Homeschool links that annoy me

Okay, look. I love that everyone sends me homeschool links. One of the huge perks of being a blogger is that every day people send me links to articles about topics I’m interested in. It’s like a personal news tracking system.  Also, sometimes I’m really touched when people send me wacky links that I love, even though they are totally off topic. Like this one: open-faced sandwiches that look like famous paintings. But because I argue about almost everything, I find myself wanting to argue with people about the links they send. But if I attack the link in email then the person will be scared to send me links again. So I have been saving all my tirades for a blog post. A list of links I hate:

1.  Someone launched a place online to learn DIY skills. This is so Millenial. A Millenial built this site because they have no DIY skills and they like to be told what to do. Look, all self-directed learning is DIY. How could it not be? What is another way to learn if you are on your own? Watch someone do it? What kid would want to do that?

2. People bragging that their kids are going a gap year. Are you kidding me? I can understand this as part of the British aristocracy: a gap between boarding school and going to college in Wales or Scotland to find a similarly land-rich spouse. It’s really a year where you spend other people’s money having sex in exotic locations. But look, the gap year is not an education innovation. If your kid has been stuck in school for fifteen years, and you’re about to send your kid away to college, which clearly they are not excited about or they would go immediately, then you have a big problem on your hands. Your kid already has a huge gap in their education: no one taught the skill of being self-directed. So your kid needs to get a life, not a gap.

3.  Lifehacker giving advice about how to be efficient with homework. What’s amazing about this link is not the advice: of course there are tricks for doing homework faster to get it over with. The amazing thing is the source. Lifehacker is a community of people who are creating lives that are independent of the system. They are innovators who typically do not work 9 to 5 and do not live on a straight and narrow path. Yet somehow they think it’s totally fine to tell kids to live a life that they don’t believe in living. Culturally it’s acceptable to tell kids to do well in school even if they are not interested in school.

4. The New York Times writing about the flipped classroom. School reform is like trying to fix the prison system without letting any of the prisoners out. So any discussion of school reform is inherently stupid. But there’s one quote here that is shocking. It’s a guy saying they may as well try the flipped classroom because “we have nothing to lose” because his particular school is in the bottom 5% in the country. School reform is about treating kids like guinea pigs. It’s about giving up on a child’s ability to explore and it’s predicated on the arrogant assumption that a school reformer’s worst idea is better giving the kids freedom to try their best ideas.

And really, I think one of the big reasons I write this blog is to see the world more clearly. I used to click links like these and I could not see through them. I thought, “Oh, what a cool idea for kids.” But now I see how much energy adults spend trying to give their own lives meaning by creating programs to keep the meaning away from kids.

16 replies
  1. Sheela Clary
    Sheela Clary says:

    I love this! Thank you for pointing out the disrespect for children that permeates our cultural landscape. It’s something I notice everywhere.

    John Holt said, ‘To trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.’ That’s the root of pretty much the whole problem.

  2. LisaP
    LisaP says:

    I don’t think lack of DIY skills is uniquely characteristic of Gen Y. I think it’s characteristic of anyone who uses the term “DIY”. It’s a way of marketing to people who have never done anything with their hands before and want to see what it’s like.

  3. Amy
    Amy says:

    Penelope, I find myself confused about your criticism of the DIY site. What is it that you dislike about it? The fact that there is a website with instructions on how to do things? The idea of calling it DIY? The fact that Gen Y probably frequents it the most? I’m just unclear as to what your criticism is, specifically.

    • MC
      MC says:

      Yeah, I can’t speak to that particular website, but I’ve learned all kinds of useful auto repair and woodworking tips on YouTube,, etc. A homeschooling kid who had time for such things would find them extremely useful, I should think.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        If you leave kids alone to do what they want then everything is DIY to them. So it’s a site that exists only because kids are locked up in school so now they need a web site to remind them that they are great at DIY learning.

        The site requires the companion of oppressive schools in order to exist but the site seems to have no understanding of that.


    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Good question. The titles are really important – they set the tone and expectations for the post. And also they determine if people will share a post on Facebook.

      The title I originally had was Links you sent me that I hate.

      Generally people like a good rant, but not aimed at them, which is how the title reads. Also, a rant is good if it’s fun and insightful and bad if it’s mean. And I think the title sounded mean.

      I know it often seems like I don’t care what people think of me. But I actually care a lot. I would never want someone to think I’m mean.

      That said, I think mean is a problem for people with Aspergers. Being mean is a very complicated thing – it has to do with intent and also the best meaness has a little passive aggressiveness to it, I think. Or hidden stuff. Or something that people with Aspergers don’t totally see. So people who have Aspergers SEEM mean but actually they are just inadvertently breaking social conventions.

      I am aware that I must be doing this, so whenever I can squelch something that might seem mean I try to.

      My editor, by the way, does not have Aspergers and loves that I will say anything and he did not want me to change the title.


      • cheryl
        cheryl says:

        ah! i’m more likely to click on a post with the original title, but i would indeed be more likely to share a post with the new title. intriguing.

  4. redrock
    redrock says:

    I have a problem seeing the “flipped classroom” as the magic bullet (apart from the fact that there are no magic bullets). It is often used in a horribly wrong way and just seen as a money saving measure – the videos are poorly done, the content is boring (it is usually less riveting than reading the book – an approach which has been around for a few hundred years), and just sitting in a group doing HW is even more boring then doing it at home – irrespective of the usefulness of HW. By the way, on average listening to something gives a knowledge retention rate of 15%, reading increases that rate considerably, and doing it on your own is the best. Doing the flipped classroom we’ll requires a lot of skill – no matter whether you have one or 10 students. And a lot of work.

    • Commenter
      Commenter says:

      “In addition to providing experience, play also helps children learn what they like and don’t like.”

      I wonder how watching videos of other people playing for hours on end fits into that principle.

  5. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I don’t mind DIY books, magazines, web sites, or whatever format. They give me ideas or approaches to a solution that I hadn’t thought of. However, the problem with anything DIY is when it’s coupled with coercion. I want to be able to look at DIY stuff and copy or modify at my discretion to fit my needs. What’s good and works for adults should also apply to kids because after all they are people too.
    Sometimes DIY is mandatory for economic reasons. That’s how I think it was for my Dad who grew up in the depression. And it never left him after he became an adult. It’s who he was as I witnessed him fix numerous appliances around the house. It really was pretty amazing to see him do things without printed instructions or diagrams and would only refer to them as needed. So it was my parents and other adults of their generation that I admired and looked to for advice. I always thought they did the most with the least.
    Also while on the subject of DIY. It’s enjoyable for me to go out and hike in the woods. Many times, though, it’s in an area that I’m not familiar with so I’m hiking on a trial. And as much as I enjoy hiking and being outside, hiking on a trail is like going to school to learn. You’re experiencing the area like so many other people who’ve hiked that trail and on the terms of the people who created that trail. One of the most memorable experiences for me backpacking was one of the trips in the Sierras. My friend and I did a week long trip where sometimes we used the trail and other times we didn’t. It was those times that we didn’t, when we relied on our (geographical) maps and compass, that felt the most exciting and exploring at its best. So, basically, we did a combination of pre-planned DIY (trails) and our own “on the fly” plans to complete a great trip. We did it on our own terms without coercion.

  6. Jennifa
    Jennifa says:

    okay, okay, okay, so DIY has taken on more meanng than disconnecting the p-trap yourself to remove that ring instead of calling a plumber. I had no idea DIY had exanded into all these other areas! That’s why I read the blog, keep me from getting old I guess.

  7. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Like Jennifa, I also initially didn’t understand the DIY distinction, but I get the different meaning now.

    Also love the Lori Pickert link left in the comments, and even more how I can find a gem of a link in a post about annoying homeschooling links.

  8. Tiana
    Tiana says:

    “But now I see how much energy adults spend trying to give their own lives meaning by creating programs to keep the meaning away from kids.”

    Oh my gosh! This is a powerfully accurate arrangement of words!!! I wonder what would happen if I placed these very words on the desks of every educational system employee in our district.

    W/a Smile, Tiana

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