Tucked in at night by her husband, her four kids, and the Wasatch Mountains, Emily Bailey runs A Homeschool Unscripted. Her work is to hold the space for childhood, and be the homeschool mentor she never had.

Chapter One: Homeschool Beginnings


We had recently moved back to our home state after a year-long stint in Arizona.  I did not miss the heat.  Nestled near a canyon's mouth in our little red brick house, he and I spent our days together.  We inspected sidewalk cracks, ran to the window when we heard the garbage truck rumble, and visited the library nearly every day.  I treasured being my son's best friend, but also longed for the day when he would play in the backyard for fifteen minutes on his own.

One day, as I sat on our hand-me-down love seat tucked in the bay window, my son left the room.  Before he turned the corner out of sight, he looked back over his shoulder, his gaze locked with mine, and lightning struck.

The clearest message I've ever received from God told me there was something different about my son's mind.  That it was sacred.  That it was stronger than mine.  That I had been entrusted with the stewardship of caring for it.  And that his path would be unconventional.

I hadn't planned on homeschooling.  I didn't know in that moment that I would.  But when my friends were registering their children for preschool the following year, it was plain to me that I should not.  A few of my neighbors and I formed a small preschool co-op.  I learned that not only was my son's mind different than his peers', but mine was too.

I noticed I taught differently than the other mothers.  I went narrow and deep.  It was real and it mattered.  I saw the one.

It was messy and beautiful and natural and exhilarating, and when the day was over I was both spent and filled.

This little group was a drop in the bucket of our learning.  We were at the piano and the park.  In mountains and museums.  Exploring public buildings and hidden thickets.  And I felt an urgency to let him push the elevator buttons as many times as he wanted, to say yes to rounding one more corner, and to read, read, read.

At four years old he had tired of picture books, and rejected every offering.  I feared, "Oh no!  My son won't read!"  But I felt moved to introduce him to the non-fiction section at the library.  He found the books about wild animals, and he was home.

As we drove, I taught him all the traffic laws and navigation skills I could think of, because he asked.  He never stopped asking.  And when it was time to register for kindergarten, I knew I wouldn't.  Because it made no sense to me to send him to the same room every day to learn about the world.  It was clear that my job, my stewardship, meant being in the world with him.

I knew that two people in my life, who I greatly respected, homeschooled.  It was a small sampling, but enough to show me there was more than one way to educate a child.

As Jerome Bruner wrote in his book, The Process of Education, you can teach any subject to any learner at any stage of development in some intellectually honest form if you know two things: the basic structure of your subject, and how your learner learns.

I'd watched my son in groups.  I'd watched him in traditional classroom settings.  And I knew it wasn't his cup of tea.  Some children learn best in a circle; he doesn't.

We learned best together.  And homeschooling was just a natural extension of the kind of parenting I was already doing.

I was confident in this, but no stranger to fears and the worries that come with taking the road less traveled.  "What if?" would plague me.  Doubts and criticism gurgled up from strangers and loved ones alike.  Things got dark, and I got lost.

I reached out for help from someone I trusted who had chosen a similar path.  She was just a little farther down--far enough to give me hope that there was light ahead, but close enough to remember just how she'd climbed through the brambles.

Dear words from this dear woman reminded me of who I was.  She knew the challenges on the path I had chosen, but also the afternoon-golden sunlight that does not shine on any other path in quite the same way.  Each path has its own light, and when you are on that path, you look for it.  She counseled me to write it down when it happened.  She told me I would need it on the days when I'd feel like anyone could do a better job raising my children than I could.  And then, after revisiting those times of clarity and assurance, I would remember that no one could do a better job than I could.

More babies come, and things change.  My son is older and different.  I'm older and different.  Our family dynamic evolves.  Constraints and opportunities come and go.  What has remained through it all is a love of learning together, deeply woven into the fiber of our family.

It's how we grow.

I cannot say how you ought to.  Your story will look different, and it should.  You have your own identity to weave.  Each course has peaks and valleys, dry spells and storms.  You are called to your work, and you know what it is.  Be brave, say a prayer, take a step.  Clear your mind, give it new thoughts, consult your source of truth and move forward--your path will light up as you walk it.

If you feel compelled to cross paths with me, know that I'm here for you.  There are more friends waiting than you now suppose.

And there's always room for one more.

Chapter Two: The Wonka Factory