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.

Homeschool opens up all that stuff that was formerly out of the question. I like the idea of having the kids decide. I’m constantly telling them they have a specific amount of time that they can fill. I give them lists of ideas that I know they’ll like, and they pick. I pare down the list so that it’s not as intimidating as the real world is.

But really, I think the real world is about figuring out what you’re not doing. What do you want to give up when you decide where to live? What will you give up in terms of career possibliities in order to figure out what you are going to be great at?  What are you going to give up in your personal life in order to stay home with kids?

Teaching kids to give things up is a great lesson, and it’s super-hard. I worry every day about what I’m giving up just to homeschool. So it seems like talking about that meta lesson, and how to teach it, would be much more useful than presenting list upon list of ideas for what kids can do.

The question about what can kids do is a red herring. The real question is what will kids give up.


13 replies
  1. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Something that came to mind, after reading this specific experience of the kids running in the museum, is the importance of the sequence of activities for them. In this case, if it was possible to schedule playing in Central Park (or some other place for them to release some of their energy) before hitting the museum, they may have gotten more out of the museum experience. It’s hindsight that may or may not work.

  2. MoniqueWS
    MoniqueWS says:

    I agree. The world is full of delicious choices. We are helping our children identify them. We help them choose the ones which are right/interesting/challenging/good for them. We support them when their choices don’t work out well. We help them find ways to move out and on from a bad choice and not be stuck. We help them identify when and how to stay the course too.

    I believe for MANY people the world is moving away from the prescribed path toward the path of changes and choices doing what you are told, just the way you are told to do it will still exist but for fewer and fewer people.

    In our country, all 230 some odd years of it, there have been points in time when life as we knew it changed quite dramatically. I think we are on the cusp of one of those changes now. Folks who can think for themselves, head out into the unknown, take calculated risks, step off into the abyss, chance failing and starting again will fare much better than those who simply care about what is prescribed and proscribed.

  3. Christina @Interest-Led Learning
    Christina @Interest-Led Learning says:

    You’re so right. The hardest thing is deciding what not to do. The entire world is wide open for you when you homeschool. There really aren’t too many things that are closed off to me and my kids.

    When we’re doing things together, sometimes I worry about what we’re not doing. But then I remember that the kids never have to go to school. And they’re only five and a half. They have literally years more of their lives than other kids to be able to learn and do the things that interest them. And that’s good enough.

  4. Mark K
    Mark K says:

    “So it seems like talking about that meta lesson, and how to teach it, would be much more useful than presenting list upon list of ideas for what kids can do.”

    You hit the nail on the head, Penelope. Meta is where it’s at. Meta-lessons are where you get the most leverage with your attention. Homeschooling and unschooling are both an effort to teach kids how to learn effectively. And even how to learn new ways of learning.

    It’s hard to learn about learning choices in a school environment, because so many of those choices are made for you. How far would you be able to walk comfortably if you could only get shoes in three sizes: small, medium, and large?

  5. kristen
    kristen says:

    The latin root of the word “decide” is “to kill” as in matriCIDE, etc. When you decide to do one thing you kill many other options. Makes choosing anything pretty gd intimidating. I agree that we need to teach our children how to do this well. Exactly how and when to teach this is the dilemma.

  6. catesfolly
    catesfolly says:

    This may be my romantic idea but I tend to think that if kids have room to run towards the things they love, we don’t need to stress too much about what falls by the side of the road at any given moment.

    There are, hopefully, so many moments ahead of them. They can take up boat-building or aikido or cello at 45 or 65 if those were left behind in the run towards legos or astronomy or world travel or fashion design.

    To me developing their sense of agency — their capacity to guide their own lives — will take care of this dilemma about deciding what NOT to do. In other words, I don’t think it’s a real dilemma in the actual living of life.

    If we help them clear obstacles from their path and let them lead the way, this issue of killing off options I think is a grownup-in-retrospect kind of problem.

  7. Meg
    Meg says:

    Unsolicited advice seems to be served in double-helpings with the notion that to let someone else’s cup run empty would be a mortal offense to good civic duty. And the worst boors are those who assume that homeschooling means you must be at home all the time, and furthermore, since obviously homes are like hotels where you sleep except that there’s no housekeeper coming in while you are away (at least, not for us!), being home instead of out, must mean you are scrubbing toilets all day, bored out of your mind. If anyone has come up with an answer to those points of view when placed, unasked, under our noses, that doesn’t come across as downright hostile, I am in need of education on the matter.

  8. Karen Loe
    Karen Loe says:

    I’m so excited. I just found your blog and I have never been so excited by the reading of a blog. Seriously. Not even my own! LOL

    Thanks for the thoughtful stuff!
    Consider me a follower.

  9. Intrigued
    Intrigued says:

    Dammit…I was avoiding your homeschooling blog because I didn’t want to get sucked into something else, and I was hoping I couldn’t relate to any of it since I don’t have kids. Now I’m kicking myself because I’m here and I want to read it…dammit


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