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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm not quite sure what to label this thread...or what exactly I am looking for.

I have been homeschooling with my kids for the past 4 years this month. My eldest went to school until half way through first grade. My youngest has never been to school. So I feel pretty comfortable and confident with our lifestyle, though I am constantly readjusting our "schedule" or "routine" to try to make sure that my kids are happy and onboard with most everything we do. If I was asked, I would call myself an ecclectic homeschooler.

I generally follow my childen's leads about what subjects to explore. If there is something that I deem necessary, I try my hardest to figure out a way to make it palatable to them, so that they are generally happy with their homeschool experience. Sometimes I fall flat, though and end up pushing them to learn about the Titanic (for example) because we have a bunch of books about it and they can't come up with another idea (for history, or whatever the subject is) themselves.

My necessaries range from following a math curriculum to things that I hear or read about each child needing to know in their age group. Not everything of course, but sometimes I look at a book that covers content that each child should study by grade. And sometimes it is through a check in with a parent of a same grade age kid to see what they are doing.

With two in the elementary age group now, I find myself floundering and have tried this year to integrate a schedule of what subjects to study on what days. All very laid back, but still a routine or schedule for each day. This has also been refined with my children's input twice this school year. I find it easier than trying to follow the diverse leads of two children now that my youngest is older (she is 7). On the other hand, it can feel contrite to have this schedule where we do certain things on certain days. It is all very loosey goosey, though. So while we have a schedule, if anything comes up, we ignore the schedule and do whatever comes up that day, then return to the schedule the next day.

I cringe whenever someone asks my children about their "teacher" when referring to me. I prefer to look at myself as their facilitator.

I read a lot about unschooling and really like the basic ideas, and have since I was in high school myself eons ago (not radical unschooling- which I realize works for many- but in the educational part of the practice). But I can go from reading an article about a successful unschool family, finding it super inspiring, to looking at a history or language arts curriculum in the next moment and being motivated to find what would work to get more of these "important" disciplines into my child's life.

Is there anyone else that feels like they veer from the parent's expectations to just letting it all unfold (with active help, of course) so readily and indecisively? And how do you reconcile these two oppositional feelings?

Part of typing this out has helped me pinpoint that I am not really a schedule person, but it has helped me stay accountable and make sure that we are covering everything our state requires having two children with very different (at times) interests.

Much of our couple of "homeschooling" hours still feel very "schoolish" and "okay lets get through whatever mom says we need to do so that we can have our free time." I don't like that. I'm okay if it is about getting dressed, eating, brushing teeth, etc.., but that is not how I want my children to think of their education.

Any experience, input, advise, opinions appreciated.
Thanks!
 

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Eh, I wouldn't over think this. Sometimes in life we do have to do stuff that we don't want to do. You owe it to your kids and yourself to make sure your kids are prepared for this thing called life once they leave your home.
 

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Lol, well I looked at the original post this morning and couldn't think exactly how to answer, but I'll try now.

First off, about the above implication that unschooling is doing children a disservice by not preparing them for life ... my three eldest unschooled kids left home at 16, 17 and 15 for various types of higher education, and they are definitely succeeding at life. One is in grad school, another working his way through college doing co-op placements in the computer industry, the other finishing up AP courses while working part-time, tutoring and juggling full-tuition scholarships to engineering programs. In fact, I firmly believe that unschooling has kind of a fail-safe built in, in terms of preparing kids for life when they leave home. That is that they are leading productive lives integrated with community and family life from the get-go, with huge amounts of autonomy. My 17-year-old is in school with students who have never done their own meal-planning, grocery-shopping and laundry, never had the option of ignoring homework or skipping class, never had freedom over their own comings and goings ... and they are struggling with really basic stuff that is so easy and familiar to her.

Anyway, back to the original post, about the ambivalence of wanting both control over a robust organized homeschool education that promises a tried-and-true path to a desirable outcome and at the same time wanting to be able to relax and trust a child-led delight-driven unschooling approach .... I definitely know what that feels like. I think most parents feel tugs from both these directions.

I was able to nurture myself along to more comfort with unschooling by promising myself that I would back off in specific areas for prolonged periods of time -- 6 to 18 months -- and then making an effort to sensitively and diligently observe the natural learning that I saw taking place in the absence of structured teaching. So for example early on I saw that my eldest daughter had become resistant to my efforts to teach her to read; I backed off for 18 months. For the first year there seemed to be almost no progress, although her love of being read aloud to grew astronomically. But then there followed a period of time where she silently pored over all sorts of magazines, dense non-fiction books and mail-order catalogs. I noticed ... I wondered ... I waited. And then suddenly a few months later she was reading fluently and with great delight and passion at a rapidly advancing level.

A lot of time in education you don't get to your goal by aiming straight at it. Instead it's more like archery, where you have to take into account gravity and wind and aim your arrow above and upwind of where you actually want it to go. To me that "above and upwind" direction I'm aiming has involved a lot of trust and freedom -- "as much freedom as the parent can comfortably bear" to quote Pat Farenga. Although I desperately wanted my kids to end up self-motivated, responsible and well-educated, trying to directly teach them those things would not have been as effective, I'm convinced, as was the alternate approach of trusting and supporting them with freedom and autonomy. Yes, it's hard to not shoot straight at the target when you want it so badly. But if you shift your aim just a little at a time, and notice that you're actually hitting closer to where you want your arrow to go, it'll work out.

Miranda
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for your reply mooninmama. I think trust is something I still need to work on. Even though we've been out of the public school setting for many years, I think I still sometimes feel like my kids should be measured by those standards. Which I know is untrue, but it still creeps in there.

I wasn't trying to imply that unschooling was doing a disservice to children, I've read and heard many successful tales. I'm still trying to grapple with how it can fit into my family's life. I am so conflicted that I go from getting really excited to try unschooling to seeing a cool history curriculum and wanting to use it!

I need to keep in mind that it isn't all or nothing and I could try backing off in baby steps and see how that goes.

Thanks again for helping me think this through.
 

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I wasn't trying to imply that unschooling was doing a disservice to children, I've read and heard many successful tales. I'm still trying to grapple with how it can fit into my family's life.
Oh I didn't get that from your post at all. I was responding to philomom's comments about making sure kids do things even if they don't want to, because we owe it to them to prepare them for life.

Miranda
 

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Autumnvt have you ever done any research of Thomas Jefferson education. It may be the framework you are looking also project-based homeschooling too.
Having said that, I have found mooninmama to be a very inspiring and reassurancing mentor ( although she doesn't know it, or at least I never told her) but if you go back and read some of her posts, some of the things she has said are now either my guiding principles or philosophical roadmap. (so sorry for calling you out Miranda)
One of my favourites:assesment through observation.
But trust and freedom is good too
Anna
 

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Well no offense meant but Miranda's kids are IMO the exception. I've run into many homeschooled and unschooled kids that couldn't do their times tables or write the obligatory five paragraph essay. Does this mean there aren't exceptional kids out there? Sure. But I find it highly unlikely that I've only run into the poorly skilled ones.

A good friend of mine reviews applications for one of the major colleges in my town. They do let some homeschooled and unschooled young adults in each year but she tells me they often get shuffled into remedial math and English classes.

Some kids will "work", explore and always aspire to learn more. Some kids will do the least possible amount to please their parent and look to be amused or entertained all the time. That's just human nature.
 

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Statistics support my experience more than yours (though of course there will always be a range of results, so I'm not saying your experiences aren't true, just not representative, or perhaps are coloured by the perceptions and biases of those reporting them). Studies show that homeschooled children score, on average, on basic academic skills better than both public schooled and private schooled peers.

And Let's not forget who those remedial college classes are primarily serving: students who went to high school.

Miranda
 

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Well no offense meant but Miranda's kids are IMO the exception. I've run into many homeschooled and unschooled kids that couldn't do their times tables or write the obligatory five paragraph essay. Does this mean there aren't exceptional kids out there? Sure. But I find it highly unlikely that I've only run into the poorly skilled ones.

A good friend of mine reviews applications for one of the major colleges in my town. They do let some homeschooled and unschooled young adults in each year but she tells me they often get shuffled into remedial math and English classes.

Some kids will "work", explore and always aspire to learn more. Some kids will do the least possible amount to please their parent and look to be amused or entertained all the time. That's just human nature.
A little more anecdotal evidence here, but my college professor friends have similar experiences with homeschooled students. They also find a significant number of these students in their offices asking for special accommodations. "My learning style is ______, so my mom always did _______, so can you alter your entire instructional program for me?".

Now obviously they are noticing only the homeschoolers who need and seek help. They don't know how many homeschoolers are doing well in thier colleges. There are, however, a significant, noticeable and worrisome number who are struggling from a lack of fundamentals (from a college program perspective) and poor adaptability and flexibility in learning and studying skills. Enough that the phenomenon is undeniable to these college professors who are trying to help thse kids.
 

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I thought this thread was a discussion about possibly moving between structured homeschooling and unschooling, not a debate about the effectiveness of homeschooling as a whole? I thought philomom's original comment was intended as an indictment of unschooling specifically. I don't think this is really the right place to question the validity of homeschooling as a whole. This forum is intended as a support forum.

Regardless, for the very reason that you state ("they are only noticing the homeschoolers who seek and need help") I don't put stock in these anecdotes. I highly doubt that every time a high school graduate seeks help at college the professors are taking note of the fact that this person went to school, and calling into question the validity of schooling as a result.

Miranda
 

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I thought this thread was a discussion about possibly moving between structured homeschooling and unschooling, not a debate about the effectiveness of homeschooling as a whole? I thought philomom's original comment was intended as an indictment of unschooling specifically. I don't think this is really the right place to question the validity of homeschooling as a whole. This forum is intended as a support forum.

Regardless, for the very reason that you state ("they are only noticing the homeschoolers who seek and need help") I don't put stock in these anecdotes. I highly doubt that every time a high school graduate seeks help at college the professors are taking note of the fact that this person went to school, and calling into question the validity of schooling as a result.

Miranda

LOL, well it's called a tangent and it often happens in a message board discussion. I, for one, am not questioning the effectiveness of homeschooling as a whole. I stated that a number of homeschoolers would be doing well and have no need for intervention or extra support. Homeschooling obviously works well for some and there are many good examples from families on this board.

I would not dispute that homeschooling can be effective, however I did expect that my contribution would be dismissed or disregarded or squashed in some way. So predictable, really. I thought it worthwhile to offer some further experience and perspective to those who are considering homeschooling, but I am not at all surprised at the response.

By the way, in my experience, college profs often bemoan problematic public education, so I think you are quite mistaken about that, lol.

Ah, well before the mods come in to back up the thread policing, I will again fade away. Wonder why this place has so little activity these days.
 

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I am more than familiar with tangents, thank you. I'm mostly wondering whether these cautionary tales are pertaining specifically to unschooling, or the the more general business of home-based education. In other words, are they relevant to the original poster who is vacillating between two different styles of homeschooling?

miranda
 

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I am more than familiar with tangents, thank you. I'm mostly wondering whether these cautionary tales are pertaining specifically to unschooling, or the the more general business of home-based education. In other words, are they relevant to the original poster who is vacillating between two different styles of homeschooling?

miranda
Sigh. Since this seems to be directed at me, it seems discourteous not to respond. I cannot speak for the OP, it would be presumptuous. Arrogant, even.

She does start out by saying she is not sure what she is looking for and goes on to mention accountability, parental expectations, and academics. Your own first post had a somewhat lengthy discussion about preparation for life and raised higher education for the first time in the conversation.

So was the subsequent discussion relevant? If the OP finds it unhelpful or inappropriate, I am sure she can speak for herself and let us know if the discussion needs to be narrowly and rigidly confined and stifled. Is it relevant to others who may be interested in homeschooling and unschooling and are reading here generally on the subject or searching for broader information on different aspects home education? It seems more relevant than the last few posts.
 

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Since it has been brought up, I too had an experience with the homeschooling community here. It wasn't great. This is just one small little section of the homeschooling world I'm sure but... a lot of the moms seemed content to let their kids play computer games all day. I could have gotten the wrong impression but I brought up the hand held computer gizmos the kids were glued to to the group of moms and how it was impairing the success of a gathering at that time that was meant to be social/exercise based and received a lot wrath and was basically told I could go to h__11 for all they cared. I know my son is good at researching stuff he's interested in and I love to teach but my son is not receptive to learning from either of his parents, we collectively, have lots of skills we could share (my hubby was even a professional college/university level teacher for a while) but for the most part, my son has no interest. That and being kicked out of the home schooling group here pre-emptively made it clear this would be a very difficult option for us to pursue.

I think a lot of learning happens when you are engaged with a topic or activity regardless of what you are actually involved in, and also, realistically, not a lot of teaching can happen at school because the teacher can only engage a certain number of kids at a time and everyone (well nearly everyone esp. at the younger ages) is in their own place. I have been in volunteer teaching positions, and you may think you have reached kids with a concept, only to find that when you ask them 5 min later, they can't answer the question that they already answered somewhat correctly. It seems like you've got to re-approach topics from many different angles, in many different ways, over and over. As a homeschooling parent you have the advantage of smaller class size and being more in tune with the students plus lots of shared experiences.
 

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Wow, I'm really sorry if I did anything to precipitate all this negativity.

Over and out.

Miranda
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Wow... I think this thread has gone off on a different tangent. Thank you mooninmamma for your original input. I am not wondering whether I should have my kids home vs. going to school, nor am I wondering about their possible college experiences (they are 7 and 10). I think that I mostly needed to type out my thoughts and was wondering if anyone else vacilitated so easily from wanting to use curriculum to wanting to follow their children's leads. My kids are still relatively young, but my son is in fifth grade if he was in school and there is a lot of talk among his schooled peers about middle school readiness especially around copious amounts of writing. My daughter would be an older first grader and is just beginning to catch onto reading whereas her schooled peers are generally reading beginning readers with ease. I have realized that I am still finding myself comparing my kids to public school standards even when we have been away from it for years. And this may be keeping me from taking the leap to stop controlling what my children are studying. Okay I think I am done for now.:smile:
 

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Well no offense meant but Miranda's kids are IMO the exception. I've run into many homeschooled and unschooled kids that couldn't do their times tables or write the obligatory five paragraph essay. Does this mean there aren't exceptional kids out there? Sure. But I find it highly unlikely that I've only run into the poorly skilled ones.

A good friend of mine reviews applications for one of the major colleges in my town. They do let some homeschooled and unschooled young adults in each year but she tells me they often get shuffled into remedial math and English classes.

Some kids will "work", explore and always aspire to learn more. Some kids will do the least possible amount to please their parent and look to be amused or entertained all the time. That's just human nature.
Well, I started teaching my kids their times tables in the second grade, and they promptly forgot them. And the next year. And the next. And somewhere along the line, I remembered that our 3rd grade teacher showed us how to make a grid, 10x10, of multiplication facts, and we got to consult it for long multiplication. A coupe of years later, I knew those facts. I had NEVER drilled...why did I think it would improve my kids if they did?

Some of the standard benchmarks don't make much sense for unschoolers, particularly those below high school level. I went to school back in the dark ages (graduated hs in 1976) and I do not remember One Single Time that we ever had to write a 5 paragraph essay. (Once we had to do the research for a paper and come up with a bibliography on index cards, but we didn't have to write the paper). So, the 5 paragraph essay was left out of my kids' curriculum. My first kid went to college and could have placed out of Freshman English, but thought it might be useful, so he had to learn to write the aforesaid essay. So he did. My second kid approached Freshman English with the kind of enthusiasm most of us reserve for going to the dentist or bailing someone out of jail. Granted, her dyslexia allows her to have an "editor", but the writing has to come from her. That first 5 paragraph essay was a trial, but she got it done. That was the first of many papers. In fact, she has just been granted the "go-ahead" to get a minor in a subject that requires a "thesis" to be written over the course of a semester. So, early mastery of the 5 Paragraph Essay may be overrated. For a person of at least average intelligence, as I think mine must be.

I've shared part of the story of our family's unschooling elsewhere, no need to go over it here...but I think that the "Some kids will do the least possible amount" happens when the child's agenda is being externally managed. All of my kids spent a couple of years closed in their rooms with only their computers & their online friends/communities for company, and then one day they showed up again, ready for adult stuff: learning to drive, to get jobs, to hang out with friends, to go to college. My youngest kid (18) manages her own medical appointments and does her taxes; her brother (25), the one who went to public high school for four years, the one who came to see education as a sort of outwit-the-teachers game, who had to go through a couple of years of recovery in college until he found out that HE's supposed to be the one piloting the ship, is just getting to that point.

My kids have had a delayed "formal" educational trajectory, so I'm sure that most who are familiar with traditionally schooled children would have found them "behind" because they went at appropriate paces for their developmental levels and interests. The first was a "late" reader, the second seriously dyslexic, the third mildly so. For a society accustomed to the notion that kids must be in academic lockstep with each other, mine were all "behind". But...they didn't end up that way. Maybe they WEREN'T the most gifted kids in their cohort...but they seem to be examples some research I saw the other day that indicates that "strivers" accomplish more than those who are "gifted" but not "strivers". I think that unschooling teaches people (regardless of gifts) to be "strivers". And sometimes the vital work of unschoolers looks far different from that of those who must succeed in school, or ELSE.

So, more than you ever wanted to know!
Deborah

p.s. IMHO, the chief job of childhood is play. And adults whose work is not also play are a beaten down, desperate lot. (I know some.) The other day I was working for a friend, helping drag dozens of boxes of business records from a dusty attic, sorting, labeling, taping, weighing, getting them ready to send off to the shredder. I observed myself "playing" in the course of this work, coming up with different systems for taping, for weighing the boxes (one atop another on the electronic scale, re-zeroed after each, or one at a time). I tried various ways of lining up the dolly, to minimize the twisting and lifting. My employer implied that I'm such an inventive worker (and one who takes pleasure in even simple tasks) because of my age: "My 20-year old workers are clueless". "I've always been this way", I told him (somewhat rudely, I guess, but true).
 

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Well no offense meant but Miranda's kids are IMO the exception. I've run into many homeschooled and unschooled kids that couldn't do their times tables or write the obligatory five paragraph essay. Does this mean there aren't exceptional kids out there? Sure. But I find it highly unlikely that I've only run into the poorly skilled ones.

A good friend of mine reviews applications for one of the major colleges in my town. They do let some homeschooled and unschooled young adults in each year but she tells me they often get shuffled into remedial math and English classes.

My older DD homeschooled in a relaxed way until she was 12. She then attended traditional school for one year. Then she attended an progressive school that was basically unschooling but with other people and cool options like a green house, a chicken coop, a kiln, etc. (She spent her first year mostly reading in the library and working with clay). At 16, she decided she had learned enough, and started college. She is now a junior at our state uni studying computer science.


My younger DD homeschooled in a relaxed way until she was 10. She attended traditional school for 2 years, and then went to the alternative school for a couple of years, where she spent time learning to weld, blow glass, and backpack. Half way through her freshmen year she transferred to a competitive highschool. She is now a senior and being recruited by top engineering schools. She'll enter college as a second semester sophomore due to her AP courses and community college classes (such as Calc. I and II).


One of the many things I don't get about these conversations is how people decide who counts as a homeschooler. Obviously, my kids' educations have been far from typical, and yet when people, including college professors, meet them now, they have no idea that when they were elementary age they cooked muffins from scratch and hung out at the park and picked books out for themselves based on what was interesting rather than their reading level.



It wasn't all magical for us. There were times that we hired a tutor to help get the kids up to speed on something they hadn't learned yet but now needed and wanted to know. There were times that they busted their butts and worked very hard. My older DD is on the autism spectrum and has associated learning challenges. My younger DD had a heck of a time learning to write quickly and to spell.


None the less, it worked out. Their childhood was a real childhood, and as teens they have a solid sense of their own minds and dreams. They are grounded and sensible. They understand that the point of education is to develop your mind, not to collect the letter A. They have a greater ability to live in the present than most of their peers.


You don't have to spend 5th grade getting ready for middle school, and then spend middle school getting ready for highschool, so that you can spend highschool getting ready for college, so that you can get ready for your first job, so you can get ready for a better job, so you can save for retirement, so you are already to turn 65.
 

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I'm finding this discussion fascinating--especially since I have kids who've both homeschooled all the way through, and kids who decided to go to high school after homeschooling up to that point.

My experience is similar to Miranda's and Linda's--my kids all chose various paths that worked for them, and are all well-prepared for upcoming challenges.

DD #1 homeschooled all the way through, and is now an Advanced EMT, who's looking to do Fire One and start schooling to be a medic.

DD #2 homeschooled until half-way through 8th grade. She ended up valedictorian of her high school class, and is now a sophomore, majoring in Civil Engineering.

DD #2 homeschooled until high school, is in the Top 5 in her class, she's graduating this spring and is planning to go to college to major in Criminal Justice.

DS #1 homeschooling still (would be a freshman in highschool). He does high school sports--soccer, swimming, basketball and track, but so far isn't interested in actually going to school. He's very physical and likes to move around a lot. He is doing a lot of Khan Academy and Coursera classes, which I think he likes because he can do an hour or two, then go shoot hoops in the driveway! He also has odd jobs with a few of my clients (doing yard work, stacking wood, moving furniture), which gets him out and involved in the bigger world as well.

DS #2 is almost 3, so no school yet, but he comes to work with me (I do garden work and housecleaning), and he is universally adored by my various clients! I honestly don't see school as being a better option that what we're currently doing for him, though.

Anyway, I'm being very long-winded, because I really want to point out that kids don't necessarily need structured curriculum to later succeed in a school setting (or otherwise). I am a die-hard unschooler--I would say my method involved Sandra Dodd's theory of strewing combined with a bit of Montessori's prepared environment. We had plenty of options available, and if a certain kid was interested in something, I'd help them get involved, but no force.

They occasionally complained about various "gaps" in their education, but I think that no matter what you do for schooling, you won't know EVERYTHING. :p And clearly, it didn't stop them from doing well.

As far as those little hand-held computer games...those used to drive us crazy at swim meets. My kids all did competitive year-round swim team, on and off for years, and they were pretty common--but it was schooled kids that were using them! Honestly, I think that is a parenting thing, not a schooled vs unschooled issue. :p

And one last thing--one thing that I have observed is that kids who CHOOSE to go to school have an inner motivation, and that makes all the difference. My kids used to be so annoyed when they would be in a class or practice (in school, or elsewhere), and there would be people there who were just goofing-off, because they didn't want to be there. It was a huge distraction for the people who were there to learn.
 

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one thing that I have observed is that kids who CHOOSE to go to school have an inner motivation, and that makes all the difference. My kids used to be so annoyed when they would be in a class or practice (in school, or elsewhere), and there would be people there who were just goofing-off, because they didn't want to be there. It was a huge distraction for the people who were there to learn.
I have to comment on this because it rings very true for me. My middle two kids started school at around the same time (8th and 10th grades). I remember very clearly a dinner-table conversation where they were commiserating over this. My ds said "Why does it seem like there are only two people in the entire school who actually want to be there, and those two people are us, the homeschoolers?"

Miranda
 
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