The best thing I did was stop worrying about homeschooling. First I worried every day that I was ruining my kids’ lives. Then I decided that the first year would just be me trying things and if my kids didn’t “learn” anything (whatever that means – I don’t even know) then it’s okay. One year of me messing up won’t kill them. Then I signed them up for lots of classes that they wanted. As sort of a safety net for myself.

My kids love video games. I think they probably play their DSi’s three hours a day. Some days I keep it to one hour a day, but it’s only by mistake. I mean, it’s because we all forget to have the fight about how long can they do their DS’s.

I know what I think makes a good adult life, because I’ve been writing on that topic for ten years. I know the research up and down, and I know from all my experience coaching people as well. People need close relationships with family and they need to be engaged in some sort of work. I’m not going to provide links. Really, I’ve written 100’s of posts on this topic.

So now I am trying to figure out how to get my kids to that in a way that is fun for them. And right now, I don’t know for sure, but I for sure know that I want to be with them during the day. It’s intimate. It’s smothering, of course, but it’s intimate as well.

I am trying to figure out where I am this year. Most kids in their 20s are lost. Many panic. I think my kids will not panic because they will see me being lost, and getting unlost, and being lost again. And maybe, in the end, this is the best education for us all.

The most arrogant, out-of-control part of the homeschool movement is the idea that “homeschooling is not right for everyone.”

What does that mean? That you are special because you can homeschool but not everyone is as special as you?

This week, Time magazine reports that US public schools are worse than any schools in the developed world. New York magazine reported that poor kids do way worse in public school than rich kids do, and that kids of uneducated parents do way worse than kids of educated parents. Finally, the Heritage Foundation reports that most homeschoolers perform higher than average on state testing – regardless of the household income of the homeschooler.

So we need to squash the delusional, self-aggrandizing idea based in classism that “homeschooling is not for everyone.”

Here’s another way to think about it. We know that breastfeeding is very important for babies. It gives kids a boost in their immune system, and other health benefits, but it also gives emotional benefits related to the connection with the mom and the baby. Read more

A post a few weeks back showed a photo of my sons drinking red Gatorade. The topic was whether or not a car is a homeschooling tool. The comments veered into the food debate, asking me, “What are you thinking feeding your kids red Gatorade?”

So I did some research. There is pretty strong support for the idea that the FDA should put warnings on food with artificial color. Which I understand as the FDA is horrified by artificial color but the lobby groups are well funded.

And then I asked a few friends, and it turns out that most of my friends do not buy foods with artificial colors or flavors.

This is, of course, revolutionary thinking for rural America, where there is little access to high quality food unless you grow it yourself. (Remember, the majority of farms are a far cry from organic, or anything approaching that. This is the corn belt: We are making the cornstarch that pollutes the rest of your food.) Read more

Tyler Cowen linked to my blog last week. It was very exciting because not only does he have a great blog, but he’s an economics professor at George Mason University, so I got a bunch of emails from economists about homeschooling. Like, Greg Rehmke, who teaches a course about the economics of space exploration for homeschoolers.

Another thing that comes from being noticed by other bloggers is that I get asked to fill out questionnaires about homeschooling. It’s sort of insane, since I’ve only been homeschooling for two months. But whatever. I am used to acting like I’m an expert in everything. So when I got asked what reading has most helped me with homeschooling, I listed career blogs, because I’m absolutely dying over how to do my job while I’m home with two kids all day (supposedly) managing their education.

Lisa Nielsen, my homeschool mentor from heaven, read my answers and said, “Have you read  Sandra Dodd’s Big Book of Unschooling? You will like it.” Read more

I’m pleased to announce the first really mean comment on this blog.

Here it is, from the surely not-real email address:

Poor, poor kids. I don’t see how your husband approved of this — and, by the look of it, he makes no appearance whatsoever in this discussion or others.

You may have to eventually admit to your kids that you did this because you could not afford the expensive prep school you dreamed of for them when you first became a mother — this is your way of pushing that out and coming up with a “new” and “better” way, which only time will tell what will happen.

This sort of comment is old news on my big blog. For example, here are 700 comments about how I’m ruining the moral fabric of society.

I feel comforted to have someone slamming me for my homeschooling decisions, (and I’m pretty sure there’s a swipe at my decision to live on a farm too). I feel comforted because now I think the conversation can get real. Now nothing is sacred and we don’t have to tiptoe around the idea that we might be ruining our kids’ lives.

I have found that most of the people who hate me are insane, but sometimes, there are good reasons to tell me I’m a jerk. (Here’s one.) I learn the most when people are free to call me out for being a terrible person.

And I think the homeschooling community in general will benefit when everyone is free to take pot shots at each other. It’s a better learning environment because it is more honest.


The 5-day school week is a vestige of schools training kids to be factory workers. So once we started homeschooling in our family there were no weekdays or weekends. As an entrepreneur I never had weekends anyway — startup founders always work — so it felt natural to me to make every day the same. But in practice what that meant is that we had a very loose schedule. Read more

The cover article for last week’s Time Magazine was about sibling rivalry. Specifically, how parents favor one kid over the others. According to Jeffrey Kluger, who just published a book on this topic, all parents have favorites.

To illustrate this fact, he talks about how researchers went into a home specifically to observe if they could tell the parent’s favorite. So parents knew what was going on, and still, within a few hours researchers could tell in roughly 70% of the cases. And here’s more damning evidence for parents: grown siblings seldom disagree on who was the favorite.

Of course, favoritism is damaging to the non-favorite. But the favorite suffers as well, because the siblings resent the favorite.

Psychologists say the best solution is for parents to hide favoritism as much as possible. Which means I will not write about my own situation in this regard. But I will say that my nine-year-old was drawn to the title of the cover, which read: Mom Likes You Best.

He picked up the magazine and started reading. I thought: This is good. My kid is reading the science section of Time magazine. I helped him divide the article into manageable sections. But I’ll tell you, his reading level miraculously went up five grades in order to figure out who is the favorite in our family, which strikes me as evidence that kids are hugely motivated to learn when the topic interests them.

My husband physically assaulted me last week. For the second time. The first time, my six-year-old saw it. Here’s the post about it.

I’ve been talking about it all week. On my blog (there are 400 comments) in my family (calls from two of three brothers that I should leave) and among my friends (I’m blown away by how many invitations I’ve received to come visit.)

I haven’t said anything here because I know people think you have to have a stable home to homeschool.

But I think that’s crap. I mean, I think you need a stable home for 5000 reasons. But there is no evidence that public school is effective for kids from unstable homes. In fact, based on graduation rates at high-risk schools, it appears that public school is really terrible for kids from messed up homes.

So it’s been hard to hear from people who tell me to put the kids in school while I figure out what I’m doing. Because deep down I know that sending a kid to school doesn’t shield the kid from anything.

I know. I know because I went to public grade school. I came in late, bruised, dirty clothes and bloody noses. And no one said a thing. They just took my note from my dad that said I was sick the day before and school went on and on.

The boys were cutting words out of magazines while I was sneaking in reading time.

I landed on a piece in Harper’s magazine called Juvenile Injustice – photos of the juvenile prisons. They made me ill. There is no way you can look at those photos and not feel sick. I think the sickness comes from knowing I know and knowing I’m doing nothing.

Later I was reading about  slavery to my six year old. We read If You Lived When There Was Slavery in America. And I realized that slavery was, in some ways, better for black kids than juvenile prison is today. Because as slaves, the boys had monetary value, so someone had an interest in them. Right now no one has an interest in those boys in the juvenile prison. Also, slaves had to work every day, which, in almost all cases is better than solitary confinement every day.

These thoughts have stayed with me for a week. I think this is what people mean when they talk about the joys of learning with your kids. Real learning shakes you up. It scrapes your skin and makes you want to look. Makes you want to take action. And I think, in this moment, homeschooling did that for me.

Now that I have this blog I have talked with tons of parents who homeschool in groups rather than on their own. I can tell it is the way to avoid making my social son into a socially awkward homeschooled kid. But look: I hate talking to people. I have Asperger Syndrome and I’m awkward, and while I’m very articulate on this blog, and you probably like reading it because I’ll say things other people don’t say, that is fun for a blog and very bad for a dinner party. Or a homeschool group.

So I don’t want to have to be social to do homeschooling well. In fact, I love the idea of never having to talk to anyone at school again. And, by the way, a lot of people who have Asperger’s are also face blind, which I am. So all those people I see every day at school during drop off and pickup and arguments about my older son’s IEP? All those people are people who I don’t recognize when I see them. So of course I’m elated at the thought of never having to go back to the school: the place is a sensory integration nightmare.

So I worry that my son will not have a rich enough social life as a homeschooler. Not because of any inherent problem with homeschooling. But due to an inherent problem with me.

When I look around at everyone else in the world, I can see each person’s worst personality trait after talking with them for just a minute. I think I have savant syndrome for peoples’ shortcomings.  And I think, what do all the other parents do, who have personality deficits way more unappealing than mine (at least to me)? What do they do when their kids are stuck in a house with them all week long? When there is no forest but just sort of a small grove of a few saplings, the acorn probably falls too close to the tree.