Thirty-two and a half years ago I was absolutely blessed with the birth of my one and only child – a perfect son.
He was the cutest little baby! I used to get stopped on the street wheeling him in his stroller – people would tell me how cute he was – and still is! His laugh at 7 months was infectious. His Dad and I would put him on our bed on Saturday mornings and tickle him just to hear the belly laugh.
He started dancing to music as soon as he started standing up. He would hold on to a table or chair and shake shake shake – so cute. I have a wonderful picture of my son and my dad on his first birthday. He has red frosting all over his mouth ….. and Grandpa looks scared! Dad thought the kid was kind of messy.
Each stage in his development has brought joy and pain. School wasn’t a happy place for him. He wasn’t at all interested in cutting and pasting as a first grader or reading boring books as a 6th grader. He’s always been an artist – interested in art, music and writing.
When he turned 13 our school district at the time was pitiful. We lived in a suburb of Detroit, St. Clair Shores, where mostly retired people lived – although goodness knows there were lots of kids. They kept voting down a tax millage to help pay for the school system. In 6th grade he didn’t have a spelling book that had all of its pages. When I asked the teacher what he was supposed to do – she said he wouldn’t have to learn those words — ?
In August of 1993 the vote came up again. The school district said that if it didn’t pass this time there would be no school in the fall. Given this development I considered sending him back to a Catholic school – but the one he had attended previously wasn’t great and was too far away to drive to every morning. The only other ones for middle school were too far out too. The one private school close to us wanted $10K a year in tuition. Hmm.
A brilliant idea occurred to me and we started exploring the possibility of homeschooling. I found everything I needed to know on the internet – even the umbrella school in Ann Arbor, Michigan that would keep his records, suggest a curriculum and be an intermediary with the Department of Education. At this time homeschooling had just been made legal in Michigan if you home schooled for religious reasons. Well I sure did. I was religiously determined not to send my son to a really bad nasty school district. Our next 6 years were set.
I didn’t go into this lightly. Being a person who enjoys her freedom, the thought of not being alone from 8 to 3 every day was tough. I worked at my home and also I had my art, errands and friends that kept me busy. I thought long and hard and decided that my time by myself was not worth giving him a bad education – one which amounted to none at all.
I had clients who were teachers. They railed against homeschooling, telling me that he should be taught by experts. Experts without books? Also the old socialization thing reared its ugly head. As our vet said, you can be socialized at Jackson Prison but it doesn’t mean you’d want to be. (snort)
We explored Growing Without Schooling and I read all of John Holt’s work. We didn’t use text books for anything except math and German. When he wanted to study something, we would either buy the book or go to the library. He was interested in the Civil War. His method of studying this was watching the PBS series, reading books about the Civil War – including one with an alternative ending – drawing portraits of Civil War generals and listening to Civil War music. He played Civil War ballads on the piano – he learned the Civil War.
We spent a lot of time at the Detroit Institute of the Arts looking at the paintings. We spent a lot of money on software. He volunteered at the Detroit Public Library, his old nursery school and our vet’s office. We only had a few run-ins with anti-homeschoolers. Usually teachers ………….
We travelled and he learned about different places. We went to Europe and toured the Louvre’ and bought art supplies on the Left Bank. The art supply store, Sennelier, is one of the oldest makers of fine pigments. He drew, painted and used the computer to do 3D modeling and animation.
He graduated in 1999 after completing an Exit Exam from Clonlara and completing his reading list. We started our move to Canada that year – going to PEI with all of our stuff while Dad stayed in Michigan to work. We took being separated only a couple of months. Once we were notified that we had to go to New York for an immigration interview at the Consulate, we went back to St. Clair Shores for a year. My son got a job working on a newspaper in Michigan doing the photo manipulation (knowing PhotoShop came in handy) and started classes in Graphic Design.
By the time we were ready to leave Michigan and move to PEI permanently our son didn’t really want to go. He loved his job and had made new friends. His sense of independence was strong but he also didn’t want to be separated from us and his Grandfather. This was a hard time. In retrospect he should have stayed and we should have gone. He started college in PEI and graduated as a graphic designer, but there were no jobs. No jobs for anyone, let alone immigrants.
He’s always been a kind, decent, caring person. I don’t think I had a thing to do with this – it’s just the way he came. He still loves 3D animation and modeling and he finally figured out he doesn’t want to work as a graphic designer. His art is his life. I have encouraged him to do what he loves and damn the consequences. He’s been able to do that and I am so proud to be his Mom.