Breaking the Mold 
by Joby Morey
Ulfa Idelbi's short story, "Seventy Years Later", is a complex story. I found it to be like a gem that has been skillfully crafted, deceptively simple at first glance, but many different facets to explore upon further thought. I think that a costly gift given to the main character in her story is very much like an ongoing gift that my parents have given to me.

In the story, the narrator tells about a gift, given to the narrator's mother by her parents. The mother (a young lady at the time) was living with her new husband's family, in a household where her mother-in-law was the authority, and her only link to the outside was her correspondence with her parents. The mother-in-law was in charge of everything, including decisions about how her daughters should dress.

The setting was Damascus, Syria, during the nineteenth century, and social status was very important. The mother-in-law made sure that all her daughters were dressed in the finest she could afford. She also made sure that none of them was placed above any of the others by dressing them all the same.

American culture has its own constraints that we place on our children. Maybe we don't a system that dictates exactly what we will wear, but we do have a system imposed on our children that dictates exactly what we should learn, and when we should learn it. specifically, our society has placed unnecessary requirements on our children in our public school system.

Everyone is unique. We all look different, we all talk differently, we all think differently, and we all learn differently. Just as Idelbi's mother-in-law had no respect for her daughter-in-law's desire to dress differently, our culture does not respect our children's need to learn differently. For instance, we have decided that five to six years old is the ideal age at which all children should learn to read. Many who are not ready to learn to read rebel, and end up hating to read for much of their life.

My parents gave my two brothers, my sister and me the invaluable gift of home schooling. In order to teach us, they gave up the ability to have a second income, and it took a lot of patience on my mom's part, not to mention a bit of sanity, I'm sure, with us kids around all day. The benefits of home schooling, on the other hand, have been innumerable.

Each of us has been able to learn at our own pace. I learned to read about the same time as most kids would, when I was about five or six years old. My sister on the other hand, wasn't ready to read until she was about eight or nine. Thankfully, my parents didn't see that as a big problem, like many teachers might. My mom would try to get Ellen, my sister, to read every now and then, but she did not force her to learn.

Ellen finally caught on, and ever since she decided to start reading, it is one of her favorite things to do. My younger brothers are both starting to be interested in reading. One of them, Jonathan, is seven years old, and my youngest brother, Marc, is going to be four in March.

My mom and dad have been able to train me in the truths that they hold dear. Because I was taught at home, my parents have been able give me strong roots in my faith. I was taught the basics when I was very young, and I have learned more and more as I have been able to handle it. When I was able to really think for myself, I was encouraged to test out and try and see what ideas make the most sense, not simply what I want to believe, not what I have been "brainwashed" to believe, but what is infallible, impossible to disprove. I think that this is an experience that most publicly schooled children do not get to enjoy. For instance, the theory of evolution, for whatever reason, has become the only theory taught in our public schools that can explain the beginning of the universe. There are other good theories that exist, but most people just except this one as a fact, because it was what they were taught, and they weren't taught to ask questions.

I have been able to do a lot so far in my short life that I wouldn't have been able to do if I hadn't been home schooled. I have been able to pursue the subjects that interest me when I am ready for them, not when the government or our society has decided that the average kid should learn them. One of the major benefits of home schooling is that I have been able to go to college at an early age. At the local community college near where I used to live, tuition is free for high school students; all I needed was a signature of authorization from my parent, principle, high school counselor, and myself.

In my home schooling, I rarely had to ask the question "when am I ever going to use this," because, usually, I already was. I did learn a lot from workbooks, and a few textbooks, but the things that I remember the best were the things that I was actually doing. I remember many times going to the store when my mom asked me to keep a balance of how much we were spending. Often, we figured out what item was really the least expensive, comparing both its volume and cost. As long as I can remember, whenever we ate in a restaurant, it was my job once we got the bill to figure out the change, and the tip. I think that my parents did a good job of getting me ready for real life, which is what I believe parenting is really about.

In my opinion, home schooling has given me few, if any, problems. Probably the biggest argument that I have seen against home schooling is that I have not been properly 'socialized.' What people usually mean by this is that I haven't spent all my life with loads of kids my own age around all the time. I think that this is another artificial restraint that I have been free from; there is no real reason why my friends should be the same age as myself.

Looking back, I am glad that my parents home schooled me. I can't imagine where I would be otherwise. I know I wouldn't be here, seventeen years old, with 32 college credits. I know that although their choice was a hard one to make, it is a choice that I am very thankful for, and it's a choice I will probably make when I have a family of my own. 

return to Marci's photo page