Friday, January 21, 2011

Homeschooling - Enabling Concentrated Study

Even though we're having a blast down in Florida....the kids are still doing their daily *work*.

I would say that for the first 1.5 years (age 3 5/8 to 5 1/8) my son was primarily focused on math and reading.

But since we hit algebra so fast I've really cooled it with the math - almost to the point of doing nothing. So for just about the past 12 months the Prince has been primarily reading.

Let's just say I think it paid off.

Recall that four months ago I co-read the first Harry Potter book with him. Actually, I did essentially all of the reading (and explaining). See - Marginalizing A Gay Wizard Kid.

Well I wasn't going to read another one of those inane books. So we took the *audiobook* route instead. The Prince listened to Harry Potter books 2-6 while he played with his LEGOS, before he went to bed at night, and often when he got up in the morning. After he finished each audiobook I usually went out and borrowed the DVD from the library and let him watch the motion picture. Note he did not *read along* with these audiobooks as he did with many other ones - particularly when he was learning to read.

Ten days ago we were at Walmart down here in Naples and he grabbed the 7th and final Harry Potter book - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - off the shelf. So for a mere $8.95 we bought it.

Guess what, this one he read, all on his own, all 749 pages, in 1.5 weeks!

They say the *read alone* age of that one is around 12 so the 6.17 year old is roughly 5-6 years/grade levels advanced on the reading front. And, BTW, that's just on pure ability level, in terms of volume or prolificacy our son is probably in a whole other league. (Since we left for Florida 20 days ago, he's probably read 1300 pages in other books additional to this one!)

So 1 year plus of focusing on math launched him 6-7 grade levels...

And it looks like 1 year of furious reading also launched him about as many *grade levels*.

What does this mean? Or what does this show?

I submit that if anything it demonstrates the sheer, unmatched power of concentrated study.

Here he is one recent morning, with a cleaner nose:

It was probably 7:30am or so and he did, well, just what he does on many mornings these days.

He stumbled out of bed, blanket in tow, and cracked open his book.

For his father (and mother) this is such an unbelievable sight to behold - there's no hunger complaints, crankiness, or pleas to watch the color TV. And there's no parental yelling, hurrying or scurrying to catch a jail bus...

I was moved, as I so often am on our glorious homeschooling journey, to capture the moment with a picture.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations - both to you and Prince. Incredible really. I am so amazed and inspired when I see this.

CaptiousNut said...


I excitedly await the day you tell me you pulled your son out of school!

Anonymous said...

And I'll be amazed when the Prince starts Latin, Greek, French and German studies. He's already a bookworm like his multi-lingual uncle overseas.

What kind of effect do you think such studies of English's root languages would have on his already impressive verbal skills?

Moreover, the discipline required to study inflected languages such as Latin and German would put his brain in another universe and give him the linguistic confidence to work, live and travel anywhere.

If I could learn Ukrainian at age 35 and start studying German at nearly 38, imagine how much better the Prince's more supple brain would handle such challenges at age 6?

With the wealth of free and low-cost language-learning resources on the Internet, including the opportunity to practice with native speakers via video skype, and the underemployment of language teachers in the U.S., this is a homeschooling no-brainer.

And if you wanted to spend a little money, I bet you could arrange private tutorials with French or German native speakers over skype for a ridiculously low price. (I pay my private Ukrainian tutor less than $10/hour and she's one of the best in Lviv.) Eastern Germany has tons of underemployed academics. Prices in Latin America are ridiculously low. Why not globalize your homeschooling efforts to take advantage of these cost arbitrage opportunities? Tim Ferris would support this idea ;-)

But other than that, I don't feel strongly at all about this topic.

Anonymous said...

If I had your confidence that I could do as good a job I would do it. My whole family would pounce on me and scare me if I even mention the idea. I do see your point though. Every one around me is sending their kids to Kumon lessons because the kids do less Math in KG than they did in their Montessori preschools.
But you always inspire me to do more as a parent in the time I do have with him after school. For us even that is proving to be a challenge. So many distractions around. So many things to take care of. So little time.
Really - do you still think any intelligent child (not super) can do what Prince is able to do? It is so unbelievable. Feel like he should be in the newspapers! :)

CaptiousNut said...


As I've said before, my son is actually pretty lazy - a bit of a goof off.

But he's been forced to entertain himself (no color TV or video games). So he's developed his mind muscles.

In my opinion the only loving way to deal with *family* is to ignore them. Have they done any research on alternative education? Do they know the edu-upbringing of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs (to name a couple)? Do they have a clue about the sordid (and short!) history of age-segregated mass compulsory education?

I'm guessing *no*.

Have them read Outliers and Talent Is Overrated. (John Gatto would come on too strong.)

It wasn't like I didn't harbor minor doubts or like I had any real support from outside members of my family either. In fact many of them still think I'm *wrong*!!!

Ignoring family members might seem harsh but note that it was condoned from above:


Anonymous said...

I think if I felt sure that I can do it as well as you - I would fight my family - considering my son already is the gentle sort who is stunned sometimes by the mean things some kids who have learned more survival skills in full day day-care say to him - my family (and I wonder too) will play the social skills card - and there is not a single person I know in the area who does home schooling - so I really don't know how he would have any friends to play you are really good at disciplining them - I really don't know if I can do as good a job...

BTW - your son not only is super smart - he looks so adorable in these photos. He has such a sweet smile...

CaptiousNut said...


Adorable even with the booger? I got yelled at for posting that! Thanks.

Socialization, from most homeschooling critics, doesn't even mean that. Mostly people who wonder about socialization are saying, "How could you do something so different?" and "It can't be healthy to be so different." - like you allude to in your comment.

One of the trademarks of a schooled populace is the fear of and contempt for *the alien*. And that's no more clearly manifest than in the mass, sound-byte dismissal of homeschooling with, "...socialization."

Of course I feel strongly that schools *anti-socialize* children - that I myself was anti-socialized by 16 years of age-segregated, reality-divorced schooling. But that's for another discussion.

And it is telling too, that most people are more afraid of *being different* than they are afraid of their kid not getting the best education possible. They're more afraid of their kid being different than they are concerned about keeping their family intact; or about raising a productive entrepreneur than a credentialed wage-slave.

For sure there are tons of weird, exceptional homeschooled kids out there. But for every weird homeschooled kid there are at least 100 kids who dress the same, think the same, and send each other 60 text messages per day. They are literally all the same; on the same path to a lifetime of debt slavery, wage slavery, and mind slavery.

The last thing in the world I want to be is *not 100% unique*.

As for discipline...

However bad you think you are at it, the school teachers are far worse.

They don't know your son, nor do they have the authority over him that you do. You can take away dessert, the color TV(!), his toys, can hold in abeyance any little thing that he might hold sacred. And by the same token you can reward him in a more targeted manner.

My kids play with other kids: at parks, pools, beaches, boy scouts, gymnastics, karate, homeschool outings, church, dance class,... They play with their cousins and the children of their parents' friends.

Anonymous said...

All I noticed in the photos was his happy smile! (I had to go back to the photo to see what you are talking about!)
BTW - I did not allude to anything really in my comment - I actually feel "Wow - this kid looks very happy and not like he is lacking for play time or socializing with other kids". What I alluded to was - for my son being exposed to other kids probably helps because he went to preschool only three half days whereas most of the other kids in his class went to full day preschool - I see a difference - it could be my son's gentle nature - but even in the 4.5 months he has been in school - I see so many changes in him - I don't know if they are all good changes - but seemingly he is less shocked by the aggressiveness of other kids. Being immigrants in this country there is always that factor too - that he needs to be exposed to the culture in this country and not just what we are like at home.
I totally see your reasoning - but my main reason is I don't have your confidence that I can do a good job of it in a well rounded way that you are able to do...