Tag: Unschooling

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.

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.

What is the best routine for homeschooling?

I love school phrase handwritten by color chalks on the blackboard

Written Apr 11

The easy answer is … the routine that works for your children and your family.


When we send our children to a traditional school, we have shifted the burden of responsibility for their education to a “system” that provides limited choices. And the limitations extend far beyond just the curriculum. The choice of when to sleep, eat, go to the bathroom; the choice of how long to read or study a particular topic; the choice of travelling at a particular time, etc.


Do I choose to have my child start the homeschool day at 0800, and follow a specific schedule and curriculum? Why would I do this? I am only replicating the worst parts of a traditional school in my own home.


How do I choose what my child should study? In fact, is it even appropriate for me to choose what my child should study? What are my child’s strengths, weaknesses, and desires?

Therefore, because of choice, there is no “best” routine for homeschooling.

So, how do you choose what is best for your child.

In my view, the first place to start is with goals. Some parents choose lofty goals such as “doctor”, “lawyer”, or “Ivy League school”. Others may choose “whatever makes her happy”. Yet again, another response may be “I have no clue”. Other goals may involve religion, sports, art, music, etc.

Once you decide upon a goal(s), the next step is to determine the optimum means to achieve the goal.

If the goal is an Ivy League education, then you research the criteria for the school(s) … (and realize they may be different for homeschoolers) … and then design a curriculum to achieve the goal. If music is the goal, then lots of time for practice, etc.

The actual routine you select is, again, whatever fits best with your situation.

In our family, our (11 year-old) daughter is a “night” person. It is almost impossible to get her to do anything productive before 1000. Therefore, no learning activities are assigned before 1000 … it would be pointless.

For the remainder of the morning, she is “assigned” piano and violin practice, and any homework due for her upcoming classes.

The fact that she has “classes” is interesting. After conducting research on different learning options, I found that my educational philosophy aligns with “unschooling”. Most people assume that unschooling means that kids are allowed to freely roam through the educational landscape, without purpose or goals – just see where the fancy takes them. However, in our case, unschooling has developed into a discussion about what to learn, and how to learn. Then, as a result of these discussions, we choose a means to follow the interest. In our daughter’s case, that involves Latin, art, piano, violin, writing, reading, etc. Therefore, we have selected some (mostly online) classes to address those topics.

So, most of her “classes” are in the afternoon. Later in the day, she again practices piano and violin. The evenings may involve discussion, reading, etc. Mostly it is her own time – she may chat with her friends, pursue her passion of (digital) drawing or animation, or play games (mostly online with her friends). She often multitasks, and does several of these activities at the same time.

Another important aspect is to realize that your routine is likely to change over time. This is completely natural. Many families go through a period of adjustment before settling into a “routine”.

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 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

How should the US education system best prepare students to engage in the democratic process?

It’s already being done:

SudburyThe Sudbury Valley school was founded in 1968 by Daniel Greenberg. There are now over 60 schools worldwide which operate on the Sudbury Valley model.

A Sudbury school is completely democratic. Everybody in the school has a vote in establishing school procedures and policies, both adults (coordinators) and children. Parents have no vote or voice in administration of the school. Staff are employed on a one-year renewable contract. The staff and students vote each year at a school meeting, and decide which staff contracts will be renewed.

There are no formal classes. Classes form only when students request them, and last only as long as needed, or are desired.

In his book Free to Learn, and in numerous other papers and articles, Dr. Peter Gray discusses the Sudbury Valley model at length. He (and other researchers) have documented the overwhelming success in fostering engaged learners who go on to great success in various fields. One study indicated that 42% of Sudbury school students went on to become self-employed or are involved in entrepreneurial situations, and 87% pursued further education.

For those of us (like my family) who do not have access to a Sudbury model school, the next best choice is to reproduce the democratic environment in the home.

Unschooling is inspired by the writings of John HoltAlfie Kohn, and Peter Gray. Unschooling shares a similar philosophy to that of the Sudbury school method, in that education should be inspired and guided by the child’s curiosity and desire to learn about specific topics. In this manner, unschooling encourages deep dives into particular topics.

In a series of articles in Psychology Today, Dr Gray discusses the outcomes of unschooling. I find it interesting that 53% of the unschoolers in the studies pursued entrepreneurial careers.

Personal Experience

We have been homeschooling our daughter for over a year now. I have to admit that the first couple of months made me very nervous, as she obsessively became a “Minecraft Ninja”.

However, since that episode, it has been fascinating to observe unschooling in action – for example:

  • We watched a YouTube series on Ancient Rome. Since our daughter was interested, we followed up by reading Mary Beard’s SPQR. This led to discussions of history, geography, politics, nation-building, archeology, etc. She is currently studying Latin online (via Skype).
  • Our daughter was reading a series of fantasy books. She started drawing the series characters (digital art). This led her to become involved with an online community of artists, and she eventually participated in collaborative drawing and animation projects. She also wrote a couple of fan fiction novels (based on the same series), which she published online.
  • She expressed an interest in Astronomy. We have visited a local observatory, attended a conference of the American Astronomical Society (fortunate that it was held in our area), and completed an Astronomy course on Coursera. She has asked to attend Astronomy camp at the University of Arizona this coming summer.

The key to preparing students to engage in the democratic process … is to engage them directly in the democratic process. Treat them as responsible, and equal. Allow them to make decisions about their education, and about the environment and society in which they live.

They will naturally become engaged in the larger democratic dialog and processes of our society.