As criticism of the U.S. education system grows among parents, so does the appeal of homeschooling. In 2010, shortly after moving to Woodstock, New York with my husband and baby girl, I met a mother who was homeschooling her 5-year-old daughter, True. I had never heard of homeschooling before and, being a new mother, I was naturally intrigued. I began to photograph True and was soon connected to a small number of families following the same path in the region.
While much of the discussion about homeschooling tends to revolve around parents and their beliefs, I chose to focus on the lives and routines of the children, in an attempt to capture their spirit and the meaning of growing up outside the conventional four-wall classroom. While working on this project, I was constantly forced to re-examine my initial opinion of this phenomenon and, for a few hours each time, I allowed myself to follow the children into their mysterious, magical world.
I devoted two years to my photographic research and the result is a quiet meditation on the home education movement from the children’s perspective, encapsulating a cultural movement in a distinct time in history.
Rachel Papo was born in 1970 in Columbus, Ohio and was raised in Israel. She began photographing as a teenager and attended a renowned fine arts high school in Haifa, Israel. At age 18, she served in the Israeli Air Force as a photographer. She earned a BFA in Fine Arts from Ohio State University (1991-96), and an MFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts in New York City (2002-05).
Rachel’s photographs are included in numerous public and private collections, and have been exhibited and published worldwide. She is represented by ClampArt Gallery in New York City, and has published two monographs, Serial No. 3817131 (powerHouse Books, 2008) and Homeschooled (Kehrer Verlag, 2016). She has been selected as a finalist for the Santa Fe Prize for Photography and was awarded a NYFA Fellowship in 2006. In 2009, she won a Lucie Award for Deeper Perspective Photographer of the Year.
Rachel lives with her husband and two children in Brooklyn, New York, working on personal projects and accepting commissions.