Home School Update

A co-worker of mine recently told me that her dad, in his eighties, still parries attacks when people find out he and his wife had 14 biological children. For crying out loud, leave the man alone!

That said, my first comment is that I have collected positive proof that homeschooling is counter-culture. Ergo, if you’re not strong, don’t do it.

In my case, it’s necessary because the boy, my 9 year old step-son, has essentially never been taught. I won’t list the things that he doesn’t know, but I will give you the punch-line. He has never, not once, been taught to think. When I first met him, I was fooled into thinking his laugh was genuine and displayed some amount of discernment. Since he moved in, I have come to the opposite conclusion. His laugh is only, and sadly, a defense mechanism. Somehow “pity” was the overwhelming view taken by the adults in his life. It’s a shame. At 9, he operates at a level that is usually reserved for infants. Consequently, and among afore-posted reasons, I won’t send him into the public school forum with the rest of your kids just so that he can come out “feeling” like he’s really doing it (living as a free man).

Regarding homeschooling, then, here’s a succinct “A day in the life.” (And if you earnestly want any info on the curriculum I use etc., then please email me. I didn’t invent the wheel here.)

After breakfast he does one lesson of Saxon Math, by himself. Well, almost by himself. He is the most undisciplined little fella I’ve ever come across, so I sit and time him on his “math facts” which is always part of Saxon’s “Warm-up”. Then, I stay with him a bit longer because he was missing the “patterns” or “problem solving” Warm-up word problem every day. It’s fascinating to daily observe his inability to recognize a pattern.

Despite never answering one correctly on the first try, every day–every day–he asserts that the word problem is simple. Then he totally misses the entire point of it. My function is merely as a broken record which sings, “Read it again,” until he begins to see that words mean what they mean, and not what he wants them to mean. Every. Single. Day.

Then he moves on to the lesson.

That’s math.

Whether he spends all day or only the one hour I expect it to take, he has to complete the lesson. And he does. Then he shows me the work, and I tell him he can go get the solution book and grade his work, fixing any errant answers along the way.

Next, the goal is for him to write a one-page essay, which I subsequently would edit for spelling/grammar. His English isn’t quite up to this task yet, so I have him copy two-pages worth of material out of something that I think is interesting or something he asked about or displayed uncommon ignorance about the day before. As you’ll see below, this is going well, and I’m planning to set him free this summer.

Lastly, he “free reads” for either the remainder of the five hour block which began that morning, or a minimum of two hours. In other words, if he drags his feet all day on math and writing, he still has two hours of reading. I have a “library” and he can read anything out of the library (as many times as he wants) , or his Bible, for the allotted time.

Because he is so behind, I also have him do one block game/activity thing every day, too. (Equilibrio.) I intended this to be a more-than-literal building block activity which slowly worked him up to the more mentally challenging and age-appropriate Architecto, but as fate would have it, this kindergarten level game has proven to reveal (and remedy) the boy’s terribly low self-esteem. In about 20 days we have gone from 1. A 9 year old throwing blocks across the table, 2. Crying, and 3. Responding to my inquiry, “Who, exactly, is preventing the successful completion of the task?” with, “The devil!” all the way to One Million: “Hey, Mr. Pete! Here’s tomorrow’s. Look. It’s easy. All you have to do is…” as he accurately describes a winning strategy.


Now for one humorous, self-effacing anecdote. The other day, A- told me about the time where he and H- and all of us where at an outlet mall and he saw a sign for “chocolate juice.”

I responded, “A-. They don’t make chocolate juice. It probably was for some kind of shake or something. What do you think? There is some kind of chocolate fruit? Like an orange? Which they squeeze juice out of?” (Wait for it.) I continued, “You know what? That’d be a good thing to look up in The Book of Knowledge today.” (This is in my Library. It is from the 50s, but it is a Children’s Encyclopedia that is absolutely wonderful for a child.)

A- opted out of the idea, more out of defiance than anything, and so days went by before he finally asked if he can write some of the entry on chocolate for his daily writing.

I agreed.

Next, I had him read what he wrote, both to highlight his copying prowess/weakness and to practice reading aloud. Together we heard the opening sentence, “Coffee is not the only one of our favorite beverages that comes from the warm tropical lands: cocoa, or chocolate, is another, and it was given to the Old World by the New.”

That was so odd to me that I essentially ignored it.

But I couldn’t ignore the words of one paragraph later which read, “Chocolate soon became a favorite drink in Europe…”

Please take a moment to really hear A-‘s relentless laughter. As if I didn’t have feelings!

If you listened closely, though, you could hear growth. And if you listened even closer, you could hear a fire being ignited.

You see, “Mr. Pete” was categorically shamed by his own method. And yet, A- has to admit into his reality (or his “felt experience” for those of you #trending) that the shamed “Mr. Pete” lives to fight another day. Previously, A- seems to have thought failure was forever and to be avoided at all costs–even if it meant abstaining. Now he is aware of something else. And this makes him a bit uncomfortable, a bit wobbly, and, most important, a bit curious.

In short, I couldn’t be more pleased with home school.



  1. noelleg44

    Home schooling is a tough, tough job, especially if you’re starting after more than a few years of public school. But I saw some marvelous products of home schooling when I was interviewing students for medical school.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. dolphinwrite

    I think you’re doing great. I had taught in public school for over two decades, but also worked in other venues, summer camps having a big influence on how I saw teaching.
    Having never met your child, I have some ideas how I would approach. But as I share, I am interested in how your teaching progresses over the weeks.
    First, I don’t see teaching the same as most. In fact, when people used to ask what I did for a living, I would say I work with a bunch of kids, helping them learn and getting them to think for themselves. Oh, they would say, you’re a teacher. Well, I would respond, that’s what they call me.
    Regarding reading, I would find an older reading text with basic questions, but include other books, articles, and things of interest. Sometimes, as with you, I would encourage reading for “fun.” Sometimes, just reading is so much better. Why do we always need to ask questions? My reading skills were always a couple grades or more higher than the grade level, my sister better, but I usually got C’s and D’s in grammar school, mostly because I wasn’t interested and easily distracted. But I read comics, children’s dictionaries at home, the back of cereal boxes, even the paper. My own interest created the learning. But, as a teacher, I would still create questions for them to answer. Like, what did you learn in the story, who were the main characters, what main event happened, and what did you like about the story. The answers given would open my understanding to other questions, for in our discussions, I would see where to go with instructions (You can also look up the standards online.).
    With writing, I would teach the various sentence structures, easier ones earlier on. I would teach paragraphing, but never as being three or four sentences, for that’s not what a paragraph is. A paragraph is all the sentences/ideas that belong to each other. And quotations are paragraphs unto themselves. This can be taught through the books the kids are reading. See how the author does this? And along the way, you’ll find better ways. But in their writing, I would teach comparison/contrast, pros and cons, and argumentative essays. With story writing, I would teach characters and settings, not to mention plots which are the main problems, needing solutions.
    You’re going through a process, and I encourage you to trust your instincts. Over time, you’ll understand your child better and you’re child will understand you better. And through discussions and talks, various projects like stories, plays, city building (create buildings, streets, signs, and more), art projects, and more, even commercials and songs, ideas will grow and grow. Even creating your own board games which encourages an understanding of rules and steps. This all takes time, but with each succeeding year, you’ll develop something most children don’t have today. And you can bring in other kids with their parents to socialize, going to zoos and other places. Discussing what we see there.
    Science projects like bottle rockets with safer products, history done as plays, documentaries with discussions, letter writing, resume writing with pretend interviews, product creation with commercials, and more. The list is endless. And all along, some with text (math, science, history), some outside the box, your kid will learn amazingly well. Always like to make things with rulers and stuff. The proof will be each succeeding year on upwards to adulthood. And when you see your child, as a young adult, having educational conversations with peers, you’ll be amazed how much has been learned.
    But I think you’re on the way. You’ll never know how it happens, but then, learning done right is an adventure.

    Liked by 2 people

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