Our Family's Path

Pattersons Camping

Way back in 1995, we decided that school wasn’t working out for our kids. My oldest was wrapping up first grade, another was in preschool, and my youngest was still a baby. Our happy inquisitive little guy was coming home bored, in trouble in the classroom for goofing around, and less and less curious and cheerful. He was still only 6! It became clear that the school system was not the best place for my son to be creative, to explore – to LEARN! Instead it was a place to make him a better cog in their wheel.

So I began to explore the idea of homeschooling. Truth be told, I only knew 2 other families who did this. One was super religious and the other was, well, odd. That didn’t matter to me. I was going to pick their brains – and anyone else they’d point me toward – to figure this out. After all, I couldn’t do WORSE than what school was doing!

In the mid-90s, we didn’t have the internet like we do now. We had to find the few books available, and talk to people who were in our community. I felt a bit like I was in a land that didn’t fit me. On one side, we had very strict conservative religious people who feared what the public school would introduce into their homes.  On the other, we had crunchy granola hippie types. While I leaned more to the left, I was a suburban mom, working part-time, fitting in Tiger Cubs and T-ball. I was mainstream, and homeschooling didn’t appear to be. I’ve since learned, and certainly the passage of time has helped, that there are so many different families out there exploring home education for their kids.

Back then though, it was a little trickier.

What I KNEW was that I needed to be my child’s advocate. The school wanted to medicate him so he could cooperate better in class. He was bringing the dreaded “red folder” home everyday highlighting his infractions. (e.g., not reading in unison off the chalkboard, dueling with pencils in the back of the room, etc.) He was bored and quickly getting the idea that “learning” wasn’t any fun. That just wasn’t going to work for me.We were in the military, and about to make a big move from Texas to Alaska. The time seemed right to make the switch to homeschooling. After all, school would always take him back if this didn’t work, right? It seemed worth a try!

Our first years were a little bumpy. We tried a variety of homeschooling methods. We even tried something called School-in-a-box – which is amusing to me now. Why would I want to duplicate the very same thing that we were avoiding? 

I had a lot of fears! Were my kids going to miss something and not be prepared for adulthood? Was I out of my mind to try this???  But I found other families and saw what worked and what didn’t. I read what we could find, and over time, we relaxed into a family that saw learning as an adventure.

But we figured it out! We went from a family that mindlessly sent our kids off to school crossing our fingers and hoping for the best… to a family who took back the responsibility for our kids – their upbringing, their learning, all of it! While that may sound scary at first, I want to reassure you that it turned into the most wonderful adventure!  Our kids grew up curious and eager to learn, involved in the community, happily exploring curiosities and developing interests – smart kids!

The proof’s in the pudding. Sometimes people like to know a little more about how my kids “turned out.” Well, they’re in their 20’s and 30’s now, so I’m sure they have a lot more ahead of them. But here’s what happened with them in the few years after homeschooling:

  • My oldest graduated from college Magna Cum Laude (all As/one B), joined the Peace Corps, got married and now lives in Dallas working for Boy Scouts.
  • My second graduated with an associate degree from a film acting conservatory, lived in NYC and now LA, working as an actress – and Lyft driver! She got married in 2018 to a fellow voiceover actor.
  • My youngest graduated from cosmetology school and has worked as a hair stylist in Austin. She now has her own studio and is exploring the option of opening her own salon. She has an adorable 4 year old son – who gets to spend a lot of time with his Nina and PawPaw!

Each pursued different interests and took different paths. And because we homeschooled, and quickly that turned to unschooling, they were able to develop and grow at their own pace – academically, socially, emotionally.

They've done a few interviews over the years. You can see them here:
Growing Up Unschooling with Alyssa Patterson
Exploring Unschooling Podcast, Episode #177

Growing Up Unschooling with Katie Patterson
Exploring Unschooling Podcast, Episode #196

Grown Homeschoolers (Michael is on the panel)
For the Love of Learning, Episode #55

An Evening with Grown Unschoolers (Katie is on the panel)
For the Love of Learning, Episode #65