My Son is Ready for Early Retirement

Like father, like son?

Like father, like son?

I suppose I can’t blame him, because this IS pretty nice. It’s Monday morning, and I just dropped him off at school, rode the mountain bike and trailer back home through the deep and fluffy remnants of the latest snowstorm, and settled in with this laptop and my sunny, empty house to compose my thoughts for you. Greg Reitan is playing some wicked Jazz piano in the background via Pandora, and my belly is nicely satisfied with fine coffee and a bowl of almonds. The rest of the world is out commuting on an icy highway or dialing into the conference call while seated in the cubicle. This is the life for me.

But is it the life for an eight-year-old?

Although he has made it to the second half of second grade with great success, my boy has softly been singing an underlying chorus of “I don’t want to go to schooool!” since long before Kindergarten. The song fades away on the good days, because there are occasional bits of learning and he has several great friends among his classmates. But then he gets a taste of freedom again, like the two-week Christmas holiday that just ended an hour ago, and it reminds him of how much more he enjoys not being in school. Our holiday together was a beautiful blur of late nights, family board games, friends, movie nights, adventures at the creek, sunshine, drawing pictures, and making songs with Ableton Live and elaborate automated buildings in Minecraft. When he realized it was truly over last night, he cried so much that he had trouble getting to sleep.

I can’t blame him, because this feeling about school and organized activites in general tends to run in my side of the family. I remember finishing the nine-year sentence in my own small town K-8 elementary school wondering if I had learned anything during the entire session. High school became more interesting because of some inspiring teachers in Science, Math, and English (and because of the girls). And Engineering school, while painful, was motivating because I knew there was freedom and an excellent paycheck waiting right at the end of the tunnel. But since finishing that whole affair, I have never looked back other than to marvel at how different than me the folks who pursue graduate degrees and PhDs must be. A brilliant nephew of mine finds himself in a similar boat: my sister described his school years as “A quiet rebellion of boredom”, although he has awakened now that he is among other whiz kids in the Computer Science program of his country’s top university.

Some of us just really enjoy our freedom, and we use that freedom for constant learning of the things we really want to learn, and creating the things we really want to create. This is surely why I quit even the relatively free environment of the corporate office: to get all my time back for truly self-guided pursuits. And I suspect this personality type is common among the Mustachians as well: you don’t have any trouble keeping yourself busy, the only issue is freeing yourself from the busywork that others keep assigning to you.

But how do we handle it when a kid discovers this obvious source of joy less than 3000 days into his life? Under the current regime, the poor lad is scheduled for about fourteen additional years of school, at which point he’ll to need work and save for another decade to earn his financial independence. I could allow him to cheat the system by setting aside a trust fund that made work (and school) optional at any point, but I do not want to deny him the soul-building satisfaction of good old-fashioned hard work, and the incomparable advantage of having to work for what you get.

But at the same time, there is surely some benefit I can pass on from this clearly advantaged position. Compared to my own parents at a similar stage in 1982, Mrs. MM and I have much more secure finances, one child instead of four, unlimited free time to spend with him, and the resources of the Internet from which to pull knowledge. There are thousands of other parents of bright but slightly bored kids reading this who might have some ideas. With so many advantages, it would be a cop-out for me to just leave my son to follow exactly the same path I walked 32 years before him, without at least questioning The Rules.

We would not be the first people to do so. I was recently inspired by this TED talk by Ken Robinson, which eloquently explains that despite its best efforts, the school system does tend to crush creativity. Adding to that idea, there’s this ambitious 13-year-old lad that did his own TEDx Talk about a self-guided “Unschooling” or “Hackschooling” education.

By now you’ve probably learned that a formal university education is only one of many paths to a good life. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were dropouts. Free and inexpensive learning spots like the Khan Academy and Treehouse abound. My own posts on jobs without a degree are some of the most widely read on this site. Heck, there is a 23-year-old college dropout staying in my guest suite right now, who founded his own successful company several years ago which now allows him to lead a life with greater freedom than I had at that age. He’s here to have an adventure and to learn new skills, in a completely non-academic environment. But all this still leaves the question of how to motivate your very young kid without denying him the benefits of school.

So we don’t have the answers yet. My boy is excited that he has gained admission to a special program within the school that allows kids in this situation to leave class twice per week and gather with a special teacher to cover more interesting material. We could try an Unschooling experiment next year, spending a portion of it living in another country (I’m partial to New Zealand myself, and then perhaps Ecuador the next year). The regular school is well-run and has the best intentions, but learning formalized material in a big group is very slow and is bound to leave a certain portion of the kids spending 90% of each day waiting for what is next. Or missing recess because some other kids were talking when the teacher had declared that talking was not allowed. And the charter and private schools I’ve encountered around here all seem to emphasize even more academic rigor and discipline, rather than more freedom to roam and learn.

Unfortunately, I think that purely hanging around at home would be unsuccessful. We could learn much more quickly, but there are only three of us here – not enough people to provide a truly rounded social education. Plus there is the selfish issue: both my wife and I benefit greatly from having a few hours on weekdays to do our own things. After all, this blog is not going to write itself.

What do you think? Have you encountered this problem with your own children?

Ideally, we could gather and form communal unschooling environments with five or six cool kids, and the problem would be solved. I could teach them writing and carpentry, you could teach them filmmaking and math, and some of our other friends would handle the sports, physics, chemistry, and whatever else they want to learn. We’d take plenty of field trips as well.

The more conservative standardized-test-loving government officials and administrators of the world might frown upon us, but we’d probably end up with a batch of very creative, happy, and motivated young adults, which is really the primary job that we sign up for when we produce these fine little creatures.

  • Mark Ferguson January 6, 2014, 11:06 am

    Great article! I’ve got 2 year old twins and I am lucky to be a realtor and run my own business. I can spend a lot of time with them and I am constantly delegating more to free up my time. I try to teach them now at an early age life’s lessons although I don’t think they understand it all yet. Lol.

    • Free Money Minute January 6, 2014, 11:23 am

      Glad to hear is Mark. Keep freeing up that time so you can enjoy the time with your children. You will never regret it!

      • EarlyretirementSG January 7, 2014, 6:11 am

        I’ve learnt something interesting about children. If you tell them you don’t need to do homework. They can find something else to do with their time. I’m sure you felt that way last time too.
        Some how after we grow up when someone tells you that you can stop working cos you have enough. We now hear people saying “but I don’t know what to do with my time” or “I have nothing to do and I’ll be so bored”

        It’s great to hear you are able to let things go and delegate your time so that you can spend time with your kids. At least you don’t have the “But I’ll be too bored” syndrome!

    • Lynn January 10, 2014, 7:56 am

      Apologies in advance if I’m repeating what’s been said – at 330 replies I didn’t have enough time to read them all. If I was your kid, it would be the loss of 1:1 attention and input from the people he loves best that would make returning to school hardest after holidays. Whether or not it’s overall in his best interests to go anyway, or to be home schooled is a decision only you and your wife are able to make.

      I believe that there are lots of “right” ways to bring up and educate children, and it all depends on the child, their parents and what is realistic. I have to remind myself that I’m aiming for a good enough upbringing, not a perfect one.

      Some people have advocated school as a place to learn about the nastier side of life. I don’t believe that kids need to suffer bullying or other mistreatment from kids or adults at school in order to become competent adults. It’s our responsibility as adults to teach kids the skills they need to interact safely with others e.g. boundary setting, walking away, getting help. They don’t magically know this, and expecting them to learn the hard way is like throwing a non-swimming kid in at the deep end of the pool and telling them to work it out for themselves.

      I suspect your kid has so much positive in his life already that whatever you choose will work out just fine. You sound like awesome parents.

  • JBS January 6, 2014, 11:09 am

    Washington State , by law, allows home schoolers to access public school on a part time basis. Not sure how Colorado law is written.

    I personally feel that public school is good for more structured forms of education like study of mathematics and improving writing and reading skills. And if your child has a strong interest in team athletics.

    But for all the rest it is a mixed bag.

    I am a believer in focusing public school resources on the kids who need those resources most and letting the rest of the kids take half the day off to do other things. But since public school also doubles as daycare for working America, this will probably never happen.

    • Miss Growing Green January 6, 2014, 11:49 am

      Interesting- I’ve never heard of allowing “part time use” of public schools.
      We have a while before we have to worry about sending ours to school (he’s still in utero :), but I still think about it quite a bit. I really like Mr. MM’s idea of “unschooling” with a group of other adults and kids. The main downside that I see to homeschooling is that there isn’t enough socializing and experiencing other forms of teaching and learning (other as in, other than the style you’re used to with your parents).

      I am a product of the public school system, and while I managed to flourish in it, I was definitely bored a lot of the time. On the other end of the spectrum, I have a nephew that is sent to a private middle school that charges $15,000 a year tuition. ouch!

      There has to be an ideal place that’s better than the traditional public school system and doesn’t cost as much as a 4-year college education for a year’s tuition.

      • Emma Pattee January 6, 2014, 11:52 am

        Oregon also allows this, or at least in the community that I grew up in.

      • Lucas January 6, 2014, 12:43 pm

        Lack of socialization of home schoolers is an old myth that should be taken out back and shot once and for all!! Of course if you keep your kids locked up they will have issues. MMM wouldn’t have that problem, so you can count it as a non issue.

        I was home schooled right after legalization in PA and we have just started with our daughter this year as well. And I am convinced that my opportunities to know how to interact and “socialize” with others were actually much greater out of the school system. We had homeschool co-ops where different parents would teach different skills/knowledge, we were involved with sports teams, church activities, community clubs, etc. . and had great opportunities to interact with kids and adults who were younger and older then us. In fact I found i liked hanging out with adults much more than any of my public school friends because I loved to learn and you could learn a lot more than just people you own age.

        Anyway, not trying to claim Homeschooling is the answer for everyone, just that it does provide some great opportunities for unconventional learning, creativity, etc. . .

        • Jim January 6, 2014, 1:10 pm

          Homeschool communities are different all around the country. Socialization is great in some areas. In others, not so much.

        • Marcia January 6, 2014, 2:06 pm

          I always wondered about the socialization issues. I grew up in small town PA and school WAS my socialization.

          But it was miserable. The kids were MEAN. I can see where kids have problems with suicide. The thing that kept me going was family – my cousins and such. Sometimes socialization is not a good thing.

          • NervousAboutAngels January 6, 2014, 8:08 pm

            I too had a mean kids problem in small town PA. For me it was the kids in my neighborhood who made it better. Sadly, they were never in my class even when in the same school and grade. I would have loved a different system and I think I’d have had healthier socialization.

            • Lucas January 16, 2014, 12:09 pm

              Guess there are a bunch of other small town PA kids here too ;-) small old industrial towns must be good places to raise frugal kids :-) or at least to fall in love with biking everywhere.

          • LeftBlankForObviousReasons January 7, 2014, 6:07 am

            I had problems with suicide in middle/high school (daily thoughts, a plan, no attempts), through a storm of non-optimal activities. I now have my PhD in Computer Science; I like hanging out and discovering knowledge, not school. The people at school were MEAN. I got into fights daily. I had no social skills, and was unpopular. I was bored, and unchallenged, and unable to pursue items which interested me. Everyone pitched school as the ‘preparation for the real world’, but if you want future scientists to kill themselves, put them in a box, don’t allow creativity/questioning, beat them up, give lettermen jackets to the people that throw the punches, tell them that this is what life is going to be like, and keep them here for 7 years.

            The ‘real world’ for me looks blissfully different from what middle/high school represented, and I try to tell this to every teenager that I meet.

            • Marcia January 8, 2014, 1:51 pm

              Exactly. I try and tell teenagers that “you generally can’t pick your high school” because you are stuck with where your parents live. But after, when you can pick a college or other career path with people like you = MUCH BETTER.

              I was a nerd, became an engineer, and college was SOOO much better than high school. Even now some of my friends (who admittedly are engineers and foreigners) think that I must have been so popular in high school because I’m so confident and friendly. Well, let me tell you a little story…

            • EXPATLIVING August 20, 2014, 9:24 pm

              I could not agree more, School was a miserable experience. I have always been a happy go lucky kind of person but ambitious and worked hard. Unfortunately in some schools this leads to isolation and misery when trying to make friends. As soon as I left and went to college and university and ever since my life has been 1000% better. It is sad but the education system and sometimes the general school environment fails many kids and can leave lasting damage for years. I actually strongly believe that academic careers go on way to long, even degrees are unnecessarily long making the institutions money and leaving the student with massive debt and a piece of paper with a worth that is been inflated away within today’s ultra competitive job market. I have 4 year engineering degree but actually learnt more applicable knowledge in my first 6 months to a year at work then I did in the entire 4 years at Uni and I even said I could of done this job at age 18 so why bother with the 4 year degree and build up a sizable debt? one year perhaps 18 months of intense fundamentals would have suffice and that’s for a solid degree like engineering. Frankly for many other subjects this could be reduced further.
              Its a pity that many of today’s youngsters are being taken for mugs! huge debts for little reward, a broken economy and job market. The best thing they can do is learn truly ‘useful skills that can make them money directly, building a freer life and not wasting their life away at the grindstone of a modern day corporation, particularly in the US where companies do not respect ones time.

          • Ben January 10, 2014, 10:09 am

            I think the Socialization issue has been poorly framed. It’s not an “on” or “off” value. Even calling it “socialization” assumes if you have it, good; if you don’t, bad. Life is more complex than that.

            Schools can be different from each other in minor ways, but I don’t see many similarities between the inherent social structure of school and the social structures I’m part of as an adult. Marketing departments, Software development teams, or construction crews aren’t managed the way classrooms are usually managed. And there are expected social behaviors in schools that are unacceptable in work environments, and vice versa.

            I question the value of the “socialization” obtainable in a typical school.

            Previous comments refer to the fact that every kid is different. Rather than saying “Every kid needs socialization,” Let’s look at each kid and what s/he needs, whether s/he has it, and who the best person is to provide it.

            • homehandymum January 22, 2014, 3:57 pm

              +1 This is so true. We home educate our three kidlets. Different strokes for different folks, but for our family, we did a cost/benefit analysis on outsourcing our kids’ education. The local school would have to out-perform what we could provide ourselves – and not just academically, but also for the child’s emotional, spiritual and mental well-being (including interacting with other children in a non-Lord of the Flies type environment).

              I’ve found that any area that we do decide needs outside input can be solved in a way that doesn’t require a 7 hour per day, 13 year commitment from our kids. Scouts, playdates, club sports, and a bunch of friends solve most of these issues.

        • chemistay January 6, 2014, 5:03 pm

          I had the same experience growing up homeschooled in CA. We did all sorts of activities and I grew up interacting with people of all ages.

          Parents factor way more into socialization and education throughout the schools years than school structure (or lack thereof).

          • Lucas January 16, 2014, 12:00 pm

            Agree with your conclusion on that. The parents need to be responsible for the needs of their kids. whether this is more/less/different socialization.

        • Jon January 6, 2014, 8:37 pm

          We homeschool our two (9 and 13) and have been for 3 years. I have to say the issue on socialization is bogus through and through. The kids have personalities and they are as social as anyone. We just recently moved from CA to AZ and they handled it better then we did… :) I was originally reluctant to homeschooling but I’m the biggest fan now!

          • Kenoryn January 8, 2014, 11:59 am

            I think maybe the biggest concern is not whether you will have opportunities to socialize, but whether you will interact with a wide variety of people. After all, if you choose the people you interact with, it’s possible your kids will only ever get to know people who are similar to you. Maybe they won’t get to know people who are living in abject poverty or with addiction, and maybe they won’t get to know people with different religious or cultural beliefs. As a result they may grow up with prejudice, fear, or just lack of understanding about people in other walks of life.

            In particular I think one of the big reasons homeschooling gets a bad reputation is because hardcore religious parents don’t like the secular teachings of public schools, and homeschool so they can brainwash their kids to their own religion, ensure they only interact with other Good Insert-Religion-Here folks, and thus protect them from the blasphemy of the heathens and infidels.

            • Brenton January 8, 2014, 12:24 pm

              Yeah, I dont like homeschooling because I think it leaves kids without the knowledge that there are some pretty nasty people in the world, and how to deal with them. People need to learn conflict resolution skills, and how to emotionally handle someone else being mean to them just for their own fun. Its not an ideal situation, but it will probably happen at sometime in their lives, if you homeschool all the time, then one day you wont be around to protect your child.

              I have relatives who homeschool, some successfully, and others less so.

              I had a generally miserable educational experience, yet I would be reluctant to homeschool simply because of the emotional strength and security I attained at a public school.

            • michelle January 11, 2014, 5:53 am

              We had exactly this discussion with some friends and family since we are a group with half who homeschool and half who send to public school along with several public school teachers. The homeschool group said that you will never be forced to associate with bad people in real life. You have the choice to leave the vicinity. Why would you force your vulnerable children to be in the same room with bad people? The public school faction replied that your children are able to observe the results of good and poor decisions by their classmates which will allow them to better choose adult friends and business partners. We all agreed that we would have to observe the long term results to our children to see which type of schooling had a better outcome. So far, we have one public school misfit who hated school but is happy and has friends now and works as a engineer. We also have one home schooled kid who was arrested because he was in the car with someone who went into the apartment of a drug dealer who he then shot and killed. One could argue that he lacked the ability to recognize “bad” people. All the other kids are doing well in college and were happy with their method of schooling although the home schooled kids say they would like to go to school sometimes for “fun”. I think for the majority of kids, the outcome does not really depend much on the schooling chosen, but on the kid’s work ethic. As a public school teacher in a high performing school, I think we need to focus less on the parent’s and teacher’s role in a child’s success and more on the role of the kid’s efforts.

            • Lucas January 16, 2014, 12:04 pm

              The problem for kids is that they are great observers but terrible interpreters of their observations. So i don’t think the “let them see the impact of bad decisions” works. A lot of the time people initially seem to get away with stuff that comes back to bite them in the long term.

              That said, i am all about teaching kids critical thinking, and exposing them to lots of ideas, so that i can help explain our thinking and get them to form their own ideas on it. Complete sheltering isn’t a good idea, but allowing other peers to be the model/example i think has more problems long term.

            • Mimc February 25, 2014, 6:44 pm

              Schools aren’t all that diverse though. At least mine never where and I think many others aren’t either. You have a whole building full of kids of around the same age from the same side of town. It doesn’t really resemble most adult workplaces.

            • ElbowWilham April 18, 2016, 10:41 pm

              I just had to reply to this because I disagree with it very much. I was picked on a lot in school, got in a lot of fights.

              I have never had similar situations after school. Sure there are assholes everywhere, but no job I worked at had a bully. And I have worked many types of jobs. If anything, I had to deprogram myself from the “social” skills I picked up in school.

              No way will I subject my kids to the same unless they beg me to send them to school.

            • Money Conscious November 19, 2014, 11:38 am

              I’m not even sure where to begin with Kenoryn’s comment — there are so many misconceptions in it, but hopefully I can shed some light on what homeschooling is really like.

              I chose to be unschooled, well before the term existed. Public school was great, until I got bored… bored with my all-white, all-middle class, all-same-age, all-from-the-same-neighborhood colleagues. Talk about a lack of diversity. When I discovered homeschooling, my friends instantly became more diverse. For one, they were of all ages and all walks of life. They were from other countries. They spoke other languages. They were studying different things. The diversity of thought was incredible… we had some of the best debates and philosophical discussions that rivaled my college & grad school years.

              The nonsense about brainwashing, and growing up with fear and prejudice is just plain wrong. My experience is typical of those who take control of their education — they learn outside of the box, they aren’t subject to popular prejudices (like believing large groups of people that they don’t personally know are religious nuts), and they are very accepting and interested in learning about different cultures and ways of life (considering they have adopted a non-standard educational format themselves), and they ultimately are much more cultured, tolerant, and intelligent than their public school counterparts. I would strongly encourage anyone who does not personally understand homeschooling to learn about it firsthand, or if you are unwilling to do so, at least refrain from spreading uneducated prejudices across the internet.

            • Joe the plumber February 26, 2019, 6:35 pm

              Not sure if you read kenoryn’s comment or just rushed to reply.. but homeschooling is indeed used in some circles such as gothardism and those who follows the teachings of the duggars and Michael and Debi pearl. Because these families occupy a large portion of the public’s exposure to homeschooling, natural misconceptions can occur, especially when such families purposely prevent their children learning.

              Speaking as a man with close family embroiled in these hateful and ungodly cults, please do not let them dictate your views of homeschooling.

              In addition, the recent habit of public schools to label dropouts and children who don’t fit into their “boxes” as HOMESCHOOLER regardless of whether or not they are getting an education

        • stellamarina January 8, 2014, 12:52 pm

          The son of MMM may well feel the same way as the commenter above who said she was more comfortable with adults seeing as he is an only child. His best friends are his parents and most only children feel more comfortable with adults because that is who they spend the most time with.

          • Tallgirl1204 January 10, 2014, 10:23 pm

            I think that is why we send our kid to school, in part. He is an only, the same age as junior MM. we value our son’s opportunity to mingle with a wider range of humanity than the bookworm parents he got dealt.

            We also chose a magnet program that provides something academically that neither of us could, i.e. Immersion in a second language, so that our son is always challenged by something we can’t provide at home and that he can’t run ahead with by himself. We are not tempted to keep him at home and try to teach him Spanish ourselves, and he is kept engaged at school by this extra challenge. I don’t know what is available in Longmont, but finding that challenge that the school offers that MMM cannot may make a big difference to junior MM’s enthusiasm for school.

            Something that MMM may not be thinking of, that is a consideration for us as older parents without close family ties, is that even at this age we are preparing for our son to leave us. He will not have us into his mid-adulthood, most likely, and we are determined that we prepare him for a life in which he has the ability to develop and nurture deep friendships and relationships of his own, on his own.

            I know this may seem like an odd reason to focus on public school as a good option, but I see it working so far. Our son has better social skills than we do, and he already has friends of the sort that I believe may last a lifetime. We just have to be careful not to let our joy in his company smother these other little flames of friendship.

      • Kamil Cook January 6, 2014, 4:12 pm

        I have a 17-year old son finishing high school this year and I can say that traditional public education is a mixed bag. In my area of the country (outside Washington DC) there are several high quality public schools with outstanding teachers and engaging, dynamic classrooms. Unfortunately, with funding restrictions, classrooms have burgeoned to a fairly standard 32 students and it is difficult to imagine how one teacher (no matter how skilled) can offer lessons that are ideally tailored to each student’s skill level.

        To improve the quality of classroom instruction for all students, parents with special skills, interests and some time should volunteer a couple of hours a week in their child’s classroom (whether it’s to help with photocopying, provide a carpentry demonstration, teach the disappearing arts and music, or to provide one-on-one reading instruction to a struggling student). This extra pair of hands can free up the teacher for more important tasks that only he/she can perform such as lesson planning.

        Mr. MM’s description of the ideal classroom does exist — it seems very similar to Montessori or open classroom. Today, these schools are largely private. However, when I was young in the wild-eyed 1970s, I was fortunate enough to attend an open experimental elementary school in the Philadelphia school system. It was organized based on groupings of children according to their skill level and interests (not chronological age) and emphasized self-directed learning. I remember fondly the exciting project-based learning we did to explore the wonders of nature and science.

        • HealthyWealthyExpat January 7, 2014, 5:57 am

          What you describe sounds a lot like what Ken Robinson would advocate: take them out of the “batch” system (batched by age) and educate by ability/interest. But at what age do we start this – right from KG?

          There are some countries that seem to be doing things well. I just did a unit on education with my university-level EFL students, and as part of it they had to find Youtube videos on anything related to education. There were some quite radical videos presented, and one group found one on education in Finland. Search Youtube for “Why Education in Finland Works”.

        • HealthyWealthyExpat January 7, 2014, 6:19 am

          Thanks for another very thoughtful post, MMM. My daughter is currently in year 3 in a private British school here in the UAE ($8000/yr, paid for by employer) and is thriving. She is reading like a maniac, takes part in several after-school activities, loves art, has a great social life, and is at the top of her class. That said, like with your son, the math thing is the problem. They are still doing basic stuff, which she finds very boring. She completes homework sheets in a flash. She has been put in a special class once a week, but that doesn’t seem to help all that much. I’ve discussed this with my friend who is a math prof and also has a son in the same year and with the same issue, and he says that you just have to throw real world problems at them that get them thinking at a higher level. (BTW, he grew up in the Australian bush with not too many other people around, was home-schooled until he was 12, and is now a well-adjusted math professor)

          When we reach FI here in a couple of years, the plan is to go back to Canada, and that’s when we’ll have decisions to make. Private school won’t really be an option, and a public school with 32 kids in the classroom won’t either. Hopefully through more discussion of the issue like in this forum we can find the right path….

          • marietka January 10, 2014, 9:53 am

            It depends on where you going in Canada! If your daughter is in high school by the time you get back, there are alternate high school systems, as well as adapted high school curricula. I knew a girl at university who was 15 when she started her first year. She was from Vancouver Island, and had completed her high school diploma through an alternate program in her community.

            I live on VI now, and the school district I work for has a high school dedicated to children who have different learning styles or needs. This doesn’t just mean kids who struggle with learning disabilities etc, but kids whose interests are in mechanics, woodworking, aeronautics, computer technology, art, sculpture or something else completely. The idea is that academic classes are done at the kids’ own pace with their own focus, and the Dogwood Diploma’s requirements are completed to the province’s satisfaction.

            So you have options when you get back to Canada, you just have to ask around the school districts in the location you want to retire.

          • Deborah January 12, 2014, 4:53 pm

            If your friend grew up in the remote Australian bush, he probably wasn’t really home schooled. Australia has “school of the air” where students are schooled from home, in a classroom that can cover thousands of square miles. All the students in the class talk to each other and to their teacher (who is in one of the towns running school of the air classes) during their lesson – now via webcams, but historically via pedal radio.

      • Lisa January 7, 2014, 10:50 am

        How about this as a resource:

        This group has been working on this issue for a long time. Hope it helps!

      • ThirdDawn January 7, 2014, 11:20 am

        It depends on how you want your kids socialized! If public school is the only socialization your kids get, I don’t think that’s a good thing either! Lots of different ways, like Lucas posted. Each state is different as far as the part-time public thing goes, but the kids can do it here in Wisconsin. I have known lots of homeschoolers who take music/art/sports/ in public school.

      • Bob January 7, 2014, 2:16 pm

        Having one child in public high school and one in private elementary school, I wil tell you that the public education costs just about as much but it’s funded by state taxpayers thus you don’t see the cost like you do when you get the bill from the private school.

      • Amanda January 8, 2014, 9:23 pm

        In Iowa, going half days is call dual enrollment. A student can attend school for up to 5 of the classes (or hours) in a school day. It’s a great balance.

        We unschooled both kids until they were in 3rd grade, at which point we felt that the homeschooling community was not enough to meet their social needs. We were lucky to get into a local public Montessori school (k-8), which takes more of a child-led approach to learning (and they started school dual enrolled).

        It is still difficult to deal with some of the school issues at times, especially as they get older , even though we take a very relaxed approach to formal education at home. We still take them out of school for our extended weekend camping trips…no way is school going to interfere with camping!

        Best of luck to you, MMM, on your decision! I think it’s important to keep in mind that your decision can always be changed to whatever best suits your family’s needs.

      • yazpistachio January 14, 2014, 1:23 pm

        Just had to chime in here.

        I was homeschooled almost all of my growing up, and I want to put to rest the oft mentioned concern about “socialization” and “access to different types of learning” (and teachers, for that matter). Every state has different regulations regarding homeschoolers, some more strict than others. But if a parent is truly looking to provide their child with the best education they can outside of the traditional school system, there are countless support systems available! Co-ops, university-model schools, and extracurricular opportunities abounded for me and my fellow homeschooled peers to interact and learn both from one another, and from others in our community.

        In fact, there were so many activities open to us, the resulting problem was one of TOO MUCH business, such that real academics were in danger of being pushed to the wayside.

      • Nd February 6, 2014, 11:18 am

        Hi miss g g-
        I haven’t read all the comments yet, and I’m sure others have said similar things. But I can’t resist!

        I was homeschooled. Of ourselves it’s not for everyone. But there is no reason for homeschooling to be any more limited in terms of socializing and experiencing other forms of learning than any other approach to education.

        You get to socialize with a much wider range of people. Not everyone you learn and play with has to be your age, for example, and it is comparatively easy to hang out with people who live in different school districts –which often indicates greater variety in terms of socioeconomics and in some cases race and ethnicity. Or you interact with peole who can/can’t afford private schools.

        In terms of education: the parent/s can try all sorts of educational theories and explore radically different pedagogies. Or they can pick one and run with it, which is what most schools do.

        Homeschooling should be compared with other realistic options, not with an ideal that does not exist in which everyone is well-socialized (seriously! Look at the tremendous quality differences between different schools and look who goes to which ones). Look at bullying. Etc.

        Not to knock public or private schools. In some respects, homeschooling is subject to basically the same strengths and weaknesses in terms of socialization and educational variety.

        Side note: I had a much easier adjustment to the rigors of independence that throw a lot of college students off. I think that was because I was educated to take responsibility for my education.

      • Homeschoolin WA June 17, 2014, 2:17 pm

        Socialization is the main concern for about the first 1-2 years you homeschool, and then it’s the reverse, how to stay home enough to cover core material.

        Also, why is it that when we consider an alternative to public _education_ “socialization” is the primary concern? I would think that knowledge ought to be. And in a classroom with 20 learners and one good social model, what socialization lessons are they learning?

    • Des January 6, 2014, 12:01 pm

      Oregon has this as well. When I was in high school there were a number of homeshoolers who participated in the arts classes and in the extracurriculars like sports and band. Also, I’m not sure how common it is, but there was a section in our high school handbook about something called “Plan 2” – which allowed the student to design their own graduation requirements. No one ever mentioned it, but I took it to my counselor and got to design my own graduation plan around my interests. Might be worth looking into as well…

    • Emily A January 7, 2014, 10:48 am

      Whoa! That’s news to me. As someone thinking of starting a family, I’ve been feel the same tension between the inadequacies of school and the other, different inadequacies that would be at home. Part-time public school sounds like just thing for certain subjects (as you stated) and for socialization. I will have to look into that for Georgia! I’ve got my fingers crossed…

    • Cathi January 7, 2014, 12:12 pm

      I agree in concept with you about public schools being good for some things (math or reading you suggested) but soooooo much depends on the teacher!
      Right now my math loving daughter HATES math class because the teacher spends so much time teaching the whole class as if they were all at the same level that she spends half of the class (the explanation time) bored out of her skull because she understood the concept after 10 minutes and just want to get to her homework.
      It’s sad.
      As for reading – she learned that before she got to school and hasn’t stopped yet. Of course that might be environment at home (I’m a librarian) or just her (she’s a writer). LOL

  • Rebecca Stapler January 6, 2014, 11:09 am

    Inspiring creativity and self-directed learning is what attracts me to a Montessori education. There is structure, but students can explore their interests within that structure. I think that environment would be well-suited for my son, but it has a bigger pricetag than the free public school in our town.

    • Barb January 6, 2014, 11:30 am

      Well, first let me say that I feel traditional schooling has its place. I considered home schooling one of my children, but I was prepared to do it AFTER elementary school. the advantages of traditional schooling. Middle school is the pitts for many kids, and I regret not homeschooling my son during that period at a minimum. He regrets it as well. We come from a military/department of defense background where many parents home school just so there kids aren’t jumping through hoops after ever two or three year move.

      Most young children benefit from a certain amount of structure, as well as learning some basic rules about group behavior and the like. We get bored in real life on occasion and have to entertain ourselves. Also, I agree with the poster who said traditional math and sciences are better learned in a structured group environment, at any educational level.

      You might share with your son some of what you have shared here. That at this time in his life this is his job, you had some of the same experiences as he did, and that things will change. Does he realize that not going to school still means studying and learning-with you or mom as the “boss” or “educator”, (as opposed to a full time vacation?

      Homeschooling can be hard work for parents-and few parents have the skills to teach all subjects especially as your son heads to the higher grades. This is why a homeschooling group such as you mentioned might be a good idea. Such a group may also have things such as a band, sports groups, or other social opportunities to make up for those missed in school.

    • GrowYourOwnNerd January 6, 2014, 12:55 pm

      I’ve looked a lot at Montessori education. It seems to fail in the socialization aspect. The children I know here who have spent time in Montessori seem to adopt almost autistic-type personality traits. Also, if it matters, they don’t do homework or adhere to any types of standards. I love the idea. I wish it worked. :(

      • Ton Bil January 6, 2014, 1:42 pm

        Montessori worked well for my wife and our daughter. Nothing of the effects you mention there. We lived in the Netherlands at the time.

      • Marcia January 6, 2014, 2:08 pm

        I’ve got friends locally who SWEAR by Montessori and how their kids (now in HS) thrived.

        Around here it’s trendy and now $16k a year. For preschool.

      • Team Puddles January 6, 2014, 3:57 pm

        our girls, 11 and 8, go to a free Montessori charter school here in Arizona and are really thriving. The school goes up through middle school, and we’re going to stick with it until then. Many friends have gone on to University HS, one of the top in the nation, and onto college with nary a hiccup.

        • KruidigMeisje January 7, 2014, 1:27 am

          The father of my child, and his mother both went to Montessory (NL). While she benefitted from the system and got herself roundedly educated, he didn’t get through school (no diploma) until he went to regular (adult) education which had an empasis on discpline. Must be depending on the type of person you are. My ex definitely needs somebody structuring his life. Montessory doesnt do that, you can escape easily. But if you are driven of yourself, it allows for greater range of creativity and expression.
          So my son didn’t do Montessori (he needs structure). He thrives in regular school, benefits from the socialition (which I couldnt give him from home) and the education (which I might give him from home) while I can provide the money to live. Good arrangement.
          But: it does depend on your situation, the skills you can provide as a parent (not all parents can educate and some need to work for money), and the education environment your child needs.
          Life is rarily a question with only one good answer, isn’t it

          • Christy January 7, 2014, 1:45 pm

            There are multiple accreditationg agencies for Montesorri schools in the US – I believe there are five. This can explain some of the differences.

      • Jane January 7, 2014, 4:52 pm

        It is not often that people with disabilities speak up against comments that belittle and devalue their worth as human beings. As the mother of a young woman who is on the Autism Spectrum I would like to say that I am offended and hurt by GrowYourOwnNerd’s comment above. Throughout my child’s formative years I came across many people who were very quick to pass judgement and limitations on her abilities. They invariably spoke with ‘expertise’ in their voice as if they knew better than anyone else the characteristics or traits of the ‘autistic personality’. We endured many rude and discriminatory comments that were silently tolerated when they should have been stamped upon with vengeance.

        My daughter is a very beautiful and a highly intelligent young woman. She is exceptionally creative and recently graduated from high school with marks that allow her entry to the most elite undergraduate courses in the humanities field. A hard working, conscientious and determined person, she is a quiet achiever who can stay focused on her goals. She is also a deep thinking, considerate, caring an loyal person who shows tolerance and understanding of others and the world around her. These are her attributes and if her attributes can in anyway be said to typify ‘autistic personality traits’ then there is much to be valued and admired about people on the autism spectrum.

      • Kathryn January 10, 2014, 11:38 am

        GrowYourOwnNerd I’ve never heard of Montessori-educated kids developing autistic-type personality traits. I’d be curious to see what research that’s based on and specifically what traits you’re referring to.

        And no, Montessori does not have homework, which sounds just fine to me. As for not having standards – they don’t have standardized testing or grades but they do have end-of-year progress reports and ways of gauging how a child is moving through the material. I’m assuming you’re not that familiar with the actual system, as your comments seem to be based on assumptions more than actual fact.

        Both of my kids are in Montessori school and we absolutely adore it. My husband and I were both had a heck of a time with boredom and lack of stimulation growing up in the public school system. I love how engaged my kids are in Montessori, how self-directed it is, how loving and attentive the teachers are, and the fact that my four year old is in a class of 15 kids with 3 teachers.

        Our big choice will be whether to send our kids to public school starting in grade one or not. Its a tough decision.

      • FrogStash April 24, 2015, 10:53 am

        Montessori has allowed my kids to roam and learn while also creating well-rounded, socially-conscious, social butterflies. Just like any school, you have to find the right one.

    • Julia McGarey January 7, 2014, 10:30 am

      I grew up with Montessori – I went to Montessori school for 1st-4th grade (actually only three years b/c with the self-pacing I was able to skip 2nd grade and move up to upper elementary early), and my mom was a Montessori teacher (through middle school). More recently, I’ve taught 6th grade in a public school where some of our kids were formerly in Montessori school, and I’ve taught yoga at a Montessori preschool in Denver. I really believe in the Montessori philosophy, and I believe it works really well for highly driven kids. The one trait that I see common in most post-Montessori kids is that we don’t give a shit about grades. I worked hard in school because I was interested and I wanted to learn; if a teachers’ personality got in the way of my interest, I stopped investing my energy. Grades were not enough to make me work hard for a teacher I couldn’t stand or a class I thought was incredibly boring.
      All that said, I think the effectiveness of a Montessori education comes down to the effectiveness of the teachers (classroom management and motivation) and the administration. The preschool kids I worked with in Denver were light years beyond other preschoolers I know in terms of self-regulation and responsibility. The kids at the school I attended, though, would spend all day cutting out paper dolls and doing no work because they could get away with it.
      My plan is to read up on as much Montessori philosophy and curriculum as I can before I have my first kid (I’ve got at least a year, I hope), and do Montessori in the home. I haven’t decided on whether or not I’ll home school or not, but I want to start with Montessori from birth because it makes sense to me and it gives kids an amazing foundation.
      Also– Montessori math is amazing. I have realized that I think about basic math differently than a lot of people, and it’s because of the Montessori math I did as a kid. A lot of public schools are now using more hands on methods to teach math, and many of those tools come straight from Montessori.

    • John Dwyer February 10, 2014, 5:50 pm

      We took our daughter out of the public schools after kindergarten and she’s been in Montessori ever since. She’s 9 now. I’ll be honest, its not been cheap but we couldn’t stand the public schools. She’s been extremely happy and doing great on math, science and reading.

  • Dave January 6, 2014, 11:13 am

    Great questions here. I think that the social education is a crucial part of growing up. And honestly, since everyone else is putting their kids in the same educational system, I don’t know how many other options there are. Sure, there are extracurriculars, but all of those kids also go to school and the interactions with them might not be the same. A kid might be an outsider in those situations.

    The other important part of school from my perspective is learning to work. There will always be tasks you have to complete in life that you don’t want to. I think school toughen kids up a bit in that regard.

    I hope you continue to post about balancing the idea of keeping your kid in the “system” even as he sees that you have found a way out of it.

    Thanks for the post!

  • GrowYourOwnNerd January 6, 2014, 11:13 am

    I have come to the same conclusion as you: I think a small home-school collaborative approach is the best approach. The problem is that I can’t find three or four other families I consider smart enough who are also willing to do it with me.

    In the meantime, we use a private school. It’s a Jewish school, and we’re not religious, but parochial schools seem to focus less on mass testing and more on building humans who care for one another and are interested in learning. It’s an expense, though.

  • Joe January 6, 2014, 11:14 am

    Good luck with man. Keep us updated. Our kid is still a few years away from going to school full time and I ‘d like to see how it works out for you. Personally, I think a kid benefit from a stable environment and we probably would stick in one school district so he’d be able to put down roots. When I was small, we moved around so much and I don’t want that for my kid.
    I also read a little bit about the home school kids’ experience. Many of them don’t really like it because they missed out on the big school experience. I guess it really depends on the kid.

    • Mrs. Money Mustache January 6, 2014, 12:39 pm

      Exactly! Every kid is different. I loved school (and I notice many of our son’s peers do as well).

      There are certain things about school that I think are fantastic: just being able to ride your bike in the morning to school is one. Hanging out with friends and learning about different social situations is another. He loves art class and has a fantastic art teacher. He is a homebody, so getting out of the house is really good for him. The neighborhood feel and exposure to many kids from different situations is great too. The boredom is really the only aspect that needs to be addressed – it’s a big one, but there are many solutions, I think. We just need to figure it out.

      • Anonymous January 6, 2014, 1:25 pm

        > He loves art class and has a fantastic art teacher.

        You should look into the rules regarding homeschooling in your area, and in particular whether your school district is obligated to let you make use of individual classes such as art class. After all, even when you’re homeschooling you’re still forced to pay for the K-12 system you’re not using, so there’s no good reason you shouldn’t be able to use it.

        > The boredom is really the only aspect that needs to be addressed

        Is he bored because he’s ahead of his class, or is he learning at the right level but just finding school not a fun way to learn it? Those are two *entirely* different problems with different solutions.

        • Mrs. Money Mustache January 6, 2014, 6:17 pm

          He’s bored because he’s ahead. He finds worksheets and homework repetitive and tedious. The issue is mostly with math, I think. I think it’s a combination of needing more challenge and also doing more hands on work.

          He described his perfect math class to me once and it involved a real world situation that took about a week to resolve in a group setting. It sounded similar to cracking a code. He finds many of the so-called “real world” math problems they solve to be unrealistic in his opinion.

          • greg January 6, 2014, 7:05 pm

            “He finds many of the so-called “real world” math problems they solve to be unrealistic”

            and I heartily agree with him. There was one well-documented anecdote I read that was about a “natural” discovery of multiplication: a room full of kids just asked to count the number of things. One chose to count the holes in a radiator that were aligned in a grid. The teacher asked to count again (not a multiple of the number of rows), and a different result came up. The kid then “discovered” multiplication on his/her own as both a shortcut and a validation mechanism.

            Doing the same thing in a forced manner would probably lead to the same boring result.

            Starting with a problem like evaporation in a curved pool with a required rate of water addition and purification could be fun since it’s pretty complex, and can go through differential equations if desired. Once the proper (currently-too-difficult) problem is posed, natural curiosity can take over. Too far away from the actual solution? The questions to make progress should be far more interesting than cramming down patterns.

            Cramming down patterns and rules screwed me over as a kid, because I was “really good” at math before the real stuff, and then buckled horribly under real math to the extent I scraped through engineering classes with much grief.

            • CTY January 7, 2014, 12:31 am

              Math sure can have that effect on people. Practical application is key. When our boys were in school we would take the current unit and work it into our everyday stuff going on. When our budget was super tight & our goals seemed out of reach we had our oldest propose a budget for us (in 3rd grade at the time & way advanced for his age). His budget was very good–we used several suggestions. We did however, nix the $10 a week allowance he was going for.
              For me, the word problems in my day were extremely painful. Super unrealistic & I spent a lot of the time correcting the grammar. I would rewrite them and turn them in corrected. My teachers were very frustrated with me especially when they wrote the problems. I wonder if they have gotten any better. (teachers/word problems

            • Mrs PoP January 7, 2014, 8:11 am

              CTY, your screen name brought to mind one of the many academic extra-curriculars that my siblings and I were involved in throughout school.

              If the smallest MM is not feeling challenged enough, look into programs like CTY (Center for Talented Youth – though this one is outside of school generally), Odyssey of the Mind, Science Olympiad. As he gets older there are even more – Mock Trial (high school usually, some middle), Economics For Leaders (high school summer program), Math Counts (middle school), Math Olympiad (elementary and Middle School).

              This is just a small sampling of the world of further education opportunities available that are social and very educational. If your son’s school doesn’t currently have them, with all your available time, you guys would be in a wonderful position to help start one.

              Lastly, if the school really isn’t providing the edification that your little guy needs, the school is at fault and you need to address that with the school and the district. When Mr PoP’s childhood school district refused to provide gifted and accelerated classes, his parents sued the school district. Mr PoP was not the only child that benefited from the results of the legal action. Gifted students are Special Ed, too! And their needs should legally be addressed.

              My mom went out of her way to ensure that my siblings and I went to the best schools in our district – ones with specialized gifted programs that required testing into. And then when we needed further challenges we did all the afterschool and summer programs listed above and more.

            • Mike Corayer January 7, 2014, 10:22 pm

              This approach to math reminded me of this excellent talk by Dan Meyer on teaching:


              Of course, coming up with clever ways of posing and explaining real-world math problems is a demanding task for the teacher, which probably explains why so many opt for the “here are the rules, here are the worksheets” approach…

          • Rebecca Stapler January 7, 2014, 10:16 am

            This highlights an important point about gifted education. Gifted students have special needs, too, but are often overlooked because resources need to be allocated to get all students up to a basic level, not cater to everyone’s specific needs. I agree, I think that everyone should have the resources they need to achieve basic competency, but I would love to see public schools also provide gifted students an education tailored to their needs too.

            There are few districts in my state that even have gifted education anymore, but our plan is to move to one of them by the time our son gets to kindergarten — just in case he turns out to be as gifted as we think he is :)

          • Walt January 7, 2014, 12:07 pm

            My mom continues to refer to 4th grade as “the year my brain died.” I was ahead of the other students, so I sat in class with a book in my lap reading all day.

            In parent-teacher conference, the teacher told her “I just let him read all day. When I ask him a question he always has the answer so he’s doing OK.”

            Fortunately the fifth grade teacher challenged me a bit and things got back on track. But I can tell you, as much fun as sitting reading was, being challenged was better.

          • TheMathManiac January 7, 2014, 12:46 pm

            Check out yummymath.com. Best for grades 3 and up but something he could really benefit from in the future.

          • Annamal January 7, 2014, 3:36 pm

            Designing and building real world items might be a good way to keep on learning maths with real world applications.

            One of the things they do here is get kids to form mini companies to design, build and sell things, we never did particularly well but it did teach us a lot and it required a lot of different skills and learning.

            Would something like that suit him?

          • Tristan Hume January 8, 2014, 3:59 pm

            I’m a grade 12 student with a similar gripe which I have solved, perhaps you could share these methods of mine with Little MM. I have managed to enjoy school by finding ways of dealing with the rote homework I dislike and maybe Little MM could too.

            First, make sure this homework really isn’t worth doing. My two tests are “does it take me longer to write down the answer than to figure it out?” and “is it marked?”

            Then you have two options:
            1. Do only the hardest questions in your head to practice and make sure you can do them. If your teacher calls on you then quickly do the problem in your head and write it down or say it.
            This is very much in the spirit of the “Rules” post.

            2. Automate it. I LOVE doing this and often end up doing this for fun instead of saving time. If you are assigned lots of very similar questions then writing a program to solve them all is surprisingly simple. Telling a computer how to do your homework demonstrates complete understanding of the problems and often teaches you more about the subject.

            I recently had fun doing this with my Math summative:

            That’s a very complex program but simpler material leads to easier programming. I could probably teach a smart kid like Little MM how to do this for grade 2 math homework on a 2 hour Skype call.

            By actively developing methods to solve your problems with your own education you can make school more fun all by yourself. You can even learn cool skills like programming while doing it. I’ve used my programming skill to make tons of money and make cool apps. (Speaking of which that finance timeline app I showed at the Ottawa MMM meet up is coming soon.)

            • lurker January 8, 2014, 4:21 pm

              SWEET! that is all I can say…….if you ever need an angel investor……

          • Anonymous January 13, 2014, 4:21 am

            A quick suggestion, since he enjoys reading and wants a more interesting approach to math: take a look at the book series “Algebra the Easy Way”, “Trigonometry the Easy Way”, and “Calculus the Easy Way”. They present the three subjects as stories of the people in a fictional kingdom, discovering the need for new forms of mathematics, and inventing them as needed. Almost all of the problems are motivated by interesting scenarios, with very few artificial problems.

            There’s absolutely nothing stopping a motivated and interested kid from studying advanced math; I read all three of those books at about your son’s current age, and enjoyed them immensely.

            I wish there were more stories where those came from. There are thought-provoking stories like Flatland that can be engaging and brain-bending, but those don’t directly teach specific subjects. But since you said math in particular was an area of interest and one he’s not enjoying in school, those might help engage his interest, by giving him something to challenge him again.

            • Janet June 8, 2014, 9:57 pm

              Another great book/math series is Life of Fred. It is written as a story as it introduces math. The beginning elementary book are pretty simple, with one storyline going from Apples to Mineshaft and a new storyline starting at Fractions. We’ve used them through Trig and my kids love them.

      • Dana Watters January 6, 2014, 5:20 pm

        You are doing a great job as parents. You are weighing the pros and cons of your options and you are involved. Involvement with a childs education is the most important denominator. It sounds like he goes to a great school with lots of options. Your son sounds like he is well adjusted and normal in his reaction to the differentiating rules in his life. It’s ok that every day is not total bliss for him. He is learning to cope. Congratulations on your success.

      • lurker January 6, 2014, 5:48 pm

        how about reading? I read a lot of books and that always was fun for me as a kid and still is…….wish his school had a shop class where he could build stuff….that would be a great creative outlet….school should not be boring…..sad to hear it…

        • Mrs. Money Mustache January 6, 2014, 6:26 pm

          Good idea. He loves to read already, which is great. He reads a ridiculous amount (probably over 20 hrs of reading over the break) and we read to him just as much.

    • Insourcelife January 6, 2014, 1:50 pm

      Agreed. I remember not wanting to go to school but now I can appreciate the social aspect of traditional schooling. My best friend to this day is the one that I met when I was 7 years old. I would be OK if my son told me that he does not want to go to college, but I definitely want him to at least finish high school.

  • LennStar January 6, 2014, 11:17 am

    Why not start with something like Khanacadamy or Scratch (programming) or Duolingo (I’m always for learning new languages, human or computer)?
    Just one hour each second day.

    • Mrs. Money Mustache January 6, 2014, 12:41 pm

      Great ideas. We do a lot with him – he even did a treehouse course with me. We’ve made many a scratch game and have gone through a lot of the Spanish Duolingo together as well.

      He says that he really likes that stuff, but he feels like he wants free time too. He says that school time should be spent doing that sort of learning and after school, he wants to work on his own projects (whatever they may be).

      I see his point.

      • GrowYourOwnNerd January 6, 2014, 12:57 pm

        I’ve had some success working with the teachers and administration on establishing a little flexibility for our kids. When there are routine one-page printed quizzes for example I’ve gotten the teacher to give my daughter a second page of more complex questions. It seems to help a little. Nice to see you on here, Mrs. MM. :)

      • Barb January 6, 2014, 4:51 pm

        Smart kid and I agree with his point. Assuming no homework, non school time should be whatever he chooses it to be (assuming finances and parental moral choices). I am a kid who was known to come home and read a full book between school and bedtime (my parents would tell me to go to bed, assume I had and suddenly realize hours later that I would STILL be snuggled in the corner chair).

        Creativity comes most often (in my experience) either in those moments when we are bored to death, or those moments when we are desperate for a solution of some sort.

        That said, IF he is bored because he finishes his work early you may want to talk with the teacher about what he can do alternatively other than just sit and read.

        After six years in Germany, those students go to school half a day only. Of course they also have piles of homework and no teacher to resource during that homework if needed.

        I realize its a LONG way off and I don’t think they exisit prior to middle school, but at that point if he’s still “in the system” you may wish to search for a modular scheduled school. They either have schedules on alternating days (allow long periods for each subject), and or they allow free time on or off campus between classes.

      • coldude January 7, 2014, 12:03 am

        I suggest building a “portfolio” of the projects that interest him–as they are completed, ask summary questions orally or in writing to do the meta-learning stuff with him , ask what he did best, what he thought he could improve on a second try, stuff like that. Keep the record to show schools as he progresses. I know it’s “educationist”, but for small groups, it’s highly effective.

      • LennStar January 7, 2014, 9:52 am

        I think I am envying him ^^

        suggestion: grab his friends and let them make out a project that they want to do. Let them think over what and why and how the most people can benefit from it.

        If he likes reading, he possibly is interested in building a “little free library” and maintaining it. That could also increase the number of books he can lend and possibly find a super one he wold not have found in the town library ;)

      • decemberbaby January 8, 2014, 7:00 pm

        I completely agree with him. In middle school I was told, “sure, we have math enrichment. Students who finish the assigned work quickly can access a whole bunch of word problems to work on.” Great, the reward for doing my boring work was going to be… more work? Explain how that’s supposed to help?

  • Will Murphey January 6, 2014, 11:18 am

    I had a similar dilemma last year with my 6 year old daughter who then was in kindergarten. We have recently reached financial independence and wanted to travel so we looked into home school. We hit the road for a few months but she was really missing her friends. We could not provide that social structure for her on the road, like he classroom had done in the past. We have enrolled her in school this year (1st grade) and she is so much happier. This might have worked for us if we could have enrolled her in school for a few months in different cities, or if we took her same aged cousin along with us. Something for me to think about.

  • Rand January 6, 2014, 11:18 am

    I’m actually surprised that you are still sending the kid to school. School is designed to train the kids for proper behavior in a factory setting. Harshly put, nothing other than modern slavery, in my opinion, but research it yourself. Home schooling is so much better for the kids. On average they learn so much more and if they choose to go on to university, they have a large advantage. Anyway, a researcher like you can figure it out, go do so! And, not to be contrary to the above, but I find that explicitly, math and writing are best taught be an interested parent.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 6, 2014, 11:52 am

      I have heard that “designed to train factory workers” idea many times, and it probably has some truth to it. But remember there are intelligent people thinking about our school system every day and changes have been happening, slowly but surely, for many decades.

      The teachers and principals I talk to know these children are not bound for factories, and they know that creativity and entrepreneurship is a huge advantage. This is a city whose lifeblood is the high-tech industries and we receive plenty of influence from the hippy/hipster ground zero of Boulder right next door.

      Even so, I cringe a bit when I am there volunteering, and I hear teachers tell kids to “stop talking” with other children, or stop doodling on their pages. Talking to your peers and doodling will get you a long way in today’s world, where being good with people and being innovative both pay very well.

      • Travis January 6, 2014, 12:19 pm

        Seth Godin talks about this and other very interesting stuff in this TEDx talk, http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/STOP-STEALING-DREAMS-Seth-Godin

        I highly recommend watching that video, it’s only about 15 mins if I remember correctly. He also has a manifesto on education that I’ve been wanting to read that goes into detail on our educational system.

        You might also consider watching the documentary “waiting for superman” which is a good one about our educational system from a former insider. While it’s nice to think the public education system is dynamic and ever changing/improving unfortunately it’s not…

        You are spot on with the “stop talking”, “sit still”, and “just listen”. This is one of the reasons we’ve decided to home school. FYI the most common question is what about socialization? That statement says the only way to socialize is at school. Our kids are in other activities such as church, playgroups, sports, etc and get plenty of interaction with others.

        • Jon January 6, 2014, 4:50 pm

          We home school and I get concerned parents all the time saying “Aren’t you worried about their lack of social interaction?” Frankly I think the question is fair because when you look at a lot of home schooling kids, I’m sorry but it’s often true that they often don’t have good social skills.

          My belief though is that this is usually simply a reflection of the parents. Home schooled kids with parents that are socially awkward are also socially awkward. Public school might mitigate that for the kids. But for parents with normal social skills it’s not an issue. I’m biased but I put myself in the later category, and I regard my kids as very healthy and normal in this area, maybe even more advanced.

          • Sarah January 6, 2014, 8:45 pm

            As someone who was homeschooled for 10 years (with a little sister homeschooled 12 years), and part of a home-schooling group for all those years, I have to completely agree with Jon.

            The homeschooling group I was part of was about 75% extremely conservative Christians who wanted to shelter their children from the evils of the world, 20% hippies who wanted to shelter their children from structure (the “un-schoolers”), and 5% fairly mainstream well educated people who wanted to give their kids a better and richer education than the local public school system provided. My parents were in that 5%, and so I turned out to be pretty normal and well-adjusted. The 95% of the kids with “weirdo” parents turned out to be very socially awkward. Our group only met a couple times a month, and there was basically no formal eduction provided, just a chance to socialize. Additionally there were regular outings to do stuff like go bowling, etc. But it was very far removed from any sort of classroom experience. Of course, each homeschooling group is different, so YMMV. Make sure you know what you’re getting into before you sign up with a group. My mom did a lot of shopping around, and this was the least bizarre one she could find in our area.

            One of the hardest things about homeschooling that you touch on in your article, and that I can back up with my own experience is the real possibility of too much time together. When home and school are the same thing, and parent and child have no time apart, any conflict blends from one to the other and is somehow magnified by the fact that you almost never have a period of separation to calm down. This is especially difficult during adolescence. If your school teacher gets mad at you, you don’t have to deal with that at home. If your mother gets mad at you, you have a break from that at school. Unless you’re homeschooled.

            Overall, I am grateful for the wonderful education that my mother provided for me, but those were 10 very strange and lonely years. I could not wait to go to college.

            I will certainly never homeschool my own children, but maybe it is the right choice for you. There is a lot to think about.

            • valletta January 7, 2014, 5:46 pm

              Goo dpoint about the “time off” from teacher/parent.

              I LOVED school, was an excellent student and couldn’t wait to go each day. I would have hated being home schooled and my mother certainly did not have the personality for it :)

              On a side note, I’ve noticed lots of kids in my family who are never ALONE. They are always with a parent or at school.
              I would have detested being taken to school by my parents (who I am was close to) because I viewed walking to and from school as my free time.

              My nephew on the other hand is 14 years old and has been ferried to every activity he’s ever done. Yikes.

              Many of these kids (not all) seem so infantilized in one way and yet exposed to more mature material than ever (internet, etc). My husband calls my nephew a man-child. Well educated and but so child like and immature.

              When I suggested he might want to get a summer job (to get life skills not $) they all looked at me like I had two heads!

          • Travis January 7, 2014, 10:39 am

            Public school doesn’t make someone “normal”…there is always going to be the weird kid in the corner who talks to himself while eating his own boogers. I believe that public school does make conformity the norm allowing for more peer pressure to shape a child as opposed to the child shaping himself.

            Conversely homeschooling doesn’t make one weird and anti-social but does put the onus upon the parent to ensure a well rounded education in addition to not turning their child into a shut-in.

            Bottom line I believe it comes down to the parenting as opposed to the act of schooling when developing a child’s social abilities.

            • Tad January 7, 2014, 4:49 pm

              One other important point on socialization – regardless of whether traditional school is better or worse than home school, it is the overwhelming standard. To the degree that one’s social abilities are enhanced by common experiences and reference points, then traditional schooling provides an advantage. Basketball may be no better of a sport than tug-of-war, but knowing enough to talk about last night’s NBA game is going to be a lot more useful if you are trying to strike up a conversation.

      • Peter January 6, 2014, 12:22 pm

        Interesting article I read a while ago that your comment about the teacher telling the kids to be quiet.


        I don’t have kids but this article helped me appreciate what it would mean to be a kid in this day and age.

        Doodling got me where I am today. Not because I am an artist, far from it actually, but if I am not doodling I fall asleep. I had a boss call me out for not paying attention, not only was I able to recap what discussion was being had but expanded upon in a meaningful way. He never questioned my doodling again.

        A high school teacher of mine would knew it was my paper being handed in so I stopped putting my name on it as an experiment, he figured it out.

        • Travis January 6, 2014, 12:50 pm

          Thanks for sharing I like it

          • Heather January 6, 2014, 1:02 pm

            Good thing nobody ever told me not to doodle in school. I think it kept me sane.

      • Anonymous January 6, 2014, 1:20 pm

        The point isn’t the factory-worker thing anymore, but a closely related item: schools are designed to be uniform in their education and their standards, and thus treat every student exactly the same, despite every student being different. Differences are not considered a feature, they’re considered a bug, to be squashed as rapidly as possible. That’s exactly what you noticed about seeming to discourage creativity. A teacher in a class of 20, 30, or more students is simply not prepared to deal with any one student individually more than absolutely necessary, and will consider any student requiring or desiring such attention as trouble.

        It’s entirely possible to have an education that *does* allow for more individual conversations and learning, and a more two-way discussion environment; many of the best university courses and especially graduate courses work that way. It’s almost impossible in earlier grades, though, for a variety of reasons, and even if it were possible you won’t find a school implementing it.

        It sounds like your only major concern with something like homeschooling is “social education”. To put it mildly, the K-12 school system is not a sensible social education for anything other than life in the K-12 school system; it’s a microcosm of some of the ugliest parts of human social interaction, and at best it’s a cautionary tale. I think you’ve got the right idea about getting together a group of other students interested in homeschooling, but I would strongly suggest separating the concept of “social education” from the concept of actual education, and solving them separately. For the social aspects, there are any number of local activities you could arrange for your son to take part in: look for your local homeschooling scene to find many of them, see if your city or county has a local parks and recreational district that has scheduled activities and get-togethers, or just find a bunch of local families to set up activities with. Your son will find himself with plenty of extra time for social interaction once he’s not in a classroom as much. Meanwhile, for his actual education, he’ll be getting a far better experience; in particular, if he’s as motivated as it sounds like, there’s absolutely no reason he needs to take 14 years to finish his education.

        • Also Anonymous January 6, 2014, 7:58 pm

          “schools are designed to be uniform in their education and their standards, and thus treat every student exactly the same”

          You know, this is easy to say, but it sounds like you haven’t been involved in public school education in a few decades. The teachers in every school we’ve been associated with have worked hard to differentiate instruction, and training in different learning styles is now standard in teacher prep programs.

          ” it’s a microcosm of some of the ugliest parts of human social interaction”

          It’s a microcosm, all right, and that is exactly what you lose in a group of like-minded homeschoolers: exposure to diversity — ethnic, economic, racial, religious, ability, maturity, and above all, diversity of ideas. Your child may well be bored with his spelling list, but accepting Daniella though she still sucks her thumb and fending off Ahmed’s rude comments about his lunch is not boring; these are an important set of life lessons that he just won’t get in the protective clique you are contemplating.

          And, ultimately, some of the things we need to learn actually ARE boring, and there is some merit in learning how to push through the boredom.

          I’ve done all three over the years — parent co-op, private (Catholic) school, and public (magnet). Public school has been the best for our bright, easily bored kids.

          • Anonymous January 31, 2014, 2:49 am

            First of all, a quick disclaimer: I’m not someone who claims that any particular form of schooling is always the right answer for everyone. Some students do best with homeschooling, some with private schools, some with unschooling, some with public schools, and so on. I’m a big advocate of finding the most effective approach for each individual case.

            > You know, this is easy to say, but it sounds like you haven’t been involved in public school education in a few decades. The teachers in every school we’ve been associated with have worked hard to differentiate instruction, and training in different learning styles is now standard in teacher prep programs.

            I’m happy to hear that you’re trying to address that problem. Your experience is not universal. Neither is mine, for that matter; I’ve lived through a fair bit of public schooling, but I’m not going to claim that my experiences are universal either. So let’s leave it at this: there are still many experiences being documented *today* in which schools utterly fail to deal with people who doesn’t fit the mold. Whether that’s by design or by defect, there’s still far too much of it going on. And unless you want to spend your whole life attempting to fix that system, often the most effective solution is to get out of it completely if it doesn’t work for you.

            > It’s a microcosm, all right, and that is exactly what you lose in a group of like-minded homeschoolers: exposure to diversity — ethnic, economic, racial, religious, ability, maturity, and above all, diversity of ideas.

            Every homeschooling group I’ve ever been involved in has been anything *but* like-minded. Just about the only things they’ve had in common have been homeschooling and the goals driving it, such as finding what works for each student, learning constantly, and treating children . In any other area, I’ve found a huge diversity of all kinds, *especially* of ideas.

            It’s certainly possible that there are some homeschooling cliques of entirely like-minded folks who got together for exactly that reason. For instance, I’d expect that with people who homeschool for ideological/religious reasons. Note that within the homeschooling community, those tend to be a fairly separate group from the people homeschooling to seek a more effective education; within the latter group I’ve found a very healthy amount of diversity.

            > Your child may well be bored with his spelling list, but accepting Daniella though she still sucks her thumb and fending off Ahmed’s rude comments about his lunch is not boring; these are an important set of life lessons that he just won’t get in the protective clique you are contemplating.

            Life is not high school, junior high, or elementary school. Professional work environments and adult social situations rarely have the same social problems that crop up in the average school; in part that’s due to increased maturity, and in part that’s because not everyone who goes to the same school ends up around each other as adults.

            Sure, if you want full-immersion full-contact training in human social politics, high school has that. You could also turn on a TV and watch the Nth iteration of Survivor; bring the brain bleach either way.

            More importantly, it often isn’t worth the tradeoff: you can find groups with lots of *healthy* social interaction, in a supportive and individual environment, and most importantly none of that needs to get in the way of getting the most effective education possible.

            > And, ultimately, some of the things we need to learn actually ARE boring, and there is some merit in learning how to push through the boredom.

            Boredom is a disease, to be avoided at all costs; life is far too short to *ever* be bored when there are a million fun things to learn and do in the world.

            There are many different reasons to try alternative approaches to schooling, and I’m not going to claim that I’m speaking for all possible reasons or students. However, one very common reason to homeschool is a student who is bored in public school due to some combination of uninteresting and un-challenging material. In that particular case, the lesson public schools often end up teaching is that if you’re capable of learning faster, you’ll have to wait around bored while others catch up; learn to slow down or to be comfortable being bored and unchallenged. I’d much rather teach the lesson that if you’re learning faster, you should keep finding more challenging and interesting material, and always push the upper limits of what you’re capable of”. If there’s a single lesson I’d consider most critical to impart, it’s that one: always keep pushing yourself to the utter limit of your ability, because that’s the only thing that should ever limit what you can accomplish.

      • Marcia January 6, 2014, 2:11 pm

        Wow. My son got in trouble with a substitute once for talking to another student. You see, many (>50%) of the kids in his class don’t speak English as their first language. He sits at a table of four and started helping one of the other students read the instructions in English. His teacher always encouraged that.

        The sub did not. Grrr.

      • Scott January 6, 2014, 2:18 pm

        This is a subject I have thought a lot about, because I have three kids, but also because I am a public school teacher in Canada. My wife and I considered home-schooling our kids but I still believe that traditonal school is the best choice. Math, science, english etc can all be taught by any reasonably educated parent but I’m not worried about my kids learning fractions or scientific notation or nouns and adjectives. Instead, I want my kids to learn how to 1) Work hard (yes, you have to do all 25 math questions even though you think they are boring), 2) Be flexible (yes, you have to work with that partner even though he/she is smelly and clueless) 3)Be resilient (yes, you need to step up to that ‘bully’ and tell them to take a hike…and if that doesn’t work you have my permission to kick him in the shins).
        It is possible for these things to be learned in a home school or alternative setting but they don’t get the same exposure at home. I also like that going through the tedium of six subjects a day, five days a week, 40 weeks a year times 12 convinces a child to take matters into his/her own hands and plan for a future that they want. As a teacher, I guarantee you, there is a social education that happens in a traditional school setting that simply cannot be calculated or quantified.

        • Nd February 6, 2014, 3:49 pm

          Anecdotally, I can say that as a university English professor, I have observed that many students come out of what you characterize as “the tedium if six subjects…forty weeks a year times twelve” (or whatever the local mandates are) with no tools for taking matters into their own hands and, very often, no desire to do so.

          Many students want simply to be told the “right answer” and hate to be challenged. I have had quite a few students tell me that to their surprise, my first year English course made think. They often see classes as a task to be accomplished and have little idea of what it means to learn.

      • Joshua Sheats January 7, 2014, 9:04 am

        I think you might benefit from studying the history of the educational system and its origins. It’s not so much that the teachers and administrators in the current age don’t have noble motives or good intentions; rather, it’s a systemic “problem” that, one could argue, was designed from the beginning. It’s possible to make a house with ugly bones prettier but it’s easier to build a beautiful home if you have a good foundation and good bones.

        Here are some resources you might find useful.

        You can read John Taylor Gatto’s book “The Underground History of American Education” free on his website ( http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/underground/ ) or read it as a PDF ( http://mhkeehn.tripod.com/ughoae.pdf ).

        John Taylor Gatto was New York City and New York State teacher of the year when he resigned from teaching because he was no longer willing to participate in child abuse (inflicted by the public education system).

        If you prefer video, you might enjoy this lengthy discussion called “The Greatest History Lesson – John Taylor Gatto – The Truth About Your Education.” ( http://youtu.be/GxCuc-2tfgk ) It’s quite comprehensive. There are many short clips you can find and enjoy.

        Finally, you might also enjoy the discussions on the School Sucks Project podcast ( http://schoolsucksproject.com/ )


      • Elyse January 7, 2014, 5:09 pm

        I always assumed the “stop talking” rule was to teach kids to respect each other. My classes were always an open-panel format. Anyone could talk, but inturrption was incredibly rude. You made a signal to show you had ideas to contribute, then started once the other had finished their thoughts.

        We were able to discuss many ideas and respect each other in the process.

        It worked awesomely for us. No problem with kids talking if they have the outlet to do so without being rude. You have to give an outlet.

        • Anonymous January 31, 2014, 2:53 am

          That is an incredible rarity in a non-university classroom setting, and thank you for it.

      • TSW January 8, 2014, 10:53 am

        I think it’s worth mentioning that education has multiple goals.

        1) Social conformity (yeah, it sucks, but a little might be helpful if we are honest). Few of us here chew with our mouths open.
        2) Wisdom and Philosophy (not taught in public schools as far as I can tell)
        3) Independent thoughts, willingness to have divergent thoughts based on first principles
        4) Teaching grit. Not all of life is easy. Further, you will be happier if you are challenged to do things that suck sometimes. This might include reading some of the “Great Books of the Western World” for instance
        5) Skills learning so that can allow one to earn an income
        6) Pursuit of personal interests for happiness. Craftsman sort of ideas. Building something that makes you feel proud. Art.

        John Holt makes good points, but so does Robert Hutchins in “The Great Conversation.”

        Education has multiple facets.

      • George January 17, 2014, 11:16 am

        Do you think that when said kid grows up and never developed the discipline to stop doing a distracting activity (doodling/ talking) in lieu of their primary task that they’ll struggle?

        I’ve meet many creative types that lack fundamental life-skills due to alternative learning environments that essentially encouraged our normal human desire to do what is easy, comfortable, and fun – often procrastination. As a result they’re unsuccessful because they simply lack the skills to get shit done.

        The advantage of learning to work diligently, or deny yourself in the moment, are essential for learning subjects like the math and science. So many of my former college classmates failed out of these majors because they failed to develop the proper decline. Indeed, the coming generation will likely not add anything meaningful to the basic sciences; they will be too preoccupied with satisfying their “fun interests”.

        Sad – but true. Just look at the attention span of your average 4th grader who cannot even make eye contact or learn a multi-step process. This lot is not going to amount to much…

      • Vanessa October 8, 2014, 4:03 pm

        You should really think about coming to New Zealand.

        We need builders/handy people in Christchurch to help with the rebuild after the 2011 earthquake and there are heaps of opportunities throughout the whole country.

        I expect there are lots of opportunities to be found here. I have one that you might be interested in, which involves a holiday house in need of a few minor mods…

    • Mr, 1500 January 9, 2014, 11:38 am

      “School is designed to train the kids for proper behavior in a factory setting.”

      The thought that I’ve had is that I wish schools would teach a little bit more about creative thinking and entrepreneurship. My child’s old school had Junior Achievement. While my exposure to it was only for 1 year, the program seemed really good.

      On the other hand, the structure of society is such that there have to be many more indians than chiefs. Someone has to do all of the work for the entrepreneurs after all. It is just a fact of civilization that most of us are going to end up taking direction from a boss for most of their working lives.

      • Sara January 21, 2014, 12:36 pm

        I love Junior Achievement and have volunteered the last two years to teach their curriculum in my son’s class. Hoping to continue that for this year in both of my kids’ classes.

  • Sandy January 6, 2014, 11:20 am

    I think that there is some value in the social interaction that your son will get from school but so much as schools being the only institution where he can learn? Busted. I was pretty much bored with school most of my life and started my own little business by the time I was 13 or so.

    No reason why your son can’t have adventures outside of school that will nurture is interests. With you both being retired there is plenty of time available to make sure that he gets as much mental stimulation that he needs. I absolutely believe in using the world outside as centers of learning.

  • Court Merrigan January 6, 2014, 11:20 am

    I’ve got a 1st grader in much the same boat. The ability to constructively cope with boredom is a useful skill (most valuable being the lesson that spending your life coping with boredom is a bad way to spend your life), but after you’ve got that down, then what?

    I don’t know, either. I hope someone here does.

    • Ms. Must-Stash January 6, 2014, 9:27 pm

      I have a three year old so we haven’t had to deal with this yet. But I’m dreading it already – I definitely disliked a lot of school (boring and slow), and actively detested middle school (why oh why does middle school even exist?). I plan to start my daughter in traditional school but am already not sure if it will end up being an effective use of her time.

      Which brings me to my recommendation: Penelope Trunk’s homeschooling blog: http://homeschooling.penelopetrunk.com/ Penelope is extremely opinionated but has a fascinating take on homeschooling, including citations from lots of thought-provoking research & educational experts.

  • Spoonman. January 6, 2014, 11:21 am

    Possible that in the Boulder area you might be able to find a homeschooling group you’d be comfortable around – I think they frequently have one parent “teach” each day, so you’d still have some time for the adults to attend to adult activities.

    This is a long way off for your son, but I was able to take enough AP classes in high school – and to test out of enough basic classes (in Texas, don’t know if that’s possible in Colorado) – that I left high school for Cornell Engineering a year early, and finished college a semester early as well. One and a half additional years of guiding my own path.

  • EL January 6, 2014, 11:21 am

    THis is why many parents decide to go the home schooled route. If you take away creativity, I can only imagine what kind of world that will create for the future. Good luck.

  • Ann January 6, 2014, 11:21 am

    Check into homeschooling co-ops. How they work in our area is a parent teaches a class, kids can take other classes. Different co-ops are set up differently, but it’s a way for kids to get social experience, parents to get a break (or a chance to teach other kids).

  • Free Money Minute January 6, 2014, 11:22 am

    I am glad to hear you touched on the subject of pulling your son out of school and teaching him yourself (maybe simply by guiding him to learn by himself or with others). However, I am saddened that you don’t pull the trigger and pull him out. He will be much further ahead of the game, much sooner and enjoy the freedom of learning what he truly loves at his own pace. I am still working towards having complete financial freedom as you have, but I am to the point where my wife is staying home to train and guide our children. What freedom I may not yet have, they are realizing now.

    • Mrs. Money Mustache January 6, 2014, 12:34 pm

      It’s a joint decision and a big one. We’ve talked to our son at length about alternatives and so far we haven’t found a solution. Pulling him out without him being okay with it would not be a good idea.

      While he says he hates school, we haven’t identified a solution yet for our family. He said he would really miss his friends if he didn’t go to school.

      I don’t think this is a rash decision we can make. It’s something that will take time to figure out and I’m hoping we can even figure something out where he can still participate at his current school and be with his friends, but on a part-time basis. I had never heard of a part-time public school program, so I will definitely look into this.

      • Travis January 6, 2014, 1:23 pm

        It’s called equal access and Colorado has laws pertaining to equal access to public education for home schoolers.

        Children participating in a nonpublic, home-based education program are allowed equal access to the public schools’ extracurricular and interscholastic activities. Colorado Revised Statutes §§ 22
        -33-104.5(6), 22-32-116.5.

        If you want a legal summary you can look here, http://www.hslda.org/laws/Equal_Access/Colorado_eq.asp

        More info on Colorado homeschooling can be found here, http://www.hslda.org/laws/default.asp?State=CO

      • Geek January 6, 2014, 4:28 pm

        I hated school because it was so dull. I was way behind on study ethic. And some kids were way behind on education because school was too hard. Even with eventual track classes – you can only have so many tracks and be efficient at educating, especially in a small school system.
        FWIW I manage a 6 figure salary even with the “disadvantages” but your son could cure cancer or at least ingrained overconsumerism ;) if you find a way to really open up his education!

        What I’m saying is godspeed figuring out the path that works for you and Little MM.

      • Jwessman January 6, 2014, 10:18 pm

        Don’t forget that if you pull him out of school, it doesn’t have to be forever. It shouldn’t be hard to homeschool for a year or even the second half of a year to try it out. I homeschool my kids right now, but I’m not opposed to putting them in school if/when homeschooling stops being more awesome than school, or when they decide they want to go. I like that my sons’ homeschooling peers are independent thinkers who are all working on their own interesting projects and are personally engaged in learning. I bet you would be able to find some good groups where you are. If it doesn’t work out, he can always quietly slip back into his classroom seat in the fall of 2014, and he’ll have some great stories to tell!

      • juggleandhope January 7, 2014, 1:51 pm

        This seems like a wise response. Take the time to figure it out together – it’s a major life decision.

        Hybrid options seem particularly worth considering. I’ve been teaching public school for a long time and several of my brightest high school students were homeschooled until 9th grade.

        The sheer boredom of most schooling in the U.S. seems like the best argument for doing something else. The “Story of Fire” seems like a more apt metaphor to me than the “factory-worker” story. http://www.poetry-chaikhana.com/blog/2009/05/13/story-the-story-of-fire/

        Grace Llewelyn’s books would be worth a read.

        Good luck – fun to read about this decision getting the attention it deserves! (And watching my bored and boring students in one class today fail to take much interest in a pretty great lesson – just wanting to be entertained – makes the reminder of the real point particularly heartening.)

      • Subversive January 8, 2014, 9:34 am

        Just wanted to chime in here on your comment that “He said he would really miss his friends if he didn’t go to school”. We have a Grade 1 aged girl (along with 2 younger ones and another one on the way), and we decided to home school this year. She had done ‘regular’ preschool and kindergarten, but we felt that the opportunities for excellence and diversified learning offered by home schooling were too great to pass up. However, she is still friends with all her friends from kindergarten and sees them regularly. She is involved in music lessons (has made a new friend there and we are in the process of arranging a play date with the other parents), drama class, goes to a group board games session in the afternoon on Wednesdays, figure skating, girl guides, and does horse riding camps on the weekend every other month or so. Because my wife and I are active, social people, we have not had any problems keeping her well socialized, and she has retained the friendships she had before along with adding several new ones. Most of her friends are jealous of all the free time she has to pursue interesting things. Just yesterday, my wife took her and her 5 year old sister to the mountains for a ski lesson while the other kids were in school.

        There are a lot of benefits to home schooling, and for a family in your position and with your values, it would seem to be an excellent choice.

  • thegoblinchief January 6, 2014, 11:24 am

    I’m a stay-at-home dad with three kids (4, 6, and 7). Before we switched to home schooling, I worked weekends and part-time during the week but the stress of a double commute (home–>school–>home–>daycare–>work–>reverse) every work day was far outweighed the benefits of schooling at home. I take a very relaxed attitude towards schooling, some would argue too relaxed, but I’ve noticed a marked increase in their observational skills and curiosity (exactly what they need at this age!).

    We’ll evaluate each year, with each child, to see if it’s still the best route to take but so far I’m very happy we took the route we did.

    I still work weekends when my wife is home, but the money I earn goes 100% to debt repayment and, once all of our bad decisions are retired, to FI.

  • cakenggt January 6, 2014, 11:25 am

    My wife and I recently went through the same thought processes while recounting our time in the public/private education system. After a lot of research, we decided that when we have kids in a few years we will homeschool them in the Montessori style. In order to do this, we plan for me to quit work right after our first child is born (we will still be FI around 2 years later).

    A lot of people are scared that maybe they can’t be as good a teacher as someone who went to school, or maybe that their children will have socialization problems. To this I say: Bah Humbug!

    You can teach your child better than any teacher can based on the sole fact that you are teaching to a classroom of children that you genuinely care about. You won’t let them finish their algebra education with a C average, not knowing how to really multiply numbers at all. You will keep teaching it to them until you KNOW that they understand.

    What about socialization? In most cities there are groups set up specifically to let homeschooled children socialize with each other. You only have to look a little bit to discover a world of possibilities. Another plus for us was the probability that bullying wouldn’t make an appearance in our children’s lives at all, something which we weren’t so lucky with.

    If you are interested in reading a day-by-day account of Montessori homeschooling in action, here is a link to a blog that we read for ideas. http://whatdidwedoallday.blogspot.com/

  • Nicole January 6, 2014, 11:26 am

    Sounds like you’d love unschooling. We sure do!

  • Tara January 6, 2014, 11:26 am

    School was a painful, boring experience for me, but I don’t know how things could have worked any other way for me. When I went out to get a job, the good employers wanted someone with a Bachelor’s degree at minimum, and I don’t know that my parents would have been comfortable with trying to homeschool me – they felt that school was a necessary socialization process and just something everyone has to go through. The experience did strongly contribute to my decision never to have kids though. Kids can be very cruel and I had a miserable elementary school experience.

    • Ms. Must-Stash January 6, 2014, 9:31 pm

      Kids who are homeschooled can still go to college and get degrees. Kids can also be homeschooled for just part of the time – a few years here or there – or even part of the day. I am still not sure exactly what we will do with our three year old when we get there but I am very happy that there are more options now than there used to be when I was in school in the 80s and 90s.

  • Mary January 6, 2014, 11:26 am

    We homeschooled our daughter through half of 8th grade. She now has a college degree. There are so many different ways to learn and do school at home. We were always part of a co-op, so that they could take classes from others who can actually DO math!! I highly recommend it.

  • CP January 6, 2014, 11:27 am

    I’ll teach music in the communal school! Sign me up. I’m one of those crazy people who went on and got a doctorate. Boy do I wish I could have some of those decisions back to make again…

  • Dorie January 6, 2014, 11:30 am

    Interesting–we haven’t encountered this yet, probably because my husband and I are the kind of people who got PhDs. Our 8 year old was missing school at the end of our 2-week break, although he wasn’t missing the early wake-ups (and neither were we).

    I wonder if it might be useful to recast school as a different kind of learning environment. We tell our son it’s not really a place to learn stuff like math and science and reading, because he learns all that at home. Instead we explain it as a place to learn Japanese (he’s in a language program) and how to deal with social situations and weird, random expectations that the world places on you sometimes. It helps that his school is extremely economically diverse (60% free lunch) and racially diverse (maybe 10% of the kids come from white families like ours) so it is obvious that different people are working with wildly different expectations a lot of the time. We encourage him to complete his homework but also laugh when he does stuff exactly according to rule to save time and effort. Example: he is supposed to write two sentences about his nightly reading, and for the last several weeks he has written: “I liked it. It was cool.”

    More generally, though, the question of what to do with traditional expectations is one we struggle with ourselves. I have a job I love as a university professor. The only thing that could make life (much) better would be to work part-time, but tenured faculty are not allowed to work part-time. I have been advocating for a change to this policy on the university committees where I’m assigned, but there is zero progress. My husband also loves his work but like me cannot work part-time. We have saved enough to retire early but hate the thought that one or both of us would have to give up the work we loved to do that. At this point the best option appears to be to wait several more years until I’m 50, take a technical early retirement, and come back as recall faculty working at 40% time. My husband doesn’t even have that option, though.

    Although this is a privileged problem to have, I do sometimes find it frustrating to be in a situation where doing everything right is simply not enough to get us quite where we want to be. Early retirement is possible but not right for weirdos like us who love our work. Working full-time when we don’t need to is kind of a drag. It is a good example, I suppose, when our son feels like school isn’t everything he wants it to be either.

    • jen January 6, 2014, 3:40 pm

      Dorie! I’ve been reading these comments on my phone and could not see the poster – but I’m reading this thinking that this comment reminded me oh Hum… And it is! My two favorite bloggers in one spot – awesome!

      • Dorie January 7, 2014, 11:40 am

        Ha ha! Thanks so much!

    • Don Bronkema January 7, 2014, 8:02 am

      Few parents can teach math & real science at home, a fortiori fulminating Bible-Pounders, & an evidence-toxic culture risks extinction…Delphi-projected neurally-engineered Transhumanism may not emerge soon enough, & certainly not before 2085 – 2120 C.E.

  • Jenna January 6, 2014, 11:32 am

    School was very easy for me and very boring until I was in advanced classes.

    But even so, I now find myself thankful the amount of diversity I experienced in my classes before my junior and senior years. I interacted with people of different racial backgrounds and socioeconomic backgrounds– as an equal. It’s different to help someone less fortunate out than to be their equal. Also, it helped immensely with conflict resolution skills. Sometimes it’s good to encounter rowdy kids.

    That’s something to think about with alternative education choices. I don’t know what I will do with my kids.

  • Ryan Finlay January 6, 2014, 11:32 am

    Teach him at home and set him free! That’s what we are doing with our three boys and it’s going very well. They are free to learn at their own pace, which often ends up putting them far ahead of their peers. Our oldest son will finish a grade in math and simply move onto the next grade’s math curriculum the next day…year round. You can feed them healthy food, let them exercise during the day when they need it, and give them the one on one attention that they need. It also gives you the freedom to teach about other subjects like business, investing, carpentry and other trades.

    In the end, I feel it’s better for kids, at their most vulnerable stage of life, to spend their time learning with adults, ideally their parents, instead of their peers. Public school teachers often try their best, but often being outnumbered 30-1 by young, wild and often out of control kids is never going to be an ideal learning environment.

    • KruidigMeisje January 7, 2014, 1:59 am

      Homeschooling is a tough option here in NL(not usual and highly debated with authorities). But I gave my son a lot of extra information/books/discussions and activities/projects outside of school, so he really is ahead. Isn’t that parenthood?
      And school isn’t bad, certainly not if you can use the good parts and eliminate or at least complement the things they miss. Like some other commenters said: kids have to learn to deal with other people (outside of your social circle) preferabbly and sometimes things just aren’t nice; that’s life.

  • Edith January 6, 2014, 11:32 am

    I loved this post. The whole unschooling issue was in part developed by author Ivan Illich. I first heard about this movement on a podcast from cbc radio. I don’t have children, but what this program suggested is that kids are benefited from trying different “occupations” in the real world, as apprentices of anything they might be interested in. That way, with real applications to real problems in real circumstances, they learn better actualized stuff (instead of fake problems and pre-ordered obsolete topics at school or home) and might discover what they really are into. So, if you ask me, your idea of community school between parents, combined with sending kids a few days a week to “work” would be the best. And that could work even for specialized and abstract work. In the radio podcast they interviewed a physics scientist who said what he really wanted was a 13 year old to work at the lab with him and teach him, because he was tired of college grads with obsolete knowledge and stiff minds. A friend of mine is sending her kid to a mechanic every weekend and she says it’s been wonderful to awaken his interest in how things work.

  • theFIREstarter January 6, 2014, 11:33 am

    I don’t have a rugrat yet but can empathise completely with your and your sons situation. I can’t count the number of lessons I was bored out of my brain waiting for the teacher to get to the next bit!

    The thing is in other lessons I may have been the slow one. That’s the problem with mass education, the kids are all at different levels even within bands, and everyone has different strengths and weaknesses

    • theFIREstarter January 6, 2014, 11:46 am

      Oh loving the mention of ableton live by the way! That’s a serious piece of software! Any chance of a section on the site dedicated to some of the MMM sonic wonders you’ve created? :)

      • Mr. Money Mustache January 6, 2014, 12:04 pm

        I started a song last week called “While the Clowns Wait in Line, You are Free to Ride” that I was going to share with you when it’s ready. It was inspired by my bike errands during Xmas shopping season, marveling at the lineups of idling cars and personal trucks stuck there for no reason at all :-)

        • theFIREstarter January 7, 2014, 4:20 pm

          Sounds epic! Can’t wait to hear it :)

        • Joe (yolfer) January 7, 2014, 5:18 pm

          If you ever need someone to lay down some rap or a beatbox track, holla back!!

        • ACDClark January 10, 2014, 9:12 am

          Yes! Wonder if this trait is common among bikers? I compose a small sonnet that begins, “Why do I love biking? Let me count the cars ….” every time I zip along in the bike lane past a line of backed-up cars.

  • Dee18 January 6, 2014, 11:34 am

    If your son is up for it, I think living overseas and enrolling him in school there is a great experience. My daughter went to an international school in China for half of 5th grade. It was wonderful for her, although it did lead to my putting her in private school when we returned to the U.S. The public schools where we live are extremely regimented. One small example: they will not allow any student to take two foreign languages. Her private school allows choices like that, and allows students in high school to take math and science courses across various subjects and levels, rather than assigning them by grade level. I was totally committed to public school….until I realized it wasn’t the best education for my daughter.

    • HealthyWealthyExpat January 7, 2014, 6:31 am

      Yes! I highly recommend international schools. Take him overseas! Besides the high quality education given by educators who are happy with their jobs because they are getting paid well and enjoying a nice lifestyle, your son will be in a classroom with kids from all over the world. That in itself is the real learning experience.

  • WageSlave January 6, 2014, 11:37 am

    I don’t remember this, but my mom recently told my wife and I that I faced similar issues in elementary school. I’d typically finish my work before the other students, then turn into a disruption (talking) because I was bored. The teachers recommended to my mom that she buy some workbooks, and that I could independently (and quietly) work on those when I finished my rote assignments. She said she bought me some workbooks, and everyone was happier as a result: no more class disruptions, and I had some amount of enrichment.

    Just a thought, this probably isn’t the best solution, but it’s something quick and easy to try in the interim.

    I know this probably isn’t the Mustachian answer, but like so many things in life, at least in rich countries, there’s usually a spendy, consumerist-type solution. Someone above suggested Montessori schools: my wife’s the one who’s done all the research, so this is second-hand info, but from my understanding, these schools have only the minimum structure needed to provide a platform for kids to grow and learn without stifling creativity. But at least around us, they cost mega bucks.

    There is a similar type of school in our neighborhood, and it’s actually public/free (a Chicago Magnet school). My wife toured it, and was so excited, she wished she could be a kid again and go to school there. Unfortunately, admission is lottery-based, and according to my wife (who took the tour), there are about 25 open spots for over 3000 applicants. Wish us luck!

    I’m a little surprised to see this MMM post, actually… The impression I got prior to today was that public school was plenty good for your son, and the enrichment would come from all the time you spend with him outside of the classroom. Am I wrong in interpreting this post as you saying, “public school is no longer cutting it”? Presumably, Ivy League Elementary School isn’t an option (out of principle), so I’m eager to see what you and the community come up with!

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 6, 2014, 12:13 pm

      Yeah, it’s a bit of a change in my mind, because he seems so sad about the boredom of the school experience sometimes.

      I’ve been writing this blog for almost three years, so things change over time and the boy has been getting older. We have always been excited about how much he learns outside of school. But now we’re looking at that six hour block of time every day, and wondering if we are properly respecting the value of his time.

      Research is ongoing. And some good changes were announced in his classroom just today, even as I wrote the first version of this article. So we’ll see.

      • Amicable Skeptic January 6, 2014, 1:49 pm

        I’ve been scheming about my own impending FI/Fatherhood (hopefully) and thinking that a big part of my retirement time will be spent trying to ensure that my kid(s) get a great education and that it extends out to as many other kids as possible . There’s another blog that my wife reads called Feeding the Soil where the author is actually working to make public Montessori schools that could solve this problem (http://www.feedingthesoil.com/2013/09/a-dream-realized_30.html). You should check that out and think about what you could do to really shake things up and create the sort of school your son (and other kids) truly deserve. Give me another year or two and I’ll be ready to lend my own efforts to it as well.

        • Saskia January 6, 2014, 3:37 pm

          Our son attends a public school Montessori program here in California. It came about when a small group of parents petitioned the school board to create a magnet program within an existing public school, with Montessori-certified teachers and materials. He’s been in the program for 7 years (K-6) and we’ve found it to be the perfect mix of structure and self-guided learning.

      • William Murphey January 6, 2014, 4:42 pm

        From our experience with homeschooling our 6 year old, it took my wife and I about 4 hours a day to complete our program. We used the K12 curriculum so those 4 hours didn’t involve any prep course work as this was already provided. It was amazing how much content we could complete in that time frame. If our daughter wanted to just work on math that day, she might complete the equivalent of 10 days of public school math material. She would often call it “car school” as most of her lessons happened in the back seat of our car while we traveled.

      • Heather January 6, 2014, 4:52 pm

        “But now we’re looking at that six hour block of time every day, and wondering if we are properly respecting the value of his time.” That is exactly what drove us to homeschool our two daughters.

        When making the decision, I read a quote from a homeschooling mom who said, “I believe in good use of my daughter’s time. Life is short. Her days should be meaningful and fulfilling far more than they are not. Such radical thinking, I know.” (http://beautythatmoves.typepad.com/beauty_that_moves/2010/08/thoughts-on-schooling.html)

        We have been official homeschoolers for three years now. It is such an efficient mode of education—we spend approximately 1 hour a day homeschooling our 7 and 4-yr-old. Our children spend most of their time doing what children are supposed to do—playing! Our oldest is also starting to take up specials skills that interest her, like sewing and woodworking. Our youngest dances, paints and sings her days away!

        In my experience, homeschooling is also a very effective method of education. Our oldest is technically in first grade, but is already flirting around with algebra. No, she isn’t a mathematical prodigy but she enjoys math and is allowed to work to her strengths (she taught herself multiplication).

        As far as socialization, I don’t think the type provided in school is necessarily the best. I don’t remember where I read it, but wouldn’t we think it odd, as adults, if we met another adult who thinks they are cooler than us because they are a year older? If the goal of childhood is to mature into respectful, intelligent, fulfilled, functional adults, I find it strange that children spend most of their time learning how to live and think from same-aged peers and so little time around actual respectful, intelligent, fulfilled, functional adults.

        I understand Mrs. MMM’s concerns about boredom…but we have found that to be far from the case (of course, we have two, and they play together a lot). We live in an area with a ton of homeschoolers, and there is so much to do we really have to pick and choose.

        I also understand that it is nice to have adult time while the kids are at school. To me, that is the hardest part of homeschooling. But, I do send my oldest to a homeschooling co-op at the local university for 3 hours one day a week (little sis will join her next year).

        I would love to see the MMM family give unschooling or homeschooling a try. I predict you would love how it fits into your already free, not-following-the-crowd life philosophy.

        • Subversive January 8, 2014, 9:44 am

          I like this post, sums up a lot of good points. Another thing my wife has mentioned recently, is she is really enjoying the relationship her and our oldest have developed. She feels that she gets to see her at her best, whereas many of our friends kids spend so much of their emotional energy “being good” for school, that they come home and are absolute terrors.

      • lurker January 8, 2014, 4:11 pm

        just had a moment of craft brew inspired inspiration so please take it for what it is worth and know that it is offered with total respect and affection for your family and your blog…..have your son do the research and design of the permaculture garden at your new house!!!!! He will have to read, observe and draw and learn like mad…..anyway just a silly idea from a buzzed reader in Brooklyn. cheers.

        • lurker January 21, 2014, 12:54 pm

          as the fruit and nut trees and berry bushes mature he can do the math on how much they reduce the family food bill while improving the environment and the habitat around your new place….permaculture is so cool I wish I had known about it as a kid…I was in the woods a lot as a boy and the observation of nature part is something I have always enjoyed and permaculture puts that in a whole new light. he could even start a permaculture landscaping business (mowing lawns is so last century!!!!!!) and really learn a ton about nature and business…..just an idea….

          • Mark Schreiner March 31, 2023, 7:49 am

            Lurker, you have recommended that MMM do research on permaculture many 10s or 100s of times, as I work through the comments of the “Maximum Mustache”. Why not give a specific recommendation (title, author, ISBN, and a 100-word summary) for the one best book for a newbie to permaculture? If you wants us to spend our time learning about your topic, then please take 5 minutes yourself and tell us how we can best do that, given our limited time? I myself (and therefore probably many other readers here) do not even know what permaculture is, so you are asking us to just “take your word for it” when you are just a random, non-capitalizing commenter on the web. Make it easy for us.

      • Chayne June 7, 2014, 7:56 am

        I know I’m late to the conversation, but I’ve only recently started reading your blog from the start and this is how far I am now. I’m writing from South Africa and my husband & I are seriously considering a move to either the US or Canada, motivated mainly by what we consider best for our 2 girls aged 7 and 9.

        We have chosen the internationally available education system called Waldorf, particularly because it focuses on nurturing the whole child – academically, socially, emotionally, creatively, environmentally etc. Coincidentally Denver is one of our destination options as there is a Waldorf school, as well as several Canadian cities. The system covers all necessary academic subjects but includes no examinations other than occasional tests in class and project work, with opportunity to learn handwork, woodwork, eurithmy (a form of movement) gardening, art, social responsibility etc. and optional writing of relevant exams to fulfill local tertiary requirements. The downside is the very un-mustachian cost.

        My husband and I both grew up as bright, “nerdy” kids and HATED school. I was pushed to excel academically by my divorced mother, who was not rich and sacrificed to provide a good education in our then racially divided society (we were on the disadvantaged side of the discrimination). At the same time I was frowned upon by my peers at school because I was a high achiever. There was no room to grow any other aspect of me and I was bored most of my school years. I wanted my girls to have a more rounded education which developed more than just the left brain.

        At this stage we spend 11% of our take home pay on school fees because we feel so strongly about it, although your blog has given us some serious pause about the financial aspect. Our reasons are far from wanting an exclusive private school education for our children. Do we compromise this choice for our own newly found parental goals of financial independence?

    • Cody A. Ray June 22, 2014, 8:53 am

      WageSlave – What Chicago Magnet school fits this bill?

  • Debt BLAG January 6, 2014, 11:37 am

    What a great post. Among all the gifts that parents can give to their son, you gave him the gift of pursuing freedom. Sounds like he’s enjoying it.

  • Lilylai January 6, 2014, 11:38 am

    Hi MMM! I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now and really enjoy your style. We are a military family that has been on the verge of a frugal luxury lifestyle since we got married almost 5 years ago. Not having a high income and also having to establish a new home every 6-10 months has slowed our savings, but we’re definitely applying some of your principles and are totally debt free (despite a stupid expensive college education for me). Thanks for taking the time to type such interesting stuff into a computer!

    I am a big supporter of alternate education for our kids, and I applaud you for looking for other ideas for your son. Hubby and I were both homeschooled for a couple years in our K-12 experience, and I really enjoyed the years I did. I learned things like piano, Latin, and religion, while still participating in the middle school band at the public school. Every region is different – some places (like Colorado I’m sure!) are very homeschool friendly and there are probably homeschool co-ops nearby that do exactly what you mentioned in your post – one parent teaches finance, one literature, etc. The home school kids form their own music groups, sports, etc and sometimes even compete with public school students. Even if there aren’t such resources in your area, you could probably find plenty of ways for him to experience some interesting and educational places every week, and the traveling you mentioned would be awesome experience. The idea that home school kids are socially stunted is a product of parents that weren’t involved enough and the prejudice against alternative education.

    I recently read this article about a homeschool family with 10 kids, 6 of which started college at ae 12! The eldest is almost a doctor at age 20. Now, I don’t have quite the same ambitions for my son, but it’s a great thing to know that it’s possible if you allow your child to specialize in his education from the beginning, rather than going through an education meant to make everyone average. I’ve copied one article about the family below:


    Whatever you decide, know that your son is learning so much more about real life and true happiness than his peers because of you and your wife’s commitment to the frugal but luxurious lifestyle. Happy trails!

    • Meadow Lark January 6, 2014, 1:38 pm

      I graduated college before I could drink – I don’t know if that is a good thing. Those kids are missing out on all the fun stuff – dating, friends with kids your own age. And being a doctor when you are 20? That’s a job that takes wisdom and maturity to do right. That’s sad for the doctor and patients.

  • Tyler January 6, 2014, 11:39 am

    Very well put–my parents were public school teachers, and they had roughly the same impression from the other side of the school system. Their solution was to start a private school that adults wanted to teach at and kids wanted to go to. Worked out great for me, but not exactly a solution for everybody.

    As for the PhD students, I think you underestimate just how mustachian a good PhD program is. For a lot of academics, the life of a PhD program (and then a career in academia afterwards) matches up very closely to what they’d be doing without any need for a paycheck. Teaching and doing research all day is pretty much my dream in life, and the fact that I might manage to get a degree out of it and then get paid is really just gravy.

    • intirb January 7, 2014, 9:08 pm

      Right, I wanted to say the same thing. A PhD (at least in STEM) isn’t sitting around in boring classes all day – it’s self-directed scientific discovery! Most of us were also bored in school and generally scoff at authoritarian nonsense. If you’re the kind of curious person who loves figuring out how things work, then a PhD is just getting paid (and access to better equipment) for the kind of tinkering you’d be doing on your own anyway.

  • Rebecca January 6, 2014, 11:41 am

    We unschool our two kids. We are lucky to have a great local community of families who gather together regularly for fun and adventure.

    We knew public education wasn’t the answer when our 5 year old already had more general education knowledge than the majority of high school graduates my husband teaches at the local community college.

    That five year old is now 16, getting ready to “graduate,” teaching himself Spanish (duolingo.com) and learning computer skills by actually having projects he wants to work on.

  • sshawnn January 6, 2014, 11:43 am

    My kids are 11 and 13, never made a B, honors classes, blah, blah,blah (not undermining their work just painting a picture.) They are bored stiff despite the advanced classes in a very good school system with a handful of interesting teachers.

    I really do not have any answers just reinforcement that once the school boredom starts it only gets worse. Soon friends become their sole reason to get to school and go though the motions of “learning” there.

    DS 11 has gotten some satisfaction from tutoring some of the older boys after school, before swim practice.

  • Ross January 6, 2014, 11:43 am

    How interesting would it be to take kids out of their element for one year when they’re in middle school and have them build a house, or repair cars, or help manufacture parts. Sure, they might miss out on some of the classic books you’re supposed to read as an seventh grader, but how valuable would it be to learn real, tangible skills and understand what it is that people do all day once they’re in the work force.
    I’m not saying we should get rid of traditional education, I just feel like most useful things in life actually can’t be learned in the classroom. You have to get out there and actually do it.

    • lurker January 9, 2014, 6:01 am

      They could still read the books…..no excuse to stop reading…ever…..cheers.
      The great authors have been some of my best teachers…

  • Hassan January 6, 2014, 11:44 am

    We tried homeschooling my son when he was in 8th grade. It didn’t work out. They had an online program in Texas (TXVA) with lessons on each subject and a multiple choice exam at the end of the each day to make sure that the student learned the material. Well, my son tended to skip the lessons and go for the exam straight away and he would guess enough right answers to move on to the next lesson. He didn’t learn much that entire year. He is going very well in high school (grades wise). I feel online material my itself is not sufficient for learning. You definitely need a teacher. TXVA did have a “teacher” but they weren’t really qualified. When my son had questions on English grammar, the “teacher” couldn’t answer them and neither could we (my wife and myself).

  • Sara January 6, 2014, 11:47 am

    Your post really hit a nerve with me. I have third grader who has been struggling with school for about three and a half years now. His sister is in kindergarten and loves it. I never thought I would be a parent who considered homeschooling, but this year I have really considered it and not yet come to a conclusion. I know SVVSD (we are in nearby Erie) has some online options and some enrichment programs for homeschoolers, as do the local community centers, in addition to co-op groups. While I’m sure it can be done frugally, there are lots of additional expenses to consider in the way of curriculum and materials. I’d love to hear more about whatever resources you find and your decision.

  • Laura January 6, 2014, 11:50 am

    Brilliant article MMM. This unschooling is fascinating to me and I’m kinda jealous that it’s too late for me to try. I am the mother of a brilliant 20 year old who is blowing through Purdue University in 3 years (paid for by me and his father 100%), working for the IT department there and is an independent, self-taught, iPhone app developer who will have made about $20,000 last year. During his entire childhood I did my absolute best to have him involved in every gifted and talented program and sent him to a private, very rigorous high school BUT, felt sort of like I was falling short the whole time. He became an entrepreneur very young, getting in on the ground floor of app development, writing a homework planner app for the iPhone that gave him passive income all through high school, while his friends toiled away for minimum wage.

    I was a single mom, and had no idea what I was doing except this: I read to him ALL the time, from in the womb until kindergarten when he refused to let me read to him because he could already read himself! I have two sisters that teach little ones and they drilled it into my head “read to your kids” and it really stuck. He had a perfect reading comprehension score on the SAT by the way. With the access to information these kids have today, if they can read like a mad man/woman, they can learn to do anything on their own – whatever interests them.

    All this to say, super cool ideas, but don’t worry too much about it. Even if you keep with the status quo, Little MM will figure his own stuff out and it will be perfect for him. Just have fun with him and love that little guy (everything you already do) and everything else will flow from there. One thing regular school does is it introduces kids to all the other people they will encounter when out and about in life. It facilitates growing compassion for others in my opinion.

    You’re doing great. Love the post. For those with babies and toddlers keep it simple and keep on reading to the babies and toddlers…over and over and over and over. Oh, and there was no nintendo in my house until he was about 4. That I’m sure helped keep the books more exciting.

    • Mr. Money Mustache January 6, 2014, 12:00 pm

      What a great story, thanks and congratulations Laura!

      We have definitely followed the “read your ass off” program, and I credit Mrs. MM, the library, and our home’s lack of TV for the hundreds of books he has absorbed so far. Even though he reads his own books now, he still insists that we read other books to him every night at bedtime, and even every morning at breakfast. What great inventions writing and reading are.

    • Mrs. Money Mustache January 6, 2014, 1:58 pm

      Thank you for your comment! I love this story.

      You are right that we should keep doing what we’re doing and he will find his way (and so will we). Even if we never find quite the right solution, just being open to other ideas and ways of doing things will really help.

      We read to our son a lot – a ridiculous amount, in fact. We both love it. I know it is helping him with his own reading and his comprehension.

      I think I just realized after this break, that I should listen more closely to what he is saying and really try to help him come up with a solution to his problem. Sometimes you end up saying things that might make it seem like there’s no option but to go to school. In reality, there are always options. If anything, it’s a lesson in thinking differently and that you can always solve your own problems with a little ingenuity.

      • MJM January 6, 2014, 4:17 pm

        Hello Mustache Family,

        Thanks for the post – it’s clearly a resonance frequency for many people, judging from the comments!

        It sounds like you already have the first principle down: you, the parents, are fundamentally responsible for enabling your son’s education, in whatever format you all decide upon.

        One comment that made me very sad seemed to miss this point “Homeschooling didn’t work: he just took the quizzes and didn’t really do the lessons.” This can be equally applied to any educational situation where the student only cares about the metric, not the material (I teach at a university – some kids never get past this attitude).

        Books in general are indeed wonderful. The great books are gold. Mortimer Adler’s (preferably pre-1973 revision) “How to Read a Book: The Art of Getting a Liberal Education” has profoundly shaped my thinking and reading. You might check it out from the library, or maybe get a used, older edition online. You might also enjoy Paul Lockhart’s “A Mathematician’s Lament”, which essay is free online. Math is art.

        My two cents (not redeemable for cash) are to construct a hybrid with Little MM at school for 1-3 periods 3-5 days per week for the subjects you can’t or don’t wish to reproduce at home, but to allow him a large portion of his time to pursue his own interests and another portion of his time for direct instruction from the MMs.

        There’s a whole world out there under the label “Classical Education”, and it’s a mixed bag, of course. Much of the material is written by Christians, for Christians, so you would likely downsample heavily, but that tag line might be worth exploration. There are many strains of thought on “the best” educational methods, and have been since at least ancient Greece. The long and the short of classical education, in my opinion, is that you carefully match material and teaching style to the age and aptitude of the student, accept that discipline does not mean conformity (duh – the Mustachian life is disciplined, but wildly nonconformist), and take as a premise that content must precede synthesis (e.g.- it’s silly to require “creative writing” of kids who have not read enough to know how to construct a story, and similar examples could be found).

        But, you are committed to Little MM receiving a suitable education, and that’s the chief issue. I have no doubt you’ll accomplish it.

        Good luck!

        PS – I’m intrigued by the idea of a massively-mustachian-online-course, though, as MMM alluded to the idea of involving people in the MMM community. Anybody else think a Mustachian Academy that combined standard educational fare with skilled-work training and whatever else was awesome could be a viable venture?

      • TallMike January 6, 2014, 6:43 pm

        I love this post and the comment thread for a number of reasons, including my own interest in homeschooling my sons (two of them now, a third on the way). I am a math teacher, and one of the folks who got a PhD, though the difference in my graduate school education and my pre-graduate school education was stark and thought-provoking.

        You guys are doing a great job paying attention to your son, which is inspiring. One thing I thought about reading the post and the first few comments was, “What’s the downside to taking him out for a year or two and giving unschooling/homeschooling a try?” MMM mentions losing the free time that you two currently have, but I think you’d find a way to regain some of that. The bigger risk seems to be that little MM is reluctant and would miss his friends.

        Good to see that you’re looking at making this decision *with* him. MMM notes some similarity between little MM and himself, but this post (and the Rules post) suggest that little MM may have a different take on risk than MMM, and perhaps a lower tolerance for social risk. Lots of possible explanations including temperament, age, current culture at school, etc. If you think there is a difference there, would it help to talk about that with little MM explicitly?

        If you asked him, “What’s the best and what’s the worst that could happen if we took a year off?” what do you think he would say? I suggest you two write down your best guesses, then have the conversation with little MM, compare your guesses to what he actually said and see if you learned anything in the process. You’ll either be reassured in your sense of what your son is thinking, or you’ll gain new insight.

      • CTY January 7, 2014, 1:03 am

        Math sure can have that effect on people. Practical application is key. When our boys were in school we would take the current unit and work it into our everyday stuff going on. When our budget was super tight & our goals seemed out of reach we had our oldest propose a budget for us (in 3rd grade at the time & way advanced for his age). His budget was very good–we used several suggestions. We did however, nix the $10 a week allowance he was going for.
        For me, the word problems in my day were extremely painful. Super unrealistic & I spent a lot of the time correcting the grammar. I would rewrite them and turn them in corrected. My teachers were very frustrated with me especially when they wrote the problems. I wonder if they have gotten any better. (teachers/word problems

      • CTY January 7, 2014, 1:12 am

        Reading with your child(ren) is one of the best things a parent can do. We read to (and then with our boys) individually & as a family. One thing you can do (if you don’t already) is ask specific questions about what was read and to ask what they got from it/what it means to them. This will send their comprehension off the charts. Every year teachers commented (for both boys) how they had never seen such comprehension or such a vast vocabulary. We also read independently a specific book and then discussed it during long car rides. They are 28 & 25 now & we still read independently & discuss books.

    • lurker January 8, 2014, 4:17 pm

      i loved reading to my twin daughters and miss it to this day…..they always did well academically and that may have helped….but the pleasure it gave me was priceless!

  • Emma Pattee January 6, 2014, 11:50 am

    I’m so happy to see this post! As an lifelong unschooler, I’ve always wondered if you’d considered homeschooling/unschooling since it seems so in line with your family’s other beliefs.

    Unschooling was an incredible choice for me (thanks to my parents!), it allowed me to start college at 15, graduate at 19, and have so much more free time to pursue what interested me. It also has given me oodles of self-motivation, an ability to self-regulate, and lots of laser-like focus since my 8-year-old creative brain was never told to sit quietly for hours studying something I wasn’t interested in.

    My parents always told us, “if you want to go to school, we’ll sign you up,” and my brother chose that route and I chose to go to college early. You should give your son the choice. He’s smart enough to know what he wants.

  • EastVanMama January 6, 2014, 11:52 am

    It’s too bad you don’t live in Vancouver BC (although it would be much harder to be an early retiree here). I think we have the perfect schooling solution for your family.

    Windsor House School is a publicly funded, democratic, parent participation school which, in my opinion, combines the best features of group schooling and homeschooling. The students have complete freedom to pursue projects of their own devising, yet they have more social opportunities and mentoring than can be afforded by a parent or two. They also have an outdoor program.

    Check it out!

  • Miss Growing Green January 6, 2014, 11:53 am

    Considering the free time you have available to you, it would be a really interesting experiment to try “unschooling” little MM for a year.
    I don’t have personal experience with it, but I’ve always thought that the period of k-6th grade is pretty pointless as far as the public school system and what you learn. Most well-educated, intelligent parents know all the material that students learn during that time. Like you said, so much time is spent waiting, bored, and doing busy work.
    I think you could make “school” twice as much fun in half the time, and leave more time open for fun and educational field trips and projects.
    It would be a large undertaking though, and would be easier and probably more beneficial for little MM if you could find other friends/parents that would like to unschool with you.

  • meagain January 6, 2014, 11:55 am

    MrMM, as someone who lived in New Zealand for two years, I highly recommend it. From what I’ve read on your blog, I can imagine you and your family living in or near Wellington and loving it. Kiwi society is definitely freer in many aspects than here in the US, and most people I met seem to nurture some kind of creative passion no matter how mundane their job may be.

    • Annamal January 7, 2014, 4:02 pm

      Wellingtonian here….I think you might quite like it here, accomodation is expensive and there is a certain amount of complainypants about the weather but there are so many amazing things to see and do here (I live 30 minutes walk from the centre of town and can be out among fields and bush within 20 minutes walking) .

      We’ve also lived the last 10 years without a car and I’m constantly seeing mountain bike lights on the track that goes through the bush at the back of our house.

      There are some great cheap fruit and vege markets and constant free entertainment (nothing quite like wandering down the street and running into a random batacuda band complete with dancers)

      Our mayor is a cycling fanatic (she copped a certain amount of flak for cycling in to meet Hillary Clinton)

      • Rook January 8, 2014, 5:58 pm

        While I agree that Wellington would definitely be a good option, let me throw out another which most NZers would scoff at….Hamilton. Compared to the bigger centres like Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch accomodation is much cheaper here. The city is largely flat and pretty cycle friendly as well.

        If you’re in the country for a relatively short period of time it’s a great place to make a base. Short travel times to spots like Raglan, Coromandal and the ski slopes of Mt Ruapehu make it ideal.

        • Annamal January 9, 2014, 3:09 pm

          I grew up in Hamilton and most of my family still lives there, so I wouldn’t reject it out of turn (and the river walks, the zoo and the botanic gardens are amazing) but it’s beginning to sprawl and every time I go back there for Christmas it seems like a new mall has sprung up (also the humidity gets me every time).

          But yeah Hamilton might be a good mustachian choice.

  • Kristi January 6, 2014, 11:55 am

    So we’re struggling with this same thing right now for our 9 and 6-yo. (The 6-yo was bawling this morning on her first day back to school and begged me to homeschool her.) We have two very bright, creative children and though they are pulled out for special gifted/talented programming, the teachers in class tell me they have to “teach to the middle.” My husband and I both have Ph.D.’s but I only work a few hours a week in private practice and I’m lucky to earn a decent amount of money writing sci-fi novels from the comfort of my couch. Oh, and we live in Douglas County, CO so don’t even get me started on the direction the schools are taking here. We’re considering everything from moving to a nearby county, to homeschooling, to unschooling, to private schooling. At this point, we’re leaning toward moving but like you, I value my few hours during the day to write. I’m curious about the comments people made about homeschool co-ops and will have to research those in our area. Ultimately, there’s no general right or wrong answer–it’s just what’s best for your kids and your family. Good luck!

  • Edward January 6, 2014, 11:57 am

    I clearly remember being in Grade 3 and whispering to my friend in class, “Psst…. What do these grades go up to?” He replied, “13, I think.” I remember my heart sinking into my stomach and feeling like I needed to throw up as a giant lump formed in my throat. It was the first time in my life I wanted to melt into the floor and die.

    My brothers and I learned very little in elementary and high school. But we read tons of books (mostly history and “National Geographic”) in our spare time. I believe the only things of true value I came away with was math and social skills. Learning how to interact with others and the arrays of personalities is probably important and doesn’t come with home schooling. …However depressing those peer lessons might be.

  • Laurie January 6, 2014, 12:00 pm

    One of the things I admire about my mother is that when she would see the public school was lacking, or not meeting the needs of her bright children ;), she would take a look at her skills and interests and then volunteer in the classrooms. She taught units on Shakespeare, playing the recorder, and even organized a girls basket ball little league for our small town. I was excited and proud to have my Mom in the classroom to provide those extra things. You have great ideas for an unschooling group, could you take those ideas into the school? Could your son help plan/prepare so he could also enjoy the mental stimulation and excitement?

  • Kay January 6, 2014, 12:03 pm

    We are struggling with this ourselves as my son will be entering kindergarten this year. Most public schools leave me with the feeling that they are overwhelmingly “institutions” fostering anything but individual thought. An “unschooling” experiment like yours would be a good one, but it would likely require other early retirees to be around to do the teaching. But then again, the great folks who read this blog are mostly the result of our public education system (I’m assuming), so perhaps the system can work.

    • Philip January 10, 2014, 3:53 pm

      My “late in life blessing” started kindergarten this year. I also retired after 29yrs in the Army this summer. I’m taking at least a year off to bake cookies and be a classroom dad. We are both loving life. I get up and make her breakfast and lunch, get her dressed, then walk up the street to the bus stop. She loves that damn bus! I come home and do my housework, piddle around a bit, do some financial planning, start prepping dinner then get her snack ready. Then I walk back to the bus stop and she runs off the bus yelling “Daddy, Daddy”, gives me a big hug and we skip home (I know, I know). She unwinds a bit then we start dinner together.

      Anyway, the point is she LOVES going to kindergarten. I LOVE my “me” time. And we LOVE doing her reinforcement homework together. We have an excellent school system where we live but I love having the flexibility to make a change in the future if I have too.

  • sockigal January 6, 2014, 12:06 pm

    As parents we often relate our school experiences to our children’s. However, the public school system has changed dramatically over the last 20 years. Currently kids are tested constantly throughout the school year. They spend much of their school time filling in bubbles (pretests, benchmark tests, practice tests, and standardized tests). All of these tests are usually not even made by the teacher or shown to the teacher before testing. Teachers are left to pick from thousands of standards to teach that might be on the test and then the teacher is held accountable for the scores the kids get on the tests, all the students. Students who are have all types disabilities, are recent immigrants, or three grades behind in reading, ect… are all tested. All this testing creates a very stressful and unproductive school atmosphere for the administrators, teachers, and the students. This is why so many students have such a hard time at school. Students really do want to actually learn, not just be tested. Teachers who are such great mentors and who love the art of teaching are leaving the profession in droves. There just is not much “fun” left in the school day. Case in point: my seventh grader spent many P.E. periods taking computer tests on P.E. subjects. Ummmm, isn’t the point of P.E. to increase activity?

  • partgypsy January 6, 2014, 12:12 pm

    Here is a secret. Pretty much all kids hate going to school. But it doesn’t mean school is bad. And schooling is a not an all or nothing deal. Just because your child is in a traditional school system means the parent should opt out of their child’s learning experience. In our case, we have a public montessori school. They have so many additional enrichment activities (monday night media, science nights, school garden, running mornings, readathons, game club, various other projects like femmes, odyssey of the mind and tip) that it is an embarassment of riches and no way to participate in them all. The main thing is no matter what you choose, keep actively involved in their learning. Know what they are doing in school and be available to help them. Second, choose some activities that they actively enjoy, whether it is music, athletics, games, etc that they commit to and do outside of school. Third, don’t overschedule their time!
    I went to good public schools and do admit times of being bored and tuned out but to tell you the truth it is good to learn delayed gratification, discipline and focus even for things I didn’t find “fun” and good study habits. Then again I’m another one of those with a PhD who genuinely enjoyed school as it gave me permission to keep learning new things.
    I also like the idea of in middle school exposing students to skills that are both useful life skills and could later turn into a vocation or avocation, such as building, working on cars, sewing and cooking.

    • RubeRad January 6, 2014, 12:55 pm

      Here is a secret. Pretty much all kids hate going to school. But it doesn’t mean school is bad.

      Yes! See also Neil Postman’s landmark book Amusing Ourselves to Death to learn how Sesame Street is bad for education — because it fosters an expectation that education should be entertaining.

    • Crazyworld January 6, 2014, 7:27 pm

      I agree; i grew up in India, went to a private school. Class size was large-40 kids on average. Rote learning for the most part, not much creativity, lot sof tests and exams. Doesn’t seem to have hurt anything. Some kids thrive anyway ( like me), some don’t, others about average. I read a lot and still do. My brother did not, neither did my husband. We are all quite succesful in our endeavors in our own ways. The hub even has a PhD. Clearly, one can over think this. I hated school as a young child, loved it later. I would go through it all over again. Had some good times, made some lifelong friends.

      • sashka January 9, 2014, 6:34 am

        I have to say this before I burst! What evidence is there that reading has anything to do with creativity? It seems like everyone’s jumping on the fuzzy reading makes you creative bandwagon

  • Cecile January 6, 2014, 12:13 pm

    I understand your son! I remember my first day of my last year at middle-school, showing up and thinking “I won’t be able to do one more year… I’ll die of boredom before that.”.
    Well I survived, but if I could re-live my childhood, I’d go to elementary school (old school teachers => we learned a LOT of useful things in math & language), then beg my parents to let me do middle-school at home with distance learning, and then go to high-school (where I had a blast, because they had arranged the classes to be by “interests”, which means the kids who were studying Latin and ancient Greek where in the same class with no others, and it turns out we were also a bunch of nerds who loved science…).
    After that I went to Engineering school, and then a PhD thing. I don’t regret any of it, I love what math can do ;-)
    But if I could get those middle-school years back…

    Be nice to your kid, find a solution and get him out of Boredomland (I think what you outlay at the end is a good one: arranging with like-minded families and keep the kids in turns to teach them different skills…).
    And yes, we should raise excited kids, not bored ones.
    Good luck, I’ll look forward to learning more about what solution you found!

  • Wes January 6, 2014, 12:15 pm

    My own experience is a mixed bag. My eldest homeschooled K-12, and is now pursuing his PhD in engineering. My younger two followed homeschool K-8 with public high school (that was a generally useless experience), and both graduated from very good colleges. Youngest is headed for a top ten law school. Try giving the little MM the rest of the year off — make a list of five things he wants to learn, and five things you want him to learn. Then try them! Our list, at that age, included typing, guitar, karate, algebra, cursive. YMMV. So much fun stuff to learn at that age! Mix in lots of field trips: factories, museums, natural attractions, etc. OOH — and the library, often!

  • Richard January 6, 2014, 12:21 pm

    A few small changes might be enough to limit the disadvantages without having to come up with a completely different alternative. After all we don’t want to deprive our children of the experience of occasionally having to spend a few hours sitting there and figuring out something new that could potentially benefit them even when they don’t feel like it. We just want to avoid turning it into a completely unproductive exercise.

    One big advantage you have is the time and experience to teach a lot of valuable skills outside of school. This could go a long way. I was fortunately self-motivated and learned some very useful things on my own, although I never got much of a push from my parents or guidance from good mentors. A big mistake I made was waiting until after university to start a business (I did attempt to put on a neighborhood magic show at a much younger age but no one took me seriously). You have the skills to save a lot of time and mistakes there.

    That still leaves long hours in school which can be very painful when you’re waiting for others to catch up. If your son is interested enough to do well maybe he could use that to his advantage and figure out if it’s possible to skip a year now and then. I only skipped one year in one subject which ended up with me taking a university class while I was in grade 12. That was still below my current knowledge. Had I pushed harder in that direction I might have been able to enjoy more challenges and save time. Depending on his interests, a more demanding academic environment might not be a bad thing if it does teach useful skills and provide a few shortcuts. That could be his first chance to work harder in order to gain security at a younger age.

    I’m sure you have a few options to aim high in the time you control and make the most of the rest. Involve your son in figuring out what his ultimate goals are and what he can do now to make those easier. It could be a great experience in making the most out of limited choices.


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