533. Helen

There’s a girl named Helen who lives near me. I think she’s about nine years old. Her parents have decided not to send Helen or her siblings to school; they’re committed to home-schooling. And my impression, at this point, is that home-schooling is working quite well for Helen. Maybe I’ll get more involved (if Helen’s parents would like me to), and help Helen learn some of the things schools teach well, but it’s clear to me that Helen loves to read, and has a healthy, positive self-image and attitude towards living and learning. As much as I’ve grown to love being in school, I have to admit that all of the above has been known to have trouble in school.
In our culture, siblings are often seen as obstacles to enjoyable living. Children go to school, spend
important hours of the day with other children their age, and then go home and fight with their siblings. That’s not true all the time, but it’s pretty common. Sibling rivalry is natural; people want their parents to be THEIR parents, not someone else’s. And siblings also fight about space, possessions, and more. They often get on each other’s nerves.
But one thing that impresses me about Helen is the way she takes care of her younger siblings. She gets plenty of chances to see her parents modelling the kind of care children deserve, and she follows the examples they set. Once, Helen and two of her siblings came to my home to view a video. Helen knew that a scary part was coming up, and she warned her younger sister, who gets upset at scary parts. Her voice was gentle, and her sister was comforted by that gentleness.
I’m not saying Helen is an angel, or a saint. I asked her whether she and her siblings ever bug each other – drive each other a little crazy – and she assures me that they sometimes do. So it’s clear that we’re talking about a REAL family.
It’s heartwarming, though, to see and hear a child looking out for her younger siblings the way Helen does. It’s also nice to hear her talk about the books she reads, and all the knowledge she’s gotten by living her education instead of going to an institution to get it. Home-schooling brings up all kinds of issues, which I’ve examined in another essay. I hope I’ve made it clear that I think it’s a complicated issue – one that can be viewed in many ways. But Helen’s younger siblings are very lucky that Helen doesn’t spend the best part of the day away from them, and Helen is very lucky to be allowed to learn at her own rate and in her own way. We teachers strive for that ideal, but things get in the way. From where I sit, I see an example of home-schooling that makes the phenomenon look like a pretty good idea.

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