Thursday, February 06, 2014

Why We Homeschool

My wife and I teach our children at home. My wife does 99 percent of it. I teach the kids music as best I can. We've had good success with it. Our older son is now college age. He's not attending college. He doesn't want to become anything that requires credentials that are the result of attending college -- you know: doctor, lawyer, engineer. He wants to be a musician of some stripe. You can go to college to be a music teacher in a public school, or play in a symphony orchestra, but other than that, a diploma is superfluous. You just have to know how to play. He's like a monk right now. He doesn't do anything except work on music and shovel the driveway. No college would be as intensive.

The little one is just ten. He doesn't know what he wants to do with his life. I'm still trying to decide what to do with mine, so I don't judge. He's recently become enamored of the idea of opening up his own restaurant. He says he wants to call it "The Meat Shelter." Catchy, that; but there's something about it that makes me wonder if he might abandon that line of thinking before he starts shaving. Little boys are interested in all sorts of things.

He already plays the drums. He plays the drums like an adult. He plays the drums for money. He and his brother call themselves Unorganized Hancock. They are very likely the most famous persons currently residing in the town we live in, but no one here knows that. You can watch the boys playing Crooked Teeth at the New Musical Express website if you like. They've sold copies, on two continents, of music they composed and recorded themselves, which makes them INTERNATIONAL RECORDING ARTISTS.  Snicker.

The Spare Heir, as we call the little one, has taught himself to use a music software program called FL Studio. It's a digital audio workstation. It incorporates a sequencer, which means you can program notes and sounds into it, and it will repeat them. You can make loops with it, i.e.: a few bars of a drum beat or something you need repeated over and over, or you can assemble an entire song or symphony or jingle or whatever from scratch with any number of instruments or sounds on it. I have no idea how to turn it on. He learned it all himself by watching YouTube video tutorials.

He started composing songs. They said they were EDM. I didn't know what that was either. It's like Kraftwerk for dancing, is as best as I can describe it. He has composed dozens of EDM songs, usually about six or seven minutes long each, all completely coherent and interesting. He had to painstakingly program all the notes into the interface one at a time. I thought it was incumbent upon me to give him piano (keyboard, really) lessons to make his composition easier. Typing is faster than block printing, after all.

There's kind of a problem. I don't know how to play the piano.  I was a musician when I was younger, but I never played the piano. Upon reflection I feel as though I should admit that I never learned to play anything properly, or sing worth a damn, either. But that didn't stop me from working. So it shouldn't stop me from teaching, either.

I understand the piano as a machine. I know the names of the keys and so forth, but The Spare knows that already, because of FL Studio. I don't have a lot of time, so I can only teach him at lunch. I searched my mind for a song that might get him interested in playing it, and that encompassed a few important techniques and had an easily understood chord  structure. I showed him a video of a man playing A Whiter Shade of Pale on the organ. That was Tuesday. Three days later, here's a video of him. I know he understood everything I showed him about the song, because he threw in a sus4 chord resolution at the end to jazz it up. He's a pisser.

My wife and I have no credentials that allow us to teach. We simply have an approach. It's very simple: Every day, we just make sure our children know something they didn't know the day before. We require measurable results -- from them, and from us. That's it. That's all. That approach is not attempted -- that approach is not allowed -- at the public school.

[Related:  Governor Lauds Maine Students’ Prodigious Ability To Turn On Mysterious Devices And Stare At Them. From The Rumford Meteor, natch]

[Update: Kathleen M's continued generosity is a wonder. Many thanks for hitting the PayPal button]

[Additional Update: Welcome Instapundit readers. Glenn's doing yeoman work highlighting the growing alternatives to public schooling in his latest book. I guess we're one of those alternatives. Some of his commenters seem to think I write like a dullard. I find that gratifying to hear, of course, as I only aspire to achieve a studied imbecility. Dullard's better, I think. I guess. Well, how would I know?

I'm told I'm a fair-to-middlin' music teacher, though:


Casey Klahn said...

It's hard to find inspiration in someone else's youngsters, but I just did.

Drive on, Sippi family!

julie said...


I bet he could get a job playing the organ at a ballpark; I'm pretty sure he's already qualified.

Leslie said...

He is so cute. And, ridiculously talented. All good.

dadofhomeschoolers said...

Give the little lad a "well done" from the father of another keyboardist.
Someday, as they disappear over the horizon we will remember these moments, and be proud, and more than a little wistful.


Douglas2 said...

"the meat shelter"
Good name.
I mentioned to my wife an article I saw about someone setting up a chicken shelter for retired chickens. It seems that the "urban chicken" movement has been running long enough that people are starting to discover that hens eventually stop laying eggs.
My wife said to me "we could do that, we could offer to take in chickens and guarantee that they would have a carefree free-range existence for the rest of their lives. We wouldn't need to mention that the "rest of their lives" would be quite short with a quick humane end, would we?
Sure enough, in this college town there are generally several ads on craigslist seeking good homes for their pet chickens.

Gringo said...

One lesson and he plays this! Amazing.
Well done, indeed.

Gringo said...

But then there was the posting a while back about the Spare's good pitch, so this shouldn't be a complete surprise to blog readers. The Spare is not the first drummer to beat out a tune. Here is another drummer turned tunemeister:
Lionel Hampton on the vibraphone

Weetabix said...

We have more in common than I realized. We homeschool. My children are outrageously musical. They're all technically professional because they've had a number of paid gigs. The son is writing music for local bands. Oldest daughter is at university on a 95% ride mostly to get in the path to play in the symphony.

My dream (fantasy, really) is to build furniture for a living.


Sam L. said...

The Spare should become a baker, and open a bakery named "Drum Rolls".

(Ducking, hiding, running in serpentine fashion--snakeskin hat.)

Thud said...

We considered homeschooling but decided it was beyond us plus our village school seems pretty decent. Watching your kids leaves me ever more impressed with what you and your missus have achieved.

leelu said...

"Every day, we just make sure our children know something they didn't know the day before. We require measurable results -- from them, and from us"

Best definition of teaching I've ever heard!

Nyota Uhura said...

Many don't know that our nation was largely home-taught until the early 1800s. Not only home-taught, but self-taught (viz. Abraham Lincoln).

You're doing a wonderful thing :)

Anonymous said...

Awesome post and awesome effort. You are to be congratulated.

Anonymous said...

Go You! Here's to Educational Anarchists everywhere, and long may we flourish. If you get a chance, have a look at www . themiltonschoolhouse. com The owner / writer is our oldest. Homeschooled, Nach, although she did suffer through college to get a degree in Business entrepreneurship, we know better now.

M. Elston

j said...

Great stuff.

Parents plus the internet plus the idea that learning is fun can create a hugely successful home school.

We home school both our boys (13 and 10). At least 50% of the real learning occurs around our dinner table. History, politics, science are all discussed and questions posed which are then researched and answered after dinner or the next day.

Sadly, neither of the boys show any musical ability - which is my fault as their mother is a well trained, very gifted pianist. But there is very little my older boy does not know about air tools which he finds or buys, fixes and resells. Our younger is still hunting around for stuff he loves. He'll find it and then learning will take care of itself.

(Plus, half an hour a day doing Khan Academy math and a five hundred word essay every couple of days on random topics take care of the 3Rs end pretty effectively.)

Anonymous said...

Sippi Dad- I just want to add my $.02, partly in response to the writing critique.

Can't comment on that as I faked my way thru a year of college English bs'ing my way thru a test- based on a science fiction novel, actually, so...

my grammar still sux.
But I have been reading here with great interest on carpentry, your kids, and so on since finding this via Glenn, or someone 4 years ago- so you have the entertainment part down pat, IMHO.

I have advanced creds on Dad Werk, and I gotta give you and A+ there,based on what I see so far.

Harry said...

Hi, Greg. Hope all is well. My nest is empty right now, so we can (maybe) envy each other some.

Best wishes,


Not liberal said...

I am very sympathetic to home schooling but this doesn't make the case as well as dad thinks.

Kat in Indiana said...

Oops! I just used your children in an (in vain) attempt to motivate my 17 year old to do something besides playing Runescape every waking hour. I've become one of THOSE moms! We have one of those prodigies at church. He picked up a guitar at age 10 and has never put it back down. At 24 he is an absolutely annoyingly amazing musician. Can't read a note of music, but he can play ANY guitar part he hears. I see him in your Wee One!

Nickname unavailable said...

I'm a regular reader of Maggie's Farm which links to your website, so I've seen your wonderful boys before. It is quite apparent that both are extremely bright and well loved. I hope you don't mind my making a suggestion as to how to raise your kids. I am in my sixties but I started playing the piano when I was five. I also have absolute pitch (commonly known as "perfect pitch.") Get your son an acoustic piano. They can be found on craigslist, as estates throw them away constantly-- all you need is a borrowed pick up truck. Then get it tuned, which in my area is $100. An acoustic piano has qualities that an electronic can never have, even those expensive ones that replicate Bosendorfer grands. The strings on the acoustic resonate and produce overtones and undertones. Your talented kid needs to hear those and understand them.