Keeping up with the Joneses

Suzuki camp. Again. I am by the pool. Next to a mom.

There is a girl who is a great swimmer. She is doing butterfly across the length of the pool. With straight arms and perfect double-kicking toes. I say to her mom, “She’s a great swimmer.”

“She’s on a swim team.”

“How many days a week does she swim?”


“And she plays violin? How does she have the time?”

“We homeschool.”

“Oh. I’m going to homeschool too. We’re starting this fall.”

There it is. Just like that. I decide that I’m doing not just one kid, but both. Because that girl is great at violin and at swimming and I think maybe that is all you need to be in order to have a fulfilling childhood.

16 replies
  1. Lori
    Lori says:

    devoting time to the things that matter most to you isn’t just a recipe for a fulfilling childhood — it’s a recipe for a fulfilling life.

  2. Carole
    Carole says:

    I love how your life is evolving. I am glad I can help by clicking on your site many times over. I should have known your were going to homeschool both of your boys when you started this section of the blog. All the clues are here and yet yesterday and today’s decision took me by surprise.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Thank you for the encouragement, Carole. I really like how my life is evolving, too. I am stunned at how useful a blog is for making a life change. It really helps sort through issues fast. And it keeps you honest during the sorting — something that is hard to do if you make a life decision in private.


  3. karelys davis
    karelys davis says:

    I’ve been thinking lots about all you’ve been writing. And thanks for answering my emails so fast by the way. It was so impressive when accounting for all the people that email you every day.

    I liked the fast, straight to the point answers.

    That said, this morning I saw a youtube commercial about ADD/ADHD on adults. The guy from Maroon5 seems to have it and the premise of the commercial is that people don’t outgrow it so they should get checked for it.

    When I was finishing up my bachelors in psych. a few months ago I wrote on Aspergers because we had to chose a mental health issue and research and write about it.

    I’ve read some of your critics saying that you hide behind the Aspergers curtain and that you’ve never been officially diagnosed.

    However, THERE IS NOT an Aspergers scale for adults! I was taken aback. So I continued researching medical journals and all type of things. Nothing.

    One of the TED talks goes into the school system and why it fails. The truth is that homeschooling kids, even if they didn’t have Asperger’s issues or social problems or anything would really be the equivalent of working on your own time and your own rules.

    So maybe it could be a better set up than the regular school system for an adulthood that is productive and fulfilling.

    I know my husband is not on board. I just found out I am pregnant. But having done school online really really really makes me want to homeschool my kids!

    Thankfully there is K-12 online for WA state.

    I am really looking forward for this homeschooling section to continue to update and read all about the progress!!

  4. Cathy
    Cathy says:

    I just went to a homeschool conference because one of my daughter’s friends was speaking on a “homeschool grad” panel: young adults who were homeschooled when they were kids. The young people were asked if they would homeschool their own kids, if they had any. Everybody said yes! emphatically except one who qualified “yes if we can manage it.”

    Asked what was the best thing about homeschooling, one young thespian said simply, “Time.”

    She then went on to expand on the idea that she could participate in late rehearsals and performances without the stress and lack of sleep that schooled teens who were in theatre experienced.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I love hearing grown kids talk about their homeschooling experience. I think it’s homeschool porn: Almost no one publicly complains, so it’s all bright and sunny and we can pin our fantasies onto this small sample size that may or may not have anything to do with us: same as the Playboy centerfold, but in the case of those homeschoolers, I feel no guilt.


      • Cathy
        Cathy says:

        You want the “not bright and sunny” side of homeschooling – look at the horrific newspaper articles about homeschooled-and-abused kids who were locked in their basements. Yuck!

        As for the 99.99% of us who don’t abuse our kids… most of us are not as brave about writing negative personal stuff as you are. For one thing, we don’t want to rat our kids out.

        Okay, here’s a not-bright-and-sunny thing…but it is mostly just a parent thing, not necessarily a homeschooling parent thing: I “used my words” with my young kids, trying to break up a physical fight (they were hitting each other), and my words didn’t worked. I tried to separate them, but they were both upset enough that it wasn’t easy to do that. I should’ve just stood up and swooped one kid up into my arms and enforced the separation that way, but what I actually did was hit them myself! I slapped both of their legs, saying: “We [hit] do not hit [hit] in this house [hit]!”

        Ummm…Hall of Shame!!

        They both stopped hitting each other, shocked that I had slapped their legs (well, let’s not pussyfoot around– shocked that I had hit them!), and perhaps, young as they were, able to enjoy the irony of my saying that WE do not hit in this house while, in fact, hitting – and, yes, we were IN THE HOUSE!

        Of course, I later apologized for hitting them, and I told them that hitting not only hurts but also doesn’t work very well. Unfortunately, it then occurred to me that in this case hitting had worked really well! (If I recall correctly, they didn’t even cry – they were that shocked!) So then I scolded my kids for ignoring my words but responding immediately to my hitting them … I told them that the positive reinforcement that they gave me for hitting them was a really bad idea…

        See, I always said hopelessly inappropriate things, way “above their heads” – like telling little kids about positive reinforcement – but I’m sure they could tell that I was both sincere and caring, and I think that is probably the most important aspect of that interchange.

  5. Lori
    Lori says:

    thought you might be interested in this article —

    steven levitt (freakonomics guy) says “he and another economist could find no evidence that that sort of parental choices could be correlated at all with academic success.”

    he also says:

    “And my guess is, that when it comes to the happiness of kids, that kind of cramming has got to be negatively correlated. Being rushed from one event to the other is just not the way most kids want to live their lives, at least not my kid.”

  6. Lori
    Lori says:

    thought you might be interested in this article —

    steven levitt (freakonomics guy) says “he and another economist could find no evidence that that sort of parental choices could be correlated at all with academic success.”

    he also says:

    “And my guess is, that when it comes to the happiness of kids, that kind of cramming has got to be negatively correlated. Being rushed from one event to the other is just not the way most kids want to live their lives, at least not my kid.”

  7. Latha
    Latha says:


    Congratulations on making the decision to homeschool your children! Believe me, even with a full time job, being a sole parent etc. I would never want to not homeschool, unless it is what my son wants at some point. It is a lot of fun (a lot of struggle too) but overall, it is one of the best parenting decisions I have ever made. Good luck and look forward to following your journey!

  8. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    I can highly recommend K12 online school. This is our second year in Washington Virtual Academy (WAVA). My daughter is starting 5th grade this year. She got a much better education using online education than she did at our neighborhood school (which is considered “good” locally).
    Here’s a link to K12 affiliated schools in WI These are all great schools – we also have them in WA. These are considered PUBLIC SCHOOLS, and the curriculum is provided FOR FREE by the district running the school (may not be your local district).

    Good luck with homeschooling, and let me know if you need encouragement!

  9. 17 Years In
    17 Years In says:

    While I see you have some special issues to consider for one child, getting into a good, established homeschooling program for your first year is a great way to start. Calvert Schools has School-in-a-Box, and there are other on-line options such as K12 or Connections Academy, to do the hand-holding for the first year. After that, you may find that you don’t need it.

    K12 and Connections Academy are really public schools online. That may or may not be important to you – it is to some people. You are expected to follow the letter of the state law concerning schooling, including the number of hours a student must do school work, meet the guidelines for inoculations, etc. They supply the curriculum and perhaps a computer/pay for part of the DSL bill. There’s some of the flexibility of homeschooling, but not the fullest freedom. Making sure that any program addresses your specific needs – like public school, what’s promised and what’s delivered may be very different.

    Whatever you chose, homeschooling has been a fun, rugged, crazy, madness-inducing, irreplaceable 17 years, and I approach my final year with, if not a desire to do it all again, a sense of accomplishment. I hope you feel the same.

    17 Years In,

  10. cathy
    cathy says:

    I homeschooled my four kids. I don’t think we were that disciplined but they seemed to have learned well enough. My kids had been in a pretty good religious oriented school. But what caused me to decide was that I just wanted to be involved with how they learn and think. I didn’t have kids to send them away. The biggest issue I have with schools is that I don’t think kids should be with people their same age year after year. It’s unnatural. Kids learn from being around older or younger people, and to always be around the same age group just teaches cool, style, or feeling uncool. But after it’s all done, I can say it’s changed the way I think about whether much of what kids are taught really has the intended effect. They need a balance of emotional learning, and homeschool can help with that.

  11. Grazzi Bindlesmock
    Grazzi Bindlesmock says:

    Just came across your blog today, and loved everything I’m seeing, especially the data-centric approach to evaluating claims about marriage, child-rearing, and the like.

    One thing I’d call attention to — I’m a statistician, actually — is that people who home-school are hardly a random sample from the general population; they are extremely self-selected, and by all sorts of highly correlated variables, like earning power, lifestyle stage, education, *valuing* education, etc. So, extrapolating from their self-reports is especially difficult.

    I was an only child who attended public school. Although I was surrounded by other children (this was in NYC), going to school every day exposed me to a huge variety of other people, unexpected opportunities, and a vast array of subject matter that my own parents would have had no way to begin to match. I shudder to think what would have happened had my own incredibly dedicated, stay-at-home Mom been in charge of educating me. And my interactions with a really broad range of kids, especially poorer kids, tougher kids, kids who had no interest in things I did, would have been dramatically curtailed. I count that as an important formative part of my life. Yeah, I probably could have learned “more” had I stayed at home and had a dedicated teacher there. But the broadness of my experience could never have been replicated.

    So, like everything else, it’s a trade-off.

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