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Homeschooling, A Free Luxury Education

Cheaper By the Dozen is the true story of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, efficiency experts, and their 12 kids.
I've always wanted 24 kids because I wanted double the fun of Cheaper By the Dozen and other books like it, and because my mom's family had 9 and I didn't come across another more lively fun-loving family until 15 years later. My heart would start beating unbearably fast as we got within the last few miles of Gramma's house. I can be forgiven for thinking BIG FAMILIES = TONS OF FUN.

Other reasons I acquired along the way:

Because TV's and SUV's break down, but children are forever.

Even if I was going to be selfish, I would still rather have more kids than a new TV because children are far more sensible than Social Security for taking care of you in your old age. Do you want to raise adults or a subsistence check? I know people who can barely survive on their Social Security. Nobody but family and church is going to really care about you when you get old.

Yes, children can go bad and raise cain. But I'm still interested in growing a family of the best adults I can, not just following a cookie-cutter mold of work and sending my kids off to school because that's the way everyone does it and wondering what else there is to life.

Whenever I think of having 24 kids (which I would be just as happy to adopt), it was mainly the thought of giving them what I had always wanted as a child, freedom to hole up and read a book with nobody finding me, or running through fields and orchards, freedom not to be Ferris Bueller who doesn't know what to do with a day off, like change the world.

Whatever kids I do give birth to, though, I want to give birth to each in a different country. For purely practical reasons, mind you. So that each child has a second passport. Do you know how much it costs to get a second passport? Next to impossible. I could give each child this incredible gift and have a whole family full of free second passports, just by timing my trips. Wealthy (or just smart) Chinese do it all the time. They fly to the U.S. or Canada as close as possible to time to give birth. And to me, even if you were dirt poor, it still seems the best investment you could make for the price of a plane ticket and living as a tourist for a few months.

Because when I spare a moment from teaching all my Bible classes, I realize how fragile my freedom is with a passport that has to be renewed every 10 years, and I wonder if the government will ever make that renewal conditional on not saying controversial things, etc. If it's a government for the people, by the people, of the people, it seems to me the surest way of keeping it that way would be if everyone had second passports. Bureaucracy only gives you a good deal if there's competition and it's not a monopoly.

What would freak me out is if I had to renew my passport every 2 or 3 years. As my Dad once told me, my grandfather lived and traveled in a world without passports.

I want to have 24 kids, so that I will have truly taught 24 people.

I've taught Bible for years and years, and sometimes I feel everyone I've ever taught just blows in and out of my life. I know my contact with people is just one link in a support chain that God is sending them. I don't really worry about what they'll do with what I give them. That's between them and God, if I've spoken clearly, and kindly enough.

But it came to me recently that raising a large family (as "limited" as I used to think that was compared with a classroom of kids) is still the surest and fastest way to influence the most lives, because no matter how much you try to give the kids you teach, they're still out of your classroom in an hour.

On the other hand, fathers and mothers are often hero-worshipped by their kids when they're young and they have an awesome window of opportunity to teach and be imitated by their children. Instead this window goes unused by parents who drop their children off in pre-school and beyond, instead of giving them a one-to-one teacher-student ratio by doing it themselves at home. Many parents would love to teach their kids but have never watched anybody doing it differently than what they grew up thinking was "normal". They have no idea of the scope and ease of options available to them.

I know people who think you have to have tons of textbooks and, oh dear, how to choose and pay for them?

A Free Luxury Education

Even if you did nothing but snuggle with them every night and read them a book with popcorn, did you know you can just about go through all of history by reading heart-pounding biographies? Forget memorizing dates. You hear the name of a country and not only do you know where it is, you get goose-bumps thinking of all the forgotten people's lives that happened in that place. Approach it from that end, and it will be impossible NOT to remember the dates or at least the sequence of lives down through history.

You can teach literature that way, too. As you read your way down through history and popcorn every night, just pop the classics in at the appropriate chronological spots.

Science will come up naturally in the course of reading about all those inventors, astronomers, and their exciting lives as they struggled with their theories.

(For math, I'd stick to real life math problems like Ray's Arithmetics, though I was personally brought up on Saxon Math. In another book review below I excerpt Sudbury Valley's amazing story of normal students who regularly go through 6 years of math in 20 weeks.)

So there's your vocabulary, reading, spelling, literature, geography, science, and history in one snuggle session, not to mention life-long fuzzy feelings associated with education, hanging out with your family, and all that popcorn.

Even if they didn't read until they were twelve, I or a sibling would still have read them through all those books. But nobody can be exposed to exciting story after exciting story and not find a way to read the book Mommy put down.

Writing, typing, spelling, logic, communication, and persuasion will come as you help them learn to design their own websites, and watch them respond to comments.

Then, in the daytime you can go CAMPING or PLAY OUTSIDE (or take the subway to somewhere you can play outside) or design websites, or all of the above. NO MORE PUBLIC SCHOOL. It was all popcorn and snuggling at night.

In fact, this system is only too conducive to any traveling or adventures you want to do with with your children. If you've all gone somewhere to hike or play, adding a snuggle session in the afternoon is as simple as buying ice cream for everybody and digging out the book you all happen to be reading through. Add conversation or discussion as you wish. Quiz them on the vocabulary or spelling on the way home.

(And it wouldn't cost anything if you got all your books from the library. Talk about a free luxury education.)

But alas, usually children go to public school, and in Taiwan they go to cram class till bedtime, and have too much homework to snuggle and read at night, or design websites, or go play, or learn to cook mouthwatering meals to take to the poor.

I know one girl who studies into the morning to get scholarships to alleviate the family finances. And "gifted" students? They live for the score. Their giftedness is defined by having more "points" than the others in the group, which they got through having the sheer willpower to memorize dates as numbers for a test, not from knowing the stories like members of their family, not from having worlds of people in their heads, not from getting goosebumps when they hear the name of a country or a person, not from having a website that is read by thousands of people every day, not from having their own business and being able to feel financially free.

When these students get a free moment, their pummeled brains veg out in front of the TV, or they hope to wheedle time to play computer games. I read an article once that suggested children love video games because sometimes it's the only part of their life where they can enjoy control over something. Why not give them a life of controlling their own education? Get them started early making decisions and creating their own life. Or they'll just listen to the boss like they listened to the teacher, sleepwalking through jobs and life.

A child who learns by didactic methods knows a little, but most of what he knows is that if he remembers the right answer long enough to write it down, he will get a good grade and no one will punish him, and then he can go about his life.

-- From "Be Still My Soul" blog. Read the rest of the article here.

One snuggle session a day was my minimalist version of a free luxury education.

Personally, (besides taking all the time necessary to let them have fun putting together a one-dish meal that would feed us for the rest of the day) I would add Bible memorization via song.

Children can memorize and sing long before they can read and write. Think of a song you can't forget. Did you learn it by painfully memorizing it? Probably not.

So it is not inconceivable for the robust brain of a preschooler who's just taught himself to walk and talk (I mean try preventing a preschooler from learning to talk and walk in the normal course of life), it is not inconceivable for that preschooler to have most of the Bible memorized in song by the time they are three, certainly by five or seven. You would be giving your children a Bible in their heads, hundreds of memorized songs, a college vocabulary and a whole moral code on call by the of age five ... imagine the conversations they would be having.

Think of the difference this would make in our culture. Look at how a few ideas by Washington and Jefferson changed the world.

Memorizing the Bible doesn't mean they're going to act on it. But they have to have it on snap recall before they can respond automatically with it. At least it wouldn't be because they forgot it, and it would always be there for when they matured to different stages in their life where they could act on it; the appropriate verses would always be popping into their heads and giving them a chance to do the right thing.

The rest of childhood could be spent discussing the meaning and application of what they've memorized; and to make sure they don't lose their memory work, they can re-memorize the songs in successive languages until they're all grown up. A painless way to compare the grammar structures as it is only too easy to get the alternative-language Bible verses off the web and plug them into the original English song.

Here in Taiwan think how many parents send their children off to cram school to learn English with songs like "Hi, how are you, I'm fine ..." (which is a good song, but I mean in comparison with knowing the whole Bible by age 5, and in other languages by age 12).

I heard somewhere that the brain goes 90% unused. Also, brain trauma that damages your memory and speech, sometimes doesn't touch what you memorized in song.

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)

當 用 各 樣的 智 慧 、 把 基 督 的 道 理 、 豐 豐 富 富 的 存 在 心 裡 、 〔 或 作 當 把 基 督 的 道 理 豐 豐 富 富 的存 在 心 裡 以 各 樣 的 智 慧 〕 用 詩 章 、 頌 詞 、 靈 歌 、 彼 此 教 導 、 互 相 勸 戒 心 被 恩 感 歌 頌  神 。 (歌 羅 西 3:16)

Maybe God wanted us to have the Bible in our heads, so the Catholic church or the government could never take it away from us, a stroke could not erase it, and we could sing it all at the drop of a hat.

Yet, perhaps you feel children need more than a college vocabulary and morals to succeed in life. Fine, read them the biographies (true exciting stories, not dry history textbooks) of every single person who did anything down through history, and branch off from there. You'll get all your science as you follow each inventor through the struggles of his or her life. You'll get all your geography and social studies as you have the location and culture of every hero burned into your brain. Heroes or everyman, they all walked the edge between right and wrong, between standing up and giving in; to remember them is to honor their successes and avoid their mistakes.

You could probably line up at least 500 exciting true stories covering all of history, but if you're going to school you'll have no time to read them.

You'll have no time to read at least another 100 beloved classics (not to mention a nonexistent family life) as you stay up till midnight trying to memorize generic textbooks so you can beat the other students into a "better" high school where you can memorize more things in textbooks.

With my own family, in addition to the Bible memorization, I would probably try to get in 2 or 3 snuggle sessions per day during snack breaks between play, because I want to give them ample time to get through all those books before they're 12. After that, I'll be happy to let them take as many university correspondence courses for credit as they wish, so that by 16 they can go off to Bible school, and at least it won't be their academics keeping them from a foreign adventure, their own business, or the love of their life.

When you look at us, it's amazing how late we marry. I got married a few months ago. I was 22, and my husband was 27. 27 is considered a young age for a man to marry these days, even in certain Orthodox Jewish communities. Yet these same men are also told to never touch a woman with their little finger prior to marriage. The result? They suppress their natural and normal sexual desires not for a few years, but for 10, for 15 years. Does anyone really think it's healthy?

-- from "Domestic Felicity" blog. Read the rest of the article here.

.... Because the fact is we are telling young adults that sex is for marriage only - while at the same time telling them they are not ready for marriage...and encouraging them to postpone it for as long as possible. The encouragement to postpone marriage is a lot stronger in our society than the push for abstinence.

In the 50s, the abortion rate was lower by FAR. But teenagers were still having sex, and babies. And they weren't using more condoms, either. They were MARRIED teenagers. And their divorce rate wasn't any higher than ours. In fact, it was lower!

.... So when IS someone "ready for sex" and for marriage? When they finish high school? No, because they need to finish college first. When they finish college? No, because they need to be settled in their career first. When they get a job? No, because they need to save up for a house first. And don't forget finding their exact perfect soulmate, "finding themselves" enjoying their taste of "freedom", etc.

.... The purely intellectual concept that it is better to start a family when you are well off, educated, and settled, is no match for the biological mapping of our bodies. The desire for love and affection and sex and family is written on our very souls. We simply can't wait forever.

-- From "Be Still My Soul" blog. Read the rest of the article here.

....We tell them it's OK to date, but not in order to find a marital partner. Just to "make friends" and experience other people's personalities and have fun. We tell them to suppress nature, avoid love, avoid physical closeness, focus on their careers and on money, while at the same time yanking the rug of family closeness out from under them and expecting them to enjoy their single years - absolutely alone. We have no backup plan for love. Love isn't a factor in our ideology at all. We naively assume that dating won't lead to emotional closeness, and that this closeness won't lead to physical intimacy, and that this intimacy won't lead to children.

-- From "Be Still My Soul" blog. Read the rest of the article here.

.... Birth control isn't the answer, because it creates the illusion that there is such a thing as "safe sex". In reality, sex is rarely safe. Feelings are involved, diseases are passed, lives are changed forever. We act as though a pregnancy cannot occur this way, which is a lie. And when it does, it's an accident, a horrible mistake that just wasn't supposed to happen.

Abstinence isn't the answer either, because it fails to address basic human needs. It denies and tries to thwart nature, tries to postpone it for longer than is reasonable (or at least, reasonable for all but a measly 10% of the population - obviously this is not good enough!).

So what do I think is the answer? The only thing that has ever been proven to actually work in real life. Young marriage.

.... I am not saying encourage young marriage, necessarily, and I'm definitely not saying push for it. I'm saying PREPARE your children for it, so they have that option. Give them the opportunity to understand how to be a husband or wife, to manage a house, to be a partner, to care for children... Give them a sense of confidence in their own capabilities, that they can deal with it.-- From "Be Still My Soul" blog. Read the rest of the article here.

To ask my sons and daughters to wait to get romantically involved until they've finished their academics at 16 or 18 is much more reasonable than asking them to wait till they're 24 or 26 or more like here in Taiwan (4 years of college and 2 years of mandatory military service after that) and how many broken relationships by then? Because no matter what you know is right, you are going to get crushes right and left from high school on.

(If they want not just the degrees, which they can get through distance learning, but the whole live-at-college experience, they're welcome to go when they're 20. But it won't be because they have to, and they'll be that much further along to knowing what they really want to study if they go.)

In summary:

From birth:

  • Bible memorized via song
  • a second passport (if at all possible)

After 5:

  • biographies and classics
  • languages (the Bible memorized by song in more languages)
  • gardening and cooking (the ability to raise their own food and cook mouth-watering meals)
  • write their own stories, create their own websites, give speeches

After 12:

  • university courses/degrees by correspondence

After 16:

  • Bible school, off to see the world, start their own business, fall in love
And through it all, tons of time to play, stare at the sky and dream.

Would I give this up for a job that maybe I don't even like, while my kids grew up in a different world from me, bonding with another crowd in an us-versus-them, students-versus-teachers, children-versus-adults artificial construct, sending them to college to play a while longer, maybe drinking or on drugs, with no vision of what difference they want their life to make in this world?

I don't want to resent my kids for my job, nor not know what to do with them on vacations, looking forward to them going back to school so I can get back to my "real" life.

If you do want to stay home, so as to get in all those snuggle sessions, stories, and adventures with your kids, while at the same time setting them free to pursue their dreams, while at the same time pursuing whatever dreams of yours are not represented by slaving at an office, well just so you know, the Bible completely backs you up in this, it's not like you have to feel guilty about not going to work for the feminist pseudo-dream ...

... encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (Titus 2:4, NASB)

I think the verse said "being subject to your own husbands" partly as opposed to being subject to someone else's husband as your boss at work.

(I think it's a common concept that whoever you spend the most time with, you fall in love with. Bonding is a survival mechanism, and it especially kicks into high gear between men and women. Granted, you're not going to cheat on your spouse just because you're working with somebody else. But the bonding clock
is ticking. You're building some kind of a relationship with somebody all the time.)

Sure, you could be your own boss, but the ratio of bosses to employees is 1 to what, I ask you. The only way to ensure that every woman is her own boss is the work-from-home revolution (see "What Business Can Learn From Open Source" which pretty much sums up my views on public schooling as well), right back to what the Bible was saying all along.

So, back to our subject, yes you could be a housewife who sits on the couch watching soap operas and eating bonbons all day, but it wouldn't be because God didn't give you permission to stay home with ample time and freedom to do something else, like give your children the best education money couldn't buy, or be your own boss.

Is your outside job keeping you from anything you would consider much more satisfying at home, like lots of fun with your husband, kids, snuggle-session homeschooling, and all those save the world schemes you now have time for? If you're still bored after all that, what happened to taking food to the poor and making connections with your neighbors? The best way to combat all that sex trafficking going on in Britain, is GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD. Maybe all that stuff goes on under everyone's noses because they're away at work or in school. At least your house could be sanctuary to a few latchkey kids, while everyone else is away at a supposedly much more fun job.

I've spoken to a lot of working mothers, and very few have told me they do it because they just love their jobs. Most, almost without exception in fact, say they simply can't afford to stay home. I find that extremely sad, for those for whom it really is the case.

But a lot of the time, I just don't believe it. When a woman wearing 3 thousand in jewelry and an expensive suit, with a fresh manicure and perm says this to me, I find it hard to believe. When a neighbor living in a house which is bigger than ours says this to me, I find it hard to believe. The reality is, it is hard for many people. But also, we make choices in life. We choose the big house over time with our children. We choose the 2nd car, the retail wardrobe, the jewelry, the cosmetics, the dinners out, etc.

There seems to be this myth floating around that men used to be so oppressive they wouldn't allow their wives to work, that they were forced to stay home. In reality, most women stayed home back then for the same reason they go to work now: it's the societal expectation.

-- from Be Still My Soul blog. Read entire article here.

Here in the Asian culture, a lot of women go to work for sheer survival - to escape staying home with their mother-in-law. Not that I would have anything against a m-i-l but we can't both own the kitchen at the same time. Either she'd be taking it away from me or I'd be taking it away from her. It's like asking me to share my laptop with my boss. If a man really respects his wife's position as homemaker, he'll give her her own tools, one of which consists of a kitchen, and living space to be the queen in her own family. Although if there were not enough finances to have my home, I would gladly live in a tent to keep from ever ever ever becoming a debt-slave to a mortgage.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24, NASB)

This wasn't just stated at the beginning of creation (Genesis 2:24). It wasn't just repeated by Jesus (Mark 10:7, Matthew 19:5). It's firmly established in the New Law of Christianity (Ephesians 5:31), in explaining how husbands are to love and cherish their wives, one of which is to give them their own mother-in-law-free domains. (Ephesians 5:31).

Please don't get me wrong, children are to take care of their parents when they are too old to take care of themselves. Also, daughters and mothers-in-law should cherish each other, but this is especially a case of where "good fences make good neighbors". You can only share yourself if you have a self to share. The two families should have many happy years of enjoying and helping each other, of "going to grandmother's house", showing your mother-in-law you enjoy her company and want your kids to have all the experience and love she can give them. There should be much going back and forth between the two houses. But they must be two families, not one.

I know a family where the son got married and his family never saw him again for several years. What if it was because the daughter-in-law was deathly afraid of losing her own family and went overboard? A son whose mother is dead is seen as an easier marriage here in Taiwan. See the pain that is caused from not knowing what boundaries you have a right to insist on? You shouldn't have to choose between having grandparents for your kids or your sanity.

But people make up their own rules as they go along, not knowing exactly what it is they have a right to expect (based on eternal principles that don't shift with the times, which God made clear from the beginning to save time and anguish).

Who is among you that fears the LORD, that obeys the voice of His servant, that walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.

Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who encircle yourselves with firebrands, walk in the light of your fire and among the brands you have set ablaze. This you will have from My hand: You will lie down in torment. (Isaiah 50:10-11)

It is a crying shame to not allow a new bride her own home, and make her wait many years till she is old and must torture a future daughter-in-law to keep a territory.

New mothers, not able to stay home and raise their own children, having to wait till they are grandmothers to raise a daughter-in-law's kids, a daughter-in-law who may resent the grandmother for telling her what to do with her children.

You don't get your own kitchen. You have to wait until you are old and can take it away from your daughter-in-law.

You don't get your own kids. You have to wait till you are a grandmother to raise your daughter-in-law's.

I realize it's not that bad. In an emergency, if the family was starving, living hand to mouth working in the fields, it's not a sin for the stronger wife to work by her husband's side in the field while the weaker grandmother watches the kids and homeschools them with her years of experience.

But life should aspire to the ideal not the emergency. If the Creator painted marriage as starting a NEW family, not merely making the old one bigger, we should search out his reasons.

At least modern Asia only has to deal with an in-house mother-in-law and not a bevy of back-biting multiple wives and concubines, smoking opium, playing mah-jhong and plotting. No wonder they embraced feminism, not knowing the higher standard that "feminism" stepped down from.

As you read these delicious quotes from G.K. Chesterton, remember he was speaking from England where they not only had no concubines but most likely no mother-in-laws in the house.

And he was pleading with women not to give up this freedom of being a queen in their own home with time and resources to change the world, time and resources to raise their kids with nobody (no mother-in-laws, no multiple wives) nobody but their husbands telling them what to do, not to give up this freedom in order to sit in a cubicle and become a wage-slave, while somebody else raised their kids:
But the main point is that the world outside the home is now under a rigid discipline and routine and it is only inside the home that there is really a place for individuality and liberty. Anyone stepping out of the front-door is obliged to step into a procession, all going the same way and to a great extent even obliged to wear the same uniform. Business, especially big business, is now organized like an army... But anyhow, it is obvious that a hundred clerks in a bank or a hundred waitresses in a teashop are more regimented and under rule than the same individuals when each has gone back to his or her own dwelling or lodging ...

-- The Drift From Domesticity, Brave New Family, G. K. Chesterton

If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colourless and of small import to the soul, then, as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean. To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labours and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes and books; to be Aristotle within certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.

-- The Emancipation of Domesticity, Brave New Family, G. K. Chesterton

I doubt whether mothers could escape from motherhood into Socialism. But the advocates of Birth Control seem to want some of them to escape from it into capitalism. They seem to express a sympathy with those who prefer "the right to earn outside the home" or (in other words) the right to be a wage-slave and work under the orders of a total stranger because he happens to be a richer man. By what conceivable contortions of twisted thought this ever came to be considered a freer condition than that of companionship with the man she has herself freely accepted, I never could for the life of me make out.... I can easily believe that there are some people who do prefer working in a factory to working in a family; for there are always some people who prefer slavery to freedom, and who especially prefer being governed to governing someone else. But I think their quarrel with motherhood is not like mine, a quarrel with inhuman conditions, but simply a quarrel with life. Given an attempt to escape from the nature of things, and I can well believe that it might lead at last to something like the "nursery school for our children staffed by other mothers and single women of expert training."

I will add nothing to that ghastly picture, beyond speculating pleasantly about the world in which women cannot manage their own children but can manage each other's. But I think it indicates an abyss between natural and unnatural arrangements ....

-- Social Reform Versus Birth Control, G. K. Chesterton

The actual effect of this theory is that one harassed person has to look after a hundred children, instead of one normal person looking after a normal number of them. Normally that normal person is urged by a natural force, which costs nothing and does not require a salary; the force of natural affection for his young, which exists even among the animals. If you cut off that natural force, and substitute a paid bureaucracy, you are like a fool who should pay men to turn the wheel of his mill, because he refused to use wind or water which he could get for nothing. You are like a lunatic who should carefully water his garden with a watering-can, while holding up an umbrella to keep off the rain.

-- The Drift from Domesticity, Brave New Family, G. K. Chesterton

To give you more confidence, consider Sudbury Valley, a real school where the students can do whatever they want, figure out what they want to study all on their own, and most of the time teach themselves:
It starts with someone, or several persons, who decide they want to learn something specific -- say, algebra, or French, or physics, or spelling, or pottery. A lot of times, they figure out how to do it on their own. They find a book, or a computer program, or they watch someone else. When that happens, it isn't a class. It's just plain learning....

Most of the time, kids at school figure out what they want to learn and how to learn it all on their own. They don't use classes all that much.

-- excerpted from Free At Last by Daniel Greenberg
But when they do use classes, they go find a teacher to make an appointment with. Read the chapter on how they do classes at their school. Their students often learn six years of math in 20 weeks. Most of their students teach themselves to read without help:

In fact, no one at school bothers much about reading. Only a few kids seek any help at all when they decide to learn. Each child seems to have their own method. Some learn from being read to, memorizing the stories and then ultimately reading them. Some learn from cereal boxes, others from game instructions, others from street signs. Some teach themselves letter sounds, others syllables, others whole words. To be honest about it, we rarely know how they do it, and they rarely can tell us. One day I asked a child who had just become a reader, "How did you learn to read?" His answer: "It was easy. I learned 'in.' I leaned 'out.' And then I knew how to read."

- excerpted from Free At Last by Daniel Greenberg

This is what happened with my little sister who has Down's Syndrome.

Yes, within weeks of bringing her home from the hospital my mom was reading to her. Yes, she saw and heard us reading and teaching a lot. Yes, she destroyed a lot of our beloved children's books, still waiting in a drawer after all these years to be patched up. I looked at a few phonics pages with her. But we never really bothered to sit down and teach her to read regularly. My mom remembers one time saying, "Why don't we teach your dollies to read?" with our Alpha-phonics book. After that my little sister taught her dollies Alphaphonics day in and day out all by herself, and today she can read almost any paragraph you show her, not to mention reading her favorite books over and over for hours.

My completely normal brother on the other hand, who was painfully dragged through several chapters of Alpha-phonics by me (when I was very young and thought it was the phonics that was important regardless of the fun factor), to this day doesn't pick up books for fun.

By the time my next brother got old enough to really be taught, my mom had more time to read to him, and I don't remember forcing phonics with him. Today as an adult he loves to both read and do.
I guess it's worth repeating. At Sudbury Valley, not one child has ever been forced, pushed, urged, cajoled, or bribed into learning how to read. We have had no dyslexia. None of our graduates are real or functional illiterates. Some eight year olds are, some ten year olds are, even an occasional twelve year old. But by the time they leave, they are indistinguishable. No one who meets our older students could ever guess the age at which they first learned to read or write.

- excerpted from Chapter 5 in Free At Last by Daniel Greenberg

More schools like Sudbury Valley - lots of addresses and websites to browse!

Babysteps to making the world a better place:

1. Buy Free at Last, and read your favorite chapters to whoever you're dying to read them to.

2. Donate the book to your library, and/or volunteer-read this book to kids to open their minds to what they can do with their own future kids.

4. Excerpt your favorite paragraphs on your web-site and pop them into relevant discussions on the net whenever possible, with a link to where to buy, of course.

5. You can do this with any of your favorite world-changing books.

6. Try homeschooling.

Someone once asked me, "Why homeschool?" "No tests!" I said brightly, then more seriously, "You can choose any textbook you want. In a classroom you have 40 kids all following the same book. At home, it's one kid with 40 different textbooks to choose from." "What if you run into something you don't understand," she asked. "I would have asked my dad or my mom or found somebody who could tell me," I said.

Related Posts:

Why, Lord Willing, I Will Never Send My Children To Daycare


  1. I really enjoyed your blog, Sapphireslinger. As a homeschooling family, we had a mixture of biographies, real books, textbooks, fun games, Bible memorization, etc. Your ideas are interesting, especially since they come from having lived in the Taiwanese culture with the mother-in-law as head of the family unit. No very pleasant to think about. It is hard to comment on each idea you brought up, but the pic of your family and your sister with Down's Syndrome was amazing!!!!! I truly enjoyed reading your blog.

  2. Hi, Dear Granddaughter!!! Exciting to have all your thoughts in front of me! Never heard you talk that much in all the time I have known you! OK, now, why haven't you married yet???? All that talk about getting married early, and even all that talk about having 24 children!!!! I do believe from reading this in God's Word that children are gifts from God, and I feel that they should not be limited, because who would think of telling God, "Please don't give me any more gifts! I don't want anymore of Your gifts!" Some have told me, "I can hardly take care of the two, or three, etc., that I have. How in the world did you take care of 9?" I would now tell them, as I did then, if I remember correctly,"As they were born, I simply enjoyed them immensely, and let them play together and take care of each other as they grew up and as I would teach them by word and example!" I watched my granddaughter, S. (D's daughter) with her 5 as she was visiting her parents in this area in the last few days, as she would let her oldest daughter, who is about 8, and well able to help, hold her 3 month old baby boy, for her while she took care of her fourth child. She also has a 'contraption' which I feel she could describe better than I, which she wears so beautifully in which she puts that little one and goes about her business in the home making job God has given her! She also homeschools, and manages even though her husband is now in Iraq and not there to help, because her older daughters, having been taught all along from babyhood, as they are all being taught, help her in the every day living in the home! I have been there, and watched! God's way is so much better, from the beginning, and even moreso in these New Testament times, with Jesus, Who is more wise than Solomon (remember??), and has given us the 'guide' book for all humans!

    I didn't homeschool, and was against it when your mother, my daughter, told me she was going to do this. I believed this would keep my grandchildren from 'meeting' others their age, etc.! I am so thankful to know how wrong I was!! I now know that I could have had my own 'School' if homeschooling had been in 'vogue' when my little ones were growing up! Dear one, if you DO actually want those 24 (Whew!), I would advise you to START SOON!!!! Child bearing years are fast going by!!!

    Love you so much!

    Give my love to all! Hi, C., and ask T. to let you send me a note, OK?


  3. Sadly, I only had time to skim this article. I hope to read it more in depth later. I was homeschooled, although my parent's goal was less to give us a superior education and more to preserve us from the corrosive effects of "the world." Now, as a public school teacher, I see that your assessment of public education (even most private education, even most homeschool education, including my own) is spot on.

    I wanted to comment on one thing you mentioned regarding music and memory. It is exactly for the reason you mention that I teach using music. You can see some of the songs at and hear some if you search for "herveus" on youtube.

    I look forward to reading more.

  4. Dear Sapphireslinger,

    There are lots of things I agree with on this post, and I hope you can keep writing more on your site.

    I can also think of people I work with who send their kids to school because that's the way everyone does it; they say it's so the kids can be well-educated, but I think it's more to do with them following the norm like everyone else - so if homeschooling gave them a better education, they would still stick to sending their kids to school - because that's the way everyone does it.

    They are preoccupied with how their particular school is ranked against all the others in numeracy, literacy etc. I didn't join in that their conversation about it, but i just kept thinking about this page and all that they could be missing out on…

    I thought your point about a one-to-one teacher-student ratio was good. When I was 12, I was in a class of 30 students, thinking it was just too many. I remember some media talk about those ratios and how the government should put more money into the schools to reduce the ratios - but why didn't anyone at the time mention homeschooling - the ultimate one-to-one ratio.

    The daughter-in-law vs mother-in-law things is interesting - it brings back memories of what I wrote on my blog a while back on that.

    I also think of mothers with careers and children, and it seems that the grandmothers are raising the children more than the mother. One mother mentioned to me how her young daughter seemed more attached to the grandparents than to her, and I wonder why that is…

    I agree with that other poster about the good photos in the post - they captured the moment pretty well. I like the in second-to-last picture the most.

    I also like your concept of family snuggle time and reading a book with popcorn - the kids wouldn't think of it as a chore at all. Doing that as a family would beat TV any night.

    It's cool how you've got it all mapped out and organised…no fear or worry or anything…just freedom, fun and joy :)


No profanity, please, "... but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." (Eph 4:29)

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