Note: This interview has been condensed.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of interviewing Celtic fiddling and step-dancing sensation, Natalie MacMaster. She’ll be performing a sold-out Christmas show in Ottawa this week along with her husband, musician Donnell Leahy. Not only do they tour roughly 100 days a year but they also maintain a family beef farm and raise six young children.
A common misconception of homeschooling is that it is done by two-parent, single-income families. My experience is that a high percentage of families are dual income and a surprising number are single-parent. The MacMaster/Leahy team are a visible example of how people work homeschooling into the existing life they have, whatever that is.
SWMBO: What is your homeschooling style? Do you adopt an unschooling approach to maintain your sanity?
NM: We’ve only ever homeschooled our family. Mary Francis was 3 1/2-ish and I thought I better try this if we’re going to be touring. I had hoped I would never have to homeschool. But I have a teaching degree from teachers’ college and I thought I better be open to it because look at what we’re doing. How can our kids ever go to school?
I thought I’ll just order a couple of books and see what it’s all about. I found it very difficult at first. I think I started her too young. I think I was overly eager. Too much for too young an age but I kept it up and here we are with 5 in school.
Now I split the homeschooling with a retired teacher of 30 years. She does two days and I do two days a week. And then when I’m on tour I do the schooling solely or if we have a project of some sort like a recording project, she can take on more if I need.
I follow a bit of a curriculum with the Seyton program and then we have Saxon Math. Now that I’m on tour, I brought with me science, journal-writing, religion and math. And we try to do that four days a week.
SWMBO: On the road, do you run into other performing artists homeschooling their kids? Is it more prevalent than people might think?
NM: NO! No. No. No. Not a lot of people in this industry have children.
SWMBO: What is the typical reaction you get when people find out that your kids are on the road with you, performing and homeschooling?
NM: Well, I don’t really know. I don’t think they really tell me. They must think something. I don’t make it [homeschooling] public knowledge. If someone asks me, I tell them. Some people say, “Oh wow.” Or “How do you do it?