While I was living in Okinawa, Japan in 1986, I received a frantic call from a first time mom who had just given birth. I was a La Leche League Leader and knew Deborah from the many meetings she had attended during her pregnancy. Both Deborah and the baby were in tears. Deborah accusingly stated to me, "You told me if I nursed her, she'd never cry!"

I suppressed my desire to laugh knowing that there wasn't any way I would have stated that fact. Since then Deborah learned the untruth of that statement time and time again (she's now expecting her sixth child, and homeschooling the whole family).

The message behind this story is that we hear what we want to believe. I want to go on record as saying that by un/home/schooling your child/ren there are simply no guarantees. Your child may or may not attend a prestigious university, or discover wonderful talents that make him/her famous.

At the same time, I do believe that by making the choice to have your children learn at home there will be many marvelous benefits for everyone involved. Among other things the kids will enjoy greater health; they can meet the needs of their body easier by simply eating when hungry and sleeping when they are tired. There are no rules to govern their movement of the most elementary things in life such as getting a drink or using the bathroom.

Your child is exposed to your family values for the majority of their formative years, for we all know that a child lives what is modeled for him/her.

By giving each person in the family alone time in the safe place of their own home they are able to listen to and hear their inner voices and feelings, and that translates to people knowing and understanding themselves better, at an earlier age, than is usual in our society. And we parents get to spend much more time with the child/ren as they grow up.

The children can learn about the things that interest them. We all get excited about subjects that we care about. That is the factor that helps us retain and build on that knowledge.

The advantages are many, but as my son Shawn said recently, homeschooling is one way, but not the ONLY way. If you are thinking that it might be THE way for your family, or you have already started on this path, I hope that it is helpful and supportive for you to read about some of our family's experiences.

In 1981, when we decided to take the radical step of removing Chris and Shawn from public school, information available about homeschooling was very scarce. John Holt's books and his newly formed newsletter "Growing Without Schooling" were a strong support to our decision. The only book I found about an actual family learning by living this way of life was Patricia Joudry in her book And the Children Played. I loved having this view of an actual family living their lives without formal schooling.

It is with this model in mind that I decided to write this book. The 20+ years of five children growing and learning can't be totally recalled and would make for volumes of reading. I've tried to address the main concerns as I hear them from those just starting out now. Mostly I've focussed on the issues from my point of view. It is, after all, what I have experienced.

There are many books printed now to give you all kinds of ideas and suggestions as you try to decide how to best serve the needs of your family while the children learn at home. What I hope to offer you is an overview of some of the challenges and celebrations I have witnessed in our family. By sharing, I hope I can reassure you that the children do grow up to be not only functioning adults, but also people who have learned personal responsibility for their lives. Looking back I can readily say I wouldn't have changed the decision to keep the children at home to learn. (That isn't saying I never threatened them with sending them off to school.)

Although we are now divorced, I want to acknowledge my former husband, Russ. He fulfilled his dream of becoming a pilot in the USMC, which in turn provided the monetary support for me to realize my dream of having and raising a large family. Neither of us knew in the beginning the radical ideas that I'd come to embrace: extended breastfeeding, family bed, homebirth and homeschooling. None of these childrearing practices were supported by our immediate military community or by society at large. Russ was able to keep an open mind, and hear me as I learned about this style of natural parenting that became our normal way of life.

My sister-in-law's sister wrote to me at one time, "When I first heard about you, I thought you were just plain weird. Now that I have children, I understand that you are just making choices you feel are best for your children."

May this book offer you support for your choices, for although homeschooling has grown tremendously in popularity, it is still off the beaten track. That's where all the really interesting people hang out anyway - WELCOME!

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