Homeschooling Is Just DIY Education

As it turns out, you can often do better than the "experts"


Some years ago I installed a wood-burning stove in my old house. I built a tile heat sink and hauled the stove in with a friend. But I wanted the actual installation done right, so I hired a local "expert."

Jim seemed like a nice enough guy. He looked things over, opened a hole between the rafters in the ceiling, knocked another hole in the roof. And then he disappeared.

About a month later, the phone rang. "I'm ready to finish that stove installation," Jim said. "When should I come over?"

"Jim, I've been burning wood in that stove for two weeks," I said. "I got tired of waiting for you to get it done, so I figured it out for myself. I'll mail you a check."

I did. Eventually.

Well, when it comes to education, the schools couldn't get it done, either. So, I'm doing it myself. The big difference is that I have to keep sending the education "experts" checks because they work for the government and the government gets cranky when you decline to pay for its services, no matter how dubious the quality. But it's still worth it, because the results are so much better when my wife and I do it ourselves.

In many way, teaching my son is easier than laying a tile floor or installing a stove because the kid actually gives me feedback. If I screwed up installing the stove (I didn't), I'd have to find out the hard way. My son isn't shy about saying, "I don't understand." He's just as good at saying, "I get it and I'm bored; can we move on?" If you care enough to listen, that makes it a hell of a lot easier to do it right.

So we spend extra time on division, and some points of grammar. But we whizz through language arts lessons, Spanish, and history at light speed, because he absorbs those lessons quickly—and really enjoys them.

If only porcelain tile were so interactive.

Wendy Tuccille

And we follow our own schedule and add and subtract learning experiences as my son expresses an interest. Right now there's a microscope and a pile of petri dishes on my kitchen counter. If we don't unleash a plague, Anthony will continue to satisfy his recent curiosity about microbiology (the plague is actually more likely to come from his clothes hamper). It's just not that hard to follow the kid's interests and make sure to fill in the gaps.

Jim, nice fellow though he was, had a vested interest in making the installation of a wood stove look a lot more daunting than it actually is. That way he could keep pulling in business, even though his work ethic sucked and his results were adequate, at best. Teaching a kid to read, write, and explore the world isn't all that daunting either. By and large, children want to learn and they'll fully participate in the process of acquiring an education.

Even less than with installing a wood stove do you need to hire a mediocre education "expert" with a shaky track record. Well, except that with education the law generally forces you to pay for their services.