A Father's Gift

Manfred Smith


I am fortunate to have fond memories of the man who I called father, an American soldier that married my mother, adopted me and brought us to the United States in 1956. One of my earliest memories of America was when we visited the home of his former wife somewhere in Georgia and he took me up to the attic. There, stored in what appeared to me in countless boxes were - books. Hundreds of books. It made quite an impression on me at the time and was to have a permanent influence in my life.

From our stay in Augusta, Georgia, to Fairbanks, Alaska, and finally to Maryland were he was to retire from the service, my father practiced what John Holt would later call, invitational learning. Wherever he would go my father never failed to invite me to come along and participate. I went with him when he sold life insurance to Black familes in Georgia (insurance companies back then didn't bother with what they perceived was a waste of their time), accompanied him when he was making a deal to buy someone's used car (he was not a good judge of cars, however!), spent many summer days with him as we roamed the Alaskan countryside panning for gold and finding mastodon remains, going with him as he worked a paper route in Washington DC and the many rock hunting field trips we did together until I was a senior in high school.

My father always read the paper and would share with me his thoughts about what he had read. We would have discussions about many things ranging from Greek history to whatever was the hot issue of that day. In today's jargon he would be called a life-long learner. If you could have met him you might have assumed he had a college education, but he never made it past sixth grade.

When I first heard about homeschooling and John Holt in 1978, I immediately embraced the idea and moved forward to make it a reality for my family. I have never had any doubts whatsoever that my children would learn everything they needed to know plus much more. This faith in the natural ability of people to learn and the knowledge that my father loved me as his own son are his greatest gifts to me.

Thank you, dad.



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