Tag: Importance of play

How do I homeschool my 4-year-old?

She’s going into kindergarten this year,and I wanna know what things I should be teaching her over the summer.She’s already been to pre-k,so she has a basic understanding of abc’s and #’s.She can count to 39, recite her abc’s,spell her own name, and can kinda write.

Written 26 May 2017

Teach her absolutely nothing!

Young children should enjoy their childhood. They will learn everything they need to know by playing.

If these statements appear too drastic, then consider the following research.

Early Academic Training Produces Long-Term Harm

Despite the initial academic gains of direct instruction, by grade four the children from the direct-instruction kindergartens performed significantly worse than those from the play-based kindergartens on every measure that was used.

How Early Academic Training Retards Intellectual Development

What a finding! Benezet showed that five years of tedious (and for some, painful) drill could simply be dropped, and by dropping it the children did better, in sixth grade, than did those who had endured the drill for five previous years.

(1) For non-schooled children there is no critical period or best age for learning to read. Some children learn very early (as early as age 3), others much later (as late as age 11 in this sample). The timing of such learning doesn’t seem to depend on general intelligence, but upon interest. Some children, for whatever reason, become interested in reading very early, others later.

(2) Motivated children can go from apparent non-reading to fluent reading very quickly. For motivated children, who are intellectually ready, learning to read requires none of the painful, slow drill that we regularly put children through in school. Many children pick it up without anything that looks like a lesson; others ask for some help, which may come in the form of a few lessons concerning the sounds of the letters.

(3) Attempts to push reading can backfire. Children (like all of us) resist being pushed into doing things they don’t want to do, and this applies to reading as much as to anything else.

School starting age: the evidence

Several European countries are delaying the introduction of academic instruction until later, as a result of research such as this.

Read the research.

Let your children play!free to learn


Unschooling in Action



One of the greatest advantages of unschooling is the freedom to explore, and to develop ideas and skills.

Since our daughter started homeschooling a couple of years ago, she has burrowed down several rabbit holes, including interests in astronomy and physics. Generally, after she has learned about a topic, she moves on to new interests. However, throughout the entire time, she has exhibited an enduring passion for drawing, and also animating.

Previously, she had been attending art classes, so already had an interest in drawing. She had also been reading The Warriors series, by Erin Hunter. She began to draw Warriors characters on her computer, and I eventually got her a digital drawing pad.

Interestingly, she learned most of her digital drawing (and animating) skills online, mostly from YouTube videos. She created her own YouTube channel, and a video which shows how she developed the Flametail picture (above):

In this video, she uses a time-lapse recording, which is referred to as a “speedpaint”.

She then continued to develop her interest by creating animations:

She is part of an artist’s community which collaborates on drawings (often short art contests), and animations. These animation collaboration projects are called “MAPs” – Multi-Animator Projects. One artists hosts the MAP and determines, the theme, characters, music, etc. Other artists offer to complete scenes. Usually, the MAP lasts about 30 seconds, but some can last several minutes.

The artists are located worldwide. The other evening, they were comparing their timezones, and it turns out they had participants from Europe, East and West Coast USA/Canada, and Australia.

The next step is to tackle 3-D animation. She has been studying videos about the Blender animation program, and started creating some rudimentary figures.

While it is possible for students at traditional schools to develop interests outside the regular curriculum, for unschoolers this is actually the norm. Our daughter has pursued numerous unusual interests, and I look forward to seeing her participate in many more.

I am trying to decide on an appropriate kindergarten homeschooling curriculum for my autistic spectrum son. Does anyone have any suggestions?

I am not in a position to recommend any specific strategies for your autistic spectrum son.

However, in my (rather extensive) research on schooling strategies, it appears that starting formal schooling too early can actually be harmful.

Parents may be sending kids to school too early in life, according to Stanford researchers

School starting age: the evidence

So, what are the alternatives? Again, there is a fairly rich body of research suggesting that we should let our kids play. (Pretty radical idea … not). I suggest you take a look at some of the writings of Dr. Peter Gray.

Freedom to Learn

Lastly, my opinion.

I have come to believe that children learn best when they are learning about things they are interested in, and enjoy. While I don’t have extensive experience with autistic spectrum children, those that I have encountered seem to become engrossed, occasionally in some really fascinating areas. I therefore believe the unschooling approach to learning is very valuable. (Once again, Dr. Peter Gray writes extensively about unschooling).

Okay, I said I was done, but I had another thought, and wandered off on some additional research.

It occurred to me that the Sudbury school system might be appropriate for autistic spectrum children. A quick google search turned up a number of interesting articles, including this one:


Anyway, the Sudbury type school may be a very helpful and appropriate choice for your son, so is another avenue worth checking out.

Which of the following do you recommend: homeschooling (online) or the US public school system, and why?

My daughters on the verge of 2 years old and I have another one on the way. I’m wary about sending them to public school, because I personally didn’t learn a lot (a bit too easy) and it didn’t really help socially. While I know there are pros and cons to both, what are your point of views?

Written Apr 18

free to learn

Wow … you are way ahead of the game!


First of all … relax. You have plenty of time to figure things out and, who knows, the playing field may change significantly by school time.

Until that day comes, you have quite a bit of homework to do.

Your first assignment: What are your goals for your children? What do you want them to achieve as a result of their education?

Second assignment: What are the strengths and weaknesses of each child? How do they interact with others? Are they social, or not? Gifted? Any learning difficulties, etc?

Third assignment (and this question is just a start): What are the strengths and weaknesses of different educational choices, and how well do they fit each of your children?

The good thing is that you have several years to complete your assignments, before you make any decisions.

Now it’s time for me to answer your question.

But first, a digression.

There’s a body of research that suggests we should not begin to formally educate our children until they are older. Some studies indicate that it can actually provide negative performance outcomes. The consensus seems to be about age seven. Several European countries, including Sweden and Poland, do not require schooling until age seven.

Other researchers believe that it is far more important (and natural) to encourage our children to play during their formative years. Dr. Peter Gray has a lot to say about this, but we’ll talk some more about him later.

So, don’t be in a big rush to start your kids on the education hamster wheel. Anyway, back to our story.

Deciding on a specific curriculum greatly depends on the answers to the above assignments. In fact, it is entirely possible that each of your children will require a completely different approach.

Your question asks us to compare online versus traditional schooling. There are two major considerations for this comparison. The first is the adequacy of the curriculum, and that mostly depends on the classes that are chosen (both online and traditional). I have read no research that indicates online teaching is better than traditional. Ultimately, your children need to do the work to understand the concepts, and to demonstrate mastery. Whichever method is chosen will require someone to ensure they are “getting” the material. My view, from a curricular perspective, is that this is a toss-up. Either option could provide a really good, or really bad, education.

The second major consideration is the learning style and, in my view, this incorporates the degree of social activities and interaction required. Online learning tends to be more isolated. A classroom environment is more likely to foster group interaction. However, once again, each situation is different, so you have to be careful. My view on this one is mixed. Some kids thrive in a social environment, while others prefer to work in isolation. (It happens that our daughter prefers relative isolation – a large classroom is a bad environment for her. We also have friends whose homeschooled children have chosen to return to traditional school).

Therefore, your answer is … it depends.

But that’s just the beginning. You forgot to ask some other important questions.

For example … what other learning opportunities exist, other than online or traditional education?

And it turns out, there are lots of choices available. Here’s an excerpt from one of my other answers:

  • Unschooling. The interests of the child guide the focus of the learning.

  • Democratic schools (such as the Sudbury school system). The interests of the students guide the curriculum, but this occurs in a community environment.

  • Homeschooling, with the parents (or family members) as the teacher.

  • Homeschooling, with instruction guided by tutors.

  • Online education.

    • This also has its own spectrum, which ranges from selection of individual courses, to a complete curriculum. Online classes are available from grade school to graduate level.

  • Co-op classes – where homeschool families share responsibility for teaching.

  • Umbrella schools. These can also occupy a spectrum, but are generally a hybrid which may offer classes (or not). However, the idea of an umbrella school is to provide for administrative support (such as grades, or transcripts).

  • Dual enrollment. Homeschool students generally have the option of attending community college classes (if they meet minimum qualifications).

  • Charter schools. While some of these schools are essentially just regular schools run by businesses using taxpayer funds, others can be formed by parent groups. The specific rules for formation and administration of charter schools are determined by each state.

  • Private (and religious) schools. Privately funded schools.

  • Magnet schools. These are generally operated by the local school district, but with an emphasis on certain academic areas.

  • Traditional schools.

The beauty of homeschooling is that you don’t have to be restricted to one choice … there’s a whole smorgasbord available.

There is one other very important consideration. Some children have special needs, or have specific learning disabilities. While it may be possible, or even desirable, to homeschool, it is also quite possible that a traditional school has better resources available. Once again, carefully consider the alternatives. Traditional school may be the better choice.

Oops! I said I would mention more about Dr. Peter Gray, so here it is.

Peter Gray is a leading advocate and researcher who writes about unschooling. I find myself drawn to the philosophy of unschooling. I always seek to engage my daughter in choices about what, and how, she should learn. I recommend studying the principles, as it may help you clarify the educational goals you seek for your children.

Are homeschooled students better at not being “sheep” (or copying ideas of others in order to determine what’s right)?

Updated Feb 13 

Magic Castle And Princess With Prince

Once upon a time, a prince and princess lived in a land far away.

The prince was destined for great things. His father, in addition to being a king, was also a great wizard, wise in the knowledge of wondrous, magical machines (that you are probably carrying in your pocket).

The princess was revered, not only for her beauty, but for being wise beyond her years. Her father, king in another nearby country, was renowned as a great warrior and philosopher.

The prince was chosen to follow in his father’s footsteps. His father decided that his son would be taught in the finest schools, by the greatest scholars.

The princess’ father decided to let her follow her dreams and passions.

As the years passed, the citizens of each country began to notice strange and wondrous events.

One year, the prince participated in a mighty contest, where students came from near and far to conduct a battle of wills. The prince awed the gathered crowds by demonstrating his wonderful knowledge of the names of the Roman emperors, and the dates of their great victories. And there was great rejoicing.

Meanwhile, the princess was troubled. She had journeyed far, far away to walk in the footsteps of the emperors. She studied their language, and read the books of the great philosophers. She approached her father: “Father, I am troubled. I read how Julius Caesar consolidated his power, and established himself as a supreme ruler, and how the Roman people suffered. And yet, I see the same thing happening today. What should I do?”

On another occasion, the prince’s teachers charged him with a mighty task – spread the word throughout the kingdom of your knowledge of the wonders of “Iron”! So the prince toiled for many minutes to create a Facebook page to demonstrate the wonders of Iron. When the princess saw his beautiful efforts, she remarked, “Your Facebook page is so pretty, and Iron is so interesting. Will you share the miracle of the Iron Age, and how it changed the destiny of humanity?” The prince replied, “Little one, do not trouble yourself with such trivial things. My teachers only desire that I show my people three pictures of iron, with explanations. Besides, I have too many other important tasks to occupy my mind.”

The princess returned to her castle. She pondered the night sky, amazed by its complexity. “Father, I am fascinated by the beauty and wonder of the night sky, but I do not understand what I see.” Her father summoned a great scholar, who appeared as if by magic, floating in front of her eyes, and instructed her on the wonders of the universe. “Father, I have learned so many wonderful things about the night sky, but I want to learn more.” Her father prepared a magic spell, and summoned a mighty telescope, which was delivered from afar. The princess and her father spent many evenings gazing at the wondrous night sky. “Father, this is amazing. I want to learn more.” So her father sent her to the far-off land of Arizona, to study the night sky with great wizards, who controlled fearsome huge telescopes.

The prince’s father was happy. His son had demonstrated to the world his readiness to study with the high priests in the most famous cathedrals of learning in the land. His son would be ready to assume the mantle of leadership.

The princess approached her father. “Father, there are so many wonderful things for me to learn. I wish to travel to a small monastery, on an isolated island. There, a group of monks have dedicated their lives to teaching the mysteries of life to a small group of acolytes.” Her father replied, “Daughter, you are indeed wise beyond your years. Go with my blessing.”

The prince was proud to live in the great cathedral. Once in a great while, he glimpsed the revered teachers far away in their ivory research towers. The novitiates who taught him assured him that, if he continued to follow the rules of learning, one day he may join them in the ivory tower. He, and the other sheep, nodded.

The story of the princess is lost in the mists of time. Fables persisted. Some people believed that she had become an artist; others that she had become a great healer; yet others maintained that she explores the limits of the universe. No one knows her future.

So, at least in my opinion, it is easier for a homeschooled student to avoid being a sheep.

Also, since there is far less emphasis on grades and competition in the homeschool environment, there is less incentive to copy the ideas of others, and a correspondingly greater incentive to dive more deeply into areas of interest.

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.

What are some good resources for a teacher to learn about unschooling?

I am intrigued by the theory of un-schooling which of course is not covered in my teacher education. What should I read to know more?

Written Jan 23


free to learn

Dr. Peter Gray is an excellent resource on unschooling research. Much of his writing stems from his background in evolutionary psychology and anthropology. He has also conducted research in the approach of the Sudbury Valley school system.

A Survey of Grown Unschoolers I: Overview of Findings

The Sudbury Model of Education