How Not To Homeschool

Some folks really hated being homeschooled. I’ve asked what their own experiences were like, and received a catalog of exactly What Not To Do. (I am a huge fan of homeschooling, but it is possible to do it wrong.)

For some parents, the main motivation is to Avoid The World. They’ve got a vision of a “Godly Life”, and the rest of us simply do not qualify; we’re too depraved. Their children are locked up, isolated from any contact with the world, shown only the “right” kind of books, for some definition of “right.” At 18 years of age, when these children are released into the wild, they are shell-shocked. Nothing is as they expected. Everything is different.

Don’t do that. Whatever your religious beliefs may be, don’t put your children into such a mental and physical cage; you’re crippling their souls.

Other parents strive to replicate school inside a smaller box. They have little desks, a black board, a boxed curriculum, and a Schedule. Six hours a day didst we labor in school, six hours per day shalt thou labor at home. An hour didst we do math, an hour shalt thou do math. Why bother taking the children out of school? What is the advantage of this? At school, kids could at least pass snarky notes to their fellow classmates. No wonder they feel like you have created a smaller prison.

Trust me. An hour or two per day is more than enough. Your advantage as a parent is that you can do whatever works, and if you’re smart, you’ll do what is efficient. Personally, I lean heavily toward unschooling, but if you’re not ready to go there, you can at least relax. For example: take your kids to the library often. Let them pick what they like to read; what they find interesting. Make a suggestion or two, and listen to your kids. Rule number one: converse with your children; they’re people, not circus animals. So, the kids read the books. They’ll be happy to talk about them. This is better than “reading class.” They’ll be way ahead of their peers.

As for math and sciences, click “math” in the tag cloud for more info. I prefer conversations to lessons. Keep it brief, simple, and enjoyable. Why teach children to hate learning?

Still others want a computer program to do all the heavy lifting. Six hours a day shalt thou spend at the computer, following a boxed curriculum, whether it be at thy pace or six years behind, thou shalt plod at the prescribed pace. Pffft! When children are allowed to run at their own pace, they might lap you a few times. They might prefer to run some other course.

More than 40 years ago, I taught myself to program computers. This was no part of my formal education; I obtained no help from peers or adults; it was just me, the computer, a reference manual, and my personal quest to write a program to play the game of Checkers. It was my own “crazy hobby”, which made no sense to the adults in my life. I learned more about computers, math, logic, and coding than several semesters of formal classes would have covered – and I learned it well, because it was my passion.

Many other experts can tell you a similar story. Real learning, deep learning, is driven by passions, not by rote. Help your children to discover their passions, and allow them lots of time and space to explore those passions. They’ll amaze you.

Every parent must choose their own path, according to what seems right to them; but if you wish to explore a more natural, less authoritarian approach, consider this.

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