I met Ruth and Sabuk a couple of weeks ago at a freeform dance class in a little Sierra foothills town in California. A handful of people ages 14 to 76 gathered in the Stomper’s Hall, a square dance venue, and our dancing was anything but square. Sabuk circled around the perimeter of the worn hardwood floor, while the older folks grooved in the middle. Later he and the teacher did an impromptu duet of goofy moves, mirroring one another.
A few days later I met my new friends over dinner at the local burger joint to talk about homeschooling. Ruth decided to home school Sabuk when his school told her he needed to repeat first grade. She knew her son was quiet and it was clear to her that continuing in public school might mean he could just fall through the cracks. Ruth would not describe herself as a super-human, got-it-all-together, gung ho home school teacher, she just knew her son needed more and she and her husband signed up to provide it.
Sabuk did repeat first grade, at home. He told me that they did some unschool for awhile too, but literally he could have just played video games all day. He decided he wanted more than that; he used the word ‘boundaries’ on his own. Sabuk, now 14, takes college classes where he has a 3.75 GPA. He says that being homeschooled has allowed him to explore things with passion. I have to like a 14 year old who talks like that. He has a passion right now for making his own chain mail. No, not those annoying letters and emails that ask you to send copies to 10 other people in 5 minutes or you will be cursed, but rather a type of armor used by ancient warriors to fend off wicked sword and arrow attacks. Sabuk wears his handmade chain mail in medieval style battles with blunted and padded weapons.
Homeschooling allows Sabuk to set projects for himself and to delve as deeply as he wants into a given subject. He told me about various styles of chain mail, how it is made and what attributes a given style possesses. He made his mail by wrapping wire tightly around a metal rod and then cutting the wire into pieces. Each circular chunk is then interlinked to form a strong and flexible mesh. And that how you get a mesh of mail!
Sabuk will tell you that he has friends and also that he can be lonely. Most of his friends are in school all week and he lives in a small mountain town. His advice to parents who are homeschooling is to help their kids find friends. After school and weekend events, community happenings, clubs and lessons can be a good start. Through these Sabuk has acquired a multi-generational batch of pals, including me.
At the end of the our dance class we all stood in a circle and talked about our experience. Sabuk thought for some time before saying, “I realized that . . . I’m okay.”
Hey, I’ll say . . . and then some!
Do you have home school stories to tell, advice, ideas or good books to suggest? Sabuk and Ruth have been reading a book entitled Schooled by Gordon Korman. I’ll review it here soon.
What would Cletus do?
Find out when my new book series comes out this year.
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