How I’m learning to tell the truth

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?”

“It’s different all the time. The boys decide what they will learn.”

“What are they learning now?” This is the question everyone asks. They are brave, in a way, because they are scared to hear the answer. I can tell.

And I like that. Because the truth is that I’m scared, too.

And I list stuff we are doing, in addition to unlimited video games:

Three hours of swim lessons a week. Both boys are working on butterfly. That’s very hard to do. They are excited.

A pottery program that has filled our house with bowls and mugs.

A goat meat business.

Ten hours of skateboarding a week. Do you know what an ollie is? My six-year-old works as hard on that as he does on Mario Kart. Which is saying a lot.

One son takes a breakdancing class. He can spin on his head.

We do cello. And violin.

And when the six-year-old asked, I taught him division.

Sometimes I get through the whole list. Usually not. People can’t believe I’m doing it. But you know what? The more I say it with confidence, the more confident I feel.

We are in NYC this weekend. We saw the Lion King. My sons loved it. I loved taking them. I confess that I love seeing how excited I can make them with the world around them. I loved their mouths hanging open. I loved their smiles and seeing them jump in their seats. I want their whole lives to be like that. Every day. I want to teach them how to make that for themselves.

In the meantime, they give that to me. At least once a day. And I think that is really why I’m keeping them out of school. So we can all have more joy, each day, together.


18 replies
  1. Katharine L
    Katharine L says:

    “In the meantime, they give that to me. At least once a day. And I think that is really why I’m keeping them out of school. So we can all have more joy, each day, together.”

    I feel this way too, homeschooling my 5 1/2 year old and keeping my 4 year old home with me and having a baby on the way. Love it. Thank you.

  2. Darcy
    Darcy says:

    I feel so glad whenever I see a new post to this blog. This brings me such joy to read: “I loved their mouths hanging open. I loved their smiles and seeing them jump in their seats. I want their whole lives to be like that. Every day. I want to teach them how to make that for themselves.” Yes. Love. Thank you for writing about your lives and sharing them with us.

  3. karelys
    karelys says:

    oh god, more and more i feel like i just can’t go the regular schooling route….and i don’t even have kids yet

  4. Amy
    Amy says:

    Love this. So often what you write here is exactly where I’m at. I’m terrified I’m going to ruin them. Or that they won’t have what they “need” for college or adult life. I hate being ruled by fear.

    I keep reminding myself that so many of the people who have made huge contributions to our society were essentially self-directed in their learning. I need to get over the idea that there’s only one way to learn. I know it intellectually, but man oh man, living it is a whole ‘nother story.

    Thank you.

  5. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Your posts are the antidote to news articles that freak out about how we’re falling behind, must achieve higher scores, must do MORE MORE MORE. You’re doing *smart* by which I mean that those kids will retain a lot more with less nagging from you.

  6. Tracey Mansted
    Tracey Mansted says:

    We too like a balance of lessons outside of hs and fun stuff at home. The activity list usually quietens the concerns of other parents, doesn’t it.
    We do a mix of directed learning and child-led, and yes, we do worksheets (well, Life of Fred and EPGY online) for maths. I just wrote about the one thing I hate about unschooling – leaving kids to learn to read all by themselves:
    so that is sure to stir the pot.
    I think the only thing that unites homeschoolers is our distrust of bricks and mortar schools…: )
    cheers, Tracey in Australia

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      The parental worrying about school seems so similar to the twentysomething worry about career. That everyone is expecting something from you and you can’t do it. it simply does not make sense to meet social expectations for career or parenting right now. Yet the nagging feeling that we are not meeting those expectations persists.


  7. ray
    ray says:

    Just came across your site and it is so great to hear that other people take the view that learning to absorb the constant stream of information isnt the most pressing problem for the rising generations.

    My older daughter is three and a half and I get a lot of pressure from people with kids in preschool to justify my decision to not send her to school and not worry about it. Great to hear about other kids growing up happy and self directed.

  8. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    This post inspired me to review the posts you wrote when you first started this homeschooling blog. You and your sons have come a long ways. Set aside for a moment the comparisons that are and will be made by you and others of your children’s development and education relative to children who are schooled. Look instead at and focus on the progress you and they are making with the changes you have initiated by having faith in yourself and now the increased faith they have in you and themselves. The faith and principles set forth in your most recent post on your career blog ( ) as they relate to self-directed learning for you and your children. It will still be scary but that’s where you and your children have the most control and energies should be focused.

  9. Mark K
    Mark K says:

    Learning is something that we naturally do, and naturally derive pleasure from. We can and should do it all our lives. It can be and should be a reflection and expression of who we are; we naturally develop “creative inlets” just as we naturally develop creative outlets. It’s never too early and it’s never too late to start.

    When learning is directed from within, it is not something that requires any force or discipline. On the contrary, a person who has learned to follow the sparks of curiosity, before long, finds a bonfire of interests and passion to learn more.

    Evidently, you’ve aligned your self and your life with these truths. I’m very happy for you and your children.

  10. Amy @WorldschoolAdventures
    Amy @WorldschoolAdventures says:

    I am at the stage of answering “fine” when people ask me how homeschooling is going. They ask what we are learning and I don’t know how to answer because we aren’t learning how they expect us to learn. I need to be more confident in my answers so that people can understand how we are living. Thanks for writing this.

  11. Pamela
    Pamela says:

    I just respond to THE QUESTION with “Fine! We love it! Couldn’t be better!” and then make eye contact and flash my biggest crazy/stupid grin.

    Most of the time, they then go into how they wish they could do it, too.

  12. Jane
    Jane says:

    I suggest that if any these inquirers aren’t satisfied with this list as an introduction to self-directed learning, you link them to this excellent video:

    Maybe print up little cards and hand them out. It’s really phenomenal. If they still don’t understand what you’re trying to do, their right to ask questions should be revoked. :P

  13. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Here’s the truth: I love this homeschooling blog more than the career advice blog.

    That Sheryl Sandberg post? My god, it’s like the crazies came out of the closet and had to comment on that one. I was in a daze all yesterday afternoon wondering what planet those people live on.

  14. Monica
    Monica says:

    I was discussing another of your posts with a dear friend.
    She wrote this..

    “When I took my children out of school one of my stated reasons was
    that the school was encroaching too much on my family time. I wanted my
    kids doing family stuff, yes even chores, rather than wasting our
    precious time on school mandated busy work.
    I believe that part of the reason for so much extracurricular
    over-involvement, and constant demands from parents for teachers to set
    more home work is that people are choosing to become increasingly
    estranged from their children. It is a voluntary abdication from parenting.
    I lost count of the people who commiserated with me for having to
    spend so much time with my kids. I particularly remember a snow day when
    a receptionist and several customers were complained about having
    to care for their own kids. They were talking in front of their kids. It
    made me so sad.
    Home schooling turns that paradigm on its head. We luxuriate in the
    company of our children. We strive to form them into the sort of people
    who will be good company for us and people of all ages. We don’t give up
    on them. We take the responsibility firmly into our own hands.
    Every family should try it .”

    I took heart. :)

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