I didn’t teach my kids any curriculum until 7th grade. Here’s how I did it:

Education insider Lisa Nielsen showed me all sorts of data that says kids of college graduates teach themselves to read. That turned out to be true for our family.

I read that kids learn basic math intuitively and teaching math before sixth grade useless. So when my son was 13 we went on ixl.com and he learned k-7th grade in five days.

I taught writing at Harvard, Brown, Boston University, I always assumed I could teach writing to my kids pretty easily. That was before I tried.

Then I realized standard writing curricula is totally outdated. So I went with the idea that the more you write the better you get. My kids type slowly, and I’m impatient, so I told them to dictate. But as soon as my kids talk into a mic they sound like pro-gamers saying fascinating unsubstantiated stuff peppered with “dude” and “guys” and other words that won’t impress anyone wanting to know how well they write. Though I wonder if career tests for the next generation will say things like, “You were born to be a YouTuber!”

I tried again. The first paper I remember writing in school was when each kid in the class picked a forest animals. I remember not caring at all about my animal. Maybe that’s genetic because one son wrote about forest animal road kill and the other gave me a blank page.

“What is this?”

“It’s my assignment for forest animals.”

“You didn’t write anything.”

“It’s like John Cage. You take the paper to the forest to read it and you hear the animals.”

The boys fall on the floor laughing and high-fiving.

The next day I tell them to write an argument. I say, “Argue against the statement: video games are bad for kids.”

Reading what they wrote, I saw the boys didn’t know to create hierarchy in paragraphs or papers. That’s what’s most important. You actually have to outline in order to do that. Like, a good outline for this blog post would show you that I should just write a post titled How to Teach Writing instead of including the reading and math part.

I read them The Important Book. Each page is a paragraph about a different thing, and each paragraph starts, The important thing about… I read the page about a daisy:

The important thing about a daisy is that it’s white. It is yellow in the middle, it has long white petals, and bees sit on it. It has a ticklish smell, it grows in green fields, and there are always lots of daisies. But the important thing about a daisy is that it’s white.

The kids are horrified that I am reading about flowers. I tell the kids about the Stanford writing study. “You will enjoy writing most if you write online about stuff you care about.”

The boys say they don’t want to write online because they don’t want to be stalked by catfishers and identity thieves.

I couldn’t keep up with their ways to not learn to write a paragraph.

So I called Amelia because work is always easier than parenting. We talked about using RingBoost to create phone numbers that have personality types. Like 1-800-xxx-ENTJ. But we couldn’t think of what the first three letters would be for the phone number.

My kids were listening, because it’s the rule of parenting that kids listen to nothing you say until you start talking to someone who is not your kid, and then your kid listens to everything.

The kids came up with League of Legends phone numbers:

“You could do 1-800-HEC-ARIM.”

“Or 1-800-KAL-ISTA.”

I say, “What about if you need a phone number for a Pet Store?”

“It would be 1-800-CAR-ROTS.”

“But that would be for a food store.”

“Okay, 1-800-CAT-FISH. Get it? Three animals?”

“Well, I say, “that it doesn’t really scream Pet Store.”

“How about 1-800-ANI-MALS?”

“Yeah! Great: The important thing about a pet store is they sell animals.”

“MOoooommmmmmm. You ruined it!”