In the curriculum world, I notice there is an obsession with good writing. The problem with the curriculum is that it tells you WHAT to write, which is exactly the problem with school, telling you what to learn. The best way to learn is to do what interests you.

By the same token, the best way to write is to write what you feel like writing about. Part of learning to write is learning to identify what you want to write about. No one writes as well about a proscribed topic as they do about a topic that percolated to the top of their head. Read more

When people ask me why my kids aren’t learning math, I ask them why their kids aren’t learning an instrument. Or why they aren’t learning a language. Because math, music, and language all develop the brain in similar ways. They are all good for a similar type of learning. But the question that assumes that math is the one right way to develop that part of the brain betrays the assumption that traditional school knows best.

Traditional school has kids do a little of everything. So parents have in their heads that this is the right way. This would be okay, of course, if we didn’t live in a world that rewards specialists. For ten years I have been writing about how important specializing is for your career. Specialization is essential, really, to staying employable throughout your adult life. But I have recently been blown away by how clear the research is that kids should specialize as well. Read more

It turns out that test scores for US students are going down for science. And Steven Strauss, a leadership fellow at Harvard, says the US is approaching Third-World status because student math scores are so low. But you know what? Math scores are not the harbinger of developing society. Women entering the workforce and earning their own money is what leads a developing country out of Third-World status.

And you know what? Science scores are not what make women employable. Grit, determination, and self-confidence make women employable. Not because you can wish your way to the workforce, but because those traits make you able to get the help and mentoring you need to make your own money. Read more

We were in New York a few months ago, and of course we played with every animal we saw because my kids are, at this point, probably more farm than city.  And of course we had the violin and the cello because we travel with them everywhere because we practice every day, no matter what.

And I had this idea that I wanted photos of the kids, but I didn’t want normal, boring portraits. A while back I found the photographer, James Maher, and I was blown away by his street photography. And then I saw he sells his most popular prints to guardians of visual taste, like Tiffany. So I became obsessed with him, and then I cut a deal with him to hang out with us in New York City and take photographs for a day. Read more

Our farm is magical right now. All the animals are having babies. My husband is giving the animals more and more freedom. This year he took the pigs out of farrowing crates and let them farrow in a big, open building full of sunlight and hay. He was worried that the moms would lie on the babies and crush them. This is what hog industry wisdom says will happen. But in fact, the pigs were excellent moms, better than he has ever seen them be before. And the piglets grew up faster, and disease-free when they were left alone to be a variation of free-range pigs. Read more

Before I was a homeschooler, before I even had kids, my friend, Lisa Nielsen was running literacy programs in the New York City public schools. The first time I can remember thinking that schools were really messed up was when she told me that teaching reading in school is controversial among reading specialists.

Today Nielsen’s blog, The Innovative Educator is a great resource for understanding why kids don’t need to go to school to learn to read.

I did not teach my youngest son to read. He has been picking it up himself, often from video game instructions. Here are the arguments against teaching reading that give me the confidence to let him learn to read on his own: Read more

Often, parents ask me how long my son has been skateboarding. This is parentspeak for, “I hope your kid is a lot older than he looks because I don’t want to think my own kid is slow.”

I think the core parent worry is that their child is falling behind and the parent’s job is to keep that kid out in front. We all pretend to not think that, because it’s not a healthy way to parent—as if we are in a race—but I think most of us battle against thinking that way sometimes.

I think using curriculum is caving to the wrong side of that struggle. Here’s why: Read more

Someone sent me a press release about “educational rap music.”

I knew right away the music would suck. People who write good music do not need to say that it’s educational. I mean, is Bach not educational? Is he just for idiots? What makes some music educational and some not?

Stuff that needs to be labeled educational in order to sell is stuff that is boring and stupid. It’s stuff that kids won’t ask for and instead needs to be force-fed by adults who do not trust kids to know good music when they hear it. Read more

During my last business trip I bought my son a phone. I try to say yes to what they want to buy. I try to trust that they’ll use it for something interesting. Sometimes it ends up being a waste of money, but usually not.

So the big surprise about the phone is not that he used it for pictures—I think Generation Z just assumes that every gadget they have takes photos. The surprise to me was that he started texting the photos to people.

And then he responded to the responses, and soon he was spending fifteen minutes a day figuring out how to spell. Read more

The Washington Post announced that Sarah Wysocki has been fired. She got great reviews for her classroom performance. Kids liked her, her principal liked her. But the test scores of her students were not good enough.

There is wide agreement that teaching to the test is a vapid way to educate kids. There is wide agreement that young kids should be on the playground way more than they are right now. It’s just that we can’t think of another way to manage education on such a huge scale as the US public school system requires.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation put enough money toward solving this problem that we have enough data to know we have nothing that even approximates a solution. Read more