Inspired by John Holt

Last week I attended a homeschooling book group discussion about The Legacy of John Holt. We were fortunate to have Pat Farenga in attendance. He shared stories about John Holt the person — his ideas, his journey, his quirks, and his commitment to his beliefs. The meeting inspired me to read Holt titles I haven’t yet read (Escape from Childhood is number one on my list), and to revive this post I wrote in 2009.

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“Since we can’t know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try to teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned.”

John Holt, the late “father of homeschooling,” said that. It’s eminently logical. Sensible. Practical. Profound, even. But what does it mean? Ditch my carefully constructed homeschooling curriculum? Ditch my lesson plan? My textbooks?

Holt was an esteemed educator and school reformer who ultimately turned away from the idea of fixing schools and pursued ways of helping children learn without them. He also coined the term unschooling. Its definition has evolved over the years, but generally it means homeschooling without a rigid curriculum. Its aim is to produce self-sufficient, lifelong learners such as those described in the quote above.

As a new homeschooling parent, I was inspired by Holt’s ideas. His book Teach Your Own helped me forge a path I would follow for years to come. That was almost two decades ago, and since then I’ve watched the word unschooling become a subject for debate among homeschoolers. There are those who claim that anyone who uses a textbook is not an unschooler. Others claim that setting limits on television or video games is not allowed in unschooling.

To me, the essence of unschooling lies in the fact that it can’t be pinned down. Like the human beings who practice it, it is perpetually unfolding, changing, and growing. It’s not so much a method as a philosophy. If you’re dying for an answer to the question How do I unschool? – sorry, there is no rulebook.

There are guideposts. One of the core points of Holt’s message is to trust children’s innate curiosity and ability to learn. One way for parents to accomplish that is by trusting themselves first. In the most successful unschooling families I know, the parents practice self-knowledge, use their instincts, know their kids well, and don’t let ideology trump reality. They’re also enthusiastic learners themselves.

When I read the quote above, I hear so much more than just ditch the curriculum. I hear that I can’t control everything, that trying is a waste of energy, and that open-mindedness and flexibility are going to serve my family and me in education, and in life.

The joys of reading aloud

We don’t read out loud anymore. That statement was proudly delivered by another mom, whose kids had reached the milestone of being able to read books by themselves.

I don’t minimize the importance of that milestone, and the joy that comes from curling up on your own with a good book. But I do lament the idea that the ability to read independently means reading aloud comes to an end.

My kids still at home are 18 and 16, and we still read together. It used to be books like Little House on the Prarie, the Harry Potter series, and Finn Family Moomintroll. These days, it’s The Count of Monte CristoAnna Karenina, and Mansfield Park. They find it as enjoyable as ever.

Reading aloud is not something I do only with my kids. My husband and I like it, too. At the risk of sounding like an old fuddy duddy, I admit the following: I knit, he reads out loud. Recently, we’ve finished Jude the ObscureThe Great Gatsby, SteppenwolfWise Blood, and Kindred, and are part way through The Goldfinch.

Reading aloud is a great social activity, too. Every other week, we get together with other families for what we call Read & Feed. People take turns reading chapters, then we potluck, then we read again. We’ve been doing this for years. When the kids were little, we loved books like The Prince of the Pond and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. As they got older, we tackled Jane Eyre, The Portrait of a Lady, and Dracula. The books are fabulous, and so is the feasting and the company.

As a homeschooling parent, you can choose to continue reading to your kids (don’t forget to invite them to read out loud, too). You can also host social evenings that involve reading aloud. If you’re not up for a novel, poetry is great, and reading a play aloud is loads of fun.

You can also start a book group with other homeschooling kids. If you do, remember to stay open-minded about what it means to pay attention. When my adult son was eleven, I hosted a group in my house. I read The Neverending Story aloud to about half a dozen boys. I vividly recall one of them acting out each scene as it was read. At first, my own preconceptions about how one is supposed to behave while listening caused me a bit of worry. But I decided to go with the flow, and realized that this kid’s natural response was to be physical about what he was hearing. By doing so, he was processing the text more deeply. It wasn’t a bit disruptive, perhaps because his behavior was coming from a place of connection with the book, and I think all the kids knew that. They were just as wrapped up in the story, and appreciated their friend’s interpretation of it.

As far as the benefits of reading aloud, I can only theorize that a focus on listening to literature had something to do with my son’s ability to nail, in less than 24 hours, reams of lines for a play in which he had the lead role. I can only guess that a lifetime of attentive listening makes reciting their favorite poems from memory, and learning speeches from Shakespeare plays, a snap for my daughters. I also wholeheartedly agree with those who think literature and stories are some of the best tools for learning about anything. But I can only say one thing with absolute certainty: reading great books aloud is totally fun. What more of a reason do you need?

Ditch the standards, embrace the love

A few years ago Psychology Today published an article about the Presidential Scholars program, which recognizes high school students who excel academically and artistically. The story focused on a study in which award recipients from the 1960’s offered advice for parents and educators.

Their suggestions included the following:

“I would encourage parents and teachers to treat children as genuinely unique individuals, to worry less about their meeting conventional standards and devote more attention to helping them develop their particular talents and interests.”

As mainstream education becomes increasingly standardized, home educators have the opportunity to take a different approach. Homeschooling is the ultimate in individualized education, as unique as each family, and each kid, who does it.

There are many advantages to letting kids pursue what they care most about. Developing a strong identity is one of them. Through exploring the world, trying out interests, and developing skills on their own terms, they come to know themselves, their strengths and weaknesses, what they love, what they don’t love, and what makes them tick.

One of the great gifts of parenting, for me, has been the privilege of observing as that process unfolds, and experiencing the awe that comes from watching kids discover the world unhindered by didacticism. This applies to basic skills as well as pursuits that involve deep study and commitment.

Reading, for example. My kids learned to do it at their own pace. I saw the unique process each went through to master the skill, the particular way each of them decoded the words on the page. How fascinating it was to observe the varying uses of phonics, letter and word recognition, pictures, and visual recall. The outcome wasn’t simply the ability to read. It included pride, confidence, and excitement.

Other unique pursuits followed. My daughter, when learning to write, writing her name in a perfect mirror image. Knitting with pencils when no needles could be found. Using pattern blocks to make astonishingly asymmetrical creations. Sprouting lentils. Being the young pair of eyes on weekend trips with seasoned birders. Figuring out how to build a website. Falling in love with Ella Fitzgerald and soaking up every note she sang. Learning as much as possible about the human brain. Reading and re-reading and re-reading Shakespeare.

This year one of my kids is fortunate to have been nominated for the Presidential Scholars program. Her lifelong education as a homeschooler reflects the advice given by those former Presidential Scholars. It never focused on conventional standards, and always focused on helping her develop her interests. The recognition and awards are great, but they’re not the real prize.

The real prize is, and always will be, in the words of the late, great John Holt, “a life worth living, and work worth doing.”

The future of education is here

Someone sent me an article by Marina Gorbis called The Future of Education Eliminates the Classroom, Because the World Is Your Class. Nice to know our family is living in the future – this idea of the world as your classroom has been a foundational principle for many homeschoolers for a long time. Beyond that, I was interested to read the article to examine how others might be catching up with the idea.

It was mostly about how technology is going to create microlearning moments and socialstructured learning – that is, learning that draws from a wide range of materials and is driven by social and internal factors rather than extrinsic rewards such as grades. Again, pretty much what lots of homeschooling and unschooling families have been doing all along.

As for the rest of the world, Gorbis believes that innovative apps, geo-coded information, free and accessible web content, and evolving work and social spaces will be the driving forces for an education revolution. Maybe technologies which offer new possibilities are necessary in order to create massive structural changes in the schools. The good news for homeschooling families (and anyone, really) is that they’re not necessary to pursue integrated, real time, instrinsically rewarding learning opportunities.

How does a homeschooling parent do it? Simple, really. Provide a variety of materials, let your kids choose how to use them, and be available to act as a guide. When you go out into the community to take a walk, participate in a meeting, volunteer at a food pantry, shop for groceries, visit a museum, see a play, or whatever, bring your kids along. Pay attention to what makes them light up, and gently steer them in that direction.

When kids are allowed to pursue learning in this way, which is really the way in which infants, toddlers and young children learn to walk, talk, and understand the world around them, the practice becomes a habit that lasts into adulthood. They become lifelong learners. Now that my youngest kids are teens, there’s little for me to do in terms of educating them, other than engage in spirited discussions, sign forms for their chosen classes and activities, provide occasional transportation, and continue to pay attention and act as a guide. They take care of the rest.

Gorbis describes a new model of education in which resources are plentiful and accessible, learning opportunities are everywhere, and autonomous learners experience learning as a continuous, ever-weaving flow. While new technologies can certainly be a part of this process, they’re not required. All that is needed is the age-old practice of learning from the community and the world. Let your kids take the lead in discovering its riches, and voila – the future of education is yours to enjoy in the present.

Spock, Kirk, and the adolescent brain

A friend sent me an NPR piece about the adolescent brain’s constant struggle between the impulsiveness of the limbic system (think Captain Kirk), and the reason of the prefrontal cortex (that’s Mr. Spock). We all know about the wild side of teenagers, but apparently, it’s worse than we thought. It all starts around age 12, and can last for a decade.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Researchers at Temple University uncovered a twist. When adolescents are with other adolescents, they’re significantly more likely to engage in risky behavior. As the article puts it, an adolescent’s weakness is actually other adolescents.

Duh, you may be thinking. It’s called peer pressure, right? Wrong. The experiment’s findings indicate that simply being with other adolescents makes adolescents more impulsive.

I’ve observed the phenomenon the researchers are talking about in my own kids and in young people I’ve known over the years. When adolescents get together, they behave differently than when they’re alone, or with adults, or in an inter-generational group.

As a homeschooling parent, my opportunity to witness these dynamics was perhaps greater than parents whose kids go to school. I could see, in action, kids behaving more or less impulsively or maturely depending on the setting, and here’s my conclusion. I think providing adolescents with chances to interact with peers and adults in various numbers and combinations is a really good way for them to practice using and modulating the Kirk and Spock parts of their brains.

The NPR piece says that 12-year-olds get a high from being with each other, and that “They’re wired to seek each other out and develop the skills they’ll need to leave their parents, feed and protect themselves, and raise children.”

Are they really wired to seek each other out, or are they just herded together in age-segregated schools? In my experience with homeschoolers, they’re drawn as much to adults they admire and want to learn from as they are to their age-mates.

While youths have always been more prone to risk-taking, not all cultures segregate youth to the extent that we do, and that seems wise. It makes sense that being with mixed ages can provide a safety cushion to temper risky behavior. Kids can get the “high” of being with each other, while also getting the benefit of the wisdom of their elders (which is, after all, where they’re getting their primary information about how to be adults).

With more and more science revealing key aspects of adolescent brain development, it’s looking more and more like some of the key components of school are misguided. We know now for certain that teenagers need more sleep than adults, so keeping them up late with reams of homework and getting them up at the crack of dawn for another school day doesn’t seem like such a good plan. Now It also looks like excessive peer contact isn’t the greatest idea, either.

Homeschooling offers another model, one that has been proven to work. More time to sleep, small classes, finding mentors, volunteerism and work opportunities, and interaction in the community are advantages homeschoolers have enjoyed for years. If schools reformers choose to look our way for ideas, they’ll find them.

Getting on our groove

It’s Monday morning and we’re all busy. My husband is doing paperwork before heading out to teach for the afternoon, I’m writing this article, my 18-year-old is making smoothies for breakfast, and my 16-year-old is awaiting the arrival of a bunch of teenagers for a rehearsal of a Shakespeare play. This afternoon, she’ll get on the bus and head to a theater in the next town for another rehearsal. This evening, I’ll go sing with my chorus while another crop of teens arrives at my house for a meeting of my 18-year-old’s Model United Nations Club.

Sometimes I joke that our house is like Grand Central Station. There’s always a steady stream of people coming and going for work, for play, for fun, for the business of life. This alive, dynamic lifestyle is, for our family, one of the best parts of homeschooling. Having two employed parents with flexible schedules may contribute to the winding nature of our days. But even in families with a more traditional set-up, homeschooling offers the opportunity to develop an organic rhythm, a groove that allows everyone to learn and thrive.

For me, simply making the decision to homeschool opened up doors of opportunity. Once I realized I didn’t have to send my kids to school, other outside-the-box options I never would have considered before seemed possible. As time went by, my homeschooling lifestyle taught me that what I once would have considered absurd wasn’t only real, it was desirable. I watched my kids learn to read with no formal instruction. I observed them taking an interest in numbers and figuring out how to add and subtract without prodding. I spent time with other homeschooling families and developed close relationships that exist to this day. Most of all, I learned that the more I stayed out of my kids’ way, the more they blossomed.

Finding the rhythm that worked for our family involved a few key components. The first was play. From the time our kids were born they spent most of their time playing. Sometimes it would be at the park during a support group gathering, other times at friends’ houses, and often outdoors. The curiosity and freedom of expression they enjoyed made play spill over into everyday life. Baking cookies, for example, became a game, one that continued once the task was done at splendid tea parties where they could practice being grown-up, not just in behavior but in conversational topics, which included politics, child care, and whatever else they heard adults around them discussing.

Which brings me to another important component of our homeschooling: our kids hung around with adults a lot, working and playing alongside them. They sang in an intergenerational chorus and performed in intergenerational plays, they attended grown-up concerts and talks, and they regularly tagged along to meetings for my volunteer work, or rehearsals of my husband’s band. They always carried books or art supplies or games to play, but don’t think for a minute that they weren’t paying attention to the adults, too.

How did this integrated, play-oriented lifestyle benefit our family? It allowed our kids to develop self-sufficiency, for one thing. They learned at a young age how to occupy themselves, which renders obsolete one question commonly directed at homeschooling parents: How do you find time for yourself? Last summer, researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder reported that children spending more time in unstructured activities were better able to set goals and meet them without prodding from adults.  In the small sample size of our family, that’s certainly been the case. By being in charge of their play and their learning, our kids learned to trust themselves, they became confident, and they discovered passions they pursue with gusto.

Guiding our kids to find those passions was one of the most important goals of homeschooling, and engaging in a rich, bustling life which exposed them to lots of people and experiences was a big help. With the benefit of hindsight, I see clues to the passions they’d later embrace peppered throughout my kids’ lives, but watching the process unfold was full of surprises. My 18-year-old loved singing from the time she was a baby, for instance, and was always very social, but we had no idea she’d embrace jazz and psychology so fiercely. My 16-year-old watched her older siblings in plays and attended theater productions with us enthusiastically, but who’d have thought that when she was 13 she’d start her own theater company?

These discoveries are some of the gifts we receive as we watch our kids learn, grow, and become. When people say homeschooling is a lifestyle, that’s what they mean. It’s about flow, trying new things, connecting with each other and what we love, and in the words of John Holt, learning all the time.

Getting the most out of your support group

What about socialization? is a question often heard by homeschooling parents. Experienced homeschoolers know it’s a non-issue. Social opportunities for homeschoolers abound. One of the best ways to take advantage of the wealth of available resources is to join a support group.

Some groups are loosely organized networks, while others are structured in a more hierachical fashion. Some are open and inclusive, while others cater to particular educational philosophies or beliefs. Families often join more than one. For those wondering how to make the most of a homeschool support group, a few suggestions follow.

Don’t forget the face to face Virtual support groups and e-lists abound, but there’s no replacement for getting together with others on a face-to-face basis. Look for groups with less e-list chatter and more opportunities for real time activities.

Participate! Those group activities and classes you’re enjoying were likely organized by a volunteer. Most groups depend on members to keep things vital and rolling. Think about what you have to offer and put it out there. Whether it’s hosting a group meeting or potluck, teaching a class, organizing a science fair, or planning a field trip, becoming an active member of the group is a great way to make the programs you want happen, meet new friends, and help others.

Don’t be shy Breaking into a new group can be tough for anyone. Do your best to introduce yourself and feel free to ask questions about homeschooling, and about how things work in the group you’ve joined. Even a virtual introduction on a list serve can help you connect with others who may share your interests and goals.

It takes time You finally make it to the playground with your kid, and it seems that no one is paying any attention to him. Worse yet, it feels like the parents are chatting happily with each other and completely ignoring you. First, take a deep breath. These parents and kids are at a group event enjoying each other, as you would be — and probably will be — once you get to know everyone. Introducing yourself, sharing your interests, and contributing to the group will all help speed up the process.

Practice Tolerance Homeschooling parents tend to be an opinionated lot. Views on parenting and education are bound to differ among families in any support group. If conflicts arise, do your best to stay true to your own principles while acknowledging that others may have different views.

Whenever possible, let kids handle their own social struggles As homeschooling parents, we’re often well acquainted with the families of our kids’ friends. This doesn’t mean we should butt in when our kids are experiencing issues with them. Growing up is a thorny business. Our children are learning how to communicate effectively in relationships. While it’s easy to jump right in and get involved, sometimes the best way to help is to just listen. This is especially true when we’re parenting teenagers.

Where are those groups? For more info on local groups in your area, ask your state homeschooling organization. Here’s mine.

Living the slow homeschooling life

Fells6My homeschooling journey began 24 years ago, when my oldest daughter was attending public kindergarten. Like many parents, I was delighted that my little girl was growing up and entering school. I hoped she would make friends, learn a lot, and enjoy herself. It wasn’t long before I realized I’d been carrying around an idealized vision of school. I began to explore options, and came upon a transcript of a speech by former New York City teacher of the year John Taylor Gatto. Reading it changed my life. I committed myself to homeschooling.

There were about eight families at the first homeschooling picnic I attended. I felt inspired. These people were as excited about homeschooling as I was. Sure there weren’t many of us, but we didn’t really need more than we had – our families, each other, and the world to explore in any way we chose. Compared to today’s homeschooling landscape, it wasn’t much, but it was okay. In fact, it was more than okay. We weren’t homeschooling because homeschoolers perform better than average on standardized tests, or because there was a great network in our area, or because we were grooming our kids for the Ivy League. We were doing it for perhaps the best reason of all – because we had to. The promise of freedom for our children and our families was too good to resist.

Fast forward to 2015. The changes in the homeschooling movement since I began make my head spin. Homeschoolers in the United States now number in the millions. In my local support group alone, there are more than 200 member families. Museums, nature sanctuaries, art studios, and all manner of places now offer daytime classes for homeschoolers.

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The families who contact me regularly to ask about homeschooling can choose the groups they like best, and the classes and programs they want to use to tailor their children’s educations. Want a scheduled activity every day of the week? No problem. How wonderful, in many ways, that homeschooling is becoming more accepted, and that homeschoolers can now choose from such a wide range of options, including learning centers for homeschoolers. Usually these centers are professionally run, offering part-time or even full-time drop-off options. What a difference from my early days, when our small group of families made our own fun. Libraries, playgrounds, museums, historic sites, the great outdoors, and each other’s houses – we explored them all, when we decided, when we chose. We created our own field trips, started our own clubs, planned our own potlucks, put on our own plays, and if we felt like it, offered or organized our own classes. Although I can certainly see the positive aspects in all the resources now available to homeschoolers, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I know there are still families who practice the kind of homeschooling I’m talking about, but when I talk to new homeschoolers, their attention is inevitably drawn to all the available resources. Creating complex schedules that fill children’s time with classes, lessons, and days spent at drop-off learning centers takes the place of free play, unplanned trips to the library and park, baking cookies together, or snuggling up on the couch to read picture book after picture book. With my older kids grown and out of the house, and my younger kids teens, our lives are less like that. All my children are very scheduled, out in the world pursuing rich, full lives which are, in many ways, beyond anything I could have imagined for them. When they were still small, people astonished by their “skills” would ask me point blank, “What did you do?”

My answer was always the same: Nothing.

Why did I say that? Partly, because I was taken aback by the question. Really, I did nothing other than provide love, care, shelter, support, and fun. I observed my kids with interest and joy, and provided resources to help feed budding passions. I did my best to act as a guide while trying to stay the heck out of their way. What I did not do when they were very young was sign them up for every math workshop, science club, or whatever activity came on the homeschooling list serve, and I certainly never enrolled them in a learning center. It just wasn’t necessary. Beyond a pottery session and a few music lessons here and there, for the most part structured classes and lessons weren’t even a part of my kids’ lives until they hit double digits.

So what did we do? We spent our time at the park, the library, and in play. I was active in homeschooling and community organizations, and the kids always tagged along to meetings, bringing stuff to do, working on their own projects alongside the adults at work. The whole family sang in a chorus together. We read lots of books. We went to, and sometimes performed in, concerts, plays, and museums. They especially loved the Museum of Fine Arts, where they’d wander through the galleries at their own pace, stopping when and where they chose to pull out their trusty sketch pads and render their own version of an awesome masterpiece.

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To me, those were the golden days of homeschooling. I’m so grateful for the time we spent together, getting to know and love each other, enjoying the city, the beach, farms, museums, the woods, the playgrounds, and so many other things in the world around us. I never gave a thought to the teaching of reading, math, or any other academic pursuit, not because I didn’t care, but because I didn’t have to. The kids wanted to learn, and did so. It was the lifestyle, and all of the blessings and benefits that came with it, that I cared about.

Perhaps I make the lifestyle sound unbelievably idyllic. If so, it’s because of how I remember it, not because there were no struggles or difficulties. Those come with any life choices. In my experience, what people worry about most when they start homeschooling are academics and socialization. With two daughters who will soon apply to college, I am still not immune to those worries (parents whose kids are enrolled in school don’t escape them, either). Back in the good old days of homeschooling, we had the time, the space, and the opportunity to work out those concerns ourselves, and we learned that, societal messages aside, our kids could, for the most part, thrive without structured activities or centers designed solely for the purpose of “educating” them or providing “learning” environments for them. We learned that the ultimate learning environment is life itself, no didactic trappings required. For me, one of the most important lessons was to savor life with my family.

Recently, I had coffee with a couple of other veteran homeschooling parents, and we discussed the influx of learning centers. Things are so different now, we noted. Better in some ways, true, since resources can allow families to homeschool who couldn’t do so otherwise. But what of our experience, the way we homeschooled? Will it become a relic, now that homeschoolers are a significant market, and programs and centers designed for them are popping up fast and furious, touting their offerings, contributing to the notion that professionals of one sort or another are necessary? Slow homeschooling is what we did, we decided, and we even made a tumbler for it: http://slowhomeschooling.tumblr.com/

In our frenetic 21st century world, maybe it will become a fad that sticks, like the slow food movement. At the very least, we hope it can serve as a reminder that choosing a less harried and more self-directed way of life is possible.

Spread the Slow Homeschooling word! Submit your own Slow Homeschooling stories herehttp://slowhomeschooling.tumblr.com/submit

Put women on the money

What do you see when you look at a twenty dollar bill? The same thing you see when you look at a one dollar bill, a five dollar bill, a ten dollar bill, a fifty, or a hundred — a white man.

#WomenOn20s aims to change that with a campaign to put a woman’s face on the twenty dollar bill. Although we have one dollar coins depicting Susan B. Anthony and Sacajawea, we all know they’re not in wide use. The centennial of the passage of the 19th amendment is coming right up in 2020, so it’s about time we put the face of a great American woman on our paper money.

President Obama already thinks it’s a good idea.

WomenOn20s has selected fifteen great American women and asked people to vote for their three top choices. I voted for Harriet Tubman and Rachel Carson. Who will you pick?

Flex time

Maybe you’ve read about grit, which education researcher Angela Lee Duckworth defines as “the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward very long-term goals.” Duckworth delivered a very popular TED talk revealing grit as the key to success in life.

On the surface, it sounds good, but one of my favorite contrarians, Alfie Kohn, points out another side to grit, questioning whether persistence is always a good thing.

For homeschoolers, this question is particularly pertinent. Our kids aren’t expected to spend their days sitting through classes mostly chosen for them by someone else, then go home and complete assignments they may or may not find meaningful. How, under those circumstances, can we get our kids to learn persistence?

My kids are now adults and teenagers, and my personal observation is that they’re not great at sticking with something they don’t like. Sometimes, as I watch one of my kids abandon a job or a project, my knee-jerk reaction is one of exasperation and judgment. After all, they should follow through, shouldn’t they? How will they achieve “success” if they don’t have the “grit” to do so? Then I remember that I don’t want my kids to end up like so many people I see around me, accepting the perceived inevitability of a daily grind, working in jobs they hate.

I don’t think it’s likely to happen to my kids, and one of the main reasons for that is their willingness to quit something that isn’t working for them. That doesn’t mean they lack many of the gritty qualities Duckworth’s research describes. I often see them working tirelessly and with great determination on projects that matter to them, even if the process involves hurdles that aren’t so much fun.

So what is it that makes it possible to embody the beneficial parts of grit, but avoid the downside described by Kohn? I think it’s flexibility. When people are flexible, they can learn, think, and adapt with ease. They can apply an elastic mind and fresh ideas to their hard work. And they can, if they choose, drop it all and start something new.

Homeschooling offers the opportunity for a flexible lifestyle, one in which schedules, approaches to learning, parenting style, and a family’s day-to-day can morph according to individual and familial needs. It offers kids the chance to experiment with various interests and seek out what they’re truly passionate about. It reminds us that quitting isn’t necessarily a dirty word, and it doesn’t even have to signal an end to something, because flexible people know that return is always possible, and that life isn’t a straight line to be rigidly traveled, but rather a meandering, complex journey that is, after all, what we make it.