My Kid Learns More When He's Home Sick Than at School


You Wouldn't Want To Be a Sumerian Slave
Scholastic Books

We're on day two now of my son's stay at home with a creeping respiratory crud that's been tearing through our piece of the world. I only shook it loose from my own lungs after a course of steroids. While he's been home, aside from the fact that seven-year-olds bounce back a hell of a lot faster than forty-somethings, I've noticed that my kid sops up knowledge more quickly from a stack of books by his bed than he does from a lesson plan at his school.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not the kind of taskmaster who keeps my kid bent over homework when he's home with the sniffles. If he wants to watch Phineas and Ferb or play with his vast collection of toy soldiers, that's fine by me. But he has a natural curiosity, which he feeds with regular doses of some very well done children's books. In particular, he's long loved the You Wouldn't Want To be … series and he's recently taken to the Who Was…/What Was … series of biographies and histories.

The You Wouldn't Want To be … series is a graphic novel-style presentation of historical subjects laced with enough gruesome images to excite the imagination of any kid. We own a few copies, but this week's favorite is You Wouldn't Want To Be a Sumerian Slave, borrowed from the local public library. It features historical tidbits, battle scenes and depictions of backbreaking labor. It's also a great introduction to ancient Mesopotamia and has reopened a continuing conversation about the concept of slavery and its prevalence through history.

Also a conversation starter was another library book, What Was the Battle of Gettysburg? The book's discussion of Confederate troops' relatively inferior armament led to Tony peppering me with questions about the comparative strengths of the Union and Confederate states, and the advantages that an industrial power has when fighting one that's primarily agricultural. Somehow, we then ended up in a discussion of the ethical implications of attacking hospitals and of disguising non-medical facilities as hospitals … Anyway, you see how this works out. Of course, Tony has been reenacting Gettysburg with his toy soldiers.

This Who Was … series of books also led us to buy tickets for a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit, based on a biography of the man that fueled Tony's enthusiasm.

My wife and I discussed homeschooling, but we're not doing it for the simple reason that we both want to work at careers we find rewarding. But when I see my son's natural curiosity at work, and his ability to turn a decent starting point into … not some dry lesson, but a learning experience, I marvel at the ability of schools, even decent ones like the charter we've chosen, to suck the joy out of absorbing knowledge.

NEXT: TSA Will Soon Allow Small Knives Back on Flights

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. If he wants to watch Phineas and Ferb or play with his vast collection of toy soldiers, that’s fine by me.

    In other words, stay out of my hair. Also, way to give your kid your illness instead of the other way around, Tuccille. And don’t even get me started on the militarization of his toy box.

  2. School. It just makes you dumber.

  3. If he wants to watch Phineas and Ferb or play with his vast collection of toy soldiers, that’s fine by me.

    Assuming those toy soldier include toy guns, I predict your son will be getting another forced vacation from public school in the near future.

  4. Your son’s name is “Tony”? Oh jeez… I hope you’re beating the cognitive dissonance out of him at an early age.

  5. Remember this one from last fall?…..74936.html

    The School-Industrial Complex (SIC!) doesn’t want you to know that children can, and will, learn without “trained” professionals guiding them.

  6. There was an opportunity for the Confederacy to destroy the political will to fight among the Union states early on, but the Confederacy blew it. The Confederacy had to win early or not at all. There was no possibility of a military defeat of the Union, it would have had to happen through mass psychological effect – by convincing the populace that the war just wasn’t worth it. That might have been achieved by inflicting spectacular damage close to home in Union areas early on. When the Confederacy failed to achieve this, the end was inevitable.

    The issue of slavery was also a key to Union victory. It is so morally reprehensible that people are willing to die and to risk the lives of their loved ones in order to combat it. Had there been some other issue at the source of the secession, no war would have even been fought.

    One of the two best motion picture war speeches:

    1. Had there been some other issue at the source of the secession, no war would have even been fought.

      that is bullshit.

    2. I think “Buster’s” speech to COL Chamberlain is much better in “Gettysburg.” It gets to the heart of why the Union fought. Of course “Gods and Generals” has a happy ending- Jackson is shot by his own troops and dies of infection.

  7. My wife and I discussed homeschooling, but we’re not doing it for the simple reason that we both want to work at careers we find rewarding.

    Whereas competently educating your kid wouldn’t be rewarding at all. Priorities and whatnot.

    1. The wise man asks “Why won’t you be wise like me?”
      The enlightened man responds “Wisdom comes from within.”

      1. At first I thought you were misquoting the Pussycat Dolls.

    2. What better way to teach your child about the pitfalls of public education than to let him or her suffer through it while simultaneously augmenting that “education” with Phineas and Ferb reruns and generic GI Joes (I doubt Tuccille springs for the real thing)?

    3. We’re not doing it because we really don’t like our children that much.

    4. Completely agree with NEM. That’s a horseshit excuse. Homeschooling your kid will take only a tiny fraction of your adult life,and unless your rewarding career is as a fucking gymnast or professional athlete picking up your career again is easy, but that little sacrifice will make your son’s life immeasurably better. You do know that kids fucking teach themselves if not stunted by the public educationists, all you have to do is provide materials and general guidance.

      1. Tucille forgot to add “… and I really love having my free time.” I won’t have a child because I know, without a shadow of doubt, I do not have the patience to raise a child, let alone homeschool one.

        He’s probably a fine parent, but if having free time is how he stays sane, I don’t begrudge him parking his kids in a charter for the day.

  8. How about “You wouldn’t want to be sacrificed to Baal” ?

    1. Martyrdom by another name.

  9. American parents have not seen anything yet when it comes to education!

    The future Bill Gates & Melinda Gates Charter Schools will all be coming equipped with their Microsoft Bing Hardcore www Porn.

    These lucky little American kids will be getting an Education everyday that all parents could never dream of ever offering their little ones in home~schooling..

    1. Great!

      Thank you mr. Gates!

  10. My undergrad-aged son is home from college for spring break, so my wife kept my seven-year-olds home from first grade today and the whole gang went off to the Cbus Museum of Art. A good time was had by all, I hear.

    1. Because dad didn’t join in the truancy?

    2. Also, I’m gonna have to check out the “You Wouldn’t Want to Be…” series. Seems like something my twins would dig.

    3. Is the Lego Exhibit still there or did they move on to the wildly overrated Rothko?

  11. That book title needs a trigger warning.

    Any library stocking it should have a trigger warning on the front door.

  12. Would Wouldn’t Want To Meet STEVE SMITH

    It’s a pop-up book.

    1. A short one.

  13. The book’s discussion of Confederate troops’ relatively inferior armament led to Tony peppering me with questions


  14. I ain’t no student
    Of ancient culture
    before I talk
    I should read a book

    But there’s one thing I do know:
    There’s a lot of ruins in Mesopotamia

  15. I wouldn’t want to be a peasant in feudal Japan circa 1600.

  16. Yes, lesson plans often suck the fun out of learning. But while it is easy for one child (at home) to make learning fun, put 25 – 28 of the little buggers in a classroom (especially boys ages 10 – 13) and it’s like talking Rothbard or Hayek at an Occupy Wall Street encampment: all you’re gonna get is insanity.

    End compulsory schooling, let a million (free market) flowers bloom in education, then let people do whatever the hell they want, utilizing whatever method they choose, from unschooling to traditional schooling to ouija board schooling.

    But don’t pretend that teachers can “teach” 25 fifth graders without the carrot and the stick, plus some time-consuming handouts.

  17. I graduated high school in 1976. I thought schools were terrible then — I can’t imagine how bad they are now. One thing I learned, having a kid in school in the 90s and 00s: the absolutely incredible amount of time wasted in school doing no-value-added stuff. I’m not exaggerating that she would have learned more and faster if I had hired a grad student for two hours a day.

  18. I, too, am home today to keep from spreading my germs at work. Sounds like a similar respiratory crap.

    Your description of the books he’s reading reminded me of a series of books when I was young called the “We Were There” series. Put kids in as eyewitnesses to historical events. For example, a kid in Hawai’i takes his brand new sailboat out for a spin in Pearl Harbor on 7 Dec 41.

    … Hobbit

  19. I’ve been thinking the same about the $17 a year private school my kid is attending. She used to read, but now reads barely at all. She used to do art, but now does none. I’m going to have to reread Illich’s Deschooling Society.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.