Posts Tagged ‘homeschooling’

Math Picture Books

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Math is everywhere in our lives, not just textbooks. Reading math picture books or storybooks to your kids will help to show them the friendly approachable side of numbers and patterns. There are TONS of these kinds of books, but I’ll just show you a few of the ones we used in this video. You can find a lot of these in your library or Scholastic warehouse sales.

 

The books I reviewed in this video are:

The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure by Hans Magnus Enzensberger

Sir Cumference and the First Round Table and Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi, both by Cindy Neuschwander (there are other books in this series as well)

Opt: An Illusionary Tale by Arline and Joseph Baum

Polar Bear Math: Learning about Fractions from Klondike and Snow by Ann Whitehead Nagda and Cindy Bickel

If You Made a Million by David M. Schwartz

Big Numbers and Pictures that Show Just How Big They Are by Edward Packard

Big Book of Time: A Magical Adventure through the Seconds, Seasons, and Light-years of the Universe by William Edmonds. This book is no longer in print, but I found a similar book here.

Incredible Comparisons by Russell Ash. I can’t seem to find this book online, so maybe it is out-of-print, but here is a similar book by Russell Ash.

Math Practice for Kids who Hate Math

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If you want your kids to practice basic arithmetic, but they hate using textbooks or workbooks, try using resources from Scholastic Professional Books. These fun books are written for teachers and classrooms, but most can easily be adapted for homeschool use.

Is Homeschooling Good or Bad for Introverts?

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Introvert

Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage, Cape Florida Lighthouse (Wikimedia Commons)

In 2nd grade, I used to fantasize about having a wooden shed about the size of an outhouse around my school desk, with a window facing the teacher and walls all around me. I thought all the children should have their own little sheds – wouldn’t that be great? We could even have our own mini refrigerators and bookshelves and comfy seats, all tucked away in the privacy of our personal little classrooms. It never occurred to me that the other kids might not like this.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends or sat lonely on the sidelines during recess. It wasn’t that I had horrible classmates or any traumatic experiences. It’s just that I felt really comfortable being alone. I’m a classic introvert. Being alone recharges my batteries, while socializing gradually drains me. I like to hang out with friends and family, but after too long I feel exhausted and have to be alone again.

I worried about that when I made the decision to homeschool my kids. Was I overlaying my introverted preferences on to my kids? My oldest and youngest are most definitely extroverts like their father. They THRIVE on attention and socializing.  Was I going to cramp their style by keeping them at home?

I made a dedicated effort to get them out of the house, playing with other kids, but we also played together a lot as a family. I always gave them the choice to go to school if they wanted to, and they both tried it, but found that the social advantages didn’t make up for the boredom (although my youngest is now enjoying her charter high school for the arts). As teenagers, they found friends through sports and extracurricular activities.

I wonder how many homeschooling parents are introverts? I would have loved homeschooling as a child if there had been a choice. Maybe that is one of the reasons it appealed to me as a parent (but it’s certainly not the only reason).

I also wonder if it would have bad for me to have been homeschooled – maybe I wouldn’t have ever gotten used to be around a lot of people.  It’s hard to know for sure, because you can never go back and live it both ways. But introverts aren’t anti-social, they just prefer smaller groups of people and more alone time than extroverts do.

My middle son is somewhat introverted. He likes to be around people, but stays on the edges where he can watch and listen. He doesn’t need to be the center of attention. I remember bringing him to a preschool once for a visit when he was three. He had been used to a toddler playgroup, but this preschool class was crowded with boisterous kids running around having a great time. My son was horrified. I watched his eyes and knew exactly how he felt. So he has chosen to homeschool his whole life and has never once been in a regular classroom until Community College. He played with neighborhood kids and had regular sports and other activities, but he really prefers conversations with small groups or one-on-one. I don’t think homeschooling has hurt his social skills, but it made it harder to find people with similar interests. Not many kids (or adults for that matter) want to talk about economics, math or programming languages, so he had to stick to video game and media topics. He can hardly wait to go off to a four year college this Fall to meet more kindred spirits.

Maybe those folks who worry most about socialization are extroverts. To them, it must seem like torture to be at home all day instead of being surrounded by other children. Or maybe they are introverts who always wished they were extroverts like the popular kids at their schools. But as long as homeschooled kids are not isolated, and have opportunities to make close friendships and acquaintances, there’s a lot to be gained from the time and space to be themselves. Instead of worrying so much about fitting in or pleasing other people, kids can think their own thoughts and do their own thing.

Homeschooling offers introverts a better balance of alone time with together time, kind of like my imaginary little classroom shack. True extroverts will probably need a lot more social opportunities, not just with other kids, but adults too. It’s not hard to find homeschool groups these days to fill up your schedule with field trips, park days, special classes and other activities. If anything, it’s easy to over schedule our kids. We just need to pay attention to how their batteries are charged and keep things balanced out.

What do you think? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How does that affect your thoughts about homeschooling?

Should you homeschool your kids?

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How to Homeschool

Over the years, I’ve heard a variety of responses when people find out about my homeschooling, but they are surprisingly similar: “Oh- I so admire you for that – I don’t know how you do it,” or “Good for you! I could never homeschool though, I’m just not patient enough,” or “How can you stand it? My kids would drive me crazy!”

I think that many of them are just being polite though, and they really have no interest in homeschooling. That’s OK. I’m not one who believes that every child should be homeschooled. Public and private schools can be a wonderful resource (although I would always support smaller class sizes and more individualized curriculum).

My concern is for the parents who I sense really do want to homeschool, or are at least curious, but think they cannot. So, it made me think, “Under what circumstances is homeschooling not a good idea?” I came up with reasons in five categories: Interest level, Ability, Patience, Motivation and Circumstances.

Interest Level

If the parent who would be doing most of the homeschooling is not interested in homeschooling, that’s really not going to work.  Likewise, if one parent is interested in homeschooling but the other is firmly opposed, that won’t work either. Kids shouldn’t be placed in a tug-of-war between parents; perhaps a trial period or other compromise can be found.

If the child is not interested in being homeschooled, you may suggest a trial period, but don’t push it. I firmly believe that children ought to be given the freedom to direct their own education, even if that means attending traditional school. An obvious exception to this would be if you are concerned for your child’s safety or well-being.

Ability

I don’t believe a college degree or even a high school diploma is a necessary to help your own children learn. But without those things, I do believe that the homeschooling parent should be literate and self-educated to some extent. Parents should know enough to know what they don’t know, so that they can find the appropriate resources for help. For instance, if a homeschooling mom knows that her math skills are weak, she can pick a program that gives step-by-step solutions or one-on-one tutoring if necessary.  Parents do not have to teach everything!!!If a parent is particularly worried about their own academic weaknesses, they might feel more comfortable using an all-in-one curriculum that gives step-by-step instructions and phone support.

Patience

Parents envision the headaches they will have getting their kids to sit down and finish their work, and they are right. That’s one good reason not to do it that way. Homeschooling is not the same thing as school at home. Many parents do choose to have a fairly formal schedule and curriculum, but that is NOT necessary. Children who are given free rein over their own education will learn amazing things, and there is no need to force it. Please see my book or this post for more information.

You will still need patience however, because you will still be a parent, and there will still be sibling squabbles, temper tantrums, chore avoidance, dawdling, and disobedience. But you may find that spending more time with your children, during the better part of the day, will bring you all closer together. By doing fun things together, talking, listening, and working side-by-side, your rhythms will start to mesh. The tensions of rushing around before and after school or work will be gone. The kids will get more sleep, be more comfortable, and have more time to play. You may find that you get along better with your children than you ever thought possible – as long as you don’t try to be the mean ol’ schoolmaster.

Motivation

Some critics point out that parents should not be allowed to homeschool because they only wish to indoctrinate/brainwash their kids. I imagine there are indeed parents like that, although I hope not many. My answer to that is we all unintentionally brainwash our kids anyway. We can’t help it. Even when we are trying to present other viewpoints, it is very difficult to hide our own. Even schools wish to indoctrinate children in the values and beliefs considered important to society. All kids, schooled or not, are going to absorb the belief systems of their families and teachers, though they may later choose to reject those beliefs. Also, it’s pretty hard to shelter kids these days from every opposing viewpoint. So, while I hope that parents have nobler motivations to homeschool their children, I don’t think the threat of brainwashing is bad enough to say they shouldn’t homeschool.

Circumstances

If there is no way for one parent or adult family member to stay home with young kids, then homeschooling really isn’t an option. Although I have known parents who worked at alternative private schools like Montessori or Waldorf and were able to enroll their kids for free or reduced tuition. Also consider alternative working arrangements like both parents working different part-time shifts, working from home and hiring a helper, or down-sizing to live off of one income.

For responsible teenagers, I think it is possible for them to be home alone during the day as long as someone is available later to help answer questions, find resources, etc. I know of a single mom who pulled her teenaged son out of high school because he was being bullied. While she went to work everyday, he worked on his online curriculum, practiced his cello, took cooking lessons (within walking distance) and worked as an apprentice at a local guitar repair shop. He later joined a Celtic Bluegrass band and now makes his living as a professional musician traveling all around the country.

If there is a stay-at-home parent, but he or she is overwhelmed with smaller children or other responsibilities, it may be too difficult to give the older children the attention they need. But it IS possible – especially if that parent is organized and has a great sense of humor. There are a number of great homeschooling books that address this very subject, so I would recommend reading up on what other families have done before deciding one way or the other.

Another part of circumstances is financial resources. It’s nice to have the money to buy all the cool homeschool curriculum available these days, but it is not necessary. You can get all sorts of great resources for free or very cheaply. The homeschooler’s greatest friend is the public library. I also bought some of my favorite learning materials at garage sales and used curriculum swaps. So, the main concern for financial resources is the ability to live off of one income, and homeschoolers have become masters of household frugality (this gives me an idea for a future post).

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If you are interested in homeschooling, but still not sure, I would recommend searching for homeschool groups in your local area. Find out when they are meeting and ask to come see what it is all about. Homeschoolers love to talk about homeschooling, and they will be able to answer a lot of your questions. You can also read up online or in your local library, but there is no substitute for meeting real homeschooling families.

 

Our New “Sputnik Moment” – More Scientists, Engineers, and Mathematicians

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Maybe it’s just my selective hearing, but it seems like everybody these days is talking about how desperately the United States needs to entice and retain more students in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields, especially in response to our perceived technological race with China.* On Monday, I heard a very interesting talk by Ann Lee, author of What the U.S. Can Learn From China, in which she mentions China’s ability to churn out highly qualified math and science students. In contrast, statistics of U.S. graduates in 2009 show that we graduated roughly 89,000 visual and performing arts majors, but only 69,000 engineering majors, and 22,000 in the physical sciences or science technologies (see source). President Obama even alluded to this as our new “Sputnik Moment” in his State of the Union Address. Technological innovation and research are being hailed again as the answer to our economic, security, and way-of-life problems.

I’m not going to argue with this (yet*). It would be great if we could invent a long-lasting solar battery, learn to capture CO2 from the atmosphere, desalinate seawater cheaply and easily, find a cure for AIDS, etc. There are lots of ways that technology could really help us right now. The problem seems to be that not enough U.S. students are interested in or capable of rigorous study in these fields. So, naturally, policy-makers are thinking of every way possible to provide incentives for students, training for teachers, and more rigor in our national curriculum. It’s just ironic that we are paying so much attention to China’s school system in hopes of learning how to boost our kids’ STEM literacy while the Chinese are looking closely at our school system for ideas on how to boost creativity in their own students.

Nicholas D. Kristof noticed this in a recent New York Times article: “But this is the paradox: Chinese themselves are far less impressed by their school system. Almost every time I try to interview a Chinese about the system here, I hear grousing rather than praise. Many Chinese complain scathingly that their system kills independent thought and creativity, and they envy the American system for nurturing self-reliance — and for trying to make learning exciting and not just a chore.”  He wrote: “One friend in Guangdong Province says he will send his children to the United States to study because the local schools are a ‘creativity-killer.’ Another sent his son to an international school to escape what he likens to ‘programs for trained seals.’ Private schools are sprouting everywhere, and many boast of a focus on creativity.”

Isn’t that great? I love that the Chinese want their kids to be more creative, but it’s sad that so many of our kids are not prepared for the academic challenge of STEM fields. Perhaps the best solution is somewhere in the middle. Is it possible to build more rigor into our children’s education without squelching their creative spirit? I think so, and there are two big things that would help: giving kids ownership of their education, and  inspiring them with the best examples we can find.

1. OWNERSHIP – I’ve written before about my thoughts on systematic science vs. haphazard (self-directed) science education. The main point I want to emphasize here is that timing is everything. I disagree strongly with Nicholas Kristof’s opinion that the U.S. should start serious academic training in preschool, as they do in China. It is true that preschoolers are very malleable and easy to teach at this age, but they have far more important things to be doing with this precious time than getting a headstart on high school. Kids are BORN creative. If China (or the U.S.) wants their people to be creative, they don’t have to do anything special, they only have to avoid stopping it. That means letting children play, explore, touch, listen to stories, laugh, help, and be loved. As children mature, they are much better equipped to take on abstract studies of reading, writing, and arithmetic. As teenagers, they are more than able to take on rigorous studies if they are so inclined. The problem with pushing academics too early is that it kills curiosity. Once intrinsic motivation is lost, schools must rely on external motivators (rewards and punishment) to make up the difference. From what I have read about China’s education system, their rewards and punishments are more consequential than ours, and maybe that is why their kids take studying so seriously. But I think the best solution is to let kids direct their own education for their own reasons, because curiosity and ambition are powerful forces all on their own.

2. INSPIRING EXAMPLES – Passionate teachers, mentors, museums, science centers, movies, demonstrations, exhibits, and fairs like the Maker Faire are all wonderful ways to show kids the possibilities of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Reading well-written books by authors who are truly passionate about their subject is another way to spark interest. Textbooks are usually not inspiring because they are written by a committee whose sole purpose is to instruct. Even if you don’t live close to a metro area with museums, science centers, and events to visit, make an effort to find inspiring examples for your kids. Work with your homeschool group to find local mentors or teachers for workshops and field trips. Are there any blacksmiths in your area? Beekeepers? Interesting retirees? We once made friends with an elderly woman who power-walked through our neighborhood every morning. We gave her bags of oranges from our tree and she invited us over for lunch one afternoon so that her retired husband could have someone to talk to. It turns out that her husband was a retired astrophysicist. As we enjoyed the gourmet home-cooked Chinese feast our friend had prepared for us, her husband talked non-stop about his fascinating research on comets. None of us had ever been interested in comets before that day, but his passion was contagious. When we got home, my kids all wanted to look up comets on the Internet so we could see what he had been talking about. If I had tried to introduce comets as part of some science curriculum, there is very little chance it would have made any impression on my kids. But a real person with real enthusiasm is hard to beat.

Fortunately, we also have access to very interesting people via the Internet. In my next post, I’ll talk about STEM- related websites that might inspire your kids.

*I’ve also heard reports that recent college graduates with engineering degrees can’t get jobs, but I’ll save that for another post.

 

 

How to Keep Track of Homeschool AND Life

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Life as a homeschooling mom can feel like a Cirque du Soleil show gone bad. There’s so much to keep track of:  errands, phone calls, laundry, budget, healthy meals, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, cleaning, exercise, helping kids with schoolwork, planning, recording, mothering, and nurturing other relationships. It’s crazy! I don’t know how anybody expects one person to do all this stuff, but somehow we do. I’ve always tried my best to stay organized and get things done. For years, my motto for getting stuff done has been: “Never stop working.” But that’s not very helpful is it? I really don’t work all the time, although sometimes it feels like I do. It would be much worse if I didn’t find a way to keep track of everything.

In my last post, I talked about getting yourself personally organized, but here I’m going to share with you some of the ways I organized my homeschooling days when my kids were younger. My biggest friend was a 3-ring binder that lived on the dining room table where we spent 80% of our days. In that binder, I kept my journal, reference pages (book lists, homeschool tips, community/extracurricular info), and my planning pages. I had a section for long term planning, with home-made forms like this:

 I made up a grid like this for each half of the year so that I could roughly plan out when we would do certain things. Everything revolved around unit studies, potential field trips, and the activities of our homeschool group. While this grid gave me a nice overview of how things fit together, I used plain old notebook paper to plan out what books we would read for the different subjects, like this:

So, that’s what I keep in my binder for long-range planning. But in the front of the planner, I kept more home-made forms to help me get through the week. I made it so facing pages would cover one week of homeschooling, to-do lists, routines and rudimentary menu planning. I changed the forms as often as I needed to reflect changes in our schedule and only printed out 5 weeks worth at a time.

 

You can see from the hole punches on the sides how these pages faced each other. I purposely left the dates blank in the computer so that I wouldn’t waste paper printing out unnecessary weeks.  For the life of me, I can’t remember what program I used to make these forms, but it was probably MS Word because I didn’t have any fancier software in those days.

Even though I tried to plan ahead, the kids didn’t always like what I had planned, or life got in the way, so I also kept “Learning Logs” to record what we actually did each day. Since my boys usually did the same thing, I kept one log for them, and a separate log for my younger daughter. I printed these in landscape mode for my binder, but I’m showing you an abbreviated example turned right-side-up to make it easier to see:

These homemade forms worked great for me when the kids were little, but when my oldest entered 7th grade, and we moved to a state with stricter homeschool requirements, I started playing around with “Homeschool Tracker” on the computer to do my planning. In some ways it was easier, but it was far less forgiving or fun to use. When I switched to a Mac computer, I couldn’t find any homeschool software for that platform so I’ve been making my own. I’m still a big fan of 3-ring binders, but when you need to record grades, assemble transcripts and compute GPA for older kids, it’s kind of nice to have it all on the computer.

Pause and Reflect

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This time between Christmas and New Year’s Day has always been one of my favorite times of the year, because I relish the idea of a fresh start. When I was a teenager, I used to thoroughly clean my room, rearrange things and make new posters for my wall. Of course, at the time, I lived five miles down a snow-packed dirt road in the prairie and had nothing better to do. But even now, though I have no time to deep clean my drawers and alphabetize my music collection, I still like the chance to make myself better. I don’t really do “Resolutions,” but I like to make a plan of action. After reflecting and journaling about where I am now, I plan out what I will do in the year ahead.

It’s important to really take stock of where you have been before planning where you need to go. This is true not only for your personal development, but for your homeschool and family life as well. So before you rush into any plans for the next semester, take this time to pause and reflect. Catch up on your record-keeping. Write some journal entries. If you haven’t been keeping records, you may find it difficult to remember where the time went, but pull out your calendar and family photos and try to recall the achievements or big moments of the year. Ask your kids for help because they will probably remember different things than you will.

Sit down with each child (older kids can do this themselves) and write about the following:

What were my favorite things to do this year?
What did I learn how to do?
What are the three most interesting things I learned about this year?
What am I most proud of?
If I could change anything, what would it be?
What three things am I most thankful for?
What do I want to learn more about next year?
What do I want to learn how to do next year?

Instead of writing down these answers, you could also do a video interview with each child. What a keepsake that would be!

Another exercise you might try with your kids is mindmapping. Have them draw a picture of themselves in the middle of a piece of paper, and start writing down random thoughts and memories about the past year. There is no need to put things in any order, or remember every last thing, just brainstorm. Their thoughts might surprise you.

Once you have collected input from your kids, pull out a notebook or keyboard and do your own homeschool brainstorming:

Describe what is working. What do you love about homeschooling?
Describe what is not working. What do you dislike about homeschooling? Is it something you can live with, or do you really need to change something?
Describe your home atmosphere. Does it reflect the true interests and values of family members? Are people happy at home? Is there anything you would like to improve?
Everyone has habits, good and bad. What are some good habits you have developed or maintained this year, not just for yourself, but for the family as a whole? Did you stick to a budget? Start recycling? Stop drinking sodas? Give everyone a collective pat on the back. Then list some bad habits that you would like to change.

Very often the act of reflective writing will unleash new thoughts, old worries, and ideas for the future. Just let them come. Write it all down. Don’t try to edit yourself or stick to a format. Switch to big bold letters when you feel the urge. This is catharsis time, so don’t be afraid to get it all out there. And you don’t need to do all of this at once, perhaps a little bit per day.

You may also want to use this time to get caught up on some scrapbooking for your homeschool. I found a few links about this here:

http://www.knowledgequestmaps.com/To-Notebook-Lapbook-or-Scrapbook.html

http://eclectichomeschool.org/articles/article.asp?articleid=23

http://www.crosswalk.com/family/homeschool/record-your-end-of-school-year-accomplishments-part-1-11604210.html

For those of you who don’t already make homeschool scrapbooks or yearbooks, I’ll be sharing a series of posts about this in January, but until then, consider taking some more pictures. In fact, now is an excellent time to take pictures of the things you want to change, so you can have before and after photos! Messy dining room table? Collapsing homeschool shelves? Chaotic craft closet? Scowling child? Junk food in the pantry? Later this year when you’ve fixed those things, you can take pictures of the new improved versions.

Homeschool College Applications

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Tis the season for college applications – is anyone else overwhelmed with the number of documents and forms required? It’s especially tough for homeschooling families because we first have to write our own transcripts, with course descriptions, and figure out GPA, credit hours, etc.  It’s not too bad if you have been keeping good records all along, but even then it takes some time to assemble everything in a professional looking format.  I used the book Homeschooling High School: Planning Ahead for College Admission by Jeanne Gowen Dennis for help with these details.

Once your transcript is complete, you still need to be the Academic Advisor and help your student keep track of all the different requirements for each of the schools her or she is applying to. Having gone through this twice so far, here are a few organizational tips:

  1. Start a folder for each school you are applying to, and insert the application checklist along with hard copies of your essays and other materials specific to that school. There is no need to make copies of materials submitted online in the common application. This is where you store any correspondence and financial aid information for that school as well.
  2. Prepare another reference folder with a copy of your prepared transcript, course descriptions, and homeschool description (if necessary). Your student will probably need to enter this information in a variety of online forms so it helps to have everything in one place.
  3. Prepare a simple spreadsheet with a list of your colleges on top, and a list of requirements along the left side. See my example below:

Example of College Application Spreadsheet

 

Note that I didn’t fill in all the data for this spreadsheet yet – it’s just an example. But you can see how useful it would be to keep track of what has been submitted and what is still missing. Your student might have other requirements too like an audition or portfolio submission. You can customize this however you want. I did this in Microsoft Excel, but Google Documents has a spreadsheet feature that works very well, for free.

My kids filled out all of the necessary forms online, but I checked everything for accuracy and to fill out the information for household income and parents’ education/employment. They wrote drafts of their essays and personal statements on Google Documents so that my husband and I could read them and offer suggestions as needed. Once the drafts were as good as they could be, they just copy/pasted them into the online applications.

The nice thing about online applications is that you can work a little bit at a time, saving as you go, and then when everything is perfect, hit “submit” and hand over your credit card number.

This year, my son and I will be keeping track of scholarship applications the same way, but first things first. We gotta get these things done! I’ll let you know how it goes.

Who Controls Your Homeschool?

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There is an old adage that warns: “The more you use your power the less you have.” Seems like a reasonable  statement, doesn’t it? Thomas Jefferson applied that principle to government power. Leadership experts apply it to business management. I’m going to apply it to homeschooling.

No one has more power than a parent.

In the natural order of things, we do need a lot of authority to provide for and protect our children. Humans are quite helpless at birth, and instinctively cling to adults for care and guidance. But over time, children have to start doing more and more for themselves. The tricky thing is figuring out when and how. We’re not like birds who somehow know the exact right time to push that fledgling out of the nest or stop supplementing their offspring’s feeble hunting attempts.

Humans are more complicated than that, and I suspect that every situation is different. But the one thing I’m certain of is that we all learn better when we have some control over it. Learning is an inherently personal activity, like dreaming or thinking or believing. We adults will naturally pass along some of our own thoughts and beliefs, and we will naturally teach our kids a great many things about how to live in this world. But for active, purposeful learning, it is best for the student to direct his or her own education.

I know that sounds really bizarre to some people. How can kids know what they are supposed to learn? They are so young and inexperienced. But the real question should be: why is a kid supposed to learn a certain thing at a certain time? Maybe it makes sense in a public school where administrators must try to educate a lot of students at once. Here, curriculum becomes an issue of management and efficiency. Of course schools want their students to learn a lot and be successful in life. They are generally run by very good and dedicated people. Unfortunately, the best way to learn for kids is not the most efficient way to teach for teachers. It’s a lot of work supporting a child-directed curriculum. Every child is completely different, with different strengths and interests. Who has time for that? Parents do.

That’s the greatest benefit of homeschooling – a curriculum custom-made for each child. But if you want to take homeschooling to the next level, let your child choose their own way and what of learning. Let them have control.

This doesn’t mean you need to let them have control over everything. None of us have carte blanche to do as we will. There are always chores and obligations that we would rather not take care of, but we do, and kids should too.

But learning is different. As Leonardo Da Vinci put it: “Just as eating against one’s will is injurious to health, so studying without a liking for it spoils the memory, and it retains nothing it takes in.” We cannot make somebody learn something. We can make them take a test or fill out a worksheet, but we can’t make them remember the material. We can try to control what goes in kids’ heads, but we are only fooling ourselves to think it works. So stop wasting everybody’s time and just enjoy the true process of learning.

Where do you start?

Start where your child is. Ignore your own wishes and hopes. Pretend you don’t have any. Start where your child is. It’s easier if your child is young because they haven’t forgotten curiosity or their natural drive to learn. Just support what they are doing or what they want to know. Take them places, check out books from the library, play games, read aloud, have fun, go outside. If your child is older and more suspicious, my advice is the same. Start where he is. Does he like playing video games? Let him teach you and play with him. Does she only want to read fantasy novels by the woodstove? Let her! If you back off and don’t pressure your kids to “be productive,” eventually they will. They can’t help it. The only way they could resist the urge to learn is if they believe someone else is making them.

If you have always kept close control over your child’s education, they may wonder why you have suddenly backed off. Go ahead and tell them. But explain that just because you are not going to control their education doesn’t mean you are not interested. You are still there to help them find resources or mentors or outside activities. You will still be there to answer questions, talk, and . . . teach, if they want you to. You will still need to keep records of what they are doing. When schools or colleges ask for a transcript it will be your signature at the bottom of the page. But if your kids want to go to college, it is up to them to plan a college prep curriculum. You can certainly help, as an “academic advisor,” to find out what they will need to reach their goals. But the great thing about self-directed education is that once a kid is used to being in control, they take control. They will study the things that are boring in order to achieve a greater goal. They don’t see themselves in the passive “receive” mode of education; they see themselves as the active creator of their education.

A student who has been told too much what to do, and resents it, may comply in action but not in spirit. They may even rebel. The more power we try to use, the less we have.

If you would like to learn more about how successful people such as Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, John Muir, and others controlled their own education, check out my book!

Ten Ways to Make Your Kids Hate Homeschooling

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  1. Use real school desks and chairs to mimic the “real thing.”
  2. Perform lots of drill and rote memorization of state capitals, grammar rules, and other facts.
  3. Every time your child asks what a word means, tell them to look it up.
  4. Insist that your kids sit still and look at you when you are teaching.
  5. After every chapter, make sure your kids answer reading comprehension questions in their notebooks. Don’t forget to use full sentences.
  6. Always choose serious, academically challenging textbooks for your curriculum.
  7. Remind your children everyday of the importance of studying hard, so that they won’t be a failure in life.
  8. If your children balk or dilly-dally over school work, make them sit at the desk until it is finished.
  9. Set a schedule, and stick to it, even if your child is working on something else.
  10. Worry a lot, out loud, and wonder if you are doing the right thing.