Reed Colfax is a member of the homeschooling-Colfax family. His parents David and Micki are the authors of Hard Times in Paradise and Homeschooling for Excellence. When Reed wrote this at the turn of the century, he had graduated from Harvard, graduated from Yale Law School, and after several interesting jobs, was serving as a staff attorney for the Fair Housing Project of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. He was gracious enough to accept the request to write the foreword for my then new book, Homeschoolers‘ Success Stories: 15 Adults and 12 Young People Share the Impact That Homeschooling Has Made on Their Lives. (Prima Publishing, 2000) This is Part Two of two parts.
For most, it takes the presence of a real, live homeschooler to destroy the many deep-seated preconceptions about homeschooling. Those who believe that homeschoolers cannot possibly be fully socialized or that homeschooling cannot possibly provide a well-rounded education will likely hold those beliefs until they see evidence of “normal” and “educated” homeschoolers. The stories of homeschoolers, therefore, become very important to demonstrating the viability of homeschooling.
Homeschooling will fare well if it must rely upon its students and graduates to advertise its virtues. My first exposure to a substantial number of other homeschoolers came many years after I was finished homeschooling when I attended a homeschooling conference. I marveled at the homeschoolers. Any parent would have been proud to have had any one of them as a child. Most memorable was a panel of homeschooling teens who talked about their experiences in homeschooling. The teens were articulate and mature, and they demonstrated a confidence that is absent from most their age. I could see the fear and apprehension evaporating from the parents in the audience who were considering homeschooling their own children. By simply being themselves, these teens were the most effective possible advertisement for homeschooling. It was impossible to watch these kids without considering what our youth would be like if they were all homeschooled.
The stories of homeschoolers certainly ease the decision of whether to homeschool. The stories also contain valuable lessons for those who are homeschooling. Every homeschooler can recite good and bad aspects of their experiences. Mistakes have been and will continue to be made by homeschoolers. Knowing the stories of those who came before will, however, allow parents and children to avoid a number of pitfalls. In my family, the younger siblings watched as Grant, the oldest child in the family, blazed trails for his education. At times the paths he chose led to dead-end, non-productive places. When they did, the younger brothers would choose other paths. We all thank Grant for the time he spent laboring through a “new math.” He did not learn a single new useful math skill, but the rest of us thought it was time well-wasted.
As the same time, we did not always choose to follow Grant’s successful endeavors. Homeschooling allowed such freedom and flexibility that even where we saw one brother have a good experience, we were not compelled to follow. Unlike traditional schools, where teachers and administrators often attempt to recreate precisely the system that was successful for some students, homeschooling allows children to discover their ways to successful education. In our family, my two older brothers learned to write effectively at a young age. Grant had written a book before he was in his teens, and Drew’s extensive diary entries chronicled every moment of our family’s experience. I, on the other hand, wrote nothing. With no pressure to write a book or chronicle a life, I waited until my late teens when a way to learn to write presented itself. At fifteen, I began editing and writing for the local running club newsletter, and ever since, writing has been my favorite aspect of schooling and work. Every homeschooler will have similar stories of right and wrong turns that can provide guides and ideas for subsequent homeschoolers.
For parents seeking the best education for their children, stories of homeschoolers are invaluable. Such stories will make parents aware of the possibilities with homeschooling and demonstrate how homeschooling can work. Homeschoolers’ Success Stories presents an unparalleled set of homeschooling stories. If these profiles had been available when my parents began homeschooling, it would have greatly eased our road through homeschooling.
These profiles do not proselytize but simply provide a glimpse into a world unknown to many. The homeschoolers profiled tell their stories and in so doing demonstrate in no uncertain terms that homeschooling stands as a truly viable option for education our children.