As the criticism of the U.S. education system grows among parents, so does the appeal of homeschooling. Together with today's increasingly fast-paced, connected culture, this choice seems an almost natural one for many families. Though still a controversial and heated topic, the number of homeschooled children in America is growing rapidly.
For the past year and a half I have been photographing a small number of families living in the Catskills who practice homeschooling. Having recently moved to the area with myhusband and baby daughter, I decided to explore this controversial topic in depth and challenge my own pre-judgements on the issue. Rather than document the parents andtheir unique methods, I choose to focus on the children, in an attempt to capture their spirit and the meaning of growing up outside the conventional four classroom walls.
Twelve-year-old Iris and ten-year-old Roan live on a family farm with their parents who believe their children would benefit more from spending time in nature and at home, rather than on a school bus and in a classroom. Apart from studying traditional subjects, their daily chores involve helping out on the farm and discovering their own topics of interest.
Six-year-old True has been raised by her father since she was four weeks old, after her mother returned to a full time job in a local cafe. True assists her father with outdoor tasks and is being taught various subjects with an emphasis on religion and music. Dissatisfied with the schools in the area, True's parents think it is "a bit careless to allow my daughter to fly on an airline where pilots are not required to pass a test."
Seven-year-old Morgan lives with his parents in a small house in a wooded area. His mother, a certified teacher, follows a consistent schedule of education inspired by the Waldorf method, an approach that emphasizes imagination in learning, and encourages the integration of practical, artistic, and conceptual elements in daily activities. Morgan's weekly routines include reading, writing, poetry, roll playing, drawing, knitting, music,baking and soccer.
The parents of eight-year-old Grisha and three-year-old Anastasia do not believe in systems, especially school systems. They want their children to utilize their imagination and creativity during the most impressionable years of their childhood, convinced that in school these traits would be significantly diminished.
With this body of work I hope to encapsulate a cultural movement in a distinct time in history, on the cusp of it becoming mainstream. As I continue to photograph these children I am constantly forced to re-examine my initial opinion of this phenomenon and, for a few hours each time, I allow myself to follow them into their mysterious, magical world.