I was on YouTube looking for this funny clip about homeschooling by comedian Michael Jr. And the recommended videos blew my mind.

First, there are a slew of videos of homeschool moms showing people their daily schedule. You know what? I don’t believe it. Because every homeschool mom I know puts together an intricate schedule at one point or another, and it never works.

The first reason schedules don’t work is that a homeschool parent is not only the parent but also the spouse and secretary and house manager. So, for example, if you are installing deck cable railing and you don’t want your kids to fall over the unprotected edge of the deck during installation, the family schedule is wrecked for that week.

The other reason schedules don’t work because if you are letting the kid do self-directed learning (which is one of the biggest benefits of homeschooling) then the schedule is changing. The kid quits stuff, the kid makes new friends who have different schedules. The kid goes to special classes. The kid decides to stay up late and then can’t get up the next day.

These are common results of letting kids make their own choices about what and how they learn. Parents WANT to have a schedule that the kids follow every day. That’d be great. But really that’s what school does so they can handle a 30:1 student-to-teacher ratio. Otherwise, the schedule thing isn’t nearly as important as the kids constantly having to find a vision for the particular day.

The second type of video is moms telling you what curriculum they use. But it’s not like they are using video curriculum — they are using books. So I want to know, if moms are making the kids use text-based materials all day long, why are they making videos to talk about it?

I can’t tell if I think these moms are pathetic for not being able to write about their text-based curriculum. Or they are pathetic for making their kids use text when they prefer video.

I was thinking the moms are making money from the videos. There are lots of places that get you PR through guest blogging. But I don’t see that happening in these videos. Moms don’t want money as much as they want external validation. Even at Harvard Business School, men want financial success and women want social success.

Ever since I saw the irresistible Wikipedia list of all-time worst music, I’ve been fascinated by the concept of worst. Because the worst is never the worst, it’s just the worst of the best. The worst of the worst would be so bad that it’s not worth investigating. This is why I’m always flattered to be taken down on New York magazine’s blog.

And now I’ll pay it forward by nominating this blogger as the worst of the video blogging moms: Homeschool On.

Here’s a 31-minute video about her curriculum choices and she says it’s a quick overview and I should go to her blog for more detailed info. The thought of more detailed info than that makes me want to slit my wrists, but I go to her blog because I want to know how she’s homeschooling five young kids and doing videos and blog posts.

I find her post that reveals her Secret to Doing it All. It turns out her secret is God. I’m not kidding. God is with her so she can do homeschooling. I think this qualifies as the commodification of spirituality. But that’s not the reason Homeschool On is the worst blog ever. What really gets me is that she’s saying if I’m not succeeding as a homeschooler, instead of trying to fix what’s not working, I need to focus more on God.

How. How do people think like this? I don’t know. Maybe someone can tell me in the comments. Meanwhile, I’m thinking that homeschooling is not a movement but more like a Rorschach test. If you are a religious nut then you will make homeschooling that. If you are an achievement nut, you’ll make homeschooling that. If you’re an intellectual snob or nature fiend, whatever. Homeschooling is a template for giving the family a focus. And all those moms talking about their curricula? Their focus is following rules.

Does this mean that homeschooling for me is writing about messing up my kids and then making money from it? Yes. That’s it. That’s homeschooling for me.

Also, the picture up top: see that white square sheet on the back blue wall? That’s our daily schedule. And this is the only official record of its existence because I tore it off the wall and threw it out.

19 replies
  1. Erin
    Erin says:

    Homeschooling for me often looks like this: https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/wetzelwhimsies/

    I tell myself it’s ok bc it’s like free art therapy and it gives my kids an opportunity to express what they are feeling or what our family looks like now that their dad left. I don’t ask them to paint our family, but they do it all the time anyways. They once drew Matt as an alien outside a spaceship. Now, when they draw our family, there’s four of us: me, Phoebe, Clementine and the cat.

    Phoebe (age 7) in particular is always making stuff and painting stuff and creating books and projects and doll clothes. So many projects. But when we make these paintings, we do it together. And I hope that togetherness gives them something tangible that will help them hold onto positive memories of this year.

  2. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    Never knew about that piece in the NY Times. It does make you sound jolly interesting tho; I think your tone and style is your USP. The truth is the truth, the timing might jar but there it is. In fact its probably why I’ve read your blog for so long – if your miscarriage tweet hadn’t gone viral I may never have discovered your blog here in the UK.

    Its the main criticism of homeschooling isn’t it, that children are considered safer being indoctrinated in larger state sanctioned groups than in a family setting. Do you think that as homeschooling grows the state will start to encroach on family freedoms? Ie Homeschooling parents will start to be required to register somewhere and regularly check in / pass a criminal disclosure check etc in order to continue?

  3. Katarina
    Katarina says:

    For all the people who blog about their strategies and struggles and secrets to success or their confessions of failure, there are ten times that many (just a random guess) who live their lives without sharing what they do, how or why they do it and whether or not they succeed. The silent majority are full of wisdom that they don’t share, and mistakes that they don’t air. Blogs by definition are annoying. It can be “entertaining” to see how various people approach their lives, and to ponder about how they come to their conclusions.

    Life is uncertain by definition, but when you homeschool, you are multiplying the uncertainty factor. That uncertainty drives people to find out if others are mucking through the muck of uncertainty…in search of company (uncertainty also loves company). People with prescriptive blogs fizzle out.

    But the monetizing aspect is what really takes it to the next level. Anybody can say something that grabs attention and make money. Blog reader beware.

    Most of the biggest pontificators about the need to homeschool end up putting their kids in school. There are a few exceptions. That goes for anything. The more we preach, the more we end up eating our words. Shutting up has its place. Imagine a world without blogs…

    And I just shared my opinion with perhaps a few people who don’t know me and couldn’t care less about my opinion. So what are we doing here? We are entertaining ourselves.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I really liked reading what you wrote, so maybe you should be a blogger :)

      I especially like you proclamation that prescriptive blogs die fast. I hadn’t realized that, but it’s true. And I find that when I’m at my worst I tell people what to do and leave out all the humanity.

      Penelope

  4. sarah
    sarah says:

    Is the world I live in. That would have been me 3 years ago. I started shifting 7 years ago, but really took a turn 3. These are the kids that my kids end up befriending, because its 90% of the homeschooling community. Only, they don’t want to. As I mentioned, christian lost a friend over a hypothetical conversation. It’s crazy.

    So, maybe its not the world I live in, its the world I’m leaving. But its hard, in the homeschooling community to find people who are not like that.

    And yes, I couldn’t resist the temptation of leaving a comment on her blog about why she’s wrong. I did heard my therapist voice in my head asking why I couldn’t walk away….. and, I didn’t have an answer.

  5. Alissa O.
    Alissa O. says:

    You already have the answer for why the Homeschool On mother says her secret is God. For her and others like her, God is a form of internal validation. It’s a belief that she acts upon to make herself feel better about homeschooling and life in general.
    By focusing more on God, she feels better about herself and so maybe she’s better at homeschooling and dealing with her kids. We all perform better at work when we have a strong belief in our abilities and our choices. Even if our beliefs don’t make sense to other people.

  6. E
    E says:

    Hahahahahaha! I love it. So funny. So true!

    I also think a lot of new homeschoolers are very fearful and these blogs are like “certainty porn” for their condition. Newbies grapple with where to put the anxiety of their non-traditional decision. They wield that curriculum planner like a talisman to ward off the fearfulness and doubt.

    Sometimes new homeschoolers are so hardcore about their homeschooling and schedules that they actually make it hard for their kids to form friendships with other families; too anxious. Then, they eventually have to send the kids back to school because, “lack of friends.”

    I remember copying others’ learning and lifestyle choices a lot in the early days of homeschooling. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing! I lacked a True North in the absence of school certainty and it took me a while to find mine. I didn’t want to screw up my kids, steeped in uncertainty as I was. I couldn’t trust my instincts because I literally had zero intuitions about something so foreign.

    Now that we’ve been unschooling for over 7 years, I got this. I believe most homeschooling families just need time and space to mature into the more authentic version of homeschooling they want to live. The longer you homeschool the more you chillax – that is, until the kids become teens and then you start fretting all over again as life levels up into young adulthood.

    In our part of the U.S., we’re lucky that there are not only a lot of secular homeschoolers, but a fair amount of homeschoolers who happen to be christian (which is very different than people who homeschool because they christian so hard.)

    I have met some of the strongest, smartest, most interesting people mingling in homeschooling circles. If you can push through to the other side of uncertainty and over-planning – and get good at avoiding the crazies – a pretty rad community of free thinkers awaits on the other side.

  7. J.E.
    J.E. says:

    Penelope, I’m surprised you’re surprised that the Homeschool On mom’s all about God. Maybe because that view is so pervasive in my home state I forget that it’s not so prevalent in other places. Where I live, that’s A LOT of the homeschooling families.

  8. Erin
    Erin says:

    I know what’s wrong with the Homeschool On mom but it hits too close to home. It feels too close to how I was raised and the path I used to be on.

    Being raised in Christian church culture can at times be like being raised in a cult and you have this element of thinking you’re only “ok” if you tick off certain boxes. I imagine Homeschool On mom is stuck on the pedestal of motherhood and is told repeatedly that she is doing holy work by raising her kids as A Good Mom but it’s killing her and the only way to survive is to lose herself in it. She talks about God giving her strength bc the mantras of religion keep her in line and there is comfort in that security. It’s like being on the Whole 30 diet. There’s a strict rule to follow and you get great perks/results… but you are not allowed to participate in entire sections of your pallate. Whole 30 vilifies carbs to keep you thin. I feel like Christian homemaker mom culture makes it impossible to savor the strength and beauty of strong and independent female role models in order to keep the family healthy as a whole. But that’s ironic bc you need strong women in order to run a homeschooling home with 5+ kids. Women can’t take credit for being strong or being leaders, so all the strength comes from God & all the credit goes to him, too.

    Idk. Maybe I’m full of shit. It’s hard to navigate all this.

    • E
      E says:

      Wow, Erin. That was really insightful and you explained it beautifully. I completely get it now… mind blown.

    • Katarina
      Katarina says:

      It is one thing to believe that one’s strength is from God, and an entirely different thing to *promote* your lifestyle, life choices and strategies for homeschooling or anything else as a shining example for all to see *because* you claim to get your strength from God.

      Somewhere along the way, American culture developed the idea that everyone needs to be proselytized. Whatever the idea is (religious or not), one must shout it from the rooftops. This applies to weight loss, relationships, financial management, parenting, and eventually politics…and the list goes on.

      I remember going into bookstores in the 1970’s (Kroch’s and Brentano’s, specifically) and seeing the new “self-help” section. This was a new concept. There was money to be made with all the dissatisfaction in life. You’re miserable? or at least dissatisfied? I have the answer. Buy my book. I’ll explain it to you. Follow my regimen. You’ll feel better. The good news for people who want to make money in that industry is that no one feels better but they keep hoping they will so they keep buying. You will always have shoppers.

      This is how Oprah became rich. She started in Chicago and was just a regular talk show host. When she decided to have people start airing all their dirty laundry, she claimed it would “help” other people. By hearing that someone else was just as, if not more miserable, people would be relieved. All the other tabloid guys followed her…(OK, there were a few others before her who never made it as big as she did) but she was honestly leading the way. At one point she decided to be “less tabloid” but before that decision, she was wading around in the trashiest of trashy stories. She would often say that since her life didn’t match up to the reality in “Leave it to Beaver”, she felt people needed to see that life isn’t so picture perfect like that for anyone. She claimed it was her duty to shine a bright light on all this crap so that people could begin to overcome their problems. As a result, Oprah annoys a lot of people, too. She has developed a reputation for offering answers to all of life’s questions.

      Though never married, she emphasizes her ideas about relationships. Though never a parent, she tries to address difficult parenting issues. Though never able to control her weight, she endlessly promotes weight loss programs. Though never able to do anything about the rising crime in Chicago (which she eventually abandoned altogether after auctioning off her stuff), she laments the injustices of the world and has New Age gurus talk about how to make peace with yourself and others.

      The bottom line is that there are plenty of annoying people with all kinds of answers for us. We don’t need to be surprised by how many and varying they are. We have to decide how much of our time we are going to give them and how annoyed we want to be by them. Getting annoyed by someone is actually a form of entertainment. Most soap operas have a villain whom people “love to hate”.

      The homeschool mom who has all the answers because she is certain that her plan is blessed by God is annoying. She is annoying because she believes she has all the answers and that those answers are irrefutable.

      We can decide 1) if we are going to market our life strategies and risk giving bad advice or end up as huge hypocrites (this is especially true for people trying to validate everything they say with God’s seal of approval) or 2) if we are going to ignore all the endless opinions out there and accept the uncertainty and ambiguity of life and keep trying to learn from our experiences.

      Here is some free, unsolicited advice: Expect to be annoyed by everyone who is emphatic with advice (religiously backed up or not).

      Homeschooling is rough, rough, rough no matter how you slice it.

      • J.E.
        J.E. says:

        Yes! The proselytizing of America. It’s happening with so many things (religion, diets, fitness routines, time management, etc.). Just because something works for you, why be compelled to try to blanket everyone with it? There’s a difference between simply stating your view and reasons behind it and beating people over the head with a viewpoint.

  9. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I’m not surprised – “And the recommended videos blew my mind.” The recommended videos are those videos which show up in the right (up next) column. They’ll autoplay for you if you have that feature selected. Some of them will say “recommended for you”. Those videos are determined by a YouTube algorithm which draws on techniques in machine learning. As you can imagine, the algorithm is proprietary and very secret. It is thought to be based on a viewer’s habits, watch times, etc. to keep the viewer on the platform as long as possible – maximize advertising revenue. The videos which are recommended are different than those which are searched even though both algorithms use the same data according to this ex-Google employee (Guillaume Chaslot) in this article who worked on the YouTube recommendation algorithm – https://medium.com/@guillaumechaslot/how-youtubes-a-i-boosts-alternative-facts-3cc276f47cf7 .
    There’s another good article on YouTube’s recommendation algorithm at the New York Times – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/10/opinion/sunday/youtube-politics-radical.html . The author makes her point on YouTube’s recommended videos here – “Intrigued, I experimented with nonpolitical topics. The same basic pattern emerged. Videos about vegetarianism led to videos about veganism. Videos about jogging led to videos about running ultramarathons.
    It seems as if you are never “hard core” enough for YouTube’s recommendation algorithm. It promotes, recommends and disseminates videos in a manner that appears to constantly up the stakes.” So I think the recommended videos will provide maximum entertainment for the longest period of time.

  10. Leonie
    Leonie says:

    I hope this doesn’t come off as insensitive, but what paint colors did you use in those rooms?

    I really like all the colors in your old house.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Maria Killam picked the colors for my old house and the current apartment. I love her. And you should hire her. I can’t say enough good things about her. I generally know what color I want, but she always picks an amazing version of that color.

      The minty color is Palladian Blue and the dark blue is Van Deusen Blue.

      Penelope

  11. Carlee
    Carlee says:

    There is some evidence and theory that ‘God’ came about when people began to have thoughts as opposed to instinct and mistook them for the divine.

  12. Rica
    Rica says:

    Just tuned in the video (I am an unschooling mom myself with two kids (4 and 7)) OMG. I could barely watch. HOW on earth is she filling up this book? Written reviews of the strenghts and weaknesses of all of her 5 kids, REALLY? It’s kind of frightening and hilarious at the same time. Thanks for your blog, by the way, I have read tons of unschooling blogs in recents years and I love your fresh views, honesty and humor.

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