Revisiting ‘Growing Without Schooling’

Today, I spent my morning on Memory Lane. In the process of going through stuff, I gathered a pile of old Growing Without Schooling magazines dating from about 1991 to 2001.

Oh, what a delight to skim through them and recognize the names of so many contributors, see pictures of dear friends and their children on the cover or inside, and be reminded of so many precious years of homeschooling my kids, who now range in age from 18 to 32.

One of my old issues of Growing Without Schooling, depicting my son on the cover.

Back in 1991 when I pulled my eldest from school, the community was much smaller, but it was strong. John Holt started Growing Without Schooling. It wasn’t just a magazine, it was an important tool for learning about and communicating with homeschoolers across the country. It published writings by homeschoolers, their reflections, their concerns, and most valuable of all, their real-life experiences. To help us find each other, it also published a directory of homeschoolers.

As I perused my old editions, I rediscovered articles about the weekly folk dance and potluck we attended every Monday evening, the origins of the literature group that became part of my kids’ lives for years, and the local support group that served us and so many others so well.

One of the wonderful things about the magazine was that it regularly included writings by kids and teens addressing their hopes, fears, challenges, and experiences as homeschoolers. The content ranged from philosophical questions such as the value of real work, to practical topics like working and homeschooling, doing math with kids, setting up apprenticeships, and resource recommendations.

For me, the stories of homeschooling families and their day-to-day experiences were thrilling and inspiring. I suppose e-lists and Facebook groups serve a similar function now, providing a never-ending stream of stories and comments, but somehow that doesn’t compare with the thin, eagerly-awaited volumes that arrived in my mailbox, their contents carefully (lovingly, I’d say) curated and edited for their readers.

Looking over a few of my own contributions, I recalled things I haven’t thought about in years. I smiled in fond recollection at pictures from past homeschooling conferences, and felt the tears come as I read a piece by an old friend sharing her resolve to stand up for her kids. I vividly remember the spot I was standing in the first time I talked to her, when she called to talk about homeschooling and tell me about her child’s experiences of being bullied in school. She passed away a few years ago. On my walks around the neighborhood, I often walk by her old house. I miss her.

Going through stuff was supposed to mean getting rid of stuff, but I can’t bring myself to recycle these. I guess they’re just going to have to live in my house a little while longer.


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