The No-Fun Homeschool

No-fun-homeschool: learning is its own reward

I have to take a deep breath whenever I hear the words “fun” and “education” combined.

Whether it’s a parent asking me to recommend a fun math curriculum, a book touting fun ways to incorporate learning, or seeing some edu-software or app saturated with cartoon characters.

I don’t go ballistic but I certainly do genuinely need the additional respiration.

No-fun homeschool?

You see, learning is its own reward. Finishing a long great book; conquering some difficult math skills on Khan Academy; leveling up on the piano; etc. They will all give your kids a natural rush and organic feelings of accomplishment.

So they don’t actually need a new LEGO set, an ice cream sundae, or “an hour of screen-time” to motivate them – not if the work demanded of them isn’t too easy, too difficult, or just….too stupid.

What’s wrong with a little external motivation?

Nothing….a little here and there.

The risk is, of course, that the fun injection can easily end up diluting the educational component – sort of like dipping your kids’ vegetables in chocolate!

I guess what offends me most is the mindset or assumption built into the marketing – that learning is inherently dull and therefore requires sleight-of-hand, i.e. fun.

I run a tight ship in my homeschool. (In case you couldn’t infer that!)

Although I do very much value fun. It’s just that I want my kids to have a ton of fun THROUGHOUT THEIR WHOLE LIVES.

I don’t want them to wake up at 30 years old, like I did, and realize that they aren’t happy, don’t know what they want to do with their lives, AND haven’t the means to reinvent themselves.

Remember, your homeschooled kids have already been liberated from all the school nonsense – the daily alarm clocks, the boring curricula, the toxic peer pressure, the perpetual stress of homework, papers due, pop quizzes, standardized tests, and the poverty of free time. So let’s not make things too easy for them!

Ideally you should see homeschooling as a tool to ACCELERATE your kids – not as a tool to coddle your kids with a lighter, gamified curriculum that merely recreates school-at-home.

All of this started with Sesame Street some 35 years ago. I would encourage you to read Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman for more on the historical context of how fun and entertainment infected all serious intellectual discourse. I’m sure your library has the book.

Oh, you still want games?

Okay, the BEST, outside of chess, is Bananagrams:

I do have a few more favorites – click here – but let’s not get too carried away with fun….not until your kids are older, very successful, and supporting their parents lavishly!



Dan (15 Posts)

Husband to Inez. Father of John and Christine. Homeschool Coach, Accelerated Math Teacher. Former derivatives trader and future scratch golfer! Follow our learning adventures at

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A Comparison of Homeschooling Styles for Kids on the Autism Spectrum


Guest post by Kerry Jones.

It’s one of a homeschooling parent’s favorite questions for each other: “What is your homeschooling style?” If the question is new to you, then you are likely new to homeschooling! Don’t worry, it won’t be long before you are approached with it. And it won’t be long, either, before you have an answer!

When you are homeschooling a child on the spectrum, though, the question takes on a particular importance. While parents of neurotypical kiddos may be able to simply “choose” to be unschoolers, or literature-based homeschoolers, or virtual schoolers, we parents of ASD kiddos have specific considerations to take in. So, let’s look at some of the most popular homeschooling styles out there, and talk about them spectrum parent to spectrum parent, shall we?

A comparison of homeschool methods or styles for kids on the autism spectrum

Homeschooling Styles for Kids on the Autism Spectrum

Classical Homeschooling

The classical approach has the worthy overall goal of teaching children to think for themselves. Using the “trivium” model, children move through three main stages of learning: concrete learning, critical learning, and abstract learning. It’s a language-focused, literature-focused homeschooling style that has become increasingly popular in many private schools.



  • it focuses heavily on finding connections between math, science, history, and literature – – something that kids on the spectrum seem to have a natural affinity for

  • with it’s forward-focus, it reminds parents to look to what their child can accomplish instead of what they can’t


  • If you have a child who has difficulty focusing on books or printed materials, this homeschooling style can be especially challenging

  • Most all published classical homeschooling curriculum would need to be overhauled when using with a child on the spectrumChild Reading Outside


Charlotte Mason Homeschooling


This whole-child approach to homeschooling is based on the teachings of 19th century writer and educator Charlotte Mason.
A Charlotte Mason homeschool day might consist of nature walks, journaling, dictation, handicrafts, and reading of living books.



  • While it’s difficult to think of too many pros for this copywork/dictation-heavy style of learning, I’ve definitely read narratives by parents who’ve had success with a “gentle CM” approach

  • CM advises a lesson length of no more than 15 minutes at a stretch for younger learners, which is always good advice when working with children on the spectrum


  • With books and journaling at the center of this style of learning, a child with a disinterest in reading and writing would likely be frustrated with this approach

  • Another key focus of the CM method is narration (telling back in your own words what you just heard or read). Need I say more?


The unschooling, or child-led homeschooling style gets a lot of press time, doesn’t it? As you are probably aware, an unschooler usually has no formal curriculum, but is allowed to learn according to his or her own interests, time-table, and motivation. Does this sound like a recipe for disaster for an ASD child? Let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages to this approach:


  • Children who have finely honed interests can explore those passions unencumbered by the restrictions of a curriculum

  • Can help keep parents focused less on what a child “should be doing by a specific age”, and focused more on the joy of learning


  • Radical unschooling without any schedule or structure can be unsettling to some children on the spectrum

  • Unschooling depends heavily on a child’s inner motivation to explore the outside world, while many children with autism are content to be occupied with their inner world


Online schooling

Virtual Schooling

As more and more states open virtual schools, it has become a popular option – – particularly among new homeschoolers who worry about completely taking their child’s education into their own hands. A virtual school (technically considered a public charter school in most states) offers parents the ability to school a child at home on the computer while still being under the umbrella of the public school system.



  • For new homeschool parents, it can be a good gateway into homeschooling and can relieve some of the stress of full educational responsibility

  • Scheduled and set up like a public school classroom, which can be comforting to some ASD students who are transitioning to schooling at home


  • Curriculum cannot be easily customized to meet individual student needs

  • Much like a public school classroom, scheduled deadlines for work mean less flexibility in amount of work and time required


Eclectic Homeschooling

Eclectic homeschooling is a bit of a “catch all” phrase to describe a style of homeschooling where parents mix and match curriculum and teaching styles to fit each student. They may go to a weekly homeschool cooperative for science, study history with living books, study math using an online curriculum, and integrate notebooking into language arts. This style of homeschool would look different not only in each homeschool, but for each homeschool student.


  • Students receive a completely customized education for their needs and learning style

  • Because of the flexibility of this style, if one approach or curriculum isn’t working, parents simply try something else


  • Requires significant parental time to research and find resources that will work for each student

  • Can be somewhat expensive to purchase materials for each child unless parents seek out free resources



In my experience, I find that all homeschoolers who have a child on the autism spectrum tend to be at least somewhat in the final category of “Eclectic Homeschooler” even if we see ourselves primarily as another style. That’s because no one homeschooling style is going to fit our kids every day and in every situation. Just as we have to be in every other aspect of our life, our approach to homeschooling has to be flexible. The more we force a style that just isn’t working, the more frustrating homeschool becomes for our kids and us.  And the truth is, learning is fun. So the true homeschool style that will work best for you is simple. It’s the one that reminds you how incredibly fortunate you are to be learning together.


Kerry of Secular Homeschooling




Author Bio: Kerry Jones has been homeschooling since 1999, and has authored multiple homeschooling sites including, and Her newest pet project is creating a social community for parents homeschooling a child on the autism spectrum on Facebook and Twitter.




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Do We Get In the Way?

The last week of May I was blessed to attend LER’s Spring Awakening 2015. It was a morning spent as a student of the Truth Beauty Goodness community in Minnesota. It was a one day event that I drove many miles to attend. It was worth it. This post is my attempt to share something I learned that is paramount to educating.

As teachers, we must not get in the way of the student learning.

Do We Get in the Way? Allowing our Children to Learn Authentically

It’s tough, I know, for mothers and fathers who homeschool, as well as parents who choose public school. We all want what is best for our children. Even teachers in traditional school settings really want what’s best for the students. It really starts with how we perceive children.

Children are born persons. {Principle #1}

Of course- we think- they are little human beings with the same physical makings as adults, only smaller. But they are not miniature adults. Nor are they the genetic code that decides if they have red curly hair or straight black hair. Or that suggests a child will have a particular temperament.


They are more than miniatures of their parents and inherited traits. They are persons in their own right.

The child’s mind is not a blank slate or vessel to be filled. It is a living thing, relying on knowledge to grow. {Principle #9}

The mind feeds and grows on ideas; it grows like the body grows through nourishment. The mind does not require training to learn, much as healthy lungs do not require external assistance to breathe in and out.

children learn

It is not our business to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid the ideas he holds as they match the experiences he encounters. {Principle #12}

They are capable of making their own connections with knowledge and experiences. They have ‘hooks’, as do we all, with which to hang ideas and notions based on past experiences and knowledge. When they encounter new situations or information, they take down the ideas from the hooks and analyze the new situation through them.

But they can be influenced. This is where it is important to not get in the way and make it more about us than them. If we believe them to be persons, capable of learning, we will be sure to not crush this. Here are some ways that we can get in the way.

  • Fear/love– Children trust and love their parents and teachers. It might be more obvious why we should not use fear to motivate our children to learn but love can be just as dangerous in this situation. When we push children to learn because of their love for us they do not learn for themselves. They can languish if there is not someone to learn for; if there is not someone to smile upon them when they do as they should. They become merely what those who love them wish them to be, or what the student thinks the teacher wishes them to be. Their personality is squashed and they live for the smiles, or languish at the averted eyes.
  • Suggestion/influence– I believe these are the two most often used tactics in public schools today. Educators hold the philosophy that the teacher is superior and an expert; the student cannot possibly know what to do without suggestion or influence. However, by using suggestion or influence, the student comes to depend on that for their every task. I have been quite guilty of both suggestion and influence. There have been times that, due to my previous overly suggestive or influential actions or comments, that my child could not make a decision or think clearly about a concept without suggestions or influence from me. This does not help the child, it hinders.
  • Emotions/desires– This is the tactic of enticing the child to achieve a grade or a status based on their learning. It could get them into a special group or allow them special privilege to do or not do a particular task. It is tied with ‘learning’ but it can be dangerous as well. This tactic can and often does produce children that are more concerned with attaining that reward, having that status, than to know. When they are presented with the opportunity to learn for the sake of learning, they will pass it by if there is no emotion or desire fulfilled.

Each of the above mentioned tactics to get the child to learn are actually hinderances because they present something other than actual learning as the goal.

Are there ways that you feel teachers, and by that I mean parents, get in the way of learning for their children? How do you think we can step back and help instead?



North Laurel (26 Posts)

Blossom- "North Laurel" to the online world- lives in Ohio with her husband and two teens, homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way with Ambleside Online. She is graciously allowed to be a moderator for the Ambleside Online Forum. North Laurel loves to read, be on the computer, and learn. You can read her blogging about homeschooling, book reviews and life in general at North Laurel Home & School.

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