be Catholicized. At the core, I don't think it can. At the same time, the simplicity, joy, gentleness, and peace being portrayed by unschooling advocates like Dayna Martin really appealed to me--and still does.

It seems like being a Christian parent should lead to respecting children, but I have noticed by observing myself and others that it doesn't necessarily follow. I remember taking my parents to the counter-cultural art and music festival called ComFest (Community Festival) in Columbus when I lived there. It was begun in the 1960s as a Vietnam War protest, and to this day is put on entirely by volunteerism, with no corporate sponsorship. Free music concerts all weekend on five stages! My mom commented that people at ComFest were even nicer than people at church. When I think in terms of radical unschooling simply, without getting caught up in the secular, anti-teaching dogma, I parent better. I am kinder, and I feel so much more peaceful. And it's important to say, I can do this without abnegating my parental authority. Children and parents are equal persons in the eyes of God, but we are not the same. We have different roles and responsibilities. I had to separate the wheat from the chaff, and there is gold to be found in embracing the freedom that this life offers, but for me only in terms of putting God--and the teachings of Jesus' Church--first.

Those pioneer homeschoolers were unschoolers. They had to start from scratch and figure out how children naturally learn, and how to relate differently to their children, to find better ways to educate them and be with them. They had to shift the paradigm. I am beginning to see life/natural learning as part of the simplicity movement, and of getting back to a healthy family unit as the bedrock of society. Entrepreneurship, family businesses and farms of which children are a part, self-reliance, safe food and products, environmental sustainability, voluntary poverty, and thriving local communities do not have to be a thing of the past. We can live it, starting today, one holy day at a time.

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