Being and Becoming
By PATRICK FARENGA
I recently saw the film Being and Becoming with a group of veteran and new homeschoolers and it was a valuable evening in many ways. First, the film is excellent and provided our group with a lot of material to converse about afterwards. The film has a nice pace and covers a number of families from around the world who decide to nurture, rather than manage, their children’s growth.
By allowing their children to explore the world in ways that might seem childish or nonproductive to others, the camera also reveals how important and precious those seemingly unimportant or quiet moments are. It is nice to also meet the parents—from the US, UK, France, and Germany—and hear their rationales for letting learning occur rather than arbitrarily schedule it for their children.
In particular, I am impressed by how the filmmaker, Clara Bellar, captures so many moments of how children learn from being around and part of communal activities, play, individual exploration, cooking, singing, dress-ups, theatrical efforts , making music, and so on. The adults, more often than not, are simply doing things, including work, with their children nearby. There are some tutors and classes in the film, too, but it is clear the children and parents have chosen them.
The filmmaker and her husband are both musicians, and the film gets it impetus when they wonder where they will have to eventually live in order to get their newborn son in a good school, so it makes sense that they would interview some fellow artists for advice. However, a comment from an audience member after the film hit on what some may see as a problem: So many of the children in the film are into the arts, and many are the children of artists and musicians. Don’t children raised this way ever become scientists or engineers?
I replied that how a homeschooled child is raised doesn’t determine whether they are going to be a technology or science major: for instance, MIT gave a professorship to 20-year-old Eric DeMaine, who was raised by his itinerant artist father, and Grant Colfax, a medical researcher and now chief of Health and Human Services for Marin County, CA, raised dairy goats on his family’s farm in northern California.
Further, in the film there is a French architect who notes, and the film documents, how her daughters watched construction workers fix a roof and then, days later, how the children used their knowledge gained by observing the workers to help their mom make repairs to their house. Such incidental learning and support for it from adults is wonderful to see in action.
But what makes this film special is the filmmaker/narrator’s inquisitiveness: “Were a place and a time really necessary to learn?”
The movie’s exploration of how children and adults learn and grow together without following conventional school and child-rearing practices is vivid. Indeed, its celebration of childbirth and parenthood at the start of the film sets a beautiful tone for why parents might want to continue this holistic family life as opposed to conventional, fractured work/school/family schedules.