Here’s a photo of my family on a trip to Florida. Something that is totally unremarkable for a family photo is that everyone is different ages. Of course people who are different ages play together. The kids who want to swim go in the ocean. The kids who want to build sand castles go find shovels. No one says, “Ten and eleven year olds all go together!” Because who cares how old the kids are? Read more

This is a picture of a teacher in Providence public schools reading his resignation letter. He teaches second grade, and he’s fed up with the changes schools have made in order to ensure that kids are good test takers. At the end of his letter, what’s clear is that a huge result of test-focused schooling is that the socialization aspects of school are lost; you can’t test socialization, so in a test-based system there is no point in having it. Read more

We had a funeral for our goat. The goat was our favorite goat. For those of you who don’t know, in the goat cheese industry, which is very prominent in our area, the goat farmers kill the baby boy goats when they are born. The US imports goat meat, so there is no market for the farmers to raise boy goats for a profit. The boys are left to freeze in January. Read more

I do a lot of career coaching for people making the transition from college to adulthood — the transition from being told what to learn to becoming a self-learner. It’s also when people begin to notice that there is very little correlation between how well you do in school and how well you do at work. Read more

I was sitting with my son’s best friend, Joe, and his sister and his mom in a restaurant in Illinois. And a text came from the school to say which classroom Joe is in.

Joe said, “Am I with Robbie?”

His mom called Robbie’s mom.

“No. You’re not with Robbie. But Robbie’s mom says you’re with Jacob. You like Jacob.”

“I really like Robbie though. We sat next to each other all last year.” Read more

There are no blue ribbons for parenting, so it’s hard to know what to aim for. I have talked about grit, perseverance, and expertise. But as I read more about what people need as adults, I see that we completely underestimate usefulness.

I am starting to focus more on that for my own kids, and here’s why: Read more

I love this post by Aaron Smith about why homeschool parents are entrepreneurial. It’s a great way to look at homeschooling because in the 90’s when I launched my first startup, most people thought I was a hopeless loser and unemployed. Now we celebrate business entrepreneurship, but it makes sense to me that parent entrepreneurship is the next frontier, and, of course, people think it’s hopelessly misguided and the kids are not learning.

So that analysis by itself makes Smith’s post worth a read. But he also talks about socialization in a really interesting way.

For example, Smith points out that 2.7 million kids are on medication for attention disorders, and this is largely the result of school needing to socialize kids (boys, mostly) who do not fit into the mold of what kids should be doing all day (to prepare for factory work, mostly, but that’s another story).

Also, Smith links to data about how homeschooled kids are more likely to vote and participate in community service. Which seem like fine indicators of whether someone is attached to society at large.

Read more

I didn’t realize this until we started homeschooling, but adults begin child-oriented conversation with a question about school. It’s like the weather. It’s safe and universal.

When we were at the grocery store, buying junk food, the cashier said to me, “Your sons must be so excited to get out of school today!”

I said, “They don’t go to school.”

She looked horrified.

I made a note to myself to just say, “Uh huh.” It’s like when someone asks you “How are you?” The proper answer to all school-related questions is some version of “Fine”.

Then, two days later, I saw my six-year-old playing with a group of kids who live outside of Chicago. I always watch him play because he’s the only one in the family without Asperger’s and his play instincts look like magic to me.

A kid said, “Hey, you look familiar. What school do you go to?”

My son said, “I go to a school far away from here in the country.”

And everyone continued playing.

I have no business teaching any kid social skills. I have terrible social skills, and my younger son, the one who does not have Asperger’s Syndrome, just amazes me when he can make conversation with anyone. My younger son should be giving us all lessons in social skills. But the truth is that I’m not even sure someone with Asperger’s will learn, because we don’t care. We are fine just not talking.

So I know my son is not going to learn anything about being socially competent at home with me all school year. But I wonder, why does everyone talk so much about social skills in homeschooling?

Maybe really all we need our kids to have is self-knowledge. I understand that my social skills suck and that everyone else wants friends but I am not like that. I understand that I have to be careful what I say to peoples’ faces because people feel uncomfortable around me.

But what about all the people who have careers they hate? How come we are not panicking about that? Are you teaching your kid to deal with having to earn money? Are you teaching your kid that someone is going to tell them what to do every day at work? Because only about ten percent of adults can support a family working for themselves.

Adult life is full of tradeoffs and disappointments, and the people who do the best are those who are forced to learn what they are great at and focus on that, because adults who have the most flexibility in their lives and control over their lives are people who do that. This is the real opportunity for a homeschooling parent.