I took this picture when I was in New York City, in the middle of the week, at a totally cool place called Make Meaning. They have cakes that are ready-made, and they have totally cool things for decorating the cakes, including a spin-art setup, where the cake is on the spinner instead of the piece of paper, and you paint the cake as it spins.

I took the photo because I knew it was a special moment. It was a moment that I knew I could only have because we were homeschooling. And I thought I’d need pictures like this to remind me when I have doubts about homeschooling.

I thought the photo would remind me of the educational benefits of being outside the classroom. But the photo is much more than that.

Peter Gray, at Psychology Today, polled homeschool families, and he published a summary of what parents say the benefits are to their homeschooling.

I am struck by the four benefits that parents mentioned most frequently: Read more

Most people I know are not homeschoolers. Most of them tell me they understand the benefits of homeschooling, but they are scared to do it. They tell me they feel more comfortable being active in their kids’ school to make sure their kid gets a good education.

But I want to tell all those people that being active in your kids school hurts your kids. Here’s why:

1. You have no tools and no information.
After a huge, protracted battle, courts required school districts to give parents access to the record of teacher performances. Now that we have had ten years of No Child Left Behind, we have ten years of data about which teachers can teach to a test.

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Here’s my son, in a hotel room, practicing. I forgot the chair he usually sits on to play, and the only thing short enough for sitting was the toilet.

It turns out that there are interesting acoustics in a bathroom, so it was fun to play in there. But you can be certain that it took a lot of convincing to get him to do it.

And I’m sick of arguing.

I don’t force my kids to do very much. We don’t have schoolwork with lesson plans and workbooks. I don’t make them read stuff they don’t want to. They play video games as much as they want to.

Except for practicing their instruments. I make them practice. Read more

What is up with people emailing me ideas for what I can do with my kids? I already have way too many ideas. For example, we were at the Guggenheim last month, honestly, my sons probably would have rather run around in Central Park. (They tried running in the Guggenheim, and believe me, it was a disaster.)

The hardest part of homeschooling is not figuring out what there is to do with kids. The world is full of things to do for kids who are not going to school. The hardest part is figuring out what not to do. School rules out so much—anything that cannot be taught to 30 kids at once time in a small room. That rules out almost everything. Read more

Map, by Jasper Johns

One of the biggest gripes about US students is that they have no sense of geography.

I have a six-year-old who knows every state by it’s shape, so I thought I’d tell you how he learned it: From video games.

First, he was in the car one day searching for a new app on my iPhone. He went to top ten downloads for kids, and found one about states. He didn’t really want to learn about states, but he was sick of playing Angry Birds and Battle Bears and he couldn’t find anything else. Read more

I am actually a very strong believer in public school. I believe we owe it to kids who are disadvantaged—in a whatever way that is—to help them get a good education and have a decent entry point into adulthood.

I am also a strong believer that every kid can learn and every kid is smart and creative if you teach them the right way. Whatever way that is.

So it’s crushing to me that I am taking my kids out of public school and basically giving up on making it good. Because I think it’s hopeless. There will have to be a sea change, and I am not the activist type. I’m too self-involved.

There. I said it.

I don’t want to spend my days making the world a better place. I want to spend my days making sure I don’t repeat my terrible childhood by making my kids’ lives terrible. That is no small feat. The odds are against me.

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We went to visit my brother in New York City when his baby was born. My kids loved holding her. Finally.

There’s been a lot of lead-up to this. For example, the last time we visited, as we were going up to the apartment, in the elevator, my six-year-old said, “If Aunt Kristen is pregnant, does that mean she and Uncle Adam had sex?”

I said, “Yes.”

My son said, “Do you think I could ask Uncle Adam if he liked it?”

The people in the elevator nearly died laughing.

I said, “People like having sex with someone they love. But it would not be good manners to ask Uncle Adam about a specific time. That’s private.” Read more

[youtube_sc url=kl1ujzRidmU]

The New York Times has decided to take up the cause of studying English in college.

This discussion sounds similar to the discussion of whether we should legalize gay marriage. Generation Y is so overwhelmingly in favor of legalizing gay marriage that the debate is a waste of time. It’s opposed by conservative, out-of-date Baby Boomers who want to freeze society in debate sessions like they try to hold onto their delusions of agelessness with plastic surgery.

The discussion of teaching English is absolutely ridiculous. Here’s why: Read more

It’s too bad that I’ve starting reading a lot of parenting books because I get free business books in the mail every day, but I’m sick of them. I’ve been getting free business books in the mail every day for the last five years, and I shudder to think how many I’d get each day if I hadn’t spent the last five years changing addresses more often than a felon on the run.

It’s also too bad that I’ve started reading parenting books because my local library doesn’t have any. Well, who knows if they have any, because the books are shelved randomly by someone with no apparent knowledge of the Dewey decimal system. For example, Shakespeare’s Henry V is shelved in the biography section.

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I have come to enjoy when people ask me, “How is the homeschooling going?”

I used to say, “Fine.”

Now I don’t. Now I say, “We are not schooling. I decided that school is unnecessary and we are doing self-directed learning.”

People say, “What is that?”

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