This past week we had a film crew at the house getting footage for a reality TV show about our family. I’m excited. At first I was scared that the TV show would be bad for the kids. And the night before the crew got here, I went food shopping, (because I thought I definitley don’t want to drag a film crew through my tiny town supermarket—the people who live near me already think I’m nuts) and the cover article on one of the tabloids was that the Bachelorette is sacrificing her kid’s sanity for her own fame. Read more

A few weeks ago my son and I took a driving trip to Ohio for a cello institute. I want to tell you to read this post thinking about classical music filling our ears for a week. But I felt like it was a week TV. In the car driving there, in between lessons at the camp, and after playing cello all day we’d come home and order room service and watch TV. So I have seen a lot of commercials. And I realized that I can tell a lot about where education is going from watching TV.

Butterfly Garden
This is a product that has been sold in schools for forty years. You buy the butterfly larvae or whatever they are, and then you put them in your netting thing and watch them become butterflies. It’s a great commercial and it made me want to buy it for my kids. But I realized, as I was watching the mom help the kids have educational moments with their insects that what the commercial was really selling was homeschool. You can take the best of school and bring it into your home. I see the trend here is that parents feel more and more responsible for their kids educations. Read more

In grade school, I lived just past the limit for the school bus, so legally, and probably ethically, it was too far for a grade-schooler to walk. But I always walked.

In middle school I missed the bus most mornings. My parents weren’t around to drive me. It was far. I was very late very often. And I remember spending my days planning how to get home without taking the bus.

My memories of day camp are the bus. I would prepare to cope with it for an hour to camp. Then spend all day in camp recuperating and getting ready to deal with the bus ride home. Read more

This is a guest post from Danielle Ali Shah. She is an Australian living in Rawalpindi, Pakistan with her husband, and three children whom she homeschools. You can read her blog here. This post is about Danielle’s daughter, Diyana, pictured above.

I often think of my kids as pretty non-self motivated learners, since they tend to glue themselves to their computers to play games for hours on end whenever they are allowed. It is one of my biggest fears with the idea of unschooling… that they will NEVER leave their computers if they were given the choice.

But lately I have realised that learning doesn’t always come in the form you expect it. Read more

I can see that books are becoming retro. People don’t have stacks of them in their home anymore. And lately I’m seeing books as artifacts, like a globe that shows Africa smaller than the US. But I am convinced that it’s important for me to leave books laying around because I see, in hindsight, that my parents had a lot of influence on me based on the books they had around the house.

For example, I spent a lot of time reading the encyclopedia. But our edition was one of the last made by Britannica, and it was so complex, with an index of abstracts and then a reference to a page of an article in another volume that seemed, often, unrelated, so that actually, I was reading a print version of the Internet, and, no surprise, it got cumbersome very fast. So I turned to the shelf of Agatha Christie mysteries and wished I had found those before I blew through the shelf of Nancy Drews at the library. Read more

When people ask me why my kids aren’t learning math, I ask them why their kids aren’t learning an instrument. Or why they aren’t learning a language. Because math, music, and language all develop the brain in similar ways. They are all good for a similar type of learning. But the question that assumes that math is the one right way to develop that part of the brain betrays the assumption that traditional school knows best.

Traditional school has kids do a little of everything. So parents have in their heads that this is the right way. This would be okay, of course, if we didn’t live in a world that rewards specialists. For ten years I have been writing about how important specializing is for your career. Specialization is essential, really, to staying employable throughout your adult life. But I have recently been blown away by how clear the research is that kids should specialize as well. Read more

We are by our patch of daylilies, next to the barn. And the boys are playing with sticks, while my husband and I watch. It is a perfect moment. One of those moments when I feel like maybe, just maybe, I can stop worrying if I’m a good enough parent.

My son says, “Look! The stick is a laser and I’m killing villains!”

“Look! The stick is a ship in outer space and I’m flying!”

“Look! The stick is a pole and I’m dancing!”


I say that. I say, “What?” And he says it again. And he moves his hips in a perfectly pole-dancing way.

“Where did you learn that?”

“On YouTube.”

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It’s recital time. My youngest son just had his cello recital. While I was sitting in my seat, watching eighty kids run around eighty cellos and hopefully not crushing them, I thought about the last meeting I had with my son’s psychiatrist.

We go to a child psychiatrist so I can have someone keeping tabs on me. I want to know that I’m doing okay and not messing up my kids as I take them way way off the beaten path.

The psychiatrist said that I need to make sure the kids have goals they have to work hard to achieve. Read more

Now that I have a kid who is really talented, I can see what not really talented looks like.

For example, his skateboard teacher tells me he’s great. But I think to myself, well, is he one of the best in the country for his age right now? Probably no. I see the 12-year-old who just landed a 1080. My son is not on track for that, I don’t think. And also, I took him to skate in Los Angeles, and I have to say that no one stopped us to tell us how blown away they were with his skating. (Wondering if you have a kid who is talented in sports? You can study the process of identifying sports talent here.)
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It’s election day here in Wisconsin. We are voting to recall the governor. Or not.

I have never voted for a Republican in my whole life. Governor Walker is tied closely to the NRA, he is anti-abortion, he is generally against everything I stand for. But you know what? I hope he wins.

Because I think today’s election is a referendum on school unions, and I think the unions stink. I think they hold back school reform, they give antiquated protections to school employees that do not deserve any special treatment when most workers are not protected. And there cannot be drastic school reform until there can be drastic hiring and firing. That’s how corporate America makes significant changes—by hiring and firing. So we need to do that in schools as well.

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