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Meet Homeschooling Kids: Taj Schottland

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Meet Homeschooling Kids: Taj Schottland

Ideals in Motion

By Linda Dobson

homeschoolingAfter reading The Hobbit, a book declared his new favorite, Taj is now deep into King Arthur, the 10 year-old homeschooling boy explains from his home in the Brattleboro, Vermont, countryside. An early reader, Taj also emerged as an early public speaker, tagging along at the age of 6 when his father, Jon, visited schools to talk about his nonprofit organization, Seeds of Peace (dedicated to advocating and teaching ways to practice peace in all aspects of life). “I had a hunch he was going to have an effect,” John remembers. “What I could tell the children as an adult wasn’t nearly as effective as the peer role model Taj is.”

One need only speak briefly with Taj to realize the sensitivity of the active young boy who enjoys basketball, baseball, and soccer. After many school visits with Dad, Taj consulted with his mother to create Project 2000.

“Kids were totally mean in school,” he explains. “They were punching each other, and everyone would race and hit to be first in line. I thought since the year 2000 was coming up, I would encourage people to do 2,000 good deeds before then. At first, I wasn’t sure because I thought it would be a lot of work, but I decided to try it. Once I started, I couldn’t stop because it was the right thing – even when it was hard.”

With the help of fellow homeschooling folks Leigh and Samantha Elliott, as well as his parents, Taj spread the word. The team created a newsletter and a brochure, and Jon designed a website. “I would write down what needed to be updated on the page, and Dad would put it up,” says Taj.

A friend of Jon’s, a reporter for the Rutland Herald, wrote a story about Project 2000. The Brattleboro Reformer followed suit, and there were more school presentations, including one to an assembly of 300 children. All of this led to 43 individuals and schools pledging to complete their 2,000 good deeds. “I have no idea exactly how many people that is,” Taj says, “because the school sign-ups include a lot of people.”

Homeschooling Provides Time for Important Pursuits

Taj believes homeschooling plays a major role in Project 2000. “If I wasn’t homeschooling,” he explains, “I wouldn’t have time to run the project because I’d be in school all the time. Plus this helps my homeschooling. Now I know how to write paragraphs and letters, and what the purpose of a newsletter is. I know how to get people more involved.”

Project 2000 isan’t a daily, or even weekly routine. “Sometimes I work intensely on it, and sometimes I let weeks pass and not work on it.” It’s a loose schedule that fits perfectly into the Schottland family’s lifestyle of activity that changes with the weather, though most days for Taj include play with baby sister Ruby, sports, and reading.” Notebooks in which Taj can write about the things he learns serve in place of textbooks.

Winter is a good time for projects like constructing a papier-mache solar system. In the summer, “We go swimming and boating in our pond, and we fill out a survey for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group on frog deformities we find. I help run theh greenhouse before we get everything planted,” Taj adds. “I mix the soil, and plant and water the seeds. I help Dad with the vegetables and Mom with the flowers.”

Taj’s own Project 2000 good deeds include doing the dishes without being told, stopping his cat from going outdoors to catch mice, changing the cat’s litter, training the dogs, and, most frequently, playing with kids at the schools he visits. “Normally, all the kids want to play with me, and then there are one or two kids that no one respects. So I’ll probably go over to them, perk them up, and help them.”

It’s late October 1999 when I ask Taj how close to 2,000 good deeds he is. “Oh, I’m past 2,000,” he replies. “I think I’m around 2,300.”

Homeschooling and Strong Family Ties

At this point, I’m imagining a world well populated with Taj’s and blurt out, “How do you think you got to be this way?”

“Well,” he says, “Mom and Dad are great. And – I think this is part of it it – I had another brother, Jared, who died when he was 12 and I was almost 5. He was really caring to all the creatures. I think I learned a lot from him.”

I ask Jon about the brothers’ ability to spend their brief time together. “Jared had cerebral palsy and a brain injury at birth. He was profoundly physically disabled, he didn’t grow or develop, and eventually his body just gave out,” says Jon. “Taj spent all his time with him. Jared couldn’t walk, so instead of sitting painfully in a chair, he would crawl and creep a bit. Taj was on the floor with him, so they grew up right next to each other.”

The family’s learning lifestyle included lots of read-aloud time, “and we tried many reading programs with Jared. Taj was right there, listening, learning, pointing to the words we always had on cards around the house. Jared’s greater communication was limited to raising his arm to say yes, or shaking his head to say no. But Taj was with him always, and learned deeper communication when he was just 2 or 3 years old. I think it was a gift to Taj to have someone so different be his brother, and have it be so normal to him. I think it gave Taj an incredible sensitivity.”

At age 10, Taj admits he hasn’t given much thought to the definition of a successful life yet but, he says, “I’d like to go out to schools like my dad because sometimes I just feel so sad for the kids. Some of them are alone or teased or not in the ‘in crowd.’ I want to help them when I’m older.”

Taj wants other children to know that homeschooling is “fun, and you can be with kids just as much as if you were in school. There are a lot of homeschooling people out there.”

homeschoolingYou can meet many more young homeschooler like Taj, and 15 adults, too, in Homeschoolers’ Success Stories: Sharing the Impact That Homeschooling Has Made.



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