See that picture of my son?  I tell him all the time he is not being nice. “Be nice.” I tell him. “If you are not nice then people won’t like you.” So he surprised me by writing it on his hand.

An example of him not being nice is that he doesn’t see that when people play a game together, they care if the other person has fun even though both people try to win. My son does not understand this nuance. So he seems mean. But mean is actually a really complicated intention that people with Aspergers Syndrome don’t have. I have Aspergers as well, so I understand that to my son it looks like a time waste to be intentionally mean. Being direct is so much easier.

This is true for me, as well. For instance, as I have become completely obsessed with my research about homeschooling, I have discovered that the top-tier universities are set up to favor homeschoolers over everyone else. And the most expensive private schools are aware of this and they are switching over to a homeschool model.

So I am trying to tell everyone: “Your kid’s school sucks and your own education sucks and you are going to get trounced in the workplace if you don’t start thinking about learning differently before generation Z makes you unemployable.”

I am trying to say this nicely so that you listen because I know that normal people listen when someone is nice. But no one will listen to me, because no one wants to hear that they are being delusional about what they are choosing for their kids. I get it.

For me, the real challenge with being nice comes from how someone with Aspergers cares so much more about being right than being nice. I told my son that he is really truly nice and I understand how hard it is to follow the conventions of sort of lying to be nice. I mean, is it lying that you want to win or is it lying that you want the other person to have a good time playing? How can you have both?

It’s driving me nuts that everyone is not listening to me and taking their kid out of school. I have written about how the costs of homeschooling are almost nothing. You don’t have to be a teacher. Kids don’t need a school teacherThey don’t need to learn math. (Really. Just read the link, okay?) They don’t need to be well-rounded. They just need to be left alone so they can do self-directed learning.

And do you know what the most non-controversial thing in all of education reform is? That customized, self-directed learning is by far the most effective for developing children into effective, happy, self-reliant adults. And public school is in no position to promote self-directed learning because it’s too demanding of adult supervision to be possible in a classroom of even 20 kids and one teacher.

My editor tells me my posts where I scream at you about homeschooling have no charm and I can’t run them. Melissa tells me that I’m obsessed with homeschooling and people are sick of hearing me talk about it.

But I’m right. I can’t stand that I’m right and everyone is not admitting that I’m right.

Well, almost everyone isn’t. The New York Times wrote about how my blog is showing that I’m right about homeschooling, and that it works. And already the first company has hired me to tell them how corporate life will be different because the next generation will be educated so differently than generations before them.

But I don’t care. I want all of you think that I’m right. I want the comments section to be filled with comments like, you’re right. I’m taking my kid out of school tomorrow and I’m going to homeschool and everything you say makes perfect sense.

Have I ever told you about the research about what really motivates entrepreneurs? It’s not money. It’s the need to be right about what they see. So you can see here why I keep starting companies. I should do that. Because even if I got 1000 comments, I don’t think I’d feel like I’m right in a big enough way unless I had a company. For me, a company is about being right. Do you know why I love my companies? Because I was right all three times. God I love being right.

The first two attempts I made at writing blog posts ranting about homeschooling, my editor told me to just throw them out. It’s not fun to read stuff like that, he said. Which is particularly bad coming from him because his wife homeschools their kids. So if anyone could relish a rant about being right about homeschooling, you’d think it would be him.

Hold on. Don’t leave. I have something interesting to say. Finally. I think I had to just get the homeschool stuff off my chest. I just needed to give you the links. You know. Take a horse to water. So what if you don’t want to drink? Now I can move on.

Here is a Ted Talk from Michael Shermer about dopamine. People with more dopamine see more patterns, and creativity comes from patterns. If you have elevated dopamine you see more patterns than everyone else, and you look gifted. If you have really elevated dopamine you are obsessed with patterns to the exclusion of everything else and you look crazy. Autistic people have very very high dopaminePeople with Aspergers have elevated dopamine. The perfect amount to be a genius about patterns is what I like to think, since I am a person with Aspergers.

Also, I see trends because I see patterns. And I look like I read way more than I do because I’m able to use so much of what I read because I can see patterns in information. At first I thought everyone saw the patterns, but every so often I get paid to train someone to write like I do, and I am stunned that they don’t see patterns. I need to remember to be nice to them, which I am not. But it is nice of me to tell them they can’t write like this. Try the personal essay I tell them. Most people will suck at the personal essay. But I know people love it when you tell them to write about themselves. See? I have learned one way to be nice like a normal person is nice.

I learned that because I, like most people with Aspergers, want to be liked so much. So so so so much. It’s just that all the things normal people do in order to be liked are inaccessible to someone with Aspergers. Like showing interest in other people. It’s very difficult to figure out why people are so interested in other people. I don’t know. I mean, I am interested if will help me write posts where I see patterns. And I’m interested if the person will be able, somehow to like me. But I don’t think this is how neurotypical people are interested in other people.

I want you to like me. It’s very important. So I am not writing a post about homeschooling. I’m writing a post about you.

Another thing I have to teach my son is to shut up. People don’t want to hear everything you know. They want to hear a little about your feelings and then you ask about theirs. I tell that to my son: Stop talking. No one cares.

And then my editor tells me that. He says, “There is nothing here about you, personally.” Which is his way of saying to stop talking because no one cares.

This post has a lot of links. They are my gifts to you, even if you don’t click. I want you to like me. I can’t offer up the stuff I am supposed to offer up to be nice. But I can try to stop screaming at you about homeschooling, and I can tell you I am so so happy that you got to the end of this post. Thank you.



187 replies
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  1. channa
    channa says:

    I’ve always thought homeschooling seemed like a great idea. My husband is a former elementary school teacher and current, happy, stay-at-home dad. We have the ability to live where we want on my income (the schools are not great though) and through my job we have the occasional opportunity to live internationally.

    But I was good at school and I liked it. I had a good balance of academic and social skills. I was awesome at standardized tests without trying and loved to read. I liked the art supplies, shop class, field trips, student government, parties, boys. It wasn’t an excellent school and it wasn’t all great but neither have other parts of my life been all great.

    So, she’s only 5 but all signs point to my daughter having my same personality. She likes preschool. Do we homeschool her? Is homeschool for kids who aren’t great at school? Does the motivation and self-confidence you get from being a winner at school outweigh the wasted time and slow pace and lack of self-direction?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I think the real problem with being a winner in school is that it doesn’t translate to being a winner anywhere else. There is no correlation, for example, between happiness and high achievement in school. (The Atlantic published a long-term study that Harvard ran to show this.) And there is no correlation between being good at school and good at work. (New York magazine ran a great article about how Asian Americans do great at school and not nearly as great at work.)

      So the problem with keeping kids who are great at school in school is that it gives kids (and parents) a false sense of security that things are fine. When, in fact, school is not challenging this kid to learn the things that make people successful in adult life.

      Here’s another way to think about being good at school. In order to be good at school, you have to be a generalist, but top college admissions officers do not mince words when they say that they accept specialists. You have to be great at something in order to get into a top school. So if you are keeping your kid in school because they are good at school, it’s going to be a problem when they apply to college with the attitude “I’m a good candidate because I’m good at school.


      • Jana Miller
        Jana Miller says:

        “So the problem with keeping kids who are great at school in school is that it gives kids (and parents) a false sense of security that things are fine. When, in fact, school is not challenging this kid to learn the things that make people successful in adult life.”

        Yes! And a kid who is doing well in school, starts thinking they are so much better than everyone else. And they may be getting good grades without ever studying. So they graduate with amazing grades and no study skills and feel like they are amazing people. But they haven’t done anything.

        School came easy to my oldest son. We didn’t start homeschooling until fifth grade. He was the kid who everyone loved. I don’t think that did anything for his character at all.

  2. channa
    channa says:

    Not teaching math is bullshit. Business, government, academia, nonprofits, health care, are all getting a lot more analytical and using data to make decisions, including formerly “soft” fields like marketing. If you don’t understand statistics (math) you will not be able to make good decisions in the workplace. You don’t need to be a math savant you need to be competent enough to communicate about math and use it.

  3. Lynn Lawrence
    Lynn Lawrence says:

    You are sooooooooo right. And, I like you ;)
    Just returned from headquarters where they are inventing the very near (like now) future in Autism speech and behavioral therapy. The CEO and the CFO are married with seven children and five are on the spectrum. Having a son on the spectrum myself makes me just glow when I go over there and see the innovation created, of course, by parents who first had a houseful of therapists, and were highly visual and saw ways to improve, and then the Web came along.

    In the near future, we can look forward to great gains, as the remarkable visual thinkers get jobs that they never would have otherwise, without the social and communication skills vital to getting hired.

    The future is brighter than we think! ;). Homeschool!

  4. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    I think you are totally right on homeschooling. I knew after a week of K that public school was an insane place to put my kids and then I regrettably watched my daughter’s core spark deteriorate over almost a year until I finally pulled her out. Lesson learned, never will I ignore my inner voice for so long again. We homeschool now in a fairly free and self-directed manner, though I still make my daughter bring her little workbook as an activity to do while her sibling takes gymnastics, but the rest of the time I insist on the importance of self directed learning. For instance today (she’s 5) she insisted that I pull up Chinese writing on the computer so she can learn to write Chinese, which she copied pages of getting every detail bang on, which she then showed me and translated to me character for character. WHEN would that ever happen in public school? Even if she asked, they would certainly deny the privilege. That is the real gold of life right there, following that curiosity. So thank you for writing homeschooling posts. I know other people find them boring, especially those with no kids, but they are so critically important to the homeschooling community. Your posts are so reassuring when I have doubts. They are bang on with the facts and the patterns and the insights, and you WILL change minds. You have to be patient Penelope, change comes so slowly, one reader at a time. People dont like to be told their doing it wrong, they will resist that fact so unbelievably fiercely. Its like a fresh grad lawyer who realizes half way through that they actually just want to work in a garden center…the denial is so strong as a self preservation method, because otherwise they are back to square one, having lost a decade, the feeling is so intense to lose everything you thought was so secure, and so suddenly. Patience, but persistence, that is the key.

  5. Rebecca@MidcenturyModernRemodel
    Rebecca@MidcenturyModernRemodel says:

    Yay! I got to the end!!! That was a rough one. I am afraid to tell you that you’re right, because then you will say… pull your kid out of high school and home school him. He is the perfect kid for home schooling too. ADD and all that. You are right. But I am too far gone and selfish.

  6. Leah McClellan
    Leah McClellan says:

    Dear Penelope,

    I enjoy reading your posts so much. But this one, like so many others, makes me wonder: why do people with Aspergers think they’re so different from everyone else? Seems to me you’re just describing in detail all the emotional contortions we all go through when we want validation from others or want to convince others of the “rightness” of our points of view. We all do it.

    I’ll leave it at that except to say that I know Aspergers has its own set of challenges, I’m aware of that. But social skills are learned; they’re aren’t innate. Nevertheless…I just get befuddled. Maybe I have Aspergers lol :)

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      It’s interesting that you say that, Leah, because I think the reason people like reading about Aspergers is because they see themselves in the discussion.

      I think it’s why people like watching the show “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Larry David says exactly what he thinks instead of using social conventions, and viewers think: Hey, yeah, I think that, too!

      I think the difference is that while we all feel that way, neurotypical people do not inadvertantly but routinely destroy their personal life to directly express how they feel.


  7. CairoGirl
    CairoGirl says:

    Hi Penelope
    How can you compare the best of one with the worst of other?

    The odd thing that struck me when I was reading about homeschooling was that it all seemed too good to be true. I was reading all the accounts by mothers, who generally are the ones who do the homeschooling. Then I started to read accounts written by homeschooled kids and I saw a bigger spectrum of experiences. There was bad and there was good.

    Comparing one set of kids whose parents are all heavily involved in their kids education, with another group with a mix of parents who are involved and don’t have a clue is not an accurate comparison. Nor is comparing kids in one socio-economic and yes, racial group, with another group with a more diverse mix a fair comparison either. Besides, why are successful adults homeschooled successful BEACUSE of their schooling system while successful adults public schooled successful DESPITE their schooling system? Doesn’t make sense to me.

    I decided to HS my three kids when they were 4, 2 and a baby. I ended up putting oldest in my neighbourhood school for a year until I could get a handle on all the care the other two needed and saw things he did and got in school that I would never have been able to. I decided to keep him and and in general I’m glad. It all depends on the teacher. A good teacher is worth their weight in gold, and I have to admit I had his class changed when his teacher was a disaster. I suggested homeschooling to my oldest several times and he wouldn’t hear of it. He’s really happy. My middle child jumps out of bed in the morning to go to school (I’m not exaggerating). My youngest isn’t like either of them, she’d rather stay home all day and play dolls, but that’s another post.

    I’m in Canada, in a great school district, and my kids school is not perfect, but great. They miss out on things they would get in a homeschooling experience, but they get other things they wouldn’t get if they were homeschooled. And that’s fine. I don’t think we need to be extreme about anything, school works great for some kids, homeschooling works great for some kids, and in the end if you have the option to pick the best for your kids you’re really lucky.

    I don’t know that applying the latest research to my kids is the greatest thing, either. Research is done on aggregates of kids, not MY kids, and while it may be true for kids in general, my kids may be different. Research is full of biases, particularly in the social sciences! I stopped accepting anything proven by research as gospel truth when I studied sociology. The superiority of psychology and its quantitative focus reduce complexity to a single number, pushing richness and heterogenity into the background. There is no formula for educating kids, homeschooled or public. What’s important is the meaning infused in the kids’ interactions with adults involved in their education.

    I think it was you who posted the article on Hacking Your Education. What strikes me about successful people, homeschooled or not, is how they take ownership of their education and life. That’s a lot more difficult to quantify and research and frankly, I’m not going to wait around until they find a way to make it happen for aggregates of kids. I’m responsible for making it happen to my kids for now.

    Anyway, thanks for the post, and I promise to read the links!

  8. TinRoofPress
    TinRoofPress says:

    I have no children, (never will) I’m curious though – what about the social aspects of school?
    Even though sometimes these are not so nice, you learn to navigate around them, because you will need to be able to deal with groups of people forming social cliques. How would a home schooler cope with this? Dealing with one sibling and your mom is not the same as dealing with a work environment or social groups.

    What about all the parents teaching their kids all kids of junk? (Creationism as the only theory comes to mind) Although I suppose even home schoolers must have standards? Not sure how it works in the US.

  9. Bec Oakley
    Bec Oakley says:

    Hey Penelope,

    You know how much I credit you for my own courage to homeschool. But I’ve been having a hard time reading your homeschool blog lately because it feels like you’re yelling. A lot. And sometimes the more someone yells, the less sure of themselves they are.

    It doesn’t feel like you’re having fun with it anymore, or enjoying discovering how great homeschooling can be. It feels like a project that you have to win at. And you’re frustrated because there are no metrics for winning at homeschool. So maybe the number of people who say you’re right is a performance indicator for you.

    Why does it matter to you so much? Are you homeschooling to be liked or because you truly believe it’s the best choice for your kids? I guess I just miss hanging out with someone who was feeling good about how awesome homeschooling is, instead of feeling bad that not everyone agreed.

    • Brad
      Brad says:

      I suspect it matters to her so much largely because she was bored out of her skull on the farm. She’s convinced herself that she is sacrificing for her kids, when in fact homeschooling was the result of a frantic search to find something for herself that she perceives worthwhile and relevant.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yeah. You’re right. I’m an ENTJ. I do everything to win. It’s how I’m wired. It’s like saying to someone who is great at staying home with their kids, “You seem like you are not interested in work. It seems like you only want to do stuff that has deep meaning in life.” That mom would say, “Yah. Duh. You’re right. That’s what I want.”

      So my homeschooling blog posts are going to have to represent the people who were not born to stay home with kids. I was born to work. I am so incredibly great at work. But that doesn’t mean that homeschooling is wrong for my kids. It means that I have a harder time doing it because I have been doing stuff to win for my whole life.


      • Bec Oakley
        Bec Oakley says:

        I know. But I was trying to say that maybe the metric for winning at homeschool is not everyone saying that you’re right. It’s whether you and your kids are doing okay. I don’t think you’ll ever believe that you’re winning at homeschool, and I hate seeing it frustrate you so much.

  10. Kate
    Kate says:

    The thing is, I really am taking my son out of school tomorrow. He’s at a private school here in the UK where he’s ‘doing very well’. Which means that he’s leaping through all the hoops and making the sports teams and copes well with spending so much time with a very small group of people. he was awarded an academic scholarship at Christmas. But with a new term came new hours and now he’s doing the hoops and the star charts and tests and coping for 9 hours a day. He’s not yet 8. So, a couple of weeks ago, we gave notice that he would leave tomorrow. Really.

    We did homeschool for what would have been kindergarten year so I’m not entirely a novice. But I have to say that when I was reading myself back into homeschooling to try and marshall an armoury of facts to back up my gut instinct, it was precisely your passionate shouting and wonderfully relentless unfolding of the reasons why homeschool works that settled my compass.

    Too many homeschool blogs don’t speak to me. You did, and continue to. Please carry on shouting. People do listen to you and we need your kind of voice in the home-educating debate. I would love to see trampled into the ground forever the assumption that homeschooling is merely a second-class, last resort choice for children who aren’t ‘good’ at school. Thank you for your doggedness.

  11. Robert Wenzel
    Robert Wenzel says:

    You right about home-schooling. I can’t say whether or not I would do it because I don’t have children. But I love your article. However I would call them: “inside of an Asperger mind”. Great post, Thank you very much.

  12. Christina
    Christina says:

    If I had children I would homeschool them. You have me convinced.

    The only argument which I cannot combat right now is development of social skills. Any links on that?

    I wish someone had told me to shut up when I was a child. It’s an important skill which I learnt the long hard way.

  13. Dries
    Dries says:

    I can say with confidence that you are half-right (at least). Thirteen years after leaving school I can still see, with more clarity than ever, how formal “schooling” is nothing but a criminal waste of people’s time, money and potential. And NO-ONE else I know sees that (perhaps I should check my dopamine level). I cannot see how homeschooling could possibly do the same amount of damage, so I’m open to it.

  14. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    Hey P,

    You’re right. I’m taking my kid out of school tomorrow and I’m going to homeschool and everything you say makes perfect sense. :-)

    P, what are your thoughts on Montessori education? Because, the way I see it, it combines the strengths you mention of home-schooling with the more social aspect of the classroom and working on projects as a team (or team of two). Because it’s important to learn to work with others. Just interested in your opinion.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I don’t see the Montessori method working well beyond age ten . So it doesn’t seem like a long-term plan. But, also, when little boys are younger, most don’t want to sit down at stations and do work. They want to run around. So in general, if you give kids the chance to do self-directed learning, the girls will choose to do things that are appropriate in a Montessori classroom and the boys will want to run around and fight and scream. (Which is, of course, how boys learn at that age.)


  15. Tehmina Zaman
    Tehmina Zaman says:

    First of all Penelope, I love your quirkiness and your honesty – maybe because I’m British – but it’s very refreshing in a sea of blandness! I don’t have children but lots of my friends do. I was lucky to go to a very traditional state Grammar school in the UK where the quality of education was high and you got the feeling that teachers genuinely cared and had time for you.Since then classroom sizes have ballooned, teachers have become glorified administrators and school budgets been slashed. Whilst not as popular or as common over here in the UK as in the States, I believe home schooling is something all parents who can’t afford to send their kids to private schools (or even if they can!) should seriously consider.

  16. jen
    jen says:

    My son loves learning from other people and hates learning from us. He loves going to school, but doesn’t want to review his homework with me.

    We live in the top school district in our area, and I still see some things that could be improved. I anticipate supplementing. I just consider that we might have some “unlearning” to do, depending on what he learns at school and tells me.

    The cost to us would be huge if one of us stopped working to homeschool. We both make about the same, so we would half our salary, and possibly lose our health insurance. So no, it really isn’t possible for everyone.

    People hear you. We get it. But it’s not possible for everyone to drop everything so quickly.

    Maybe instead of everyone pulling their kids from school, those of us who are in can do everything that we can to change the schools.

  17. Lori Pollard
    Lori Pollard says:

    First, since you like the direct- I enjoy your blog. I like the brutal honesty of it. At 48 I am rather tired of the social conventions of being nice. Onto my reason for posting: I homeschooled my children from kindergarten to seventh grade. I did so because both of them have severe ADHD. One of them gifted. There are trade-offs to homeschooling. It’s not all roses and sweet tea. Both are now in late high school (jr and sr) in a small public school and are doing fairly well, however but they had a tough couple of years acclimating to the ‘be nice’ standard or what I call the “normal world”. Yes, they got the normal “socialization” overkill to justify our choice to stay home (church, youth groups, co-ops, 4-h, play dates et al). But they still feel ‘left out’ at times- described like they are “missing a piece or two of the puzzle”. I believe we did the right thing in homeschooling, but it’s NOT for everyone. Blessings as you pursue your journey.

  18. Jodi
    Jodi says:

    What about single working mothers? Are you proposing that children from two parent homes, one a nurturer and one a provider, will produce the best offspring? Will there be three distinct classes of Americans: home schooled, privately schooled, and public educated? How about home-schooling college? With all the online universities/colleges turning to that business model how is going away to college better than doing that work from home as well? Are children who leave home before 20 better off than those that live at home? If you home school a child for 18 years are the prepared to go away to college?

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      Watching lectures on the web by streaming might convey the whole set of information (if you manage to sit there and focus for the time) but student when given a choice, will choose the classroom. We are teaching here college classes which are simultaneously streamed and taught in the classroom – none of the students who have a choice watch the streaming- all of them come to the classroom. While the education stuff available on the internet is pretty phantastic nowaday, human being still prefer a classroom with direct interaction.

  19. Anna
    Anna says:

    I’m 34 years old, recently married, and planning to have a kid in the next year or two. Because of your blog, I am trying to figure out a way for us to homeschool our kid(s) – i.e. to figure out a way to live off of my husband’s income alone.

    My mom homeschooled my two younger sisters through about 9th grade (after watching me get a sub-par public school education). And since that was quite a few years ago, the assumption was that she was doing it for religious reasons like most of the other homeschool parents in our community at the time. I think your blog is so important because it argues for the educational reasons, and is helping to change the impression that many people have about families who do this.

  20. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I read every post you write – to the very end, always. I can never wait for the next post because you write with such passion and clarity, and I feel a little greedy waiting for the next thing to come out.

    I read your writing and click the links because you have such a different way of explaining the world than how I think about it. I don’t always agree with it, but I love that you make me think about it. And that’s part of being nice, too – having the consideration to think about opinions different from your own.

  21. Steven A. Branson
    Steven A. Branson says:


    As I have said, I do like reading your posts and pass them on to certain clients and friends

    Being nice does help sell an idea, of course….

    I just want to add some wisdom that I am passing on from my therapist:

    1. “You can be right or you can be happy” – the woman I am divorcing had to be right, but the girl friend I have now wants to be happy, and she is so special and wonderful …. So giving up being right can be worth a great deal
    2. “I never met a person who won a fight” – that may be obvious, from a scrap in a store to our involvement Afghanistan or the “War in Iraq” where we tried to be right…
    3. And my corollary – if you argue with an moron, it’s hard for others to tell which one is the moron

    Hope you find this interesting or informative …

    Anyway, keep it up – thank you,


  22. Katie
    Katie says:

    I work at a new school in the DC area that specializes in customizable, self-directed learning. We don’t care what learning looks like as long as they’re doing something. It’s a pretty incredible environment, and I’d be happy to talk about it with anyone wanting more information. Check out the website ( — it’s being updated in the next few days as well) and email me at

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Katie, thanks so much for this comment. And the philosophy of your school sounds lovely. So I checked out the web site. And tuition is $30,000 a year. Which means a parent would need to earn an extra $35,000 a year to send one kid to school there. Most people have two kids to send to school, which means an extra $70,000 a year in income to send kids to this school.

      This is typical of very good private schools. Very good private schools are leaning toward a homeschool model, just as Katie describes. However most families would need two very solid incomes in order to send their kids to a school like this. Which means that it’s cheaper for one parent to stay home and run a homeschool in the same way that this private school runs.

      This is the reason that New York magazine reported just last month that there is a huge surge in homeschooling families with incomes between $50K and $150K. They have made the decision that homeschooling makes more sense than paying for a private school that understands project-based, self-directed learning.


  23. Sara Willis
    Sara Willis says:

    Something about this post made me think about how you often compare yourself to the Pioneer Woman. Then I felt compelled to tell you I quit reading the Pioneer Woman at least two years ago, but I still read every single one of your posts. So, nice or not, you’re definitely interesting.

  24. Pirate Jo
    Pirate Jo says:

    My mom was a Jehovah’s Witness, so when I was a kid I was taught that there was no such thing as Santa Claus. All the other kids in school believed in Santa Claus, but they were wrong and I was right. When I went to school and told them there was no such thing as Santa Claus, they were furious and angry with me. After a few years went by, they found out I was right and there was no Santa Claus. Not one single kid ever came up and acknowledged that I had been right all along, and that they had been wrong to bully me just because I was right and they weren’t. Quite the opposite, even though I never gloated about it or said “I told you so.” They still hated my guts.

    I decided it was enough to be right, all by myself, and stopped caring whether I convinced other people. In fact, I stopped telling them all together. I see patterns too, and usually figure things out before other people do. I turn out to be right most of the time. So I use the information for my own purposes, to make my own life better, and don’t try to accumulate convert scalps on my mantel. Other people can figure things out on their own.

  25. Daniel Baskin
    Daniel Baskin says:

    I’m a middle school teacher. I love kids and I love learning, so education seemed like a good fit for me.

    Unfortunately, I find myself constantly wanting to work one-on-one for the majority of every period. The reason is that my drive to convey the content of learning is so strong that I get really annoyed when I realize that it is very difficult to teach the same content in the same way to 30 different brains, learning styles, and drawing from 30 different past experiences (I try to draw as much from common experiences as possible)–and have it all stick in their minds. In my most advanced class, it is much easier to address everyone at once–and get more “done”–, but in general, kids and people learn best from one-on-one situations.

    I often think about how after I get past this school year, I’ll start a new page teaching private lessons (music) and provide extended learning opportunities to homeschooling parents’ kids (there is a relatively huge homeschooling population in my backyard area). It is not that I can’t find work-arounds to the way public education is structured. And my building colleagues are generally very tuned into educational research about letting students take charge of their own education. Some are more and less enlightened than others. It’s just that we all have to work within the same constraints that the system puts on us: like testing, and the imposition of needing to offer “core curriculum,” and standardized tests in order to get funding.

    It’s not that I can’t find work-arounds to mitigate these issues. It’s that it takes a ridiculous amount of time and planning to even get a fraction of the results a homeschooler could achieve. I feel like I’m wasting my time in an inefficient system.

    Yes, Penelope, you are right. And I like you.

    The problem is that it is easier to accept the now- and past-realities by making them seem better than they really are, then fully embrace what needs to be done. I need to get out of the public schools and be an entrepreneur educator. I need to do it for me, and for the sake of the footprint I want to leave on the upcoming generations.

  26. klden
    klden says:

    I think homeschooling sounds good in theory, but it wouldn’t have worked for me for two reasons:

    First, I grew up in a chaotic and angry household full of 7 very smart, very competitive people without enough resources. My mom would have loved nothing more than to stay home and bake bread and grow a garden and homeschool, but she married a man who couldn’t make a living and she had to go back to work and resented him for it. My dad had his own simmering resentments. For most of my childhood, you couldn’t get more than about three of us in a room (parents included) without a physical fight breaking out. Until the year we introduced a video camera, we’d fight when we all sat down to open Christmas presents.

    So for me, school and outside activities were a saving grace. On the outside, we looked like a normal suburban family. We went to church every Sunday and played soccer and had horseback riding lessons. I did really well in school, played sports, sang in choir, won writing awards….and it was there that I learned a lot of my life skills: How to succeed, how to get a teacher or a boss to like you. I learned to be professional, how normal people treated each other. While I know not every family is as messed up, I think it’s probably valuable for many kids to have a home base outside of the family. But maybe I’m just projecting.

    Second, as an ENFP, I suck at self-directed learning. I’m great at reading and learning and I dabble around with projects all the time. But without anyone to give me deadlines or direction, nothing gets done. I went to a great school district, on par with some private schools, and they had self-directed learning in my junior high. But here’s the thing: I’m a fast reader who sees patterns and a good writer, and I can read one page in a book and sound like I know what I’m talking about when that book gets discussed in class. So you know what I did during my self-directed learning? Nothing. And then I’d throw together a project at the last minute and get an A even though I’d actually learned very little.

    So I think I would have learned far less getting home schooled than I would have in a traditional school program, even if I was reading a book under my desk in class 99% of the time.

  27. Michela
    Michela says:

    I did get to the end of your post and it actually has made me consider homeschooling my son. Thank you.

  28. Daphne Gray-Grant
    Daphne Gray-Grant says:

    You are so right about homeschooling! Our local university did NOT accept homeschoolers until about three years ago. One of our kids went to regular school at grade 10 to get around this problem. But by the time my kids had all reached age 18, the university was suddenly accepting homeschoolers. (Phew!)

    My son, who is both gifted and has serious learning disabilities was accepted and he is THRIVING there. It is so great to see! Anyone who is considering homeschooling should really just jump off the deep end, and do it!

  29. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I like you and I think you’re right.

    I’ve noticed, as a “nice” person, that people don’t really listen to me either. Being too nice is risky, because you start to lose credibility.

  30. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    I guess I am one of those people who just can’t see the amazing advantages of homeschooling. I clicked your links and I read what you have to say (or scream) about homeschooling. I think homeschooling is fine. I also think schools are fine. The best 2 friends for life I have I met in elementary school. I would never meet them had I not gone to school. I think what makes friendships thrive is the shareable experience you can relate to. The tests we took together, the teachers we liked and disliked, the people we met on the bus going home…those were the bricks that formed friendships that last decades after we parted ways.

    I grew up in a communistic country. Schools were extremely strict (much stricter than any school in the US) and very test driven. I am in awe about people constantly complaining about the schools not nurturing children’s souls. I look at myself and my friends and can’t see any significant damage caused by school – and I am talking about schools where developing children’s individuality was the absolute last thing in the world. If anything, we learned persistence and sense of humor.

    I am not saying this is what I want for my son. What I am saying is that I am a little tired of people treating children as if they were delicate soap bubbles, while wanting then to be at the top of the leader board. They can take (life) punches. And they don’t all need or want to be the next Nobel prize winners. Things are rarely black and white.

  31. Elisabeth
    Elisabeth says:

    You may be right. I think children can learn a great deal more through self-directed learning.

    However, half the point of schooling your children outside the home is to socialize them. And while some people with less than stellar social skills succeed in the workplace, those are outliers. You can cite your own case as an example because you are very successful, but you have had to develop complicated and sometimes expensive workarounds to help you survive in a typical workplace.

    This study seems to point out that the most well liked individuals do better in the workplace, not those who are smarter or better educated:

    Additionally, I know this was just a ploy to get more people to comment on this post. It worked. I don’t even have children.

  32. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    Hi PT,

    You are right about homeschooling. I’ve been wondering why you haven’t posted over the past few days on your HS blog, with the last one being about fighting with the farmer, but I thrive on getting reinforcement from your posts because we are the only ones who think AS radically as we do about HS.

    My daughter is 3, my son is 1, and we have another on the way. We know lots of homeschooling families, but they are mostly coming at homeschooling due to cultural/religious reasons.

    I come to HS because I know how much time was wasted in my public school education, my top ten undergraduate $150k university education, and how little of it I use in my small business that generates income in the top 3% of America.

    So, no, I don’t need my daughter to be in “Pre-school” at 3 years old (like so many of her peers because mom wants to go back to work or can’t stand being with her kids)

    We are going to let our kids do what they want for the first 7/8 years, then expose them to projects that build around their interests (robots! National Parks! TBD blah, blah, blah) and then around the teenage years, I sprinkle in Josh Kaufman’s personal MBA and Ramit’s information regarding how to build businesses to earn money they need for the stuff they want to buy.

    But of course, no one knows what we are doing, or thinks it is right, because we are still in the developmental stage where it is “okay” to not have my kid in “school.” Gonna hit the fan in 10 years when word gets around about what we aren’t doing. So keep it up. My FB page is littered with links to your HS blog.

  33. Adam
    Adam says:

    Morning Penelope!

    Don’t worry, I still like you. I also like your posts on homeschool because education is such an important issue to me and I think we as a nation could do a lot better for our kids. That being said, I think the simple answer to your question is that it necessarily is too ‘expensive’ to homeschool for most people.

    Hear me out:
    Firstly you’ve provided us with an abundance of well reasoned arguments and supporting research. I’m sure you’ve helped convince people to homeschool even if they aren’t vocal in the comments. Heck, you’ve convinced me and I don’t even have kids.

    But that’s my point. For someone who hasn’t started a family it’s a lot easier to plan on homeschooling in the future than initiate massive change in the present. Which brings me to what i mean by ‘expensive’ because I really don’t mean in terms of money, but expensive in time, effort, risk, family drama, etc. Big change is expensive.

    So I know what your response might be, “Sure there’s risk, but what about the costs of not homeschooling?” And I get that, and I think people agree that it is a better education for kids.

    But how much better? Because really what you are paying for, is the difference in the quality of education between homeschooling and the status quo. And I’m assuming most people reading this blog came from public schools, the natural inclination is to think back nostalgically and say, sure homeschool might have been better but I turned out fine. (also I think homeschooling taps into your maximizer side)

    Most families with kids have their own status quo. They have slowly built and adjusted their work/family life with the kids in school. They’re used to the double income. Older kids who fit in well with the school model probably don’t want to leave.

    Ultimately if it really was an easy decision then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.


  34. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    This post is a strange one.

    For one thing nobody listens to you when you’re nice. They nod and smile and dismiss you. Being direct may get you a negative initial response, but it will get you listened to in the long run. Although they may not give you credit for the initial germ you planted in their brain, because how they dislike you so much. So maybe you are trying to be too nice.

    I often enjoy your homeschool posts even more than the career advice posts. They remind me how much I hated my own schooling (during the 70’s and 80’s, public education sucked then too). And how much I worry about future generations.

    While I agree generally that home-schooling is better overall, my personal experience is this. My sister homeschooled her two girls for a few years. They learned alot, they are turning out great even now in pubilc school. But those years took a toll on their family. It nearly tore them apart. I’m not sure how to go into particulars without writing more than anyone could stand, but a sole family unit, two kids and two parents, working to homeschool without help from extended family nearby takes a big toll. Financially, emotionally. The family must be mentally and emotionally very very strong to prevent imploding. I’m not saying it is not impossible, there are others that have proven it can be done. But take your average adult, that has gone through their own parent’s divorce, and neglect and dysfunction (with ongoing neglect and dysfunction) and I’m not so sure they can overcome all that and push the limits of what society has structured and successfully homeschool for the entire k-12 of their childrens education. It’s a very tall order.

  35. Elizabeth Kane
    Elizabeth Kane says:

    I think people don’t want to admit you’re right, because they want to be right too. Sometimes both people can be right, and it’s a combination of a few things you say, and a few things they say. But these are ideas that make people uncomfortable, and rightfully so – they *should* feel uncomfortable. We’re talking about their kid’s lives here! And more importantly, we’re talking about the way they’re raising them. And no one wants to be wrong about the way they’re raising their kids.

    Admitting someone’s right about something means admitting we were wrong. And that’s not easy. Which is why figuring out how to word what you believe in a way that makes them feel like you care will command the attention your ideas deserve. I’ve had to learn this one the hard way.

  36. Leslie
    Leslie says:

    You can have both traditional schooling and home schooling so that your child gets the best of both. Obviously, traditional schooling is based on the old model of sitting in rows, listening and following directions, waiting your turn, being polite, etc. These are still important skills. Home schooling allows the student to follow their own inclination and find their passion and to learn to learn new skills on their own. You need both skill sets to be successful in the current marketplace. I know people who have to learn new technology almost overnight to keep up in their fields. That is why learning how to learn is so important.

  37. William Kappele
    William Kappele says:

    Penelope, I like you. You are a the best lateral thinker (as defined by Edward DeBono) I know. We homeschooled our son — you are right about homeschooling. Also, nice is overrated — honest is much better. Hang in there.

  38. Jana Miller
    Jana Miller says:

    I like you and I send all my homeschooling and “checking out” homeschooling friends to your blog. I appreciate you speaking of things that many in the homeschool community fear.

    I love that you call people out and speak your mind. I love that you are helping all of us to understand what it means to have aspergers and how you are different. I would pull my kids out but they are grown and I did homeschool them. Don’t stop writing about homeschooling.

    I do think there is a place for public education. For some kids, school is the only good thing in their life. I think you get that more than anyone.

  39. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I think you are totally crazy, but I love your style of crazy. I don’t have kids but I would find out a way to homeschool them if I did. I was raised in California and the school system here has sucked since the 70’s. It has been all about passing standardized tests. I am going to check out your Homeschool blog b/c I am looking to update my career and I don’t want to have to do a big “Go back to school to catch up” tour. I graduated in 02 and I need update my skill set for sure. I really appreciate your candor and I really really like you for that!

  40. Denise
    Denise says:

    You’re right. We’ve homeschooled all four of our kids right from the start and I can tell you it’s worth every effort and sacrifice.

    Not just because of the freedom it gives your children to grow, learn and develop at their own pace, but because of the benefits to your relationship with them. When you get past the second guessing yourself and the days of exasperation you realize you’re growing and learning right along with them and so are your relationships with them.My relationships with each of our kids (now 22, 17, 14 and 12) have grown into true friendship and mutual respect. What a blessing!

    And whether they turn out to be the next phenom or they choose an obscure path, having kids who are comfortable in their own skin without caving to peer pressure and fads is rewarding all ’round.

    Our eldest graduated four and a half years ago and chose to forgo the college route. She’s since self-published three works –

    (shameless plug – you can check them out here: and her blog here: ) –

    She’s given me permission to post this letter she included in her graduation party invitations to friends and family. I think she says better than I can how ‘right’ homeschooling really is.

    For those of you out their wrestling with the idea, don’t sell yourself short! It’s worth it and you can do it!

    Here’s the letter:

    Dear Friends & Family,

    For those of you wondering what my plans are for college and the future I’ve attempted to answer you in the following brief letter.

    I suppose the simplest way to go about this is to begin with the root question from which all others spring. That seems to be “Where are you going to college?” Well, I’m not going to college. I just don’t feel that it’s the right course for me at this time.

    For me my high school graduation doesn’t mean the end of a part of my life. Schooling or being a ‘student’ has never defined my entire life, and my ‘official’ schooling coming to an end won’t change it dramatically. I see it mostly as the end of reporting to the school district what books I’ve read through the fall and winter. It gives me a sense of freedom in that I’m no longer bound by regulations in directing what I want to or must study. I’ll always be learning. I have so many things I want to do—so much more knowledge to be gathered on subjects I’ve enjoyed, so many more books to read and books to write, more things to learn how to do, instruments to be played, languages and skills to be learned! There are endless possibilities that are totally outside the boundaries of ‘traditional education.’

    Having explained what I’m not going to do, it’s only fair that I mention what I am going to do. But it begins with another ‘not’—I’m not going to rush into anything. I’ve thought of taking a year’s time to consider exactly what direction I want to take. I know that I’ll be pursuing my love of music much further. It’s become an enormous part of my life over the last few years, and I know I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of what I can do with it. This fall I plan to work with a couple of different choral groups, which I’m very excited about. I may end up taking courses in music from a local college or music school, or continuing with private lessons, but it’s certainly something I’m determined to keep up. The year of considering and trying different musical experiences will help me to determine just what I want to do. And another thing I really want to do is write. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and I’ve never lost sight of the goal of being published. I plan to work especially hard on being published somewhere this year—it’s a step toward that ‘great American novel’.

    Homeschooling has been a wonderful experience for me. I’ve been homeschooled all my life, literally, and I can say with perfect certainty that I wouldn’t have wanted to learn any other way. You’ll notice I don’t say it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, because that isn’t true. I certainly haven’t seen the last of it. I’ll be helping to contribute to my younger siblings’ studies in the next few years, including teaching piano, and someday I hope to be able to homeschool my own children. One of my main goals in life is to someday marry and raise a family.

    I hope no one will suffer undue worry regarding my success or happiness in life because of my choice not to pursue college at this time. I know that my happiness in life is not dependent on it one way or the other. And as for success, many notable people including Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, Peter Jennings, Julie Andrews and John D. Rockefeller Sr. never completed their formal education through high school. Andrew Carnegie and Charles Dickens never finished elementary school, while Thomas Edison was entirely homeschooled, as were two of my favorite authors, Jane Austen and Agatha Christie. (Both Agatha Christie and Julie Andrews were made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.) Bill Gates, the multi-billionaire founder of Microsoft, dropped out of Harvard in his freshman year. Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Howard Lindsay “spent” a year at the same university before deciding that it wasn’t for him (the quotes are his own). The list of people who achieved great successes without higher education goes on and on!

    And so I hope you’ll join my family and me as we celebrate my ‘graduation’. It’s a celebration of moving on, rather than finishing up, of looking forward to a lifetime of learning rather than turning the key on what I’ve accrued so far. I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what path the Lord unfolds for me.

    I hope you can come celebrate with me!


  41. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I have read your arguments but I disagree. I believe that for my children, in this community, in this school district, public school (combined, obviously, with our parenting outside of school) is the best choice.

    Re: games: Games are a simulation of natural selection. That’s why we play to win. But also, games are an excuse to interact with others. In that sense the playing’s the thing — the joy of interacting with another person. I don’t know that I’d tell my kid to be “nice” while playing a game with another, but I would remind him that both he & his playmate have the option of playing with a computer instead. Or by themselves. Remember why you chose to play with a person in the first place, little dude, and be respectful.

  42. Daniel
    Daniel says:

    Penelope, I’m wondering if you have a way to track whether or not people are clicking on the links that you recommend. If not, you could ask your tech person to look into how Google Analytics recommends you do outbound link tracking.

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