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Parents Let Young Pilot Chart Her Own Life Instead Of School And TV, Children Got Tools, Work Experience

Sat., April 13, 1996

Jessica Dubroff jumped rope, played hide-and-seek and loved horses. But in other ways, the 7-year-old girl who died trying to fly a plane across the country had an upbringing that was far from typical.

She didn’t go to school - instead, her parents said, she taught herself to read and write and learned math concepts from flying.

“The children were very unusual,” Pescadero resident Chris Dutsch said of Jessica and her 9-year-old brother, Joshua. “The way they interacted with other people, their intelligence was apparent immediately. When they approached a project, they just jumped on it and went for it. … You couldn’t be in a better mood around them. They were just eager to learn, eager to see everything.”

Jessica lived in a wood-shingled home on North Street near downtown Pescadero with her mother, 41-year-old Lisa Hathaway, brother and 3-year-old sister, Jasmine. The family had moved to the town on the San Mateo County coast about a year ago after living in Palo Alto.

Six-year-old Danielle Phipps lives a few houses away on North Street and became friends with Jessica.

“We played hide-and-seek; we liked to play (jigsaw) puzzles. We played jump rope,” Danielle said. “She was like my best friend.”

Hathaway did not enroll Jessica and Joshua in school or register them in a home-schooling program. She said she believed in letting her children learn from life experiences such as interacting with local shopkeepers.

Instead of toys, they were given tools. There’s no TV in the house. Jessica and Joshua taught themselves how to read, write and do math, according to Hathaway. They worked at Kelly McKnight’s horse ranch just outside town in exchange for riding lessons and trail rides.

McKnight said Jessica had quickly become part of his family after she went to work a year ago.

He taught her how to ride, to work with horses, the ways of farming. “Jessie loved everything that was living - every kind of animal,” McKnight said. “But I think horses were her favorite. She filled the water tanks, fed the animals.”

Before Jessica left, Hathaway said she wanted her children to grow up without fear.

“There is no such thing as fear,” she said last month. “That’s something that’s made up that we use to control children. I’m simply giving them the greatest amount of choices.”

Jessica’s father, Lloyd Dubroff, 57, who died with her in Thursday’s crash, was never married to Hathaway. He provided financial support to her and the couple’s three children.

Dubroff was apprehensive of Hathaway’s childrearing methods at first, he said, but grew to approve. “It’s turning out wonderful,” he said. “I’m thrilled.”


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