Homeschoolers and the Burden of Proof

I was at a grocery store today. It wasn’t an accident that I went to this specific store on this specific day. I was there for a reason. I was there to buy coconut milk, which had been advertised at what I thought was a very attractive price.

I picked up, amongst other things, a sizeable amount of it and made my way to the cash register, where I noticed I was not getting the advertised price.

I mentioned that to the cashier.

No, the cashier says, that’s the price.

That’s not what was advertised, I insisted.

Maybe that’s a different brand, she argued. This one’s price is right here on the screen. I just scanned it.

At that moment, pinned down with all my other groceries and my three children (because let’s face it, they’re almost always with me) I chose to return said coconut milk because it wasn’t at the price I had assumed I would pay for it. I paid for the rest of the groceries and left. (I make no excuse for my frugality. My husband works incredibly hard for the money he makes and I refuse to be frivolous with it.)

Anyway, because I’m obsessive or crazy, I chose to go back through the store to see if I had seen the advertisement incorrectly. As it turned out, I had been right. I had not made a mistake.

This time, as I loaded the cart with the coconut milk again, I took a picture of the advertisement under it and headed back the cash register.

It was only then that the employee decided she would send someone to check the price. After looking at my picture, enlarging it and turning it this way and that. It was only when another employee rushed to save her from herself that she backed off and gave me the discount and couched in an off-hand “Sorry.”

I walked out of the store with a smile. I had won.

Well, yes, I had won. And I felt good about winning. I may have muttered In your face! as I walked out of there.

But as I thought about it, besides the fact that this was just bad customer service, it made me think of how much this small interaction resembled the burden of proof that we, as homeschoolers, face in the world.

It reminded me how homeschoolers are questioned, looked at strangely and asked what it is they do and how they could do it even after it has been proven time and time again that homeschooling works, that non institutional learning yields better results than government schools can ever hope to provide.

As I have written about in my free giveaway essay Nine Questions Every Homeschooler Should Be Able to Answer, most people immediately shift the burden of proof of homeschooling onto the homeschoolers.

Homeschoolers and the Burden of Proof

The evidence that homeschooling works is there, but the picture must be enlarged, we need additional proof and perhaps we need someone to go and check it because, hey, perhaps it’s still not true.

But the system says, they cry, the system says. What the system says must be true after all! 

Sure, you’re homeschooling them, they say. Let’s see if they can keep up with their grade levels. Okay, you’re homeschooling, they say. Can we test them each year to see if they’re on par? Or perhaps we can just come and visit and talk to them awhile. See, because the system says all children must learn multiplication at this grade and algebra at this. The system, the system! 

What is it about the system that guarantees such adherence, such unquestioning obedience? The system is a liar; as in the grocery store, the system could have very well said something else had it been updated.

What most people forget is that the system was made for convenience. The system was put together so that workers could be churned out for industrial jobs. The system is defunct.

Homeschoolers and the Burden of Proof

The system was made for people, not people for the system. Homeschoolers see that. And even with the burden of proof on us, we are beating it.

Keep at it, homeschoolers. Even when your friends roll their eyes at you. Even when your extended family does not understand. You’re winning. You have the proof. Don’t bow to a failed system.

You’re winning. The facts are on your side.

Homeschooling News and Views of the Week

Happy Friday!

The biggest education news story this week was of course Betsy Davos appearing before the Senate Education Committee in her confirmation hearing. Yet, with all the news stories out there, I couldn’t find a single one out there that I wanted to link to. So instead here’s the full hearing.

There has also been much talk about the new movie Hidden Figures. I haven’t seen it and I don’t know if I ever will. It sounds interesting, but history translated by Hollywood always leaves me feeling cheated. I might however read the book by the same name that inspired the movie.

And here’s a quick story about how to claim tax breaks for higher education while filing taxes.

Have a good weekend!

5 Books To Boost Motivation

It’s that time of year when most people who have made resolutions flounder a bit. Is that you?

Or are you amongst my wiser friends who wait until mid January to really get going on them?

Whatever the case might be, changing habits take work and a decent amount of motivation.

Here are 5 books that can help you create better habits. While these books don’t deal with homeschooling or unschooling per se, much of what they can be generalized to create a better life for yourself.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg– Excellent, entertaining book with tons of examples to help you develop good habits and make you want to continue to pursue them.

Duhigg talks about how to stick with new habits and find time for them in your busy day. He also has a new book called Smarter, Better, Faster which I hope to get to read this year.

Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin – I liked this book mainly for its central theme that individual differences between us have a lot to say about how we stick or don’t stick to our habits. If you are what she calls an “abstainer” there’s no sense telling yourself you’ll “just have one piece of chocolate,” if you’re a “night owl,” stop trying to wake up early to get work done.

It is an excellent book when it comes to learning to work with our unique gifts and talents. Chances are, once you do that with yourself, you’ll see those in your children and tailor their education to what fits for them. Gretchen Rubin’s other book The Happiness Project is excellent as well.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown was a short book packed with excellent advice for living a life that pursues what is essential. He makes a great case for thinking through your most important goals and not getting distracted on your way to them.

The Dip by Seth Godin has got to be my all-time favorites in the motivation department. Honestly, I have too many. But this book changed the way I saw quitting. Just read it.

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell is another one of those classic must-reads. The sections on dyslexia and the advantage of attending a smaller college rather than a big Ivy League university is especially relevant for those of us who homeschool.

While these books may not be “motivational” in the strictest sense of the word, they should give you enough of a push to get going on your resolutions if you’re flagging a bit.

Happy reading!

Why Memorize

I have written before about why we memorize, what we memorize and also that I have thought long and hard about if memorization has any use outside of learning things by rote themselves.

Here’s another quote I found in Mihály Csíkszentmihályis Flow which is a fantastic book to read if you haven’t already done so.

Besides dealing with how to achieve moments and lives in which we are not just dependent on society, but search within ourselves to create meaning and thus live meaningful lives, he has much to say about socialization and memorization as well.

Here’s what he has to say about learning things by rote.

Learning complex patterns of information by heart is by no means a waste of effort. A mind with some stable content to it is much richer than one without. It is a mistake to assume that creativity and rote learning are incompatible. Some of the most original scientists for instance have been known to have memorized music, poetry, or historical information extensively.

And this is perhaps my favorite part and relates directly to homeschooling.

A person who can remember stories, poems, lyric of songs, baseball statistics, chemical formulas, mathematical operations, historical dates, biblical passages, and wise quotations has many advantages over one who has not cultivated such a skill. The consciousness of such a person is independent of the order that may or may not be provided by the environment. She can always amuse herself and find meaning in the contents of her mind. While others need external stimulation to keep their mind from drifting into chaos, the person whose memory is stocked with patterns is autonomous and self contained.

You can buy Flow here.

Did Your Idol Disappoint You? You’re Reading The Wrong Books

Here’s a confession – I read my children’s books. And I actually do enjoy some of them.

Their books are colorful, they’re full of interesting facts and details – and they’re just plain fun.

Good books versus bad books

I find that good children’s books are a lot like good books for grown ups. They’re factual, they give you a sense of history, they have biographical details, they’re not overly speculative and the truly well-written ones have a plot that keeps you interested in what’s going to happen next. This is true even when the book is non-fiction.

The quickest way for me to tell that a book is bad is when it started veering off the road of normalcy into the land of idolizing.

You know what I mean. It’s when it starts building the pedestal of the man overcoming incredible odds to become the truly titanic person he is today, or was, before he died.

Did Your Idol Disappoint You- You're Reading The Wrong Books

We’re supposed to read with rapt attention, hoping to achieve that level of success. It makes us work harder, longer, because we want to emulate that person we just read about.

Or so the story goes.

Unfortunately, that’s not what happens. What usually happens is that we either see through the story because some detail sticks out at us and makes us skeptical or because this larger-than-life person fails to impress us and motivate us because he seems hollow.

And he seems hollow because, indeed, he is. He is two-dimensional.

But that is the better of the two scenarios. Because the flip side of what could happen is that you decide this person was truly remarkable and you can’t possibly be like him.

Bring Your Heroes Down to Earth

Now I’m not saying there are not people who live remarkable lives or that we shouldn’t be inspired by them. I’m just arguing for nuance.

There has to be something more to a book – even a children’s book – than just the individual overcoming obstacles. If there isn’t, it reads like just another Disney movie telling people to “follow your dreams.”

There’s nothing wrong with following your dreams, but without a sense of the time, the place and the truth, these books meant to inspire us just end up creating idols.

And idols have the annoying tendency of disappointing us.

Did Your Idol Disappoint You- You're Reading The Wrong Books

Has Your Idol Disappointed You?

If you are constantly bombarded with only the best details of someone’s life, chances are you won’t be motivated, you will be disillusioned.

And yet, there are books upon books that cherry pick the events in a famous person’s life, flatten them to the shape of a cardboard and then present it in the form of a book, a very bad book, that offers nothing.
Chances are, you’ve run into a few of these.

Chances are, you’ve read some of these as a child, given to you perhaps by a well-meaning adult. And now, with a slightly more mature view of history, you’ve realized that it couldn’t have been true or if it was, that it’s been heavily tampered with, that like most history-based movies.

So if your idol has disappointed you in some way lately, be motivated by the fact that he’s a real, flawed human being. If your hero was cut down to size, you can still rejoice in his victories.

We don’t need two dimensional stories to motivate us. We need real-life people who have done amazing things, even though we find out that they are not perfect. It’s okay to find out that they have messed up sometimes.

It doesn’t ruin their successes. It just puts them in relief.

Did Your Idol Disappoint You- You're Reading The Wrong Books

Wrong Books = Bad Worldview

The more insidious problem with bad books and the idolizing they create is two-fold.

For one, books tend to be overwhelmingly about famous people. Many of these people are currently in power or have been in power in the past. Putting them on a pedestal convinces us that they were truly amazing super-humans bestowed upon us to drag us into a better life. We could never aspire to be like them because they were made of something else that we mere mortals could never be, right?

Wrong.

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which,if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. – C.S.Lewis

And secondly, the problem that proceeds from the above is that we think people like this are still running the show, that the leaders, the innovators, they are made of something different, something better than us – the child reading the book.

“I could never do that because I am not that,” is an easy conclusion to draw.

Call me an iconoclast…

…but I love it, when in the middle of a good book, I find that one of my favorite authors has made a typo. I’m not – mind you – rejoicing in his failure; I’m just happy that he’s like me and if he can be successful, so can I. He’s just worked harder and longer at it. So can I.

Did Your Idol Disappoint You? You're Reading the Wrong Books

If my children get that glazed over look when talking about a historical person or even a famous person today, we make it a point to talk about his flaws as well.

This is not about dragging famous people down into the dirt and it’s not about revisionist history. This is about giving them the right tools with which to see the world.

In OutliersMalcolm Gladwell says, “Everything we have learned in Outliers says that success follows a predictable course. It is not the brightest who succeed. Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities—and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.”

Give yourself and your family the gift of the right worldview, the right books, stories of successful people warts and all, so that when the opportunity presents itself, they are not fearful or lacking in courage or self esteem to have the strength and presence of mind to seize it.

Homeschooling News and Views of the Week

It’s been a busy news week for homeschooling and education with some fairly interesting news and views coming our way.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments over a case advocates described as the most significant issue to reach the court in thirty years. The question was the level of education schools owe disabled children – “some” a.k.a. something just above trivial or something more meaningful. You can read the entire story here.

This one surprised me: as it turns out, there are at last check 2.8 million people over 60 with student loans with approximately $66.7 billion in student debt. Yes, you read that right. They are over sixty and the population is growing. They are borrowing this for their grandchildren.

If you’re like most homeschoolers, you have a general interest in what changes will come to public education under President Trump. Bill Gates recently met with him and had this to say.

“I had an opportunity to talk to him about innovation. A lot of his message has been about things where he sees things not as good as he’d like. But in the same way that President Kennedy talked about the space mission and got the country behind that, I think that whether it’s education or stopping epidemics, other health breakthroughs, finishing polio, and in this energy space, there can be a very upbeat message that his administration is going to organize things, get rid of regulatory barriers, and have American leadership through innovation be one of the things that he gets behind. Of course, my whole career has been along those lines. And he was interested in listening to that. And I’m sure there will be further conversation.”

You can read that entire news story here.

If you have a few minutes, you should go here and complete a homeschooling survey being conducted by Alex Cimpoca who recently contacted me. He is doing indepth research into homeschooling and needs more responses. You will be entered to win to 1 out  of 10 Amazon cards worth $50 when the research is complete. All responses are anonymous and no personal data will be shared.

You can take the survey here.

Our featured promo this weekend comes from Peel, Play and Learn. You know I love strewing things my children can learn with even when left alone. Well, this is one thing you can strew! You have got to take a look these maps, charts and otherwise hands-on learning activities a.k.a. fun for all ages! Everything from fractions to maps to the solar system to the US government is between 10% to 31% off! My personal favorite? The “Bundle and Save” human anatomy and solar system set.

Well, that’s another week! See you on the other side. 🙂