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November 5, 2018
I remember when I graduated from high school, I was very nervous to go to college. When I graduated college, I was very nervous to go to law school. When I graduated from law school, I was very nervous to get a real job as a real lawyer.
And then I met real lawyers around the town I grew up in. They were just normal people, living normal lives. They were a lot like my parents, who were CPAs. Turns out, I probably could have got a job as a sort of lawyer apprentice straight out of high school and by the time I was 25 (which is when I graduated law school) I probably would have been a much more accomplished lawyer than I was upon graduation from law school.
So basically, upon finishing my 20th year of school, I still barely knew enough to get a job that I probably could have done as an 18 year old (assuming a reasonable amount of training and patience for an 18 year old).
I remember how much faster college moved than high school, how it felt like we crammed a whole year’s worth of material into a single quarter. What changed? Why could 18 year olds in high school only move at 25% of the speed of 18 year olds in college?
The lines we draw around a person’s life are kind of arbitrary. And that is the main thing we keep in mind when we think about what we want our kids to get out of homeschooling.
If we didn’t know any better, if there were no rules for when a kid went where and what they did at what age, what would we expect from our kids?
I think we would expect a lot more. 300 years ago, it was very exceptional for someone to learn Calculus. It was exceptional for someone to be literate! And calculus had just been invented. Now anyone can pull up multiple free calculus textbooks on their phone as long as they’re connected to the internet. There are websites like Khan Academy that have a whole curriculum with video lectures and problem sets, for free! Not to mention whatever you could find on Youtube. There are probably literally lectures from Stanford and MIT on Youtube about Calculus. The brightest minds, on your phone, for free.
Since we had kids, it’s amused me how quickly parents try to get their kids started on literacy. We’ve got parents trying to teach 3 month olds letters and numbers. Just for reference, it’s normal for kids to not be able to read until they’re 6 or 7. So we’re talking about teaching them stuff that’s 5-7 years ahead of where they should be. In one sense, that’s fine, you don’t move kids along without showing them lots of stuff that’s ahead of where they’re at intellectually.
But on the other hand, what the hell happens between 3 months an 18 years? Why do we go from trying to teach them the ABC’s before they can see straight to being content with scraping by through Algebra 2 when they’re practically an adult. You might reply, who needs Calculus, to which I would reply, right, but who needs anything we learn in school except for literacy and basic arithmetic?
Most people won’t be engineers, only the engineers need the math beyond arithmetic. Everyone else just needs to be able to write an email that sounds like they speak English as a first language (and sometimes schools barely prepare kids to do that, I’ve seen the job applications to prove it). I know that a lot of kids leave high school barely literate and unable to do basic arithmetic, and that is tragic, but I don’t even have to design a homeschool curriculum to get my kids past that point. Just existing in the same house as me for 18 years will get them past that point. So we’re shooting much, much higher.
Most everything that we’re teaching our kids, we’re teaching them because it’s important to understand the world. It’s important to understand how things are put together and important to have the mental tools to learn new things and to have a complete enough mental framework that it’s easy to add things to that mental framework.
So we’ve decided that we can aim higher than what kids usually accomplish through high school, but how much higher? One problem we run into is that we may not know the material. Kyrsten and I will be most excellent English teachers, but neither of us exactly excelled at math, even though we were both in “advanced” classes in high school.
This is where all of the resources come in. We’ve entered a new age. Even though we had the internet in my house from the time I was 5 or so, it wasn’t useful for much except email, and you had to buy software to learn anything at all. I was too young to haunt the popular message boards of the time. Now the case is pretty much the opposite.
The internet is brimming with the best content that exists. Once again, institutions like Stanford and MIT are putting whole course catalogs online for free. Sometimes you don’t even need to buy the textbook, but even for a few hundred dollars a course, it’s still a bargain compared to anything you could have gotten in the past as a child who didn’t live in the same city as one of these universities. Even if you did live in the same city, being a child is a major hindrance to learning anything at a college.
You know what they say, though, on the internet, no one knows you’re a dog. Or a child. Kids can move through material literally as fast as they can learn it. They can get on to college material as soon as they’re ready, and they can move at the same pace as the college kids, if they’re ready.
And that’s a big if, of course. Our oldest right now is 5. There’s no way of knowing the course that his education will take. Maybe he’ll struggle to meet basic standards. Maybe he’ll fly through Calculus as a 14 year old. Right now we’re pursuing a plan of making learning fun and hoping to understand and appreciate the process of trial and error and frustration that often comes with learning, and as he gets older, we’ll just set him loose on the material, requiring only that he meets basic standards but otherwise allowing him to pursue what he wants.
Right now though, we’re just trying not to put barriers in his way. If he’s way interested in animals, we’ll let him dig as deep as he wants into animals. There’s a lot of science behind zoology and eventually it overlaps with biology which overlaps with chemistry which overlaps with physics which overlaps with, what was it again? CALCULUS! All roads lead to Calculus, and we have a hunch that if we don’t treat any subject as sacred, if we don’t hold anything back for the high achiever to complete before he heads off to college, that we may find out that your average, motivated and attentive 12 year old can learn far more than we give them credit for.
Raising Abundance is mainly a daily personal journal to look back on while we live our unconventional lives with the additional hope of helping others do better and get more out of life.