When I started looking into homeschooling I knew of no one that did it in real life. My first exposure to real homeschoolers was on the America Online homeschooling forums.
I stumbled into the forums asking the classic newbie questions. Questions like, "Do you think Abeka is a good choice?" before I was even aware that there were different styles of homeschooling. The ladies at the forum were pretty quick to kindly point out that I was so uninformed that I had no business asking such questions. They then led me to links, like A to Z Home's Cool and Jon's Homeschooling Resources where I could begin to learn what I needed and, more importantly, learn how to learn what I needed.
I got a great view of the diversity of homeschooling from the AOL forums. I got to know a very conservative Baptist lady who held many views that directly opposed my own but whose tolerance and thoughtfulness has been a model for me ever since. I knew a pagan homeschooler who first opened my naive Canuck eyes to the bully Christianity could be in certain places. I also met Becky.
Becky was the first real unschooler I remember knowing. She had weird ideas. She didn't think kids needed chores. She didn't think they needed formal lessons. She thought schools should be ditched in favour of resource centers. I remember slowly coming to respect her views. I don't remember if I had decided to be a radical unschooler before we switched to a local ISP but I do know it was Becky's voice in my head, even years after, that guided me.
After the AOL forums it was Sandra Dodd, Pam Sorooshian and the women at the Unschooling.com forum and Sandra's email list that influenced me further. The women that frequented those places questioned everything and woe on the poor newbie that thought they'd receive group hugs and unquestioning support. The conversation was sharp, the questions searching and tolerance for feeling-good kind of advice very low.
And then I got caught up in curriculum and left radical unschooling behind.
I think I left it behind because I forgot about my mentors. I forgot about Becky and Pam and Sandra. I, for some reason, left the unschooling circles and stopped talking about it. Without any unschooling talk I became uncertain. With uncertainty I started reaching out for crutches. The crutches were curriculum.
Using curriculum hasn't been all bad but very often my reason for resorting to it has been. I've let uncertainty direct our homeschooling for almost a year and a half now and damn if I didn't see the extent of that until right now (literally, right as I'm typing these last few sentences). Until I took a look back at my mentors and gave them some serious thought again.
I think I need to reconnect. I may not go back to radical unschooling but I do need to get rid of the doubt that's been guiding my choices for too long.