(Excerpted from The Homeschooler's Handbook)

So, let's assume that the critical approach to education is not for you and your family. What to replace it with? One must have some idea of how one wants to teach and what one wants to teach...even why one wants to teach. Teaching successfully requires not just the desire to do so. It requires an intelligent and well-thought out approach, complete with real world tools, if you are to succeed. You've already solved what you're going to teach, earlier in this book.

Let me offer you a powerful how to teach. I am going to recommend admiration as the core to the approach you take. I'm going to suggest respect for the person you're teaching and their inherent qualities and value, and admiration offered to the student for the results of their works and for their efforts. But I won't stop with a blanket statement like that, because frankly, that could sound not just unworkable, but also pie in the sky.

If you are a decent parent, you probably have openly admired at least some of your child's endeavors. It isn't hard to do, since every child has within them many skills, creative insights, and ideas that are worthy of admiration. Yes, I said every child has these. And few people look for such glimmers of genius and creativity in a child as closely or intently or as hopefully as Mom and Dad.

Perhaps Mom and Dad may not want Junior to grow up to be President anymore, as the job has taken on some grim and occasionally criminal connotations over the past 200 years. But few sane parents do not hope and pray that their child doesn't have great potential. Few sane parents would not move mountains (or at least some small hills) to help their child discover and develop that potential. Few sane parents do not dream that their child will grow up to be gifted, able, sure and confident, a force in the world.

I know you, Mom and Dad. I'm a father, myself, and for years I had to sort of wear both parent “hats”. I know what parents dream of for their children. I've had those dreams.

I believe you already know how special your child is, special in proven fact today, and in potential for tomorrow. I think you probably find it easy, when you allow yourself, to admire much of what you child is and does. His drawings, or her made-up songs, or their little performances, or plans for rocket ships, or the home run in little league, the kind word you saw your child offer his little brother....I will bet there are a million things your child does that you admire. But I'm willing to wager that you've been told at some point not to shower your child with admiration.

Because...what? Too much love spoils a child? Too much encouragement might make you look crazy as a parent? Too much enthusiasm for your child's efforts and dreams might in some way stifle the child's own reach?

Well, nonsense. Piffle. Lies. Who doesn't want to be admired?!

Admittedly, some displays of public admiration may outwardly embarrass a child. Don't do too much mushy love stuff in front of Aunt Petunia and the neighbors, or your son's best school buddies. Admiration is a very powerful thing. Use admiration wisely, but often.

I would not ooh and ahh over a child's least effort, or all they may give you in the future is their least effort. What you admire in your child is likely to be what he learns to love in himself. So what we want is a student's “most effort”, the best they are able to do at this time. That's what we should admire and support as teachers and as parents...the child's best effort at this time.

What you admire is what you'll probably get more of from the student. Admire his math skills, and they are likely to continue to develop. Admire his short stories, he's likely to write a lot more of them. Admire his ability to clean his room (when he finally cleans out a small, an infinitesimal corner of it), and he may well learn to clean his room regularly, top to bottom.


What I'm suggesting is that you sincerely admire those results and even the efforts that lead the student where you want to take him in life, and even better, where the student would himself like to go. And yes, you should and really must admire works of the student's that he is proud of, and which you may not find entirely wonderful, yourself. You'll need to find some genuine and sincere admiration for anything he creates, teacher. Genuine and sincere admiration.

When I was teaching Creative Writing at a private school, I had a class of about 30 students, many of them teen-aged boys. One assignment I gave the class started with a simple sentence I provided, and then asked the students to create their own story from it. One opening sentence went something like “Julie walked downstairs in the morning.” Well, the teen-aged boys took it as a challenge to see what horrible, gross, gruesome things they could do to poor Julie. Story after story, for several months, had the boys killing off Julie in as creative a manner as they could muster, from earthquakes to floods to Martian invasion. The girls in class were often put off by the overt and gleeful gruesomeness of the boy's works. But I encouraged those young gentlemen to keep writing, and made a point to admire their efforts. And guess what? They eventually moved their enthusiasm over to better and more interesting subjects as writers. They grew through their lesser efforts, at least in part because I did not allow their enthusiasm and their minor efforts to go unrewarded. Boys who did not want to author a paragraph grew that year to writing very long short stories and even novels in a few cases!

What exactly did I admire in their stories. Their enthusiasm and creativity. I did not necessarily admire the gruesomeness of their tales, though it was occasionally impressive. And I did get more from them of what I precisely admired...enthusiasm and creativity. And writing. Lots of it.


(Excerpted from my book, The Homeschooler's Handbook.)

Should implies a value judgment. Is it the right thing to do, the ethical or moral thing? Is it
something you would be in the right to do. I'd go farther, as homeschooling is a huge
commitment you'll be making in time and effort, on your children's behalf. I'd go so far as to ask if you feel that homeschooling is a must, because it can be a pretty hard road.

Some of your friends and family who really don't know much about homeschooling may well
council against it. They will tell you that you're not qualified to teach. (You are, certainly more
than any teacher in a classroom who doesn't know your child from Adam.) They will tell you
that your child won't benefit from proper “socialization”, hanging around other kids at a school.

(To which you should shout “Hallelujah!” More on that later, but believe me, you don't want or
need that for your children, and you can guarantee them a sufficiently active social and creative life that they will be pleased and well-acclimated to the company of others.) Out of loving concern in some cases, they will pile on more arguments. Their arguments will often be
uninformed, but not always. Homeschooling has not worked for everyone. (Of course, those who failed in the past did not have this handbook. Enough said.)

For myself and for my children, homeschooling was a must, and for many reasons. That does not mean it is a must for you and yours. However, these are some of the reasons I homeschooled:

- Safety. The first responsibility of a parent. I did not feel that my children were safe in a school, not be safe in a school. Just open a newspaper.

- The quality of education received. Even though my children went to a fine small private
school, they were not receiving what I would consider a quality education. (Except in the arts,
the area in which I taught at their schools, if I do say so myself.) I thought that both the
methods and the curriculum used were not up to a level that would properly challenge or
educate them. I knew that even then, homeschoolers as a group scored higher in testing across
the board.

- What was being studied. My children are both artists. They and I felt too much time was
wasted on subjects they were not interested in, and that they had no use for then or now.

- Financial. My children went to private school. That's expensive. I largely paid for their
education by teaching at the schools where they attended. That was expensive in terms of
time. I decided that time would be better spent directly educating my own children. Basically,
homeschooling is very inexpensive compared to most options.

- Schedule. The school was a drive, and in rush hour (in Los Angeles), a long drive. School
hours, as is true of virtually all schools, were mandated and enforced. Homework was constant
and enforced. All my kids were doing was school. This did not allow them time to discover
or develop their own interests. I didn't like that at all, and neither did they. And my own
time was, of course, eaten up by teaching there, and driving there. I could immediately see
that homeschooling would, in our case, take up less of my time. As we were homeschooling,
there would be no need for homework. I always felt that 4-5 hours of school was enough if
it was structured well and productive. Homework seemed to me indicative of the failure
of the teacher and the school to get everything done in their alloted time. I saw no reason
then, and see none now, to allow a school to dictate anyone's time based on their own inability
to get a job done.

There were other reasons, but these will, I think, suffice to get a discussion going. There are very compelling reasons to not send a child to school, and to instead homeschool him. Safety! Money!  The subjects and materials the child is studying placed back under parental control! Time freed up for everyone! Not to mention the time spent with my two children watching them grow more skilled and intelligent and knowing I've had a real hand in that! It was an easy call, if a bit frightening.


(Excerpted from The Homeschooler's Handbook.)

“Spare the rod and spoil the child.” That used to be considered sage advice to a parent or teacher. Well, my friend, if you believe that striking a child (physically or with words, pain is pain) will bear positive results in the child's outlook in life, or in his education – then you're very likely to disagree with any approach to education other than one utilizing threat and punishment.

The critical approach to education is for you. Put this book away.

And may God help your children escape your reach as quickly as possible.

There was a time in America when teachers carried a rod in the classroom, something constructed to be light weight, but painful when it was used to strike a child. A ruler worked well for the task. And why would a teacher, who is supposedly in the classroom to encourage and protect the best interest of the child – strike a child? This was common in the U.S. I myself, in the 1960s, had a 4th grade teacher who carried a ruler, particularly when teaching math. She struck me across the hand several times during the school year...supposedly because I failed to
get the correct answer to a math problem.

I eventually became decent at math – but not because of that teacher's tutelage, despite it. And I pretty much hate math and math studies to this day. (Which is largely why I don't provide a math study in my curriculum. Also, there are many fine math programs for homeschoolers.) She was from Germany, and I always suspected that she was a Nazi hiding out in America. I might have been wrong about that, but I also might have been right. I was very clearly Jewish, and she very clearly had decided to punish me. I do not believe she had as her intent to improve my math skills. Simply explaining math to me would have accomplished that, I'm a bright enough guy and have always been so.

I never learned a thing about addition subtraction multiplication division through pain or derision. Not one thing. No one learns that way, not in any lasting or real sense. Well, perhaps we do at least learn one lesson from the cruelty approach to education - how to find ways to
avoid future pain and derision, if we can. How to avoid school.

Abuse as an approach may work in the military (I would argue that it does not work, that they get the least from each soldier rather than the best with this approach), but it cannot and will not work when used against a child. The result will not be an education. The result, instead, will include a well-developed terror in that child of people who are big. Terror isn't what education should teach.  Punishment as an inducement to educational success is a ruinously failed policy. When I've seen it applied to children, I have often dreamed of the situation being reversed. Let's punish the teacher for his negligence and his failure (and he is certainly failing as a teacher if critique and punishment is the best he has to offer). Let's turn the tables. The teacher's punishment shall be hand raps with a rod, public tongue lashings, and refusing them permission to go to the bathroom. Let's pile that teacher with homework every night, and make certain it's in a subject he despises. And when he fails a test or a question, well, it's the rod again. Let's do that for a lengthy period of time, say 12 years, just as a child must endure in school. And when the teacher weeps for release, cries out that this is unfair, that his potential and life is being tossed aside or crushed, we'll just smile at him and whisper “spare the rod and spoil the teacher.”

Few adults if any would quietly tolerate, day after day, year after year, the sort of life that a student stuck in institutional education is expected to tolerate. The law protects adults from such treatment. But when treatment like this is directed at a child in the name of “schooling”, the law is mysteriously silent.

Look, folks, you are responsible for your children. They are your children. I'm going to climb out to the edge and take a risk, now. I'm going to assume that you want something better for your child than the critical approach to education. Allow me to go even farther and give you this benefit of a doubt – I will wager that if you saw or knew of someone striking your child, the repercussions against that person and the system he represented would be swift and furious.


Here's a post taken from my book, Homeschool Hows And Whys.

Literacy is the cornerstone of education. A student with limited or no literacy is going to be very hard to educate! Until a student develops literacy to a level where study materials make sense to them, you as a teacher will be fighting a never-ending uphill battle that you and your student are doomed to lose. With this in mind, it is very important that you start your work as an educator handling a particular student with their literacy, both reading and writing.

How will you determine your student’s literacy? There are many tests and methods out there
that might be used for that purpose, but they may not be the best way to work. Tests can be
intimidating, and you very well may not get a real result due to the student’s overall upset with

I suggest the following possible methods:

- Have a student read aloud for you (without help or critique please). Start with books that you
believe may be well below the student’s ability, and I mean very well below. You may even need to begin with picture books. Start with a single example of what you think is “beginner literacy” material, like “See Spot run”. Then, continue to escalate the difficulty level. Do this for not much more than an hour per day, and spread it out. If the student gets hungry, feed him. If he’s tired, don’t bother to try this until he gets some rest. We want true and accurate results, unaffected by anything outside of the student’s literacy.

Try to use books the student has little or no previous experience with, as a reader.

You might go from a picture book with five one-syllable words per page, to a Dr. Seuss book or
something even simpler. From there, to a reader for young students, say ages 5-6. You could
have them read from some simple story written for that age, but beware classics! Yes, we all love The Wind in the Willows and Winnie the Pooh. But such great books, though written for children, were often written to be read aloud to children by parents, and were written at a time when people were generally more literate than today. You may find more contemporary books of use, the student’s “class” or knowledge, we are only trying to ascertain his reading level. If you can provide the student options at each step on what he would like to read, do it. You may be spending a fair amount of time in a library.

Continue to escalate the difficulty. And one note – this is much easier to do if you have two copies of each work being read, one for the student to hold, and one for you to hold at the same time.

You will need to follow along, regardless, watching for:
- Words the student can’t pronounce.
- Words the student does not understand.
- Ideas that seem vague or incomprehensible to the student.

Please note, and this is important, a word or two, a vague thought or two which the the student uncovers, does not mean that you’ve found the student’s level. It may mean that the book you’re using hit a few words and ideas he does not get. You'll need more information than one reading can give you. Discovering the actual literacy of a person takes some time.
To be certain, let him read at the level you even suspect may be right for a while, around a week.

If he can read, even if it’s a bit of work, that is his level. Have dictionaries nearby. Make sure
they are dictionaries for students at different literacy levels, as well. Any word that the student
does not grasp will need to be looked up, or you will need to provide a clear definition that he can understand. But be helpful, not critical. And remember that what you’re doing is diagnostic, and not corrective.

When you believe you may have found roughly the level, confirm it with a second piece of
reading material that falls at roughly the same reading level. If the student can read it but with
some stretching and difficulty (not prohibitive, however), that’s about where you want to be. If
this takes you all the way up to A Tale of Two Cities and Shakespeare, great!

- Another method is to provide the student actual lesson plans from a curricula, at escalating
levels of that curricula. (We’re assuming that the curricula is itself well-written in this regard.)
Start with the most elementary of lesson plans in a subject that the student does not mind reading about. Have the student either do the lesson plan completely, or read it aloud to you.

Again, we are looking for his level, that which he can do, even with some work.

Again, escalate as you see that a lesson plan is not difficult for your student. Do not ever work
through hunger or tiredness. (For what it’s worth, at we offer four “levels” of increasingly difficult materials that escalate as to literacy. These is Step 1 (ages 5-6,
preliterate); Step 2 (ages 7-8, developing literacy); Step 3 (ages 9-10) and Step 4
School (ages 11-adult). Each level past Starter offers a “Reading Test”, which actually consists of sample lesson plans, as described above. Here are links to those Reading “Tests”:

You'll find the reading tests on this site!  Just look at the menu bar above.


Science and Math.  These are the subjects our public schools have decided require emphasis.  Most private schools have followed their lead.   From the President downward, the general battle cry is “science and math”.

Few people today would question the importance of studying science and math.  They teach one to think connectedly, in patterns and sequences resulting in solutions.  They are valuable studies. But science and math are not more valuable than a study of history, the arts, or religion.

Over the past 30 years, arts have been de-emphasized in many schools and school systems , forcing parents and students to seek extracurricular answers to their hunger for that wonder of human expression.  Art that is offered is marginalized.  Art is “extra credit”, “elective”, unable to be really supported by schools desperately preparing students to achieve high test scores…in science and math.

Where will tomorrow’s miraculous musicians come from, the artists, the dancers?  As arts training in schools we pay for with taxes or tuition becomes ever scarcer, only well-to-do families will be able to support a private, specialized curriculum for their children.  Poorer children (read “most of our children”) will be left with what they hear on the radio and internet, what they see on TV, and will assume that these are the limits of art.  There was no Bach, no Shakespeare.  If you don’t believe me, ask a few people under age twenty about classical composers or great playwrights.  I think you’ll generally find their answer (or lack of an answer) alarming.

What of history, the study of how we came to be as we are, and where we are headed.  History teaches perspective.  History tells the great tale of religion, of faith, of a slow and steady racial climb out of darkness and toward the light of wisdom and knowledge.  A study of history provides a lasting sense of human accomplishment, and here we arrive at the great error in our nation’s selection of emphasis in curriculum.

A life lived well is a life in balance.  Art is the soul of human accomplishment and expression. History is our racial memory, the tale of what worked and did not work, forgotten at great risk to our very survival.  Math and science could be, in this analogy, the racial mind.  The human mind is a wonderful and powerful thing, but worthless and even destructive without an operating memory to provide perspective and wisdom.  The human mind NEEDS history.  And a mind without a soul in authority is a machine, not a human being.  The human being NEEDS art and religion as much as the human body requires water and food.

Teach your children well, teach them math and science.  But equally, teach them history, art and religion.  Provide them a heritage, of their own greatness, to balance the harsh “truths” of the tale of science and mathematics, a purely physical and soulless universe.  Human Beings are more than physical creatures.