I read a lot about how kids should have unstructured time to learn in non-sedentary ways. I totally agree. It’s just that I think it’s a conversation initiated by parents of overscheduled kids.

For homeschoolers, the idea that kids should have down time just being kids is pretty easy. After all, there are 14 waking hours of the kids’ days and for school kids 10 of those are spend dealing with school stuff. Homeschoolers don’t have that. They can do unstructured play all day long.

But I’m not sure that’s the best idea because then kids are not exposed to things they wouldn’t seek out on their own, in their small, home-based world. Read more

We spent three days in New York City. It’s amazing to me that we lived there for ten years, because I experience huge sensory overload when I’m there. I’m not sure why. I’m not sure if I was always that way or being at the World Trade Center on 9/11 made me that way. I think I’ve always been that way.

And I think my older son has sensory overload as well. He spent most of the trip playing with Legos underneath a slide in a playground in Tribeca. And when he came out voluntarily, it was usually for an animal.

The highlight of the trip for him was staying at my brother’s apartment, because he has a Labradoodle. My son’s second-favorite part of the trip was feeding the goats in the Central Park Zoo. No joke. You should have seen my husband, the Farmer, doling out quarters so my son could pay to feed goats even though his job on the farm is to feed goats every morning. My husband said, “Maybe I should charge you quarters for doing your chores at home and then I wouldn’t have to nag you.”

My takeaway from this trip is that kids know how to find where they belong. If you give kids the chance. Even in New York City, my son sought out the quiet places and the animals.

I had worked with a career coach once who asked me to think of my favorite time in my childhood. And it was clear to me that doing that exercise allowed me to focus in on what I should be doing as an adult. We all know what we should be doing—we know it even as children. But if we don’t practice acting on that knowledge then, as adults, we are scared to direct ourselves and we feel lost in the workworld where we have to make career decisions for ourselves.

I was in low track math. I remember when I realized it. I was in the front row, on the far right, and did not understand anything going on in algebra class. We had a tiered system in our school. I was in the highest track for most classes, and the lowest track for math. I remember wondering what the school would do with me when they realized that I couldn’t even keep up in dumb-kid math.

Amazingly, after that, I was moved up for geometry, into a higher track, presumably because in a class of 1500 students, I was in the top 10%, but I was in special ed math. Something was wrong.

But something was really wrong in geometry. I was so lost that I still have nightmares about walking into class and having no idea what people are talking about.

I never needed math again until I founded my first start-up. The guy who funded it hired a CFO-type person to show me how to build financial models. Using algebraic thinking. I realized that not only was he assuming I knew how to do math, but he was assuming I knew how to use Excel. So I hired a college student to teach me how to use Excel.

Excel is amazing. It taught me how to think algebraically. And as I got better at Excel, the formulas showed me how to think in terms of possibilities, and the columns and rows taught me how to look for patterns in business models to evaluate feasibility.

I’ve founded three start-ups and each time, my Excel skills have improved because it’s fun for me. I love building financial models, and in my last company I put an investment banker on my advisory board specifically so he could help me get better at using Excel.

So I am starting to believe the people who say that kids learn math when they need to know math. I’m believing the people who tell me that it’s okay that my son can’t do long division. My son has a goat business. It’s time to get the goats pregnant, and he can’t pay to rent a boy goat until he can figure out how much money he needs left over to feed the moms and the babies over the winter. So I know that somehow, he’s going to learn math this fall.


When my son realized I had his dance class music on my iPod, he started asking for it all the time.

Then he started asking about the lyrics.

“Are they saying shit?”


“Can we say that?”

“When we are singing the song.”

“Really? Let’s go back to that spot in the song. I want to sing it.”

I explained that in other parts of the world, saying shit is not the huge deal that it is in the country.

“Everyone says it?”

“Well. Not six-year-olds.”

“When I can drive?”

“Yeah. When you can drive and you’re in that area of the country.”

“How will I know if we’re in that area?”

“Someone will say, ‘Yo yo bro, how’s your shit goin’?'”

The kids die laughing.

We listen to the song more.

They ask what it means to say, “Beats so big I’m steppin’ on Leprechauns.”

And they point out the song sheds light on Lucky Charms.

And I’m starting to think the car might be more educational than I realized.

Since we don’t have school anymore, and I can earn a living from anywhere, we went to Mall of America.

I gave a speech at the University of Minnesota’s Business School, and I ended up bringing the kids and spending three days enjoying the fact that the amusement parks are empty during the school day.

My sons went on each ride three hundred times while I answered emails near guard rails and contemplated the expense of homeschooing when you buy two, thirty-dollar wrist bands three days in a row.

Our favorite part of the park was this rope contraption that simulates climbing up the masts of a pirate ship. The kids had safety lines, but they seemed to serve mainly as psychological assurance. There was a park employee whose job was to rescue stuck kids. Since mine were the only ones there, they got private instruction on how to climb all the different types of rope ladders. The boys were so excited to learn something new. And I was so excited to watch someone else teach them.

I promised myself that I would stop going to the Lego store as a form of entertainment. There is no difference between using video games to take care of the kids and shopping to take care of the kids, except that while both are evil, video games don’t cost money every time we turn to them.

But the Lego store was right there, and I had a brainstorm to buy Lego projects the kids could do next to me while I get a pedicure.

While I was deciding if this idea innovative homeschooling or simply selfishness I realized that I think the two possibilities are actually opposites of each other. And since they are opposites, how will I ever take care of myself again until the boys go to college?

That’s when I spotted the wall of Legos. You can buy endless amounts of Legos in single colors. I imagined my interior design self with a blue shelf made of Legos, a yellow picture frame made of Legos, and I could see replacing our wood ceiling molding with Lego molding. I made extravagant Lego purchases for all three of use, and I told myself we are a homeschooling family growing creatively, together.

I was at the World Trade Center when it fell.  It’s a great way to teach history to the kids. Or politics. Or science. To tell the kids I was there, and tell them what it was like.

And after that lesson, I could teach them about resilience. Which I think is probably the most important thing in all of the world to learn  in order to have a good life. I learned about resilience in my 9/11 group for post-traumatic stress.

The thing is, the day was horrifying for me.  And I’ve been doing interviews about 9/11 for the last three months, and each time a TV station came, I shielded my sons from hearing the discussion.

But if I shield the kids from what’s horrible, I will shield them from what we learn from what is horrible.

We are going to the Apple store because they give free, one-on-one classes. I’m so excited that I don’t have to teach my kids how to add a movie to his blog. The Apple guy is going to do that. And I don’t have to teach my other son to find cool apps on the iPad. The other Apple guy is going to do that. I was never a die-hard Apple user until now. Until Apple made me love that I live in Wisconsin, where it seems that no one else signs up for one-on-one education.

I am making a list of things I don’t like to do that maybe could count as homeschool projects:

Making beds.
Dusting the floor boards.
Cooking Spaghetti 0’s.
Cleaning out my car.
Calling my dad to say hi.

Now that we do not have to prepare for impending strict hours of the start of school, we are visiting family more. Relatives ask if I’m really going to homeschool. They ask it like they can’t believe it and they have to hear it in person.

They ask questions like, “What about high school?” I think, “What about next week?”

I am worried about next week. Should I sign my six-year-old up for two hip hop dance classes, or only one?

He can spin on his head. My six-year-old. I taught him a headstand, thinking I was teaching him yoga. I know that children who are optimistic are happier as adults. So I decided I would teach my kids optimism. And people who do yoga every day have more optimism.

My son did not think of the headstand as a yoga move. He remembered the spinning headstands we watched high schoolers do in Central Park.

I remember the moment he saw it. He was freezing because I told the kids to pack light because New York City is not as cold as the farm, and then it was. And my son had to pee and he wanted to pee in the park, on the grass, and I kept saying, “This is not a farm.”

I want to tell my family that I am focused on optimism, not high school, and when the boys are in their teens, we’ll go to New York City and spin on our heads.