What if Cinderella was homeschooled?

When I was little, I loved princesses. I couldn’t stop drawing them. I wanted to read stories about them. I had a collection of fairytale books that I couldn’t get enough of. I loved to dress up as a princess. I loved illustrations of princesses, especially if they were ornate and intricate and had gold detailing.

My friend Virginia writes an amazing blog called Beauty Schooled. Today she’s talking about princesses. The book Cinderella Ate my Daughter came out recently. It’s about how dangerous princesses can be for little girls. Virginia talks about it very eloquently, so I’ll let you read her thoughts over at Beauty Schooled, rather than attempting to summarize them here.

But I do want to say this:

Making decisions about princesses can be a big deal for homeschoolers and unschoolers.

Let’s say your daughter is in love with Cinderella. She wants to pretend to be Cinderella at the ball, all the time. Do you buy her the Cinderella Barbie, and the calendar, and all the plastic toys, and the original Disney film and “Cinderella’s Sing-Along” and whatever else Disney has squeezed the poor princess into? It’s all so easy to find. It’s all pretty cheap to purchase. And now your daughter can fit in with the other little girls who are obsessed with Cinderella. If you say no, will she look weird? She already doesn’t go to school. The other little girls might already be asking her, “Why don’t you come to school with us?” And . . . → Read More: What if Cinderella was homeschooled?

Not caring so much about college

My basic essay about being unschooled/homeschooled is on the awesome Australian site Mamamia. Check it out if you haven’t seen it before.

I don’t remember thinking about college very much as a teenager.

OK, I thought about it, but sort of in the way you might think about a doctor’s appointment that you scheduled a while in advance. I knew I’d go. It was the thing to do. But I didn’t have to sit around wondering what it would be like.

Getting into college is a lot of work for a lot of people. And not because they aren’t smart enough. Often, it’s because they are smart. It’s always because college is defined as the gateway to successful adulthood.


Much, much later, in grad school at Columbia University, I was amazed by the stories students still told about their acceptances. Their deliverances, really. They felt as though their lives had been saved. They could breathe again. My friend Yelena, who was one of the people describing this incredible sensation, now works at Cosmo, but before that she wrote a blog called Ivy Leagued and Unemployed. She updates it even now.

Down in Brooklyn, an average apartmentful of NYU friends all work part time as servers in local restaurants. Everyone is not-so-secretly an artist.

I think maybe I cheated the system. I’m not sure (check out my post on how bad I am at cheating the system).

My mom and I put together a high school transcript through . . . → Read More: Not caring so much about college

Superwoman Was Already Here

This is a guest post by Daniel Petter-Lipstein (bio at bottom). I “met” Daniel through blogging, and we got into some spirited, fascinating conversations about education. His children attend a Montessori school, and I was interested to learn more about the Montessori model and how it was working for his family. I asked him to write a guest post about it, and he sent me this fabulously thorough, characteristically eloquent, and clever piece in response:

Superwoman was already here.

And she gave us a superb educational model to end the “Race to Nowhere.”

Her name was Dr. Maria Montessori and in the first half of the 20th century she pioneered and refined the Montessori method of education. Today, there are over 17,000 Montessori schools worldwide including thousands of preschools in the USA and hundreds of Montessori schools in the U.S. at the K-8 level.

My children go to a private Jewish Montessori school in New Jersey called Yeshivat Netivot Montessori. After five years as a parent at Netivot, I now believe quite deeply that it is a national tragedy that Montessori is largely deemed to be an educational option only for privileged kids from families that can afford tuition at a progressive private school.

Millions more American children deserve access to a Montessori education.

There are about 350 public Montessori schools in the United States, a number that is shamefully small.

I am not writing to explain, “What is Montessori?” There are several good books, lots of internet videos and . . . → Read More: Superwoman Was Already Here

The right way to homeschool

There isn’t one.

When I was a little kid, hanging out in the schooled world with both other unschooled kids and kids who went to school every day, I had no idea that there were different ways to be homeschooled. The critical difference was between being in school and not being in school.

Later, I learned that my family was probably doing everything wrong. Why? Because my mother had purchased a curriculum. That’s right. I was ten, and I was doing math out of a text book.

Good unschoolers, it turns out, never ever use a text book. They don’t depend on curricula. They aren’t weak-minded like that.

It was confusing. Because I also learned that my family was doing it wrong for not using more text books and curricula. We were doing it wrong because, as a child, I sometimes drew princesses all day long, on a Monday, without doing a single math problem.

(Who wouldn’t want to draw them all day? source)

Some homeschoolers thought academic structure was really important. They kept their children at the proper grade level. Some unschoolers thought that any type of formal structure was unhealthy and intellectually suffocating for children.

I wasn’t even sure how much I was an unschooler and how much a homeschooler. We were kinda just doing our own thing. It didn’t always work great, and sometimes it was perfect.

When I hear people laying down rules about unschooling, I get annoyed. I feel a little defensive. What if . . . → Read More: The right way to homeschool

Homeschooling: Freeing My Girls to BE, not Become

This is a guest post by the amazing (and pretty famous) Heather Sanders. We’re doing a cross-posty thing today. The theme is “homeschooling and confidence. Especially relating to girls. From the perspective of a homeschooling mom and a girl who was homeschooled.” I’m sure there’s a way to make that sound catchier. Every family’s experience with homeschooling or unschooling is fascinatingly different (for example, no one in my family ever got up that early), and I love to read about how Heather’s family works. You can read my post about being a gorgeous little dorky homeschool girl over at Heather Sanders.com , but not until you read this incredible piece by Heather:

Not too many days ago I woke to the smell of pancakes and the sound of three children quietly laughing and “shuushing” each other in the kitchen just beyond my bedroom door.

“I’m awake–no need to be quiet!” I hollered from under my electric blanket–still trying to remember if it was a school day or not. The door opened and Meredith (10) and Kenny (8) ran in, piling into bed with me. They smelled of maple syrup and peanut butter.

Emelie, my oldest at 14, walked through the door with a cup of coffee. “Do you want me to make you some wheat pancakes with blueberries?” she asked as she passed the warm cup into my outstretched hands. “Do you have to ask?” I responded. She leaned over and kissed me like the “Other Mother” that she is . . . → Read More: Homeschooling: Freeing My Girls to BE, not Become

Being shy

I was a shy little kid. I used to hide behind my mom’s leg a lot, as a toddler. Which prompted people to say to my mom, “Look how shy she is!”

My mom would say, “She’s not shy.”

I wasn’t a shy little kid. I was shy around people I didn’t know. I was crazy outgoing around my family. When I was eight, I went to Hebrew School, and I sat in a classroom for the first time and had to raise my hand. I didn’t really mind it very much, but I didn’t really feel comfortable talking in front of everyone. I said a few things. I made a few quiet friends. But I mostly kept to myself.

At home, I was running around the house, yelling at my little brothers to follow me because we were going to have a musical parade. I never stopped talking. These days, I forget that I used to act shy at all. My mom has to remind me that I used to be quiet in any environment.

(This thing is the key to success for a musical parade. source)

. . . → Read More: Being shy

Race to Nowhere

I wrote this piece for the Huffington Post. If you’d rather read it there, click here:

“Race to Nowhere.” Great title. I love that a kid says it, in the film. He’s trying to put his life into words. He pauses, searching for the right phrase. “It’s like a….race to nowhere.” Well done, kid.

What a disturbing film! It’s full of teenagers patiently, articulately explaining how they were hospitalized for severe anxiety. How they developed anorexia. How they want to die when they fail. How school is killing them.

These kids stay up all night, doing homework, they go to school and then to sports, and then to something artistic, and then to the tutor, to help them keep up in school, and then they have five minutes for dinner, and then homework starts again. Who are they? They are The American Teenager. The ones who don’t just drop out in disgust and frustration, that is. The ones who are fighting to get into a good college, or just a college, as colleges close their stately gates on more students every year. The kids from affluent families are fighting to have the same opportunities as their parents– it’s harder now. The kids from poor backgrounds are fighting to have opportunities their parents never had, and their options are constricted by lack of scholarships and inability to pay for the colleges they do get into. Everyone is fighting desperately to get in somewhere.

College, explains one of the students in the . . . → Read More: Race to Nowhere

Intelligence is a problem

Intelligence is such a problem. Not being smart. That’s great. But the whole concept. The common definition. The way it always seems to have something to do with how quickly you can calculate a tip or solve a word problem. If you start to argue that, no, we have all these different definitions of intelligence now, just look at the SAT. No, we don’t.

“If a man wearing a red hat went into a closet and exchanged his hat with another man, and then three more men, we’ll call them A, B, and C, came into the main room, each wearing a differently colored hat, except for B, who was also wearing a red hat, then how would the blind man who came in after everyone else know what shade the second man in the closet’s hat was? Remember, the first man was wearing a RED hat.”

That’s how word problems sound to me. Bear and I did some the other night. For fun. Our neighbor gave Bear this book of logic problems that candidates for fast-paced Wall Street trading jobs are given at job interviews. Bear loves that stuff. When he interviewed for his fast-paced Wall Street job, he thought the logic problem part of the experience was great. I thought it sounded terrifying. I felt myself getting physically frightened as he described it.

As a kid, I was really sure that I was smart. Very, very smart, in fact. I knew that I was smart because it was . . . → Read More: Intelligence is a problem

Won’t they just get lazy?

A lot of people think that if you have too much free time, you’ll get lazy. You’ll spend it scrolling through shows on Hulu. You’ll read Yahoo articles with titles like “Are single women really ten times more desperate than single men?” all day. They think there’s a big risk that if you give kids, who aren’t responsible because they’re too young to be, a lot of freedom, they’ll never learn anything. They’ll never focus. They’ll just get on their iphones and text or gchat or ichat or whatever.

In fact, we’re pretty concerned about focus as a nation, these days. We have all these distracting devices. We are always plugged in. We’re multitasking and the neurologists are telling us it’s bad and that kids can’t learn that way and neither can grownups.

Focus wasn’t an issue for me, growing up. I was trying to explain this to my husband, Bear, the other day. We were talking about homeschooling (I mean, who doesn’t talk about homeschooling all the time?), and he was saying something about how he would’ve just watched TV instead of doing anything, or something to that effect. It wasn’t exactly the first time I’d heard that. Or, like, the three-thousandth time (No offense, honey!).

Kids are naturally interested in the world. Have you ever been around a baby? It’s fascinated by EVERYTHING. Learning to be bored is an incredible feat when you think about how intrinsically interested humans are, and how intriguing the world is. When you . . . → Read More: Won’t they just get lazy?

Gabe goes to school

My youngest brother decided to go to school. He was fifteen. He said he needed more structure. He wanted a teacher to tell him what to do. When Mom told him what to do, it made him angry.

It was a little shocking, that he’d even think to go to school. I hadn’t gone. My middle brother hadn’t gone. We stared at Gabe uncomprehendingly for a moment. Mom wasn’t thrilled with the idea, but she heard him out, and my parents talked it over a lot, and then they signed him up at an arts and music charter school in Trenton.

Off he went. I was already in college, so I wasn’t there to witness the day-to-day transition.

It was a little shocking, and then it wasn’t. Then it was just normal. After all, school had always been a option for all of us. To me, school seemed like giving up. Like giving in. When homeschooling parents got really scared, they sent their kids to school. When they didn’t believe in themselves, and they started to listen when their friends’ whispered skeptical little questions about science lab. When kids got scared, they went to school. When they didn’t trust themselves enough. When they’d met too many school kids who looked at them funny, and they felt left out.

But then Gabe went, and it wasn’t the same. No one had given up. He had made his own choice, and he chose school. He defected so smoothly, that I had to . . . → Read More: Gabe goes to school


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