My kids are four years below grade level and I don’t care

My thirteen-year-old is two grades behind in math and like five grades behind in language arts.

My ten-year-old can do multiplication tables and read. He does neither particularly well.

The reason I don’t care is this strikes me as semantic. For example, my older son is two grades behind in math but he just finished one year of math in three months.

And my younger reads Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate and has no interest in reading anything else besides People magazine. But you know what? He taught himself to read. It was incredible to watch. Incredible like when your baby just magically starts learning to talk.

I am starting to trust the research more and more. The research says kids don’t need to be taught math until they are in sixth grade. And now I believe it.

The research says neuro-typical kids don’t need to be taught to read.

I don’t have brilliant kids. I have regular kids who don’t do school curriculum.

I trust my kids that they’ll work hard at whatever they care a lot about. My older son does four hours of studying a day because he wants to be scientist. I didn’t tell him he has to do curricula. I told him he has to be interested in something when he wakes up in the morning. And if it’s science then he better start preparing for AP tests, so he can show colleges he actually learned enough on his own to make it worthwhile for them to teach him more.

My younger son practices music three hours a day. He skips sports because he plays cello on Saturdays. He skips sleepovers because he can’t practice if he gets no sleep.

For the record: I am the mother who told him he had to wait a year to start cello lessons because I thought I’d die if I had to practice violin with his brother and cello with him. “One is enough,” I said. But he pushed.

And that’s what the research says: That we don’t need to push kids because they push themselves when they are interested in something. There are no lazy people, only people pressured to do someone else’s idea of a good life.

So, my kids are behind in school, but I don’t think it matters. There’s plenty of time to catch up. If they want to. And their peers are behind in knowing how to structure their own days and stimulate their own drive.

Be careful when you talk about who is behind and who is ahead. Ask yourself who is establishing the goal, and what their agenda is. It takes guts to fall behind when everyone else is falling in step.


53 replies
  1. Kathleen
    Kathleen says:

    “There are no lazy people, only people pressured to do someone else’s idea of a good life.”

    This is perfect.

  2. Abe
    Abe says:

    I am really happy for your kids. They won’t grow up feeling like they are an object that is measured and evaluated at every turn, that they are not going to be worthwhile unless their achieve a certain grade.

      • Robbin
        Robbin says:

        Actually, the skills they are learning will make them better employees. You cannot teach drive, ambition and attitude. Some of the most well-educated people are some of the worst employees.

        • Daniel
          Daniel says:

          I certainly hope it will. Unfortunately, in every workplace, as in life, people will regularly need to do things they aren’t interested in, nor particularly good at. My experience as a conventional public school student taught me that early on.
          While I realize that is an entirely different discussion, I am nonetheless interested in learning how that lesson is addressed in unconventional educational paradigms.

          • Nikki
            Nikki says:

            Education is not the only way to instill this in our children-in fact in my opinion its the WORST way. Education should be the life long process of gathering information to make your life more full and to help you on your life journey. No reason to make it a drudgery or to blend already blurry lines. You can teach perseverance through taking long walks through new cities that is out of your comfort zone and ability. You can teach diligence through helping mom and dad with a big, important project. You can teach responsibility through chores that dont get paid for its something you do as part of your family community. You can teach personal growth by having your children do something they dont enjoy because its the right thing to do-like doing your taxes but on a kid level it would be folding their own clothing or walking the dog (for each child this will be different and dependent upon personality) and encourage them to do it with grace and positive attitudes or better yet model it so they learn through your behavior. I dont need public school to teach lessons that should be taught at home ;) And I dont need to make school be about only obtaining information.

          • Huskie
            Huskie says:

            Daniel…you don’t need 12 years of schooling to learn that there are things in life you don’t like, but have to do. You might love playing basketball but dislike watching game tape, love hiking but dislike mosquitoes, love gardening but dislike weeding, etc. Wouldn’t it be a better way of being to tolerate the unpleasantness that we impose upon ourselves in the name of a goal we deemed personally worthy? That’s basically what we all did when we chose our career paths, homes, hobbies, trips, etc.

  3. Rosemary
    Rosemary says:

    This is so great. I like that you’re talking about this. It is against the stream but makes so much sense. People will always have to work hard to excel no matter what they’re doing. They can either look forward to the hard work or dread it. Spending these years learning what they enjoy in order to pursue it will make a lifetime of hard work more enjoyable and rewarding.

  4. Kate
    Kate says:

    I wish my parents had let me do this. It took me years to figure out what I really loved to do. And I still struggle with being a people pleaser.

  5. jennifer wisdom
    jennifer wisdom says:

    The kids in school are behind as well. My daughter had a note sent home for us to sign saying she was failing. Then they also show me her report card and her grade is an 88. Of course, I ask how she can be making an 88 yet failing her class work. The teacher tells me its because if my daughter can’t do the work but she participates in class they will give her a passing grade. How lovely for them to report false grades to have better statistics for the school. I smell a scam….

  6. Tammy
    Tammy says:

    Great post, I have been following your blog for a while and mostly I agree with your stance on education. My oldest has just started primary school in Singapore and I think I should put that last paragraph you wrote up on my fridge so I can read it when things start getting crazy.

  7. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    I’m totally afraid to unschool, but this is so convincing. And I think you’re right about how “There are no lazy people, only people pressured to do someone else’s idea of a good life.” I guess the debate is about whether it matters that we do, to some degree, someone else’s idea of a good life. I hope the answer is no. But I’m scared that it’s “yes”, or “yes, kind of.” and I’ll fail myself and my kids by totally stepping outside established expectations.

    • Pamela
      Pamela says:

      As the mother of two adult unschoolers, I can reassure that the kids will be fine. As Penelope says, let them find their passions and then help them learn within them. Really. It’s going to be okay.

  8. Emily
    Emily says:

    This is my favorite part of the post:

    “Be careful when you talk about who is behind and who is ahead. Ask yourself who is establishing the goal, and what their agenda is. It takes guts to fall behind when everyone else is falling in step.”

    Love this so much!!!

  9. Athaliah
    Athaliah says:

    While we too will be unschooling our incredibly motivated learner.. We also in the same breath acknowledge how much of a decision of privilege this is… Not everyone can and that’s just the truth of this model. It’s not new or nuanced, it’s privilege.

    • Stabat Mater
      Stabat Mater says:

      Because, sadly, a family with 2 parents, living in the same home with their children, honestly caring & sacrificing & bucking the system we are all still enslaved to pay for, in order to give their children a true education is, sadly, a privilege for too few kids.

      If only more colleges, business owners, etc would stop feeding into the system with the realization that they could also be privileged to have more well-rounded and intelligent thinkers running things eventually.

  10. ada
    ada says:

    I was unschooled by a liberal-artsy mom who wanted me to be an autodidact. When I got to college I discovered that I liked grades, feedback, and a large enough class size to foster competition. I ended up doing computer science, and seriously struggled with the maths. I didn’t have a strong background, I didn’t know how to communicate about it, and I cried–a lot. I feel like I was able to pick up the language skills I needed (for the most part) on my own, and through some community college courses in high school.

    The thing I am (still) upset about my grade school education is the lack of pressure and rigor put on math, it feels like years of wasted time. Choosing computer science was hard in part because I knew my math background was weak–it really limited what I saw as options.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Thank you for this comment. Like your mom, I was hoping my son would be able to teac himself algebra. He worked hard at it but I saw a lot of wasted time because he didn’t have a teacher. So now we have tutors for science and math for my older son, and we’ll probably do that when my younger son gets older as well.

      And every time I hear someone like you regret they didn’t learn enough math, I am relieved that we have a tutor. But in the back of my mind I am always thinking that I went through school math, in school, and I remember nothing.


    • Sue VanHattum
      Sue VanHattum says:

      Ada, my son may also feel this way. (He’s 13, and chose school, but feels so behind he can’t stand to try.)

      I am a math teacher at a community college. If I can ever help you, I’d like to. You can email me at mathanthologyeditor on gmail. You can see more of how I think at:

    • Sanj
      Sanj says:

      This comment scares me so so much

      I am a mom to two little ones that I’m aiming to unschool. I am scared my kids will one day be resentful that I did not push them. We certainly have every means (financially and otherwise) to give them the “finest education” money can buy.

      I wonder if the original commenter could elaborate more? Is it possible if the mother had been truly seeking to help Ada find and follow her unique interests, they would have discovered computer science earlier and thus focused on the maths to prepare Ada for the life she was interested in leading?

      Seems to me the first line (mom hoped I’d be an autodidact) reveals a clear example of “someone else’s idea of a good life” messing with another’s life

      • Jenny Hatch
        Jenny Hatch says:

        Even if all the Math an unschooled child gets is using fractions to bake with Mom, that type of Math will serve them better in life than the Common Core constructivist insanity that has infected most of public ed.

        I do make my 13 year old homeschooled son do a Saxon Math lesson every day. It took a while for him to stop complaining about it, but the daily discipline is good and gives him a sense of accomplishment and focus.

        Here are a few of my ramblings on Math ed:

        • Jane
          Jane says:

          This is interesting to me because I blame Saxon math (taught in public school in the mid to late 1980s) for my later math struggles. I excelled at math until high school, when Saxon was introduced. I couldn’t handle the “spiraling”; there was never enough time to master a concept before we moved on to assignments where most questions were review — of things I hadn’t understood. It didn’t help that we had a first-year teacher who was kinda clueless on how to help struggling students, even when we came in for extra help. We couldn’t afford tutors.

          I had straight A’s otherwise but barely passed math, which almost kept me out of college, where I then couldn’t pass the Math Placement Test and struggled through several attempts to pass remedial math.

          I think it’s important to tailor the method to a child’s learning style, and make sure extra support is available. I’m glad my kid has had great teachers and that we can afford extra help if needed.

    • Rachel
      Rachel says:

      This is something I am currently struggling with with my own homeschooled children. How much to push math? What I am finding, is that when a kid really wants to learn math, they can do it quickly and effectively. They need a reason to do it, though. For my oldest, she wanted to start college early and in order to do so, she had to take a graduation test. It included math. I was amazed at how much she learned with only encouragement from me. And she did so very willingly. This was after years of struggling to get her to take math seriously and pulling my hair out without much progress.

      A similar thing has now happened to my next eldest. He truly struggles at math. It is very hard for him, but because he has a reason to take it now, he works hard at it for 1-2 hours a day. He is not learning as fast as my daughter, but I love that he has so much dedication and focus.

      • Alisa
        Alisa says:

        I love Montessori math. As a homeschooling parent I’m finally understanding math concepts because of the hands on nature of montessori. I hated math but I want my children to love math. I think the key to getting a child to learn a subject is to find ways to make it interesting and less abstract. A child can’t know what if they’re interested in something they’ve never been exposed to. Though I’m not an unschooler I think it’s very important that an unschooling parent provide lots of opportunities for children to be exposed to different things and provide fun ways of learning subjects. A child kept in an unstimulating environment will suffer. In many ways unschooling is more work for the parent than teaching out of workbooks if it’s done correctly.

    • Heather
      Heather says:

      I really sympathize with this! It makes me wonder if school or no school is the issue so much as parent’s helping and guiding enough. I went to private elementary and public middle and high school. I would say my parents were very, very hands off in my education beyond providing an amazing home library and regular library visits. I was an avid reader, always way above my grade level, so they never sweated the small stuff. But I struggled with math. Everything else was pretty easy/fun, but math was work. Growing up I wanted to be an architect, but I struggled with math and never got confident enough in basic math to do well in the higher level math you need for architecture or engineering. I really wish my parents had given me more help, tutoring or just general encouragement to work harder on math. There were no flash cards, extra workbooks, nothing. I always passed, amd that was good enough for them. But to get into advance classes and certain careers, you really need to excel at math. I graduated college and have an okay enough job, but I get a little frustrated thinking about how lax they were with math and what I could have done with a little more help from early on. I didn’t need to be pushed, just given more resources at a younger age to do better. There were plenty of history and literature resources in our house and I would say I self-taught myself most of my knowledge in those subjects, but there was little to no math or science books or resources available at home. If they had been there, I know I would have used them. So maybe it is more resources at home and opportunity rather than encouragement that was lacking for me. I would say that is something fir unschoolers to consider, making sure there is enough at home for their kids to grab and learn from.

  11. Myrinda Dixon
    Myrinda Dixon says:

    We had to take my now 12yo out of public school because she was so far ahead,she could have taught the class. Seriously. Reading and comprehension tested at a HS grad in 3rd grade. Really. What is the teacher of 30 kids supposed to do with that? This kid wants to be a professional contortionist and spends hours and hours each week training.
    My now 8yo never went to regular school. I let her decide. Yes, that’s what I said, I let a FIVE YEAR OLD DECIDED something for herself! lol! She can read. She can do basic math. She LOVES science and making things with her hands. This kid wants to go to the Olympics in rhythmic gymnastics and spends even MORE time in the gym than her sister.
    I just drive and pay the bills ;)


    I’m with you here Penelope. We’re homeschooling our kids for 2 years as we are traveling globally. My younger son is in the autism spectrum. I didn’t read any guidance about this issue but I follow a few basic principles that are fed by my gut instinct as a parent and a wish to not repeat mistakes from my own upbringing. I agree with you as another parent in a similar situation. There is no rush to educate your child at warp speed unless you want them to turn into robotic career driven unhappy adults. What they need is freedom to pursue their interests, flexible curriculums and to build up their inner core as human beings. My son who is autistic struggles with the tables, so rather than memorize the tables he just refers to a sheet. This way he is able to focus on solving a problem rather than feeling the frustration of not remembering things. In fact we always focus on finding ways to solve problems with the assumption that google is there available at all times. The focus needs to be on how to use information rather than the memorization of what is freely available. I’ve been giving him swimming lessons since he was 3 and at 10 yrs old he’s still at beginner level but who cares. I just want him to be able to float and enjoy being in the water.
    My 12 yr old daughter in the mean time is spending much of her time creating graphic comics and writing. I feel she has read and written more in her young life than I have done in my 47. So rather than fix her on a typical curriculum I let her spend as much time as she needs to do what interests her. There is no need to set schedules etc, it is all fed by their own curiosity. My only wish is that I don’t harm their creative instincts and I believe it exists in every child. But far too often the educational system robs them of this creativity. We’ve travelled 28 countries at slow pace and its a lot of fun but unfortunately, what we observe many times is a great sadness in many of the places we visit-what we see in society with the shopping madness, the traffic jams, pollution, dysfunctional political systems, evil, hatred, poverty, narrow mindedness and unhappiness can largely be blamed on the limitations of the educational system. All the decision makers went to school. The educational system produces masses of workers who can be subjugated and exploited. When I left my 9 to 5 with actually no idea about how I would pay for my decision to travel with my family, I had to reach deep into my inner being to find the creativity to do so. I didn’t realize it quite well at the time but it was a rebellion against society and what I felt as a loss of my own individuality. 2 yrs later I can assure you, its the best decision I made in all my life.

    • Wendi
      Wendi says:

      How did you creatively fund your world travels? I am so compelled in this direction as a homeschool parent, but feel helpless to move forward. I am tragically limited with in-the-box thinking, but desperately want to break free….

  13. Leonie
    Leonie says:

    I like this post. And I agree with you that your kids will be fine.

    That said, I do wonder how applicable this model is for families who are not upper middle class. For families who are not white. A woman of color proclaiming she doesn’t care that her children are several grade levels behind would likely receive a much different response than someone like you.

    Another commenter mentioned that this homeschool model comes from a place of privilege. I agree. It almost feels as if you’d need a certain measure of success via income, network, etc to do this successfully.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      I really dislike double standards. Homeschooling shouldn’t be for the privileged only, and most studies do show that it isn’t privileged families homeschooling. From different social groups I am a part of, most are not bragging about their children being behind, but they also do not compare their children to the arbitrary public school standards. So, perhaps their children are indeed two years behind comparatively but it isn’t considered a badge of honor for them. Every person has different passions, desires, and goals and children especially shouldn’t be measured with the same stick.

      • Leonie
        Leonie says:

        I agree that double standards are terrible. But I also recognize that I have to navigate a flawed world – and help my children do the same. (I am a woman of color btw.)

        Something that I’ve always liked about this blog is the realistic advice about navigating the workplace – unconventional advice about negotiating salary, dealing with sexual harassment, etc. I was kind of hoping that the homeschool blog would be a little bit like that too. Posts like this give me a moment of pause though, because when I think of how this could apply to my life, the racial aspect is the elephant in the room.

        For the record, I don’t think that Penelope’s bragging about her sons being behind grade level in some subjects. (And I know that people of all income brackets homeschool their children.) It’s the notion that being a few grade levels behind doesn’t matter, that you can decide that external standards do not apply to you, that I was referring to as being one of privilege.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          Hi Leonie,

          I have been known to say, quite often actually, that I don’t care about k12 subjects. I don’t think that comes from a place of privilege but rather, it comes from becoming more aware and informed on what education means. For some, education means sitting in classrooms at school learning things from books day after day and year after year. For me, once I learned about unschooling, learning and education became something else.

          What I meant to say before, is that comparing our homeschooled kids to arbitrary public school standards seems disingenuous. We aren’t behind, or ahead. It’s apples vs oranges. We are exactly where we need to be. For example, we live in CA but don’t study CA history nor have we visited the missions like all the other kids in school do. We study the history that we are interested in, and in the manner we wish, such as documentaries. I would respect any parent who shuns traditional schooling in favor of unschooling, regardless of ones background.

          I really enjoy when you comment on this blog, and I do appreciate where you are coming from and can see why this post may not have been as beneficial for you. I hope that one day it may be acceptable for you to shun external standards, and I would applaud you.


          • Leonie
            Leonie says:

            YMKAS, I appreciate the response. That’s a much more nuanced way to phrase it. Also, full disclosure; my daughter is still a toddler so I’m not really homeschooling per se, but I do enjoy hanging out on this blog and hearing about how other people do it. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

            I think I may have gotten a little too hung up on the post title and the provocative wording. But of course it is – this is the internet after all :-)

          • Boydie72
            Boydie72 says:

            Because it matters. I in Australia, I’m of European descent and I’m ashamed to say homeschooling would not be an option for most Aboriginal people due to:
            Lack of education of caregivers;
            Lack of money;
            Lack of stable housing;
            Lack of stable family

            Not all the ‘fault’ of either white or black, but that’s how it is.
            So yeah – race matters.

            If only I knew how to solve it.

    • Jen
      Jen says:

      I don’t know when or how homeschooling your children became a thing of “privilege.” I am a single mother, I work full-time and homeschool my daughter with absolutely no help from the man that’s supposed to be her father and very little help from anyone elsr. I watched as public schools continued to fail my daughter. I watched as topics and subjects were ignored completely and left untaught. When I’d question or complain about the “system” to her teachers or the school administration,I was made to seem like the one that was wrong. My daughter wants to learn. Being homeschooled now, she has an unquenchable thirst for science, history and math. I think if a parent truly wants to help their child “reach for the stars” they will do whatever is necessary. We don’t live in a fancy house, I don’t own a fancy brand new car. I make under $30,000/a year…and NO…I get nothing from the government. I don’t want anything they have to offer. My mother and grandmother help when possible but they are both limited. My daughter wants to be a scientist. She wants to become a cancer researcher and save people. She witnessed our friends son die from cancer when he was 4 and she was 7. She’s convinced God had us live through that in order to show her what needs to be done. There isn’t a public school within an hour of us that can build her and prepare her to do what she wants to do. Maybe she’ll change her mind, who knows! Possibly I’m no better to equip her than the institutions I find unsatisfactory. But I will do whatever is in my power for her to go down the road she chooses. I’d never in a million years call our lives privileged. I call it working my ass off to show my child the stars really are the limit! And everyone else can kiss my….?

  14. Kimberly Johnston
    Kimberly Johnston says:

    As a single mother of four. Three school age, my seventeen year old is unschoolinf, as she doesn’t fit the norm. She is artistic,and likes to express herself, I.E. dyeing her hair, and was punished for that. However, I have two on the autism spectrum, still in elementary. I’d like to unschoolinf them, but I have no idea where to begin. This is inspirational, as it shows children don’t have to fit the sociatal standards to be intelligent. I don’t know if my non verbal son will ever be at “grade level”. He is still quite intelligent.

  15. Karen
    Karen says:

    That’s why I like “unschooling” – I’ve been homeschooling grandchildren for over 20 years…I do work with them on various things but THEY pick what they want to read and focus on. Yes, everyone needs to be able to read and do basic math – when it’s right for them. I could read before I was 4 years old. Not many people do that, but that’s fine. I didn’t figure out geometry, although I managed to pass it in high school, until I had to draw an umbrella in a college class! Bingo, it hit. You work with strengths when you homeschool children and help them with the things they struggle with – on THEIR level, when they are ready…not when they are supposed to be in 1st or 5th grade or whatever! and anyone who wants to homeschool a child can figure it out as there are lots of places to get help – online, in local groups if you live in an area that has them, and reading books about various tppics relating to homeschooling. We teach our kids to do all the basic things before they ever go to school, so why not continue to mentor them as they learn the rest?

  16. Shasta
    Shasta says:


    It would be interesting to interview these and other unschooled children in a few decades and see how they feel about how their education( or lack thereof) prepared them for life.

    As a person that grew up in a society full of involuntarily ‘unschooled’ children who would kill for the opportunities provided in the schools Americans so love to complain about; i cant help but see this entire philosophy as a product of ‘first world problems’.
    Theres simply too much here so people create problems due to a lack of real problems. Often to prove a futile point. So what we have free education for all kids? Free universal education sucks! Our kids WONT go to school! We’ll show them!

    But yet there’s all these complaints about immigrants taking U.S jobs and companies going overseas for talent…. hmm, i wonder why that is…..

  17. Anika
    Anika says:

    Thank you SO much for writing this. I’m newly on this same path after being in traditional education for way too long . Best decision ever and yet you do need encouragement sometimes. This was so on time for me right now. Thank you.

  18. Amy
    Amy says:

    What do you do when your 12-year-old homeschooled daughter doesn’t seem to be interested in anything? There is absolutely NOTHING that she wants to spend her day doing, except for laying on the floor and stretching…

  19. Reg Agente
    Reg Agente says:

    I agree that every child is different and many will teach themselves whatever they are drawn to and become interested in. But there are also children with very little motivation. And with all the gadgets around today, it’s quite easy to spend the entire day chatting with friends (in one form or another) rather than doing anything productive.
    At what age does the Laissez Faire attitude toward education become harmful? Not every child is self-motivated… you let some kids stay at home and “follow their own interests,” and they will still be living at home, playing video games, when they’re 30.

  20. Sandy
    Sandy says:

    I think this post may be a bit unrealistic as, like the comment above, some children need a more structured envirnoment of they will waste their time away.

    I homeschooled my four children for 6 years — teaching my youngest two from the beginning. My youngest son, Jacob, was a handful and would not really work without much ‘negotiation’. I knew he was smart, but I just could get him to finish his work (we had a rule: Finishing all your assigments by Thursday, and Friday, you can do whatever you want as long as you were learning something. Jacob spend every Friday working on his assignments while his siblings were either coloring, making crafts, exploring the outdoors etc. etc.)

    Finally in desperation, I sent him back to school when he was in the fifth grade and he excelled! Maybe some kids are just not meant to be homeschooled!

    • Lin
      Lin says:

      Some kids do better w peer pressure and instructions from strangers. Some like the big group. Kids don’t need to love homeschool but they shouldn’t dislike if

  21. Mugglemama
    Mugglemama says:

    In response to the commenter who implied the author’s children won’t be able to handle the workplace because they’ll have to do things they don’t like there, or things they aren’t particularly good at.

    I’ve been homeschooling my 18 year old for all but 2 years of his school life (he graduates this year). The last 6 years of that have been unschooling. We homeschool under an “umbrella” school, which is a public charter. But my kids do all their core classes at home, and only take elective classes on-site if/when they want to.

    My son joined the school’s theater program about a year and a half ago. It takes a ton of time, dedication, effort….and a LOT of doing things he doesn’t like in order to get to do the things he DOES like.

    This year, he decided he wanted to take 12th grade English on-site, as well (100% his choice). He’s never been in a high school class for an academic subject before. He has to work hard (there is a TON of assigned work). He hates a lot of it. He is stressed out sometimes while trying to get the work done on time.

    He also knows he can quit anytime he wants to. He is under NO pressure whatsoever from me or his dad to continue with the class (I think most of the work is fluff, personally). He’ll still get to participate in his graduation ceremony if he quits the class.

    But you know what? He doesn’t quit. He enjoys the actual class time. And HE knows, that if he wants to participate in the class time , he has to spend a lot of time doing paperwork that he doesn’t particularly enjoy, and which doesn’t come easily to him (because he hasn’t spent his childhood days completing endless repetitive tasks designed to train him to do them exactly the same way as everyone else…). In fact, he spends far more hours doing the assigned paperwork that he hates, than he spends in the actual class! Yet, he sticks with the part he hates, in order to participate in the part he enjoys.

    All by choice.

    Kind of debunks the theory that unschooled kids will never be able to handle situations in which they have to do things they’re not interested in, or are not particularly good at.

    (P.S. He also has an A+ in the class….)

    RAYA NEWBOLD says:

    After struggling with the state educational system for 10 years, we unschooled all 7 of ours. Special needs, brilliant or normal, it defiantly allows them all more opportunity to spread their wings and try all sorts of new things. It also allows them to focus on whatever they love. Meanwhile, my husband and I have worked on our college degrees and as I sit with 20 year old students, I realize just how much standardized education creates standardized people. My kids were not born to be standard.

  23. Lin
    Lin says:

    Well it’s hard to accurately test language arts. I think it’s pretty easy to teach math fundamentals without the endless repetition. I think one year behind is ok but I think two is pushing it. You can unschool and get a decent education if mom commits to 45 min a day concentrated learning

  24. Antoine Guenet
    Antoine Guenet says:


    This is such a great article, I’d love to translate it to French for publication (with due credit and link of course) on the blog of my Belgian Sudbury school project. Would that be ok for you ?

    Thank you, and thanks for this wonderful article,


  25. sdsd
    sdsd says:

    Ok, nine year olds ARE doing multiplication tables and it’s not like it dies out at 10. and if you can afford tutors to do math in three months, then yes, why worry? You’re not really in a position to judge how far behind they are. Even a test cannot determine that. If you REALLY wanted to understand how behind they are, you would have to interact with a significant number of kids their age and assess it that way. Because ANYONE can teach to the test. If you have a kid who practices music for freaking three hours a day and another who studies science for four hours a day, take a bow! But I think it a wee lame to headline this as your kids being four years behind to get attention and reads when clearly it’s not true.

  26. Teresa Bellock
    Teresa Bellock says:

    I may need to print this and hang it somewhere I will see it daily. Love, love, love this.

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