Sounji Morgan (not pictured), Queens, and children Bella, age 6; Sky, age 7; and Kumau, age 10.
I taught for three years in Williamsburg, so I know public schools can offer a good experience. But I also saw kids get lost in that environment. Once I started having children, I thought more about the values that were instilled in me and how I could live up to them—I grew up in a house with a blackboard that my father made out of plywood to teach us chemistry.
My 10-year-old went to a school in our neighborhood for two years. There was one incident where an older girl hit him but told the teacher he hit her first, and the teacher took her word for it. We think of things like that as important steps in socialization, but I think it’s negative. In homeschooling, children are held more accountable for their behavior.
My son also went to a choice private school in first grade, but it was expensive. I spent my whole day working to pay for his tuition. I also noticed that he was always coming home asking for new toys. That’s tapered off now.
Unschoolers don’t use textbooks, but I’m a schoolteacher, so I see the benefit. In the world we live in, textbook skills come in handy; it helps to be able to sit with a pencil and a notebook. But experiences like going to museums are the real meat of my educational plan. It teaches them that learning is a part of life and that it continues outside of any building.
You definitely need to weave in breaks, though. If I was working in a school, I’d have prep periods and lunch breaks. What I do now is go to a gym where there’s a day care—that’s my prep period. Or I take breaks before my kids are up. Even my husband is like, “Don’t you need a break?” You just get accustomed to it.