I can’t tell you the exact time I first read about John Holt, Sandra Dodd, democratic schooling, etc., but I can tell you I didn’t learn it along with the other pedagogies presented to me in my university education classes. Maria Montessori was as far out as it went in my southeastern Missouri education, and I thought that I was on to something. I dreamed of wearing colorful skirts and chunky, handmade jewelry that testified to my love of happiness and joyful learning. I listened to my teacher, a graduate student who, petite, blonde, and quivering with a passion to parent and teach in a respectful, mindful way. She brought us a woman who was willing to breast-feed her child in front of the class (There was one male student; he didn’t protest.). She spoke of child-led weaning and the La Leche League. She looked as if she was about to crack under the pressure of pushing in what was then, in our area anyway, a new, unconventional direction. What I was sensing in her demeanor then was the weight I have now experienced after eight years a parent with unconventional dreams of my own. Well, perhaps the substance of the dreams is not that different from anyone else’s. I want my children (and myself and husband) to be happy. To live every day of our lives. To be humans and not machines, or drones, or droids, or robots, or depressed, broken, fearful exoskeletons afraid to think, “What if?” My teacher trembled beneath the crushing weight of her mother-in-law’s unabashed, outspoken criticism, her husband’s fear of her new ideas, society’s side-eye as she nursed on a park bench.
I now push in a new direction. Every morning, I ponder what to do with my stay-at-home mothering, homeschooling luxury. I reject the idea that a passel of educators cares more and knows better what my children need to succeed than I do. I doubt they research, observe, and consider them any harder than I do.