Danny Timmins and Oona Hart, Cobble Hill, with son, Ocean, age 5 and daughter, Billie, age 2
Initially what attracted us to homeschooling was the flexibility, since my husband and I both travel for work. But we wouldn’t have chosen a flexible lifestyle over something that wasn’t better for our children. We gradually became aware of a community of homeschoolers in New York and realized it might work for us.
Our son has a late birthday, which meant that, at 4, we would have dropped him off at a big public school for 40 hours a week. It seemed like there might be another way. School was created when things were really different—it prepared people for the industrial revolution and factory jobs. In a lot of ways, it feels limiting. The school our son would go to is considered excellent, but if you have the opportunity to go to a good public school, it’s probably in an affluent neighborhood, so you don’t have the diversity that you would hope to have by going to public school in New York City. I certainly wasn’t worried about things like our son getting into college. I think if you’re thinking about college when your kid is 4, you’re distracted by the reality of what’s happening.
One day can be so different from the next, though there are some things our son does consistently. Twice a week we go to a [teaching] cooperative with nine other kids in his age range. Then once a week in the spring and fall, he goes to a Jewish farm school. He has planted wheat, threshed it, ground it, and made bread. He has watched people make fire with a stick. Then with his co-op, he’s done things like go to the Rubin Museum for a workshop on Himalayan art—he realizes that the reason Asian art from that region has a lot of triangles is because mountains are such an important part of people’s lives. He took a construction class offered for homeschoolers in Flatbush where kids from ages 4 to 16 built a small house in the shop. They measured things and talked about physics. It’s so much learning, but it’s happening through practical application and not through sitting in a room. That’s sort of counterintuitive to how a 4-year-old learns.