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.

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  1. YAHTZEE!!

    I have friends/colleagues who are…”unschooling” their kids, I believe the term is? I met a guy who was delivering a hand-crafted stove to my friend (coincidentally) and he and his wife were doing the same for their 5. His 15 year old was a fucking wonder, doing things (like helping dad in his business, operating a variety of heavy equipment to grade roads, mining, etc.)

    Human beings – like other mammals – have a natural curiosity about their environment. It’s a built in survival mechanism. It used to weed out the dumb (and unlucky) in past millennia.

    So (of course) Progressives decided it was too big a responsibility to be entrusted to parents. Fuck. I want to make a shirt: “Progressivism: Fucking Up Everything Since the Dawn of Time.” Even the shit they get right, they get right for the wrong reasons.

    1. “Unschooling” is interesting and homeschooling in general is pretty cool. My wife was homeschooled growing up, but spent 2-3 years in high school attending a “university style school”… pretty much a homeschool co-op that charged enough tuition to fund a few full-time teachers to teach a handful of classes a week. It was very self-driven, but it also prepared the students for the college experience.

      There is a cornucopia of homeschooling paradigms, and that’s the awesome part. What works for one kid doesn’t have to work for all (unlike in public schools).

    2. His 15 year old was a fucking wonder

      Hey, not bad! Most 15 YOs are still working on their masturb’n technique.

  2. Fuck, no edit button. Get rid of the parens before “like” and to close the first para.

  3. I’m very seriously considering this, but it would take a lot of changes in my life, including moving.

    1. Just make sure your wife is 100% on board with it.

      1. She isn’t. Yet.

        Part of the reason we live here is that we’re in one of the best school districts in the country. If we move, we can triple the size of our house and pocket half of the difference. I think that’s how I’m going to sell it.

        1. Since she’ll probably be the one spending the majority of time with the children she really needs to want it.

          1. I’d probably do it. She’s a lawyer, she can breadwin.

            1. Sounds like a plan.

              1. Yeah. You can teach your kids how to um… build motorcycles.

            2. One reason my wife let me homeschool our son was that it meant we both got to spend more time with him. I kept house and cooked, so when she got home, she could just spend time with him; she didn’t have to do the chores I couldn’t have done had I held down a regular job and homework was non-existent.

              Also, we could travel as a family whenever we wanted. We didn’t have to wait for crowded Summer and Spring breaks.

              It really worked out well for us.

    2. What is your current state of residence (apologies if this is a dense question based-on the Manhattan handle)?

      My youngest son (now 15) is home-schooled in Iowa, but also attended a variety of private schools (pre-K-7) while we lived in NJ, including a Northstar-based program in Princeton. A number of these options are spring-up around the country (see link below).…..-movement/

    3. As someone who was homeschooled just take this one piece of advice. Don’t send your kids back to public school for high school. I’ve seen so many parents educate their children right up to freshman year in high school and then they ship them off to the public system. Without fail their kids suffer for it. High school is the best time for home education. It’s the point where your kids are old enough to handle online courses, they’re ready to spend time tailoring their hobbies/activities to future careers, and dual credit courses are opening up to them in the local colleges. Also, one slip up and the public school teachers will realize your kid spent their earlier years avoiding the system, which ends about as well as you’d expect.

      1. I think elementary’s the best for home schooling, because the load is so light that it’s mostly baby sitting. If you don’t need your child baby-sat for not-quite-enough-hours-for-your-work, then s/he can learn a school week’s material in much less than a full day, if it’s K-6. HS does have the advantages for home schooling listed above, but it’s also where economies of scale come more heavily into play on a significant amt. of material.

        1. The overriding theme that i’ve seen in homeschooling is that by high school your kid should be self-sufficient enough to be able to tailor their own curriculum, and may supplement with community college courses, university style private schooling, or online courses. In essence, there’s a shift from a hands-on guide to a hands-off mentor for the parents.

          1. It’s not really home schooling, it’s just schooling a la carte w no fixed base, hence “home”. But you wouldn’t call getting takeout from a bunch of different places “home cooking”.

      2. I agree with this, I was homeschooled until high school and I was worse for it. The best way to describe it is culture shock. You have to learn how to be “normal” and your studies suffer for it. Also, the inefficiency and lack of focus on learning is jarring.

  4. When your son is a teen and off to college you’ll look back at this time spent with him with real satisfaction even if everyday isn’t perfect, even if you occasionally get impatient with each other and yell a bit. It’s a wonderful bonding experience and brings a family closer together.

    1. This is a great point. Homeschooling/unschooling allows parents to spend much more time with their kids. It’s not only good for your relationships but, because the kids get to spend more time with adults than they would in the public school, they are better able to interact with people of different ages–especially adults.

  5. Tuccille is both literally and figuratively risking his childrens’ futures in fire because he’s too proud to accept government-certified help.

    1. Somebody is gonna wander in here at random, see this and start calling you all sorts of names.
      And then someone else will show up and claim you have just identified why no child should be home-schooled.

      1. Excellent. [tents fingers]

        1. That^ was funny.

    2. I thought the moral of the tale was to get a wood-burning oven.

      1. Just not a wood chipping one

        1. What do you think happens once you chip the wood? You burn it! (Please don’t throw me in prison FedGovBot!)

          1. Thanks, I was looking for a handle.

  6. Since all kids deserve a high quality education, we must use eminent domain to seize JD’s house and turn it into a public school.

  7. Frylock: We’ve got to get to that grill wood stove.

    Master Shake: I know. You’ve said it like 93 times!

    Meatwad: Hire somebody! Hurry!

    Master Shake: Mex?Mexicans! They’ll do it! They’ll do anything! Who here knows Spanish?

    Meatwad: Carl may. His hair is dark.

    Master Shake: That’s a good thought. I’m gonna ask him.

    1. God I love that show.

  8. “Hi there. I was home-schooled. I learned everything I know from my mommy.”

    1. “Oh, and I have no friends or social skills.”

      1. They can learn that from online games like CS and forums, like this one.

        1. OK, that was awesome, sir. That’s some Swiftian irony.

        2. Yeah right. Like I have any friends or social skills.

      2. Homeschooled kids interact with lots of people of differing ages. They don’t have to stay home all day. I think they are probably better socialized than kids in the public schools who associate only with kids of their own age and very few adults.

        1. This is absolutely true. Only those with no actual connection to homeschoolers would think otherwise.

    2. Yeah. No.

      I typed out a response explaining why and how you were wrong, but instead of posting it I’ll just say you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.

      1. You need to recalibrate your sarcometer.

      2. I see your quotation marks….so, never mind, Emily Litella style.

        1. Sarc is just being a dick.

    3. “Hi there. I was home-schooled. I learned everything I know from my mommy.”

      The first rule of homeschooling is, you do not talk about homeschooling…

      Seriously, half the reason I grew up thinking homeschooling was weird was because either; a) kids *introduced* themselves as being homeschooled, b) when you asked what school they went to, unlike other public/private school kids, they had a long-winded explanation of their homeschooling, or c) when you asked them some ridiculously kid-oriented question that they should have an answer to (Who’s your favorite Ninja Turtle) they have an equally long-winded explanation about how their parents sheltered them from such nonsense.

      If they’d just said, “My parents let me stay home from school.” and nothing else they would’ve been regarded as thoroughly awesome. Instead, they just made seem like you were hanging out with fucking Caillou.

      1. Yeah, but homeschooling only became somewhat common like 10 or 15 years ago. They probably had long winded explanations because no one know what “homeschooling” was when you were a kid, unless you’re like an a 20-something then never mind.

      2. Caillou is one annoying kid. In both French and English.

        1. Yeah, but you have to pity him. Chemotherapy sucks.

          1. my daughter loved that show…i wanted to scratch my eyes out and pour molten lead into my ears. I would always try to switch to How the Universe Works or Through the Wormhole etc. Then Science started running 24/7 fucking How It’s Made…That’s when I end up with no sleep for four days but having a general understanding of the process to make gourd art…How It’s Made should be classed as a schedule 2 drug (SLD).

            1. How It’s Made is one of the only good shows left on Discovery/Science. Most the rest of their shows are platforms for cult-of-science televangelists.

              1. Cosmos is a fucking despicable disgrace.

                However, anything Brian Cox does is awesome for me. I love that guy. No one makes science feel so personal as he does plus he goes to sweet places and does cool shit.

                1. Ohh and I could listen to Mike Rowe narrate the phone book. That dude is awesome.

      3. Don’t worry, we disliked you too when you asked the question in b). Almost as much as the random adults who asked what grade we were in.

    4. Not really like that, at least, not from what I’ve seen. There are a lot of co-op classes, taught by (usually paid) experts if various fields. Like my daughter’s science class was taught by some old scientist. They have plenty of those–my daughter has done general science, literature, marine biology, robotics, and some other subjects in class environments, all with other homeschoolers. She does learn the more fundamental stuff at home, along with some other subjects, depending on what my wife does. And, for the record, she holds two master’s degrees, though I doubt that’s typical.

      That all said, there are a lot of insane people in homeschooling, as you can imagine. Religious nuts, communists, the works.

      1. Religion yes/no.
        Libertarian yes/no.
        Hippies yes/no.

        3 binary switches to explain home schoolers, leading to 8 different categories.

        If my wife and I homeschool, it will be yes/yes/no.

        ProL falls into the no/yes/yes category.

        1. Ye gods, I’m not a hippie, nor is my wife. And whatever the religious beliefs of my wife and me might be, we’re miles away from the hardcore religious nuts we encounter in homeschooling. Not that all of the very religious in homeschooling are nuts–some are just religious and tired of public school for similar reasons to the rest of us.

          Of the hippies in particular, there’s a weird subclass of people on welfare, who have moms staying at home to teach–voluntarily unemployed–who are getting all of the “benefits” you care to name. That drives my wife batshit insane, as many of them enjoy lifestyles pretty similar to ours, despite a massive disparity in incomes.

        2. My wife and I would be in the yes/yes/maybe side of things. People call me “crunchy” because I have a garden and like to DIY stuff that I could buy at the store.

        3. I think “religion yes/no” plasters over some substantial differences in the character of home schooling. Maybe if you made it a 3-way switch, monotheist/pagan/secular it’d acc’t for more. You might think “hippies” would cover the pagan ground, but these days you have a lot of decidedly non-hippie heathens. Then again, you might consider them hippies of a different sort. I also think “libertarian yes/no” to be a fairly unimportant sorting mechanism for classifying home schoolers.

          1. I think you have to approach those switches as “reasons for homeschooling.” If you’re homeschooling because you want a religious curriculum, then you throw the first switch. Same with a libertarian slant and a hippie slant.

    5. You’re just jealous because the only thing you learned from your mom was to get the money upfront.

      1. “Wait, what?”

      2. You say that like it’s a bad thing.

  9. Anecdote: In the neighborhood in which I grew up, two families home-schooled their kids. One family’s kid went to college at like sixteen and became quite successful. The other family is another story. One of the kids is in prison while the other is a meth addict who, last I heard, was delivering pizza and living out of his car.

    1. How do you find time to comment in between deliveries?

    2. I bet the children of the second family would have turned out okay if they had gone to a public school.

      *Nods knowingly*

      1. Considering that their mother was so nuts that she drove their father to suicide, I’m guessing they were doomed from the start.

        1. Clearly we need parenting licenses in this country. /derp

          1. You know, I actually believed that once. I mean, it feels right, right?

            But then I really thought about it, as in who would issue the licenses and by what criteria, and the potential for abuse. That got me thinking about other decisions that I so blithely thought government should make, and started me down the road to being a libertarian.

            1. Jeebus, you were one LOST soul. Now your just a walking Dunphy signal…slight improvement.

              just jokes

  10. Speaking of experts: “I like to think of it as Mother Nature giving us a little bit of a break after giving us a beating in 2004 and 2005. That’s my best guess, but I don’t know.”
    That would be Eric Blake of the NOAA “explaining” why it has been a record-breaking 10 years since a Category 3 or higher hurricane has made landfall on the US mainland. Who knew they were animists at the NOAA? (He did go on to add that the pause is “an unlikely event, so ascribing the significance of it is a challenge”, leaving out the part where “the challenge” is how to blame climate change for the pause, explain why the models all proved hurricanes would become far worse due to climate change and also explain why fewer hurricanes is just as bad as more hurricanes, all at the same time.)

  11. Don’t laugh and bear with me.

    I was watching People’s Court – I said don’t laugh – and Harvey Levin asked people what they thought of homeschooling. One guy brought up the specious ‘social skills’ argument and another surprisingly bucked the trend saying she saw a video by Dennis Prager about how homeschooled children do well. Levin answered with a skeptical look, “I’m not buying it.”

    I bring this up because that’s how deep trust in government education remains in the popular mindset. Applying or arguing for innovative ideas to programmed minds is one tough business.

    Thank you for your patience.

    1. People’s Court? Harvey Levin?

      *puts in earpiece, reads teleprompter*

      In other news, shares of Rufus J. Firefly have plummeted over 50% this morning.

      1. Admit it. You were a bully in school.

      2. Pretend he said Night Court.

      3. Sell! Sell!! Get rid of everything!!!

  12. I think the SPLC has home schoolers listed as a hate group. We all all know they are all paranoid anti-government , militia types. /CBS News.

    1. Are you fucking serious? If this is true … i don’t even.. i can’t…w tf

      1. The SPLC thing was a joke (I think) but back when the MSM was doing their pants wetting over militias yeah, I’m pretty sure it was Rather who said something to the effect of militias, home schoolers and other right wing anti-government groups. He wasn’t the only one throwing that out there though.

  13. I homeschooled and partially homeschooled 5 kids. They all did better than their peers in public school.

    I encourage anyone considering doing it to take the plunge, for all the reasons listed in the comments. It isn’t just good for kids, it is good for their parents also.

    1. They all did better than their peers in public school.

      While I think that this is a very convincing argument for 90%+ of society, I’m more convinced by the emotional maturity that I’ve seen in homeschooled kids, especially in comparison to myself (I was always considered “very mature” and “beyond your years”). Self-discipline, boredom management, interacting with anybody outside of their immediate cohort… the successful homeschooled kids could wipe the floor with even the most mature public school kids.

      One of the best points that I’ve heard in favor of homeschooling is that “socialization” doesn’t mean learning habits, morals, and social interaction from a bunch of people the exact same age as yourself. Children need a rich variety of young, old, immature and wise in order to be properly socialized.

      1. I remember hearing a parent’s response to the socialization question:

        “What social skills do you think my son would get from other fifth grade boys that I would want him to have?”

        Dead. Solid. Perfect.

      2. We didn’t do it to do better academically. I only cared about academics as much as my son did, and he didn’t care at all. We did it because school, in it’s conventional form is stupid and authoritarian and arbitrary and a waste of time for lots of kids. We did it because life and learning should be enjoyed.

  14. 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.

    300 years ago everyone knew this.

    Thanks to higher education and government, which is really a religion in tandem, nearly everyone today believes children are morons and can only read and write because of government’s insistence on schooling.

    1. Tony once said that the only reason parents take any care of their children is because the government tells them to. I shit you not. People really feel that way. Though in his case, if I was his parents, I probably would have left him in the park with a bowl of water.

      1. We apologize.

        1. You should.

      2. “I probably would have left him in the park with a bowl of water.”


  15. This breaks my heart because I WANT to homeschool my kids. I really do. But I SUCK as a teacher and my husband isn’t much better. *I* know stuff. Lots of stuff. I can’t explain the concepts well *at all*.

    I would have to learn how to teach well first because my kids actually CAN do better at public school than they could with me.


    1. I will say this, a 4 year old does not require the understanding of non-euclidian geometry. Only that the letter A sounds like aaaahhh and Ahhhh (screw the pedants that want me to write out that phonetic stuff) and begins the word apple. He really can’t handle much more than that at this point. So as you teach them you become much more capable of a teacher. The progression wont out pace you until they are about 12. at which point they can work out understanding much better on their own.

      1. I will say this, a 4 year old does not require the understanding of non-euclidian geometry.

        You say that now, but when the stars are right and the Old Ones return, your child will be just run around in panic instead of helping save humanity. Obviously, this is exactly the kind of lack of socialization that only government schools can cure.

        1. to be fair I don’t require the understanding of non-euclidian geometry. But Diff E? well, EVERYONE needs that.

          1. But Diff E? well, EVERYONE needs that.

            How will I know how big of a pump I need to fill my leaky swimming pool without Diff E?

      2. ” The progression wont out pace you until they are about 12. at which point they can work out understanding much better on their own.”

        This. Honestly, I think letting a preteen/teen stay home and learn whatever he/she wants with mild supervision (aka making sure they’re not out learning how to be a gangbanger) is better than public school.

    2. I hear you. My problem is that I’m impatient with my own kid when it comes to teaching. With other peoples’ kids I’ve got a lot of patience, but I expect my kid to “get it.” That and I suspect she pretends she doesn’t understand sometimes because it gets her extra attention. My wife is less patient than I am. So the kid is probably better off in a public school (private school options for me are nonexistent), though I’m still going to have to keep tabs on what she’s being taught, and deprogram her of the bullshit bits every weekend (Yes it the planet appears to be warming, and yes human activity could be the cause, but NO IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD).

      1. I hear you. My problem is that I’m impatient with my own kid when it comes to teaching. With other peoples’ kids I’ve got a lot of patience, but I expect my kid to “get it.” That and I suspect she pretends she doesn’t understand sometimes because it gets her extra attention. My wife is less patient than I am.

        This is the hard part (and it’s a hard part about parenting as a whole). It’s really hard to balance your personal expectations with the distance you need to keep so that you don’t smother your kid.

        It’s so hard to not step in and help when your kid is struggling at something that you understand, but the struggle is exactly how they learn.

        1. This took two times at circuits for me to not have a problem with it.
          first time: Honey, your diode is backwards.
          second time: Sweetie, check the diagram again.
          third time: *silence*
          circuit doesn’t work she checks the diagram, moves some things, tries again
          *it works and she has already moved to next step.

          small tear of pride

          I wont ever worry about her failing at that again.

          1. OT: Speaking of circuits…. do we have any Ham radio guys in here? I’m not huge into it, but I, on rare occasion, participate in weather nets when severe weather is rolling through.

  16. I must compliment your son on his streaks. It’s not easy for a beginner to get discrete colonies on an agar plate. Did he pour the plates too, or did you buy pre-poured ones? (My experience has been that 5-10% of purchased agar plates come in non-sterile.)

    1. We are doing “Gross Science” (along with snap circuits) right now with my 5yo. Daddy screwed up the plates. HOW DO YOU SCREW UP GELATIN? Only one of the four set even close to properly, the “leave open to the air” for 30 minutes one.
      – Tangent
      I home brew and many here know, Not only did I have a son a few months back I also got another hose guest…his name is Brett and I am fucking pissed. He showed up in a Belgian pale I made, thought it was a fluke. Then he showed up in new son’s meade (impressive considering brett in honey is difficult) and finally he showed up in my signature recipe (got me a 36 one time at AHA national) and i went ballistic.
      – End Tangent
      So on that plate that set was the only colony, GUESS WHAT SHOWED UP!!!!!!!!!

      taught her several lessons, and some new words

      1. Heh…”hose guest”. Who needs drinking glasses?

        I’m guessing mold showed up.

        Are your brews lambic?

        1. Brettanomyces showed up…which is the bastard the fubard my other three brews.

    2. Those are pre-poured plates. His technique comes courtesy of his mother, who has the benefit of a medical education.

      1. pre-poured plates


  17. The two hurdles most people need to get over regarding homeschooling is 1) what about the “standard” curriculum at school and 2) socialization.

    The first answer is easy: all curricula are arbitrary. This is a hard one to accept for a lot of people but it’s true. As a professor, what I teach in classes is party determined by what *I* think is important and the time constraint. Most K-12 curricula is designed to prepare students for a test.

    In regards to socialization, I could tell stories about how the children have been to Australia, played at Castle Grande in Bellinzona, and been to Paris, etc. But now I just smile and say “Sure we socialize the kids! I lock them in the bathroom once a week and threaten to beat them up and take their lunch money away!”.

    Get ’em every time…

  18. Excellent way of looking at it. Thank you for the post.

    1. I believe Hodor was home-schooled.


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