Category: Socialization

If you were a homeschool parent and a stranger addresses your child and asks “there’s no school today?” how would you address that situation?


Written Apr 11

There are lots of ways to answer this question.


Just yesterday, during my daughter’s annual physical, we were asked three times about her school, and what grade she was in. The easy answer was “She is homeschooled”.

However, when they asked what grade she is in, we answered “Mostly fifth grade, but high school level in some topics, and college level in one or two.”

Another option is to have fun with the question, so your response could be “She’s doing a project for social studies. She is studying people’s ideas about homeschooling.”

Most importantly, is to realize that this is not a “situation”. Being stuck in a building for hours with a bunch of other kids the same age is a “situation”.

Okay, on a more serious note.

You point out to the stranger that your child is homeschooled. If that does not “satisfy” the person, then you point out that homeschoolers generally score higher on performance measures, such as SATs, and also score higher on normative measures of socialization and self-worth.

If that is still not enough, you can point out that a higher percentage of homeschooled applicants get selected for Ivy League schools than traditionally-schooled students.

Of course, being a stranger, you could just say –

  • None of your darn business.”

What have your/your children’s experiences with homeschooling been like, and were you/they isolated?

Written Feb 8

We’ve been homeschooling our daughter now for almost two years.


She routinely gets together with her old friends from school every week or so. In fact, they are in some of the same extracurricular activities.


She interacts with a whole bunch of kids several times a week at our gym, where she takes badminton classes. The kids are all ages, ranging from preschool into their twenties.

She interacts with other kids who share her online classes (Skype). They also email and Skype each other outside class.

She routinely texts, emails, Skypes, etc. with her friends.

Most of her interactions are online, with others who share her interests, which include digital graphics, animation, fan fiction, and gaming (League of Legends is the current favorite).

Her academics are a mix of tutoring and online classes.

She is currently eleven. I don’t think she is isolated, and she is very much in control of her friendships and relationships.

Do children become rebellious in all cultures?

Written Oct 8, 2016

Children rebel because we treat them like … children!

For thousands of years, children grew up peacefully, and learned through play and by emulating their elders. I believe child rebellion is a symptom of our education system and, by extension, our culture.

The Paradox of Achievement

In a fascinating paper, the authors note:

Autonomous behaviors are fully volitional; they are freely pursued and wholly endorsed by the self. Controlled behaviors, on the other hand, are pressured and directed, whether by external or internal forces, leaving people feeling like they have to do the behaviors.

In other words, the harder you push people, the more they will resist.

Deci and Ryan’s paper was specifically addressing motivation within the classroom, but can be more broadly applied to all aspects of parenting.

when the climate pressures students to achieve high test scores, not only will the motivational and emotional costs be substantial, but high-quality achievement will also typically suffer for the vast majority of students. Thus, the paradox of achievement: the harder you push, the less you get. (my emphasis)

Similarly, our culture has generally transformed youth from a time of play, to a time of “preparation” for adult life, and for study at school (to get a good job). These expectations cause parents to apply a lot of pressures (extrinsic motivation) to their children, and the result is … rebellion.

An unusual example of “rebellion”

Most people who are familiar with the Amish culture regard it as hard-working, conservative, and strict. Fewer people are aware of Rumspringa. This is an institutionalized form of rebellion within Amish culture. It allows adolescents to have a period of “running-around”. At the end of this period, the youths choose to either return, or leave their community. Rumspringa therefore allows the adolescent to internalize their choice (intrinsic motivation).

The paradox of helicopter parenting

Contrary to the good intentions of helicopter parents (and most caring parents), it appears that the more a child is subject to extrinsic motivation (such as being pushed to participate in many activities, and to get good grades), the more likely a child is to rebel. Therefore, a caring parent may best serve their children by encouraging independence, autonomy, and the freedom to fail.

The implications for our education system

Therefore, according to this paper, the worst things our schools can do:

  • Standardized testing
  • Competitive grading (comparing children to each other)
  • Rewards (such as gold stars)
  • Rigid curricula
  • Homework (without clear purpose)
  • Passive classrooms (minimization of student involvement)

An alternative – The Sudbury Model of Education

The fundamental difference between a Sudbury school and any other type of school is the student’s level of responsibility. In a Sudbury school the students are solely responsible for their education, their learning methods, their evaluation and their environment.

Sudbury school students have total control over what they learn, how they learn, their educational environment and how they are evaluated. They choose their curriculum. They choose their method of instruction. They choose, through a democratic process, how their environment operates. They choose with whom to interact. They choose if, how and when to be evaluated _ often they choose to evaluate themselves. This is radically different from any other form of education and this is what differentiates a Sudbury school.

Once people understand the Sudbury philosophy, they often ask “why doesn’t everyone send their children to a Sudbury school?” My answer is simply that many parents do not believe or trust that their children are motivated to learn. I cannot count the number of times that a parent has told me, “it sounds great, but my child would just play all day and never learn anything _ she needs to be pushed”. Out of politeness, I do not question this belief. In my mind however, my response is, “if your child is not motivated, she would still be lying in her crib, crying for food when she was hungry”. The child was motivated enough to learn how to walk, how to eat solid food, how to talk and many, many other skills. It would truly be easier for children to just lie in the crib and cry for food, but they choose to take the harder path of learning to move from babyhood to childhood. Likewise, children will choose to take the difficult and empowering path of moving from childhood to adulthood.


It’s time to start trusting our children again. Rebellion requires a cause. We need to treat our children like … people.

What are websites where I can connect with other students who are unschooled?

Everything seems to be for connecting parents…. where can students connect?

Written Oct 2, 2016

I agree that most of the websites are more for the parents … and this is frustrating.

My daughter has had some success connecting with her peers on YouTube, DeviantArt, and Wattpad. She draws and animates on YouTube and DeviantArt, and sends texts and messages to others who participate. Similarly, she communicates with other writers on Wattpad. Occasionally, they arrange group calls on Skype, mostly to discuss art projects. While it is not clear whether the others are unschoolers, this is irrelevant – it is a community of peers who share the same interests.

She has recently been participating in an online language class (via Skype), and I have noticed that she has started to communicate with some other students outside of class. These are almost certainly homeschoolers, since the classes are held on weekday afternoons.

Therefore, the best way to connect seems to be through general interests.

How do I determine if preschool isn’t right for my child?

Everyday when I pick up my 2yo up from preschool, she tells me she cries and wasn’t happy. We just finished  our second week of school and I know she has separation anxiety and is going through an adjustment period. At pickup, I can see the tear/snot/vomit stains on her face so I know she’s having a rough time. The teachers insist it’s normal but confirms that she doesn’t eat and doesn’t participate in activities.  Is it normal for her to be so overwhelmed by her anxiety/fear/sadness and how do I determine when this “adjustment period” is too long to be healthy? Preschool is a lot of work for the parent (heightened tantrums both before/after school), not to mention the cost and commute time, so if it’s not doing anything for her (or may even be detrimental since she associates school with crying and feeling sick), I’d rather pull her out. How do I determine what’s best for my child, her development and well being?

Written Sep 17, 2016

The Research

A recent letter signed by around 130 early childhood education experts, including myself, published in the Daily Telegraph (11 Sept 2013) advocated an extension of informal, play-based pre-school provision and a delay to the start of formal ‘schooling’ in England from the current effective start until the age of seven

School starting age: the evidence

In this article the author clearly states that we should be in no rush to get our children into school. However, if we do, then the environment should emphasize playful learning.

The American Association for Pediatrics advocates free play: The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds

Do whatever you can to allow your children to enjoy their childhood. There are many essential reasons to do so (as documented above). After all – they are only a child once.

What does it feel like to be an unschooler with extremely high IQ?

Written Sep 16, 2016

I’ll attempt an answer – as a surrogate for my daughter.



Our daughter was doing okay in school. She always got the highest grades but, since she is very introverted, was not even put in with the more advanced class in her grade level. When testing revealed that she was probably (statistically) the highest IQ kid in her school, I attempted to get her accelerated. The ensuing discussions were horrendous. She is now 10 years old, and has been homeschooling for one year.

We have frequent discussions about many topics, including her learning. I will take the liberty of writing as I think she would answer.


  • School used to be very boring. The only fun thing was recess. The teachers always asked us to do stupid stuff. I hated some of my classmates because they were always causing trouble, like hiding in the closet. Sometimes one of my classmates hit people, but the teacher didn’t do anything.
  • I like some of the things I am learning, but a lot of the stuff my dad asks me to do is still boring. The lectures I watched on Coursera had some interesting stuff, but were still boring. When I do my Latin class on Skype, I have fun by texting the correct answers to the other students so that they can answer the teacher’s questions.
  • We are reading a book about Roman History (SPQR). I’m glad my dad highlighted the interesting parts so we don’t have to read the whole thing. The book is pretty boring, but some of the discussions we have about how the same things happen today are interesting.
  • I think talking about math is much more interesting than just listening to a teacher tell us about the rules. Also, dad shows me that if you think about the numbers and ideas in a certain way, it is like using tricks. Dad tells me that the tricks will help out even more when we learn about other math.


  • When I was in school, I only had a few friends, and I didn’t get to spend much time with them because they were in other classes. We only got to see each other during recess and lunch.
  • I am still friends with most of my school friends. We text and Skype each other. We also get together for playdates. Some of my old friends are in my Chinese, art, and swimming classes.
  • I now have a number of online friends. Mostly we had mutual friends, and we just came to realize that we have interests in common. I also have a number of friends from sharing our art work together (on YouTube and DeviantArt). We text a lot, and sometimes have Skype chats. I’m not sure about their ages. I know that a lot of them are teenagers, and some of the artists are probably in their twenties and thirties.
  • My Mum and Dad spend about 12–15 hours at our badminton club each week. During that time, I mostly play with the other kids (about 20, ranging in age from baby to 19). We run around and play games. Sometimes I get bored and read, or play games on my phone. Sometimes I show some of the other kids how to do things – one week Connor (19) asked me to show him how to shade drawings on SAI.

Other stuff

  • I like playing piano and violin, but I don’t like my parents always telling me I have to practice every day.
  • I like to read a lot. I have been reading lots of books by Erin Hunter. I like the cats so much, that I draw them, and make videos about them. I just got some books about dragons from the library (Chris D’Lacy). I guess I like reading fiction books about animals.
  • I like playing Minecraft. I have an admin level account, so I can control a lot of stuff. Also, my dad lets me buy stuff with my paypal card, so I just bought a server account. I sometimes play other games, but mostly because my friends play them.
  • My favorite thing to do is drawing (and animation). I spend tons of time drawing, and I often livestream onto YouTube. I like it that I have over 70 subscribers on my YouTube account. Sometimes my subscribers ask me to create a character or drawing for them.
  • I kinda like writing. I am writing two books on Wattpad. They are the same story told from a different character’s perspective. Sometimes it is hard keeping the stories coordinated. I get lazy, and sometimes don’t write anything for a while.

Good Things

  • I get to do a lot of things that I like to do
  • It’s less boring than school
  • I get to choose my own friends
  • I get to stay up later than most of my friends

Bad Things

  • My Mom is a bit of a Dragon Mum. She is always hassling me to do things. She doesn’t know all the stuff that I do, and I don’t think she really cares because she is so busy with her work.
  • My friends are stuck in school all day

How common is it for homeschooled / unschooled students to watch TV all day?

Written Sep 16, 2016

Nothing is common for homeschooled children – since every homeschool family is different.


After all, that’s one of the great strengths of homeschooling.

Our family does not watch “TV” (in other words, we don’t have a cable or satellite subscription). We do have a Netflix subscription. Once or twice a week, we will select a movie or series to watch, but it’s not on a set schedule.

Our daughter has pretty open access to the internet (probably 2–4 hours per day). She has several email accounts; several YouTube channels; a number of game accounts (including her own Minecraft server), and an account on Wattpad (where she posts her writing). She has two screens, and she will often watch “goofy” videos (such as the crazy Russian guys) while she is doing other things.

She also practices violin, piano, and swimming daily, and reads 4–5 novels per week.

So, the answer is, she doesn’t watch TV all day.