“My biggest regret is that I didn’t,” she tweeted. We were talking about home education. She wanted to know why and how I home educated my children. (I am not quite finished yet.) I don’t write much on this, because it feels very personal. And I can’t point to any outstanding achievements of my children as compared to other children, so I don’t feel like an expert to whom anyone would want to look. But she wanted to know. So this is for Donna, who asked.
What is the writer’s, or any artist’s, obligation to those who ask them to create?
We are not obliged.
And yet, as I’ve said elsewhere, I write to love.
Who is that love for?
For those who ask, outright, or with their very lives. Their job, lost. Their selves, searched-for. Their surprising gifts, tentatively found.
Why am I suddenly thinking of the Native American two-spirits? I learned about this recently. It layered upon other concepts I’ve developed over the years, regarding the ways of certain tribes—those who let their children participate in the naming process when they come of age. In a similar vein, tribes who recognize the existence of two-spirit people actually let their members choose a gender, from the inside\out rather than from the outside in (this practice, I understand, all but disappeared when foreign cultures made their mark). Two-spirit people were respected for honoring what they found inside themselves, for bringing it outward, and then for playing a critical go-between role in the tribe, as they were understood to speak two languages (and could therefore mediate between men and women in sensitive, effective ways). Then? The result of them honoring themselves was to receive honor in the tribe.
I write to love.
So I open my heart tenderly and say to Donna, it was a risk. After all, I unschooled more than I classically schooled. This means, in non-educator talk, that I let my children do a great deal of choosing. From the inside/out, rather than from the outside/in.
Oh, I had my ways. I brought out the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Spanish books, and I spent time teaching my little ones the sounds, the calligraphy, the sense. We had fun. For a while.
Donna, did you know that Jung was a master calligrapher and artist? He was.
What was the risk?
It might not be what you are thinking. You might not be thinking what I think you are. So let me go with the standard, I overheard not so long ago, when someone was telling someone else about my children. “Oh, they march to the beat of their own drummer, but one can always hope.”
This is the risk. Children might choose to be different than we are. They might choose to be different than somebody out there thinks they should be. The risk is to our ego, the carefully packaged entity that, in part, exerts its pressure on our children, not for the sake of helping them become who they really are, but for the sake of our own desires which may even press them to live a life we had wished for ourselves.
I don’t always get respect, Donna, for how I have educated my children. It is true, you know. They march to the beat of their own drummers.
Hours are spent in writing fiction, cooking scones, crafting intricate wire sculptures, building card houses, coding websites, reading Harry Potter, photographing fence posts or a red-haired girl. Oh, and, perhaps deliciously, in playing the bongo drums to anything with a beat—Lady Gaga, Karmin, Efecto Pasillo.
Once, I wrote about a young friend who has plans to live off the grid in South America. I don’t know what I would do if my children chose that, Donna. I want them near.
Home educating is not for everyone, and people home educate in different ways. I am going to assume that one home educating family I knew, who humiliated their son over and over again when I was in their presence (and who beat him into submission when I was not) might be creating a person capable of Sandy Hook. I also know, from you yourself, that the public school situation you found your children in was demoralizing and produced a tremendous amount of anger and wasted years.
Everything is a risk, is it not?
But I’ve chosen my own particular brand of risk, because, in the end, my Native genes must be rising to the top. I want my children to choose their lives, their learning, as much as possible, from the inside out. If it is a process filled with honoring—like the two-spirit people—I have great hope. Wherever they live, they
could be near.