There is a cognitive dissonance about public schools. Everyone knows public schools in the US are terrible, but everyone thinks their school is the exception. The reality is that your school would be the exception only if it teaches using project-based learning. Which it doesn’t. The public schools that are exceptional are exceptional at teaching to the test – a process that’s widely discredited.

Give your kids more credit than that.

Public schools suck. Reformers say child-driven learning and project-based learning are best. Parents are the only educators in a position to do that. So all kids will get a better education at home. And kids can teach themselves if you don’t knock the wind out of them with school early on.

I put links in that paragraph, but I don’t think I have to. I think all I have to tell you is that public school suck and Time magazine is telling you that you’re delusional about your particular school being the exception to the rule. Do you need someone more mainstream than Time magazine telling you that?

Take some personal responsibility. It’s so easy to bemoan the status of our public schools. And hope someone else fixes them. But get real: Our country is too diverse and too much in debt to fix those schools. The problem is too big. Maybe we’ll solve the problem, but not in your kid’s lifetime.

Talking about school reform is a way to shift the responsibility of educating your kids from you to someone else. Who really, you don’t even know. Because who is in charge of fixing schools, really? Who knows? Instead of talking about school reform, take your kids out of school.

Instead of practicing learned incompetence, admit that you could do as good a job at project-based learning as a school that is not even trying it.


The most arrogant, out-of-control part of the homeschool movement is the idea that “homeschooling is not right for everyone.”

What does that mean? That you are special because you can homeschool but not everyone is as special as you?

This week, Time magazine reports that US public schools are worse than any schools in the developed world. New York magazine reported that poor kids do way worse in public school than rich kids do, and that kids of uneducated parents do way worse than kids of educated parents. Finally, the Heritage Foundation reports that most homeschoolers perform higher than average on state testing – regardless of the household income of the homeschooler.

So we need to squash the delusional, self-aggrandizing idea based in classism that “homeschooling is not for everyone.”

Here’s another way to think about it. We know that breastfeeding is very important for babies. It gives kids a boost in their immune system, and other health benefits, but it also gives emotional benefits related to the connection with the mom and the baby. Read more

Recently CNN announced that the cost of raising kids has increased 40% in the last ten years. But if you look closely, the increase is largely because the cost of child care has gone up. This week’s Economist shows that on average, childcare is consuming 68% of the second parent’s income.

As a kid who was put into daycare in the early 70s, I have a clear view of why the cost of child care has gone up: It totally sucked when it started.

My mom was one of the first women to go to work during the reign of feminism. The photo here is what she looked like at home. But this is what she looked like at the Fortune 100 company that offered her a job: she had to bring a note to work saying that her husband gave her permission to take a full-time job.

While my mom was working as a COBOL programmer (she hit paydirt with Y2K drama , but that came later) my younger brother and I were at a daycare center that, in hindsight, specialized in children whose mother had died and whose father did not remarry fast enough to get someone to take care of them.

I am not going to delve into how bad the care was, both emotionally and physically, but my brother and I can’t even talk about the experience without feeling physical effects, like back pain or neck pain.

So it’s no surprise to me that child care costs have increased. We ask more of child care facilities today, and, of course, there are more regulations. We know that for kids from birth to three, it’s very clear that there should be a single caregiver  so if you can’t do that, buying one, in your home, is expensive.

I think the cost is going to go through the roof, though, when people stop using school as child care. Ten years from now, when homeschooling is ubiquitous, that 40% increase in child care costs will seem like a bargain.

A post a few weeks back showed a photo of my sons drinking red Gatorade. The topic was whether or not a car is a homeschooling tool. The comments veered into the food debate, asking me, “What are you thinking feeding your kids red Gatorade?”

So I did some research. There is pretty strong support for the idea that the FDA should put warnings on food with artificial color. Which I understand as the FDA is horrified by artificial color but the lobby groups are well funded.

And then I asked a few friends, and it turns out that most of my friends do not buy foods with artificial colors or flavors.

This is, of course, revolutionary thinking for rural America, where there is little access to high quality food unless you grow it yourself. (Remember, the majority of farms are a far cry from organic, or anything approaching that. This is the corn belt: We are making the cornstarch that pollutes the rest of your food.) Read more

My son plays cello in a Suzuki program at The Music Institute of Chicago. The Suzuki method is rigid. There are ten books, and you go through the songs one by one. You learn a new skill in each song, and the Suzuki-certified teacher tells you when you can progress. To be clear, I love the program, and we drive four hours each way because the teacher we have is special.

But my son’s curiosity is not as rigid as the program. I used to let him play whatever he wants. But then we got the special teacher for special students and she put the kabosh on that. Now he plays only what she has taught him, theoretically. He searches through his Book 2 to play whatever he finds. She told me to put Book 3 where he can’t find it, but he finds videos on YouTube and teaches himself songs in the confiscated books.

Then my cousin came over (a graduate of book 10 and then some) and he played Bach for my son.

So of course my son wanted to try it. He found the music on YouTube, but he couldn’t see the fingering. So I downloaded the sheet music.

I wrote to my cousin: “What’s up with the sheet music? It’s only notes. Is the bowing a secret?” Read more

Tyler Cowen linked to my blog last week. It was very exciting because not only does he have a great blog, but he’s an economics professor at George Mason University, so I got a bunch of emails from economists about homeschooling. Like, Greg Rehmke, who teaches a course about the economics of space exploration for homeschoolers.

Another thing that comes from being noticed by other bloggers is that I get asked to fill out questionnaires about homeschooling. It’s sort of insane, since I’ve only been homeschooling for two months. But whatever. I am used to acting like I’m an expert in everything. So when I got asked what reading has most helped me with homeschooling, I listed career blogs, because I’m absolutely dying over how to do my job while I’m home with two kids all day (supposedly) managing their education.

Lisa Nielsen, my homeschool mentor from heaven, read my answers and said, “Have you read  Sandra Dodd’s Big Book of Unschooling? You will like it.” Read more

I’m pleased to announce the first really mean comment on this blog.

Here it is, from the surely not-real email address:

Poor, poor kids. I don’t see how your husband approved of this — and, by the look of it, he makes no appearance whatsoever in this discussion or others.

You may have to eventually admit to your kids that you did this because you could not afford the expensive prep school you dreamed of for them when you first became a mother — this is your way of pushing that out and coming up with a “new” and “better” way, which only time will tell what will happen.

This sort of comment is old news on my big blog. For example, here are 700 comments about how I’m ruining the moral fabric of society.

I feel comforted to have someone slamming me for my homeschooling decisions, (and I’m pretty sure there’s a swipe at my decision to live on a farm too). I feel comforted because now I think the conversation can get real. Now nothing is sacred and we don’t have to tiptoe around the idea that we might be ruining our kids’ lives.

I have found that most of the people who hate me are insane, but sometimes, there are good reasons to tell me I’m a jerk. (Here’s one.) I learn the most when people are free to call me out for being a terrible person.

And I think the homeschooling community in general will benefit when everyone is free to take pot shots at each other. It’s a better learning environment because it is more honest.


At some point, maybe when I decided to let the kids spend their school days playing air hockey, I started to panic that my blog is mislabeled as homeschooling – it should be unschooling.

Finally I emailed my editor to ask if I should change it. He is used to these sort of crises. For example, I have another on-going crisis about what to do about how my bigger blog, or career blog or whatever it is,  has headlines without capital letters and my homeschool, or maybe unschool, blog uses conventional capital letters in the headlines.

We settled on the homeschool term because it’s much better SEO than unschool. And also I thought I’d attract more interest from corporate types. But I’m seeing that that doesn’t really matter. Because I’m lucky enough to have Federated Media selling ads on my blog whether it’s unschooling or homeschooling (I cannot stress enough how much they do not care about this debate) and the corporate types I have attracted have mostly been trouble. Read more

We spent three days in New York City. It’s amazing to me that we lived there for ten years, because I experience huge sensory overload when I’m there. I’m not sure why. I’m not sure if I was always that way or being at the World Trade Center on 9/11 made me that way. I think I’ve always been that way.

And I think my older son has sensory overload as well. He spent most of the trip playing with Legos underneath a slide in a playground in Tribeca. And when he came out voluntarily, it was usually for an animal.

The highlight of the trip for him was staying at my brother’s apartment, because he has a Labradoodle. My son’s second-favorite part of the trip was feeding the goats in the Central Park Zoo. No joke. You should have seen my husband, the Farmer, doling out quarters so my son could pay to feed goats even though his job on the farm is to feed goats every morning. My husband said, “Maybe I should charge you quarters for doing your chores at home and then I wouldn’t have to nag you.”

My takeaway from this trip is that kids know how to find where they belong. If you give kids the chance. Even in New York City, my son sought out the quiet places and the animals.

I had worked with a career coach once who asked me to think of my favorite time in my childhood. And it was clear to me that doing that exercise allowed me to focus in on what I should be doing as an adult. We all know what we should be doing—we know it even as children. But if we don’t practice acting on that knowledge then, as adults, we are scared to direct ourselves and we feel lost in the workworld where we have to make career decisions for ourselves.

I was in low track math. I remember when I realized it. I was in the front row, on the far right, and did not understand anything going on in algebra class. We had a tiered system in our school. I was in the highest track for most classes, and the lowest track for math. I remember wondering what the school would do with me when they realized that I couldn’t even keep up in dumb-kid math.

Amazingly, after that, I was moved up for geometry, into a higher track, presumably because in a class of 1500 students, I was in the top 10%, but I was in special ed math. Something was wrong.

But something was really wrong in geometry. I was so lost that I still have nightmares about walking into class and having no idea what people are talking about.

I never needed math again until I founded my first start-up. The guy who funded it hired a CFO-type person to show me how to build financial models. Using algebraic thinking. I realized that not only was he assuming I knew how to do math, but he was assuming I knew how to use Excel. So I hired a college student to teach me how to use Excel.

Excel is amazing. It taught me how to think algebraically. And as I got better at Excel, the formulas showed me how to think in terms of possibilities, and the columns and rows taught me how to look for patterns in business models to evaluate feasibility.

I’ve founded three start-ups and each time, my Excel skills have improved because it’s fun for me. I love building financial models, and in my last company I put an investment banker on my advisory board specifically so he could help me get better at using Excel.

So I am starting to believe the people who say that kids learn math when they need to know math. I’m believing the people who tell me that it’s okay that my son can’t do long division. My son has a goat business. It’s time to get the goats pregnant, and he can’t pay to rent a boy goat until he can figure out how much money he needs left over to feed the moms and the babies over the winter. So I know that somehow, he’s going to learn math this fall.