My grandma was a teacher with an open classroom and I went there when our school holidays did not coincide. Since her classroom was first through third grade I got to go there for a long time. Read more

I’ve been writing this blog for so long that I can see the trend of teenagers yelling at their parents for not preparing them for college — including my own. Because by the time the parents and kids realize it happened, it’s too late. Read more

It’s impossible to control the hopes and dreams we have for our kids. They start forming even before the sperm hits the egg. It’s an unconscious human thing that we do.

I didn’t want a kid who loves school, so it sucked that his favorite part of school is tests. I am always hunting links to send to him – headlines that argue my point for me so I can continue my charade of a parent who doesn’t push my own agenda.

Here’s one: Government policies push schools to prioritize creating better test-takers over better people.

At first blush the link seems like a keeper — maybe to send as a treat for a birthday or Hanukkah. But once I thought twice I realized I hate this line of thinking as well. I hate everyone writing about school because why are they even doing research? We don’t even have an agreed upon goal for school yet the public funds research about the efficacy of school.

So here’s this SUNY Buffalo announcement that shockingly schools measure test scores and not goodness. How could a school ever measure a person’s goodness? And if we have the goal for school of increasing a student’s goodness, then how do we know if there is improvement from the baseline?

Is there some sort of agreement on what makes a good person? We’d need that before we could know what defines making someone a better person. Better than good, I guess. This would be a great time to rescue the word gooder before it’s in the language arts trash bin for eternity.

School could work on making us gooder. Are we going to tell kids they are not born good? Because that’s some hard-core Christianity there. Jews believe we are born good. So we are going to have to stick with gooder if we are keeping church and state separate.

A lot of the article focuses on how much time it takes students to prepare for tests in a test-focused environment.

What I noticed, though, is that it’s actually the tests to prepare for the tests that matter that waste all the time. My son only studied for AP tests. Because as a homeschooler other scores didn’t matter. And I’m sure that’s true in the case of the kids suffering in this SUNY Buffalo study: Most tests don’t matter. The AP tests matter because for lack of anything better colleges count them. Colleges never find out about the classes you took leading up to the AP tests. They just assume you took them.

You could spend all that time being a good person. And, if you were not in school you could spend that time deciding what your own definition of a good person is.  The point is that we are all in agreement — SUNY Buffalo, college admissions and homeschoolers — that  kids should spend the least time possible studying for the tests that colleges requires. Which means you should take the fewest amount of tests you need to get into college. You’d be shocked how few that really is.

Hindsight is so sucky. It was so much more fun to write about homeschooling when I was the deer-in-headlights parent who was so scared of making mistakes. In hindsight, I should have hired more people to give me advice. It’s so absurd that I didn’t. I notice that with things I’m great at —  like managing my career, playing beach volleyball — I had no problem hiring lots of people to steer me. The idea of making even one wrong turn because of lack of guidance was so upsetting to me.

But as a homeschooler, I decided I could just read everything. I hired so few consultants. I think because I knew so little about it, I decided I could do it myself. This is a proven thing: we read more info about what we’re already good at. Like, if you are really good at productivity, then you read a lot about productivity. If you’re really good at nutrition, you read a lot about that. It’s not a chicken and egg thing, it’s an egg-chicken-egg-chicken-egg-chicken-egg thing. We just get stuck doing the stuff we’re good at and not doing stuff we’re not good at.

So it must also be proven — I’m proving it right now — that we hire consultants to help with what we’re good at. I think it’s because we can imagine what the help will be like. I understand what help with beach volleyball looks like. I can ask good questions and get good consultants. I was so lost with homeschooling that it was hard to even know who I could hire.

I see this with people who hire me for coaching. Everyone hires me for career coaching because they have had careers, and they understand how to ask career questions. But almost no one needs career coaching. (Right now I am about to kill my whole career coaching business, so if you were ever thinking of hiring me, go do that right now. Stop reading.)

Okay. So either you have a good career and people in your career are helping you, or you don’t have a good career and you should do something else. But it’s hard decide to not have a career, and it’s hard to know how to ask about that. So people just hire a career coach because that’s socially acceptable. This happens so often that I am shocked when someone genuinely needs career advice.

This is all to explain to you why I did not hire people to give me advice on how to homeschool. Well, I also didn’t want to hear the advice. Which, of course, is how people feel when I tell them they should just forget the whole career thing and focus on something else. We all hate realistic advice about an area where we are not high-achieving.

In hindsight, I should have hired a place that does college application consulting by starting really young and doing project-based learning with kids. But the projects are super-cool, memorable projects that go on college applications. Too often homeschoolers pat themselves on the back for project-based stupidity. We shouldn’t do that. Projects should have milestones and goals and hurdles, not just a fun way to pass time for parents. (Which is for another post, but really, so much of homeschooling is just so parents can do what they like. Myself included.)

Here are places that have great resources to hook your kids up with professors, professionals, experts who will help your kid become an expert and have something to show for it. And stop pretending you will learn right alongside your kid and become an expert. That’s not fair to your kid. Your kid should get to be with someone who knows more than you.

Go to that link and click on “Crimson Rise.” It will probably be really expensive. I’m sorry. I don’t know what to tell you. Homeschooling is expensive. But it’s not as expensive as private school. And it’s not as expensive as going to a mental institution from the drama of being in school-not-school, and on Zoom, and on not-Zoom, and teachers on strike, and not on strike etc.

Another place that has great resources for doing project-based learning:

I know it seems weird to turn homeschooling into all college applications, all the time. But it makes sense when you look at the cost of really meaningful project-based learning: of course parents will only foot the bill for this when it’s related to college. Otherwise, parents aren’t used to paying to make education a great experience.

So really, this is my message: all the good homeschooling resources are project-based, and all the best project-based opportunities are with the college application consultants. The really big places, with a national or international presence, have many levels of support for a kid who wants to have deep, meaningful experiences before they leave home. The opportunities for these projects are narrow: between age 11, when a kid can handle it, and age 15, when a kid needs to start focusing on SATs.

So in hindsight, I regret not leveraging the resources these consultants offer during that period between 11 and 15. But there’s something comforting about regret: you can only pinpoint the things you regret if you feel like you did most of the other stuff in acceptable ways.

So many homeschool parents say, “I can’t do math and I fit in fine.” But science has shown that’s probably not true.

It turns out that math, more than any other subject, is one that kids cannot learn on their own and often need more than just a parent’s help with for homework. This means that math homework has become a de facto marker for status among school kids: Who can finish it and who can’t? Who is consistent with the relentless pace, and who falls behind?  Math is also a status marker for parents. More than any other subject, a child’s math achievement correlates to the socioeconomic status of the parents. Read more

We can learn about teaching grammar from Grammarly, I read this from a writing coach giving advice to high schoolers:

Grammarly rules. Get your parents to pay for the pro version and put everything you write until the end of time through it before you submit. I do!

What works about Grammarly is that it will ding you for the same mistakes over and over and over and over until you stop making them. A fascinating moment for me was putting another editor’s finished piece into Grammarly and seeing all sorts of error messages I’d never seen before. I hadn’t because I never made those mistakes. Grammarly shows you where your weaknesses as a writer are, so that you may then fix them.

Ironically, it’s much less useful for me now because I don’t make nearly the same number of errors. Now I mostly use it to finalize my work and double-check my copy editing. It still helps.

The reason Grammarly helps with copyediting is that it catches errors that Spellcheck misses. Grammarly can catch a misspelled word that actually spells another word because Grammarly can identify the eight parts of speech. So, for example, if you misspell assess and instead write asses, both are words, but Grammarly knows there should be a verb in that spot and not a noun, so you’ll get an error message.

This post is not sponsored by Grammarly. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s an homage to Grammarly. They have a huge presence in Ukraine. Well, they did, before Russia started bombing the hell out of Ukraine. Now Grammarly has a huge presence in the Ukraine army; the company is continuing to pay all employees whether they are fighting, or evacuating, or hiding in the subway. That’s amazing. If I hadn’t downloaded Grammarly I’d download it now just to show support.

It makes sense to me that you can learn grammar from error messages because I learned how to build spreadsheets from error messages. If you use Excel, every time there’s an error Excel shows you why there seems to be an error. You can decide to override the error or not, but Excel teaches you the right way to build a financial model. You can learn to think about your spreadsheet the way Excel thinks about it.

I’m fascinated by how much we can learn from a computer if we stick with the software. It’s like having a relationship with a great teacher in that you start to think the way that teacher thinks, and it’s not dogma so much as learning all the rules so you can decide yourself which you should break.

When I wrote regularly for mainstream media sites, they had software that would suggest advertisements as I was writing. For example, I typed The best resumes are not a list but rather a story. Then the software suggested a resume writer to link to and the site would make money for linking to that person. Of course I responded to that prompt by linking to myself as a recommended resume writer. But there were many other instances where the software recommend linking, and I got better and better at thinking about paid links. After writing in that software I developed an intuition for when to drop paid links, and I still do it now.

Which is how I know that telling you Grammarly did not sponsor this post is breaking a rule. I should have put Grammarly in the headline even though they didn’t sponsor the post. Then Grammarly’s competitor will worry about missing out and they will contact me about sponsorship.

You couldn’t have learned that from software. Which is why I am sure we don’t have to worry about software taking over our jobs. We just have to worry about learning more about the topic than software can learn. So teachers need to do more than learn rules. Kids can learn the rules just fine on their own. The job of teachers is to help the kids apply the rules in innovative ways.

But there’s an inverse relationship to grades and innovation. When you’re trying to figure out if your kid’s school is good, ask yourself if the school hires people who teach the rules or the schools hires people with a track record for breaking them.

Parents stress about their kids studying all the right stuff until parents see a different path for their kids. We don’t realize that we think of well-roundedness as a way to hedge having failed to help our kids find what excites them.

Stop asking yourself asking how will my kid learn xxx?
Is your kid great at languages? Once your kid speaks five languages, no one asks you how the kid is going to learn algebra. The kids at the NYC Professional Children’s school are excused from classes for long-term Broadway runs, short term international music competitions, and anything, really, that might compromise their established gift in the arts.

I met dozens of musical kids I met who took perfunctory online courses while they were practicing eight hours a day. No one asks if the school is good. They just say, “What do you do about school?” Like it’s something to get through.  This makes sense since we know the mind of a prodigy is almost always lopsided. If your brain is optimized for one thing, then it’d de-optimized for something else.

Ask yourself what is my kid great at?
Scientific American describes the phenomena where the kids who score well on IQ tests are usually not the prodigies. While not all autistic kids are prodigies, all prodigies are probably autistic. They have a rage to learn that translates to practice, and they have incredible attention to detail so that the practice is effective.

I wish I had learned a little earlier that there is no point in making a prodigy well-rounded. First of all, it’s impossible, because by definition the prodigy knows one thing better than all others: not round. But also, it’s a waste of the kid’s time, because a prodigy is for fields where there is a sequence of things to learn and people measure speed and process to determine who deserves the best coaching.

Teach your kid to tolerate the risks of working very hard. 
So then well-rounded is for the land of the non-prodigy. But I wonder, why not look at every kid as very gifted. Maybe not all are prodigies because you can only become a prodigy if you are working in a field with sequential, defined learning that you can conquer by age 10. But every kid has one thing they are better at than other people. Autistic kids practice harder and longer than other kids because autism promotes singular interests. But neurotypical kids can excel in areas where autistic kids don’t stand a chance — social arenas, emotional arenas, the parts of life that are unpredictable.

Everyone can be great at something, but you can only be great at something you work hard at. So the focus of curricula should be hard work at something that comes relatively easy to you. Well rounded education does not require hard work because you don’t have to be great or stand out for anything. Being not well rounded requires spending a lot of time on a single thing. If you work hard during that time, that’s an education.

The result: you can worry a lot less
If you find yourself worrying all the time about how is your kid going to learn everything — whatever you define as everything — that’s a sign that you should really be asking yourself how is your kid going to learn what they are great at. What makes them so excited that they practice doing it more than other people practice? That’s how a kid learns to work hard at something that matters to them. And in my mind that’s the most intoxicating thing about prodigy: hard work and commitment coming from a kid when most adults never learned how to do it.





My son was in a preschool classroom with ten kids who could read by age three. The kids all had autism diagnoses because the correlation between reading by age three and Autism was widely known, even back then. The teachers permitted only books without words, and toys could not have any letters on them. The teachers aimed to have the kids spend more time playing like neurotypical three-year-olds and less time decoding language. Read more

Here’s the results most parents expect from a good English curriculum:

  • being a competent speller
  • being well read
  • being familiar with the five-paragraph paper
  • being conversant in the rules of grammar

But just forget all that. That English curriculum is cancelled.
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The word doomscrolling appeared for the first time in The New York Times, in an Opinion column about coronavirus.

The Twitter feed about the first appearance of words in the New York Times is fun because it’s about when a word goes mainstream. It’s the hockey stick growth equivalent for a word. (Hockey stick growth is the word for startup success that first appeared in the New York Times in 2008.)

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