During my last business trip I bought my son a phone. I try to say yes to what they want to buy. I try to trust that they’ll use it for something interesting. Sometimes it ends up being a waste of money, but usually not.
So the big surprise about the phone is not that he used it for pictures—I think Generation Z just assumes that every gadget they have takes photos. The surprise to me was that he started texting the photos to people.
And then he responded to the responses, and soon he was spending fifteen minutes a day figuring out how to spell.
I can’t decide if this is a lot of spelling or not a lot of spelling. I look at my friends’ kids, and they’re doing homework all day. But how many hours can a kid spend learning to spell, really? I am consoled with a study that shows that homework is useless until the last two years of high school.
I believe that study intutively because I learned so little from homework myself, even though I was doing a lot of it. What I learned, really, is only the stuff I wanted to learn.
I say that when I’m feeling confident.
When I’m not confident, I wonder out loud to myself while I’m driving, or showering, or shopping: “What do those school kids do all day?” How can I possibly believe that my kids are learning enough when we do no structured learning and other kids are doing ten hours of structured learning if you count the homework that even first graders get.
My version of homeschooling requires a huge leap of faith. I have to believe that kids really do waste an incredible amount of time in school, and then in their homes as well, on homework.
It turns out that all of us—kids and adults—are smarter and more interested in our lives if we spend thirty minutes a day learning something new. This makes me think that kids only need thirty minutes of school a day. That’s another way to feel that it’s okay that my kids are not doing school or homework.
At this point in my life, the thing I do for thirty minutes each day is learn how to justify that my kids need to do something new for only thirty minutes a day. It’s scary. But it’s invigorating, really, to do something intellectually scary.
Intellectually scary is what makes learning exciting. For people of any age.