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A Conversation Between
David Albert and Joyce Reed About Homeschooling
A homeschooling mom reported that her 11-year old son, who is “a
hands-on kind of guy interested in cars and motors,” couldn’t be goaded
to do the required pages in the math workbook. “He’s just not motivated
to learn,” she wrote, and then asked, “How do you make boring math
Photo © Larisa Lofitskaya/Shutterstock
I assume, I hope correctly, that the point of making
workbook pages fun was so that the child would learn the math. I
can detail dozens of methods of learning math that don’t entail
workbooks (and have actually done so elsewhere.) But suffice it
to say that most of the math that is ever needed in one’s life
(and a lot more!) can be learned through grocery shopping, and
most parents would agree that this is one of those life skills
the kids can’t do without.
There was the familiar inward groan in my nether regions, the gorge
rose in my throat and I, “Mr. Homeschooling Know-It-All” that I sometime
masquerade as, was about to go for the jugular.
“Why would you want to deceive him?” almost poured forth from my
fingertips (this was an e-mail conversation), “Math worksheets ARE
boring. Why confuse him into thinking otherwise?”
I managed to restrain myself just in the nick of time, bit my tongue
(actually, the tips of my fingers) and felt virtuous for the rest of the
Boring is in the eye of the beholder. I have friends who are
accountants, and happy ones at that. They take pride in the books
balancing, and are quite willing to spend days, weeks, or even months to
gain that satisfaction which comes with a job well done. They have wives
and husbands and sons and daughters, and are involved in their families,
churches, and communities. I can’t imagine it for myself, but then most
of them get paid more than I do. My wife balances the checkbook. And my
younger daughter now thinks she wants to be a CPA!
But, hey, at age 11, I would sit for hours alone in my room with my
stamp collection – two huge volumes, with more than 35,000 stamps. And I
would count them! (would you believe?) I engaged in a census twice a
year. How boring is that! The side benefit, unbeknownst to me at the
time, was that I became an expert, relatively speaking, in the
historical geography and emerging nations of mid-to-late 20th Century
Africa, and the changing geopolitical face of Europe during World War I.
To this day I can regale you with the transformation of Upper Volta into
Burkina Faso (in the 1920s, “Haute Volta” was overprinted on stamps from
Upper Senegal and Niger; it became the “Republique de Haute Volta
(replete with new stamps) in 1960; it metamorphosed into Burkina Faso
-“Land of the Incorruptible Men” in 1984, – but for 11 days, from August
4th to August 15th, 1984, it was spelled “Bourkina-Fasso”, though I
don’t know if any stamps were sold in this period; the first “Burkina
Faso” stamps were from November 1984. What would a Name-Change Day
first-day cover, with the old spelling, be worth? And would it even
exist?) (What is this man talking about it?) If you are not
snoring yet, let me tell you about Bosnia-Herzegovina stamps from 1915,
or, if you allow me, we can discuss the stamps issued by the Sultan
(whatever happened to him?) in pre-Independence, pre-Tanzanian Zanzibar.
Having a good snooze? I expect many of you are ready to cry “uncle”, but
those with similar fascinations should come see me at the next
homeschooling conference and we can form a support group to extol the
relative philatelic virtues of San Marino or the Malagasy Republic.
Anyhow, my next thought was to inquire whether Mrs. Homeschooling Mom
found math workbooks boring. If not, was she working through any
herself? I know lots of folks who seem to have inherited a love of
crossword puzzles from their parents, even if they don’t do anything for
me. Chances are if you want your kids to become interested in baking
pies, you should bake some pies . . .
To read the rest of this article, please
to Life Learning Magazine (and get access to our back issue
archive as well.)
This essay is also included in a book called What Really Matters by
David Albert and Joyce Reed.
David Albert is a homeschooling father, writer and speaker. He is the
author of a number of books, including And the Skylark Sings with Me,
Homeschooling and the Voyage of Self-Discovery and Have Fun. Learn
Stuff. Grow. Homeschooling and the Curriculum of Love. He lives, works
and writes in Olympia, Washington. Visit David’s
website to purchase his books.
Joyce Reed is the parent of five successful home educated
college grads. She served for 14 years as Associate Dean of The
College at Brown University where she reached out to
homeschooled teens. After retiring, she began consulting with
primarily international and homeschooling families seeking to
attend college. Visit Joyce’s
The term life learning refers to a form of homeschooling
that trusts children and avoids the trappings of school. It is sometimes
called unschooling, radical unschooling, or natural learning.
Life learning children live and learn naturally, with the support of their families, based on
their own interests and their own timetables, and without curriculum,
tests, or grades. Go
here for a more comprehensive explanation.
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