Maybe We'll Homeschool, After All


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During the past school year, my wife and I noticed lots of tears at homework time—but also an amazing ability to soak up information independently. Tony, our son, seemed to be tuning out school, but still to have a vast curiosity about the world around him.

So just what's going on inside that noggin of his? And is there a better way to feed his brain than via the charter school where we've enrolled him?

To find out, we've ambushed him upon his return from the swimming pool, and sat him down for online assessments of his reading and math skills. Because that's the kind of parents we are.

Don't worry, he gets slushies and games of tag with his friends, too. Watch out for the killer bee hive, kid! Just kidding. I had that dragged off on Wednesday. Good fun.

Anyway, it turns out that, reading-wise, he probably should be giving lessons to his teachers. His lowest score is in spelling, where he comes in a little high for his grade level. For word recognition he scores as a 12th-grader, and he's halfway through 11th grade in terms of reading comprehension.

He's eight.

We're not done with the math assessment yet, but the results there are less impressive. Tony is having trouble grasping some concepts he should have a handle on by now. That's probably my fault—my wife has a natural affinity for mathematics, but I needed everything explained to me multiple times before it took. Now, I can pretty much count the fingers on my hands and come up with the same number twice in a row. I think I know whose math genes Tony got.

But this brings us back to his education. Even Tony's charter school works on the common principle that kids are fairly uniform products that work through a standard manufacturing process at a steady rate. His school uses a better manufacturing process, but it's still standardized.

But that standardized approach has never been ideal for kids in general, and it's definitely not ideal for my son. Some kids need different learning teaching methods and more time with certain subjects than other children. Marching them through the grades leaves some kids bored, others discouraged—and many both.

This summer, Tony is taking online lessons in Spanish and math from two different providers. He's learning, and he's enjoying it. He actually pushes to do the next lesson. The next step…

We have some decisions to make, but we're moving toward an education tailored for our kid, both in terms of pace and approach. He wants to learn, and we have to make sure that happens.

NEXT: Kids Buy a Bunch of Pretend Platypi in Game Apps. Regulators Sue Amazon, Obviously.

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  1. I thought Tony was a gay man living in Oklahoma?

    1. **bangs spoon on pan**

      1. Genital cuff?

        1. **sits down and crosses legs**

    2. oh CHRIST he is an OKIE too?!

      No wonder why I find him insufferable \m/

      1. Everyone in here is talking about their children and I’m insufferable?

        1. Correct.

          I would rather be trapped in a room full of senior citizens discussing all of their ailments than listen to you.

          1. I’ve got this pain in my side. Did I tell you about the pain in my side?

        2. As a childless one myself, I found that a great joke.

          Today, we are friends Tony. Consider this our Christmas Day truce of 1916 moment.

    3. We’ve all given Tony a lot of shit over the years, but if he’s only eight, then he’s really only a few years below the median level of intelligence and social development for his age.

  2. Home school, public school, private school – doesn’t matter. When I go to my kids’ honor roll ceremonies, I see the parents who do homework with their kids.

  3. my wife and I noticed lots of tears at homework time

    What did you expect, when you whack with a coathanger every time he gets a wrong answer?

    1. More right answers

  4. I am really sorry to hear that 2chili’s son is Tony.

    1. Maybe it’s actually his eight year old that posts here and “Tony” really is a sockpuppet meant to piss us off?

      I mean Tony without spaces logic isn’t much better than an 8 year old’s so it would make sense.

      1. The “Peter Wiggin” theory of Tony?

        1. Exactly.

  5. My son is 2 (and daughter is still incubating), so there is still plenty of time to revise this plan, but they will be home schooled.

    Anyway, part of my plan is to have them receiving associate’s degrees by the time they turn 18. Sound reasonable or unreasonable?

    1. You’re certified to issue associate degrees? Color me impressed.

      1. I have a license for everything.

        To clarify, I would ship them off to Community College at 16.

        1. Ship them off? Do you know what Community College is?

          1. Sigh

            I would have their mom drive them the 10 minutes to school, or, if they are licensed to drive, have them drive themselves.

      2. If FAMU can get accredited to issue degrees, I like my chances.

        1. UNC, on the other hand, may be headed towards unaccredited status, if there is any justice in the world.

    2. What’s the rush?

      1. We really do not plan on anything formal until age 7ish. After that, since so much of school is time wasted, I would expect that they advance quickly through the material that they would be ready for college level courses at 16.

        1. That seems pretty reasonable if they are reasonably smart and motivated to learn. I certainly could have done that, but I kind of enjoyed high school.

    3. part of my plan is to have them receiving associate’s degrees by the time they turn 18. Sound reasonable or unreasonable?

      Completely reasonable expectation. Community colleges in many states allow for dual enrollment of homeschooled students during high school, so you kid can enroll at 15 or 16 as a high school junior and earn credit toward an AA degree. It’s a great way to save time and money if your kid wants it.

      1. Without even really trying, I had 9 college credits graduating HS. My sister had 18 because she cared more.

        Had I actually thought about it and known how you can get credits in HS I could have shaved a year or two off.

        Between AP, dual enrollment, and CLEP you could probably get enough credits or close to it.

        The catch is that I think pretty much every school requires a minimum number of credits be earned at that institution before they will grant a degree. So you might have a situation where they have enough credits to get an Associates but the college won’t grant it. OTOH, that would also mean they could go right in to a 4-year college with 2 years out of the way.

        1. I had 8 credits from AP. I did CLEP too, but during college.

          This reaffirms my idea though, that the Associates is certainly doable.

          1. Different states have differing rules, so check your local CC. Obviously, your kids are so young that much will change by the time this becomes an issue.

            1. Right, I mean it may even be realistic to expect they can knock out a 4 year degree online?

              Until the age laws restricting college access kick in.

        2. Without even really trying, I had 9 college credits graduating HS. My sister had 18 because she cared more.

          35, pleb. And my college was picky and didn’t accept my Statistics or Calculus BC credits.

      2. Was talking to my cousin’s daughter at a funeral last week.

        She has spent two years in college and is now starting pharmacy school, because she has already graduated.

    4. Anyway, part of my plan is to have them receiving associate’s degrees by the time they turn 18. Sound reasonable or unreasonable?

      Not unreasonable at all. While I haven’t pushed through to the college level yet, I am expecting the 13 year old to start pretty soon. If you start teaching your children now, they will easily be ready for college level material by the time they are teenagers.

      My son turn 13 in 3 weeks. He knows more about a couple of subjects than I do. I was ok teaching algebra and trig but he lost me on the pre-calculus and also did a CD anatomy class. The point being that at higher levels, you personally don’t even need to know the subject matter. The anatomy class provided lessons and tests and answers. I didn’t learn the different names of some of the smaller systems of the human body but according to the tests, he did.

  6. He wants to learn, and we have to make sure that happens.

    Good idea, but how will he get his brainwashing?

  7. Why does an 8-year old have homework? I never had homework until junior high, and then it was rare. In high school it maybe averaged 1-2 hours a day, and that was in mostly AP classes.

    1. To be clear, I’m not criticizing 2-chili for giving the kid extra learnin’ during the summer. My problem is with the school curriculum.

      1. If we didn’t, parents might get the idea that family time is more important than indoctrination education! and we can’t have that.

    2. To prove who’s in charge?

      Or to keep kids from thinking too much and having fun. Wouldn’t want any of that now would we?

      1. To lower my GPA.

        I might have graduated HS with a near 4.0 if it had only been tests.

        Guess what happened in college?

    3. That always surprises me too. I had the occasional book report in 4th grade, but not the hours of stupid crap that young kids seem to get now.
      I don’t think I ever had more than 2 hours of homework a day even through high school, unless there was a big paper due or something.

    4. The trend towards ridiculous homework started in my generation (I’m 33) I believe. I remember at the high school parent-student indoc one of the presenters stated that parents should expect their children to receive 4-5 hours of homework every night. This was for a college prep Catholic high school (Bishop Ireton specifically), but the public school kids seemed to be getting similar workloads.

      I said, quite loudly, “Yeah fuck that” got up and walked out.

      I ended up failing my first year of high school, despite never getting a grade lower than a B on any test or project. So my mother sent me to a military school, where, despite having a mostly boarding population didn’t receive more than 2-3 hours homework a night. Even the 2-3 hours a night didn’t kick in until I was a senior and that was mostly just for 3 classes (AP Eng Comp, Government, and AP Calc).

      I really don’t get why schools are assigning so much homework, it certainly doesn’t seem to have increased subject proficiency if test scores are any indication.

      1. You were in Alaska Military School?

    5. How old are you people?

      I probably spent an average of an hour per day of school doing homework by the end of elementary school.

      It was probably three or four hours by the end of HS, although that was influenced by taking a full load of AP courses.

      Granted, I was a meticulous worker and actually did my homework. So some other people spent less time, depending on their priorities and (lack of) neuroticism.

    6. Why does an 8-year old have homework?

      To prevent them from learning anything else.

    7. My daughter had homework in Kindergarten.

  8. Now teach him to fight with a knife.

    1. Have you read High Desert Barbecue? It will be all gunplay, all the time.

      1. Graduation present will be a Lee-Enfield.

  9. My own son is now 12 and will enter 7th grade this fall. While not at the top of his class, he is on track with the rest of his peer group.

    This was not always the case. A few years ago, when he was in 3rd of 4th grade, his teachers were concerned that he was behind in reading and in need of additional help. His mother panicked and enrolled him in one of the local professional tutoring organizations. It helped a little, I guess, but not a lot.

    Over the last couple of years he has done much better in school. Personally I think because it is more interesting. So now he’s all ‘caught up’, whatever that means.

    In the end, what you do and how well you do in life depends far more on attitude than aptitude.

    1. In the end, what you do and how well you do in life depends far more on attitude than aptitude.

      And you still send him to State indoctrination? I can’t understand a libertarian who send their children to the collectivist indoctrination center. Of the things libertarians rightly call evil, public schools teach it all. Public schools are an absolute enemy of Human Liberty.

      I truly believe that not teaching my children a single thing would be better than allowing the government to indoctrinate them with so many things that are not true. Better they be completely illiterate than thieves.

  10. After this summer all three of my daughters will be in school full time. This will be the happiest time of my life. I cant imagine how much shit Im going to get done on my days off. Uninterrupted sex with my wife, plus another 6 hours and 55 minutes. I cant imagine spending every minute of every day and night with my kids. Maybe Im a bad parent. Who knows? I couldnt ever do it.

    1. Brett’s biology class for kids: “Go outside, play by the pond, but not in it. Come back when the sun is two hand-spans higher in the sky and show us what critters live by the pond and we’ll look them up on the internet.”

      See how this works? I have similar plans for reading, chemistry (go cook me some bread, we’ll talk about fermentation), etc. Just because schools supervise them every second doesn’t mean I have to.

      1. Jerms is only stating what we already know: public education = free babysitting.

        1. 12k a year in property taxes not sure how much goes to schools, but it definitely aint free.

          1. 12k a year in property taxes not sure how much goes to schools, but it definitely aint free.

            It isn’t uncommon for public schools to spend 20K a year per student. Let’s see, 3X 20,000 is $60K minus, what 3/4 of $12K in property taxes is a negative $51K. So, yeah, not free. You are practically not stealing from your neighbors at all.

  11. I kicked ass in math up until algebra (8th grade), then I failed miserably and got put back a level (just in math – not a whole grade) in the middle of the school year. The next year when I took algebra again I aced it.

    I figured out long after the fact that public schools are crap at teaching how to conceptualize. And the best way to learn any kind of logic-based curriculum (math, chemistry, genetics, etc.) is by conceptualization.

    1. I was near the top of the class but not exception at math until algebra, then I zoomed way ahead of everyone. And then I got to college and realized I was a fucking dullard when it came to higher level math. Sure, I rocked calculus but my math major friends were doing shit that was impossible.

      1. Once you see real math you realize that everything up through calculus is just basic calculation skills. It takes a special kind of mind to really do math. I was a math major and even then most of what grad students were working on was pretty opaque to me.

        1. MATH != ARITHMETIC

          +. -. x, /, Algebra, Euclidean Geometry, Trig, ALL ARE CLOSER ARITHMETIC.

          Calc and anything with sqrt(-1) are the beginnings of real MATH.

          I did not learn this until my early thirties.

          One thing in Algebra that still pisses me off is how a quadratic I DEVISE with an answer I CHOSE has another COMPLETELY UNRELATED answer. I argue that arithmetic is how to factor and the math is why that happens at all.

          1. Fuck, you guys are scaring me about going back to school to take my calculus courses.

            1. The basic concepts of calculus are not so hard to grasp, but to be able to do a lot of calculations efficiently you have to remember a lot of formulas and stuff. And multidimensional stuff and differential equations can make your head hurt. But if you can understand limits and/or infinitesimals, the basics aren’t so hard. I think everyone should at least know what calculus is and why it’s useful.

              1. Actually, dont memorize very many formulas, understand why and how it works and you dont have to waste brain cells.

                1. Agree with rob. Far more flexibility to just derive the formulas on the test and proceed as normal than to have to rely on your ability to memorize, IMO.

                  (Also far more helpful to understand calc if you want to go on and do more stuff along those lines.)

              2. I took calculus back in high school (15 or so years ago) so I at least know what it is and why it’s useful. I just haven’t used it since then.

                Oh, and I’m totally looking forward to differential equations too.

                (Thanks for the advice y’all.)

          2. That’s more or less what I was saying. People think calc is higher math when it’s really just a calculation tool. Even complex numbers are really just arithmetic in slightly more abstract form. But you are still just manipulating symbols with the same old arithmetic.
            Real math involves a lot more words than numbers. I had a topology class where I don’t think I wrote a single equation.

            1. Real math involves a lot more words than numbers.

              Exactly. My roommate was a math major and his tests often didnt have symbols on them.

              I was like, WTF, thats not math.

              Even the higher level math classes I took were basically advanced calculus. I didnt take anything like the Real Analysis courses he took.

              I took complex analysis, but it was more about doing line integrals and shit in the complex plane.

          3. But did you study *non-Euclidean* geometry?

  12. Congratulations for stepping outside the Matrix.

    I home schooled by sons from k through 8th grade. It was a wonderful, frustrating, mind-blowing experience. It can be incredible freeing and also frustrating.

    An elementally age child can spend roughly 2-3 hours on “school” tasks per day and accomplish more than any kid in an institutional setting. This frees them up for tons of fun enrichment activities that can be incredibly valuable and educational.

    If you do choose to home school, please remember the first rule of home school: have fun.

    1. I realized that when I was 8 and had to stay home with the chicken pox. The school gave me a month’s worth of work just in case, and I did it all in a week just studying in the mornings.

      Unfortunately home school wasn’t an option and I just decided that school was a waste, grades didn’t matter, and I was smarter than everyone. So I had to sit through the next 10 years before college let me do things at my own pace again.

    2. During the Viet Nam War, the PBS stations in town ran a lot of TV College programs – because so many people went to college to avoid military service the community college system was too small to handle all the students.

      I was 6 years old at the time and I would watch these shows. I would feign illness so Mom would let me stay home and I would watch Concentration, Jeopardy, and TV College. Fun was over once that boring-ass Mr. Rogers came on. Then the next day it was back to First-grade prison.

      I probably learned more while I had chicken pox than I learned the rest of the year.

  13. 2chilli, are you saying you never made the math-debate team?

    I got that listed in my yearbook as an organization I was a part of. Those are the fun parts of public high school.

    1. “2 plus 2 equals 5!”
      “No, you fucking idiot! 2 plus 2 equals 6!”

      1. Wow, that would require extremely large values of two!

        1. Inflation adjusted.

      2. Apparently Englith ithn’t your thtrong thuit.

  14. My youngest is still in high school. She’s a rising senior who has been taking taking “AP” and “dual-enrollment” college-level classes since her freshman year. She drops a B somewhere in most report cards but never a C or below. She’s already been accepted to her first-choice university. Her teachers love her even though she already knows a significant fraction of what they teach her is of “dubious quality.” All that to give you an idea of the kind of student she is.
    She can barely find enough hours in the day to do her homework.

  15. I’ve asked this before but I don’t think I got a response. Is there evidence that home schooling and charters and private and public schools produce children that have different ideological dispositions? And I mean a causative relationship, not just a correlation that can be explained by libertarian-leaners going charter/home school.

    1. I doubt there is. There are lots of people of various ideological bents who home school and lots of rich liberals and conservative religious people who do private or home school. Private schools may often offer better education than public, but they seem to usually have at least as much of an ideological bent as public schools, in one direction or another (and usually not a very libertarian one).

      1. I agree.

        Ive argued there are 8 groups of home-schoolers, along 3 axis.

        Religious, hippy and political.

        8 different combos, although the category of not-religious, not-hippy, and not-political is probably pretty small.

        1. Sounds like one axis to me. Religious and hippy are just forms of politcal.

      2. I’ve heard people claim that Montessori is more libertarian friendly than other types of schools, but all the Montessori schools around here seem to be filled with the children of obnoxious, vocal progressives.

  16. Between this and all the millenial crap, I wonder why I even have Reason in my RSS feed at all.

    Most people write garbage like this in the Facebook feed.

    1. Fuck off he was trying to make a point. You can leave if you want to New Tulpa.

    2. Then take it off of your RSS feed. Why are you wasting time commenting on such a stupid and pointless blog post?

  17. “That’s probably my fault?my wife has a natural affinity for mathematics, but I needed everything explained to me multiple times before it took. Now, I can pretty much count the fingers on my hands and come up with the same number twice in a row. I think I know whose math genes Tony got.”

    “Hey, you! Tuccille! Yeah, you! Out of the gene pool!”

  18. The decision to homeschool wasn’t a natural one for us. What got me used to the idea was lurking on the home-ed mailing list for about six months, where I got a great idea of what was involved. After that, it felt like doing anything else would have been a mistake. My wife had been participating in math outreach programs at the place where we worked, so she was pretty familiar with the school system in the area, and was not impressed. So, we went for it.

    That was back in the 90’s, and we haven’t had any regrets. We definitely had less money than we would have if we had kept going with two incomes, but that was more than made up for by the richer relationship we had with the kids, and the fact that they all flourished in an educational environment where we could tailor what was taught one based on their interests and developmental abilities. For instance, my daughter was very interested in learning to read and picked it up -very- early, while our son was a late reader. With him, we waited until he stopped rotating the letters around (a pause which I speculate probably kept him from burning in a reading disorder like agraphia)

    We found homeschooling co-ops we could participate in to share resources, and ended up meeting folks who started homeschooling for all sorts of reasons. Many involved the school system failing their child in some pretty obvious way (including some pretty basic ones, like just passing along a 5th grader who was only pretending to be able to read).

  19. Hey JD, I home schooled my children from 2nd grade to “graduation”. And now I freelance tutor boys who are having difficulty in math. Here’s how you do it: no books! Once he has a good grasp on arithmetic, then the math should all be “hidden” in practical projects like carpentry, ballistics, chemistry, electronics, rocketry, robotics, metal working etc. When a boy is building something cool, the math necessary to build it is absorbed effortlessly and permanently.

    1. Thank you. And again, thank you.

  20. Tony is having trouble grasping some concepts he should have a handle on by now.

    How do you know which concepts he “should” have a handle on? Because different kids learn different things in different ways, he should have a handle on whatever he has a handle on.

    My son turns 15 in August, one week before he starts community college. He’s not smarter than average. He’s not more academically inclined than average. We just realized that all the grades and stages created by the public school paradigm and adhered to as if they’re laws of nature are nothing but bureaucratic. Some kids respond well to the structure because all kids learn different things in different ways at different times. My son, like millions of other kids, had nothing to gain from high school. So we skipped it.

    There are no rules about when an otherwise cognitively healthy child should understand things. When we can let go of the myths pounded into us by the dominant education paradigm, our kids will learn things they’re interested in when they’re ready. And, unlike most students today, the knowledge will stick.

  21. Most public schools are run badly and inefficiently. But some teachers are great. I always checked out my daughters’ teachers at the beginning of the year (even standing in the hall–listening thru the door). If the teacher was lousy, we moved the child to another school, private, public, or even religious, right away.

    One minus of home-schooling, is the social interaction (and fun!) that the child misses if not a a school with his peers…..

    1. One minus of home-schooling, is the social interaction (and fun!) that the child misses if not a a school with his peers…..

      I read this shit from anti-homeschoolers (not saying you are one) constantly and it’s bullshit. There are all manner of other organizations which can provide group interaction for children:

      Youth sports leagues
      Homeschool groups

  22. Schools are procrustean beds which badly fit most children. Bernard Bloom’s 2 sigma problem paper described three matched classes, each taught differently. Class A used lecture-and-test. Class B included more feedback. Class C, individualized small-group tutoring.

    90% of Class C did as well or better than the top 20% of Class A. Half of Class C did as well or better than the top 2% of Class A.

    Home schoolers have exploited the power of individual instruction. Your son needs interesting reading material and feedback at his level, not “age-typical” material. In math, he needs individual help geared to him, not to the “typical” child of his age.

    You’d be fortunate to find a school which treats each child as an individual, playing to their strengths and helping with their (relative) weaknesses. If you homeschool, you’ll be free to do just that.

    Many say that schools are fine, you just need lots of outside effort. But literature on “parental involvement” reveals a set of behaviors which are important children’s success, and are of the same nature and magnitude as the effort spent by home schoolers.

    If you put in the effort to help your child succeed in a traditional school, you are already home-schooling but don’t know it. Traditional schools steal time.

    I never let my schooling get in the way of my education – Mark Twain
    Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality – Beatrix Potter

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