Thursday, August 30, 2007

One of the 37 Reasons

For years, I've quipped that I've had at least 37 reasons for homeschooling my kids and the one you get any given day depends on my mood and the humidity.

But this one's a biggie, described in a heartbreaking diary over at DailyKos today. Teacherken writes a lot of good stuff about education, but this post is particularly poignant, based as it is on what's going on in his own classroom now.

This past Monday my three non-AP classes had their first quiz, on the first chapter of the material in the textbook. It was worth 25 points for 25 answers. It is the same quiz I have given each of the previous two years, since we got a new textbook and began teaching Government in the 10th grade. The first year the scores were perhaps a bit weak, last year a bit weaker, and this year they plummeted. And I have no doubt as to the reason. It is due to No Child Left Behind.

His students are the victims of those political decisions that have made scores on multiple-choice tests on math and language skills more important than learning any content or learning how to learn. And the consequences not only damage those students—they damage our society. How can we function as a society when we create citizens who cannot reason, who do not know the history and basis of that citizenship?

(It's no wonder we're losing teachers, too.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

More Odds & Ends (a new website!)

Just a couple of short notes:

I"ve got a new website now at (my old site--at .com--has got a pointer to the new one). It's prettier and much easier to update and lets me tie all my stuff together. I've got plans for more . . .

Also, at the HomeSchool Association of California conference I spoke at a couple of weeks ago, I was on an unschooling panel with, among others, Sandra Dodd, who runs the Radical Unschooling site (and has a book called Moving a Puddle). At the end of the panel's two hours, we still had a stack of written questions from the audience that we hadn't got to, so Sandra took them home with her and created a webpage to continue the discussion online. If you're interested in seeing how Sandra, Pam Tellew (an unschooling mom), Rebecca Auerbach (a 28-year-old who was unschooled), and I answered those dozen or so leftover questions, go take a look.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Books for Homeschooling Skeptics

As I promised Monday, here's a short list of my favorite books to give to homeschooling skeptics like your parents or in-laws or neighbors or anyone else who's important enough to you that you want them to understand at least a little bit of what you're doing. Even though they are not all explicitly about homeschooling, they all in some fashion answer the question, "Why Homeschooling?"

• David Guterson's Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense is still probably the best book for conventionally minded skeptics, even though it's fifteen years old now, because it assumes that the reader thinks positively of schools and does not assume that homeschooling would be a panacea for every educational problem.

• John Taylor Gatto's Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling covers more of the arguments against school than in favor of homeschooling, but there's lots of good, angry reasoning there. I'm not a huge fan of Gatto's Underground History of American Education, but there's a great little riff on the differences between schools and libraries in the third chapter, "Eyeless in Gaza."

For teens—and anybody worried about a teen or anybody of any age who's interested in learning, Grace Llewellyn's Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education is indispensable. It's the only homeschooling book I know written for teens rather than their parents, but it can get anyone excited about the possibilities of learning.

• That personal autonomy and authority are crucial to learning (or working or anything else we do) is the central point of Edward L. Deci's Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation. It's not a terribly friendly read, written in a relatively formal academic style, but it's a short little book and well worth the trouble.

• I suppose it's possible one of my own books might be useful. If so, The Homeschooling Handbook is more general, while The Unschooling Handbook focuses specifically on—surprise!—unschooling.

• Finally, the perfect explanation of my approach to education and learning can be found throughout my favorite volumes of philosophy, The Complete Calvin and Hobbes. If I had to pick just a couple of strips, those of July 16, 1995 (Book Three, page 408, and December 31, 1995 (Watterson's final strip, Book Three, pages 480-481), capture the spirit.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Loose Conference Ends

A couple of odds and ends from the HSC Conference I spoke at this past weekend in Sacramento:

• In one of my sessions I gave an incorrect title for a book I'm currently reading. It's The Case Against Adolescence: Rediscovering the Adult in Every Teen. I expect I'll have a few things to say about it once I've finished reading it. (For some strange reason, I didn't make much progress on it this weekend. Can't imagine why.)

• In another session, I promised to come up with a list of useful books about homeschooling and learning appropriate for family and friends who are skeptical about homeschooling. It'll take me a couple of days (that whole post-conference fried-brain state impairs cognitive function a bit), but I should have that up later this week.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


It's done!

It took a few weeks longer to finish writing and a few more proofreading runs to get everything right, but Viral Learning: Reflections on the Homeschooling Life is now a book. (Right now it's only available through LULU, but it should show up on Amazon and other booksellers within six to eight weeks.

I'm at the HSC Conference in Sacramento this weekend, so I'm a bit restricted on posting and email through Sunday, but once the conference is over I'll be getting copies ordered and shipped to everybody who completed one of my questionnaires for the book, and updating my website.

Phew! It's nice to have it all done.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


A small call for help on behalf of the energetic Tammy Cardwell (she's been a contributor for most of my books), who's had one of those years--husband had two strokes and a heart attack, and while she was coping with all that implies, her roof caved in on her—literally:

There's an online fundraiser to help her family convert another (small) building on their property into something habitable. Many of Tammy's friends have donated e-products—books and articles—as downloadable incentives for donors. Go take a look—quickly--the fundraiser only runs through this Saturday.