Slow and Steady Does Not Always Win The (Education) Race

My sincere apologies to Aesop, but since he can’t defend himself, he and I will just have to agree to disagree.

I recently read the story of the turtle and the hare to my youngest. To my surprise, I found myself not liking the story very much.

What changed, I wondered. It was always one of my favorite stories as a child. A nice, dependable one to lean on when I wasn’t getting what I wanted. Slow and steady, I told myself. Slow and steady wins the race. And shelved it away.

And then recently, when I read the story again, it hit me as false.

Slow and Steady Does Not Always Win The (Education) Race

Slow and steady after all does not always win.

I mean, come on, think about it – wasn’t the hare the worst mascot ever for speed? He goofed off, spouted off, showed off. He was arrogant and incredibly rude. Anyone’s money would be on the turtle.

Anyone could ask, well, what if the hare had been diligent? What if he hadn’t been proud and foolish?

Would how fast he ran hindered him then? No? Then his speed wasn’t a problem, was it? His liabilities lay elsewhere.

They lay in his attitude.

Imagine your child is thrilled that he is learning something new. He has hit upon his passion and he’s going for it. He’s learning at breakneck speed. He’s in the flow. He can’t wait to learn more. He ignores every other subject because he focused on his favorite.

Do you purposely slow him down? Do you make sure he “catches up” with everything else before pursuing this singular thing? Worse, since we’re talking of hares and all, do you hold it as a carrot for him?

Or do you let him take off and take over?

Slow and Steady Does Not Always Win The (Education) Race

Apply that same principle to anything else – opening a business, for example, or even losing weight. If you succeed at first, do you go for it or do you temper your emotions and then sabotage yourself in a misplaced attempt at false humility?

Who would do that? How about the entire system of education?

Think of grade levels. Children are assigned a grade by their age and age alone. They are judged and tested by age and age alone. Basically, they are asked year after year after year if they are a turtle or a hare. And, if they are lucky, or so they are told, they are assigned to a track.

The institutions of education have all bought in to the story of the turtle and the hare.

But slow and steady does not always win. It does not win because education, if it is a race at all, has no finish line. See, when you buy the idea of grade levels, and the fact that someone is giving you this privilege of education, you force yourself into being a turtle or a hare.

Slow and Steady Does Not Always Win The (Education) Race

There is no finish line. Education is not a race. It is only possibility. It is potential. Slow and steady does not always win, but can. The fastest does not always win, but might.

Winning is not defined by public accolades; it is defined by personal satisfaction.

If your child wants to obsessively learn some one thing, let him. If you hit upon a business venture and want to pour your soul into it, go for it! If your friend is excited about a project and can’t stop talking about it, don’t tell her to slow down.

“Pace yourself” may be one of the most annoying two words in the English language I have ever heard.

You are not a public school. Stop thinking like one. Stop selling your education and the education of your children short by buying a lie.

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You Don’t Need Feedback; You Need Self-Directed Learning

You know that old saying about when the student is ready, the teacher will appear? I never put much stock in that one.

There’s a wonderful lie out there against self directed learning; it’s the lie of needing feedback. You may have heard it. It goes something like this:

“Oh, I’d love to learn something, but I can’t because I don’t have someone teaching me. I don’t have feedback.”

To get the basic objection to my argument out of the way, let me just admit that to some degree this is valid. Yes, you need some feedback. You need to know if you’re on the right track, you need basic help and some interaction. Mainly, you need someone to stop you when you are trying to do something and doing it wrong.

But read that last line again: you need someone to stop you when you are trying to do something and doing it wrong.

You are the one doing it. You are the one deciding to do it. You are the one in the driver’s seat, so to speak. You should be the one driving the car.

Unfortunately, when someone says they can’t learn anything because they don’t have feedback, it’s because they can’t envision themselves actually in the driver’s seat. They don’t want to be there. They want someone else driving the car for them – after the car has been brought to them. They want to copy, to follow.

They want to be taught. They say, in essence, You do it. Then, I’ll learn.

See the difference?

Education should not be something someone bestows upon us. It should rather be something we actively pursue.

When I hear the argument of needing feedback, I think, no. You’re just arguing for your own limitations and making them yours. When you’re starting out, you don’t need that much feedback from other people.

Especially as an adult, you are free to participate in self directed learning without needing to be pushed, goaded and cajoled. We are in the information age, after all.

You don’t need feedback. What you need, maybe – and that’s a big maybe – is accountability and interaction around the new activity you’re undertaking. You want to remain interested, have a chance to share what you’re learning and sharpen your skills. (And yes, as mentioned before, someone to stop you when you make mistakes.)

The problem arises when you think you have to pay someone to get this. You don’t.

That’s institutionalized, coercive, public school thinking.

It gets you efficiency, I’ll admit – 12 lessons on piano in 3 months for x amount of dollars, for instance – but you cannot mistake mere efficiency for education.

“All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education.” – Sir Walter Scott

Seriously, what’s your hurry? Embracing a lifetime of education, a lifestyle of learning can mean learning at leisure, at your own pace; it can mean individualized, self-centered (in the best meaning of the word) education. Why would you trade all that and pay someone for the benefit of just efficiency? Why would you miss out on all the fun? For some sort of certificate?

 

Not too long ago, when public schools were non-existent, (incidentally, contrary to popular opinion, it is public school that is an experiment, not homeschooling) people did learn on their own. In fact, in that list are mingled autodidacts of today – people who were basically self-taught.

The feedback argument is tired and worn.

When you use needing feedback from people as an argument against self directed learning, what you’re saying in a very safe, sort of covert way, is that you’re afraid. You’re afraid of learning something new.

And that’s not a bad thing, really. Because you know what’s worse?

What’s worse is not learning.

What’s worse is waiting and waiting until the perfect teacher stops by and decides to teach you, to put you in that car, hold your hand, show you how it’s done and expect you to follow.

That’s worse.

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Self Directed Education Means Never Having to Ask for Permission

One of the nice things about having homeschooling multiple children is that I get to see – firsthand – their budding personalities emerge. I get to experience how different they are from each other. Sometimes when I get compliments on their behavior I have to remind myself that it’s not my mothering – these traits were present all along. (Sometimes, in their worst moments, while correcting them, I have to remind myself of the same thing.)

And yes, of course, they each learn differently, with their own learning style.

No such thing as learning styles? Hogwash. I don’t care how many “experts” they can gather to swear that, I teach each of my children differently. I have watched them thrive (and fail), each in their own distinctive way.

When it comes to self directed education, the kind we are working toward, the most important thing I want them to learn is that self directed education means not having to ask for permission.

I’m not talking about raising your hand before speaking (although that’s a factor). I’m also not referring to needing permission to use the restroom in the middle of desk work (although, again, that’s an aspect of it.) I’m talking about being endlessly interested in something enough to not wait for someone to ask if you want to learn more about it. I am referring to wanting to do something so badly that you get ahead of your teacher.

I’m talking about being frustrated with being spoonfed and donning the apron yourself and turning on the oven to do something about it.

The problem is that, for some temperaments, this kind of self-directed education can be a hard sell.

For instance, I have one child who will do things without needing to ask permission. I appreciate that about her. I depend on her without having to remind her. And, yes, occasionally, when she gets into things she should not, I have to stop her.

On the other hand, I have another child who waits. A little more cautious, he prefers to wait for direction. To make matters worse, sometimes correcting child #1 can have unintended consequences on child #2 by causing him to shrink a little more.

What’s a mom to do?

I have, as all of us at some point, made a list of general rules for myself to get my children to take control of their own learning. As a classical unschooler, my goal in homeschooling has always been to encourage self directed education while giving them a strong base.

Here’s my list of five practical things you can do to keep your homeschool focused on self directed education.

Deschool yourself

One of the most important reminders I need is to deschool myself. I can’t tell you the number of times I have begun our homeschooling day energized and excited only to fall back into remembered patterns of classrooms and how things “should be.”

Learning almost never looks as it “should.” I have to remind myself of that.

I learn in snippets, in places I didn’t think I would, in random situations and from people whose names I can’t remember. There are only short periods of memorization or recall – and blessed aha! moments – when things come together, but for the most part self directed education does not look like a school classroom, nor should it.

Don’t scold initiative

When either of my aforementioned children do something of their own accord that leads to an accident, I have to often bite my tongue. Yes, I want a clean, tidy home. Yes, I encourage them to clean up after themselves, especially in the kitchen. But I don’t scold initiative.

This does not mean, of course, that I don’t correct them at all. It just means that I don’t punish the desire to try something new.

I will absolutely scold my son for the carelessness and inattention that led to spilled milk, and I will always ask them to clean up after themselves, but I do not try to do it for them. And I definitely do not discourage them from doing something because it might make a mess.

Have rules

Some of my unschooling friends are surprised when I mention that we have rules. Aren’t you an unschooler? is usually what I hear. But as I have written in my book, I do not shirk from rules. The old story about children playing in the middle of a field without a fence is true. It is just as true as cars that will drive toward the middle of a mountainous road if there aren’t guard rails at the edge.

Rules are just guideposts to keep my children from slipping off the edge. Guideposts are there for direction and they grow with the children, but never disappear completely. Without direction, we wouldn’t know where we were going.

Our family rules are a general map of the terrain, they are not a guidance system to a destination. We are free to trace out our own journey with their use.

Schedule/ have expectations

do have expectations of my children just as they have certain expectations of me. I do expect certain work to be done by a certain time and I expect that they will do it. Our homeschool schedule helps immensely with such expectations and how we get our work done smoothly.

My children have lately decided that they want to spend their day time playing. So they have taken to getting their school work done before bed at night. They work independently in their rooms before going to sleep. (nightschooling, yeah!)  If they have problems, I help them in the morning, right before we do our readaloud or Science or Bible reading together.

Our schedule keeps us on track and leaves plenty of room for them to pursue whatever else it is they want in their free time, which, owing to their current inclination to work at night, is almost all day. Boredom alone sometimes propels them into self-directed learning.

Strew & Encourage

If you haven’t read my post about how to use strewing in classical education, you should go read it now. I love strewing and I use it as a way to introduce new passions and subjects. Once these interests are awakened, I do everything in my power to keep them alive. Like planets? Let’s go find books about it, let’s watch a movie about it!

With all this however, I also remember to back off a little. It’s easy to slip back into my “should-ing” ways and take over the education. That is perhaps the hardest part of all.

If self-directed education shouldn’t require asking for permission, it also shouldn’t require my constant prodding. It’s a difficult balance because sometimes it requires waiting and doing nothing.

Encouraging self directed education is sometimes an education in itself.

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A Lesson in Homeschooling From The Walking Dead

Sigh. The Walking Dead madness has finally caught up with me.

I just happened to watch one (count it – one) episode of the current season with my husband and I just happened to mention that I would – someday – maybe – like to watch the show from the beginning.

And then, before I knew it, that was that.

There I was, watching The Walking Dead from the beginning, getting upset at bad decisions as if I was watching sports, crying over babies been born and children growing up in nightmarish scenarios and generally making a mess of my evenings binge watching the show. And, oh by the way, thinking up ways The Walking Dead isn’t really that different from my comfortable, suburban, homeschooling world after all.

I know, I know. Overactive nerdy brains, unite!

So, yeah, you already know that I like to get my inspiration where I find it. And this particular time it was in Season 3. (No spoilers, please. I’m barely at the beginning of the fourth season.)

It was at the moment when the main character, Rick, is losing his grip on reality after his wife dies. The other people depending on him are understanding of his need to mourn, but in their rather, er, unnatural situation, their patience runs out and there are added dangers and complications which have to be solved. They need him. So they give him a singular perspective. They repeat to him what he has told them earlier when asserting his leadership.

“This is not a democracy,” they remind him, nudging him to regain his mental balance.

That phrase spoke to me.

As a homeschooling mom, I have used that phrase, often in jest, with my children.

“This is not a democracy, kids!”

“This is NOT a democracy! It’s a benevolent dictatorship.”

“Not a democracy. Do it because I said so.”

“You don’t always get to do what you want to. You don’t always get to pick. This is not a democracy, guys.”

I have said it more times than I can count with a scheduling chart.

The Walking Dead brought it into stark perspective. If it isn’t a democracy, that meant someone is in charge and that someone is me (and my husband, of course.)

On a daily basis, it is up to me to lead. As a classical unschooler, I am guided by my children’s needs and interests, but I am still required to steer, to know where we’re headed, to make decisions that affect all of us. I am required to lead.

It’s not just a good idea, it is absolutely necessary.

Our family isn’t a democracy. Neither is our homeschool. We have a leader. And it’s me.

It is a sobering, sobering thought. And a good reminder.

Who said watching TV was a waste of time?

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Rhymes and Songs for Disciplining

If you have been following my blog for a while, you know that I tend to be more of an unschooler with classical tendencies (or a homeschooler with unschooling tendencies, depending on how you see it.) I have written before of how it took us a long time to get to where my daughter began to enjoy read aloud time. We spent most of our early preschool days on doing craft activities and some math because she seemed to like that. My son did not mind being read to but they have both had a desire to be taught to read for themselves. 

My youngest is nothing like that. He is my first child that loves being read to. Seriously, people, what a joy it is when a child wants to be read to and will sit while you read and at the end of the book, say, “Again! Read again. One more time.” Oh, my heart. (And my voice, but that’s another matter. Haha!)

To get back to the point I’m trying to make though… I’ve discovered that it doesn’t hurt to wait. Now my daughter – yes, that same one who wanted nothing to do with being read to – has not only read every fairy tale, easy reader and short chapter book I can get her for herself, but insists on me reading to her as well. She loves good audio books. We’ve read countless read alouds. And we memorize. What do we memorize, you ask? Poetry, songs, history timelines, hymns, church creeds, you name it.

Putting what I know now about my children together, I recently hit upon a way to get my children involved in disciplining themselves. It went something like this: I got tired of repeating the same instructions which they seemed to forget, so I thought they should spend some time repeating them, not me.

Repetition, I thought. Repetition… aha! That’s what we did every single day when we memorized. That was the answer!

So  I made some rhymes that I’m posting here. Feel free to use them with your own children. People, these work! When the kids start acting up now at the grocery store or before bed, I ask them to sing the song I taught them. And they do so. And in saying it, they repeat my instructions without me having to say them. This is like some serious magic. 

Here are the two rhymes I’ve made so far. (And I know there are more coming. Because, well, kids.)

The Grocery Store Song

(Sung to the tune of Jingle Bells)

When we are in the store
We walk and do not run.

We will not climb or fight,
We’ll play when we are done.

We will stay with the cart,
We will help find things,

We will not block the aisles,
We’ll act like human beings.

Time For Bed

(Sung to the tune of Hot Cross Buns)

Time for bed, time for bed,

Half past seven, almost eight, time for bed!

Time for bed, time for bed,

Brush my teeth, change my clothes, time for bed!

Time for bed, time for bed,

Get some books, what’s in my head, time for bed!

Time for bed, time for bed,

One last pee and a prayer, time for bed!

So there you have it. I love that these little rhymes work like a checklist, give the children something to memorize and develop habits without me having to nag them. It makes the day that much smoother.

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The Ultimate Reading List for Homeschoolers

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about putting together a summer reading list of sorts for parents who are thinking about homeschooling.

If you’ve read my earlier posts, you probably know that I am a big advocate of new homeschoolers not jumping right into curriculum and taking some time to develop their convictions about why they plan to homeschool and how exactly they plan on going about the process. This isn’t always possible, yes. But if you’ve somehow stumbled across this page, read on for the affiliate links to a fairly large list of must-reads for new and experienced homeschoolers. Some of these books are my favorites, others not so much but I think if you just pick up a handful of them you will be much better prepared for your journey.

They follow no particular order and are not categorized. My advice? Read as many of them as you can. If you already have a well developed reason for homeschooling, you are less likely to get overwhelmed and give up when the going gets hard – as it usually does in something worth pursuing.

So without further ado, here’s the master list:

The Well Trained Mind by Susan Bauer – considered by many in the classical community to be indispensable in a classical education. This is a great handy reference for how to structure a homeschooling day and what to teach, broken down by subjects. Can be a tad overwhelming for new homeschoolers, but worth the read.

Why Johnny Can’t Read by Rudolph Flesch – an excellent, spirited book on how to teach reading and why the look-say method is a bad idea.

Homeschooling For Excellence by David and Micki Colfax – one of the first books I read about homeschooling. The two were teachers when they decided to homeschool and… well, let’s just say, it’s very inspiring.

Teach Your Own by John Holt – must read author. He has also written How Children Learn, How Children Fail and Learning All The TimeHolt coined the term “unschooling,” but even if you don’t see yourself as an unschooler, don’t be scared off by the title. When he coined it, he meant simply “homeschooling.”


Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich – great, small book to get your mind wrapped around the fact that education doesn’t need to happen in an institution and the institution of school has led to society itself not being able to think outside of it.

The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child by Linda Dobson – I can’t remember if it was this one or one of her other books, but she had a great list of people who were homeschooling in non-traditional ways (for whatever reason) and were doing well. Her other books are Homeschoolers’ Success Stories, Homeschooling The Early Years, The Homeschooling Book of Answers.


For The Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay – a great book to add to every homeschooler’s library. It was everything I always knew to be true about education but put together succinctly.

Home Education by Charlotte Mason – a good introduction to the Charlotte Mason form of home education, especially for the younger years.

A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola – If you’re interested in the Charlotte Mason approach, this is about as complete a book in introducing it as you will find.


The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers – a short essay packed with the ultimate questions (and answers) of education and how to go about it. A must read, especially for those inclined to the Classical school of home education.

The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto – I can’t say enough about this book. If you’ve ever wondered why the American system of education got to be the way it is, you should take the time to read this book. You will never see school the same way again. Gatto, by the way, is another prolific writer and your homeschool library should include a smattering of his books, the best of which are Dumbing Us Down, Weapons of Mass Instructionand A Different Kind of Teacher


Better Late Than Early by Raymond and Dorothy Moore – If you think that you need preschool or early childhood education, this is the book you should read. Challenging the myth that early is better, there is a wealth of research cited which indicates that it is better to wait when it comes to school. The Moores have also written Home Grown Kids, Home Spun SchoolsThe Successful Homeschool Family Handbook and others. I would not start homeschooling without reading at least one of their books.


Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style by the Bluedorns – Excellent book. I recently happened to come across it at a homeschool conference and intend to pick up a copy soon.

The Readaloud Handbook by Jim Trelease which is always mentioned when reading aloud is spoken about.

The Messianic Character of American Education, The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum by RJ Rushdoony – If you’re a Christian who is thinking of homeschooling, you must read Rushdoony. It will help clarify and deepen your understanding of homeschooling and the philosophy behind it.


The Case for Classical Christian Education by Douglas Wilson – comes highly recommended by a lot of classical homeschoolers, including some of my blog readers.

The Christian Homeschool by Gregg Harris. Amazon just reminded me that I bought this book when I had a 2 year old and a 3 year old and we were pretty sure we were going to homeschool. I especially enjoyed the part about delight-directed learning.

The Core by Leigh Bortinis is a good, brief introduction to the classical method if you get bogged down by The Well Trained Mind. 

So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling by Lisa Whelchel – This was the first book I read that made me think, “Okay, I can do this. If she can, I can.” The book gives you snapshots of the lives of homeschooling families that are doing in their way. It emphasizes that there is no ONE way to do it and you are free to blaze your own trail. Very encouraging.


Feel Bad Education by Alfie Kohn – Clearly, he’s not for everyone and I don’t agree with a lot he says. However, I do read Kohn and take his work seriously. This is a book worth reading about the present state of education in our country.


A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver deMill. This one has recently been brought to my attention by my readers and I have yet to read it, but I wanted to add it because it looks intriguing.

When You Rise Up by R. C. Sproul Jr. – One of my absolute favorite books on Christian homeschooling. I loved it so much, I gave it away. I must buy another copy soon and I’m going to have a hard time not foisting it on someone who should read it. Heartily recommended.

The Montessori Method by Maria Montessori. So, here’s the thing about the Montessori method. I incorporate some of her ideas and I appreciate what she did but when I read the book and found out that much of her ideas were based on Rousseau’s philosophy, she lost validity with me. Still, there are people who really love this method and it’s worth exploring and learning about it.


Boys and Girls Learn Differently by Michael Gurian – I appreciate Michael Gurian’s work and sincerely believe that before homeschooling it is a good idea to take into consideration the personality and the sex of the child. My son and daughter are so different in how they learn and Gurian deals with just this issue so you don’t end up with false ideas and hopes about your children.


And, lastly, you have read my book, right? In case you haven’t, here’s your reminder: The Classical Unschooler by Purva Brown.

Happy reading! (If I’ve missed any, be sure to comment! If there are enough, I’ll add another post.)

 

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I’m Planning Next Year’s Curriculum on Snapchat

Oh look, it happened – we’re out of things to do. Between the motivational chart and the burn out sessions and the readalouds – in the midst of life and whining and being bored, learning happened. We’re done.

We’ve exhausted all our planned, available resources. It’s happened sooner than I imagined. Not that I’m complaining.

So here I am scrambling to find more things to put on the agenda. Okay, okay, not scrambling exactly. While we’re enjoying the easy days of “just one sheet of math” and Minecraft broken in with some reading and writing, I’m beginning to start the search for next year’s (whatever that means!) curriculum. (whatever that means, right?)

In the upcoming weeks, I intend scouring the books/resources I have, checking off what I want them to learn in the upcoming months, gauging where they currently find themselves and working to engage them as much as possible in their education. As someone put it, homeschooling is of course “trying to work yourself out of a job.”

Only this time I’m doing it on Snapchat.

If you haven’t been on Snapchat, you should definitely check it out. The idea is that the content there only lasts for 24 hours. So come find me and watch the videos I put up. They can only be 10 seconds long, so I’ll try to make the most out of each snap.

I’ll provide you with a good idea of how to pull from many places depending on what you and your kids like. And you know I’m cheap, so I’ll do it frugally. If nothing else, you’ll come away from my snaps with your mind bursting full of ideas for your next curriculum planning session.

I’ll show you places I shop and what I buy and don’t buy. And also (to my great sadness) what I have bought in the past that was a complete disaster. And some curricula that looks nothing like curricula but teaches real life skills and even some – sigh – worksheets and flashcards. Because much to my disdain, I have one kid who likes them.

If I’m feeling really brave, I might even let you into the sit down work part of our day. Ten seconds at a time. Eep.

So come find me on Snapchat. Let’s have some real fun planning curriculum! Why should our kids have all the fun?

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The Best Advice for New Homeschoolers

With the number of public school pullouts happening this week all around me, I thought I would pose a highly relevant question to those of you who correspond with me by email. (If you read my blog and would like to be part of this group please sign up by entering your email address in the space to the right of this blog.)

What advice would you give someone who confided in you that she was pulling her kids and beginning homeschooling tomorrow? This is a woman who does not believe she has time to read about homeschooling – she has to jump in right away. What would you say to her? 

The responses were great. There was such an outpouring of the wisdom of the homeschooling crowd, it was fantastic to see.

Here are my favorite responses:

“Just pick something. It’s not going to be perfect – no curriculum is – so, just get started. You’ll never know what does and doesn’t work without doing SOMETHING first.

“Don’t worry about stumbling through things that don’t work in the beginning. Modify what you can while you find what fits you and your child(ren).

I’d also drop names like Susan Wise Bauer and John Taylor Gatto, and suggest attending a homeschool convention in time (if only to peruse the exhibit hall.)” – Stefani from Dallas, TX

“I would share my own experience of pulling my 6-year old out of first grade. It was four months into the school year and I didn’t have a clue about how to homeschool. I just knew it was what was best for my child. I had one homeschooling friend so I watched her in action.

Mostly, for the first few weeks, my son and I visited the library often and we took a lot of nature walks and we snuggled up together with books. During this time I read up on different philosophies. I was drawn to unschooling or letting my child take the lead.

One thing I would emphasize is to not even try to keep up (or down?) with what the public schools are doing. It’s simply not worth it and it’s completely unnecessary. Even if the child eventually re-enters public school, chances are they will be ahead of their peers in many areas and considered behind in a few areas but in the end it honestly doesn’t matter! I have 3 kids in college now to prove it.” – Camie.

“I would say that you shouldn’t start right in on your kids where they left off in school. If there was some sort of rush to get them out of a bad school situation, they probably need some downtime to recover. Even if there wasn’t a bad situation, everyone could use a break.

Your child will not be behind forever if they take a month off to get used to a new routine of being at home and responsible for their own education (with your help). You are more likely to last if you read the books as many as you can.

Talk to other homeschoolers or unschoolers if you can. Read their blogs. Then put it all away and live your homeschooling/unschooling life, which will not be perfect, which will change over time, and remember not to get so wrapped up in “schooling” your kids that you lose sight of their wills, desires, and personalities. Adapt your method to your child, don’t try to force your child to conform to your method.” – Cheryl.

“I would first recommend them looking into their state’s laws to see what requirements their state has set forth for homeschoolers and to see what organizations are available for their state. (For Texas it is THSC – Texas Home School Coalition that will give the help that can answer many of the legal questions they may have). If I have just a few minutes to talk to that person, this would probably be the primary advice I would give. All states are different, and have different legal requirements for homeschoolers.

If their child is older and is planning on college I would suggest they talk to their colleges of choice to see what specifics they require in terms of transcripts, etc.

I would also give them the list of the resources I have found locally. For example, the homeschool opportunities at the local library, museums and groups I know about.” – Amy.

“First, I’d say go spend the days together doing whatever comes to mind! Have fun! De-school yourselves! Write down all the things you see your kids doing everyday and learn to see that through an unschooling lens. Learn to translate that in your mind into educationese. Then RELAX, because you are going to see a wealth of education and growth happening without you, mom. 🙂

Then I’d tell them to work through the book Educating the Whole Hearted Child  that has some workbook aspects inside to help them craft some of the important things in their homeschool. It will jump start them quickly in the right direction that lends them to the path to those awesome other titles: a baby step that helped me get on the path that doesn’t recreate school at home. ” – Laura.

“When I decided to homeschool,  it became evident that I was crossing into/over some imaginary line that either I believed was a wall or it was just a line.  Along the way, I discovered that every book, everywhere will guide you it will tell you best approaches, best curriculum, grade levels, etc.  But the bravery lay in creating the best homeschool that fits not only familial dynamics but also your children. Because if homeschooling chose you and not the other way around, it gave you freedom to explore all curricula, all schools of thought.

“My favorite idea is taking a year off especially if they’re used to school and the routine.  You will never replicate school in your home.  Simply, home is home.  Life happens at home.  Messy, complicated,  life. School happens at school, structured, ruled school.  

“I took the year to discover how all this fits in to my life and my child’s. That not to say we did nothing.  I knew he likes science so, I found hands-on lessons, lap books, until I found my footing and my confidence. It is a marathon. Slow and steady.” – Candace.

“We have four children who are home schooled, 5, 7, 9 and 12, we also have two older 12 and 17. The older two, our 12 year old daughter, (the princess!) is off to an all girls high school which only accepts gifted and talented children. The 17 year old has always been mainstream schooled and now enjoys his 6th form freedom. The four home schooled children are helped with their learning by my wife and myself, together with our excellent network of home schooling families and groups.

So, on to your question, if home schooling was mentioned, our children would prick up their ears and excitedly tell you all about it, what they like, how they like to learn, how its great to learn through just looking around, experiencing life, expressing their feelings and opinions and recording all these by taking pictures, writing stories, doing research and creating their files and diaries which they can read later and remember their life experiences.

My wife or myself would share the joy of our children learning without boundaries, living their parents’ values (rather than someone we don’t even know), having the freedom to learn without the constraints of a some brand of learning for their age, not feeling pressurized to do things they object to, not just learning during the week and being too tired to even communicate at weekends – but, instead realizing life experiences are all around and through them anything can be understood, learnt and used to equip our children for a successful and rewarding future in life.

Sometimes however it becomes stressful, persuasive tactics don’t work and it seems like your not getting anywhere. These are the moments when your own determination, commitment to ensure your children ‘are the best’ and your love for them wins – and perhaps a glass of red wine, hehe! – Michael.

“If I were to meet someone in that position I would say, take it one step at a time, don’t be too hard on yourself or your children. Research on the go, if you have to. Don’t be afraid to change resources as you see fit. It’s not about completing any set amount of work or meeting any requirements, but your own.

As long as something positive has happened that day, that enriched your child as a human-being, that day has been productive. And soon enough you’ll see, you’re on a roll! Oh, definitely there are those horrible days, self-doubting days, I-can’t-seem-to-be-able-to-keep-up-with-the-house-work days, but truly homeschooling is the most rewarding experience between parent and child!

I could go on for a while yet, but suffice it to say that our kids are little for a short time only, I for one prefer to spend maximum amount of time with them, instead of sending them away for the largest portion of that time, to be conditioned in the hands of strangers that other strangers have told me I should trust.” – Name withheld by request.

“The most helpful advice I’ve received so far is to deschool for a good length of time when you pull your kids out of traditional school. It was suggested to deschool 1 month for every year your child was in traditional school.

I was not homeschooled so it is a new mindset for me as well as for my son. A little background – we adopted our 13yo son in December and withdrew him from middle school on the last day before Christmas break. Our motivations are as much or more so about building attachment as they are about academics. We gladly took the advice to deschool and get to know each other better and go on field trips, go to the library, enjoy the outdoors, etc.

It’s also given me time to read about various homeschool philosophies and methods and observe how my son learns. We’ve tried some things out, but we’re staying flexible, keeping things light and fun as we develop a rhythm of schooling that will serve us best.” – Susannah.

“I have given this advice many times to moms who are pulling their kids from school. You have TIME. More time than you realize.

Once you pull them from school, take a few months and get to know your child(ren).  Start developing a routine for living at home together all the time. It will be an adjustment. Spend time at the library, the zoo, the park, in the backyard, etc. If they can read, encourage them to read a lot.

Your child needs to de-school. You can use this time to start educating yourself on homeschooling philosophies and ideas. After a few months off, maybe introduce one subject at a time and get to know how your child learns. Pacing yourself is the best thing you can do to ensure success in homeschooling. Finally, and maybe most importantly, find a community of homeschooling moms near you that you can talk to and get together with from time to time. You will need the support and your children will love the time to play with other homeschooled kids. You have TIME.” – Meredith.

“Take your summer break now. Relax and enjoy time with your kids. Talk about what they know and find out what they want to learn about next. Go to zoos and museums before the summer crowds and without the field trip mentality. Play board games and have fun worth each other. Read books together. A strong relationship with your kids is foundational to successful homeschooling. And then you’ll have time to research a couple months and make a plan. Start homeschooling when you and your child are ready. There’s no rush or reason to follow the traditional school schedule.” – Christa.

“I’d have to say to that mom that she can absolutely do it! And, she needs to know that every doubt she is having, the public and private school teacher has also had at the beginning of her career.

Know without a doubt that you can provide AT LEAST as good an education for your child if not a significantly better one!  I speak this as a former public school teacher with 3 grown children who attended public and private schools and a 7-yr-old who I now say will be sent to public school only when you pry him from my cold, dead hands! Yes, I’m a bit dramatic about it! I’ve experienced the inside of public school as both a teacher and a parent.

Trust me when I say that if you have Internet access, a library card, and can find a group of like-minded mamas with kids somewhat close in age, YOU ARE GOLDEN!  The most important of those three, I believe, is the group! If you are pulling your kids tomorrow, I’d say find a group that suits you as soon as possible!  They don’t have to do school the way you do school. They don’t have to have the exact same educational philosophy. They simply need to be supportive and available to interact with on a regular basis. ALL mamas need interaction and support, and the ability to ask questions, share ideas and struggles, and do life together makes all the difference!

If you can’t find a group that fits, start one. That’s what I did 3 years ago, and we now have over 30 families. Several, but not all, meet weekly. We do field trips together. We have monthly Moms’ Nights Out. Our kids love each other, we love each other! I don’t know how I’d make it without them.” – Rhonda.

“Find out what matters most to you and focus on it. Everything else can wait. When we began homeschooling, I focused on character. The kids read, I read to them and we focused on their piano lessons. That’s it. In the next quarter they had outdone years of work at the public school!” – Linda.

So there you have it! The best advice from homeschooling families.

Now, go forth in confidence, new homeschoolers! Welcome!

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Math and the Determined Homeschooler

(Image courtesy of College at Home, published under a Creative Common License) 

I recently sent out a survey to my email list to prove or disprove a thesis of mine about math. All Common Core math discussions aside, it was my understanding that homeschoolers are confident in their ability to teach their children because they know they can teach math and science.

Why? Because any basic anecdotal survey of parents who want to homeschool but feel they will not do a good job seems to suggest that inability to teach math and science lead the hand-wringers.

However, what I found did not seem to agree with the above oft-mentioned, much reiterated, excuse.

Being good at math as a child was NOT a determining factor in the homeschoolers surveyed and was NOT even remotely connected to their confidence in homeschooling. In fact, the most common response was that being able to teach math was not a determining factor in their decision because they knew that they either could learn or get help.

The other question that I found fascinating clued me into why homeschooling works and why homeschooled children tend to perform better in general (as shown in above infographic by College at Home): of the parents who responded to my survey, a whopping 92% said they drew connections between what their children were learning in math and why it was important for them to know. Only 8% said they didn’t draw connections because it was more important to get the basics first.

Of all the respondents, 58% said they struggled with math as children and yet, here they are, determined, learning and teaching.

So much for the typical Common Core response that parents need to “back off” and let the teachers handle the teaching. So much for parents passing on their own fear of math to their children.

A full 77% of respondents either followed a math curriculum loosely or did not use a curriculum at all. You don’t get much more confident than that.

This survey is why I love homeschoolers, whether they’re unschoolers or not. I have yet to find another group as motivated and as confident in what scientists call the “plasticity” of the human brain – their and their children’s ability to learn, to work hard and to get where they want to go.

The purpose of this blog is to inspire homeschoolers. If this post helped you, please share it!

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“Why Do I Have to Learn This?!”

This is a guest blog post by Shell Higgs. She is a freelance writer with many skills up her sleeve. She cannot cook or juggle, but she does specialize in writing about parenting, technology and education.  You can follow her on twitter @higgshell or visit her blog at techeduchat.

To this day, I don’t know why I had to learn long division. While the actual process was taught to me, the motivation to learn and remember it was neglected, so I immediately went straight back to doing division in my preferred way.

We’ve all heard the words “why do I have to learn this?” usually accompanied by a groan. The lesson has struck them as being boring or difficult, and generally not applying to their life at all. This is where great learning goals are worth their weight in stress-free gold.

[clickToTweet tweet=”A clear learning goal answers the not just the what and how, but also the why of the lesson.” quote=”A clear learning goal answers the not just the what and how, but also the why of the lesson.”]

The why is a vital but often missed step. By revealing why the child should learn the subject or skill, you allow them space to assign value to the lesson. It connects the lesson to their world, community, belief and self-knowledge.

By framing your learning goals in a WALT/WILF/TIB format, and displaying them prominently, you can provide children with the opportunity to take ownership of their learning. It should be stated that this format doesn’t limit bonus learning from additional branches of exploration, it merely directs children to the high point of your intention. It might just be a springboard for a whole new project!

Here’s how it works.

WALT: Write learning goals that work. WALT is We Are Learning To…

In one short, snappy sentence, explicitly tell the children what they are supposed to be learning. Make sure to include an action verb.

We Are Learning To: ‘Explore narrative structures in classic literature’ or ‘Learn about bees and what they do’. If another person asks your child what they learned today, they don’t have to try and uncover the point of the lesson, they know exactly what they learned today.

WILF: Action verbs, explicit statements and links to the child’s world. WILF is What I’m Looking For…

This is your success criteria. How will the child know when they’ve learned the lesson, especially when the goal was to do something unquantifiable, like ‘explore’? What I’m Looking For: ‘Able to draw a narrative structure diagram’ or ‘Able to label a honey bee diagram and explain bee roles’.

By letting the child know exactly what success looks like, they are able to self-evaluate, and clarify their learning if required.

TIB: Learning goals assist students to become invested in the lesson and take ownership of their learning. TIB is This Is Because…

This is your opportunity to link the lesson to the child’s world and what is important to them. If the lesson is about physics, link it to how much they love skateboard tricks. If the lesson is teaching teenagers to be safe online, link it to their desire to connect.

A good TIB statement is a powerful learning tool. Even when you aren’t quite sure how to link it to them specifically, a little explanation goes a long way. This Is Because: ‘Knowing the narrative structure means you can write your own stories’ or ‘Honeybees are vital to propagating plant life on Earth’.

It’s not necessary to write a WALT/WILF/TIB for every lesson, or even change them every day. Some learning goals will carry across a whole week or even a term.

 

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