This is a 20/20 exclusive, and I am Barbara Walters….the goal for this interview is to make my husband cry…
…Okay, this is not a Barbara Walters interview, and he didn’t cry. The week of teaching the kids didn’t make him cry either… This interview was completed at 30 mins 46 secs, about 25 mins 46 secs longer than I told him we’d take, so it certainly could have made him cry…
…To me, my hubby is a celebrity, one of the major actors in the story of my life. So you know a little bit about him: he didn’t grow up thinking he would home educate his kids, he’s spent 23 years in the educational system, eventually graduating with a pharmacy and medical degree. He’s steady, straightforward with a dry sense of humour. He likes curling, baseball and NFL football, when not travelling or playing games with his kids in his spare time.
ME: Okay, seriously, how did your week go, you being the primary home educator?
HE: Generally, our educational objectives were met with a higher degree of conflict resolution strategy needing to be employed…
ME: Okay, you’re full of beans, talk to me like we’re really talking…
HE: I just did. Okay, they learned what they had to, but there were more struggles in terms of people’s willingness to come to the plate and do what they were required…
ME: So it would have been perfect had they done so?
HE: I can see how it would have been easier, ya.
HOW TO ENGAGE THE KIDS’ ATTENTION
ME: Would the educational approach be perfect if their behaviour was perfect?
HE: No, I don’t know, I don’t think you can aim for perfection. That would be pretty unlikely. It’s lined up well, (requiring) full focus and a good amount of sleep the night before, then it goes pretty well. The morning has a nice mix to it and the afternoon, you’re varying it, so they keep interest. I see how that is good for kids that age. That’s well set-up. Whether they’re going to buy into the content every day, no, not likely.
ME: So how do you get them engaged every day, to buy into it, every day?
HE: Good sleep, proper breakfast, zero tolerance policy on irritating each other or being mean to each other, keep them out of each other’s personal space, not cross boundaries, then I tend to favour the mixture of carrot and stick. There needs to be a little bit of firmness that keeps things moving along and at the same time let them see that the finish line is coming and there’ll be fun things if we buckle down now.
ME: So do you think that if they get smaller chunks in between the big chunks they don’t get too much (overwhelmed)? Like the poetry or art history moments (5 minute snippets between the heavy stuff, like math, writing, grammar)? Do you think that they absorb that?
HE: When it comes to the humanities aspect (post-impressionism, poetry, music history), you’re aiming toward exposure. With math and science, it’s more what I call ‘burst learning’, not incremental; not tending to learn one new fact each day and slowly, at the end of three hundred days, you don’t learn three hundred new things.
Things come together and things are beginning to make sense–like I’m starting to get long division, but that may take a number of day in the trenches to finely achieve mastery in that particular area.
ME: So did you find the content difficult yourself?
HE: No I mastered it once upon a time.
COULD YOU TEACH?
ME: Did you find it difficult to explain it or teach it?
HE: I’m not a natural teacher of concepts that I find easy. If I find it easy then I don’t know how to break it down in a few different ways for someone else. If it’s not someone’s preferred teaching style or method, then no, that’s not my forte.
ME: Do you think we should be testing?
HE: Here’s the thing. You get daily tests (by proving you’re answering the work properly) and have to show the ‘supervisor’ that you understand something.
If you give me a final exam after a four month course, I have to retain some of the things I’ve learned in September and utilize them in October and integrate them with November in order to get the long answer question found in the long answer exam in December. Do you have to do a one hour long answer test (for this level)? Ahhh, I don’t know.
I think there is some of that at some level of education, so at some point they’ll need to be exposed to it and not get freaked out by it.
But if you’re not going to formally test them and do a midterm, you better make sure you’re interweaving concepts and forcing some retention.
For example, our daughter could tell us what the definition of an acid and a base were last week, but today, she says ‘an acid is more acidic than a base’. You can’t use the name of the thing you’re trying to describe in the definition.
ME: So how do you know that they learned something or understood it?
HE: Can you do a problem independently? If you can do it independently, the odds are that you might get lucky one time, but two or three times, you understand it. We’re not doing graduate level calculus here. You can generally show me how to do A to B to show me how to add improper fractions…
ME: Were you surprised by that lack of retention?
HE: No. I was disappointed.
ME: I’ve often been surprised that they could get something but not understand it later. That happens routinely and with things that you think they have COLD in their head. I’m not convinced that it has to do with lack of retaining, but rather not able to spit it out the same way as next time.
HE: Well, I guess I come from the school that says that if you can’t sit down and explain something to someone then you can’t really know the concept.
DEALING WITH A NON-SCHOOL AGED LEARNER
ME: So was there anything else you were surprised by, or didn’t expect?
HE: I was underprepared to keep Zach occupied (5). Having a non-school aged learner messes things up.
ME: Did you try using the workbooks and different activities I have planned for him?
HE: Ya, I showed him, but I didn’t push it super hard. Maybe I should have pushed it harder. I had the connect-the-letter alphabet books and writing books, but he needed more. If I had the week over, I would have given him more attention. The problem is he has no fortitude for the work.
ME: Ya, I’ve learned that one of our kids had the ability to do the work, but not the fortitude to do workbooks. A book called Better Late than Early talks about kids not really being ready for sit-down work until they’re eight. I think I’ve personally learned there’s some truth to that.
What have you learned about your kids?
HE: I don’t know. I learned that they test me. Why are you testing me? I want to know why they don’t just get at, not test me.
ME: So what about yourself? What did you learn about yourself?
HE: Oh, I have always known, but I guess it comes to the floor again that I can probably get bored easily too. I am sympathetic for those that get bored and I like to make things more anecdotal , story-based, current affairs-based. I’m not much for here are five workbook pages, why don’t we get those all done?
ME: Yup, and for the record, neither are your kids. That’s why the unschooling angle has been helpful, because I’ve learned that kids don’t learn just one way, and I don’t either, and maybe there’s something to the educational system not working, because it’s too force-fed, lecture-based. It’s too boring.
What about me? Did you learn anything about me?
HE: You’re a really good writer.
ME: Ha ha ha. Okay, answer that differently, cause I’m not putting that in the blog.
ME: You’re paranoid about a detailed record every day of what they did, which I think is useless. I think that all you’re doing is filling up the Library of Congress with that.
HE: Do you mean my record books?
ME: Ya, the what you did every day, you could just do a weekly summary of what we did that week.
HE: Ya, well, you’re notation of ‘science’ today doesn’t quiet explain what they learned in science today.
SURPRISES! WHAT DO YOU DO ALL DAY? WATCH SOAP OPERAS AND EAT BON BONS
ME: Okay, tell me about your perception going in to this week versus your perception after the week…
HE: Well, I don’t know, it’s just as emotionally draining as any people-focussed job.
ME: How does it compare to the experience of your work?
HE: You don’t have to commute.
ME: Ha ha ha, no I don’t. If commuting is from the bedroom to the study.
HE: The snacks are healthier here. And it’s equally tiring. If you’re doing this all, it tires you. And not knowing what to do when people don’t want to do what you say…
…Especially when you have a good heart towards them; you know you actually put a good effort towards it all and focus on them.
Ya, it’s not like I’m just going around bossing people. I am just trying to line things up for them.
ME: And they don’t always want you to line things up for them, thank you very much.
HE: Ya, well…
ME: Do you think they understand what they have?
ME: Can you comment on that?
HE: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know what it’s like to practice medicine in a war-torn country either, where I have access to nothing (medical supplies). I’ve been there for six weeks (Kenya), but what does that mean? It wasn’t war-torn. So until you walk a mile in somebody else’s moccasins….
INTENTIONS BEHIND HOME EDUCATING
ME: What are your hopes or aspirations for your kids? What’s your intention behind this whole thing?
HE: Um, breadth of exposure that is enjoyable but never lame, where they don’t waste their time treading water at somebody else’s pace. They always get a pace that challenges them without torturing them, so that they can be the best that they can be and eventually zero in on a longer-term pursuit that satisfies. No wasted effort.
ME: What do you want for their lives?
HE: Find God’s purpose for themselves and make the best of life. Live a fulfilling life doing something that is full of integrity and where they can pour out their passions.
APPROACHES THAT WORKED OR DIDN’T
ME: What worked and what didn’t?
HE: The rapid fire thing was pretty good (BTW Charlotte Mason style…full attention required, many subjects but short and sweet). Having Zach there didn’t work.
ME: Okay, how to get around that one?
HE: I don’t know.
WILL YOU DO IT AGAIN?
ME: Had you known what you were getting yourself into, would you have repeated this week?
HE: Oh ya, I generally knew what I was getting into. I mean I just expected more compliance, more people bringing their A game. I got it some of the time, especially on two fronts, but hit and miss on two other fronts.
ME: How do you prefer to deal with screen time?
HE: They don’t need an hour quota (each day).
ME: Why? Why are you against screen time?
HE: It just dulls your brain.
ME: So if I wasn’t around, what would you say for screen time?
HE: Maybe you do it for teaching programs, like spelling city, (but that’s it).
THE SOCIALIZATION DISCUSSION
ME: Do you think we provide socialization?
HE: We don’t have any issues with that. Well they have lots of time with other kids and they don’t have to spend loads of time with other kids they don’t care about.
ME: Are they lacking in activity?
HE: No, too much maybe.
TO SCHOOL OR NOT TO SCHOOL, THAT IS THE QUESTION
ME: What do you think they’re missing out on in school?
HE: Um, maybe having other adults influence them more, but they get plenty of that in extracurricular activities. What they’re missing out on is my tax money. The hundreds to thousands of dollars in tax money—give me back my tax money!
THOUGHTS FOR OTHER HOMESCHOOLING DADS
ME: What would you say to other dads of homeschool families?
HE: You need to exercise every day, to be in good shape. The kids do too. Don’t drink alcohol WHILE you’re teaching. Wear clothes. (an attempt at humour)
HE: That’s really what you want to say, that dads should exercise?
HE: What else am I supposed to say, that I’ve never felt more fulfilled in my life, and I realize how much work my wife has always done? Ha. I already knew those things before…
Exercise burns tension, keeps your mood better and keeps your cardiovascular risk down.
There’s lots going on; homeschooling is a job.
ME: An underpaid job perhaps?
HE: It’s a profession that you have to have passion for in order to make it your life’s calling.
ME: How easy was it to do meals and housework?
HE: Not too bad, just part of the job. It was lots. It all had to be integrated. You couldn’t waste time. (BTW I was still doing the laundry;)
ME: How about spare time or free time?
HE: Wake up early so you can have some.
ME: But during the day…
HE: Ha ha ha, it always got filled. You had to organize something, or go somewhere, or do something. It’s a full day’s work.
BABIES AND HOMESCHOOLING
ME: Throw a baby into the mix now…
HE: Now you’re screwed…
ME: I started with a baby…
HE: No, you didn’t. It was an 8 month old.
Off-tape discussion about how an 8 month old is still a baby…
ME: Any profound thoughts or proverbs?
HE: Philippians 4:8,9: Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Focus on the things that are true, noble, right…. And it will all work out for good, something cosmic, God’s purpose.
And you should exercise, WITH your kids.