(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.