Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Father, the Unschooler

My father’s mother immigrated to this country when she was 11 years old, in 1919. As the story goes, she did not speak any English, and school officials put her in the second grade—with the 7 and 8 year olds. That, as the say, wasn’t working for my grandmother, and thus ended her formal education.

My father graduated from high school, but never finished college. School was never as satisfying to him or as intellectually rewarding as the public library.

Five of his six children have college degrees, though. His sixth child, never went to college. He was born in 1974 with Down syndrome, and went to school longer than all of us. He wore a cap and gown at his formal graduation—at the age of 26.

My father doesn't tell stories about his success at school, because there wasn't much. He tells stories about his success at life. My father is an autodidact. Growing up, I remember him writing and painting and reading and listening to music. To this day, he studies philosophy texts and books on quantum physics in his spare time. Right now, he's teaching himself how to speak Spanish.

He taught himself, and in doing so, taught us.

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