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If I Ran the School, Things Would be Different

MountainscallingAs a retiree, I have a special place in my heart for Monday mornings, because that’s when I would have had to go back to work if it weren’t for the joy of early retirement.  Despite the option of complete leisure, I woke up at 5:30 this morning because the sky was starting to brighten and I was too excited about the new day to let any of it go to waste.

I’m writing to you right now, but later on I’ll be building stuff, riding bikes, meeting with people and teaching kids. Later on as bedtime approaches I might fiddle around in the music room, read a book or listen to a podcast. It’s my idea of the perfect life: self-directed activities in pursuit of knowledge, self-improvement and even getting a chance to help others if you’re lucky.

This might not seem related to the subject of our school system, but at the core I think the idea is the same:

Humans are naturally curious and energetic creatures, and if you set us free in the right environment, we will get to work learning, producing, and having a great time at it.

This is especially true for kids, whose brain composition is set up for maximum-speed-learning-at-all-costs. And double especially true for my son, who has always loved the freedom to create and worked with every atom of his being to fight against any rules that might constrain it. This is a boy who, given an elaborate new high-tech Lego set, will immediately discard the instruction set, open the bags of parts, and dump them without hesitation into his main supply bins. “Great! we have way more parts now – let’s make some ships!”

This inspired (but very high maintenance) personality has been clashing with the public school system on a regular basis. Last year, he started to feel the crush of boredom and irrationality and Mrs. MM and I fought it for a long while.

“You have to stay in school”, we insisted, “that is what all responsible people do to ensure a bright future, learn to deal with diverse sets of people, and of course to socialize with other children. With you being an only child, this is especially important.”

But it started affecting his sleep, and his non-school hours started to become dominated by worrying about school, and then even his health started to follow down that road. Through research and a bit of professional counseling, we learned that he has an anxiety disorder. While this is fairly common in young kids of his type, the teachers he had to work with most often seemed unable to adapt. His third grade classroom had become a disciplinarian place with a constant shushing of kids, straight lines in the hallway, and stern words for anyone who didn’t follow assignment instructions without question. Explanations of his ideas to the teacher were shot down as “talking back” or “excuses”.

There are of course many schools of thought on how to raise a kid. In 19th century England, they used to whack them frequently with canes to keep them in line. In certain philosophies, cultures or religions it is still common to maintain an iron fist of discipline over kids until they move out of the house as young adults. The traditional Asian school system emphasized long hours, strict rules and rote memorization. The opinions of the parents and teachers are the only ones that count, and failing to perform well in school is considered a disgrace to your family.

While I’m happy to let those people do their own thing, my response to this style of education as a parent now is the same as it was when I was a kid: “Fuck That.”

The Pursuit of Soul Craft

good book right there

Good book

Around the time we were going through all of this, I was reading the book “Shop Class as Soulcraft” by the badass philosopher/mechanic Matthew B. Crawford. The author shares my own opinions on the bullshitty nature of most of our traditional rules and their influence on the modern office environment, and the value of thoughtful but difficult physical work. To quote the man on the clash of school with human nature:

 “It is a rare person who is naturally inclined to sit still for sixteen years at school, and then indefinitely at work”

Don’t get me wrong. The idea of a free public education for all is still a great one. In my school, a noticeable portion* of the kids come from families where the parents don’t seem to be putting much effort into their upbringing. Nobody is reading to them at home, or talking about science or teaching them a trade. There’s no Lego, not enough bikes and too much TV, drowning out the chance to actually learn by creating anything for themselves. For them, school is the only hand up they have in life so we’d better make the most of it.

But damn, we could do so much better.

If I ran the school, there would be none of those leaky-tire teachers that are permanently shushing kids in the classrooms and the hallways.

I remember one vivid experience while volunteering in the school, walking down the hallway with a group of my little advanced math students. The hall was empty and our journey back to the main classroom was going well. Without warning, an attack of shushes came at us from a sniper who had positioned herself inconspicuously at a desk off to the side. We escaped without losing the flow of our thoughts, but at the midway point, a second attack came from a guy standing at the far end. Arms down, straight line, no talking.

When kids are talking to each other, that’s called a conversation, which is one of the most valuable things you can let kids have.

And nobody needs to line up in the hallways. I don’t do lineups myself, so why would I make kids endure this irrational suppression of natural body placement?

If I ran the place, there would be a red button on the wall, that would start Walking on Sunshine, pulsing LED rope lights and a disco ball. Anybody could run up and press it. The walls would be padded and there would be subwoofers. It would be an invigorating and ridiculous dance party going from one class to the next. Coincidentally, this is very similar to how I run my own house.

Some teachers are still taking away recess from kids as a form of punishment. The most valuable and educational part of the school day – experiencing nature and fresh air, refreshing the mind and training the body – gone because of an cruel desire to make a child regret not conforming to their irrational rules. I found this both enraging and ironic, because the school hallway proudly displays a large banner with the following quote:

“Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading; I will rather say more necessary, because health is worth more than learning.”
– Thomas Jefferson

In my school, recess would come first. There is more than enough time to learn the easy stuff like physics, chemistry and software design. Plenty of adults accomplish that. But how many of us spend enough time outside and maintain reasonable levels of strength and fitness into our old age? How many people over 50 even do barbell squats with any regularity any more?

In my school, play is not something to be suppressed – it is something you facilitate and hope for. There’s a reason that kids of all the most intelligent animals (whether kittens, dolphins or humans) are born with a desire to play. It is because playing is the most efficient way to learn. How could this blatantly obvious bit of evolution have been suppressed in the design of our school system? Thus, the ultimate achievement as a teacher is to trigger a marathon session of Automatic Learning Through Play, and sit back and watch the neurons connect.

 So We Decided It Was Time To Run The School

My rant above is overly idealistic, or course. Real school systems are faced with all sorts of constraints, just like any organization that involves a large number of humans. You have vastly diverse kids, some of them uncooperative or even violent. Meddling administrators, parents, and politicians. The flawed implementation of standardized testing which often displaces actual learning. Sure, it can be improved, but that’s a separate battle from the job of taking care of our own son because he needed a solution right now. 

Much like Mustachianism itself, we decided it was more efficient to try something new immediately and start learning from it, than to sit around complaining about the system we were stuck in. Since we’ve been experimenting with this for about a year now, I figured it would be worth sharing some of the surprising observations.

Is Homeschooling Only for Weirdos? Surely it Wouldn’t Work for Me?

This was my first assumption before learning about the option. I had never met anyone who didn’t go to school, so I thought it was necessary to grow up as an educated, well-adjusted adult. This turned out to be totally wrong and I have heard from (and read about) dozens of exceptionally happy, intelligent achievers who went this way. But it’s not for everyone – if you find yourself with a kid who already likes school, you might want to keep that good situation as it is.

How Can This Lead to a Good Education?

If you start with the natural hunger kids have towards learning, and subtract out some of the biggest obstacles (lineups, waiting for the slow trudge of big-class teaching, boring and repetitive activities), you find that you can exceed the actual academic learning contained in a typical school day with just an hour or two of concentrated effort. You can double the pace by throwing in a second hour or more. And this leaves the rest of the day to broaden the benefits – activities with other people, physical challenges, educational trips, etc. You can also let the kid run free with uninterrupted time when he does find a true interest – for example getting into a really good book, writing, music, programming, etc.

This fits well with the modern and future workforce, where employers are looking for people who can adapt, create, and produce, rather than simply follow rules. But even using the word “employers” is shortsighted in my book. I’m not teaching my kid to be an employee – I’m teaching him to be a creator, who will find it satisfying to start his own small companies. Employees will be the people he hires when the time comes.

Where do you Get your Curriculum?

Sal Khan is pretty much The Man when it comes to great do-it-yourself education. Thanks Sal!

Sal Khan is pretty much The Man when it comes to great do-it-yourself education. Thanks Sal!

Much of this becomes obvious if you ask yourself what really defines a good education. But for a shortcut, just look at Khan Academy. This brillant utopia of an organization has been creating well-organized, advanced, free learning for years now, and it just keeps getting better. Get your kid an account there, set him or her free and watch the sparks fly. Of course, you should also hover conveniently nearby to help expand the learning.

We also worked with the school and borrowed some textbooks, looked at the US core standards that help define the teaching done in conventional school, and did plenty of online searching to see what other people use for their learning.

But the fun part comes when you leave the conventional lessons. For example, to illustrate math and trigonometry (as well as a tiny bit about astronomy), I taught my son how to calculate the height of our city’s water tower based on the length of its shadow at noon on March 21st. To learn about science and engineering, you talk about how things work and watch the amazing documentaries they have now that explain how fascinating these things are.

Technology and Computing: The video game called Kerbal Space Program tricks kids into learning rocket design and planetary physics at a deeply intuitive level. Another called Robocraft involves iterative design, construction and testing disguised as a first person shoot-em-up. We also build and program real robots using a VEX IQ set, but you can ease into kid-style programming with a language called Scratch.

In fact, any strategic and complicated video game contains a lot of disguised learning, because your kid has to learn the subtleties of using a computer in order to get it to work in the first place. How to use a mouse, keyboard, and menus. How to read, type, copy files, install updates, search for information, even connect to another IP address to host a multiplayer game. These end up being really useful skills throughout life, and this is why I would never buy an Xbox, Wii, PlayStation or other simplified video gaming system. Those things preserve the recreation, but strip out the important technology. If your kid is going to have “screen time”, it might as well be on a nice, complicated real computer, which is another reason we haven’t had TV service since well before he was born.

Music: At the most basic level, you learn a lot about music by simply listening to it. I always have something playing in the house and I let my son change the Pandora station and create his own. But we also jam with real instruments which are left strategically lying about the house and make songs with Ableton Live. Music lessons are valuable for those so inclined, but due to our resistance to rules and structure, my son and I are not so inclined at the moment even as people who are unusually interested in music.

landers

Art Class tends to change along with the current topics of interest in real life. Currently space travel and colonization due to a binge of reading we did about SpaceX.

 

Reading and Writing: kids reading to themselves at any time, parents reading books to kids at bedtime, hitting the Library at least once a week, and leaving blank notebooks and great writing instruments and erasers around the house to facilitate creation of new literature and comics.

The Typical Day of Homeschooling

Typical day's schedule

Typical day’s schedule

It changes along with the season, but there is the whiteboard as it appears today. You got some writing, building/programming, lunch, outdoor activities, and math. We keep things in the 1-4 hour range to avoid homeschooling becoming a drag. After all, kids are always learning, whether you label it as school or not.

Surprising Advantages

  • You can live wherever you like without regard to “school district”. You can also travel and take vacations without regard to the school calendar.
For example, nice weather last week required that we spend Monday hiking in the mountains.

For example, nice weather last week required that we spend Monday hiking in the mountains.

  • You get the best private school, with a commute and tuition cost of roughly zero.
  • I find myself learning more, just so I’ll have more to share with him (similar to the effect that this blog has had on my life)
  • My son is at peace with the world, fired up, and learning quickly.

What about Testing and Standards?  Is anybody watching what I do?

This part is easy. Although it is unlikely any authorities will ever be involved with your schooling, in theory you are supposed to do at least 4 hours per day of classes, and keep a journal of what you do. You may also be able to drop in on your local school for special classes if you make arrangements with the principal there.

You can order practice tests, and the real end-of-year tests (called the Iowa Test of Basic Skills), which you can administer yourself or do at the school. Mrs. MM bought her copies from BJUpress.org**

Your kid does of course need to pass the test, but if you’re serious about learning you will be miles ahead of the requirements.

What about Socialization? 

As it turns out, the regular school day is mostly about discouraging socialization. Get the kids to sit still and be quiet so they can learn, except in widely spaced controlled group activities. Most of the fun happens in extracurricular activities, which you can still join, or in plain old free play, which you can do any time.

Little MM still has all of his earlier school friends, and he hangs out with them constantly outside of school hours and on the weekends. We also keep meeting more people, just by virtue of living in a neighborhood where people want to know each other.

There are also organized homeschooling groups where you gather for group activities or even classes at a dedicated location. While we haven’t had time to join any groups yet, I plan to start running some classes of my own out of the parkside studio building I’ll be building in my back yard once the main house is done.

In Conclusion

Homeschooling has turned out to be a highly Mustachian activity: packed with Freedom, requiring high effort in exchange for high reward, and a way of improving upon the system of our society while working peacefully with its boundaries. It is not for everyone and it will consume much of your mental and physical power, but in exchange you will deliver a truly excellent education.

Further Reading: Mrs. Money Mustache shares more about her homeschooling journey in this March 2014 post on her own site.

 * By “noticeable portion” I’m not talking about kids with a different race or language of origin. This parenting divide is caused some other way – perhaps even by stress. If your own life as an adult is pushing your boundaries, you might have less energy left over to help your kids. Now that I’m a parent myself, I feel less judgmental about how things work out for other parents, because this stuff is pretty damned hard even from my very privileged position of having only one kid, two parents, and more free time and money than most. So instead of bashing parents of disadvantaged kids, I’d rather just help them by trying to inspire their kids.

**BJU happens to be a religious group, but the tests themselves are just the standard national tests. In fact, you’ll find a high correlation between homeschooling and religion, but that doesn’t make the idea any less valid for completely non-religious people (such as the MMM family) as well. For me, it’s all about better learning and a better life, which are almost the same thing.

  • BCBiker February 16, 2015, 1:16 pm

    It is now time to start the “Mustachian Charter School!”

    Who is ready to start this project?!

    I think this is spot on for people who want their kids to super-excel in the modern world. I think that if I had removed all of the anxiety filled days of “socialization” during my upbringing I could have been doing calculous at a doctorate level by the time I was 12 and then spent my teenage years creating valuable technology. Instead I didn’t even get to the good stuff until well into my teen years and by that time I had to choose a career with no chance to invent. How cool would it be to have such an advantage of time and environment for innovation?

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache February 16, 2015, 3:03 pm

      There ARE already some schools that sound pretty similar to this proposed MCS. “Sudbury Schools”, for one.

      But yeah, I could totally see creating a real, physical school (with an awesome online branch of course) as a sort of real-world experiment that would prove a point, hopefully deliver good results and eventually get lots of media attention. Especially if it were conveniently in my own town. This could be a good use for some of those Mustache Foundation dollars that will need to be allocated in coming years ;-)

      Reply
      • Snor February 17, 2015, 3:28 am

        Our son will be starting school in a few weeks, when he turns 4. We found a school here in Delft (The Netherlands) based on the Freinet teaching method, which seems to have a lot of similarities with the way you’re teaching. Lots of freedom for kids to explore, and the starting point for all teaching is what the kids are interested in at the moment.

        For more information and perhaps inspiration: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C%C3%A9lestin_Freinet

        Reply
        • cheekykoon February 17, 2015, 2:28 pm

          Hi Snor, I was in Delft for a while a decade and a half ago, its the best time of my life! I learned about the Dutch outlook in life and its the most amazing experience. Could you share with me the school system you have to cheekykoon@gmail.com Also, does the child have to be fluent in Dutch?

          Reply
        • mom of homeschoolers February 19, 2015, 12:42 pm

          Freinet is not a pedagogy neither a method is just an organisation of teaching and it’s just for kids after 6yo.

          Reply
          • danger February 20, 2015, 2:52 am

            Mom of homeschoolers, I’m not sure where you’re getting your information but Freinet is indeed a pedagogy, distinct from mainstream schooling, and it’s very well suited to children under 6. My children have now completed 3 years of public Freinet preschool education in Belgium and we couldn’t be happier with it.

            Reply
      • Pooperman February 17, 2015, 5:49 am

        The school I went to as a child (private) very much is what you envision as Mustachian. It was a Waldorf school. There, technology was banned (this part was of questionable help, especially since programming has become so important). There, I learned how to paint, draw, dance, sing, pottery, woodworking, sewing, knitting, writing, reading, mathematics, French, German, English, science, history, mythology, and many other things. Complete education with many play breaks (30 minutes at 10am, 1 hour at 12pm). Total school time in younger grades was 4-5 hours a day. Plus we had awesome field trips and class trips (camping, canoeing, caving, hiking, pentathalon, etc).

        The one draw back? Ridiculously expensive! The cost is around $15k-$20k a year!

        Reply
        • Liz February 17, 2015, 8:43 am

          We live behind a Waldorf school. One of my favorite things about them (besides the fact that they are playing outside ALL the time in all types of weather) is that they are out and about in the neighborhood (walking to the park or the beach down the street, dressed in togas to reenact SOMETHING), and I NEVER see them in lines. They don’t make them line up, and they don’t make them “walk quietly” and I love seeing it.

          Reply
        • Major Dalton February 17, 2015, 11:33 am

          My daughter was diagnosed with ADHD in 3rd grade after her teacher said she had problems focusing. We medicated her for a year while she was in public school then moved her to a Waldorf School. She now LOVES school and is learning at a completely new level without any medication.

          After she transferred I received numerous inquiries from other public school mothers because their children were also being drugged. I believe a third of her class was taking medication to deal with our public education system. That alone should send off alarms.

          Some things I’ve observed at Waldorf you’d NEVER see in our public school:
          – Kids climbing trees
          – Kids building a chicken coop (part of 3rd grade math) for chickens (3rd grade social studies man’s transition to farming)
          – A principal throwing away junk food fundraising samples and exclaiming in shock “who would give this stuff to children?!?!”
          – Riding bikes 6 miles for a particle physics field trip then riding 6 miles back to school. They also stopped to climb trees for a bit on the return ride. I felt like I was in the Sound of Music.
          – Rock climbing and caving for 3 days as part of their geology unit.
          – Sled races, football, fort building, tree climbing, etc at recess
          – Hauling wood chips during orchestra because they forgot their instrument
          – Kids playing outside in sub zero weather

          I could go on. Wish our public education system was better designed for children.

          Reply
          • crazyworld February 25, 2015, 3:38 pm

            Now this is pretty awesome! No Waldorf school near us, sadly.

            Reply
          • Trifele February 26, 2015, 4:04 am

            @Major Dalton —
            “I believe a third of her class was taking medication to deal with our public education system. That alone should send off alarms.”

            I saw this too in our local school before we started homeschooling — increased numbers of kids being ‘diagnosed’ and drugged starting in second and third grade. It is terrifying. I think lots of families go along with this because they trust the teachers and doctors, and don’t see any other way forward . . .

            Reply
        • Postscript February 17, 2015, 12:54 pm

          The only other major downer I see about Waldorf schools is that at least out here in California, the vast majority (up to 75%) of the kids aren’t vaccinated. So the risk of getting measles, whooping cough, or other preventable diseases is really high.

          Reply
          • Liz February 17, 2015, 1:05 pm

            Yes, there’s that. I thought about mentioning it. If there’s a big measles outbreak in Chicago, it will probably start with my friendly neighborhood hippy Waldorf school.

            Reply
          • Pooperman February 17, 2015, 1:12 pm

            Homeopathy tended to be the choice of many of the parents. I believe the one I went to required vaccinations, but I don’t recall. I do remember 80% of my class out sick with the flu a couple of years. Just a thing that happens.

            Place was very environmentalist, very hippy, kinda odd. As a parent at some point in the future, I intend to use the best aspects of Waldorf education (basically what MMM says in this article) to teach my children to be curious and to experiment and learn.

            A couple of points that made the education great: no homework in the early years since you were supposed to be a kid, learning through doing instead of through memorization, and allowing the students to catch up to each other on things like reading (not required until 3rd grade for instance).

            Reply
            • Fred Meissner February 19, 2015, 5:54 am

              While there are certainly some good aspects of Waldorf schools like the focus on creativity and nature, I would highly suggest people do more reading about the foundations of Waldorf. I like what MMM is preaching, but I’d stay the hell away from Waldorf.

              https://sites.google.com/site/waldorfwatch/welcome

              Reply
              • Rosta July 30, 2015, 6:14 pm

                Was just reading this and didn’t know much about Waldorf; being a skeptic, I started to search a bit. Here’s a good synopsis of issues with Waldorf schools:

                http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/waldorf_steiner_and_education

                The ‘labeling’ alone by head size and color of skin would drive my wife (and me) nuts. Old school racism in the Austrians beliefs ugh.
                Stopping children from reading until the get their adult teeth based on some mystic’s weirdo ideas a 100 years ago? No thanks.

          • Tracy November 17, 2015, 6:59 am

            Coming to this conversation rather late, but if your child is vaccinated, then surely unvaccinated kids aren’t a threat? Just thinking that the objective of vaccination is disease prevention, or am I missing something?

            Reply
            • Miranda November 17, 2015, 11:22 pm

              Of note, the Santa Fe Institute implicated recent MMR vaccine recipients as the cause of outbreaks. MMR is a live vaccine which sheds virus particles after vaccination. These asymptomatic folks walk around shedding disease and infecting unsuspecting others. If you believe everything that multi-billion dollar Big Pharma has to say, well…good luck to you! They don’t make billions when we are healthy!

              Reply
              • Tracy November 18, 2015, 3:53 am

                That links well to the published warnings (from the makers of the vaccines, their information documents) that children who have been vaccinated against measles should not be around pregnant women for a period following the vaccination.

        • Gotim Himel February 17, 2015, 2:46 pm

          I went to a Waldorf school until grade 5 and the education was great. I still vividly remember learning about nature in grade 3. It started with 20 students pulling a rope with a plow, planting wheat by hand, weeding the field, cutting the wheat down with sickles, thrashing it with wooden thrashers, milling the grain in hand-cranked coffee mills, making our own yeast dough, and baking it in a wood-fired stone oven my brother’s class had built the previous year. This was the best bread I ever tasted because I certainly worked for it. “Regular” school in grade 6 came as quite an adjustment.

          Unfortunately, here in Canada there are very few Waldorf schools. Winnipeg never had one, and Ottawa’s recently closed down. There are also no subsidies in this country. In Europe, they are publicly funded and you only pay the difference that has to be made up with private funds.

          Ditto on the anti-vaxxers. The general distrust of science is the primary downside of Waldorf school.

          Reply
      • BCBiker February 17, 2015, 11:38 am

        If I have successfully reached FI by then, I would definitely be interested in teaching in such a project. I have a background in many fields that would be very interesting and exciting for young innovators.

        You could pay me the cost for me to commute from Denver to Longmont on my bicycle (let’s say zero dollars!)

        Reply
      • James February 17, 2015, 4:48 pm

        Any particular reason you’re waiting a few years? Make it a project to at least figure out how much it would cost. Maybe you can get fellow Mustachians to pitch in.

        I imagine you could make a for-profit school which is both cheaper and produces better educational outcomes than a traditional public school. You probably wouldn’t even need to work a lot. Just set up the system and let other people fill the roles.

        Reply
      • AnnaKate February 19, 2015, 8:05 pm

        It’s interesting that you mention Sudbury schools as an alternative to homeschooling. My husband and I (both homeschooled, both currently educators in charter schools) have always assumed that we would homeschool our own kids when we have them since we see so much time and creativity squandered during the standard school day, not to mention the wildly inconsistent teacher quality – there are some truly wonderful, intelligent teachers out there, but there are also some spectacularly rigid, ignorant ones.

        Recently, however, I started reading about the Sudbury education model, and we are now in the preliminary stages of figuring out how to start our own school, since this is the first education model that seems like it might be even better than homeschooling (extensive multi-age socializing and even more self-directed learning FTW – not requiring students to learn subjects that they hate and will forget naturally extends from the goal of not wasting our kid’s time, while multi-age learning promotes independence and keeps kids more fully in their zone of proximal development). It’s very easy to see / complain about the flaws in the current education model, and not overly difficult to fix the problem for our own kid through homeschooling, but it seems like being willing to effect the first steps to more systemic change through a school available to more than just our own offspring might be the more socially responsible thing to do. Are there any other Mustachians out there who are seriously considering starting this kind of school? We’re currently in Texas, but we’re not committed to where we currently live…

        Reply
      • Erik Haugsjaa February 26, 2015, 11:13 pm

        Indeed! Our kids love Sudbury Valley School.

        Reply
      • dave September 7, 2015, 11:42 pm

        As in Sudbury Ontario. Go Canada!!

        Reply
    • Stan February 18, 2015, 7:31 am

      No doubt. Had I and others not be forced to take ‘gym’ class and be subjected to the sick bullies ridicule and abuse and the school actually figure out what students are good at and let them focus those subjects I would also have been in advance mathematics by high school.

      Reply
      • Mr. Frugal Toque February 19, 2015, 5:16 am

        While I agree that phys ed classes, especially in days gone by, were poorly run and poorly policed, I think you’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater. *Everyone* needs to exercise and schools ought to teach the importance of it, not just on paper but by example.

        Reply
      • chrishpl February 22, 2015, 10:04 am

        Real life Elementary Physical Education teacher here…although now I teach future teachers. Couldn’t stop from replying to your post. I hate to read and hear comments like this, as in a truly “educational” Physical Education program none of this would have happened. I”m sorry to hear you had poor teachers and a poor program. There are PE teachers out there who are actually teaching important skills and information to kids. In my mind, more parents should let administrators know that they are not OK with degrading teaching practices. Trouble is, most administrators don’t know what “good PE” is or what it looks like, and they would just as soon get rid of PE altogether–which like Mr.FrugalToque is saying, that is throwing the baby out with the bathwater…

        Reply
  • R.F. Kacy February 16, 2015, 1:17 pm

    Nice post. We homeschooled our son for his entire education, and he excelled by pursuing his interests as far as he wanted to go. He is a senior this year and has aced all of the standard tests for college admission (as in perfect ACT and SAT scores). He is an accomplished, performing classical guitarist and a budding theologian. For a vocation, he currently foresees chemistry, particularly as it relates to nanotechnology. He will have his pick of colleges to attend, if that is what he decides to do.

    So, don’t ever let anyone tell you that homeschooling is inferior to public schools!

    Reply
    • KeithTheConfused February 17, 2015, 8:13 am

      I really want the opinion of a mustacian-esk person who has been there and done that (homeschooling that is). There is no question in my mind that homeschooling facilitates creativity, independence, and initiative better than public schooling. I have always thought that public school was primarily instituted as a form of babysitting. That way mom AND dad can go to work -> to earn -> to spend/pay taxes.

      But, what about other things like teaching your child to respect authorities other than yourself? Also, it seems that it a child will not learn to focus for an extended period of time on a single subject; this would probably get worse if the subject/activity was not particularly interesting. Lastly, my wife and my daughter (4 yrs old) are both very strong willed…seems like a recipe for disaster.

      Did you find any of this to be true in your experience?

      Reply
      • Danny February 17, 2015, 9:57 am

        All public schooling taught me was to have a deep-seated, pathological distrust of authority.

        Reply
        • Mr. Frugal Toque February 17, 2015, 9:59 am

          Which, let’s be honest, is a perfectly valid lesson. There ought to be a shorter way to teach it, though.

          Reply
        • Tom February 19, 2015, 8:02 am

          Learn something new every day: I always thought the phrase was deep-seeded.

          And I did private, public, and charter schools!

          Reply
      • Amateur Moustache February 17, 2015, 12:42 pm

        I was homeschooled up until 9th grade when, due to family illness, I attended my local public high school. I had a great experience with homeschooling, and as a result a much better experience in high school, college and career. With regard to your question on interacting with authority, I had the opposite experience to the one you seem to fear. In school, disputes between students and ‘authority’ consumes a ridiculously large portion of every day, so I think it’s easy (and often logical) to not respect authority. In homeschooling, your interaction with authority (let’s call them adults), in community service, homeschooling groups, nonprofits, extracurriculars, etc is usually much more logical and thus easier to appreciate (respect). In homeschooling you learn what I’ll call a professional approach to interacting with adults much earlier than in traditional school. Similarly, it was my experience that homeschooled kids were better at focusing for extended periods of time on a subject of interest precisely because that focused longer-term time commitment is possible in a home school setting (but not possible in a traditional school setting in which a teacher is juggling the needs and learning speeds of 30 students).
        Happy to comment more on other questions if you are curious. For context I should say that I actually had a pretty good time in high school because my school was big enough that I could pick classes that were interesting. Also, my parents took turns homeschooling me, and we were members of multiple homeschooling groups.

        Reply
      • Megan February 17, 2015, 12:45 pm

        I was homeschooled (7th grade-12th grade) and I LOVED it. My brother and I were competitive figure skaters, our skating schedule didn’t jive well with our school schedule. I did around 3 hours of school work each day, and that was all I needed. We did it though an “umbrella program”. Its basically set up like a college, there are classes there that you can take one or two times/week and you pick which ones you want to take through the school and which ones you’d prefer to do at home. The classes were led by a parent that is a subject matter expert. We had an aeronautical engineer teaching our physics labs, a small magazine publisher teaching our creative writing sessions and a Nurse Practitioner teaching our biology class. I learned and enjoyed learning so much more in the homeschool format because the teachers really knew the subjects and made it so fun.

        Whenever a friend finds out I was homeschooled, their immediate reaction is always, “but you’re not socially awkward?!”

        That’s my favorite.

        We had so many friends outside of our homeschool program through our extra curriculars, we were constantly socializing with our peers (and children younger and older than us as well).

        I was also able to graduate high school in 3 instead of 4 years, so I gained an extra year!

        10/10 would homeschool again:).

        Reply
      • Father_B February 17, 2015, 2:25 pm

        Hey Keith,

        I don’t post much (if at all) here, but I can hopefully shed some light for you. I’m in my late 20s and was homeschooled K-12. I’ll try to address your questions point by point.

        1. I think the key element that a lot of people may overlook is that you don’t just stay inside and just do school. You interact with other homeschoolers through classes (other parents teach classes they have degrees or experience in), park groups, field trips, etc. I got used to learning from other people and listening to other authority figures. Other things like church (if you’re so inclined) or recreational sport leagues are another way for kids to have another authority figure around besides the parents. Also, as I got into high school age, I began taking classes at the local junior college and had the opportunity to learn some subjects that my parents had difficulty teaching me (i.e. Economics, Chemistry, etc.). This also gave me exposure to other teachers.

        2. Learning focus is not dependent on being forced to sit in a chair or learning to stand in straight lines. The trick, at least for me, was for my parents to teach me the benefits of sticking with something or how focus could help me. It was easiest to teach me that by focusing on things that interested me. I’ll give you two examples:

        A) Music – I began taking Piano Lessons at a young age and while I hated practicing for the first 5-6 years, I eventually began seeing the hard work paying off when I was able to play songs I liked from the radio or musicals or movies. That galvanized me to keep practicing and to get even better because I was able to see the reward for it.

        B) Classical Greece (~5th century BC) – For some reason in 3rd or 4th grade I was really into Classical Greece. My parents went with it and we took a deep dive into it. We starting talking a lot about philosophy simply because of Plato and Aristotle. We talked about archeology because of the ruins. I became interested in military tactics because of Alexander the Great (that interest continued on through high school) and while I have no applicable use for this knowledge in my current line of work, the fact that I was able to focus in and learn about them really helped shape how I am able to focus and get stuff done. Additionally, it’s amazing how focus can be developed if you know that getting all of your stuff done quickly means more time for unstructured activities (read: play time). There’s no BS stuff like you have to sit in the chair until everyone else is done; when you’re done, you’re done.

        I can’t say anything about how being strong willed will effect things as I think that it really depends on the interactions of the personality.

        If you have any more questions, I’d be happy to answer. Do keep in mind that I finished a number of years ago so some of my info might be a little stale.

        Reply
      • Trifele February 17, 2015, 4:30 pm

        Hey Keith
        As to your last question —

        “Lastly, my wife and my daughter (4 yrs old) are both very strong willed…seems like a recipe for disaster.”

        — I smiled when I read that. If you look up “strong willed” and “difficult” in the dictionary, there is a picture of our 8 year old son. It was one reason among several that traditional school was not a good fit. I was worried about homeschooling him, as I am very strong willed (wonder where he gets it from) and I lack patience at times. Yet homeschooling is working for us — because HE takes charge of teaching himself. The parent facilitates. And he is happy, instead of miserable, which automatically makes everything easier. To our surprise, our relationship with our son improved a lot once we started homeschooling. It’s fun. You won’t know for sure until you try, but you might be very pleasantly surprised.

        Reply
      • KeithTheConfused February 18, 2015, 7:00 am

        Thank you AmaturMoustache and Trifele! Your comments were very encouraging! I know that my wife will be very glad to read your responses. I look forward to researching this further to find the best fit for our children/family. Any particular curriculum/groups that you would/would not recommend?

        It is hard not to let the caricatured version of the awkward and isolated home-schooler generate some fears. Neither my wife or I have a good perspective on home schooling. I was in public school all my life and loved it; any lack of learning was due to my being lazy/rebellious. My wife was in a small private school and as far as i can tell, it was not all that different from a small public school (except it cost SO MUCH).

        Reply
        • Amateur Moustache February 18, 2015, 10:26 am

          Hi Keith,

          I tend to be of the camp that since you are taking the time and effort to consider the best option for your family, your children are going to do great no matter what you choose. I will say that the major advantages to homeschooling for me were (i) flexibility with time both for learning and for travel/other opportunities and (ii) broader social opportunities: in addition to local friends and extracurricular friends, you can volunteer, travel, be part of multiple homeschool groups, go to camp, get to know more adults than if you were in school,… etc. The advantage to public high school that was most prominent from a learning perspective was the opportunity to have access to science lab materials I might not have at home (liquid nitrogen, blow torches). Of course, I am sure MM would say these could be acquired/borrowed too! One other note: By the time I was in high school I had developed my confidence, learning style, and interests so that it was an easy adjustment.

          To your questions about curricula/groups:

          I tend to think that either extreme of homeschooling (either trying to replicate the structure of normal school with specific times/classes, or having no structure) is not ideal. On the one hand, one of the great advantages of homeschooling is the ability to be flexible, to be project-based, and to give kids an early ability to be self-motivated. On the other hand, having some deadlines for projects and some way to measure success (tests, evaluations, presentations) is helpful for confidence building and negotiation skills (in your career it’s helpful to be able to present your value in an articulate way).

          As for groups, depending on where you live, if you can shop around and try multiple groups that is ideal. I ultimately settled in with a group that planned a group field trip every other Friday, and had two presentation nights a month. I’d also recommend utilizing extracurriculars in and out of your local school system. While I was homeschooled, I went to band and art class at school, played sports, did girl scouts, went to camp every summer (before ppl get all fired up – scholarships are definitely available!), volunteered with the Red Cross, volunteered at an estuarine research reserve, and got to travel around the country via music scholarships.

          Reply
        • Trifele February 18, 2015, 4:39 pm

          Hi again Keith

          I agree with AmateurM — if you can try out several groups, that is ideal. Unless you live in a very remote area, you should have some options. The local homeschool c0-op that we ended up joining does a once-a-month class and a once-a month (really fun) field trip. The twice a month schedule feels about right to us so far, since we have lots of other things going on.

          As for curriculum, we are figuring it out as we go. I did start by reading The Well Trained Mind (about classical education) and although we are not at all religious, the general structure of a classical education appealed to us a lot. That book has lots of good recommendations for other books — including ones you can use as “spine texts.” We took the ideas we liked from The Well Trained Mind, and modified them as we saw fit. It’s endlessly flexible. With our two kids (8 and 11) this year we are doing history, life science, writing, and grammar using various good “spine texts”, and math with Singapore Math. The kids do programming on line using Scratch, and foreign languages using Duolingo — both free. So many resources out there! Don’t forget your local school district — many states allow a part time option for homeschoolers. Our kids are doing gym and music at the public school which is right down the street. The best of both worlds.

          Best of luck!!

          Reply
  • Steve Adcock February 16, 2015, 1:17 pm

    Unfortunately, public school is concerned only about education for the masses, designing curriculum often times for the lowest common denominator amongst the populace. It is arguable, at best, whether standardized schooling really prepares kids for higher education and the working world. I, for example, learned so much more about life, and the skills I use every-damn-day, after k-12 education.

    Homeschooling is absolutely critical. It gives kids an alternative to one-size-fits-all education, and it gives parents a chance to really step up their involvement in their child’s education. Good on you for getting involved, it’s more necessary now than ever.

    Reply
  • postconsumer February 16, 2015, 1:24 pm

    I was wondering when this post was coming. So glad to see it here. Homeschooling is such a natural extension of a DIY approach to life and not swallowing conventional wisdom. In fact, when you mentioned part-time homeschooling a while back, I figured it would only be a short time before you’d scrap the whole flawed system.

    From a financial perspective, it makes so much sense for early retirees who have the time. I can’t imagine putting tens of thousands of dollars into private schools to get the kind of independent thinking my kids are getting. We need to come up with a new name for it, though, because homeschooling doesn’t quite describe that custom, DIY autodidacticism that happens by learning out in the world and only sometimes at home.

    Reply
    • Logic Lady February 16, 2015, 7:12 pm

      There is a word for it–unschooling!

      Reply
  • Kudy February 16, 2015, 1:25 pm

    MMM, this post brought back a lot of bad memories from elementary school. I remember being absolutely *crushed* in 4th or 5th grade when the teachers decided that being quiet, lining up, and walking quietly were the most important lessons for the year. They abolished “recess” in the 2nd half of 5th grade, in order to better prepare us for life in Junior High. Recess time was instead used for repeatedly practicing silent and orderly fire drills (every day!), and if anyone talked, we had to start over.

    While I don’t yet have kids, I hope to have the option and luxury of teaching them myself, if I do. Thanks for the glimpse into how you’re doing it!

    Reply
  • Mr. Frugalwoods February 16, 2015, 1:27 pm

    It’s interesting to hear your impressions having seen both sides of schooling.

    Since we’re planning on moving to a rural area sometime in the next couple of years, and we’re planning to have kids, the potential for homeschooling seems decently high.

    Have you read anything about unschooling? Ben Hewitt (http://benhewitt.net/) writes a delightlful blog about his experiences on the homestead and with homeschooling / unschooling his kids. It’s a fascinating idea, but I’m not sure if I’d want to retreat that far from the social mainstream.

    Reply
  • michikomustache February 16, 2015, 1:30 pm

    My mother thought about homeschooling me for about 5 seconds. It was a total pipe dream as we quickly realized we would’ve killed each other before the first semester was over. It’s so wonderful that you and Jr get along so well. Keep up the great work.

    Reply
  • Homestead family February 16, 2015, 1:30 pm

    Thanks for sharing about your homeschooling experience and describing how it jives with the mustachian lifestyle! Our child is not school age yet, but we plan to go the unschooling route with lots of interaction with community resources (people, classes, volunteer work). I think it’s beautiful you can provide your child with an education which so embodies problem solving (how can we blend school and freedom to create an option with the advantages of each?) and fully reflects the MMM life philosophy. Inspiring!

    Reply
    • PAO February 16, 2015, 3:42 pm

      *jibes

      (I couldn’t resist. I promise to never correct grammar again unless the topic is related to school.)

      Reply
  • Emily February 16, 2015, 1:31 pm

    I was lucky to have some pretty awesome teachers when I was in school who got us and encouraged us to learn. I remember having substitute teachers come in and having them make our class line up in the hall over and over until we could come in quietly. It ate up most the class and we didn’t learn anything.

    We’re planning to put our daughter into public school when the time comes. But I’d like to keep the door open for home schooling if we’d like to travel more or if she doesn’t enjoy it (I have a feeling she will love school, but I’m not counting on it)

    I’m glad that your experiment has turned out so well for all three of you. Your school sounds awesome!

    Reply
  • Matt W February 16, 2015, 1:34 pm

    Hey MMM, I’ve been slowly trying to catch up on your blog since I found out about it less than a year ago. It’s helped me kick my own ass into gear regarding getting out of credit card debt and investing for the future.

    I don’t have a kid, heck, I’m not even married yet, but this is probably the best argument FOR homeschooling that I’ve ever read. Hopefully my future little Matt/Matilda will also have his/her parents in early retirement to teach them the way you are.

    Thank you!

    Reply
  • James Roloff February 16, 2015, 1:36 pm

    An excellent post! I think there is a strong trend of more and more creative thinking adults pulling kids out of traditional school, and opting for homeschooling. It’s not just for religious reasons anymore!

    Project-Based Learning (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project-based_learning) is another alternative to traditional teaching that a number of charter schools in our area are taking up. My wife actually did her student teaching in a few, and saw both great, and poor, execution of the practice.

    The project based approach allows the students to pick a subject relative to them, then apply various disciplines to it. Take computer science for example. A student could choose to code a program for their project. As a teacher, they would help the student craft the framework, and ensure they cross multiple disciplines. Perhaps include a write up of why the program was created (english), explanation of the math used in the logic (math), and the technical details of the software (science/technology).

    Reply
    • Quebecer February 16, 2015, 2:36 pm

      Careful with project- based learning. The province of Quebec ( Canada) has implemented this as it’s curriculum for a few years and the results are not very good. For top performers it had no effect, but for at-risk students it had a definite negative effect. if you are interested, Laval university observed 3300 high school students and just published a report: http://www.eres.fse.ulaval.ca/fichiers/site_eres-en/documents/rapport_secondaire/Rapport_ERES.pdf

      Reply
      • TheFamilyFinder February 17, 2015, 7:01 am

        I am always careful when I read some education research results. Many of the results are based on tests that don’t truly gauge what makes a child successful. I am not concerned about their ability to perform on paper and pencil as much and be creative and contribute. My younger kids are 3 and 5 (not in school yet). Last week they decided to make LEGO food and play restaurant. We had discussions about whether to make all of the food to scale or miniature. Even whether to build the food to scale with other food. They got out the supplies and made menus. The played the characters of many different types of customers that you may encounter as well as problems that may occur. We set up a light box and photographed our food to make a digital menu. My 3 year old even cut out and drew tracks and trains and taped them all over our house to mimic a train restaurant we had been to where trains delivered our food.
        None of those things will be measured in testing or ed.research when they get to school. But I tell you they learned a lot. Point – Just be careful hoy you interpret ed research and consider how you want your kids to be measured.

        I love your homeschool model, by the way!

        Reply
  • Brandon Curtis February 16, 2015, 1:37 pm

    I wish my education had looked like this. Instead, I have a lot of report cards that say “Distracts Others”!

    Coordinating with other homeschooling parents sounds like it could be awesome. Good luck and have fun!

    Reply
  • nancy February 16, 2015, 1:53 pm

    I love how thoroughly you’ve been convinced, and how attentive you are to your son’s needs. I hope that you continue learning about the many ways to homeschool and unschool and are able to relax into it even more. Having a schedule can be useful, but also very confining. If he’s unhappy doing math or writing at the prescribed times you risk an unhappy learner, and someone who ends up hating a specific subject. If math and writing are incorporated into his life as it naturally unfolds, there is no need to put aside a time for it. Think about all of your own various (and awesome) activities and how all of the disciplines overlap and combine. So it is with children. Music is so much more than notes, or an instrument – there is math and art and science and more. As your family get more familiar with your son’s non-schooled rhythms and have more trust of his learning process you may gladly find out that your schedule will be a thing of the past. Just make sure there is time for daydreaming… What a fun adventure for all! I look forward to hearing more about it.

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache February 16, 2015, 7:57 pm

      I hear you! Luckily little MM comes up with the schedule himself every morning. He actually loves writing and gets to write whatever he wants and he finds math pretty fun too. The unit test is only because we’re ramping up to finish 3rd grade and just making sure he knows his stuff. :)

      Reply
    • Julia February 17, 2015, 2:13 pm

      I agree this is something to keep an eye on. Everyone works differently. For my part, I was homeschooled through 7th grade (back in the 90s!) and loved it, but I always wished we had a schedule. Sometimes I would make up my own schedule, but was frustrated when family errands or other things my mom had to do would interrupt it. She was a great multi-tasker and not a scheduler, but I preferred to motivate myself by knowing what was coming and getting into the mood. I think the MMs will probably be watchful and flexible to whatever works best for little MM.

      Reply
  • Anthony February 16, 2015, 1:57 pm

    Have you tried slipping in D&D as an activity? Math, problem-solving, story-telling, imagination, and some friends makes for a good class.

    Reply
  • No Name Guy February 16, 2015, 1:57 pm

    But MMM, you’re a right-wing religious nut case for homeschooling! I don’t care what you said, only right-wing religious nuts home school! And ignorant hicks. Are you an ignorant hick MMM?
    /snark

    Glad you’re doing what is right for your son. I suspect you, Mrs MM and Jr. Stache would be in a different boat if your family was a typical consumer sukka family, where both you and Mrs MM “needed” to work full time. Then the question would be “How can we afford to put Jr. Stache in a private school? How can one of us afford to quit working to home school Jr. Stache?” Amazing how many dimensions there are to that “I” in FI.

    Reply
  • Art February 16, 2015, 1:58 pm

    Great read, this is something I’ll definitely consider when the time comes for me to bring a human into this world :)

    Reply
  • Brian February 16, 2015, 2:00 pm

    Unfortunately, school has become yet another babysitter for many parents – it is something that they have to do and gets the kids out of the house so they can go work.

    I would be curious to see what state tests your son will have to pass and when, I am sure Colorado has its own “standards” test.

    This is something that I would love to do with my own son with the added benefit of being able to spend more time with him. Great post, keep ’em coming.

    Reply
    • Mark February 17, 2015, 11:39 am

      School is more than just a glorified babysitter. It is a way of breaking up families because kids spend more time in institutions than they do with their parents. The elites who rule over us don’t want a nation of creative thinkers. They want people to follow rules. Their rules. So they will have power over us. If we were a nation of creative thinkers, we wouldn’t need them and their institutions.

      Reply
      • Jaclyn April 10, 2015, 2:50 pm

        This.

        Reply
      • Nate December 29, 2015, 11:34 pm

        Everyone should read about John Taylor Gatto. He basically says the same thing. The objective of compulsory schooling is to create passive and obedient workers. The finished product is ” schooled ignorance”.

        Reply
  • JC February 16, 2015, 2:01 pm

    Excellent! You’ve secured your own (financial) freedom – why then lock your child into prison?

    There’s a correlation between the number of years of mandatory public education – and the number of years it takes to break down a child’s innate curiosity, creativity, capacity for learning. 8-12yrs to fully break their spirit and joy for lifelong learning – and crush them into docile and obedient worker cogs in the machine.

    Bring on more free-play – un-scheduled, un-supervised, un-sorted by age. Un-schooled, in a word.

    Reply
    • Albert February 19, 2015, 1:40 am

      Wow. That’s bad. Can you point me to some of that research? I’m a few years out of school, and it looks like I’ve been broken down hard. Do you see a way to recover?

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache February 19, 2015, 1:24 pm

        Nicely satired, Albert. Even we Mustachians need to watch the ideology at times – school is not a conspiracy theory nor is it universally bad (or universally good). It’s just our best attempt at a way of helping to educate our kids, a role which gets harder as social and tech change accelerates.

        Reply
    • GordonsGecko February 19, 2015, 1:04 pm

      Spot on, JC. Our educational system is still trying to produce widgets (factory workers), when that age has passed decades ago. And let’s not even get into the lack of financial education that our schools are missing. Thankfully, there are many bloggers out there (like MMM) who are championing the cause to end stupidity and laziness.

      Reply
  • Mr. FC February 16, 2015, 2:03 pm

    We’ve been playing with this idea for a couple of years now. Master FC is quickly approaching kindergarten age, and I’m sure this will come up again soon. The greatest roadblock for us is making the commitment and jumping in, which would unfortunately fall to Mrs. FC at the moment (but once we’re FIREd would love to join in myself).

    So many things get “fixed” when you homeschool, like where to live (doesn’t matter what the district is like!), when to take vacation (whenever it works for us), what to learn and how, etc. We have friends spending upwards of $20k per year per KID so they can have the “best” private school and the “right” prep activities on their kiddo resumes for the “right” college so they can get into the “right” professions so they, too, can blossom into high-powered, high-stressed worker bees to start the process all over again.

    Damn, just writing that makes me want to retch. And get started planning Master FC’s kinder curriculum. :)

    Reply
    • zolotiyeruki February 16, 2015, 7:05 pm

      The advantages of homeschooling go far beyond what you’ve mentioned, and far beyond even what MMM mentioned. Mrs. Z is in the 2nd year of homeschooling our oldest kids, and it has been a remarkable experience.

      One nice perk? NO HOMEWORK. Seriously, why does my *kindergartner* need to do homework, after spending SEVEN HOURS at school?

      Reply
      • Mr. FC February 17, 2015, 10:57 pm

        I can only imagine that I’m merely scraping the surface of what’s possible with homeschooling. We have some friends who have done it for a few years. For them, it started out as kind of an experiment with their oldest child, and then followed on with the other three kids after they saw the benefits of scheduling and how much more they could accomplish in a school day as compared to the progress that would have been made in a normal school environment. The way they got into it was as a one-year thing at first – if it didn’t work out well that first year or semester, then it was back into the normal public school for them. It’s great that Mrs. Z is into it, I wonder if she had the same apprehensions before getting started and how that went away?

        I personally really like the idea, but like I said, it’d have to be one of those things that Mrs. FC would have to shoulder the majority of until we were FIRE’d, which is still a little ways out.

        Reply
        • zolotiyeruki February 18, 2015, 7:59 am

          Oh, Mrs. Z had LOTS of apprehensions when she started homeschooling. She spent a good 2 or 2.5 years thinking about it before she decided to take the plunge. We took a similar approach as your friends–we didn’t (and still) don’t consider it a permanent choice. If the time comes that we think our kids will get a better experience back in a public school, we might enroll them.

          Some good friends of ours (who have homeschooled their kids) warned us that we should commit to a full year of homeschooling at first, because it can get really tough after a few months. Once you’re over that hump, though, it gets better.

          Reply
          • Mr. FC February 19, 2015, 1:22 pm

            Thanks, sounds like what we’re going through is completely normal before taking such a big step. I agree with the one-year commitment, otherwise it sounds like you’re likely to bail when things get hard if you’re not locked in for the first year.

            I don’t know where we’re going to wind up, mainly because I’m not sure how irritated we are about schools just yet. We’re in a “good” district, so that could sway things one way or another. It sounds like even Mrs. MMM was on the fence about it at first (read through her blog entry on it, a good read). Mrs. FC plans to do a fair amount of volunteering / monitoring at the school, and if we got in and found it not to our liking, we’d probably get a lot more serious about making a move.

            Reply
  • Andres February 16, 2015, 2:17 pm

    I’m curious, how old is little MM? Before having a kid, I always assumed that we’d homeschool because growing up I had such terrible experiences in public school. Now that I actually HAVE a 3-year-old, I’m not so sure any more. I see how much he enjoys preschool, and how nice it is to have him out of the house for a bit, and I’m coming around to the idea that he should go to public school until he’s unhappy; similar to what you’ve done, it sounds like.

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache February 16, 2015, 8:03 pm

      Our son just turned 9 and is in 3rd grade.

      Reply
      • QQ February 19, 2015, 2:39 pm

        Andres, kids change a lot between three and five. Wait and see. We sent our kid to preschool, too–he didn’t love it, though, because it was so rigidly scheduled–and I now homeschool him.

        He’s seven now, and in first grade. It’s awesome. He’s still a curious, intense kid, and homeschooling is working much better for us than jumping through the school hoops would be.

        Reply
  • PAO February 16, 2015, 2:22 pm

    What a great update. When you wrote about investigating homeschooling a year or so ago it struck me that it would be a perfect fit for your family. My kids were home schooled early, then were in regular school, and now as high school upperclassmen they are completing their high school requirements by taking classes at the community college. They have great flexibility, having class about 3 hours per day. The comment above about project based learning highlights a great idea too. My son created a shopping list for computer parts about a year ago – he built his own computer and now uses it to program. Coincidentally, when I later read the book “Are you smart enough to work at Google”, it mentioned a high correlation between a successful time at Google and those who built their own computer as kids. There are so many resources for home schooling now – it’s great to see you taking advantage of this option.

    Reply
  • Andrea February 16, 2015, 2:30 pm

    What a beautiful way to learn! I am glad that you are able to provide such a rich educational experience for your son.

    As a schoolteacher, I would like to politely remind everybody that such resources (unlimited free time, educated parents who promote reading and learning, etc.) are unavailable to many in the this country of ours. I would also like to suggest that schools do teach profitable lessons, push students to expand their limits and encourage creativity. Of course, this is not always administered in a way that suits the needs of every child, but as I teacher I know that I and most of my colleagues work extremely hard to provide as much benefit to every single one of our students as possible.

    As for rules and limitations (walking in lines, shushing) I think that is a valid insight that many can seem unnecessary, and some of them are in fact so and are due for some revision. But also recall that not every student works well with the noise of 30 peers constantly in the background; not every kid knows how to wait for another to finish speaking before starting to share their own idea; not every child knows how to focus on a task to completion, and need help learning how to do so.

    Again, for a family with such a wealth of knowledge and resources, educating your child at home is a wonderful opportunity. For the class of people who read this website, considering the opportunity to do the same may be worth your time. Meanwhile, it is unnecessary to deride the efforts of the school systems that educate those without such resources. Building a society that has a base level of education is beneficial to all of us, not just those at the top.

    Reply
    • Jess February 16, 2015, 3:34 pm

      I think this is a great comment. Also, I want to add that although I agree that everyone should do what’s best for their child (and I would definitely consider homeschooling myself), I do think there’s something to be said for promoting participation in the public school system. If we can improve it, it will benefit our society in general. Just something to consider!

      Reply
    • zolotiyeruki February 16, 2015, 7:24 pm

      Andrea,

      My wife and I both grew up attending public schools, and both had good experiences with (mostly) great teachers. We have been consistently impressed with the teachers and school-level administrators and staff that we’ve had the pleasure to work with.

      After sending our own oldest kids to public schools for a few years, we came to the conclusion that our children would be much better off homeschooled. It wasn’t the fault of the teachers, staff, or principal–they were doing the best they could. But they are working under an impossible set of requirements and constraints, micromanaged by state laws and hogtied by bad curriculum chosen by the district. On top of that, budget constraints and NCLB are pushing students with learning disabilities (and often accompanying behavior problems) into the general education classrooms, making education even more difficult.

      In short, teachers are doing incredible things, particularly in the face of impossible requirements. Our kids, sadly, suffered as a result. Our oldest son, who is high-functioning autistic (with the accompanying behavior problems mentioned above :) ) wasn’t able to get the best education he could, even with a full-time aide in the classroom.

      In my opinion, the problem is the *system* and *structure* of public schools. Simply put, a teacher with a class of 20 or 25 or 30 students simply cannot cater to each individual as well as a parent teaching 1 or 2 or 3. I’m not suggesting (nor, I believe, is MMM) that it’s a net loss to our society. Rather, we’re suggesting that the structure of our public schools systems is inherently inefficient, and less effective than it could be.

      My wife homeschools our oldest 3 kids now. We live in Illinois, which spends around $12k per student per year. I like to daydream about what an incredible educational experience we could give our kids for the $36k/year the public schools would spend on them. Learning about WWII? Alright, let’s take a trip to France and visit the Normandy beaches! The Renaissance? Off to Florence we go! American Revolution? Let’s hop in the car and spend a couple weeks in New England, visiting all those famous landmarks! Heck, give us our property taxes back (we pay $7500/year to our school district) and watch us fly.

      Reply
    • Schuur451 February 16, 2015, 7:39 pm

      I’m glad you said this. My wife is an extremely hard working 2nd grade teacher at an under-resourced school. She comes home every night obsessing about how to differentiate more for the huge variety of learners and levels in her room. It’s true, this is a great option for people who are intelligent and wealthy enough to do it, and I think it’s great (most of my extended family does it). However, it’s a different world for the majority of people out there.

      Reply
    • Michelle February 17, 2015, 7:57 am

      I’m a teacher too. I teach up in Canada, in an Catholic school. Right now though, I’m homeschooling (or roadschooling) my 10 year old twins as we travel for a year. So I guess I have the best of both worlds sometimes.

      I just wanted to say – great comment. Although I think homeschooling is great and I am loving homeschooling my children right now, I had to smile at the disco ball idea of MMM. I could just picture my students who are on the Autism spectrum with all that noise and commotion. As a teacher, you have to consider so many different students’ learning styles and special needs. Although, I will say, that hearing about children staying in for recess boils my blood – it makes me so mad. It’s completely unnecessary and contrary to what you are trying to achieve.

      I have been waiting for this Homeschooling post! Thanks for writing it. I’m always interested in updates too. :)

      Reply
    • Claudette November 26, 2016, 8:01 pm

      Excellent points, Andrea

      Reply
  • Scott February 16, 2015, 2:31 pm

    A lot to think about here. Personally, I’m glad I went through the monotony of K-12, if only for the social aspect, since I’m not very naturally social and good at meeting new people. But as you said, it’s not for everyone.

    You’re definitely right about one thing though: the most important learning comes outside of school. When I was 10, I wanted a computer. My dad bought a bunch of parts off Newegg and said “build it. I’ll help you.” And from there I built more computers, and started repairing computers, and replaced bad PCB components, and branched off into other electronics, and learned some basic programming, and now I have a cushy IT job. Still haven’t used a lick of calculus in the “real world.”

    But even for children for whom homeschooling is a viable option, I think my biggest concern is lack of credentials. Do you think your son will have any trouble getting into college, should he choose to go that route? Even now, despite my IT job and a long corporate ladder in front of me just waiting to be climbed, I’m still finishing up my (unrelated) degree just for the credentials (because of Signaling Theory). I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to get to where I am today without a high school diploma.

    One final thought re: the “shushing.” Different people learn best in different environments. Personally, I cannot properly focus unless I’m in total silence. I had some music playing before opening this article, but paused it so I could concentrate 100%– and it’s not like I’m reading about how to disarm a bomb here! I reckon that’s why there’s so much shushing going on– to accommodate students like me who don’t cope well with distractions.

    Reply
    • Dawn February 16, 2015, 4:24 pm

      Scott, I was homeschooled up to college. When it was time for college, I took the ACT test and the placement tests at the local community college. I did well in the classes I took there and had no trouble transferring to a 4 year university. I earned a bachelor and a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Detroit Mercy.

      Socialization is one of the most over hyped aspects of homeschooling. Like many engineers, I am no social butterfly! However, I have several homeschooled friends (not engineers) who are just as outgoing as the most gregarious public schooler that I have ever met. Stereotypes tend to prevent one from getting to know the individual person.

      Reply
    • Heather February 17, 2015, 10:15 am

      Scott, I’m currently homeschooling my six year old son, so I am a far ways away from college, but I have talked to others that have high schoolers that are getting ready to enter college and I have heard that in some colleges there is a different application process for homeschoolers because they don’t have the standard “credentials.” Maybe this is becoming more common as more people are turning to homeschooling? I know of a young lady that got accepted to MIT last year without an official high school diploma. I’ve also heard that many colleges seek out homeschoolers.

      Reply
  • Robin February 16, 2015, 2:31 pm

    We are “supposed to” not question anything, such as conventional schooling and the 40 hour work week, and you are considered weird if you do. So much for that.

    Reply
  • Tawcan February 16, 2015, 3:20 pm

    I don’t think only weirdos home-school their kids. The school system is not perfect and I definitely agree with what you wrote. The only reason for sending my kids to school would be the social interaction part. However there are certainly a lot of bad kids that could create bad influence too.

    Very interesting read as my wife and I have been talking about home schooling here and there. Please keep us updated on how things are working.

    Reply
  • Norman February 16, 2015, 3:24 pm

    The book “Shop Class as Soulcraft” is excellent. Wish that philosophy had been around when I tried to take shop class and was told I couldn’t take it because I was “going to college”.

    Reply
    • Ellie February 17, 2015, 10:56 am

      Waaay back when I was in junior high school, everyone had to take Home Ec and Shop. Two of the most valuable classes I ever had. Along with the typing class I took one summer. Anyone who wishes to be independent needs to learn certain life skills.

      Reply
    • GordonsGecko February 19, 2015, 1:13 pm

      My parents chided me when I tried to take shop class freshman year of high school. They vetoed my choice of classes and put me in where they thought I should be. I just wanted to learn to use a saw, and build something.

      Even though I ended up a white-collar shmoe, I find it quite funny that the most time I spend with my Dad now consists of shop type work over at my investment property.

      Reply
  • Cyndy February 16, 2015, 3:24 pm

    When I was in second grade I also went through a rough patch at school. Didn’t like my teacher, couldn’t complete the assignments, frequently went home sick. But this was the 70s and there weren’t many options. Luckily the next year I had a teacher that understood me better, and things improved. I probably adapted too well, since I am still desk bound in a boring job all these years later. Anyway, really admire what you are doing and so wish I could have had a similar education!

    Reply
  • Dawn February 16, 2015, 3:54 pm

    I was homeschooled from preschool age up through when I started taking classes at the local community college. Homeschooling is the best gift (after my faith in Jesus and my two amazing sisters) that my parents have ever given me. The amount of free time I had for reading and dreaming and crafting is something that I all too often took for granted back then.

    I treasure all of the wonderful memories of playing with my sisters who are still my best friends today. When I was about 10, the three of us decided to start a candle company. Another time, we hatched duck eggs, turning them three times per day, and then spent hours watching ducklings grow. We took gymnastics, piano and art lessons and generally had a great time growing and learning together. We woke up without an alarm clock at about 7am every day because if we were diligent, schoolwork could all be done before lunch and then we would have the whole afternoon to play!

    I’m now a 23 year old mechanical engineer. The most difficult adjustment for me has been working a full time job in which it doesn’t matter how much work I get done. I am still going to be stuck at work for 40 hrs/week. Fortunately, I really like my team and the job isn’t so bad either. However, I still dream of the future when I will be free to work and play without reference to an employer’s artificial schedule. Thanks to MMM, that future does not seem quite so far away anymore!

    Reply
  • TX jim February 16, 2015, 3:57 pm

    I am a retired biomedical scientist. And I recognize from experience, that graduate students in my classes often cannot write a cogent paragraph. I believe the most important determinant of student success is parent involvement. Of course home schooling represents the acme of that parent involvement. We were forced to home school our daughter for the last two years of high school to stem her potential entry into the judicial system. My wife elected to retire from an executive position to manage the effort at a cost upwards of $200K. It worked out ok though our daughter took several years post-GED to find a direction. So we have a limited sample window of experience.

    What do the academically successful children of Oriental and Indian immigrants in the much maligned public schools have in common with the successful inner city non-denominational kids attending parochial schools. Their parents care and are involved. I went 1-12 with the good sisters of St Dominic. These unbelievable women devoted their live to educating us. There were lots of rules but considering that my first grade class had seventy students with two to a desk, rules were needed. The parochial school system had two distinct advantages if you had a problem, you had to answer to your parents and if you were continually disruptive you could go to the public schools. That being said we all got a top rate education and everyone graduated, though a few later than expected.

    Back to parent involvement, the St Rose PTA met monthly and every child’s parent was expected to meet with their respective child’s teacher. This meant a significant commitment since the lines of parents often spilled out in the hallways. As for all those adventures they too came from my parents involvement as trips to the state park, the zoo and the museum of science and history. With 60-80 students in a class field trips were not very common.
    The difficulty I see with home schooling is that the majority of parents do not have the time, temperament or background ability to assist their children. So the wise parents who have the free time and recognize their shortcomings begin to collaborate. MS Smith, MS Brown and MS Thomas concentrate respectively on grammar, math and geography. So, what does this sound like, perhaps a mini-school? My father was a construction worker and my mother a nurse. He often was so exhausted at night that he fell asleep in the living room after dinner. On weekends he helped with my arithmetic and mom with my reading. What about the children who are not traditional learners and require the focused training of the math or reading learning specialist. However, as a scientist, I can say that every one of my colleagues will attest to the enthusiasm of that one gifted chemistry or biology teacher who turned us on. Who fills that gap in the home school environment?

    Finally, as an award winning class room instructor, no matter how dedicated, enthusiastic or creative I am, I can’t “learn your child”. I can show them the way, but their education is up to them and it depends heavily on their parents and that home environment.

    Reply
  • PawPrint February 16, 2015, 4:11 pm

    I wish there were more charter schools for the people who cannot afford to stay home and homeschool their children. The adult students I teach at a free school could have benefited from the kind of education you’re giving your son. Instead, they were passed along so they graduated with low reading/writing/math skills, or they dropped out of school. The gap between those who can afford to give their children a great education and those who cannot seems to widen every year.

    Reply
  • John February 16, 2015, 4:20 pm

    MMM,

    On the technology front you should buy Jr MMM a Raspberry Pi 2. It is only $35 and comes with some great tools for coding.

    Reply
  • Dana February 16, 2015, 4:31 pm

    As a public school teacher, I love lots of things about the homeschool model. But the kind of kids whose parents are willing to homeschool them…those kids will be successful no matter where they get their education. It’s a PARENTAL involvement in the process of learning that really determines a student’s success.

    Also, think how great our public schools would be if each teacher only had two or three kids to be responsible for, and could really connect with them and their interests – like the homeschool model! But then we’d have to hire more teachers, and who wants to pay the taxes for that?

    I’m curious – do you feel the same way about traditional schooling at the level of higher education? I only mention this because I know that sometimes, homeschooled children have a tougher time getting into colleges simply because their transcripts are different or there were tests that needed to be taken and weren’t, or some ridiculous nonsense. Is college also in Tiny Mustache’s future, or would you like to see him become a lifetime “unschooler”?

    Reply
    • jessica February 17, 2015, 2:00 am

      Homeschoolers test better and universities love an unschooled homeschooled individualized education. Ivy’s have a high rate of acceptance. The model is going to be globally so drastically different in just 5-10 years that I can’t imagine traditional rote education even competing with ease at college admissions. The college game is changing too (what they are).

      Reply
      • rory February 19, 2015, 12:48 pm

        Sources? I’ve done a tremendous amount of research into college admissions with an emphasis on the Ivies, and everything I’ve found says that home schooled kids have a much harder time getting accepted. Sure, if you raised a kid that is winning national and international math competitions or already working with the local college on experiments with nano-technology (both real examples of kids homeschooled kids who got accepted to Stanford) then you are probably fine.

        But I think that if you are planning to homeschool or unschool your kids though 12th grade, and they are going to apply to an Ivy league school with a top 1% standardized test score and a good essay, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Sans the top 1% test score and you may as well not apply. And I personally don’t know too many homeschooling parents that love the idea of really stressing the kid out of the SAT score. I am, but I’m the minority.

        There are many great reasons to home school. I’m convinced that the education and experience will me much better for the child if you bring a lot of love into your effort. But a leg up in ivy admissions? You better show your source for that.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache February 19, 2015, 1:14 pm

          I agree that sources are good. But I’d wonder if an essential part of gaining admission to a really exclusive university*, just like any highly desirable job, would be to demonstrate some great something great you have done in the years before admission. Building a company or a major website, giving really good TEDx talks in your area of expertise, showing up in the major magazines for something you’ve developed yourself.

          To me, all of this stuff seems much more possible with a self-directed learning lifestyle rather than the old-school rigorous education where the teachers are the main portal of information and grades are your chief form of feedback.

          * Not that this is a goal for everyone anyway. I’m starting to feel like university is pretty outdated and optional for many people (although it is still great in certain situations).

          Reply
          • Rory February 19, 2015, 1:29 pm

            I’d agree with everything you stated.

            Especially well put: “To me, all of this stuff seems much more possible with a self-directed learning lifestyle rather than the old-school rigorous education.”

            And universities are outdated. My job in banking … A BA is mandatory and a MBA is essential for promotion. But I’m a cubicle dweller and I wouldn’t wish my wage slavery on any but my enemies. It goes without saying that I want better for my daughter.

            So yeah, in tech a degree is more or less irrelevant. Can you code? Can you get a certification in your spare time? Show me what you can do. I”m sure other fields are the same way.

            But if you want to be a medical doctor or veterinarian, for example, college will be mandatory.

            The last point I will say is that the road to the full college scholarship is, for now, almost exclusively traversed through the traditional schooling model. Not a big deal when you’ve got MMM cash. For wage slaves like myself, though, that’s a big deal.

            Reply
        • Mr. C February 24, 2015, 12:10 pm

          I do admissions work for a military academy. In the past two decades there has been a huge change in the attitude to applicants who were home schooled. Previously it was viewed as something done by a minority largely for religious reasons. The view has changed to recognizing home schooling is often done because of the limitations of traditional public schooling. Applicants who were home schooled score well on the ACT/SAT, have extensive community involvement, and often have college credit as well. They graduate and succeed at a high rate.

          Reply
    • Weedy Acres February 17, 2015, 12:57 pm

      Using Z’s math from above, if Illinois spends $12K/kid/year, you could make a group of 5 kids, pay a teacher $60K, and have fantastic outcomes. Therein lies the problem: 30 kids in a class = $360,000. We’re spending WAY too much tax money on administration and overhead. We’re allocating enough to education to do small-group stuff. But we’re wasting way too much of the money on stuff that doesn’t add value. A revamping of the entire system is needed.

      I love what some charter schools are doing to reinvent the system. Here’s one example, from Rocketship: http://www.rsed.org/our-model.cfm

      Reply
      • zolotiyeruki February 17, 2015, 1:14 pm

        To be fair, though, schools have a lot of mandates that drive up the cost. Yes, you could pay a teacher for 5 kids’ worth of taxes….if none of them have health issues or learning disabilities. There’s a lot of non-teacher costs burdening schools–everything from social workers to nurses to building upkeep to janitors to sports to supplies to electricity to subsidized lunches, etc.

        Still, though, drive it up to 10 kids per teacher, and with $120k/year and some outside-the-box thinking, you could do amazing things.

        Reply
      • Tom February 25, 2015, 11:19 am

        I see 2 problems with your simplistic model:
        1. No CapEx or Opex budget, so no text book, pens, pencils, paper, building, HVAC, internet, computers, printers, transportation, etc. Unless you want the teacher and student to provide (then you’re probably spending more than $60K)
        2. Ignoring #1, that model might work for elementary education, but probably doesn’t work *in general* later on when most systems rely on specialization to teach math, english, science, and history/social studies/civics beyond a rudimentary level.

        Reply
        • Vanessa March 29, 2015, 5:04 pm

          Specialization? Had to laugh at this one- my high school English and Math teachers were football coaches :)) The science teacher was a wrestling coach.

          My kids learn a lot from specialists in their field from home using their iPads. Ted Talks, non-fiction books, Khan Academy, open courses (free) from top universities like MIT, etc. They can even access art lessons from pro artists on YouTube, for free.

          Reply
  • hunter hollingsworth February 16, 2015, 4:35 pm

    Homeschool, great for you and your son!
    We also thought we could never homeschool and that” those people” were weird. I remember first day of school for one of ours. “What did you learn today?” ” We learned to stand in line!” We homeschooled for years with great results, so did our founding fathers.
    “”Humans are naturally curious and energetic creatures, and if you set us free in the right environment, we will get to work learning, producing, and having a great time at it.” I wish. Consider the garden of Eden.
    Religious? Everyone has a belief system that guides them. Homemade, amateur, established, false or true. Great site, keep up the good work. Glad to be with you in the ranks of the no longer working for a living.
    Kindest regards
    hunter

    Reply
  • HenryDavid February 16, 2015, 5:16 pm

    “In my school, at least a third of the kids come from families where the parents don’t seem to be putting much effort into their upbringing.” So sad!
    Parental commitment and love and support count for waaaaay more than whether you are in a school building all day or not. That said, lots of kids could probably learn much more effectively in the way described here. But their parents have not organized their lives to give themselves the time and freedom to provide this. This couple set out to make themselves fully available for their child, from the start. It’s paying off. Better life / less stuff.
    To think that they might have chosen, instead, to blindly accumulate “toys,” like boats and big-screen TVs, and by doing that made this opportunity unavailable. So many couples do that–without ever thinking for one second that they have made a choice.

    Reply
    • Jessica February 16, 2015, 5:51 pm

      Great comment.

      Its a shift in mindset isn’t it? The upper echelons of society don’t wait for everyone else. They do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. Most graduate college very early, because time is the most valuable thing we have. Why waste it in any area?

      Reply
  • Hilary February 16, 2015, 5:16 pm

    I had to smile when you wrote about children learning all the time. My grandson aced archery at school and he said that he learned how to do it from his computer games – all about the arc he needed, taking wind and weather into account. Pity they only had one decent session of archery and no follow up. He isn’t all that good at any other sports. I like the idea of home schooling but I wouldn’t have been good at it with my children as I didn’t have the internal resources to make it work, but it is great for those who do and have made the decision to do so.

    Reply
  • nicoleandmaggie February 16, 2015, 5:27 pm

    The private school (which we pay for) DC1 goes to works much better with our personalities and DC1’s personality than homeschooling would. (We are great at teaching other people’s kids, and DC1 is great at learning from other people, but there are far too many tears combined. We know this from summertime.) It is well worth the expense for us. DC2 has a very different personality with a lot less perfectionism, so we will see what happens with her. Right now she’s flourishing at Montessori preschool (where she would go even if we didn’t work– she’s exhausting in large doses.) We’re taking it all a year at a time.

    Reply
    • Debra February 17, 2015, 5:20 am

      I’ve determined that I can’t teach my own kid, but others are fine. I think I get too invested in the outcome with my own kids, which leads to anxiety, and then tears for everyone. With other people’s kids, less anxiety, no tears, fun for everyone, and learning happens. LOL.

      Reply
  • hunniebun February 16, 2015, 5:44 pm

    I think this sounds like a brilliant solution for a child that isn’t enjoying school and has two educated parents with the time and willingness to take it on. I think homeschooling has become more mainstream with many people opting to do this for all or a portion of their kids educations for a varity of reasons. It has clearly been a success for MMM this year and I hope that continues. For the majority of us wage-slavers with school age kids the options are really limited. I have an incredible smart 5 year old who has had already completed the kindergarten/grade 1 and most of grade 2 reading and math requirements on the day he started kindergarten this fall. It has been a frustrating journey working with the school to have him challenged and not bored. The difference is that he loves school…he likes is friends and gym class and recess. He would be extremely unhappy being at home with a parent, even if it meant advancing and learning faster. And as the good teacher posted…we have found the teachers and principals very keen to ensure that kids needs are being met in a varity of ways. I have been to the school many times and can honestly say that I have never heard any shssshing. I have seen kids in hallway getting talked to for being disruptive…and I think that is a valid lesson. There is a time to talk and there is a time to be respectful and listen. If kids are being given plenty of opportunity to learn, play, explore and socialize – then it is not unrealistic to expect kids to learn listening and to be respectful at times as well. I think the most important thing for all parents is realize that kids are all different and education is not one size fits all. If you have a child that is not learning well in their current situation…then try something different. Micheal J Fox said that is a child isn’t learning the way we teach, then we should teach the way children learn. For some that means a structured environment and for other that might me more free flowing project based learning or something else entirely.

    Reply
  • Zoe February 16, 2015, 5:57 pm

    What a wonderful thing to be able to do, at just the right time. Our son is looking forward to school but DH and I, whose financial/lifestyle guiding values are very similar to yours, are working toward the flexibility to take him out if/when it gets bad, always with the option to go back if he so chooses.

    Reply
  • LAS February 16, 2015, 6:00 pm

    A few years ago, our state made a rule that if a child missed 20 days of school (for any reason), a parent would have to report before the District Attorney’s office. A nearby dad was put in jail for his high school son’s truancy- the dad would drop the son off at school but the kids would skip out. Judges were asking parent’s what they were going to do to ensure the kids wouldn’t get sick and miss school (One parent replied “give them more Vitamin C??”) Social workers got involved.

    As a frequent volunteer in my own children’s school I saw how stressed out all the “good” parents were about their child missing any days. One kid sitting next to me told me that he had thrown up that morning and wasn’t feeling well, but his mom sent him to school anyway so he wouldn’t miss a day. This was very common.

    They ended up changing the law slightly after all of the backlash, but a family can still be reported to the DA at the discretion of the school for 20 missed days.

    Constant “shushing” was also found at their school- it was stressful and hard to concentrate with the non-stop comments to be quiet from teachers. My children were well-behaved yet they were always missing part of all of recess as the teacher would not let any of the class go out until everyone was quiet. There were always 2-4 kids who would not shut up. Instead of calling them out and dealing with them, the whole class was admonished with “when all friends are quiet we will go outside.” Those 2-4 “friends” would just ignore the teacher and continue talking.

    Many teachers did their best, but there are just so many students to deal with- 26 students in a class with one teacher! Many students loved it when I would come help and certain kids just seemed starved for attention from an adult.

    Reply
  • Ari February 16, 2015, 6:47 pm

    We homeschooled for a year between primary and high school and loved it, but the kiddo wanted to go back to school – more people, even if it meant more schoolwork. He’s enjoyed the last 3 years (mostly) of school.
    Having said that, the kids we met at various homeschool camps and trips were easily the most social and well spoken conversationalists I’ve met. Confident that you’d want to have a chat with them, that their ideas and input were valid and expected. The silent student/teacher in charge dynamic is mostly absent and the kids certainly seem better for it.

    Reply
  • Jana Miller February 16, 2015, 6:52 pm

    Homeschooled my two. They are both college graduates and have well paying jobs. Glad to hear it’s working out well for your family!

    Reply
  • Tom February 16, 2015, 6:55 pm

    Nine years into home schooling with kids flourishing. Best rigorous math curriculum by far for elementary kids is Beast Academy by the folks at Art of Problem Solving. Check it out:

    http://www.artofproblemsolving.com/Store/beastacademy.php

    Reply
  • Lil February 16, 2015, 7:19 pm

    I came to this conclusion that play is also learning when deciding what to do for my daughter’s education next year. She misses the cut-off for kindergarten by 8 days… She’s been in preschool already for two years, but now that I only work twice a week and have a babysitter for those days. I might as well just let her play! Anyways, kindergarten here is full day!!!

    I also read that in Finland formal education doesn’t begin until 6 or 7! And they are one of the smartest European nations. There are also no rankings or standardized tests. What you described as your perfect school sounds a lot like Finland’s system. Check it out!

    “A class of first graders scampered among nearby pine and birch trees, each holding a stack of the teacher’s homemade laminated “outdoor math” cards. “Find a stick as big as your foot,” one read. “Gather 50 rocks and acorns and lay them out in groups of ten,” read another. Working in teams, the 7- and 8-year-olds raced to see how quickly they could carry out their tasks.”
    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/why-are-finlands-schools-successful-49859555/?no-ist=&no-cache=_page%3D2&page=1

    Reply
    • Dustin February 16, 2015, 7:50 pm

      I think there are quite a few european countries where you can start earlier or later. We have two teachers from Spain living with us right now and they said that Spain offers a kind of pre-k to everyone. They say that the kids have a big jump-start; just a different system I guess.

      Also, I would advise being cautious of putting too much stock in the “we should imitate Finland” idea. They are a very wealthy, racially and culturally homogeneous country with a higher average level of education than the United States. They also have fewer people by magnitude of nearly 60. Super nice people, and a very efficient government, but not something we could directly imitate.

      Reply
      • Anita February 17, 2015, 9:59 am

        Just wanted to add that I was born and raised in Hungary. There the pre-school from age 3 is free and available for everyone. Formal elementary school starts at age 6 or later but parents have the option to delay the start.

        Reply
  • Sean February 16, 2015, 8:09 pm

    Really? A disco ball and LED Rope lights with Walkin’ on the Sunshine playing in the halls between classes?
    Talk about a recipe for kids flying off the walls. The last thing, I feel, that kids need is more stimulation. If anything, they need exercises in relaxation. Or intense cardiovascular exercise to settle them before learning can take place.

    It seems as if everyone is an expert on education because they went to school. I’m a teacher, so this article hits close to home. I’m dealing with young people at the other end of the spectrum, ie. grades 10 -12. I agree that there are a lot of improvements that we can incorporate into schools- in fact, at my public school, we are encouraged to try different methods of engaging students (I live in Vancouver British Columbia). To be honest with you, I find that either students have had the creativity drummed out of them by this point, or they are wanting to be other places than school. The problem? Few people see school as an opportunity to learn about lots of cool things. It’s just a necessary evil on the way to better things.
    They’re just in school to get good grades.
    To get into a good university.
    To get a good job.
    To make lots of money.
    And then they’ll be happy.

    At least that’s what their parents told them. (Instead of being happy all along.)
    No where along the line were they told that learning for learnings sake is the luxury of an advanced society. This is caused as much by the parent as anyone else. I have had countless conversations with students who would like to take a year or more off and travel, and maybe not even go onto college. Parents seem freaked out by the idea of their child not staying in the system.
    The worst thing is, it seems like the kids have bought into it.
    I asked two of my very best students of all time (10 years) how they managed to stay creative within this system, and upbeat through out the whole experience, and they said they treated it like a game, a serious game, but still, a game.
    Good for you for home schooling. Education is most definitely not a one size fits all experience.
    I teach in a school where 125 of the 650 total students are internationals from out of country (grades 10, 11, 12.) They are so amazed that some students do not take advantage of creative elective course offered here, they have no such opportunities in their home countries (Brazil, Germany, Italy).
    I sincerely hope the homeschooling works out really well, it might be something I try with my son, but again, it depends on what he wants. I personally loved the structure, as do many children.

    Reply
    • Heidi December 10, 2016, 10:48 am

      This discussion may be dead but I’ll reply anyway. The stimulating hallway sounds like hell. My son has autism and the noisy hallways make him so tired he has little energy left for social advances once he reaches a classroom. I would definitely get behind a more organized Parkour method of navigating the dreaded class transitions. Movement seems to help him with the sensory challenges.

      I like the idea of treating the school like a game. I couldn’t have explained that in my youth but I think that is how I managed high school.

      Reply
  • CAtoTX February 16, 2015, 8:20 pm

    Favorite memories of home schooling my kids…visiting every factory tour we could find (potato chips! jelly beans!)
    Going to national parks and doing the junior ranger program.
    4-H projects (raising the grand champion turkey!) and then the reality (taking the turkeys to the butcher).
    Teaching my daughter (and son) to sew their own outfits.
    Watching my son learn to love baking and cooking.
    Watching my daughter become fascinated with dolphins (now she is in vet school).
    The joy of leaving a book on any subject laying on a table and waiting… then watch it be taken, read, and absorbed.
    Teaching my daughter calculus and watching her get her first paid job at 15 — as a math tutor in the community college’s tutoring center.
    Home school PE classes…the older ones encourage the little ones and everyone has fun!
    Not having to wait until the weekend to do the “fun stuff”.
    The wonderful flexibility of being able to take a trip, or attend some event, or go to a play…all on a moment’s notice.

    Reply
  • Dan February 16, 2015, 8:30 pm

    Homeschooling rocks!

    So many kids do not do well in school, not because they are dumb but because they are bright. They are simply bored. I was one of those kids.

    We are homeschooling our 10 year old daughter. She is at least two grade levels ahead of children her age. She is trilingual and working on learning a fourth language.

    The time it would take to get her ready for school, take her and pick her up, we get the sit down part of homeschooling over at home.

    The freedom and efficacy of homeschooling is hard to beat.

    Reply
  • MQQ February 16, 2015, 8:48 pm

    So many things I want to say in reply to this article, how do I keep it concise?
    I’ve been thinking about homeschooling for a while (we don’t have kids yet but are planning on having 2) – husband is not convinced but I think time will change his mind. Apart from the huge number of other reasons for homeschooling, I just did the sums on private school vs homeschool (where we live, I wouldn’t be sending the kids to public school; many reasons behind this decision). I found that, even though I’m very well educated and have great career prospects, my entire take home pay would be spent on school fees, uniforms, and after school care. And for what? The kids would get a good education, but no better than they could get from us (both with post-grad qualifications, me in arts/humanities/English and him in science/maths/engineering), and we would only get to spend a couple of hours a day with them if we’re lucky.
    I LOVED school… or at least, I thought I did. Which is why I was so convinced that my kids would go to a private school like I went to. The fact was, I loved learning, performing, and the other structured activities – I loved the opportunities given by an elite school. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that home schooling would offer these same opportunities without the drawbacks. Great camps (could be done with scouts), being in a play or musical (can be done with the local theatre company), studying and doing projects (could be done with the aid of a library and some poster-board). All the things I really hated about school would be eliminated – constant bullying for being “weird” (read: smart and not interested in pop culture), constantly waiting for other kids to settle down so I could get on with learning something, forever waiting for play time to be over so I could get stuck into the library! All with the added benefit of not paying tens of thousands in school fees, AND getting to spend time with the kids!
    There are loads of other things I want to say, turns out I’m surprisingly passionate about this topic. I honestly can’t wait to have kiddos just so I can share my love of learning with them. The Mustachian lifestyle is just so great for kids (and adults) in terms of promoting happiness and wellbeing, with the added by-product of being very productive in areas that matter. Thank you for writing this article!

    Reply
    • CrisH February 18, 2015, 7:44 pm

      I agree, MQQ! At the core of it, it’s just a numbers game. Once I started questioning the necessity of two (good!) incomes just to afford private school or so you can (over)pay for a house in a “good” district, you realize the logic in taking matters into your own hands. And how are even the “best” schools going to beat the one-on-one tutorship that you can offer, not to mention the love and affection to boot? Don’t get me wrong — it’s a sacrifice for sure; just not the sacrifice of my children and my family.

      I follow MMM because he promotes one of the strongest mottos in my life: don’t buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like. So we’re already labeled a bit “weird” in our community (beachside SoCal). The downside of both homeschooling and Mustachianism is feeling like the only sane one in a sea of insanity, especially as the kids get older and the college craze really starts to ramp up as parents who are shelling out $30K for tuition want to see a ROI.

      Good for you for being so ahead of the game! It’s a wonderful lifestyle!

      Reply
  • Orda Jim Hackney February 16, 2015, 9:11 pm

    I think I posted this before in response to another thread but I think it’s appropriate here because it confirms that free learning is better and that our schools are too rigid and relics of bygone days.

    http://www.wired.com/2013/10/free-thinkers/

    Reply
  • Gradual Millionaire February 16, 2015, 9:20 pm

    I was homeschooled until my Junior year of high school and I wholeheartedly agree with everything you’ve said. There was a tremendous amount of freedom in our schedules. If we worked hard, we could finish our work by noon, or we could “double-up” on our work to take off the next day. Despite the shorter days, we always performed well on standardized tests, for whatever that’s worth. We participated in sports leagues, joined a homeschool co-op with other families, went to a weekly gym class, and played outside with our neighborhood friends practically every day for socialization.

    Homeschooling also made the transition to college fairly easy since I was already used to studying and working in a self-directed way. Managed to keep a 4.0 for my first couple of years of college until hitting the upper level programming classes (I’m looking at you, Operating Systems!). I note this only to show that homeschooling can really prepare kids well for the real world. Good luck to you and your family on the adventure!

    Reply
  • Alice February 16, 2015, 9:21 pm

    I read your article and I think its great that you saw a problem and addressed it. In my opinion, since you are healthy and educated adults and seem to have a very good grasp of reality and parenting you should have more kids. You are able to offer so much, the biggest gift you can give your son is a sibling or several.

    Reply
    • tlars699 February 17, 2015, 8:27 am

      They could become foster parents, which is a way better way of sharing their resources with those less fortunate than popping out more babies…

      Reply
      • Lauren February 17, 2015, 12:21 pm

        Fostering is great idea!

        But I really dislike the negativity you projected when you used the derogatory phrase, “popping out babies”. The developed world’s fertility rate is less than replacement level (2.1), so we actually need people to have more children.

        Adopting, fostering, or having your own children are all perfectly acceptable and admirable ways of raising a family.

        Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache February 19, 2015, 7:50 pm

      Haha.. thanks for the suggestion Alice, but no thanks. It turns out you are allowed to have only one kid these days.

      http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2014/09/10/great-news-youre-allowed-to-have-only-one-kid/

      Reply

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