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Do you feel like your high school “career” prepared you for the real world?

Of course not! You didn’t learn about money, self-control, debt, your personal strengths, how to stay organized, etc.

Public schools don’t teach you the things you need to know about life. Public schools teach you how to study for things you don’t enjoy and how to fill out Scantron tests. Both of which are worthless skills the day after you graduate high school.

We don’t want that for our kids.

My wife and I decided to homeschool before our son was even born.

Like everything involving our kids, we discussed it at length before we made that decision. We weighed the pros and cons and decided that — after preschool — a self-directed homeschool education was the best option.

Think about it. A lot. What are the skills that are most useful for adults in the U.S. today?

Who are the most successful members of our society? Not only the “rich and famous,” but people who are most satisfied with their lives?

Some of the common characteristics I see are:

  1. An insatiable love of learning (what they want to learn about)
  2. They are insanely creative!
  3. They focus on their own strengths and interests.
  4. They are both curious and critical.
  5. They are well-connected and social.

Other than the social aspect, public schools don’t foster any of the other characteristics of success.

Finding hope for our kids’ futures.

Besides those common characteristics, there are other life skills that I wish I’d been taught instead of having to learn the hard way.

Like how to manage money and avoid debt (all of it). How to negotiate. How to manage and lead. How to plan and execute. Self-control.

And those are the things I want to teach my kids. Real-life skills that will help them when they become adults.

We came up short while looking for a good program that would foster these skills. Unschooling looked promising, but too much freedom is just as detrimental as the strict curriculum in public schools or traditional homeschooling. So we’re doing things a little differently.

I want my kids to understand core stuff (basic math, language, science, and especially life skills) but I also want them to pursue their own interests. And be social, not isolated like so many homeschooled kids.

Think of our bastardized homeschooling curriculum as “The School of Life meets Unschooling and Homeschooling with Project-Based Learning and Social Sports.”

Fortunately, there are tools available to make this possible!

The first tool.

First, let’s look at the homeschooling option we went with – screw the state-funded stuff. For basic education (and test prep) there’s this beautiful free resource called Khan Academy. Maddix has used this on his tablet since he was 2 years old. That’s right – Khan Academy Kids is a real thing.

And it’s amazing. I love Khan Academy for Kids – he’s learned about social skills, basic ordering and spelling, relationships between things, and so much more. Every time I hear him open the app on his own, I get a little smile on my face. Because he’s loving the learning process, not having it drilled into him.

Khan Academy covers general education in Math, Science, Language, and Humanities all the way through 12th grade. Then there are test prep options for students interested in attending college. And it’s free. In case you didn’t see that the first time around.

What about the self-direction?

Of course, I want my kids to have the freedom to pursue what they want to learn about. We loved some of the unschooling ideas about self-direction.

If our kids end up curious about something – we want them to dig deep on whatever topics interest them, and we’ll help them find the resources to explore. If that means finding them books, websites, or even mentors – that’s what we’ll do.

Once the basics are covered with the “general education” from Khan Academy, it’s time to have fun and let our children play to their strengths. (Note: Once our kids turn 10, I intend to help them discover exactly where they’re the strongest by taking the VIA Youth Character Survey.)

Instead of force-feeding our kids information they may never use, I want them to maximize strengths and follow their passions. That means they can go deep on topics that most kids won’t be able to pursue until college.

I’ve had several discussions with people of all walks of life about the apprentice/mentor model, and they all agree – it works. It worked for centuries until we started factory schools. And it gives kids today the opportunity to master a skill before their 18th birthday.

My hope is that my kids will find a passion like that and pursue it with enthusiasm because that’s what they love. And if they can become world-class at anything by the time they would be graduating high school, they’ll be much better off than I was.

Learning about life and socializing.

Some things aren’t taught in school that we’re already teaching our kids…like finances and work.

Yes, finances. Our 3-year-old son has chores that he gets paid commissions for. When we go to the store, he gets to use his commissions to buy toys. And if he wants to save up for a bigger toy, that’s exactly what he does. He’s 3. And he decides to save.

As he gets older (around 5), he’ll get more chores, higher commissions, and we’ll start dividing his money into spending, saving, and giving. Once he turns 12, he’ll get a checking account and savings account, and the responsibility to divide his money a bit more.

I didn’t have this advantage growing up, and it took me a long time to learn how to use money responsibly.

We don’t want our kids isolated socially, either. Getting them involved in city-league sports and other group activities (like youth karate or gymnastics) is a high priority. For now, we’re going to take advantage of preschool services until our kids are old enough to do youth sports.

A daunting task – but worth the effort.

“Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.”

— Mark Twain

We keep researching about different education models to find out the best ways to prepare our kids for a life of flourishing, not just surviving.

One of my more recent discoveries is project-based learning. Teaching different aspects of a subject — based entirely on practical projects. Practical being an operative word, there.

That’s an example of the things that I’m picking up besides reading about unschooling. Or finding resources like Khan Academy and considering the social implications of keeping my kids at home. 

It’s daunting but worth it. I’ll continue learning so my kids get to learn and flourish. As a parent, I want my kids to have the best chance possible in the real world, and public schools can’t provide that.

My kids will be able to get as much sleep as they need without fighting their circadian cycles to catch a bus.

My kids will figure stuff out independently and creatively. They will get to ask critical questions that would be “disruptive” in a classroom.

My kids will get to pick things they love to learn about and therefor love learning. They won’t have any spark of interest snubbed out of them before they make it to their teens.

My kids won’t get bullied (or have the opportunity to become bullies) because of toxic social cliques. They will be surrounded by philosophy. They will learn while traveling. They will get to express themselves fully. And my wife and I will be there for them every step of the way.

Do you have any advice?

I love getting feedback about my ideas. If you have any experience with homeschooling, unschooling, or interesting education-related ideas, let me know in the comments!

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