What to do with teens

I have a teenage son who is 15. Sometimes I despair of him EVER getting an education. He doesn’t know what he wants to do, or study, except play RPG’s for the rest of his life. I’m not sure what this is from….the 4 years he was in public school, or just his temperament. His older sibs were always engrossed in something: the oldest was machine-mad….he would spend his days taking apart and fixing anything with wheels. His sister read practically every book we owned by age 15 (and we owned thousands) and his other older brother was raising saturnid caterpillars and building his own greenhouse during his early teen years. so to have this child, whose idea of a great time is to watch Heroes on TV, walk about the house aimlessly, is very disconcerting. I do feel he needs a basic education, so I insist on SOME schoolwork, like math, science, and the like. And he’s not dumb- he’s very bright. But he has, what seems to me, absolutely NO ambition. He’s good-natured and all. If I give him a job to do, he does it. He cooks dinner once a week, helps shovel snow off the roof, keeps the fire going. But then he does totally asinine things like a 3 or 4 year old in the next breath. I wouldn’t trust him in a car….he’s just not ready for his learner’s permit. (He doesn’t even want one- says it will be too expensive for driver’s ed and car insurance) What he really cares about is ACTING and theater. He is a clown, a comedian. He can do impressions so well, it’s uncanny. He spends hours watching comedians work. Hey, I like to laugh too, but he picks the most inconvenient times to display his routines. I thought, having lived through 3 teenagers and surviving them, that I had a good handle on what teenage boys are like, but this one has thrown me for a loop.


John Gatto has me mad

I am re-reading “Dumbing Us Down” and although I don’t necessarily agree with John’s spiritual views, the stuff in this book rings so true regarding community versus networking. Community respects our need to be part of a family, to be regarded as special because we are part of that community, while networking exists to be efficient and to have each person valued solely for the job or skill or idea they can bring to the table. While the need for networks is obvious, they can’t take the place of communities.  We have evolved into people looking for family in networks and not in communities.

Sick Days

Being sick while homeschooling is so much more sane than having to send kids off to school while they feel lousy, because they can’t miss schoolwork or activities, or whatever. We are all feeling a bit under the weather today, in addition to having had to shovel over 12″ of snow that fell yesterday. So we’re ALL going slow today. It feels so natural to just let your body do what it needs to do to recover. There is lots of reading to be done, drawing, playing with much-loved toys, and even some computer time. I am fortunate that I can work from home, but then, I gave up having a lot of new stuff, a new car, or even new anything to stay at home. My husband is grateful that he can take a nap if he needs one. When you come right down to it, we have all we need…good food that I made, warm clothes thanks to goodwill and yard sales, cars that work, although they sure aren’t pretty, and plenty of heat in the form of wood that my husband and sons cut all summer. What else do we need?

Budget cuts

Here in Maine, the schools are in big financial trouble. The state is supposed to pick up 55% of the district budget (which it never has although this is the law) and this year, after the schools already passed their budgets last July, the state is cutting what they will get in January. Some districts will be getting 30% less than they already budgeted for . The cost to educate per year per student in Maine is over $5,000. 

I think of how much I have spent to educate my own kids. I think I may have spent maybe $3000 over the past 20 years, for 6 kids. The high school requirements are also being eased, so that kids do not have to take a credit each of phys ed, music and foreign language in order to graduate. At this rate, their diploma will be fairly worthless.

When my kids were teens, I promptly enrolled them at USM, which is the local state university. They have an early study program for high-schoolers, which allows them to take a college course for 1/2 price, but get the full credit. Each of my 3 oldest kids ended up with almost a year’s worth of college credit (32) by the time they graduated from homeschool high school, and never had trouble being accepted into college, because hey, they were already doing college level work. I imagine there are good community colleges too, where HS-ers can take advantage of this.

Cool things

One of the most wonderful aspects of homeschooling is that your child can do just about anything that he or she has a passion for. My oldest had his own lawnmower repair shop when he was 8, my second son raised prometheus caterpillars form larvae to grown moths in our backyard on a tree he isolated from the rest of the yard, another child is heavily into robotics and tonight I was showing my daughter, who is 8, how to use an image editing program called Pixelmator. I plan to teach her how to develop her own website. Because, we will have TIME to do those things. She won’t be tired out from a long schoolday and we can go as far as we want with it. Here is an image she altered tonight- it was originally a cello with a bow. I like what she did with it.Meira's cello pattern

Why do I dislike public schooling?

I have been thinking about why I dislike public schooling so much. Is it because of a bad experience in my own schooling? I remember liking art and orchestra, but really not being too excited about the rest of school, although I was a good student. The thing I remember most was the bullying, the cliques (which I was never able to penetrate) and the general felling of being in the grip of powers beyond you….the educational bureaucracy. 

I know a lot of teachers. I am one myself (private music studio). I have nothing against teachers in general, in fact, I remember having several really good ones, who made a huge difference in my life. But there is this element in school, where it’s “us” against “them”….hence the teacher’s lounges where no child is supposed to show his or her face.

When my oldest was 6, we enrolled him in the school 1 block away in kindergarten. He had a wonderful teacher and things were fine. However, in first grade, he was exposed to the self-esteem movement that was currently the rage in public schools. He didn’t see the point of much of what he was asked to do, and refused to do it (he was a mechanical genius). The teacher suggested that he was learning disabled, which was plain dumb. He was perfectly capable of doing very complicated tasks at home- he just didn’t see the point of the busy work at school. So we pulled him out and never looked back. He is a mechanic/welder/machinist, who can build a car from the ground up.

One of my strongest memories is having the teacher punish the whole class for the actions of a few. This seemed just so WRONG and unjust to me. In our society, if a person commits an infraction of a rule or a crime, his whole family or neighborhood doesn’t get punished as well, do they? I saw this when I was a special aide to a newly arrived Chinese immigrant in the local junior high, about 4 years ago. I speak Chinese and he spoke no English, so I accompanied him to his classes for a bout a month. Someone had taken the wrong mold in the art class, a very minor thing, but you would have thought they had stabbed someone, the way the teacher carried on. She tried to get whoever did it to ‘admit’ their guilt (over taking the wrong spray can for a mug mold, for crying out loud!) and when no-one admitted it (would you?) she made every single kid in that class destroy their work for that day, in punishment. I HATE that , I absolutely think it is no better, in spirit, than the Nazi’s selecting 10 men to die because someone was missing in role call (this was the incident told in the life of Maximillian Kolbe, the Catholic saint who offered to die in the place of one of the selected men). Sure the teacher wasn’t going to actually hurt anyone, but she killed something of the spirit of the kids in the class that day. The kids just took it like people in prison who have lost hope and are just biding time until they can get out.

That’s what I hate and everything in me wants to fight it.

Homeschool 101-Real Life

Today’s homeschooling consisted of cleaning my son John’s room. He uses Legos, a LOT of them. They were hiding everywhere, like fleas. We also cleaned up a bunch of hero-clicks, with and without bases. And evil foam beads which were infiltrating into every space. I told him that cleaning was just as much an education as doing math. If you can’t find your pencil or your math book, then you can’t do the work anyway. He thinks we should clean everyday (emphasis on the word, WE). But I like the freedom to just take the day and make our lives a bit more orderly without worrying whether it’s part of some dumb lesson plan or not.

Heroes: John Taylor Gatto

John Taylor Gatto is well known in the homeschooling movement. He was named teacher of the year in 1991, and at that time the Wall Street Journal published an article of his in the Op-Ed section in which he announced he was quitting teaching, claiming that he was no longer willing to hurt children. He has written and spoken extensively about the absurdity of modern public education. 

His website is here:


and a site with videos of him speaking about various topics is here:


One of the most useful videos I viewed had him suggesting that the best way to become a good writer was to just write- anything, anywhere, any amount. I adopted this for my own kids, who are asked to write between 1 and 2 pages a day. I don’t care if they write a story, a rant, a menu or whatever. The way to get good at writing is to keep doing it.

Cheap physical education


shoveling heaven

shoveling heaven

I always wondered why homeschoolers would sign up for so many physical ed-type classes. Maybe I am just lazy, but our kids got plenty of exercise loading wood, helping dad split the wood, shoveling snow and just general working around the yard. Dirt cheap and great for the muscles. The kids in my family are important to the functioning of our family. When they don’t do their part, the rest of us (mainly the adults) suffer, since we have to do more work.