I can see that books are becoming retro. People don’t have stacks of them in their home anymore. And lately I’m seeing books as artifacts, like a globe that shows Africa smaller than the US. But I am convinced that it’s important for me to leave books laying around because I see, in hindsight, that my parents had a lot of influence on me based on the books they had around the house.

For example, I spent a lot of time reading the encyclopedia. But our edition was one of the last made by Britannica, and it was so complex, with an index of abstracts and then a reference to a page of an article in another volume that seemed, often, unrelated, so that actually, I was reading a print version of the Internet, and, no surprise, it got cumbersome very fast. So I turned to the shelf of Agatha Christie mysteries and wished I had found those before I blew through the shelf of Nancy Drews at the library. Read more

It’s recital time. My youngest son just had his cello recital. While I was sitting in my seat, watching eighty kids run around eighty cellos and hopefully not crushing them, I thought about the last meeting I had with my son’s psychiatrist.

We go to a child psychiatrist so I can have someone keeping tabs on me. I want to know that I’m doing okay and not messing up my kids as I take them way way off the beaten path.

The psychiatrist said that I need to make sure the kids have goals they have to work hard to achieve. Read more

There’s a reason that you see so many photos of the same activities on this blog. Because I’m not a big fan of dabbling. I want the kids to find what they are great at and focus on that. There is a wide body of research to show that being great at something feels a lot better than dabbling.

We should use this research to guide education, because nowhere in the world is well-roundedness still valuable. The last time you actually needed to be well-rounded was when the landed gentry was trying to marry off one of their daughters in the 1500’s. Then, it was good to find a woman who could dance, speak a bit of French, cook enough to supervise the household help, and play a bit of piano and keep up with male conversation about politics if need be. That’s well rounded. Read more

I’m looking for some way to decide if I should make my son go into Madison tomorrow for gymnastics. And swimming. He loves both of them, but he hates to leave the house.

I can understand: I hate to leave the house, too.  I think most people who have Asperger’s hate to leave their house. Well, we hate to do anything because decisions about transitions are so hard. So right now, I am engrossed in writing and my son is engrossed in his Bionicles and we’re really happy. Mostly because we know no one will bother us. We can do this all day, until dinner. Read more

The demise of the college education is coming fast. It’s clear that college is largely a rip off. At this point, Generation Y is the most in-debt generation in American history largely because of the over-inflated price of a college education. To illustrate this situation, Sannah Kvist took photos of Generation Y with everything they own. One of the photos is above, and it’s a great illustration of post-college disappointment. (There are more photos from Kvist’s project here.) Read more

We were registering my son’s pigs for the county fair. He has done it one year already (it’s one of my all-time favorite posts) and this year he was an ace at reporting the breed, class, weight, and ear notching. But when it came time to give his last name, he said, “Rodriguez.”

The woman said, “Can you spell it?”

He said, “Um. No. I don’t think so.”

I spelled it. Read more

I am watching how other people homeschool. I am noticing that while moms mostly say they try to pay attention to who their kids are and what their individual needs are, I think each family has their own homeschool style. And I think homeschooler parents can be divided into five groups according to their core focus:

1. Religious
The parents are fervently religious and homeschool centers around imbuing the kids with this feeling. These families usually spend a lot of time in their church community. They want their kids to grow up and “do the right thing” and there are clear ideas of what that is.

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Here is what I’m going to work on this year, as a homeschooling parent:

1. Spend less time trying to control outcomes.
Someone recently recommended to me the book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, by Bryan Caplan. It’s a terrible title, but the gist of the book is that in the nature vs. nurture debate, nature is winning by a landslide – it’s just that no one likes hearing that, so it’s underreported. Imagine this cover of Psychology Today: “Nothing you do as a parent matters as long as you’re in the middle class.” That wouldn’t sell any magazines, would it? Actually, that’s probably why the book has such a terrible title.

Anyway, it’s a great book, full of quirky evidence (like parents do not affect the age a son has intercourse) and amazing studies (twin studies, sibling studies, DNA studies). I have never been so certain that as long as you are meeting a kid’s basic needs, parenting does not matter in terms of outcomes.

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I am realizing that I have a specific goal for my kids. I want them to understand what it is like to work hard at something and be good at it. I want them to know how to find what they like and then figure out how to accommodate that passion in their life. This might sound simplistic to you, or too narrow, but I do a lot of life coaching for adults. And invariably, what adults who are not happy are missing in their lives is either passion, or the ability to respond adequately to that passion.

In an effort to help my kids feel good about their adult life,  I have three things I’m focusing on:

1. Early adopter mindset.
People who find new things first are people who have passion. Pew Research points out that early-adopters are nearly always well-educated, and I think what they mean by that is that each early adopter had someone helping them to learn how to live at the intersection of curious and passionate. You can be an early adopter in tech (vscreens) or travel (airbnb) or music (Akiho). You can be an early-adopter in anything, really. And that’s what I’d be happy with from my kids — anything they had passion for and they took action to be part of.

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Suddenly, so many traditional school subjects look totally insane to me. Here is a list.

Language Arts.
Kids learn languages themselves if you just put them among a bunch of kids that speak the language. The only reason we don’t do that is because classrooms are like antiquated, face-time-oriented  9-to-5 jobs where if you are not there you don’t count. So people can’t put their kids among kids who speak another language.

Spelling.
There is Spellchecker. I know, because I’m a terrible speller. The words like you’re/your and two/too are words you pick up if you read. Words like corollary (I needed Spellchecker for that) are words that if you misspell in a handwritten note, people will excuse the misspelling. So all that time you could spend learning to spell, you could just spend reading. Also, to learn to type you learn to spell. And kids should learn to type before they learn to write a sentence.

Cursive.
This is actually fine to teach – for art class. I bought calligraphy pens for my son. Many kids with Asperger’s love to write by hand, so I thought he’d love calligraphy. I imagined him have a signature worthy of the US Constitution. It turned out that I was right about loving lettering, but not the cursive. He took my Jelly Roll pens and wrote block letters. Fine. No cursive for him, and it’s still artistic.

Geography.
If the kid is on the Internet all the time, the kid is already a world citizen. Anyone who makes a friend with someone in another time zone will want to have a sense of where they live. They will look on a map. The terrible geography of US students comes from being stuck in a classroom, overly focused on US history and US current events, instead of out in the world, reading International web sites, meeting people and traveling. Normal curiosity can lead to a knowledge of geography tantamount to a year’s worth of the topic in high school.

Home Economics.
There is a resurgence of home economics classes that mirror the trend that men take care of kids at home more and also, homesteading and eating local are hip, so homemaking follows, in the hipster category. The thing is that if your kid is home all day, the kid can make lunch for everyone, tend the garden, and do the things that actually need to get done at home instead of making up assignments at school.