Tag: Research

What are some strong extracurricular activities for homeschooled students?

Specifically for elite college admissions.

Written 29 May

Excellent Sheep

When you read this book (by a guy who spent time on an Ivy League admissions committee), you will learn that there are two basic types of candidates – “well-rounded”, and “pointy”.

Well-rounded candidates are the run-of-the-mill applicants who you would expect to encounter – valedictorians; 5.0 GPA; tons of extracurricular activities and volunteer activities, etc.

Pointy candidates are more interesting. They are the concert-level musicians; the national-level sports players; the coder who has developed her own application; the entrepreneur who has established a business. In short, these are the candidates who have pursued a passion … and who may not excel in any of the other candidates.

As a homeschooler, I believe that if you want your child to gain entry into an elite university, they should be pointy. But good luck with “choosing” that activity. It is probably not something you can force – it will most likely develop from your child’s passion. Therefore, look to your child to determine which to pursue.

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

What are some questions about homeschool a parent may ask?

I am planning on being homeschooled next school year as a sophomore in NY, but my father is still not fully convinced that it’s the best option for me.

What are some questions he might have about homeschool? What are some info I can tell him to convince him?

Written 24 May 2017

BoyinabandYou probably don’t want to show this video to your father, but it actually summarizes a ton of research in a short time. (I have spent hundreds of hours researching this topic, and I believe Dave Brown captures them well).

So, if your father is a relatively normal parent, he is likely to ask the following questions:

  • How will homeschooling impact your chances of getting into the college you desire
    • Answer: Lots of homeschoolers get into the college of their choice. In fact, many colleges actively recruit homeschoolers. Check out the college websites you are interested in, to see their requirements for homeschool students. In many cases, a high school diploma is not required – the SAT scores are, however, very important.
  • How will you study?
    • Aha. Tons of answers on this one, but the short answer is – whatever best suits you.
    • Okay, your dad probably won’t like that answer, so here’s an alternate. Studies show that tutoring and mastery learning (see Benjamin Bloom) are the best ways to learn. So, if you don’t have a tutor, the best way to learn is to study the topic (read, watch, do), and then test yourself to make sure you get it. Rinse and repeat until you are comfortable you properly understand the topic.
    • Okay … another answer. You can use resources such as Khan Academy (which has mastery learning “baked in” to its math approach), or Coursera. Or, you can register for, and participate in, community college courses.
  • What will you study?
    • One answer is … whatever interests me.
    • Another answer … I will study the topics which are required for college entry, and to help me pursue the field of my choice.
  • How will I be sure that you are spending your time productively?
    • One answer … you won’t. (And since it is my life at stake, it is my responsibility to do well).
    • Another answer … you will be able to monitor my progress on Khan Academy (parent login); review my Coursera and/or community college grades.
  • How will you take care of exercise, and socialization?
    • You can participate in sports (even on many school teams or extracurricular activities – check with your local school district). Also, there are many homeschool groups which regularly host activities.
  • What did I forget to ask?
    • Don’t worry. There are lots of resources, such as local homeschool groups, and lots of website homeschool discussions.

And you definitely don’t want to show your dad this one.

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.

What is the best homeschooling program in America for a child who is behind in math and writing?


Written Mar 31

I’ve had to face similar dilemmas, and my usual response is to survey the research. So, here’s what I have observed that I believe is pertinent to your question.


In 1984, Benjamin Bloom wrote a paper which explored methods of group instruction, to find which method compared most favorably to one-to-one tutoring.

While most people focus on Bloom’s “Mastery Learning” as the best method for class learning, it is easy to lose sight that tutoring is the most effective teaching method for achieving the highest achievement scores.

Mastery learning maintains that students must achieve a level of mastery (e.g., 90% on a knowledge test) in prerequisite knowledge before moving forward to learn subsequent information. If a student does not achieve mastery on the test, they are given additional support in learning and reviewing the information and then tested again. This cycle continues until the learner accomplishes mastery, and they may then move on to the next stage.[1]

Mastery learning (which Bloom proposed in 1968) is the next best alternative to one-to-one tutoring. Bloom demonstrated an 84th percentile equivalent on achievement scores for Mastery Learning (compared to a 98th percentile equivalent from one-to-one tutoring).

Incidentally, one-to-one tutoring is assumed to integrate the methods of Mastery Learning. Also, it is interesting to note that Khan Academy math (and some other online math programs) also incorporate mastery learning principles, by requiring the student to demonstrate mastery before proceeding to the next level.

Beyond mastery learning and one-to-one tutoring, there is research indicating that teaming can be very effective. Project-Based Learning (PBL) is one of the strategies to utilize this approach. The work of Jo Boaler emphasizes PBL in the approach to teaching math.

Psychological Imprisonment or Intellectual Freedom? A Longitudinal Study of Contrasting School Mathematics Approaches and Their Impact on Adults’ Lives

In summary, the best approaches, for learning math (in any learning environment) appear to be:

  • One-to-one tutoring
  • Mastery Learning
  • Active team learning


[1] Mastery learning | Wikiwand