A school in Manhattan just announced they would stop giving homework to kids in kindergarten through fifth grade. The letter home to parents said kids should play instead. And added, “In fact, you may be surprised to learn that there have been a variety of studies conducted on the effects of homework in the elementary grades and not one of them could provide any evidence that directly links traditional homework practices with current, or even future, academic success.”

It is not a new idea that homework has no proven impact on academic success. Time magazine published a cover article on the topic in 1999. The most popular TED talk ever is by Sir Ken Robinson who lists studies that show the detrimental effects of homework.

However it is a new idea to act on this data. And here’s what happened: some parents pulled their kids out of the school to put them in a school that assigns homework. Other parents started assigning their own homework to ensure their kid doesn’t fall behind, another parent said homework is the only way to control his kids.

Parents are scared. They don’t want to take the risk of letting their young kids play. Parents want so much to be seen as good parents, and they are not sure how they would define “good parent” if they were not giving their kid homework. Because if the kids don’t have homework, then the kids aren’t performing above grade level. And if they are not performing above grade level, then what are they doing?

It’s too risky for some parents to cope with.

A recent article in the Economist supports the idea that parents can’t handle the risk that education reform requires.

On this blog we have been talking for years about how terrible school is for boys. But for many people, this is big news. The Economist outlines how kindergarteners are already facing school programs that favor girls, and by the time high school comes, girls are outperforming boys in almost everything. In college, girls get good grades, and boys play video games.

But then something happens: Boys outperform girls at work. Because work requires singular focus, and that is something boys learned from playing video games and it’s something girls practiced NOT doing by excelling in all school subjects put in front of them.

So the Economist sums up the research that video-game-playing boys do better in life than straight-A’s, studying girls. You already knew that, because you read this blog. But my point here is that once again, the research is solid to say that boys do not need to be in school. And in fact, it’s detrimental to them. But parents of boys think it is too risky to remove their boys from school. To say nothing of unlimited video games. Even some of the most risk-tolerant parents have a hard time with unlimited video games.

Yet, here is the Economist with all the data you could need.

The first step, then, is for people to admit that going to school is not rational. It’s fear-based. The institutions that depend on our current education system for survival have resorted to fear tactics to keep parents sending kids to school. And what you show your kid when you send them to school is that you do not have enough trust in their innate ability to learn. You fear they can’t do it outside of school, so you send them there just in case.

121 replies
  1. Gretchen
    Gretchen says:

    Yeah, scared of living in a high-cost area on one salary. Scared of being broke in retirement. Scared of having no up-to-date job experience when my husband kicks the bucket. Scare of being like some of your guest posters. Not scared of other stuff, though.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      Those seem like legitimate fears. I am confused on the one where your husband kicks the bucket when you are still working age? Is he ok?

      One of the things I plan to do when I’m a grandmother is to help my three girls when they have families of their own by offering to homeschool their children for them so that they don’t have to give up a career or worry about money or retirement or those other things you mentioned.

      • Gretchen
        Gretchen says:

        He’s fine. Very healthy. But his dad died at 57…and one of his colleagues got hit by a car while running and now can’t work. You just never know.

      • Emily
        Emily says:

        YesMyKidsAreSocialized- that will be such a gift to your children! My mother and mother-in-law are both former teachers, and I have thought about asking them to maybe help me out with school 2 days a week (1 day each) or so if we live near them when my son is school aged.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          That would be great!! My mother and mother in law both teach domestic skills like gardening and cooking when they are with the girls. Arts and crafts as well.

    • Nan
      Nan says:

      I agree, for many people homeschooling is either a luxury or a pipe dream. Or it’s not practical, or they feel their child will get a better education in a school (public or private). Why so much judgement? I didn’t even read the article because I feel the title is mean.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        Traditional education is the topic and it focuses on memorizing and reciting large amounts of facts. It is verbal-sequential, top-down, and didactic. Progressive education is whole-child centered, hands on, encourages creativity and divergent thinking, no standardized testing. Some progressive schools don’t do any formal testing other than discussing what they have learned.

        Progressive models are Waldorf, Montessori, Sudbury-Democratic schools, and they focus on a child’s interests, exploring, discovering and creating. These schools are VERY expensive and is the type of schools that wealthy people enroll their children.

        It saves me a lot of money unschooling, and my children actually get to see their father during the morning since we don’t have to rush off to school and he doesn’t leave here until 11 to get to work in Los Angeles.

        • Gretchen
          Gretchen says:

          “memorizing and reciting large amounts of facts. It is verbal-sequential, top-down, and didactic”

          I can honestly tell you that, though I do have my complaints about my kids school (not enough $$$ worth of complaints to compel me to quit my job) I have not found this to be strictly true… I don’t doubt there are many crappy schools out there, but not public schools are crappy, I guarantee that… high earners move to areas with great public schools and have certain demands that the schools deliver

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            It’s the education philosophy that is important to wealthy people. Google Execs send their kids to a Waldorf-ish private school. Celebrities in LA send their kids to private progressive schools or homeschool.

            Traditional, verbal-sequential style only fits a certain type of learner, I think maybe 1/2 of any classroom can efficiently learn that way. What about the other half who learns visually or kinesthetically? People who need to see the whole picture and then take it apart to learn vs learning sequentially in order and then get the big picture are often struggling to make it in a traditional environment.

            At least in a progressive environment all learning styles are supported and anyone can be successful, in a traditional environment only certain types of learners succeed and they are almost always girls.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Gretchen, or anyone else that can answer, what is the difference between a crappy public traditional school and a non-crappy public traditional school?

          • Gretchen
            Gretchen says:

            Short answer: money

            Other factors: parental involvement, quality of teachers and how much freedom they have (and seize) to be flexible and creative

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            But isn’t the design, concept, and education philosophy supposed to be the same? The main difference is the quality of teacher is what I hear, but how do we really distinguish the qualities of teachers from good and crappy schools? Is it the standardized test scores? Does that mean that the crappy school teachers are the ones not teaching to the test? Or do they still teach to the test but because of money and less parent involvement the students don’t score well? Is it just perception from where you live that makes it different as opposed to being in a more urban area?

          • Gretchen
            Gretchen says:

            I see what you mean about the very core/philosophy being “off”…and in my core, I disagree with the whole institutional structure. There’s this whole “lowest common denominator” base, but then “gifted” classes…all that jazz. There’s curriculum, whereas in my core, I can agree with and understand the value of someone just doing whatever they’re interested in and learning from that, rather than via school subjects.

            I am just lucky that our “lowest common denominator” here is not so low, that the teachers are engaged enough (though yeah, mainstream and not super brilliant) and quite caring and kind and that my kid is within the spectrum of personalities that do well in school. She’s a little bit of someone who doesn’t care about pleasing as much as I did when I was little and so gets into “trouble” more than me and I know that sometimes her day bores her, but they try. Unfortunately, it’s not bad enough for me to sacrifice $XX,XXX per year, plus retirement matching and other benefits so I can stay home and do it better. So we do what we can in our free time and I get the basics very well covered by the school and she gets to learn a little about getting along in situations that may not always be our favorite, but we make the best of. She has fun, she has friends, she has an ongoing chapter book she’s writing with “fans” and is well-supported by her teacher…so, to me, I view it as a good situation.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            I am in a “good” school district, all the elementary schools have the highest rankings, but what does that really mean? If good and bad schools are all teaching the same things at the same time and the same way, shouldn’t they all score the same on the tests and then all schools would have high rankings?

            If it isn’t the schools, but the actual kids themselves, then it seems like it’s not the schools that are so great after all, it’s the quality students that they have and those kids probably would do really well no matter what.

            We have passed up some amazing educational opportunities that have presented themselves to us via invitation because now my husband is an unschooler and sees all the benefits from it. He went from unschooling skeptic to the biggest cheerleader in a year. The kids love it too. I feel like I still have plenty of time during the day to work on stuff that I want to do, maybe it doesn’t equal 40 hours, but definitely 20 hours a week I have dedicated to that. With as much free time as my kids have, they blow through pre-made math curriculum doing a whole year in a month and it makes me wonder what kids do in school that makes it take a year to get through that little of math?

          • sarah faulkner
            sarah faulkner says:

            Yes My Kids Are Socialized,

            I attended a crappy High School, and moved in my Sophomore year to a good Public High School. The difference was the money the parents had to pour into the school. The second school never had a text book older than 5 years, and was up to date on all computers. I lived in a Rich Town (whitefish Montana) where there wasn’t a privet High School. When I transferred I had been an A/B student without trying. In Whitefish I had to try to maintain a B/C. I think the main difference is the money the parents poured in, not necessarily parent involvement. :)

          • Gretchen
            Gretchen says:

            “If it isn’t the schools, but the actual kids themselves, then it seems like it’s not the schools that are so great after all, it’s the quality students that they have and those kids probably would do really well no matter what.”

            yes, this…not mythical…not worth sacrificing my salary to avoid

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            I understand where you are coming from, I’m just having a dialogue “out loud” I guess, thinking about things and seeing if my thoughts make sense or if I am off base somewhere.

          • Kristin
            Kristin says:

            Gretchen,
            You can work AND homeschool. There are ways. You can find other people to be with your child while you work, you can find groups, classes, activities, for your child. You can set their schedule and direct them from work. I do it. You just have to decide which you want for your child, school or homeschool, and then just do it. Find a way. I think most people say they can’t afford it, but in reality they are just scared stiff of leaving the comforts of school. School is comfortable because people have been told their kids will be ok if they just follow the prescribed path. But the people who are saying this are the very same people who profit greatly from the system. I can no longer ignore all the evidence saying schools are harmful (even private schools). So I homeschool, and I work full time in an office away from home.

    • Isabelle
      Isabelle says:

      I have to agree with the first one, and add “scared of going crazy by never having time to just work and be around adults.”

      I’m not homeschooling or sending my kid to school yet, because he’s only 2.5, but I know that he’s better off in (100% play based) preschool part of the time than with me all the time, because I just can’t handle being “on” 24/7 with him. I HOPE that part of that is that infants/toddlers are exhausting and intense, but I am SCARED that I will always find it this difficult to have him home with me all the time.

      • Gretchen
        Gretchen says:

        “infants/toddlers are exhausting and intense”

        I think this is part of it…

        I would not mind at all being with my 7 yo girl all day…

        It gets better…or…different.

      • Emily
        Emily says:

        Isabelle – I completely understand about being around 2.5 year old children! My husband was gone for one year for work overseas. I stayed here in the U.S. with our 1 .5 year old who is now 2.5 years old. Such a really tough year! My parents kept my son 1.5 days a week, and my in-laws kept him 1.5 days per week during the year. The rest of the time he was with me, and I work out of a home office. I don’t think Penelope is necessarily saying taking breaks from our children is wrong. She has a nanny. Because I have read so much about some of the detrimental effects of traditional schooling on boys, I am considering other methods of educating my son, but I am hopefully going to carve out some time for myself somehow. That’s the plan, anyway.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          Alone time is an absolute must in my house. We have lots of dedicated portions of the day to alone time, yet we are all still around eachother but being alone. My kids don’t need me to tell them what is interesting, they find or make interesting things that are always educational, just different from traditional subjects. Sometimes I intentionally place things strategically around the house and typically that has worked for me.

          • Sarah M
            Sarah M says:

            I agree. We have a non-negotiable 2.5 hours of ‘quiet time’ every day. Everyone in different rooms doing their own thing for that amount of time. I wouldn’t be able to homeschool if I didn’t implement it.
            Sarah M

          • mh
            mh says:

            We have quiet time – no talking, no tv, no music. It’s usually about an hour per day, around three o’clock.

            Seems silly, because most days the kids have been outside for hours at that point, leaving me in happy solitude, but it’s important for everyone to learn to entertain himself.

      • UnschoolingMama
        UnschoolingMama says:

        I don’t think you will always find it so exhausting. My son is 3, so I’m right with you. I previously taught preschool, so this age is no big deal for me, but I agree that it can be overwhelming.

        I find that teaching independence and self-help skills goes a long, long way to saving some of your sanity. The more he can do for himself (including playing alone), the better it will be for both of you. There’s a lot they can do at this age. At 2.5 years, my son could dress and undress independently (including winter clothing), get simple snacks for himself, get safe art materials for himself and use them, and play alone for 45 minutes at a time regularly. The more you work on it with them, starting small and moving forward in little increments, the better. And it feels so good when you realize you’ve had 30 minutes to yourself, and your child is happily occupied in the next room!

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      Gretchen,

      Why are you scared of these things?
      We live in a new world with new ways to create wealth and income. Can you not figure out a way to hire yourself instead of depending on all of these outside factors that seem to be greatly affecting your trajectory? The better question: If you could figure out a way to hire yourself, what would your trajectory look like then? Would your daughter still be in school?(something I’ve seen you question on here), would you still be dependent on your husband’s lifestyle?, etc.

      This blog is about empowerment and new ideas and sharing and giving. If you block yourself from these ideas, then why bother?

      The thing is, personally, I doubt my kids would be able to live in a high COL area when they become of age, if they went down the traditional schooling path. These areas are becoming even further divided between rich/poor. There isn’t much of a ‘middle’ anymore.

      • Gretchen
        Gretchen says:

        Jessica, I worked for myself for several years before my kid was school age. It was great for part-time money, however, I appreciate the safety net of working for someone else, for one thing. I get paid so much more just for showing up…if I had to generate my own leads, etc. enough to make what I make working for someone else, I’d be working so much more (more than 40 hours, and then when would I do the schooling stuff). Not sure what you mean by “dependent on my husband’s lifestyle” and I supposed to divorce my husband so I can homeschool?

        One may ask why I even read/post here. It’s just because I am intrigued by homeschooling and could see myself doing it if I lived in a place with crappy schools where it didn’t cost that much to live…and I wish I could do this…almost…but then my kid would lose out on opportunities that are just almost inherent in living in the community we live in (DC metro area).

        Saying kids that go to “regular school” won’t be able to afford living in high cost of living areas doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. This may be true for the Silicon Valley types, but the area I live in in pretty conservative. Military, government, lots of legal…and a bit of a tech/banking corridor…

        • Trilby
          Trilby says:

          I’m with you on this Gretchen. I read this article and asked myself, “What am I afraid of?” The answer is nothing, or at least, nothing related to homeschooling vs traditional schooling. We’ve chosen our path, not based on fear, but on what works best for our family. Right now, that isn’t homeschooling/unschooling.

          I recently read a quote that said that unquestioning dissidence is just as harmful as unquestioning acceptance. Sometimes I find that the comments on this blog border on unquestioning dissidence – if it’s “tradional,” then it’s automatically terrible. But there is also a lot of interesting commentary, so I come back to it.

          • Gretchen
            Gretchen says:

            “unquestioning dissidence is just as harmful as unquestioning acceptance”

            oh my gosh, yes!

    • mh
      mh says:

      Gretchen, you make a great point. I was thinking about this last night. From what you’ve written, the important thing is to be prepared, because things often go wrong.

      I hesitate to open this door, and *i am not a crazy person*, but we have some disaster preps. Specifically, first aid, food, water, electricity, self defense. We don’t prep because we think we can be in control of every single situation that might come up, but we want to have confidence we can weather the inevitable hiccups that happen.

      We don’t have the advantage of living on a farm, which would give us food, water, space, and privacy. So we have to be creative.

      We want to do the best for our family, support the community, help our neighbors, and weather the storm.

      From your posts, I think your approach to financial security comes from a similar place. Do the best for your family, support the community by not being a financial burden, weather the storm.

      I think smart people of all stripes think this stuff through and make trade-offs accordingly.

      Everything is a trade-off, and it helps to acknowledge that. From your perspective, reaching your financial security goals requires trade offs in where you live (high COL) and how you educate your child. I think you mentioned you both work in the public sector, and there are trade offs there, also– in salary schedule earnings, meaningful work, and professional reputation.

      On a site like this, where people freely express their opinions on he drawbacks of your personal education trade offs, it’s good to have you speaking up.

      I think you would make a good homeschooler. We’d probably be friends. With my personality, “friends” means occasional contact and benevolent neglect. :)

      But your choice is not to homeschool, and I’m fine with that. If reading the posts and comments here helps clarify the tradeoffs and reinforce your education decisions, I’m glad.

      • Gretchen
        Gretchen says:

        Thanks for the acknowledgment. FWIW, my husband is a civil servant, so, public sector, which is part of the reason we are tied to this area we live in. I also agree with your definition of friends : )

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        That is what I consider friendship as well :)

        I enjoy discussing the abstract, theoretical and hypothetical. By discussion I mean texting or emails.

  2. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    I saw this news article and I couldn’t believe it.

    See how crazy people get with one little switch to a more progressive education? Like, playing more shouldn’t even be a controversial topic, but some people took their kids out of the school?!

    I think all schools should eliminate homework, the kids are in school all day long, that should be enough time to get things done in a traditional environment. Homework is an infringement on family time.

    The fact that studies are showing schools are geared for girls should be reason enough for people to take their boys out, or they need to scrap the traditional system and focus on singular subjects. When I unschool, we can do just one thing, like make a comic book, that covers a broad range of skills and includes skills that are not taught or embraced in school like creativity and divergent thinking. My oldest daughter is doing an online edX course on the history of comic book superheroes and villains that Stan Lee will be a part of, and it’s free! I am certain that the parents of the kids that withdrew them from the school because of no homework would not understand what I just said or how it applies. It does require a shift in ones thinking.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      Do you have a link to this course?

      My son would love it!

      Our local art shop in the UK had signed Stan Lee prints. My kid thought they were so cool. The dealer also gave him a bit of a Stan Lee rundown/history lesson, which was icing on the cake.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        My kids LOVE LOVE LOVE comic books, graphic novels, Marvel, and DC as well as Japanese manga and anime.

        Here is the link without the www so it doesn’t go to comment purgatory.

        edx.org/course/rise-superheroes-impact-pop-culture-smithsonianx-popx1-1x#.VQCX2-H1Czs

  3. Gretchen
    Gretchen says:

    Just today I was chatting with my 2nd grader before school and she said some things that, at first blush, I thought could be in the “you should home school” pile…

    She said: “Mommy, I don’t like working in groups because some people want to be in charge and other people don’t want to be in charge, but I just want to do my own work and be in charge of myself…”

    I can certainly relate, but, in my job, I have to work with other people. Even freelancers do. It sucks, but it’s a skill that we need to learn.

    She also was saying “Mommy, I had to do my special huddle the other day when I felt like I was going to explode.”

    Why did you feel like you were going to explode? I ask…

    “Because I wanted to read my dog book but I had to go to ‘morning meeting.'”

    And yes, we all know that meetings suck, too, and wouldn’t we all rather be pursuing what we want to pursue…but, I have to go to meetings (I try to limit them, of course)…

    And so, while many aspects of school are pissers, so are many aspects of work and I understand school is not the equivalent to a kid’s “work” but, I don’t think some structure and having to do something you don’t want to sometimes is all bad.

    That said, she loves writing and seems to be give a lot of time to do free writing during her school day. At my kids public school they are very tuned into the individual needs or the children.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      My daughter would be considered a 2nd grader, and I’m pretty sure “special huddles” would be unacceptable for her too. She is allergic to traditional school environments and anything that appears to be condescending.

      Yes I agree that there are valuable life lessons to be learned regarding doing things that are unpleasant in order to get the job done, but I don’t think that education should be one of them or even at all compared with work. Work is optional and education is compulsory/non-optional.

      Comparing traditional vs progressive vs homeschooling are all appropriate, but the monotony one encounters at work is not equal to being forced to do huddle time, or forgo reading a book to go do something else that someone else says is more important.

      Executive function is very important in my opinion and I think there is more than one way to accomplish that. But I understand that going the traditional route gives kids MANY opportunities for executive function since they don’t have any other options except failing.

      • Gretchen
        Gretchen says:

        I should explain…the “huddle” is something she made up for herself…like some sort of putting her head down for a minute and breathing or something to gain self control.

        “Work is optional”…I think that idea is the crux of what separates me from many commenters/posters here. To me, work is not optional unless you win the lotto or are somehow independently wealthy. You need money to live…it may be sad and it may be “wrong” but it is true.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          I get where you are coming from. I guess then I should say “where you work and how you work and who you work for” is optional. Having money to live is not optional, for me, I am not a wilderness girl, I can’t sew clothes, hunt for my own food, build my own home or construct my own furniture.

          I think our daughters could be friends, yours could complain about morning meeting time and then mine would tell her that school is stupid and then your daughter would beg you to homeschool her. :) jk jk jk just having some fun. Although that is something she has said before and would say again.

          • Gretchen
            Gretchen says:

            Oh I guarantee my daughter would like me to homeschool her—our spare time we spend together learning German, doing design, learning keyboard, doing martial arts, writing, cooking and we both with we could spend ALL our time doing this, but then we’d have very little money to do any of it…

            And while I can show here a lot now and she can show me a lot…someday there will be calculus and chemistry and…well, you see where I am going…

          • mh
            mh says:

            Be not afraid of chemistry and calculus. We joined a science co-op this year.

            Homeschooling doesn’t mean you stay home and teach everything. It’s not “school at home.” Unless you make it that way.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          I hear you there, Calculus and Chemistry will happen here sooner rather than later, but I am thinking that Jr. College or an early entry college program could take care of that and it would count as both high school and college, right? Do you think *I* want to teach Calculus or Chemistry???? I will be outsourcing that one way or the other, unless my husband magically works less when the time comes. He works A LOT.

          • JW
            JW says:

            You raise many good points. But when I hear a homeschooling mom say “my husband works A LOT” … I think: “I hope you have a gold-plated prenup agreement!” You’ll need it. Not only will you lose your house, your life, your friends, and everything you take for granted. You’ll also have a very, very hard time even keeping custody if he decides he wants the kids to live with him. Ironically, one of the main reasons for that will be because he has the money to buy a home in a good school district and you won’t. It’s not that I’m against the project of homeschooling — after all I found my way to your blog, didn’t I? It’s just that I live in a town where there’s a lot of homeschooling and I’ve seen who pays the price when the marriage falls apart. You can’t assume that will never happen to you. No one can. And the women who stay employed and keep collecting their retirement benefits are ALSO giving their kids a big gift: the gift of not having to worry about supporting an indigent parent when they are just starting out in life and raising their own young families.

    • UnschoolingMama
      UnschoolingMama says:

      I come across this argument often when people bring up reasons not to homeschool. Sooner or later, they admit that schools are flawed and less than ideal for kids (at least some of the time). Then they say that kids are going to have to do unpleasant things when they are adults (work is always brought up), so they need to get used to it now. It never makes sense to me.

      Even if my son is going to have to deal with unpleasant and difficult tasks in his future career, I’m not sure why I would need to prepare him for that by sending him to school. He definitely has enough times during the day when he has to do things he doesn’t want to do (brushing his teeth comes to mind), or to do what an authority figure tells him to (am I like his future boss when I say it’s time to go to bed?), and he’s only 3 years old. There will be many, many more chances in his life to do boring, unpleasant tasks and to work with people he doesn’t want to work with. There’s no way I can shelter him from the challenges of life when I home school him, and in fact, if I teach him at home, I feel more confident that he will learn how to handle unpleasant tasks better than he would on his own in a class of 25 with a teacher who can’t care about him as an individual like I can, and who doesn’t have the time even if he/she could.

      I think most people, homeschoolers included, think having some structure is good. I think most would all agree that having to do things you don’t want to do, sometimes, can be a good thing. You don’t need to go to school to get those things.

      • Gretchen
        Gretchen says:

        Well, it’s the argument AGAINST these (to me innocuous) things that many seem to make for homeschooling…”oh…they make them do X, Y Z…my very special, creative, spirited snowflake can’t handle it!!!” : )

        As far as “He definitely has enough times during the day when he has to do things he doesn’t want to do (brushing his teeth comes to mind), or to do what an authority figure tells him to (am I like his future boss when I say it’s time to go to bed?)”

        Well, I’d rather have the *school* be analogous to the boss and me be the friend…yeah I “make” by kid brush her teeth and go to bed, but I don’t really have to make her, she does these things because that’s what people do—don’t want your teeth to rot? brush them…don’t want to be tired? go to sleep (I know 3 year olds are different)

        • D
          D says:

          Gretchen,
          I’m really happy to see all of your comments. You express what I’m thinking, but so much better than I could! I’m interested in homeschooling and I think it’s wonderful, but my son (about same age as your daughter) is doing very well in his “good” public school. I really believe we have an excellent school. I wouldn’t say it’s tailor made for my son, but we supplement to give him what we (and he) believe is important. Even with that, he’s not an overscheduled kid. It’s good to read about both sides: people who make homeschooling work and people who make public/traditional school work.

  4. Commenter
    Commenter says:

    I find it odd that one of the first things people tell me when I say I’m homeschooling my 10 year old is a stunned “I wouldn’t know where to begin,” as if it’s a more complicated and difficult undertaking than their day jobs.

    I’ve done a lot of complicated and difficult things in my life. Homeschooling is not one of them. Simultaneous translation, reverse engineering, database design, statistical regression, reattaching that fiddly little clamp that holds down the bottom of a car battery but you can’t get your hand down there – these are complicated and difficult things I have done. Helping my kid figure out what to study, spend his days productively, and keep on task doesn’t compare. It’s mostly just hanging out and being a friend.

    I wonder if I should begin replying “What’s your line of work? It must be really simple to understand if my homeschooling is harder than that. Perhaps I should do your job when my kids go off.”

    But that would be rude. In truth, mostly I think they’re trying awkwardly to compliment me for my dedication to my children, so I smile and nod.

    The parents I talk to aren’t scared. It may be true that they wouldn’t know what to do if they had to do it tomorrow. But they’d grin and fake it, just like they did the first day in their newest job, and by the time it mattered they’d figure it out. They just don’t think they’ll ever have to, so it can remain a mystery to them. They send their kids to the schools they went to as a kid, and they work out sufficiently well that they don’t consider our lifestyle very much.

    —————-
    “So the Economist sums up the research that video-game-playing boys do better in life than straight-A’s, studying girls.”

    No, it doesn’t. At least the article PT linked to doesn’t. Perhaps she read a different one once that did. Mostly you just have take her repeated assertion (or her wishful thinking) for that.

    The linked Economist article does imply (though it neither demonstrates nor proves) that boys spend more time playing video games and are consequently crappy at reading and math, and do poorly in school.

    It also asserts that young women in America currently achieve greater professional success than do men, as a result, with the exception of the very top professional level.

    But don’t take my word for it; read the article.

    • Gretchen
      Gretchen says:

      It’s hard to tell 100% if this is a comment on its own or a reply…I think it’s its own comment. But, to be clear, I know where to begin and would rock at homeschooling. I also get how you could guide the kid through harder things that are “beyond” me (like calculus—which, who knows whether they need it anyway, but lets assume they do if they’re going to be a rocket scientist or whatever).

      • Commenter
        Commenter says:

        Gretchen, this was a stand-alone comment. I didn’t respond to you because I do believe that you could start homeschooling tomorrow if you wanted to and do it very well.

        You feel like you can’t not because you’re afraid you’d do it poorly, but because it would upset the family income. If your daughter really needed you to, I’m sure you’d find you could. If you’re happy that she doesn’t, who am I to judge you?

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      Then there is this news: SpaceX goes to video game conferences to recruit. Wonder why? Because many gamers are also programmers.

      From Business Insider: “We actually hire a lot of our best software engineers out of the gaming industry,” said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

      • Commenter
        Commenter says:

        Should this be surprising to anybody?

        I’m sure that any number of companies want line workers who can sit still for 26 hours staring at a screen.

        If that’s all your kids want to do, there’s hope for a high five-figure income.

        If they want a high six-figure income, on the other hand, they need to learn leadership. With people, not pixels.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          Ah, I see now. I thought you meant they work for 26 hours that’s why I was confused. Yeah, I don’t really know anyone who binge plays like that.

          So, you are suggesting that boys play video games all day long… and I guess I just assume they play only a few hours a day. Many people who are successful and wealthy have played and still play video games, maybe not like what you are saying. I’m thinking that if someone plays all the time like you assume and does nothing else that could have negative consequences. But I am not thinking that way when I talk about video games…so there is our contention and explains a lot.

          • Commenter
            Commenter says:

            If you go to video game conventions to recruit, you are probably trying to recruit heavy players, not occasional or light players – why would they go to a convention? Heavy video game players put in more than 20 hours per week, sometimes all at one go.

            I’m suggesting that heavy or binge video game players might well make good coders because the working conditions are similar.

            I’m also suggesting that coding is not really a great job unless it’s something you happen to love. It is line work, individual contributor work, not manager or executive work.

            Also, I imagine that high levels of video game playing (or coding) probably subtract from interpersonal skills, which remain more important than technical skills in the best careers. The Economist article points out that they subtract from academic work, to the detriment of academic achievement for boys. Some careers continue to require degrees, and if your children intend to pursue such careers, they’d do well to moderate game playing.

            I know that in our day-to-day life, video game playing is deleterious to my son’s focus and work habits. It is necessary to restrict his playing to weekends in order to maintain his ability to think about and accomplish other things during the day. I restrict my playing as well; on the weekends, we enjoy playing together and with his friends. Different kids are differently able to maintain balance between games and other interests.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          I can appreciate that perspective. I’m sure you have just as much fun gaming with your kid on weekends like my husband does with the kids when he gets free time.

          I am not much of a gamer, maybe a little wii bowling or tennis but not much of that either I just don’t have the time and honestly, video games are not that interesting to me.

  5. Sarah M
    Sarah M says:

    Wow, I am REALLY surprised a school decided to ditch homework! That’s wonderful news.

    I am also REALLY surprised how many parents freaked out and made up their own homework…what the heck?! Take your family to the park or out for ice cream, for heaven’s sake. Unbelievable. They’re handed an open door and decide to close the door themselves.

  6. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Penelope,

    The Economist article does not say what you think it says.

    “But then something happens: Boys outperform girls at work. Because work requires singular focus, and that is something boys learned from playing video games and it’s something girls practiced NOT doing by excelling in all school subjects put in front of them.

    So the Economist sums up the research that video-game-playing boys do better in life than straight-A’s, studying girls.”

    None of that is supported by the Economist article. The most it says is that some jobs, like legal, require grueling hours, and guys tend to get ahead in those jobs because they are more willing to sacrifice everything else in their lives for their job. It doesn’t even imply that video games produced that skill. But even if it did, is that the kind of job you want to prepare your boys for?

  7. Julie
    Julie says:

    Having a child with special needs fall apart in school will get you over that fear pretty damn fast.

    • mh
      mh says:

      Yes.

      Or having a child who has minority skin tones who has to be “the minority kid” when the class is learning about minorities. Just because a child has obvious skin color doesn’t automatically mean they speak out for all minorities, or come from an impoverished/immigrant background, or think of themselves as special victims. Kids want to be kids, not “accepted” and treated “specially”. It’s insulting.

  8. Sunny
    Sunny says:

    I’ve been following this blog and reading archived posts for a couple months. I’m trying to decide about homeschooling my 10 year old. I divorced her dad when she was a baby and I am remarried with a three year old and another due in May. I’ve always wanted to homeschool but felt I didn’t have the support. Or know-how. I moved in with parents so I could stay home with her when she was a baby but went to work when she was four. She’s been in a Waldorf school since. She loves her school, her teacher, and her dad isn’t supportive of homeschool. But it’s expensive and there’s no way I’d be able to send all kids to private school, nor would I want to and there’s are a million reasons to be bold and homeschool (saving tons of money is huge). My current husband is supportive of homeschooling. But I guess I am scared. Scared that it’s “too late” since she’s already 10 and so comfortable where she is. Scared that I won’t provide her with what she needs. Scared the little ones will take all my energy and there won’t be enough left for her. I don’t feel innovative or creative at this time in my life (and it was mostly beaten out if me in public school), but I have always been self-employed and my husband is also. This blog makes me feel more confident. But also I’m worried because she’s so “well-behaved” and goes with the crowd. I want to foster independence and a desire to find her own interests. Her school doesn’t participate in standardized tests, there’s an arts focus, tons of outdoor time etc. but I don’t want to be scared of going a different way, even if she’s not in a “bad” situation now. Homeschooling could only be better, right? I know that’s a question only we can an answer but I soooo love the intelligent commentary on this blog.

    • UnschoolingMama
      UnschoolingMama says:

      I think an early childhood education at a Waldorf school would lend itself nicely to homeschooling later. Plus, lots of Waldorf families (at least here) get stuck after middle school because there’s no comparable high school option. I know a few families who have chosen to homeschool in late elementary or early middle school years because of moving, and not finding a school they loved as much.

      Hopefully, you could connect with other homeschoolers right away or even get involved with a co-op for her to take a few classes per day to help with the adjustment or just to continue being around peers her age, since her siblings are much younger.

      Have you heard of Oak Meadow? It’s a k-12 Waldorf homeschool curriculum. I’ve heard it’s very flexible and can be used as a source of ideas for unschooling types all the way to a planned out curriculum for the more traditional “school at home” people.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Sunny, I took my son out of school when he was nine and it really really was not too late. In fact, he was in school long enough to have some knowledge of what it really is.

      My younger son, who only went to kindergarten is often swayed by the things that look fun, like, stripes and plaid day — all the kids look like they are having so much fun — and my son thinks he might be missing out because school is a big party.

      It’s a relief to me that I have the older son who is knowledgeable enough to assure the younger son that school is absolutely not a party.

      Also, you will have the time and energy to give your daughter what she needs because she will be home all day. If you miss her one hour you’ll catch her the next. There’s something very calming to kids and to parents knowing that they’ll be together the whole day.

      Penelope

      • Amy A
        Amy A says:

        “There’s something very calming to kids and to parents knowing that they’ll be together the whole day.”

        Yes! And for me as a parent.

        Someone mentioned needing to be “on” in their parenting. I don’t feel that way due to being together all week–our focus is relationship: with each other, with ourselves and with the world. There really is no “on” switch for that. Only time and space for it to occur.

        Also throwing in here that I love what Commenter wrote about video games.

        And I thought males are stereotyped to be one-track-minded (focused) regardless of video game playing.

  9. Mark Kenski
    Mark Kenski says:

    Loved this post, Penelope!

    Gretchen, I think you might be closer to homeschooling than you realize. Sure sounds like you are a part-time homeschooler already. It’s impossible for some people to have both parents work and yet home school; it might be impossible for you. You’re the best judge of that. But maybe it is not impossible for you?

    YesMyKidsAreSocialized, I love reading your comments! It seems likely to me that you are more familiar with the history of educational philosophy than I am, so can I ask you something?

    You have repeatedly used the term “progressive” to describe the model of education that home schooling / unschooling applies in a radical way, that maybe schools–like waldorf, montessori, etc.–can apply in a more general way. I looked it up, yes, strangely enough a movement that started 100 years ago and was abandoned 45 years ago is still called “progressive.”

    But to me, it seems like home schooling is a very conservative practice. Unschooling even more so. In fact, I think it is regressive. It is going back to the roots of how children were raised and educated for millennia before the new ideas of shaping kids for the purposes of society, and especially industry, came into fashion.

    Personally I think politics ruined these words. Maybe it is just my hangup. In our culture, progressive is good, regressive is bad. Conservative is bad because it retards progress. No matter what else we believe almost everyone believes that we have to keep moving forward. But if, at some point, we got off the best path, stopped using natural methods tuned by millions of years of natural development to work perfectly, then regressing to them is really going forward, in a sense.

    The cultural return to breastfeeding is a regression to primitive ways. I mean, we’re mammals. It’s that old. That central to what we are.

    Personally, I would like to see a lot more regression.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      I guess it is a case of what is old becomes new again! I’m not really a political partisan so the words progressive and conservative don’t move me as much as wondering why something is referred to with those terms and the history. You are right though, I have researched the philosophies greatly and progressive education does mean child-centered learning, which seems radical to many people. Tell people you homeschool and they know what it means, but tell them you unschool suddenly you are crazy…I don’t mind being thought of as weird so I’m ok with explaining to people what unschooling is.

      I am appreciating all your comments as well.

  10. Karelys
    Karelys says:

    You guys!!! *le sigh*

    Here you are all so smart, Gretchen and Commenter and YMKAS and Mark and everyone. And my biggest fear is that I’m not smart enough for my kid to pick up on it.

    I just got back from the trampoline park with my husband and a bunch of kids. Okay, just baby Emilia and Murphy and this little 8 year old that I mentor.

    It’s obvious that my kid has a streak of antisocial and I don’t get it. But he picks who he likes and there’s no rhyme or reason to it. It can he younger or older than him, our little neighbor with Autism and a ninja turtles costume (Murphy adores him even though he barely speaks and can act dead at the drop of a hat when overwhelmed). We don’t get it. But it’s embarrassing that he seriously demonstrates zero finese and good manners.

    On the way back home I asked Chris why he thought kids of wealthier parents were more assertive and poor kids were…..I don’t even know what the expression is….como se dice?…shy and not as smart?
    So we have our theories but I have a suspicion that it has more to do with the attitude the kid picks up from the parent(s).

    I’m most afraid that we won’t offer great modeling. I already weaned myself from the high you get when you brag about how smart and advanced your kid is. Murphy doesn’t do a lot of things not for lack of trying on our part but because he doesn’t care. And he does a lot that we’ve never spent time teaching him but he explored on his own.

    So my big fear is, what if we’re not enough?
    What if we’re not smart enough and brave enough and entrepreneurial enough and interesting enough?

    We’re not even taking school as an option right now but I constantly feel this nag about how I should be sitting down on the floor with flash cards to make him learn colors and numbers and letters but I just really have a lot of work to do and then it’s time to make food and you better believe I cook from scratch because my family is not getting sick. Not on my watch!

    And what if I never get anywhere impressive and we’re just not enough?

    So then instead of waiting to go running at night alone in the cold air that I love so much, I bundle my two loves and I take them on a walk. Murphy cries because he can’t catch up but I tune him out because Ive seen how he reacts to a good challenge. And he catches up. And I think “well, at least we got exercise in. And exercise = smart or something like that.”

    And then we get home and he eats steak and I’m just so grateful he’s over that phase when he refused to eat anything. We broke him down! We let him get hungry until he accepted real food. But all that everyone needed was time and some space and some persistence and lots of patience. And I’m overwhelmed by what I’m supposed to be teaching him right now at 2.5 years of age because we’re so busy trying to earn money and provide a stable household with parents that go on copious amounts of dates and are happy and handsy with each other, and implementing exercise and eating well and fielding tantrums.

    I really do hope we’re enough to make him so confident about himself that he’ll go get whatever he needs on his own.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      You are being so hard on yourself! Of course you are enough! You are their mother that is enough!

      My oldest child is 8 and my youngest is about 3.5 and I have yet to sit down and do flash cards to teach colors and numbers, yet my kids know that stuff. And my oldest is very picky with who she will open up with and she can be shy even though she is being raised by two confident and loud parents who are doing good financially.

      It’s easier to have confidence when you do research on pedagogy and learning styles.

      I don’t think you can make anyone have confidence, that person has to work on it themselves. There will be plenty of opportunities for that! When a new kid comes to my kids acting class all the kids need to do an introduction and say something that they did that week. Savannah always hated that part but now I remind her of all the different things she does that she could talk about, and now she tells me “I know what to do now mom you can stop” alrighty then! There is some confidence!

      • Karelys
        Karelys says:

        Please stop mom, you’re interrupting my internal dialogue. I must say, my ideas are rivetting!

        Haha! I can picture it!

    • Gretchen
      Gretchen says:

      Nobody is “enough” ….and on the other hand, everybody who loves their child(ren) fiercely is “enough”…it’s not a test, it’s not quantifiable…and “smart” is relative. Your children will be fine. Children are not made only of what their parents do.

    • Commenter
      Commenter says:

      Karelys, I doubt you’ll ever stop worrying. Some people just worry a lot. I think the best a worrier can do is try to use that energy somehow. (Just don’t inflict flash cards on your 2.5 year old – that’s ridiculous!)

      One thing you needn’t worry about is that you’re not smart enough. I don’t know you, but I’ve read enough of your comments to know that you’re very smart.

      I think Murphy is going to turn out great and do amazing things. I hope this blog is still here so I can hear about them.

      • Katarina
        Katarina says:

        Commenter, your response to the subject of video games is what I have been hoping to see here for a long time. Thank you!

        Karelys, please give yourself a break! Child development is not adult development. If he plays with other kids, he will develop according to his personality. And boys are very different than girls. My son is in 6th grade. I homeschooled all the way through, never used flashcards except for multiplication. Kids who are secure will learn and at their own pace. Give yourself a huge break. You are wasting precious time worrying. Forget about what other people may or may not be doing.

        After first grade, you can consider curriculum that appeals to you. There is a lot of great stuff out there. Really!

    • Emily
      Emily says:

      Karelys,
      I have a 2.5 year old, and sometimes I feel the same way as you! I have a friend who has been going over flashcards with her 2 year old, and it made me feel like my child might already be behind other children. But, like other commenters noted, he is learning these things on his own without having to use flashcards. I think our children will be okay, but I definitely understand your concerns!

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        Karelys,

        You didn’t ask for advice, but this might help-

        Tune everyone out. I mean it in the best way. It will help you focus on you and your kids. If you are busy comparing, you will only see where you fail, since you are a worrier.

        2.5 year olds just need to be fed, loved, helped with basics like getting dressed and down for bed on a loose schedule. Everything else is play.

        Whenever I have concerns about my kids I try to take action and ‘do’ something. Something as simple as going to the library again and getting a load of books and reading with my 2.5 year old, or having him help stir the pot in the kitchen when I’m cooking, or sitting and connecting around his train set and toys.

        I think the key thing here is effort. Just make an effort to correct where your thinking is wandering to remind yourself that you are good enough, your kids are going to be ok, and you are going to be ok. None of us are perfect parents.

        Modeling is important, but you really should give yourself a break as you have two little ones and not much time to adjust course in grown up life at the moment! Step by step, day by day. Hope this helps.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      I’ve read that article, many others that go more in depth than that one, and they are not saying that learning styles are a myth, they are saying that the evidence that was done in the past doesn’t prove that their are learning styles. I read it as more research needs to be done to establish empirical evidence because right now we do have lots of anecdotal evidence. The authors of the study object to teachers using learning styles in the classroom based on bad evidence. When you are homeschooling it really doesn’t matter because the entire curriculum is tailored to each kid already or at least it should be.

  11. mh
    mh says:

    Y’all,
    Today unschooling looks like:

    I did the taxes.
    One child made a radio with snap circuits.
    One child is reading his third book of the day-David Eddings’ Belgariad!
    One child gardened and reported on the progress of the spring bulbs.
    One child hooked up the microscope and looked at EVERY slide. Frequent outbursts of amazement.
    The Reader made lunch.
    The biologist cleaned the kitchen and vacuumed.
    Somebody made up a story based on Shakespeare’s midsummer nights dream using finger puppets and a stuffed unicorn.

    There was a report of a backed up toilet. No evidence by the time I checked – I credit The Reader with clearing the blockage.

    Somehow, the kitchen got cleaned, the yard work got done, and somebody took baked goods to our shut-in neighbor. I had no part in any of it.

    Not every day runs like this, and I still have to prep for science co-op tomorrow, but all in all a good day for unschooling.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      That is awesome! Have fun in co-op! Is that something you take turns doing?

      Today my oldest is in character as a ninja wearing a karate gi, did some math, and worked on her comic book art and storyline and now is researching Teen Titans superhero team.

      Middle kid, who is 5, wrote me several love notes and continues to impress with her art. She wrote a little story about her day and made a list of everything and everyone she loves. She is helping her little sister, who is miss intensity, by teaching her how to write the alphabet. Not really expecting the 3 year old to write the alphabet anytime soon.

      Also, it is now the quietest time of the day for once… normally it sounds like people are being murdered in my house from all their combined energy and intensity. ;)

      • mh
        mh says:

        Our homeschool science co-op costs $10/kid to join.

        Parents coach (or persuade someone to coach ) one activity per participating child. Coaches buy supplies, but parents buy books and home equipment (mostly books). I coach two physics groups. My kids are involved in physics(2), chemistry, geology, meteorology, and biology. There are about twenty families, junior high and high school. The coaching has been great. I couldn’t be more pleased. We saw our local nuclear reactor, the city’s air traffic control tower, the university’s chem lab, and met the boss of the planetarium and our state’s governor this year. The breakdown is 60% girls, 40% boys.

        I’m organizing a field trip to EAA Oshkosh this summer.

  12. Vanessa
    Vanessa says:

    I don’t know, I guess my question is what are you trying to achieve by homeschooling?

    1. To raise someone who is independent and curious
    2. To raise educated and well-rounded children who love to learn for learning’s sake
    3. To more easily get accepted into an ivy-league school (no GPA, more time to devote to SATs and distinguishing skill for application)
    4. You enjoy the process of molding your kid’s minds

    To me, only 3. and 4. make sense.

    It’s quite possible to develop into a critical thinking, intelligent adult while attending a public school. Sweepingly denouncing school because of its lecture-and-listen approach is as large of an over-generalization as it is to say homeschooled kids are antisocial losers.

    If you are homeschooling to get your kid into an ivy-league, then eventually you kid will attend lectures, take tests and write formal reports. So while they may have had a leg-up in admittance, the public schooled kids will have a leg-up once university begins. Then when they get a job, the process will repeat again. It’s only unavoidable if the homeschooled kids become entrepreneurs or stay out of the workforce to homeschool themselves.

    And if you’re homeschooling because you find it rewarding, and admittedly educating takes much less time than the traditional 6-hour school day (i.e.,going through a whole math book in a month), then why not do that supplementary and save yourself from forsaking the extra income? Unless your family lives well on one-income, I’m with Gretchen, and am not sure it’s worth the sacrifice.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      Vanessa,

      I’m homeschooling because my oldest child is allergic to school. She tells me repeatedly that she wants to be in college right now… that’s not gonna happen, she is 8 years old, so it’s not that she can’t do lectures or take notes. She wants to be an engineer, I’m not sure that Ivy League matters as much for technical degrees.

      I have seen no evidence that supports the assertion that public schooled children do better in a university setting than homeschooled children. The reports I read state that many public schooled children drop out and quit college by a much larger percentage. Not every homeschooled kid will want to go to college, and not every public schooled kid will want to go to college.

      If you are supplementing your child’s education at home, going through math quickly, then why make the kid endure lower level math at school?

      I think we all understand that some people here do not think giving up an income is worth it to homeschool. But some of us were already stay at home moms comfortably living on a nice income, some have given up huge successful careers and moved into a smaller place to do it and can live well on one income.

      And to me, your points 1 & 2 are very important to me, because who is doing the raising during those 6, 7, 8 hours a day? I want my kids to be independent freethinkers and they can’t do that when they also have to please school officials and be around less tolerant children to try to fit in to some superficial ideal of what is cool.

    • Commenter
      Commenter says:

      Vanessa, if the kids you’re given are by their nature independent and curious, and love to learn for learning’s sake, they will inevitably become educated and well-rounded unless somebody stops them.

      I started homeschooling because it was what my kid needed from me at the time – to preserve his independence, his curiosity, and his love of learning for learning’s sake.

      I feel entirely certain he wouldn’t display all these qualities so readily if he’d stayed in school these past four years. Some can; he couldn’t, and if you met him you’d agree. His stress has abated, and his enthusiasm and ambition have returned.

      I think the idea that I’m trying to achieve something by homeschooling is mistaken. If I’m achieving anything for myself, it’s a better relationship with my children. My son is trying to achieve something by homeschooling; I’m just helping him.

      He’s talking now about going back to school in a couple of years, and is working hard towards the goal of acing an entrance exam this fall. I am happy to support him in that ambition also, and will likewise be happy to help him otherwise if he decides it’s still not for him.

      My family’s decision to live on one income predates our decision to remove our boy from school (and our decision to have another kid), and our ability to homeschool is one of the reasons it was a good decision for us.

    • Gretchen
      Gretchen says:

      Thanks, Vanessa.
      For me, I think it would be super enjoyable discovering stuff with my kid all day (til it wasn’t) and so if I was uber rich, yeah, why not. Such as it is…can’t do it.

      YMKAS: You keeping saying “…my oldest child is allergic to school…” That’s very colorful, but it’s hard to take seriously. It makes it sound like your child is some above-it-all-snowflake. And this idea that she wants to go to college…now? There are psychological and emotional developments that have to happen, too. It’s not all academic (though I doubt, even as bright as she may be, she’s ready now…)

      And this: “I want my kids to be independent freethinkers and they can’t do that when they also have to please school officials and be around less tolerant children to try to fit in to some superficial ideal of what is cool.”

      My view (or rationalization, if you must) is that the kid has to have something to push against, rebel against, or transcend. What *does* someone in a school have to fit in with a superficial idea of what is cool? My kid does what she wants and just. does. not. care.

      • mh
        mh says:

        Gretchen, “Snowflake” is one of those contemptuous words teachers use when their Parents-Need-To-Get-Involved! parents actually *do* get involved.

        It has been my experience that teachers show disdain to high-achieving kids and their parents. But there is little point in calling teachers names. They are public employees with an unpleasant job – keeping everyone equal.

        I want more for my kids, so I homeschool them. I like the advantages of homeschooling. I am perfectly happy living on one income and supporting the family to make it work.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        Savannah is a super sweet, shy, introverted, creative and humble child. Me saying she is allergic to school is me trying to not say the more offensive things that I would normally say about school, since we are all getting along so nicely. She questions everything and doesn’t just accept what a teacher says, she needs in depth analysis and there is not a lot of patience or time that a teacher has during class to go into detail with her at her age. No I am not putting my 8 year old in college, but she does have her own goals to get there and be done before she is 20. I have no idea where she comes up with this stuff.

        • Gretchen
          Gretchen says:

          I’m sure your child is very sweet and wonderful! They all are to each of us good parents. I didn’t mean to sound harsh to the child. Sadly, the rest of the world will not love her like you…and she needs to know that. Maybe it’s not appropriate to question EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME, for example. I don’t know. I know each of us do what we think is best for our kids and so I certainly can’t judge people on here who are clearly very invested and caring. I would just wonder whether so much specialization is doing a disservice and setting up for disappointment and difficulty in coping down the road…if it was my kid. They are all precious “snowflakes” to each of us, especially in America, especially in Western culture, but it’s a world of billions of people, in reality.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            No, I understand. Its not a question about whether it is appropriate or not to know everything. She has an innate desire to delve deep into topics and thrives on the freedom to question and research everything in order to reach her own conclusions. I do think there is a place in this world for people who think this way, not everyone needs to be compliant all the time. There are activities that she selects to do where she just is thrown into a situation and has coped very well even though it might be uncomfortable for her. I’m not raising a narcissist, she knows her strengths and weaknesses.

          • Gretchen
            Gretchen says:

            ” Its not a question about whether it is appropriate or not to know everything. ”

            Yes, that’s not what I mean. It is wonderful to know everything and to want to know everything…what may not be “appropriate” are constant interruptions and tangents and questions… I understand a person may be very inquisitive but at the same time it is a skill to learn to “hold your questions” (til “the end”? of when the other person is talking/teaching) or be able to wait, perhaps, for an answer to develop after more explanation…or, to hold the questions in one’s brain and then go research/discover more later?

            I’m not questioning your homeschooling choice, it’s yours to make…

            I just am envisioning the fairly typical “smart” child (like my own) who has millions of ideas bubbling who would, if I let her, interrupt like every sentence when we’re reading together with some “question” … it’s great to question, but kids also need to learn order, patience, deliberation, not acting and speaking on their every instinct…etc.

          • Commenter
            Commenter says:

            Gretchen, one of the most wonderful things about homeschooling is that the things kids “need to learn” they can learn on their own time and at their own pace.

            It’s very important that a child who is in school learn to shut up and not interrupt at age five, because she is in a class with twenty-plus other kids and they all need to be quiet and listen at the same time for class to work. For some kids, that may happen as early as four or even three.

            A homeschooled kid has many more years to learn to shut up and not interrupt, and they can do so when it’s convenient and natural to them. When they want to be in a situation where that behavior is important, they will display that behavior.

            Let us compare it to potty-training. I don’t know if anybody else had a kid who insisted on help with bum-wiping far beyond what one though strictly necessary. But in such times one consoles himself with the thought that the child will one day go to college, and they all wipe their own bums there.

          • Gretchen
            Gretchen says:

            I get it, Commenter… I guess, for developmentally “normal” children, I just have a different take on the value of the tradeoff. For those who can and want to homeschool, it’s great to have that choice. But, to the point of the post, those who don’t, well, it’s not because they’re “scared”…

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Our homeschool is not set up like a teacher-child setting. I am not being interrupted all the time. But if I engage her in a new topic of conversation, I need to know what I am talking about because she will want to know more information, like the history of something.

            I can’t think of any valid reason why any child who is hungry to learn, should be stymied because it interrupts other people’s agendas.

            There is only a short amount of allotted school time set aside for creative thinking in a traditional setting. Yet, there are myriad ways someone can learn “order, patience, deliberation…” An educational setting is not the place where I think this should be done. This can be accomplished through extra curricular activities like, music, art, acting and sports. When she meets with her art teacher she doesn’t bombard him with questions, they just start drawing and discussing ideas. In music, your moving progressively based on your skill level. In acting it’s all about collaboration and being directable etc…

            I understand that in a typical classroom setting, a child like this won’t have the freedom to be in charge of their education and would have to wait until he/she got home to work on the ideas they are interested in. This is exactly why we are rejecting school for elementary ages, because it doesn’t fit my family’s idea of what education should be. I am giving her freedom to be a critical thinker, arrive to correct solutions without being told how to get there, yes it is true that she *can’t* get that in traditional school, this is why I unschool.

          • Gretchen
            Gretchen says:

            That all sounds really good!

            (I love that you said “there are myriad ways” instead of “a myriad of ways” which drives me insane. The latter is one of a few expressions that is now “accepted” because so many people said it wrong for so long. Similar to “flout” vs “flaunt” : ) )

          • Commenter
            Commenter says:

            One must always consider the trade-off, Gretchen, and that will be different for different people. Everybody in the family is involved in the trade. Clearly the debit side of the balance is steep for you. I’ll admit it hasn’t been as steep for me.

            One of the effects I appreciate greatly in my son of not having been schooled much is his eagerness to participate when he does have a class. I find this is more common among homeschooled kids than among schooled kids. Disengagement in the crowd is normally learned behavior in school, and the epithet of “teacher’s pet” exists for castigation of those who deviate.

            On the one hand, my son doesn’t sit back and be quiet; if that were desired, he would fall short. On the other hand, he tries to answer every single question, every single time, and asks when he doesn’t understand something.

            I felt proud of him the other day in theory class when another participant asked a somewhat poorly phrased question relating to key signatures and inversions. The teacher didn’t immediately understand the question; my son put his hand up, and when called upon answered the question succinctly and accurately.

            Based on my experience, this level of engagement will serve him well in college and in his career, and I credit homeschooling for helping him maintain it.

          • Gretchen
            Gretchen says:

            “Disengagement in the crowd is normally learned behavior in school, and the epithet of “teacher’s pet” exists for castigation of those who deviate.”

            This is interesting to me, Commmenter, as is much of what you write. But, again it goes back to “it depends”…in my kid’s school, of upper middle class, well-behaved kids, there’s no castigation for being smart and engaged…

        • Commenter
          Commenter says:

          YMKAS, does your daughter just want to finish undergraduate before 20 (not so hard – I did it) or does she want a graduate degree by 20?

          And does she know what a concern troll is?

          She sounds like an awesome kid to hang out with. Good choice to homeschool her. But really: schools aren’t _all_ that bad.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Grad school. She wants a job that doesn’t exist yet, but will exist by that time. Basically an astronaut/pilot/engineer. I’m exhausted thinking about it. I’m trying to get my husband over to jpl in the next five years so that we can get free tuition at caltech…otherwise…$$$ I hope this blog goes that long so we can all be a part of each others journey. I’m confident your son will ace those exams if he decides to go that route.

    • Amy K.
      Amy K. says:

      In real life most homeschoolers I meet do it because it makes sense on a practical level, just as you and Gretchen feel that it doesn’t make sense practically, for your families. I haven’t met anyone who’s walked away from a 9-5 professional office-y job to do it, but maybe that’s just me and my limited experience.

      It’s more like this: Mom’s a violin instructor and off in the mornings, so maybe with the help of an afterschool program we can make it work. Or, mom is already an SAHM because her income wouldn’t cover daycare for three kids, and the oldest hates school, so let’s give it a try. Or, we both help run our family’s hardware store, so we can figure it out.

      In our case, homeschooling was a financial decision as much as anything else. I worked as a preschool teacher. I enjoyed it, but the pay was lousy. Our son was bullied in school and though the school tried, they couldn’t sort it out. We were denied a transfer. So… “cheap” private school would be Catholic, maybe 800 a month and not my cup of tea to say the least. Homeschooling quickly rose to the top as the most viable option.

    • UnschoolingMama
      UnschoolingMama says:

      Here’s another reason to homeschool that Vanessa might not have included, unless it counts under #4, which I don’t think it does:

      My husband and I want to homeschool our kids (officially, in 2 years, because the oldest is just 3) because we want to have more time together as a family than we could if our kids were in school. My husband works a non-traditional job that takes him away from us on business for 1-2 weeks per month, including most of the weekends even when he’s not traveling, but then he can usually be home during the day M-F when he’s around the other weeks. If our kids were in school (and if I was working outside of the home), we’d basically never see him, except some evenings per month, but the minute we start after school activities (sports, friends, whatever), that time would be gone. Same for any personal time I’d want to have after work in the evenings. Since he racks up quite the frequent flier miles, we also want to be able to go places when he’s home–and if the kids were in school, there would be a lot of push back from teachers for taking them out for those kinds of trips.

      We also value the idea of one parent being a homemaker. I get the most fulfillment from taking care of the home and family than from any career I’ve held. I taught for several years, which suits my care-taking personality, but I am vastly more fulfilled when it’s my own family I take care of. So I don’t see staying home as sacrificing a career. This IS my career, well, at least my vocation. But I think the money we save from me staying home (rather than paying for daycare, buying more expensive food, hiring people to take care of our stuff) counts as income, in a way. My husband’s mother was a stay-at-home mom, so it’s a something that he feels is a big positive and something he hoped his future wife would want to do (luckily we met each other). We aren’t rich by any means. We made a lot of decisions at a young age (early 20s) that set us up to have this lifestyle (we bought a house we could afford on one income, we make saving and spending decisions to account for the fact that I don’t have a 401K). We won’t ever have a lot of money, but I do think we will be able to be okay financially and very happy otherwise.

      Of course, we also want to homeschool because we think it’s the best way for kids to learn, but the family lifestyle aspect of homeschooling attracts us just as much as the educational component. As a former teacher, yes, I think their education at home will be more individualized, more interesting, more engaging for them. I think they will have more freedom and independence and opportunities to make adult decisions at younger ages. I don’t agree that public school kids will have a leg up because they know how to listen to lectures and write reports. I don’t think any research can prove that homeschooled kids end up not being able to handle those skills. We intend to make sure our kids leave high school with those abilities. We’re not shooing for Ivy League. I’d like the kids to know what they want to go to college for before they get there, maybe do a trade school instead if that’s the right choice, maybe get a job right after high school for a few years until they know their path–whatever is most practical for them to live a happy life, not necessarily a wealthy one.

      But I also want my kids to grow up knowing their siblings better than they would if they were separated by age groups. When they are older teens and gaining their independence, I want those homeschooling hours so we can stay connected as a family, because I also want them to be able to spend as much time as possible with friends, pursuing sports or art or whatever, working part-time jobs, whatever–and I think if they were also out of the house for 7 hours a day at school, we’d never see them. My husband definitely wouldn’t. I remember never seeing my parents as a teenager. I don’t want that same thing for us.

      • mh
        mh says:

        One of the main things we discovered the first year we homeschooled was our freedom to travel and take time off to be a family when work permits. The national parks in September –Uncrowded.

  13. jessica
    jessica says:

    I think the important thing to note here is that traditional schooling in any setting (upper middle class to lower class) teaches to the lowest common denominator. Average.

    Anyone arguing that traditional schooling is fine for their kid is settling for average. I happen to not want average for my own kid. Who really does?

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      Hehehe… I Love your comment.

      I was going to say something to the tune of “of course my kid is a f’ing snowflake!” But instead I’ll say “I didn’t uproot my life with a huge and tight knit family that made everyday a party and me us feel safe and loved to transverse 2300 miles, be scared for life, and learn a new language from scratch, and actually be top competition for some jobs to Americans born and raised here just for…..

      Average.”

    • Gretchen
      Gretchen says:

      Well, see this view assumes that school is the defining aspect of a kid’s life. It’s not. It’s one piece. Things are not weighted by hours spent, either. All this competitive talk about not being “average”…such exceptionalism. It’s fun, I guess, but when everyone thinks these things about themselves (and we all do, Americans, Westerners…myself included) what does that tell you…

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        Gretchen,

        I don’t think I’m exceptional. I don’t think my kids are exceptional. I think I have the responsibility to learn and grow and show my children life is what you make it, while keeping them grounded and safe. I think you’d argue the same for your child. If you are connecting unschooling with *exceptionalism* you are sorely mistaken and once again, missing the point.

        Of course schooling is not the sole determiner of a child’s success. Their level of home, self, and academic ***education*** is. Why waste valuable time in a setting proven to be unreliable for even an ounce of the whole child?

        I think that is what you are missing in this Gretchen, you don’t see that time can be used to your advantage. And it should be. Things are weighed by hours spent as time is the most valuable resource one has. Why not use it wisely?

        • Gretchen
          Gretchen says:

          Well, not to beat a dead horse, but, for me, the loss of the money I make from my job is not worth the minor gains in…I’m not even sure what, something very abstract…my kid would get by my homeschooling her. Even with the things that she—and I—think are stupid in school (I’m very frank with her about how a lot of it is about “playing the game”) she still is happy to go to school and says she likes it, likes her teacher, likes her friends, etc. She’s thriving. I guess, if, like some of the commenters here say about their kids, she was unhappy and not doing well, I’d be more inclined to take the financial hit.

          • Kristin
            Kristin says:

            I am curious, Gretchen, how old your child is? I know you have probably already said it, but I can’t find it now.

          • Kristin
            Kristin says:

            Gretchen,
            I just found where you said your child is 7. And in that case, I am not surprised she likes school! School doesn’t get horrible for most kids until they are older, and by that time, both the parent and child have been in the system so long they are afraid to leave. I think if an older kid leaves school, it is because they really really hate it or the parent thinks it is damaging to them. However, when the child is younger, the parent homeschools because they philosophically think homeschooling is better. Judging from your comments, it sounds like you philosophically think homeschooling is better but you aren’t willing to give up your salary. And it sounds like because you feel you have to send your child to school, you are trying to justify it to yourself and the world by saying it is good for her to learn to do things she hates because she will have to do things she hates when she grows up (not necessarily true by the way). And you are also saying it isn’t really that bad anyway, so might as well goto school. First, there are ways to keep your job and homeschool too (that was another post I made above). But my main point here is yes, she likes school now, but just wait! Especially since she isn’t interested in pleasing people, she may start to hate it by junior high. She sounds like she is already questioning things at 7! That is pretty amazing. I just have to say that you may have a struggle on your hands in the future if your child stays in school. Better to leave early so she can get the full benefit of homeschooling, but of course I don’t know the entire story. Only you can make that decision for your family.

  14. Anastasia
    Anastasia says:

    My kids are 6 and 3 and I can attest to the fact that play based learning is pretty amazing! We really do not trust our kids enough. My 6 year old pretty much taught herself addition, subtraction, division, multiplication, and has started reading with very little guidance from me. It can be exhausting sometime being with them all the time, homeschooling/unschooling, but we are truly enjoying life and making up our own schedule is pretty awesome (I’m a wedding photographer). Most of my parent friends with kids in public school are just barely surviving and are in constant run, run, run mode. No downtime and weekends aren’t nearly enough to take a breath between super hectic weekdays. I don’t want to live like that, that’s for sure. We have made the choice to cut back a lot of spending and hubby and I both work really hard to make ends meet, but at least we are truly enjoying the most important things in life (family, love, the gift of time) and thriving as a family. My kids get plenty of time to play, to live real life, and I believe they learn more that way than they ever would sitting at a desk. The difference is their interest in anything, nobody wants to learn when things are shoved down their throat.

    • Gretchen
      Gretchen says:

      I do like this comment, though, and your life sounds very appealing to me. I am jealous, but not in a mean way.

  15. Lily
    Lily says:

    Homework has been an issue in the classroom year after year. Our school’s parents are big proponents of traditional schooling, particularly because they were raised in a similar education environment, and so they know nothing else. They sincerely believe in the benefits of homework and request that more be assigned to fill the empty hours. I have also bought into the misconception that homework is a necessary component to learning, and it was only recently through research and blogs like yours that I am seeing homework through a different lens. There is a general lack of motivation to learn because many conventional lessons are task-centered rather than student-centered. I agree that students are busier than ever before, and that they need to invest in developing their physical health rather deteriorate it by sitting behind a desk at home, too. On top of that, I have seen homework become the catalyst for arguments in the family, resulting in bitterness between parent and child. Too many times have I heard parents pressure their child into producing perfect homework, but rarely do they emphasize scholarly habits and a desire to learn.

    Although the debate on Common Core continues, I believe that the standards are steering us in the right direction when it comes to in-depth learning. There is now talk about assigning projects instead of worksheets at our school, and parent education workshops on student academic needs and home support are in the works. An example of this would be a personal, academic portfolio of students’ choosing; it would be an opportunity for students to focus on a passion and share their expertise with their peers while engaging in authentic learning.

Comments are closed.