One Dad’s Home-Schooling Philosophy: Work!

Today’s post is a guest post by CaptiousNut whose blog Marginalizing Morons has as its tagline: “An Online Homeschool Curriculum, for Adults!”  I don’t actually remember how I first “met” Cnut but he has been a regular commenter on my posts – which I very much appreciate – AND he has a distinctive perspective on home education.  First of all, he is a home-school dad who actually does most of the home-schooling of his two young children.  In addition, he employs what I would call an “accelerated education” model (which veteran home-schoolers may remember was first popularized by the Swann family in the 80’s and 90’s)  His five-year old son, for example, is already working on algebra!  He has his own home-schooling blog in the works but in the meantime he has numerous home-schooling articles that I would encourage you to check out.  So here it is – one dad’s home-schooling philosophy:

My homeschooling philosophy is simple: work, work, work.

That’s it!

More times than I can count I’ve endured, “Oh, they’re kids….let them enjoy their childhood.”

And to that I’ve always retorted that kids are awake for 14 hours a day and that devoting merely 1-2 hours of that time toward reading, math, writing, art, music, computers, etc. hardly qualifies as child abuse.  They still retain 10 hours of *playtime* each day!  Exactly what fantasy world ought we to prepare them for???

Seriously, that is ALL that we set aside, a mere fraction of each day.  We don’t take weekends, holidays, or the summer off.

While everyone else spends a collective 2 hours a day getting their kids ready for, and to and from, pre-school/school….we are using that same alloted time productively, and at the very cusp of their individual learning curves.

I know well from experience that if my kids, for whatever reason, end up going say 4-5 days away from their workbooks, they put up quite a fight the day *work* resumes.  I’ve learned to see the resultant commotion as a *test*, if you will, for the parents.

That’s one of the reasons why I’m fanatical about them doing at least something – no matter how easy or short – every single day.  When they push back I ask them, “Where’s Mom today?” – “What’s Grandpa doing today?” – “What’s Uncle Vinny doing right now?”

“Work” is the murmured, conditioned response.

The other reason concerns educational momentum.  I do hate to quote studies, but I read somewhere that when given the exact same tests in September that they took in June….students suffer a marked decline in their scores.  That’s why the first quarter(?) or so of each AND EVERY school year is wasted on review.  And I really took note of this phenomena as my son was blowing through the Kumon math books.  Every time he jumped a grade level – say from *3rd grade multiplication* to *4th grade multiplication* – we ended up skipping a solid one quarter of the new workbook.  We didn’t need to review anything because my son’s education was and is continuous.

Remember, summer vacation is an artifact of yore.  And back in the agricultural economy, those kids only paused academics so they could WORK the family farm, harvest and peddle.  They most certainly weren’t putting down their books so they could swim everyday, play video games, go to sports camps, and essentially morph into wastoids for two full months!

Okay.  Not only do my wife and I believe in work, work, work….we also believe in starting very early.  Kids should start tracing their numbers and letters between the ages of 2.5 and 3.5.  And before they can even do this, put them on your lap and have them TYPE their ABCs and 123s out on the computer (in a large font).  Don’t allow the physical burden of handwriting to hold them back!  We set up e-mail accounts for our toddlers and they typed out and sent the alphabet and numerals to their grandmothers and aunts and uncles – then, before long, *at cat hat bat rat* and *it bit sit kit hit*.

Start out at 10 minutes a day and push incrementally longer as they get accustomed to the habit of daily work.  And, as I hinted at above, do call it *work*.  Children invariably like the grown-up idea of having a job to do – if marketed deftly.  Everything in our family has been branded work – from my two-year old referring to her *puzzle work* to Dad asserting he has to go to the driving range for his *golf work*.

None of what I’m describing is daunting at all in terms of time, know-how, or cost.  We used the Kumon books ($6.95 apiece) which start with simple tracing and then progress into letters, numbers, words, arithmetic, time, and money.

A lot of wondrous things are going to happen when a parent dips a toe into homeschooling waters.  I submit, first and foremost, they will see a marked behavioral change in children who learn not only the rudiments of literacy and numeracy, but who also learn how to SIT DOWN and CONCENTRATE.

Other revelations could very well include: genuine enjoyment from teaching their own child, confidence that they actually CAN teach…and ultimately the startling realization that the kindergarten curriculum is an insult to their child’s capabilities.

Think about it.  My approach is really an investment of the no-risk/all-reward category.  Arbitrageurs on Wall Street (where my wife and I have spent our careers) devote every minute of their grind looking for these; and when discovered, they are trained to place these bets as often and as large as possible.

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  • Taylor Conant


    Great first guest post. What are the most common excuses you have heard from other parents when asked why they are engaging in child-abuse-via-neglect by not making an effort to teach their children as much as possible at home like you do?

  • I don’t usually confront other parents and demand to know why they don’t do ANYTHING educational with their children. After all, I’m unpopular enough!

    Though, once in a while, others broach the subject themselves. “I can’t teach my kid…they’d never listen.” is one of the more popular excuses.

    Rarely do they say, “Actually I’m kind of lazy” or “I’d rather government experts raise and educate my flesh and blood.”

    • Anonymous

      I was just thinking about this today in reference to a future blog post…I doubt that many parents will admit, even to themselves, the real reason they choose not to homeschool their kids.

  • I really liked this post. I’m considering homeschooling my daughter when the time comes and this approach makes a lot of sense! Even as an adult with a few days off of work you don’t want to go back. Keeping up the momentum every single day seems to make so much sense, but funny how I never thought of it before.

    • Anonymous

      When CaptiousNut gets his own home-school blog going I’ll let you know! Meanwhile, he’s got some great stuff (lots of stuff!) about home-schooling on his website.

  • Matt5verse6

    I absolutely love homeschooling my children. Albeit they do not enjoy some of the “book work” but they love when we read together, play learning games together while riding in the car, checking out museums, zoos, aquariums, etc. Like the Plains Indians who used every part of the buffalo for various things (i.e. food, clothing, shelter, tools, weapons, etc.) I encourage my kiddos to use the majority of the day learning instead of say…watching television. Now I’m not saying I do not allow them to play. It is incorrect. Yes, they also play but I interact with them regularly and take advantage of numerous teaching opportunities that naturally arise throughout the day…every day.

    Thanks for your post.

    Kindest regards,

    • Anonymous

      One thing I read a long time ago is that kid’s play is their work. There is so much going on in their brains that we don’t understand and if they are spending time creating, whether with toys, on a computer, or with scissors and tape (my 8-year old could keep the Scotch tape company in business all on his own – he is constantly creating things using tape!) then I believe that they ARE “working.”

  • Dave Fowler

    I blame the school run for wasting a great deal of my day not just the chance to educate the kids. As you suggest, it’s not just the time on the road, it’s the time spent preparing to get out of the door and the time it takes to put everything away after returning. I drive there and back twice a day minimum, sometimes 3 times, and once in a while 4 times depending on the schedule.

    • Anonymous


      That is one of the many things I love about home-schooling. We live our lives according to OUR schedule. People think it’s so hard to home-school but I wouldn’t trade it for that “have to hurry and get out of the house” lifestyle, for anything!

      BTW, thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • I liked this post a lot. I like expecting a lot of kids, while keeping a sense of humor about it.

    • Anonymous

      One thing that I fervently believe, and have made an integral part of my parenting style, is that our kids will generally live up to our expectations of them. Society has taught parents to expect very little good, and mostly a lot of anti-social harmful behavior, out of their kids. And that’s just what they get!

      • Wastoid teenagers are indeed considered *normal* in our society. How tragic!

        For millennia teenagers fought in wars, tilled fields, and started families…