I received this email today:
I had a coaching call with you last fall about closing my business and becoming a SAHM. I did close the business, and I’m now taking care of my daughter. My husband has been thriving at work, the family runs better, and I’m happier!
I’m also eight months pregnant with our second child, a boy. I want to know, are you still on board with unschooling? I read a comment on your blog where it looked like you now advocated for a more structured approach in some areas, like math. What would you do if you had to start over now with a newborn and a 4-year-old?
Here’s my answer: Unschooling until third grade was great. I didn’t do any curriculum with the kids before third grade and it worked just fine. I loved seeing them do things for the first time. They are so eager to share things with parents, and they can explore endlessly. I think about how much I missed not taking them out of school right away. I don’t even remember the years they were both in school because I was so detached comparatively.
But if I did it again I would have sent my kids to top private schools. Here’s why:
If you are homeschooling so kids can be self-directed, that’s great. If you’re going to do curricula with the kids when they’re young, just put them into a really really good school. Parents don’t do curriculum well. And parents who care about curriculum don’t do better than good private schools.
As kids get older, good private schools are way, way better than homeschooling. If you don’t prepare your kids to get into a good middle school they will have a tough time getting into a good high school. If you don’t get your kids into a good high school they will have very few options afterwards unless they are extraordinary at something — olympic athlete, chess champion, etc.
The biggest mistake parents make is not wanting to pay for a top school and lying to themselves that they are in a good school district, or not paying for a top school and thinking they will “just do it themselves” but it costs way more to give that education to your kids at home — tutors, travel to courses, tuition for programs, etc.
When it comes to college, kids are put in groups — extraordinary, recruited athletes, family income under $65K, and everyone else. This means your kids will probably be competing against private school kids, so you may as well spend the money to make it possible. Economists say that the more stratified the social system is, the more important it is for parents to invest heavily in their kids. This is why.
Educating middle school and high school kids is a big job — they should be learning things you can’t teach them. If you can teach them everything then you aren’t giving them enough freedom. The biggest joy of homeschooling is being with the kids and seeing them grow. The older they get, the more they shut us out of their milestones — so they can become more independent. I think going to a great school with great teachers and peers is a wonderful way to make that shift.