Great ideas I can’t afford

I want people to think I’m making a good decision. I know I shouldn’t care. I know I should just do what I think is right. But I want to be accepted into some sort of community. I’m not sure what kind.

So I need to look into the homeschooling community where we live. I know there are families. Lands End is here and there is no private school. What do the executives do with their kids? I need to find out.

I don’t want to become a genius about teaching materials. I don’t want to engage other homeschooling parents in discussions about what worked for those kids.

I want to buy Rosetta Stone and learn languages with my kids. And then go to the country where we can speak it.

I want to hire everyone at My Learning Springboard to have things like customized tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and long-distance learning for bar mitzvah tutoring.

I want to have a fellowship program where I get amazing teachers in a wide range of areas to come teach my kids for weeks at a time. And I want to build a cabin next door to us so the teaching fellows feel so lucky they get to live on a farm.

I want the zillionaire version of homeschooling.

13 replies
  1. Geoff Allemand
    Geoff Allemand says:

    I like your style and sense of adventure in the area of real world learning for your kids and yourself. Learning should be exciting and personal. Not one size fits all within four walls that seems like prison. Boldly go forth where no wo(man) has gone before and blaze your trail. I will be interested to watch from afar…Down Under in Australia. And will surely learn something myself. All the best for you and your family.

  2. Brianna
    Brianna says:

    I think most of what you are saying is well within reach, Penelope. I’ve made my decision to homeschool this year and I’m following much of what you’ve laid out.

    I have rented my basement apartment to an ESL teacher who has just returned from two years in South Korea. Free rent in exchange for lessons in Korean and lessons *about* Korea.

    I just purchased Rosetta Stone in Spanish and made connections with a local university’s spanish speaking partner program so I can get up to speed to teach both kids the basics.

    I have a Suzuki teacher and 3x/week ballet lessons lined up. I’m planning two trips–one to Washington, D.C. and one long road trip to several national parks of the West.

    I haven’t bought any curriculum materials, and don’t plan to, but I do have a few guides for teaching reading via phonics instruction. We’re learning poetry for recitation to get that process started.

    You, Penelope, were the reason I started down this road. I have forwarded your columns on homeschooling to more people than I can count. We’re opting-out of a broken system because I believe in my kids as learners, and myself as a consultant. I’m going to teach my kids, but more importantly, I’m going to enable the *experiences* and find those *other* great teachers that give them what they need in a dramatically changing world.

    Thank you, Penelope. You’ve truly, deeply influenced my family with the discussion you have constructed about homeschooling.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Thanks so much for this comment, Brianna. You inspire me to have more faith in myself. I like what you’re doing. I think: Hm. I could do that….


  3. Jana Miller
    Jana Miller says:

    Sonlight is our favorite. It’s all planned out for you will get to read all kinds of great books with your kids.

    Homeschooling is such a tough decision…I cared so much about what the neighbors would think…it was embarrassing.

    I felt like I was in junior high and deciding what to wear to a dance. Then I discovered that the neighbors didn’t really care. And we had a great time…most of the time.

    Oh and we like ALEKs math too and Excellence in Writing. Homeschooling doesn’t have to be complicated.

  4. Alice Bachini-Smith
    Alice Bachini-Smith says:

    I love your approach to this, Penelope and Brianna. Those are the things I wanted to do too, and did do for a few years. What stopped us in the end was economics. If you can do it all and have enough money to do it all (and also love what you are doing, of course) it totally works.
    Penelope, as far as having faith in your ability to do this, being in a homeschooling community definitely helps with that, even if you don’t happen to share people’s ideas, because it’s concrete evidence of what it takes. You’ll know if you can’t handle what they do, or if it’s going to be easy, from being around them a bit as well as talking to them.

  5. L
    L says:

    Hi Penelope,

    I love your homeschooling section. You seem to be unsure though about whether or not to go through with it. Well maybe you could answer these questions for yourself to help with the decision process.

    1. What do you want your kids to learn?

    2. Why do you want them to learn that?

    3. Are there certain things that can be learned better in one environment than the other?

    4. Lastly do you have the resources to homeschool and do it well?

    For me I am definitely going to home school. I currently work for a school district with some amazing people however the biggest limitation of schooling is the lack of individuation. If a student needs extra time to understand the material it is not available. If a student is excelling and understands the material they are bored and not learning. Traditional school is inefficient.

    I wouldn’t worry about the social skills your child will be missing. Just putting kids together does not mean kids will learn how how to interact appropriately. I know this because I work with kids in a small group who need to practice social skills. As long as you have access to other children you can work with your son on social skills. (eye contact, staying on topic, sharing, being polite, initiating a conversation, reading non vocal cues, negotiation, speaking up for what you believe in, being respectful)

    Anything that you want to teach that is a fact like 5 + 8 = 13 or the letters e-l-e-p-h-a-n-t spell the word elephant research and find the most efficient way to teach this. (For example If you want to teach your child to read and spell well look into the research done for students with dyslexia) Schooling does not do this well. Partly though because they have to stick to state standards and have to pace their class not by how the students are doing but by how the state dictates. And kids that need specialized help frequently don’t get it

    Then find a way for your child to enjoy the skills he is learning. (Learn the cello the go to cello camp and have fun) Learn to read and then go to the library and pick out a book. Learn to write and have a pen pal. Learn math and pay for your own toy at the store. Learn how to initiate a conversation and use the phone to call a friend.

    Once you figure out how you want to teach all the facts you will need to figure out how you want to teach your child how to problem solve and reason. Lastly my favorite part finding out what your child wants to learn about and using the skills he has to do this. Like your example of using Rosetta Stone to teach Spanish then traveling to Spain to not only practice Spanish but to learn about Spain. The difference between this example and the example above is in the first example you are only practicing a skill but in this example you are using something you learned to teach yourself something else.

    I think learning is really exciting. Having the time to choose some of the things you want to learn about is even better. If you home school you can cover 2x as much as a school can. Also you can check your email when ever you want. Remember you have said to measure results. Who cares when you home school. It could be 5 in the morning for 3 hours, 8pm at night, or on the weekends. As long as you are getting results.

    I almost forgot take your kids out of the title 1 school.

    Good luck with your decision!

  6. Zellie
    Zellie says:

    Are you really going to hire an assistant? Will this be a business assistant or life assistant? That person could be a wonderful complement to your influence.

    If you find the parents locally who homeschool you may be pleasantly surprised to find that some may want to have “classes” to teach some specialty. Even a few weeks of a writing class, programming, whatever can stimulate growth, give a chance to interact with peers, have someone else as a teacher/mentor. I think this is most relevant in middle and later years. Younger kids need “doing” groups.

    If your kid’s into computers, there’s got to be somebody at school or out who might be interested in showing him or tutoring. If a small group of parents pools a little money, it can be a nice amount for a student who will share what he loves, get some money and great experience teaching/mentoring.

    You’re right that people will feel defensive about your decision. If you still have lunch with the principal, refrain from unkind remarks about schools and teachers it will be easier for the community.

  7. Kimberly
    Kimberly says:

    We are homeschooling our 8 and 5 year old and we love it! It is very rewarding to see your child “get it”. And, I love spending more time with them… (did I just say that?) ;)

  8. CL
    CL says:

    Learning languages with your kids sounds like a great idea. All of my mom’s side of the family speaks at least three languages fluently, and I’ve always been expected to speak them. (My mother taught me French via comic books.) Compared to most Americans, I understand or have studied a ridiculous number of languages (7). I’m 20 and I’ve studied abroad in 4 countries and visited 4 more. However, when I go to France, I’m the sad, uneducated American because all of my cousins have studied or speak more languages (German, Japanese, Danish, Italian, etc.). A major failing of the American system is that most children aren’t really expected to be fluent in more than one language.

  9. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I want you to read the following article about Khan Academy titled “The Problem Solvers” ( ).
    It describes the “back end” of their endeavor, what they’re learning from the users of their content, and some of the things they hope to achieve. A small sampling from the article – “Khan Academy’s explicit goal is to teach people fundamental concepts. But in the process, it hopes to break new ground by changing how educators think about teaching, how psychologists think about learning, how employers think about credentialing, and how everybody thinks about the price of a good education.” BTW, I think every good Mom “wants the zillionaire version of homeschooling.” Good way to put it.

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