The Self Educating Child

Little MM and me self-educating with some Orson Scott Card, way back in 2017. We’ve come so far together since then!

So it looks like my 15-year-old is officially a high-school dropout.

Halfway through ninth grade, emboldened perhaps by the taste of freedom that Covid-era remote learning had provided, he realized that the whole system was just too slow and inefficient for him, and was “Getting in the way of his work.” So as it looks now, he’ll probably never return to any sort of in-person schooling, and I will be surprised if he ever attends college.

Yes, he is technically “home schooling” and will still end up with a high school diploma of sorts, but in reality he is pretty much winging it. And needless to say, I have mixed feelings about this.

I’ll start with the worries and the negative stuff, because as a parent I of course want the best for my child. And when I look back on my own childhood, it feels like school was a fountain of formative experiences.

Sure, the education itself was slow and crappy – I was always craving more advanced material and more creative learning formats which just weren’t there in my small town high school. But isn’t enduring crappy and antiquated systems a critical part of getting ready to live in a modern society where things don’t always go your way? After all, the only way to renew a drivers license or a passport (or a medical license for that matter) is to dive head first into the ridiculousness and grin and bear it for the sake of the end goal.

And of course there were plenty of good parts: I had so many amazing experiences and friendships and adventures through high school and university. Beginner romances and heartbreaks, brushes with the law, late nights around the campfire, terrible minimum wage jobs at gas stations and convenience stores that I thought were amazing, all bathed in a swirling Marijuana-tinged soundtrack of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Soundgarten and Primus and Tool. Doing reverse snow donuts in my mom’s 1988 Dodge Caravan filled with eight friends and then getting out to dance crazily in the headlights to the Wayne’s World soundtrack blasting from the giant stereo system I had built into the minivan with my own 16-year-old hands.

How will my son grow up as a well-adjusted adult without the 2020s equivalent of such experiences?

But when I obsess over these thoughts, I know I am falling into the oldest of parenting traps: assuming I know what’s best for my child, and that his own desires and thoughts are not valid, even though he’s on the verge of adulthood himself. So I remind myself of the positive side of this situation:

The world of 2021 is a very different place from my equivalent perch in 1991. And my son happens to be sitting in an unusual but still promising (I hope) little corner of it.

Because of the Internet, and to be honest a damned large dose of privilege due to having two educated parents always available because we were retired before he was even born, he has been able to feed his thirst for knowledge with incredible efficiency. This is an advantage that is still not available to most people today, let alone to what people of my generation had to work with in 1989. So he has already gone beyond college level in the standard fields that they cover in school.

So of course he has noticed that the existing school system is not as efficient as his custom-crafted alternative. Like me, he feels frustration with many of our institutions. But it’s a frustration born of love and a desire to help out, rather than just a complainypants attitude and a desire to criticize. Public school for all is a great thing and a great idea.

But like everything in life, we can only improve by first acknowledging that we currently suck.

The first thing that little MM did upon retiring from formal schooling, is to create this entire 48 minute mini-documentary about the system he just left:


(click that link to get to get the full experience on YouTube itself and see the description, show notes and comments. I’ll include an embedded version below for lazier people

also, a hint for any YouTube creator you want to reward: their algorithm heavily recommends and promotes videos which people watch for longer. So, let it roll and enjoy the epic soundtrack!)

Seeing him work so hard on this production definitely helped ease my fears about whether or not he will grow up to be a contributing member of society. He spent about three months researching the US school system, writing himself a script, composing a 16-track orchestral music score which is timed to the second to align with the appropriate parts of the film, creating 3-D models and animations in Blender to illustrate the main points, running multiple high-end computers overnight, night after night to render the complex scenes in 4K resolution, turning my house into a miniature version of a Pixar animation studio.

Then he practiced up his reading, set up a bright professional recording studio in my basement, recruited me to help build a teleprompter, and narrated his own script into the camera. And finally brought it all back to the editing software to cut it all together, with pretty stunning results from my admittedly biased perspective as his Dad.

But equally important, the danged kid has a point: schools really could be a lot better.

And it could happen very quickly with just one main change as he explains in the documentary: switching from bland and repetitive teacher-led instruction, to extremely high quality videos instead. This would accelerate learning because the video content could be much more compelling than watching a human stand at the front of a room. But it would also free up the teachers to help individual students rather than just using their valuable time to repeat the same material, year after year.

Even better: most of these videos already exist. Through some sort of miracle, my son has chosen to invest the past five years of his free time seeking out astoundingly good YouTube channels, watching most of their back catalogs, and absorbing the contents of almost every episode.

I’m often shocked at his level of knowledge in so many fields, so I sat him down and interviewed him on his top recommendations in some of the key ones.

The list below is what we came up with. I’ve seen a lot of these myself, and I can vouch for their quality. If you’re looking for places to send your own hungry-brained child, or for things to watch together, check out the following list.

Flipping the Classroom:

As a context for all of this, you absolutely must know about Khan Academy first. This is a free video education in all major subjects, that is higher quality than most in-school lessons. Many teachers are already using this system to “flip the classroom”, and my own boy and I used Khan Academy to help him cover second through eighth grade math in only a month. That’s how efficient video learning can be!

Note: because we were so impressed and thankful, I also donated $9000 to Khan academy in 2016. That’s a great cause if you are looking for more places for your own philanthropy dollars.

Watch Sal Khan’s Ted talk here – and notice the special guest who joins him on stage at the end of it.

General Science

  • Vsauce (which has grown to include Vsauce2 and Vsauce3)
  • Physics Girl (fun to watch explorations of a wide range of real-world physics and science things)
  • Thought Emporium (gene editing through both chemical methods and DNA 3-d printers! And art too)
  • Scott Manley (a charming Scottish Astrophysist / Apple engineer with hundreds of great videos on the Kerbal Space Program simulation game, plus now detailed coverage on space and astrophysics)
  • Anton Petrov – daily videos on new discoveries in science (and a fun look at current events from a science perspective too)
  • Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell Short but intelligent summaries of all sorts of neat things, featuring a dynamic British narrator and fun cartoony graphics.
  • Deep Dive – a relatively new but very promising channel with great big-issue science videos. We are hoping they put out more!
  • Stratzenblitz75 Kerbal Space program videos with nice lessons on the science behind them (like orbital mechanics)
  • Wendover Productions – neat explanations of wide-ranging things, (including transportation logistics!)

Inventions and Building Stuff

  • Colin Furze – crazy, energetic, brilliant videos about building things like a home-made hoverbike, two story bicycle, giant mech robot suit.
  • Simone Giertz – a super clever and witty engineer/builder, perhaps most famous for her DIY conversion of a Tesla model 3 into a badass mini pickup truck.
  • Wintergatan – a hauntingly genius, gentle dude in Sweden who works on a beautiful “marble machine” musical instrument and so many other things. Awesome musician too!
  • Mark Rober (a former Nasa engineer who now makes really fun videos about his complicated and whimsical inventions – best known for the “glitter bomb” anti-theft devices)
  • Styropyro (guy who makes crazy powerful lasers, etc.)

Video creation, 3D Animation and Youtubing Strategy

  • Lazy Tutorials (Ian Huber teaches you 3-D animation with Blender at the speed of thought). He also maintains the Default Cube channel.
  • Blender Guru – personable, easy to watch in-depth blender tutorials
  • CG Matter – fast, advanced Blender tutorials
  • CG Geek – longer, more detailed Blender tutorials
  • Captain Disillusion (video editing and special effects – this man puts a lot of work into each of his super-entertaining videos)
  • Daniel Krafft – useful blender tips and tutorials
  • Iridesium – tutorials on how to create movie-quality special effects in Blender

Coding and Artificial Intelligence

  • Two Minute Papers (AI) – super smart guy summarizes academic papers in the Artificial Intelligence field in a really interesting and easy to understand way, with visual examples.
  • Code Bullet (AI) – Software developer incorporates machine learning/AI into his own code and demonstrates the results in a wide variety of contexts.
  • Carykh – AI and building some interesting apps including the famous “size of the universe” interactive
  • Sebastian Lague – The Bob Ross of coding, this young gentleman walks us peacefully through a fun series of iterative improvements on a variety of advanced programming projects.
  • CodeParade – great bits of coding, math, and graphics combined


  • Vi Hart – the original “Mathemusician”, Vi’s soulfully brilliant explanations of math concepts are great for small kids and adults alike.
  • Zach Star – math puzzles and other interesting stuff
  • Numberphile – another fun math channel – sometimes with fun visuals and special guest experts.

History, English, Etc.

  • Tom Scott – Linguistics and various travel and geography stories
  • History of the Earth – the History Brothers cover multimillion year periods of our planet’s history
  • Half as Interesting – light-hearted tidbids of English history and other things


  • Andrew Huang – so clever, so energetic, so talented, and teaches you SO much about music! (his own songs are great too, as are his youtube buddies)
  • Roomie Official – fun to watch, educational, and a ridiculously good and versatile singer.
  • Davie504 – an amazing bass player, and fellow bass enthusiasts might learn a few things too.
  • Adam Neely – fantastic music theory and neat analysis of existing stuff.
  • AU5 – one of my favorite emerging electronic music artists, who also teaches you how to make the stuff in Ableton and related tools

So, What’s Next?

Like everything in life, I view this as an experiment. It might go well, but there will surely be some pitfalls and downsides as well. Neither of us is perfect and we make errors in judgement sometimes. But this feels right and promising right now, so we are running with it. We will learn from our mistakes and develop ourselves along the way, and make the most of it. Which is really a good plan for life itself.

Congratulations my not-so-little MM, I am proud of you and I wish you the best in this next crazy chapter!

  • lmnop April 19, 2021, 8:32 am

    I worked in a public charter school that has incorporated a number of your child’s astute observations. Students developed self-directed projects in order to demonstrate their learning of state-mandated standards, including internships with local businesses, community-based projects and out of school learning opportunities. The school, or rather, the work that students produced, pushed our state’s education department to embrace competency-based learning rather than seat time and Carnegie units. It’s a hell of a lot of work for teachers/coaches and staff turnover was insane. I didn’t last there for long, but the work that some students did was just amazing.

    I can understand your apprehension and I trust that you and your son will find your way. I wanted to offer another resource:
    Looks like there are active programs at Colorado College and CU Boulder which may or may not include high school students. Best wishes to you both!

  • Karl Barks April 19, 2021, 8:54 am

    Counterpoint: Part of life and work is learning to suck it up and pay your dues. It isn’t always fun. I felt this way in high school, college, and in my early career. I was kind of a punk about it. Now, after a couple decades of experience, a lot of those schmucks who were grinding it out are now doing some pretty awesome things. They’re running businesses, they’re entreprenuers, and some are early retired. Sometimes, saying things are too boring or feeling that things are beneath you is a cop out.

    • Christine Keefe April 20, 2021, 8:01 am

      I agree with this. Some of the most motivating and educational experiences in my life were things that taught me what I didn’t want to do with my time if that makes sense. Bad summer jobs, stressful engineering classes taught by crappy professors, bad randomly assigned project groups, bad first engineering job…all of those motivated me to become who I am today. I wouldn’t go back and skip out on those experiences even if I could.

  • Chloe April 19, 2021, 8:58 am

    What an amazing kid and such an exciting journey ahead of him! Once things are back to normal, I would think volunteering and travel, especially abroad to places that are very different culturally, would offer opportunities to broaden perspective and learn some deeper life lessons. I’m excited for you MMM for all the experiences you will get to share with your son in the years ahead. Perhaps little MM needs a new handle name because sounds to me he is initiating into adulthood. An official rite / celebration of this major milestone is called for!

  • Untrendy Finance April 19, 2021, 9:35 am

    Wow, this certainly seems like an interesting idea. After watching the documentary, I can tell that your kid seems very talented and smart! Doesn’t seem like he will have any trouble finding his own path in life. As you said, you can view this as an experiment: if your kid likes it, good, if he doesn’t, he can still go back to school. As long as he takes the necessary high school exams/test, he will always have the option to go to college IF he wants to, so he doesn’t really have anything to lose.

  • Fred Lee April 19, 2021, 9:38 am

    I don’t know how I feel about this. I mean, aside from the obvious fact that I’m in no position to care one way or the other. Not my kid, not my family, etc.. But I have thoughts!

    You often read articles online of someone who is the first person in their immigrant family to graduate from college. The stories are heart-warming, for sure. But they also represent something. A presumption that education is the key to working one’s way out of a cycle of poverty. Of course education is but one component, but it’s an important one.

    Likewise to choose to be the first person in one’s family *not* to graduate college, much less high school, seems an odd, almost dystopian decision. And honestly, I’m not sure a teenager is the right person to make that decision. Perhaps we’ve reached “peak capitalism” where we have so much money, so much luxury, that choosing *not* to be formally educated is a legitimate decision.

    I’d guess that at least half of the readers of your blog are above average (how about those odds!), some very bright. All of those were in a similar position in school. Frustrated by being taught things that seemed useless while simultaneously craving more stimulation. Speaking from personal experience, I feel confident saying that the class from high school that most impacted my future was.. typing. Yep, typing. Moving me from a very fast “hunt and pecker” to a 130WPM typist increased my coding speed considerably!

    But there are other options than dropping out. My sophomore year in high school I started taking classes at the local college. A few semesters of programming classes, 4 semesters of Calculus and Linear Algebra, Philosophy, even Russian. My high school also offered internships with businesses, so I spent a year programming for the national weather service, and another year working with a petroleum engineer at BP. This not only helped scratch my intellectual itch, it also gave me a huge head start on my college degree. I was able to transfer two years worth of credits into college after graduation. I’ve never understood why this path isn’t suggested to more bright students.

    25 years of an engineering career later, it’s easy to look back on those opportunities and wonder where I’d have been without them. I’m sure life would have turned out fine, but probably very differently. I’m hiring for an engineering position right now and, while I’d love to say that I’d consider hiring someone without any formal education if he were smart and talented, the reality is I’ve got hundreds of resumes to review and that person unfortunately wouldn’t make the cut. My loss perhaps, but my point is that self-selecting out of the traditional path will close a lot of doors.

    And it will open some! You’re absolutely right to include references to some well known online personalities who have made great careers in a non-traditional way. I’m a big fan of Simone Giertz, and I have no idea if she ever went to school. But she’s bright and engaging, and that gets one a long way in life! I remember in high school we were asked to name our two heroes. This was 1991 or so. My two were Bill Gates and Stephen Wolfram. Two techys who found success along very different paths. That said, I think Gates’ path is much harder to follow these days, unless one can find an industry truly in its infancy.

    • Christine Keefe April 20, 2021, 8:11 am

      My engineer husband has some employees who are very talented in engineering but who can’t progress because they lack the formal education (and choose not to pursue it even though it wouldn’t cost anything but time). It’s frustrating but it’s reality. Honestly, engineering school sucked. It sucked and it was difficult and it was instrumental in making me who I am because I persevered. I would have a super-hard time hiring someone who was great at the technical aspects but who didn’t put in the work to get the degree. Was it boring? Often. Was it difficult? Often. Did I spend those years wishing I were majoring in something easy? Of course! But ultimately, that piece of paper was necessary. It says “I survived freshman Diff Eqs just like you did”. It puts you into the club of people who sucked it up and spent those 4 years grinding out their ABET requirements so that they could spend the next 60 years living comfortably. I’m all for self-education also, but getting the piece of paper still means something in my opinion.

      We have Dual Enrollment here. You can take up to an Associates degree with the local branch of the state school and up to 6 courses at the private engineering college and the state pays. My 15 year-old will take her first class at the state college this summer (vaccination-dependent, but looking likely).

  • Brad April 19, 2021, 9:47 am

    1. It is every human’s birthright — and responsibility — to learn about the 5,000 years of accumulated knowledge in philosophy, civics, government, language, history, and religion. I get it, he prefers STEM subjects. But he is being done a great disservice by not diving into these topics.

    2. It has been since 2007 that I’ve stepped foot into a public school, however I agree with MMM Jr. My school was run like a prison, with cameras constantly watching us, random searches of personal belongings, no windows in most of the classrooms, police officer patrols in conjunction with hall monitors, and name badges required at all times. Refusal or violation of these rules were grounds for suspension and eventually expulsion.

    (After I left, parents caused an uproar when it was announced name badges would have RFID tags added to them. Narrowly defeated that one.)

    I literally didn’t believe my mom when she said she got off-campus lunches and smoke breaks when she was in school.

    Note: we were a district in a very high-income, low-crime area.

    This assertion that school is beneficial for social skills is naïve at best. Opportunities to socialize were restricted to our 25 minute lunch break — chatting before school or in hallways between classes was quickly broken up by hall monitors and administrators.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 19, 2021, 1:52 pm

      Yikes – Sorry to hear about that jail-school experience, Brad!

  • C.R.E.A.M. April 19, 2021, 10:09 am

    I’ll give you a pass since you are Canadian, but here in America, reverse snow doughnuts are called “Flipping Shitties”. And yes, there are exhilarating when down properly.

  • DLcygnet April 19, 2021, 10:27 am

    There’s honestly nothing to fret about, other than being in the middle of the school year and having to “transition” to home schooling. My sister-in-law and coworker have been homeschooling for years. As long as you have a state approved curriculum, he’ll get a diploma; or you can send him to get his GED just about any time (9th grade isn’t too early to get one!). Believe it or not, some college even have preferential admission for home schooled kids (or at least a quota to fill). Having the ability to say he’s already started and running his own business in a particular field is a huge plus on college admissions – clearly a talented self-starter who will be a credit to the institution. I’m not worried about him; just make sure he checks the important boxes (diploma/GED/some sort of degree?) so he doesn’t hem himself into a corner in the future IF he suddenly changes his mind and wants a steady conventional paycheck. Granted, he has great role models for unconventional earning strategies, but it’s good to have fall-back options.

    • DLcygnet April 19, 2021, 11:33 am

      One other nagging thought: Make sure you’re not just letting him drop out in an effort to be the “cool parent” – I hope you had a chance to talk to your Ex about this. Capitulating to the whims of of a hormonal teenager in order to achieve favorite parent status or make the other parent look bad won’t help any of you in the long run. If it’s well thought out, and all three of you agree (especially when the boy isn’t in the room), then go for it! More power to you!

      • Mr. Money Mustache April 19, 2021, 1:31 pm

        Oh, goodness yes – our coparenting relationship is much more in sync than that. Neither one of us would do anything major without talking it over and agreeing on it. In this family, the kid is an equal decision maker as well so we don’t get to dictate his life for him. Thankfully, his choices are pretty well reasoned (except in his resistance to start a proper weight training program! :-)

  • Bob April 19, 2021, 10:43 am

    I get the feeling that little MMM is not going to be working for anybody and so getting a college degree is not important to him. Listening to the video it seams the young man is quite intelligent and likes to figure out better ways to do things. Entrepreneur I believe and he will probably do something great in the next 5-10 years. And it might be really great, my money is on him.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 19, 2021, 1:50 pm

      You’re right in this department Bob, and I have mixed feelings about that too.

      Due to his fairly advanced music and video work in recent years, he has already received a number of contract work offers, and at this point they are starting to approach adult-level job descriptions. He is flattered, but also so driven that he just wants to keep going even further into creating his own stuff (even though that doesn’t pay much of anything). He’s doubling down and investing/betting on his own future. It’s pretty badass, to be honest.

      At that age, I thought I was the big man for getting a job pumping gas and selling cigarettes to drunk people for $4.15 an hour at the corner gas station. I was a hard worker, which continues to serve me well, but this young guy takes it to a whole different level. I’m watching the whole thing unfold like it’s a crazy movie.

      And as I said in the article, this is underpinned by a very privileged situation: there is a safety net under all of us, where there will never be a shortage of money, no matter what. In my childhood, I felt the opposite – money was always in short supply and I was very driven to earn more of it for myself. Time will tell if the money surplus in our modern life is a good thing, or if it makes us lazy.

  • Cat April 19, 2021, 11:06 am

    I was homeschooled through 8th grade, then attended the local public high school. It was pretty mind-blowing to see how much time was wasted in public schools. I could be done with lessons in a few hours at home, including time to grade my own work. Then school turned into a big long 7:30-4 ordeal where I learned very little in that span of time. It was pretty easy to stay in the top 10% of the class, but I was more amused than frustrated with the silly low-grade learning experience. I remember realizing my peers had been stuck in this system for like a DECADE and that was pretty sad.

    College was better because everyone was more motivated and laser-focused on learning. Still, when I finished my engineering degree I knew I would never go back to formal education unless someone paid me to do it.

    I’m certain everything is going to be just fine for your kid. My siblings were homeschooled, too, as well as some friends. They’re all successful and happy. As for myself, homeschooling was the best part of my childhood and early retirement is my path back towards that way of self-directed living.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 19, 2021, 1:45 pm

      Thanks for the perspective Cat, you sound *exactly* like my son as he explains his thoughts in the documentary.

      Also, it seems like the people in the existing system (students, teachers, and parents) may be experiencing the “fish doesn’t even notice it lives in water” phenomenon. They are so accustomed to the inefficiency that they think of it as normal.

      In reality, every second that is wasted, every student who feels even a moment of boredom, and every single assignment that doesn’t engage every single person who does it, is a small failure. We can’t make the learning experience perfect, of course, but this is the ideal we should constantly strive for: full, fascinated engagement from every single mind, every single day.

      Kids should be fighting their parents to stay up late to do MORE work on their learning projects, in exactly the same way they currently fight to play more video games. Just as my own boy would often stay up until 2am working on this documentary – simply because he was so interested and passionate about doing it – because it is something he cared so much about.

  • francis roe April 19, 2021, 11:12 am

    I agree with some of the points. But learning how to do physics, maths, chemistry problems that may not seem relevant was invaluable in building up the discipline needed to get ahead in the real world. Whatever your kid ends up doing, chances are at some point it is going to involve sitting down in boring meetings or doing boring, repetitive problems that just need to be done. I thought half the stuff in maths, physics, biology wasn’t relevant but it was stuff I needed to get through to get into medical school – and once there the knowledge I had been forced to learn was invaluable

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 19, 2021, 1:40 pm

      For medical school and a few other traditional professions, I totally agree with you: you gotta do the time in order to get the degrees and credentials in order to get the license.

      And my own story was the same: you don’t need an Engineering degree to become a highly paid software developer these days, but the requirement was much more common in the 1990s when I started my career.

      Even more importantly, the degree and the big-company job is what allowed me to tick all the boxes to gain a green card and eventual citizenship here in the US – the single best life decision I have ever made. My son is lucky to have been born here and to inherit dual citizenship, and he may never even know how great that is in comparison to living in other countries. But I’ll try to teach him this frequently, and I enjoy it every day myself.

      • franck April 19, 2021, 2:02 pm

        Incidentally, I dont want to come across as negative – it sounds like your son is doing fine no matter what we do or say anyway!

        I just think the ability to sit down, concentrate and fine the motivation to do 200-300 simultnaous equations, differentiation etc, or to go through numerous past papers to pass an exam (especiailly if you hate the materia and donr enjoy it) is a really valuable skill – even though it doesnt seem like it at the time.

        • Mr. Money Mustache April 19, 2021, 2:16 pm

          Oh, Sweet Baby Jesus, this is where I put my foot down (although with a light hearted wink).

          Pointless equation-solving, derivatives/integrals, proofs and other reams of 18th century shit need to be TAKEN THE FUCK OUT OF ENGINEERING CURRICULUM!! Having gone through that painful courseload, and then an entire multi-million-dollar career, and then moved on to work in a veritable shit-ton of additional fields, I now see how completely irrelevant all of that was.

          Engineering and science nowadays is:
          – understanding the physics and logic at an intuitive level
          – using or creating software to calculate the actual numbers for you

          If you need an equation, you can look it up. I’ve ever needed to hand-solve anything since my last exam in 1997. IT WAS SUCH A WASTE OF TIME!

          • frank April 19, 2021, 2:30 pm

            Apologies – I should have explained it better! I’m referring to GCSE and A-Levels maths and science classes I had to to in the UK. I suppose the point I’m trying to make (albeit not very well) is that learning to sit down, focus on boring, what seems pointless tasks, is actually a valuable skill to have. Having to do 20 odd past papers in chemistry, biology or maths to get the grades needed has actually set me up very well for future life. I note that the clever kids at school (those who were naturally more bright compared to myself) lacked this skill and so often ended up with poorer exam grades.

            At medical school, even the most naturally giften students still had to be able to force feed themselves information on a topic they may not have enjoyed or wanted to learn about. But it was essential they had that skill.

            For instance I have to keep up to date in many fields of medicine as a generalist – the ability to sit down and learn lots of information i might not find very stimulating or interesting is something I need to do to ensure my patients gets the best care they deserve. I should add that there are plenty of fields in medicine I enjoy learning about but I still have to put the work in for those fields I dont.

            I suppose I find the self-discipline I had to learn from doing things at school I didnt want to do or enjoy incredibly valuable for later life – and not just because I was able to sit down and read all of MMM blog posts :-)

  • Melissa The Roamer April 19, 2021, 11:16 am

    I watched the whole video.

    There are definitely props for creating that. That is inspiring.

    I will say as a parent I have found it frustrating to see that in classes teachers are using youtube videos to teach or to fill time.

    It has passed through my head. ” Why am I sending my kids to school if the teacher isn’t even going to teach. I can put on these videos at home. ” This was during regular schooling pre Covid.

    Covid schooling has been a huge challenge for my youngest child (2nd grade). In terms of lack of engagement. The boxes your son pointed out. She is ticking those off. Bored, unengaged. Yet there was a time demand. Finally we had to go to asynchronous. It’s better now but I am struck by the structure and delivery not making sense. It’s been a frustrating experience.

    School could definitely improve. I’m just not sure a higher demand of screen time is the answer.

    • Tim April 19, 2021, 12:05 pm

      Relevant to this comment is the teacher perspective on COVID schooling–also a huge challenge! Particularly if those teachers are required to simultaneously teach to students in-person and those still at home.

      Structure & delivery making sense together is a big challenge in curriculum design. For a class that does make sense and tie together well, that is often the result of massive amount of work done by the teacher and by curriculum development within a school. If the school doesn’t pay teachers to do that work (usually hours granted during summer) it either doesn’t get done or the teacher does it for free.

      COVID schooling–at least where I teach–was more the result of a quick shift to distance learning followed frequently by further shifts in the learning model. Often the professional development days given to the teacher ended up filled with the sort of hour long meetings that should have been e-mails.

  • Mr. NMW April 19, 2021, 11:23 am

    Interesting read, thanks for sharing MMM. I’m on the opposite end of the age spectrum (kids are young, will be entering the school system this Fall) and I wonder about some of the same issues raised in this post. On one hand, it seems our school systems were designed primarily to produce future factory workers, which is increasingly less relevant. On the other hand, there are opportunities made possible through the schools that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to provide. One way I look at it is to remind myself that schools are just one part of the overall education pie. Parents can supplement or augment their kid’s education at home and (hopefully) make learning fun so that their kids go on to become lifetime learners.

  • Bruce April 19, 2021, 11:29 am

    To Little MM: great job!! I completely agree that our current educational system is profoundly dysfunctional and badly in need of fundamental reform. It’s amazing that more people can’t see that obvious truth.

    Throughout high school, I knew that I was spending a tremendous amount of time learning stuff that would be completely irrelevant to my life. It’s now about 45 years later and, looking back on it, I was absolutely right. I spent literally thousands of hours learning boring crap that I’ve never once used. What a complete waste of time.

    So I thought your video was great. But don’t stop there and move on to another subject. You’re really smart and creative — why don’t you try to use that creativity to figure out how to make real change? How can you build a constituency for reform? How can you organize other students into an effective political force? Who else can you recruit into the effort? What concrete steps can you take to start the change process? What about calling for a study that actually documents how irrelevant most high school content is by surveying older people about what, in fact, was useful? Is there an academic who might take that on, or a senator? Or what about advocating for more internships as part of high school, so students can try out different types of work and figure out what they enjoy and are good at (and get out of boring, irrelevant classes in the meantime)? There already is a community of people advocating for change — what are they doing and how can you plug into those efforts?

    Meanwhile, just in case you haven’t run across it, here’s a great video by Sir Ken Robinson, discussing how education destroys creativity. I think you would enjoy it. In fact, it’s the most-watched TED talk ever, in part because it’s as funny as it is insightful. https://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_do_schools_kill_creativity?language=en#t-693635

    Anyway, good luck with everything. And kudos to your father for supporting you!

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 19, 2021, 1:34 pm

      Thanks Bruce, and great points!

      One of the things we are consider together, is creating an actual startup school to use as a model for these proposed changes. We know that would be a huge commitment so it would depend on him being willing to devote many years of his life to it.

      But I do feel it would have a high chance of success, because it would be very effective and thus it would spread like wildfire – demand would be very high and the model would spread if we did our jobs well.

  • Will April 19, 2021, 11:48 am

    Congrats! Your son is building the education I want. I’ll be checking out the links in the post. It’s amazing what focused, self-directed individuals can do. Seeing what this young man has accomplished on his own in such a short time is lighting a fire under my butt and making we wonder why I can’t take the initiative and learn this material too (even though I’m in my 30’s).

    I think a lot of the pushback is that it’s hard to imagine someone succeeding doing something you haven’t seen before. But, I’m seeing and meeting more and more successful young people (older folks too) accomplishing a lot in a short period of time twith focus and the boundless potential of the Internet.

    Best of luck to you both!

  • Kyle April 19, 2021, 11:50 am

  • Chris B April 19, 2021, 11:51 am

    Yes, the world’s information is at our fingertips, available to us as fast as we can drink it. However, YouTube and other social media are notorious sources of misinformation. Social media has killed at least a six-figure number of Americans during the pandemic by promoting the most “viral” content on behalf of profiteering “influencers”. And of course we all have that friend who believes conspiracy theories and cites YouTube links as proof.

    I’m curious about how MM jr. will separate the info from the misinfo when the vast majority of people seem unable? We all think we are critical thinking geniuses, including the people who believe nutty things, and that should be our first warning.

    Seems to me like the need for fact-checkers, gatekeepers, and trustworthy institutions has increased, not decreased. Your thoughts on not raising a gullible person?

    • Joe April 19, 2021, 3:25 pm

      Totally agree! People are trusting what some rando says on twitter or in a youtube video over proper journalists and actual experts with years of studies and experience.
      I’m not a parent but I’m honestly frightened for kids left on their own in social medias and youtube before they have a wide, solid base of knowledge and strong critical thinking – and even then, the filter bubble and “lowest common denominator=more popular=recommended more” are vicious stuff.

      • Mr. Money Mustache April 19, 2021, 4:12 pm

        Interesting questions and a very valid point. There is a veritable shit-ton of misinformation out there (and in fact the previous US president was even known to promote it whenever he felt it benefited his own cause). How do people learn to separate bullshit from accurate sources?

        If you look at all the links I shared in this article, I hope you will find them to be pretty hard-nosed and credible. And I think my son has a very solid bullshit meter – maybe because he was born with a good enough brain to see the big picture intuitively and/or perhaps beause he is growing up in a family of pretty conventional science people. Nobody hates conspiracy theories and woo-woo thinking more than me, and I’m often accused of being more Robot than human because I’d rather get my news by reading a chart of numbers on census.gov than reading a NY Times columnist’s opinionated spin on them :-)

        But it still doesn’t answer the question of how to help with the society-wide problem.

        I really enjoyed the documentary “The Social Dilemma”. They get into this somewhat – one of the main suggestions is changing the algorithms to no longer reward viral contagion in deciding what to promote. I very much agree with this: give the people what they NEED to learn, not what they think they want to watch with their little monkey brain clicky fingers :-)

        It sounds paternalistic, but this is the idea behind journalistic integrity and insisting on fact checking before publishing.

        • Chris B April 20, 2021, 1:10 pm

          The scary part is at the borders of our own knowledge / memory, where we adult mentors become less effective at helping our kids distinguish truth from B.S. If a YouTube video says something wrong about the charge of a muon, or omits the history of Stalin starving Ukraine, or gives a fanboy take on Rousseau, most parents would be unable to correct those inaccuracies or identify the source as unreliable. A group of 500 parents dedicated to factual balance could figure it out, and that would be something like a collection of school boards or university professors. I don’t know if social media algos or unaccountable upvotes replace that role. This is especially concerned in a world where the Russians have an interest in what kids know about Stalin, the Turks are willing to spend millions to shape public opinion about the Armenian genocide, fossil fuel companies quietly fund denial of climate change, and various religions are dedicated to making their competitors look bad.

          Textbooks always had their problems, especially in Texas, but at least the political process was participative, compared to the social media process which is funded by monetary interests.

  • R April 19, 2021, 12:07 pm

    I did this (not by choice so much as health issues) 9 years ago when I dropped out in 2012. If it’s any consolation, I turned out fine. I started freelancing when I was 16, and eventually became a programmer at the age of 20. Entirely self-taught.

    My dad is actually a programmer as well, so despite our differing paths there, we ended up doing the same thing.

    With the alternative high school diploma options available (I took the CHSPE in California), I could still become a doctor today if I wanted to. But, I don’t.

    Hopefully that’s some consolation. :)

  • Tom B April 19, 2021, 12:09 pm

    YouTube and more specialized science video platforms (Nebula/CuriosityStream) are amazing resources. Though easy to become quite one-sided (thanks algorithm), they allow you a lot of freedom in diving into topics as deeply as you want to, deeper than a teacher in a school could ever afford (naturally).

    If you are interested in (component-level) electronics, ElectroBOOM, Mr. Carlson’s Lab, Ben Eater, bigclivedotcom and Andreas Spiess are great channels.
    Cody’s Lab is a universal nerd, mostly chemistry. NileRed is more direct chemistry and closer to what you would expect in a lecture hall.
    Electronics/IT recent history, The 8-Bit Guy and Techmoan.
    General engineering: Real Engineering, Technology Connections, Tech Ingredients, Practical Engineering.
    If you are interested in physics, Up and Atom goes into quite advanced concepts.
    There are also a few classical teaching channels, like Professor Lewin, the Royal Institution and, of course, TED.

    A few distantly Mustachiano-related (or -applicable) channels:
    Wanna learn to DIY-wrench on your car? ChrisFix, Aging Wheels.
    Crafted Workshop shows you how to do stuff, DIY Perks also shows how to be creative with resources.
    If you have not heard enough about why walkable and cycleable cities are awesome, NotJustBikes and BicycleDutch is what you want.

  • Gail April 19, 2021, 12:15 pm

    He is homeschooling, not a dropout. Those are two very different things. He can still go on to college, there are many more options available today including online for accredited universities. Of course, even with these there are some mandatory courses. Most things in life are not 100% tailored to us. I agree traditional brick and mortar school is outdated.

  • Carter Coe April 19, 2021, 12:17 pm

    Does anyone have experience with a child using Synthesis (https://www.synthesis.is/)? My family is considering it.

  • Julie Hendrix April 19, 2021, 12:19 pm

    Ahhhh MMM your life mirrors mine in so many ways! My 16 year old is hanging in public school by a thread. I’ve had to come to terms with the potential of him dropping out, like you have. My husband and I are public school teachers and appreciate constructive criticism. The system is archaic and needs massive reform. Thank you for the timely article.

  • Marc April 19, 2021, 12:22 pm

    Another great one. I do not have children of my own but I really wondering sometimes when I see how friends children waste their time in school. I will forward the article to a few friends with children. They might make good use of the Youtubes that are linked there.
    Cheers from Germany

  • Amy Kosh April 19, 2021, 12:27 pm

    I taught at University and High School levels for over 23 years and also taught 6th graders for several years. What I see is that we have an opportunity to prepare children not for the university but for the universe if we allow them to self-direct and support their inquisitiveness and creativity. Inherently children want to learn, they just don’t want to be told how that learning has to happen.

  • Larry April 19, 2021, 12:30 pm

    The only way to change the system is to defeat the unions and provide full school choice (including vouchers).

    The video system would be a great option for many kids and might become the most popular, but while the unions have their boot on the throat of kids and parents, it simply can’t happen.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 19, 2021, 1:16 pm

      I don’t know much about the issue of unions, but I am thinking that the system will change (or be replaced) regardless of the opinions of any existing stakeholders. Because YouTube and video learning is here RIGHT NOW, and an increasing percentage of jobs/professions are dropping the traditional credential requirements and focusing on hiring people based on their true knowledge and abilities instead.

      And I view this as a great thing. If the existing school system works for some people, GREAT, please keep using it. And if your style of learning happens to be different and you want to do it your own way, GREAT, please do that instead. Let both options fight it out in the marketplace of public acceptance and we will judge them by their results.

      • Larry Queen April 19, 2021, 1:49 pm

        100% agree. I’m enjoying your son’s video.

    • Rural Rothbard April 19, 2021, 6:58 pm

      YES! If the state is going to force everyone to pay for education… fund students, not systems!

    • Lisa April 19, 2021, 8:16 pm

      School choice doesn’t work for us sadly. What happens is the really good schools are grossly overcrowded so they are not eligible for vouchers. The only schools eligible are the crappy ones that are under-enrolled.

  • Debra K Ritchey April 19, 2021, 12:35 pm

    Did I miss the link to MMJr’s video presentation? :) I would love to see it. Sounds like you have an extraordinary child with a bright future. I come from a family of entrepreneurs and risk-takers. Best wishes to him!! PS – I look forward to your emails. Thank you for all that you are doing and not doing!

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 19, 2021, 1:12 pm

      Yes, it does sound like you missed the link. I wonder if there was some issue with the emailed version of this article such that it was not clickable.. anyone else have this problem?

      • Andrew April 19, 2021, 1:24 pm

        Yes..the link to the video does not show up in the emailed version (at least in Gmail).

        Had to go to the blog post here to get to the link.

        • Debra K Ritchey April 19, 2021, 1:35 pm

          Thanks for the confirmation, Andrew!

      • Cora April 19, 2021, 1:28 pm

        Yes, the link to his youtube video didn’t show up in the email for me either. But, I was able to find it on the website.

  • Daria April 19, 2021, 12:35 pm

    With all due respect, I don’t think there’s anything that can substitute a real teacher. Yes, watching videos can be fun and exciting but I highly doubt that YouTube videos can convey more complex information needed to carry out more complex tasks. Besides, interacting with a real teacher and not with a screen of your computer is just nice. It adds something really important to the learning process.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 19, 2021, 1:22 pm

      I’m glad we have both options available to us these days.

      For my own learning style, I feel exactly the opposite of what you described: sitting in a room full of people waiting for a single human to try to explain something to us is PAINFUL and incredibly ineffective. I start to fall asleep and wish I could stand up and go for a walk within the first 15 minutes.

      Watching a video where I can control the speed, or skip it entirely and look through 1000 other videos on the same subject, is much better.

      Of course, if I got to spend one-on-one time with a world expert in my subject of interest and collaborate with them daily to create a real company that addresses real problems in the world, it would be different. But transporting my body and funneling it into a little seat to attend in-person classes just to try to gather some little chunks of knowledge? No thanks!

      • Jack April 19, 2021, 1:49 pm

        Ha, you just reminded me of my university experience. Falling asleep in each class because it was incredibly difficult to pay attention. Had to go read the material myself afterwards, took a fraction of the time to learn.

        It’s difficult for some of us and we learn better in different ways.

      • Tom B April 19, 2021, 2:26 pm

        Interestingly, I find myself agreeing with both of you simultaneously.

        Here is my take:
        Videos are not enough. A teacher is not enough.
        Teachers can be really annoying, because they are usually either too fast for you to follow or exceedingly boring. It’s impossible to keep the whole class engaged, as there will always be a discrepancy between the students’ learning/understanding progress.
        Videos are great because you can decide the pace. But you can’t ask questions, so you may need to spend a lot more time finding the answer to fill in this gap than just raising your hand and interjecting.

        Both have advantages and drawbacks, but neither are sufficient to actually learn things to carry out complex tasks. That is something you just have to *do*. No teacher can teach you how to program a computer or weld a bike frame by telling you in a classroom. Nor will watching a video. You have to write code, or pick up a welder, and let some sparks fly. When you hit the first obstacle, *that* is where you learn how to do things. You can ask someone, do research online, watch videos, or think until you find a way around your problem.

        This is also where the expert teacher can really shine. Not in a classroom full of people under flourescent lighting, but with one or two students, taking the time to work with them closely and giving out practical insight at the hand of the real thing.

        • Moshen April 19, 2021, 2:49 pm

          Most people can’t learn to perform multi-dimensional intellectual tasks without feedback from a teacher or mentor. For more than 20 years, I worked with adults one-on-one who wanted to learn how to do a certain kind of writing. While they may have thought they understood the theory of how to do it, their assignments showed that they didn’t really have the slightest bit of understanding of how actually to do it. I worked with them to close the huge gap between the theory and the practice. You can compare it to the difference between watching videos on how to drive and having someone teach you how to drive. More than 90% of us need the teacher and the feedback.

          That’s my concern with Little MM’s educational plan. Is he open to seeking out mentors and others who will give him feedback? If not, he may be in for trouble.

    • Rebekah April 19, 2021, 2:35 pm

      I agree! A video is a great way to convey information, but much of the real learning happens through discussions, hands-on projects and experiments, and working through problems together. My kids have done the gamut of public school, homeschool, charter school, online school, and homeschool co-op classes. I am super open to all kinds of learning styles, and my 3 kids are all different. But I make sure they all get at least a couple of classes each quarter with a real live teacher (or, I the case of 2020, on Zoom.). Hearing the kids in my son’s Algebra class work through problems with their awesome math teacher reminds me of how valuable this is. The discussions and debates that happen in English and History are irreplaceable. I think we need more face-to-face in this world, not less!

  • Caroline April 19, 2021, 12:47 pm

    Kudos on your smart, self-reliant, wonderful child! He’s tracing his own path and may (I guess probably will) go to college when the time is right, which is infinitely better than going just because it’s expected. I’m surprised you don’t mention Crash Course in your list of resources. Also, if you want to help him develop his creative streak, have a look at Julia Cameron’s amazing The Artist’s Way… (really, do).

  • Moshen April 19, 2021, 12:55 pm

    The opening photo shows little MM reading, but everything after that is videos!

    Surely reading – and reading really hard stuff – is an essential part of education even in the 21st century??

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 19, 2021, 1:11 pm

      Hmmm, good point Moshen!

      I think his point with the documentary, is that video learning is faster and more efficient for most people. Those of us who like reading will continue to do that as well (in fact, I always angrily close any audio/video windows during my online seesions and I also shun podcasts for the most part because I greatly prefer to read stuff). But as virtuous as we feel with our deep comprehension and our fancy flowing sentence structures, we readers and writers are a minority in society. So we can nurture those people, while still making education more effective for everyone else at the same time.

      • Moshen April 19, 2021, 2:42 pm

        Efficiency and speed are not ultimately beneficial. They are means to ends. And particularly when it comes to the humanities – history, literature, philosophy and anything to do with understanding of other human beings – depth is more important than efficiency and speed. I don’t believe those topics can be adequately dealt with through video learning. You have to learn to grapple with ambiguities, with subtleties and with really hard questions, and writing really helps with that as well. Even for people who are going to work in technical careers, those subjects help turn students into adults with a moral compass and sensitivity. As well as good citizens.

        Video provides information. In my view, that is not necessarily educational in the broadest and most important sense of the term.

  • Edith Esquivel April 19, 2021, 1:02 pm

    Dear MMM, I am so glad little MM is thriving… However, let me warn you,his premise has been proven wrong by multiple studies. Virtual learning has it’s uses, but they are limited. Why? Because oftentimes, the objective of education is not knowledge… Knowledge is the pretext to develop skills. For instance, preschool video learning, picture that… Well, this skills that come with real material interaction with people and objects is still important later in life.

    • Edith April 19, 2021, 1:35 pm

      Besides, screen content is often addictive. And screen exposure is not without it’s bad side effects. My three year old is speech delayed due to educational screen exposure. This young generation are guinea pigs for the long term effects of screens. I am already suffering for it. My son will have very limited exposure to screens in the future until he is much older. Screens are like weed… Harmless for brains over 25…

  • Kerry O'Brien April 19, 2021, 1:13 pm

    Reminds me of a book I read in the late 80s. The Day I Became an Autodidact by Kendall Hailey. https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/698417.The_Day_I_Became_an_Autodidact

  • Cat April 19, 2021, 1:27 pm

    I read this with interest because I dropped out of high school at sixteen, due to messed up family circumstances and having to work full time to support myself. I was utterly bored at school and never really fit in with any social group, so it wasn’t a difficult decision. I got a GED the year after I dropped out and was shocked at how easy the exam was. I did go to college ten years later; I earned two degrees and was an exceptional student then because I wanted to be there. But at sixteen, high school didn’t serve me in any way. My family wasn’t thrilled – as the child of ivy-league graduates with advanced degrees and the grandchild of professors, it was always assumed I’d go into academia. But they didn’t judge me as hard as I’d expected.

    In the meantime, what I needed was practical real-world information, and the Internet didn’t exist yet. What do I look for in my first apartment, and how do I not get screwed over by a shitty landlord? What do I say or not say in a job interview? How do I understand my electric bill? What do I claim on my tax forms? What does a realistic budget look like? Do I spend my last $35 on groceries, or going to the doctor about this cough I’ve had for three months? These things are not taught in any traditional schools or programs like scouting, and I don’t see anything like this on your list above. Being your kid, I suspect that a) he’s privileged enough not to need to support himself just yet and b) you have all the financial education covered, but it’s something to think about adding to his list of important educational topics. Theoretically he will venture off on his own at some point and need this kind of information.

    Later, as I watched my own kid unhappily navigate high school, I couldn’t help thinking that we are doing teenagers a terrible disservice by boxing them into this social construct and stamping out young adults who all fit the same mold…except the few who don’t. My son did manage to graduate but was bored to tears and couldn’t wait to get out. He was a bright, curious kid who loved to read as a child, but learned to hate it due to textbooks and being forced to study standardized stuff he wasn’t interested in. There has to be a better way to educate our kids without crushing their brilliant, shiny spirits. There are SO many different kinds of learning, as your son has wisely concluded. How many of us would have been better served (more interested, learning more, growing more, happier) working on a farm for four years, apprenticing an electrician or in broadcast video, caring for elderly, or doing hands-on environmental conservation instead of being cooped up in schools with bells to tell you when to move, sit, or eat? Why are there no alternatives?

  • Roberta April 19, 2021, 1:42 pm

    I have two children that choose to homeschool in earlier grades. Yes, it was their choice, they had to convince me. One because she was dyslexic and our schools couldn’t teach to her learning style (yes dyslexia has a learning style, it is not really a disability just because our cookie cutter teaching approaches don’t work) and the other because the schools wanted to push her into the next grade, possibly jump her two grades, which she did not want to do.

    They both went back to public school by the time high school rolled around, but their 3 years outside the system, we all agree, were invaluable to ensuring a strong skepticism to social/cultural norms and assumptions. It made them stronger advocates for their own educational experience, and engendered a greater respect for truly great teachers who are often fighting against the system themselves to do what is best for the students.

    They are both on successful paths – one planning to do the bachelor/masters/phD path, the other working in a computer repair shop with only her high school degree, a deep interest in the mechanical side of technology and google as her teacher.

    – homeschoolers can go to college without a public/private school degree.
    – many community colleges allow home schoolers to attend their classes, which can help the student get into college by forming an “official” college transcript.
    – doubt everything other people tell you about what is best for your child, especially when your child says otherwise, and/or their advice fits social/cultural norms.

    Following standard ideas about money, education and so many other areas of life allow easier socialization, but every time I step outside the norm I find greater satisfaction, liberty and beauty… and better friends since they too question the world we live in.

    Thanks for sharing your cultural challenges and the success and difficulties they have brought. Great stuff.

  • Cora April 19, 2021, 1:45 pm

    Exciting news for the MMM family!

    Not sure if you’ve delved into the world of “un-schooling” yet (a term for self-directed learning, rather than more traditional “homeschooling”). Young MMM (and other teenage readers) might get a lot out of Not Back to School Camp (https://www.nbtsc.org/) – not sure if it’s happening in-person this year or not, but it’s an amazing gathering of teenagers teaching each other about things they are passionate about. Could be a great place to meet other unschoolers, if you are wondering about the “socialization” aspect.

    The camp was started by Grace Llewellyn, who wrote The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education. Blake Boles, who was one of the camp counselors, has a lot of good resources for self-directed learners too, and has written a few books, including “The Art of Self-Directed Learning” and “Why Are You Still Sending Your Kids to School?”. https://www.blakeboles.com/

    Looking forward to seeing what young-MMM gets up to…

  • Nick Adams April 19, 2021, 1:47 pm

    Just wanted to say congrats on having such a self-motivated kid. Sounds like he’ll do great things and even as a staunch advocate for public school, it’s not for everyone!

    Only other thing I’d add is that he might benefit from adding some philosophy and logic into his video learning. A lot of the STEM stuff has obvious crossover with logic, but some formal study could help out. I also think the critical thinking and moral reasoning skills you develop by studying philosophy are of great benefit to all. Those skills have done wonders for me in both my personal and professional life.

  • Astrid Moise April 19, 2021, 1:50 pm

    Aaaah the joys of parenthood. I would probably have a stroke if my child suggested the same but in the back of my mind I think at least one of my children will come to the same conclusion as your son. I knew it back in the 90’s as well that aside from socialization and the various extracurricular activities school I participated in, school had very little to offer me. I question his premise on video instruction however. One of my kids does not learn well that way and needs more tactile learning and one to one instruction. I satisfy his curiosity with tutors and mentors in subjects that interest him. I know this was my problem with school- my ADD was incompatible with the lecture format. Thank god I was smart enough to be able to take away the main points.
    The thing about parenthood is that it is filled with this fear that you won’t get it right. But it seems most people make it out of childhood somewhat normal and productive. Could we all parent better? Probably, but i think we al do somewhat of a decent job of it. Good luck to you and your son on this crazy journey.

  • Dominic April 19, 2021, 1:50 pm

    Nice! I think he is onto something. I was incredibly bored with high school, never really needed to study until my 3rd year of college. I would love to see some sort of open-source model of high school where students watch channels like the ones you mentioned, discuss the content with a teacher/counselor to verify their understanding of the concepts, and put together a project to tie it together. I think students would learn much more efficiently and would be able to think independently by creating something, rather than memorizing things to pass a test.

  • ijustwantacat April 19, 2021, 1:56 pm

    Former homeschooled kid here, almost 30 now and doing very well in my chosen field. I feel lucky every damn day.

    The not-too-identifiable version: I finished homeschooling around 15, got a full-time job, started my own business on the side, learned so many lessons before my peers, went through higher education without debt, and have pretty much built my life around the advantages that I was fortunate enough to get from my schooling. I’m really, really glad my life path took me this way. It’s been a crazy but fun ride.

    And this was before YouTube and so much online learning material existed… I was writing and snail-mailing tests to another country! (And helping fix their materials more than once.)

    Kids on MMM Jr’s path today will definitely turn out fine, as long as they’re self-motivated and curious to learn. (Which in my experience most kids are, before they go to public school!)

  • Corrin April 19, 2021, 1:56 pm

    Awesome post. My son is a similar age and going through similar frustrations.

    I thought about going the route you did but didn’t have the courage. I feel like the current educational system is in desperate need of an overhaul, but am not convinced my son would do better self-learning. There are some awesome resources available, but they lack structure and I especially worry how he’d pick up skills in interacting with others.

    Anyway I wish him the best of luck. I also hope some people pick up the mantle of modernising the education system. There’s a huge opportunity to do a better job and the benefit that would give society is immense.

  • Luisa April 19, 2021, 2:14 pm

    The straight path is not for everyone. A good friend in Washington state is very bright as is her husband. They home schooled their son with a cousin from the getgo. He tried college but dropped out in the first month as classmates were only interested in partying and he is more serious. So he is “learning” on his own. this means he self studied physics, engineering and audiology and has created very expensive, very high end fidelity headsets that sell to connoisseurs for $000s. Not just the design but he has had to deal with Chinese vendors, freight forwarders, logistics, order fulfillment , reviewers, writing tech papers, etc. Can’t think of a better real world education. An audio company found him and he is now working part time on some of their design needs.

  • Doc April 19, 2021, 2:28 pm

    I really enjoyed this post! I have posted regularly in the comments but I’m doing this anonymously with a new username for reasons that will be clear. Context, I’m a PhD faculty in a top ranked financial planning program. I’m also a CFP, fee-only planner, and quietly FI. I actually make my students read MMM (Just switched the assignment to the notes on quotes podcast).

    I’ve taught large lecture classes (300+) students on the basics of financial planning principles as well as more technical FP classes. I agree with almost all the content here! Especially the idea that great communicators should be leveraged. A typical faculty member at most prestigious universities is tenured based on research- teaching is often a side note. The current incentives in the system actively discourage aspects of efficiency.

    Dave Ramsey (love him or hate him) has done a fantastic job from a production quality level of a teaching the financial planning basics in his FPU Course. The marketing, entertainment, and production value is exquisite (may lack in content). He has also developed a compelling scripted facilitation model that is also extremely impressive. It can be successfully monetized at a sub $150 price point. Another impressive example is the Andy Stanley North Point church model. Even if you hate religion, the ‘excellent communicator’ and facilitation model is a preview of the future. Religious / church models may lead the way (along with Silicon Valley) here due to the different system of revenue generation need. The active facilitation model in both differentiates from a simple youtube video (even though I am personally an avid youtube consumer). Lastly, Masterclass (or something similar) level production value may pave the way for an alternative model of educational access.

    It can be challenging to be an amazing communicator, researcher, classroom/college administrator. In fact, those skillsets often lack overlap or could be better done in a 100% capacity vs. a 33/33/34% Model. I’ve made the argument privately that a single gifted communicator could provide content for all students at a university on a specific subject/class but the concept is fraught with conflict of interest if “I” am not the gifted communicator.

    In faculty meetings, bringing these topics up will put you in a place at odds with the model. I’ve seen colleagues miss out on opportunities because they’ve rocked the boat suggesting a different model than expected. Colleges have done a phenomenal job of marketing. In 2020/2021 there are many students paying $1,000s of dollars for subpar webcam experiences in poorly lit rooms. It could be much better. However, the economics are such that faculty are often paid and ranked on ‘classes taught’ and not students reached or learning outcomes. I get paid twice as much to teach two sections of 100 students vs one section of 200. Scaling to MOC does not scale with the sales pitch of “college experience” for many schools.

    The access to content will change over time and it would not be surprising if other models supersede the content of most colleges (if they haven’t already). College, for the moment, still has a competitive admissions process that has powerful signaling and helps separate job candidates in certain sectors. For other sectors it is almost worthless. This signaling has been shockingly persistent in many fields. In competitive job environments, simply using a school or degree is a lazy/easy way for some employers to cull a large list of candidates.

    Lastly, I really enjoyed high school and college. I had a blast. It was fun, sometimes challenging, taught me enough, and put me in a position to have a lot of choices later in life. I loved the “college” and, to some extent, the “high school” experience. I was sold the ‘experience’ and I took full advantage of it (Think Sports/Relationships/Prom/Fraternities/Clubs/Dorms/Dining Halls/Friends/Alumni Base for 11 year of college)! Elite college will likely continue to pivot away from content and to selling the “experience”. Smaller, less prestigious schools will likely be at risk from low cost, high production content available online.

    Learners can often forgo the college/high school experience if they are clear on where they want to end up. There are many paths that do not require an advanced degree and if someone has the foresight to plan ahead, they can arrive at their destination. Some paths still require traditional school, but many others do not at all! My kids currently love school, so I’ll be curious to see what they think in the next few years as they prepare for post high school life!

  • Tammy Schoch April 19, 2021, 2:46 pm

    I love the video. I agree with him. He’s taking on a mammoth industry. His ideas could be extrapolated to the workplace, the military, government, and even how people are warehoused in the prison and nursing home industries.

    My kids and now my grandkids have done various alternative school methods – homeschool, going to community college instead of high school for free and getting credit for both simultaneously, k12 school at home, totally online public school due to the pandemic. All mixed in with various years in regular boring public school classrooms.

    I like unschooling the best. But it takes an involved parent at home who has escaped the cookie cutter workforce.

    Life is an exercise in avoiding the cookie cutters.

    • LisaC April 20, 2021, 2:19 pm

      There are all manner of teaching/learning methodologies being used in the military: traditional classroom teaching, hands-on technical training, interactive video courses, simulators, group projects, people were getting MBAs in the evening on base, you name it…and that was way back when I was on active duty up until 2010. When I would log in every morning, I could quickly see via color code which trainings were coming up soon, so that I could get to work on them (if they were online) and not be rushed. The military is quite advanced.

  • Curtis Christy April 19, 2021, 2:47 pm

    Trust the 15 year old. As a father of 4 “homeschooled” offspring I can affirm his direction. When our son got bored I asked him if he wanted to build something, and he built a boat. A real boat. They learned the basics and we let them free range on the rest. Results? Socially adapted humans to all types and ages of people – not just their narrow age demographic. One PhD in Microbiology, One RN/BSN, One Landscape Architect, One Human Nutrition/Dietetics major. This is all stuff THEY were interested in.However, I can now agree with the MMM comment on NOT NEEDING TO GO TO COLLEGE. It has become a scam job. This young MAN will out perform his college “educated” peers in remarkable ways. Learn on MAN. You are way ahead. Stay humble, it will not be easy, but humility and genuine learning and thinking will serve you well.

  • Aaron Lerner April 19, 2021, 2:51 pm

    MMM and family,

    POUR GASOLINE ON YOUR SONS FIRE! He sounds pissed off, as well he should be. Challenge him to invent and implement the solution to his (and 56 million other kids) problem.

    That’s all the “education” he needs.

  • WorryPAS April 19, 2021, 2:55 pm

    If it can help ease your worries, I am also a highschool drop out and have an excellent career as a Software Developer. I dropped out 22 years ago when I too came to the realization that I was learning more on the internet than I was in school. Now 40, I can only imagine how kids feel with the internet of today (with youtube etc)…

    Back then I had made the same argument to my father and he was understanding enough to let me quit but he also had his worries. I have no regrets. The only thing I can give as advice is no matter which path a person takes — self-discipline is always going to be a key aspect of a successful life. If you can instill that in him he should be fine! Good luck little MM!

  • Joe April 19, 2021, 2:55 pm

    Your boy makes some good points, but Î think some things should be considered:
    – He apparently got some asshole teachers. That doesn’t mean that they’re all the same, maybe he just got unlucky. I’ve certainly never encountered the kind of treatment he describes in my schools (I don’t live in the US, though).
    – Tech is fine but relying even more on it increases inequality. Not every school can afford computers and video stuff, and not every kid has access to ultra-high-speed internet.
    – Not sure about the US but in my country at least, best of luck if you’re trying to get a job and your resume consists of a list of youtube channels. Sure you can try not to need to have a classic job, but maybe at some point youtube ad revenues and patreon won’t cut it.
    – Something that I feel is very important: there is a crazy amount of youtube content that should be avoided. I’m not even talking about all the vapid, idiotic time-wasters but stuff that’s downright scary like conspiracy theories, anti-science, and things that flie in the face of or logic (I’m saying this as someone who is astonished at the amount of bullshit relatives, friends and colleagues come to me with, which include “9/11 was an inside job!” “we didn’t land on the moon!” “you can get CO2 poisoning from wearing a mask!”). How do you make sure your child avoids this, or at least knows to recognize them for bullshit? Do you vet all he watches?

  • Dave W April 19, 2021, 3:02 pm

    Seth Godin talks about the future of schools being the very best teachers doing video courses available nationally and local teachers helping the students as needed to fill the gaps. I think it makes a lot of sense. Seems your son has stumbled on this idea on his own at a much younger age. Here’s part of Seth’s thinking https://sethgodinwrites.medium.com/stop-stealing-dreams-4116c7dbff7b

    Good luck!

  • meatro April 19, 2021, 3:22 pm

    Man alive, homeschooling is the most logical translation of values and principals of Mustachiansim to schooling… I had never thought of applying these values to a younger person than myself ^^

    I now live in Germany. The education system here is quite different and worth a look if anyone is curious about other national systems that are already in place. It also allows for the Waldorfschule which sounds like Little MM’s thing.

    But: home schooling is illegal in Germany.

    First thought: I bet this is psychologically quite a relief as a parent.
    There is peace of mind knowing that there is only one option, even if imperfect. Having a choice, counterintuitively, can be a cross to bear… there is a TED talk about that aspect of choice with a case study of USA vs. France. Family members on breathing tubes with little chance of survival are decided to be kept on or off life support by other family members vs. the doctors. If you decide yourself, the you tend to feel worse about the outcome for longer, since you made the decision. France won’t let you in the same you can’t write a perscription: you don’t have the formal medical qualification.

    Second thought and a reason to feel good, MMM my man: I bet homeschooling is more efficient in terms of raw learning power for intrinsically motivated people who are given the room and means to learn at home.
    Whether video or smoke signal, you can learn how you learn best. Case by case, I bet that no one system will be best for each individual person in it. And the less you are like what the system expects you to be like, the more likely that is to apply The US system isn’t bad because it allows for people to do their own thing as they see fit. (I would feel better if it wasn’t so crushing on the people that rely on the system to work.)

    PS fav animation was the force field building in the mountain range. Dope.
    PSS hats off to all teachers who do their best in a generally underappreciated line of work.

  • Anon Reader April 19, 2021, 3:41 pm

    This is a good example of a decision you can make when you have a rich dad whose money and connections you can fall back on. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying the kid isn’t motivated and impressive. But how many people saw this video who would never otherwise have in a million years? This is a great example of privilege in action.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 19, 2021, 4:05 pm

      YES, it sure is the strongest example of privilege and I don’t mean to imply otherwise.

      If my son “makes it” because of a following he inherited for me, it won’t be a true form of success. And if he relies on money that we parents have earned, rather than earning his own, that would be even less impressive.

      However, what I CAN say for him already is that he has an outrageously strong work ethic and a very kind heart. This kid will stay up all night to work on something he cares about, and he often does. And he has an absolute commitment to earning his own way throughout his entire adulthood. In fact, he is already starting to do so.

      Which is good, because I personally feel that family estates and inheritances are a bad thing for both the individual and for society. So if we both have our way, he will make his own living, and I will donate 100% of my own wealth to charity or other forms of giving back, by the time I die.

  • Nicole April 19, 2021, 4:06 pm

    Every tween and teenager’s dream these days is to drop of out of school and become a youtuber. Nice job. At least he’ll have a couch to sleep on if need be :)


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