Sarah’s Mom Tips: Don’t Fear a “Learning Gap”

Don’t be afraid of learning gaps.

Kids don’t need to learn everything.

Kids need to know HOW to learn what they need when they need it.

Sometimes we fear learning gaps, but if a child knows HOW to research there will be no permanent holes because the child will be capable of learning on the go.

There is no way to prepare a child for what life and the economy will look like when they are adults.

Today’s standardized education is already behind.

It is research skills, creativity, character and resourcefulness that will insure potential for successful adult life.

Thinking Tree focuses on life skills, thinking skills, planning skills, being innovative, being creative, being resourceful, great character development, having excellent research skills, reading and writing skills and a strong work ethic. These things are NOT usually part of a standardized curriculum plan. You may worry that your kids will not be on grade level; but the skills that matter most are often overlooked and undervalued.

Raising Employees?

Joe does passion-based homeschooling. He is in charge of his education and uses Fun-Schooling Journals, Tuttle Twins Books and a lot of Usborne books.

Real life has no instructions. All children grow into adults who encounter situations and opportunities where no one explains what to do. We want our children to think and be innovative. Almost all normal schoolwork is based on following instructions and memorizing information. At our house we don’t do that.

When I created all of my homeschooling books I created them for my kids. I am specifically designing a method of learning to inspire thinking, problem solving and innovation. Because my kids have dyslexia and Asperger’s (like me), we are not going to follow a normal path. My kids would never make good employees so I don’t expect any of my children to be employees. I expect them all to have an awesome work ethic and to be business owners and managers of their own families and homes. The public system is training millions of children to be employees – who have a very watered down work ethic. I would never choose to hire common core kids. That’s not our goal, so we are traveling a unique path. Each child is unique and so we focus on their gifts and interests.

Now, they will learn to be good workers because I am giving them all opportunities to learn by working in the home and the family business, and they serve with missionaries and in church. When they volunteer, they really shine.

I never actually expected so many other people jump in and use my books, but I think that your children will really be blessed and your families will enjoy homeschooling with these methods.

I wasn’t creating school books that will help the children to fit into a mold that prepares them for “higher education”. SORRY! My goal is for my children to be innovative business owners with steady incomes by age 20, who do not need “higher education or an extended adolescence” to prepare for real life. If your child needs that, go for it! No shame! It’s all good! We need all kinds of people in the world. Just don’t plan your child’s education based on an antiquated view of what education should be.

Knowing our goals, I try not to waste my children’s time, brain space, and energy on schoolwork that doesn’t prepare them for real life. I am a bit of a rebel, and sometimes I worry that my kids might miss something… but they are proving me wrong. Whenever my teens need to learn something simple or complex, they get it done! They rarely ask for help anymore (unless they are trying to open a bank account, need a new computer, need an investor, or are filling out forms to become Amazon Associates).

Our kids are all excelling in their own way, developing their own talents and starting their own businesses – often before I even have a chance to show them how. They all have strong faith and family values.

One thing I have them do is read popular adult level books on marketing, business, and leadership. I also have them building websites and creating real books at a young age – check out our “Notebooks for Creative People” on Amazon. We don’t use textbooks, we always use well-written and interesting REAL books by passionate experts on every subject we want to study. We don’t just unschool, (though it works on many levels) because I really want to pass on my favorite books, family values, faith and traditions.

Sometimes I wonder what will become of all these creative thinkers and innovative children who adore my books. I would like to know what your children are passionate about, and how you are helping them to learn!

Math Craft: Not Just for Dyscalculia!

Not Only for Dyscalculia! 

Math Craft has proven to be a fun way to introduce math to young children, not only those with Dyscalculia. Children who struggle with math in school also enjoy the games. They are an entirely different way to learn than what is taught in classrooms. It has also been a good way to ease children into homeschooling after leaving a school setting or for kids who had a negative experience with math. Older siblings love to do these games with their younger siblings too! 

Helping Adults to Stop Counting on Their Fingers

Moms who played the games with their children also saw benefits for themselves. Many had always counted on their fingers and struggled with basic math. It is likely some have Dyscalculia and were never diagnosed. Schools also tend to pass children along with levels in math before they’re ready, especially with girls, so bad habits develop. We’ve been thrilled to hear from adults who have seen progress and gained confidence in math after playing the games with their kids. Plus the kids love to see their parents being good examples and learning too! 

After Math Craft

Parents often wonder what the best path to take is after a student has completed Math Craft. We suggest one of our Math journals. They are written in a similar style and will be a good way for students to practice their new skills. Math Mysteries, Comic Book Math, and Math for Minecrafters are especially good options. Multiplication Games is a good journal for students who need help with memorizing their Multiplication tables. 

Families can use our journals exclusively for a few years or combine them with a math curriculum of their choice. Life of Fred is a popular option among many Fun-Schoolers and seems to be Dyscalculia-Friendly because Math is presented as a story. There are many other options out there too! What’s your favorite?

Teen Boys: What’s a Homeschool Mom to Do?

(In this post, we’ll go back in time to a Facebook post from 2015 and look at the model we followed (and still do) for homeschooling our teens. Sometimes it helps to see what it “looks like”!)

People often ask me what I do with my teens for school.  Here is a question that must be answered to start going in the right direction:

If you knew what your child was going to be when he (or she) grows up what kind of education would you provide?

Public educators expect kids to choose a “minor and major” when they go to college.  I expect my kids to study specific “minors and a major” starting in elementary school, and getting very serious at age 13.  For their 13th birthday we have a themed party based on their “career dreams” at the time.  Isaac wanted to be a chef at age 13, Anna wanted to be a baker, Estera wanted to be a photographer.  So you can imagine their parties!

Isaac, age 14

This is what my 16 year old son is studying this year–everything is relevant to his life and goals:

#1 Creative Online Marketing

#2 Publishing

#3 Personal Money Management

#4 Project Management (He is building a Minecraft server for homeschoolers with a history and inventions theme. He has a couple nerds working for him.)

#5 Music & Video Production (click here to see a documentary video he created!)

#6 Cats – He wants to breed and sell show cats, and make coloring books, an online community and a website for cat lovers.

#7 Bible, Missions, Evangelism and Teaching Students

#8 History (This is his passion, he loves Uncle Eric Books)

#9 Family, Relationships – Preparation for being a dad and husband.  He jokes about how taking care of his cats is prep for parenting, and he does want to get married and have a family of his own, and he knows that he will need to provide for that family.

#10 Cooking – in the past he wanted to be a chef, so we spent a couple years to help him train, he had two jobs as a personal chef at age 14 and 15.  Now he isn’t as interested, but could easily get a job as a chef at any point, and has great references. We invested a lot of time and resources in his previous passion for cooking – now he doesn’t want to be a cook.  Was that a waste of investment?  NO!  His family will be thankful, and he has something to fall back on… and he’s only 16.  The boy has skills. 

#11 Voice Acting.. Why not? Someone has to do it!

As you can see he has no time for a typical learning plan. We don’t do any formal math just practical math.  I am not worried about higher education, credits, testing, college.  He isn’t going to need a diploma to get a job.  He will be an entrepreneur; he will be the one hiring.  I have talked to him about higher education and the things he would need to do to take that path in the future. He knows that if he wants to go to college later he can prepare for the testing on his own and do it. He has plenty of time for hobbies and is very good at sports.

I started allowing my children to choose majors and minor when Anna (my 1st dyslexic child) was seven. She couldn’t read and write, so art, gardening and cooking were everything for two years until I invented Dyslexia Games

When people ask me about homeschooling and what the kids are doing I might talk might sound like I am talking about a college student, not a 7 year old.

I am not at all worried about higher education, I start giving them a higher education at age 13.

What would each of your children like to major in this year if they had the choice?

If your child wants to be an artist and mommy – take her seriously! Help her to become the best artist and mommy ever! That’s what I wanted to be my whole life… and that is what I have become.

Today, our son is 23, married, finishing Bible College this May, and is a composer. He’s running a recording studio as well. He has been supporting himself for five years.

Our son Isaac and his beautiful wife, Margarita

Let Them Be Bored

(excerpted from advice offered via a Facebook post in 2016)

let your child be bored

Mom Tip: Boredom is not a bad thing.  When a child is bored don’t look for a way to entertain them. They need a little time everyday when they don’t feel like doing all the normal things they usually do. They need time to think, ponder, reflect, tinker, wander, and think some more.   Modern parents don’t realize that boredom is essential to childhood development and parents are quick to feed the child’s first desire: To be ENTERTAINED. 

What is your child’s DEFAULT MODE when they have a moment of boredom?  Some kids turn to a device, a game, TV, a book, a coloring book, go climb trees, start drawing, or of course they start whining, picking fights and complaining.

I will take a little time now to think of every person in my family and see if I can answer that question: What is the first thing they want to do when they have a moment of boredom or free-time?

Me:  I default to cleaning… or nit-picking everyone else for leaving messes.

My Husband: He defaults to… me… He wants to have time with me, if I am busy he thinks of some errand to run.

Isaac (16): Music.  He wants to go do something related to music.

Anna (15): Hmmmmm… 1st she wants to talk or play with her sisters. If they are busy she goes to her room and dumps out her creative stuff, or bakes or asks for the password for the computer, or bickers with her sister. She always finds something to do, and there is a lot of variety in her choices.  She is the child who is NEVER bored.

Esther (14): Guitar practice and reading.

Rachel (13): Piano and Journaling.

Naomi (11): She wants to play Minecraft, but usually she takes the dog for a walk. If the weather is bad she rearranges all her stuff in her room.

Susie (9): She asks to use the computer, but usually ends up getting out an animal encyclopedia and makes tiny animals out of paper, then she cuts them out and gives them as gifts.  She made a zillion little paper birds recently, I showed her how to create a book with them.

Laura (7): Wants to watch Dogs 101, over and over and over. If I say no, she finds someone to play with or fight with.

Joseph(6): Just started playing Minecraft a month ago.  So first he asks to do that. When I say no he plays with Legos or draws Minecraft pictures.

Ember(3): Dumps her clothing drawer and puts on something that is her “favorite color” of the day. Once she changes her clothes she joins in on whatever Laura or Joe are doing. (click here to continue reading)

Transitioning Toward Adult Life

Here are some books that are very important for my 12 to 15 year-olds.  At this age, we are transitioning them from mainly studying what they love, to requiring some things that we believe they really need to master, to do well in adult life.

They will study their preferred majors and minors most of the time, but at least once a week, they need to spend a couple hours with some of these books.

At ages 12 to 15 I want my children to study leadership, economics and grammar while I expose them to many options for a future calling or career.  If they already have chosen an occupation, we get specific. For example, you can’t just major in horses. You need to choose one or two horse-related career options to train in.  You can’t just focus on general photography. You need a specific market. You can’t just major in the Arts. You need to focus your skill building in one main area, maybe two…like producing a musical. You can’t just keep playing around with lots of different artistic mediums, you need to master the one you love the most.

By age 14, they need to make a serious choice about what calling or career they want to pursue so we can focus on training, gaining experience, skills, providing equipment, volunteering or internships in the area they choose.

From age 14 to 18 we will help them turn their dream into an income source, or help them get involved with others who are living out the calling they want to pursue. They will gain 4 years of practical experience in the field. I will also ONLY require them to learn the math specialized to their future occupation.  If they change careers, they will have something to fall back on. And, they might just have a source of passive income to help them take the next step.

“How can I get my kids to help around the house?”

(post originally dated 11/19/14–migrated from Sarah’s old blog)

A homeschooling mom of four just wrote to me to ask how to get kids to do chores with a cheerful attitude. (I am a homeschooling mom of ten, ages 2 to 15, and one due in Feb.) I have had a lot of success in raising my kids to be happy helpers with a strong work ethic. So here is my advice.

The best way to get children to do chores with a happy and willing heart is to model for them the behavior you want to see. Sing and smile and dance and be cheerful when doing the housework, turn on the happy music, make it look fun. They will copy you. The most important thing is being a model of the smiles and work ethic you want them to have.

See your own work as a privilege and invite them to be part of doing things that you do. With my young ones I will say “I’m not sure if you are big enough to wash dishes.” And the reply will be “I’m big enough!” And they will set out to prove it, with pride. 

I also reward the kids for excellent work, even a smile from mom, or a handful of berries can be a reward. I want to teach them that quality work is rewarded. I don’t have extra money to pay them every time they do an extra job, so instead of buying them everything they need and want, I give them a chance to earn these things. Maybe you plan to buy new bikes for the kids in the future – don’t just buy them the bikes, let them help earn the money you are going to spend on the bikes so they will see the results of their labor. Maybe you are going to yard sales this weekend and expect to spend 3 or 4 dollars on toys, let them earn their garage sale money, even 25 cents can go pretty far at a yard sale! (click here to continue reading)

“Ruined” Kids or Thriving Kids?

When you have kids who have symptoms of Dyslexia, ADHD, Autism, all kinds of Dyscalculia or neuro-divergent kids, they are not going to thrive in the box. We can’t put them in the box. You are all Fun-Schooling either because you didn’t want to put your kid in the box, or maybe your kid was in the box, and you were the awesome mom who pulled them out of it and took responsibility for their education.

Now, it’s really scary to be in charge of the education of another human being. We can think, “What if I ruin my kids?”  My well-meaning relatives were right there, encouraging me to think those thoughts. They had me thinking, “I am probably destroying my kids”. Let me tell you where my 4 homeschool graduates are right now.

Isaac is currently going to school in Pennsylvania, while continuing to work in music, film and publishing with his wife, Rita. Together they published several bestselling Thinking Tree books with us. They are enjoying a passive income from their work. The titles include: All About Money, which is one of our most popular books, American History, Camera Quest, Gardening and almost all of the Minecraft books.He and his wife are living the life that they want to live, and have been traveling a lot and doing adventures and look forward to raising children someday.

I have a daughter who is going to New York City because she wrote a musical which is being produced by a Broadway team. They are workshopping her musical on Time Square this spring. It’s pretty exciting stuff! She and our daughter Rachel are a team and they’ve been working together with the director who produced Newsies, Grease, High School Musical, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers on Broadway. Pretty cool stuff my girls are doing.  Also Rachel works at a macaron shop in Texas and paints paintings that are pretty amazing.

Our daughter Esther lives in Honolulu, supporting herself, and she has a booming photography business. She’ll work 4-5 months, save up money, and then go traveling. And then repeat!

Our daughter Naomi has a dog accessories business and she keeps buying horses. She’s living the dream. The cool thing about our kids and how we Fun-School is they are already living the dream right now. Life isn’t something that happens when they graduate. Life is going on right now and they are planning their days, what they want to do, what they are going to be, what they want to pursue. Our kids have businesses and incomes and are making all the money they need to do all the stuff kids want to do. I’ve had 5 kids turn 18 or 19 and move out, and I don’t support them anymore. They support themselves.

I’d say they are thriving.

Are You Raising Clever Kids?

The whole point of Fun-Schooling is learning how to raise clever children. So, let’s talk about the meaning of the word “clever”. When we hear people talk about education, and what parents are supposed to do to raise kids that are going to be successful and get good educations, we don’t usually hear the word “clever”.

This is the essential meaning of “clever”:

“Intelligent, able to learn things quickly, intelligent thinking, funny in a way that shows intelligence, skillful, mentally quick, resourceful, marked by wit and ingenuity”. 

Webster’s Dictionary

How do we do raise clever kids? By encouraging curiosity, exploration, and wonder–and throwing out all that curriculum that puts your kid in a box where he or she does not belong.

Raising clever kids, especially clever kids with character and curiosity, doesn’t happen in the same way that you raise kids who make good grades. It’s different. I’m not talking about raising kids that are good at taking tests.  I’m talking about raising kids that know how to be creative in life, how to find solutions, and how to love learning.

Let’s talk about what Fun-Schooling is. If you already read my previous backstory on Fun-Schooling, then you know a little about my story and how I started homeschooling when I was 14 by pulling myself out of public school (and all its drama) with the help of my mom and dad. We went a totally different way with our homeschooling. Nobody was telling anybody how to homeschool back 21 years ago. We went to the library and got a whole bunch of books about everything I was curious about.

Do you know that true learning is fueled by curiosity? I want you to think for a minute about all the materials and things you are using with your kids. Do they inspire curiosity? Do they answer the questions that your child has about life? Kids naturally want to figure out how to grow up and do things. Some people a long time ago got an idea that there’s a whole bunch of content that you have to put in a child’s brain and make them memorize so that they can be successful. You aren’t raising kids to be clever that way. You are raising kids who try really hard to memorize things, and then forget it.  I want to raise kids who have skills. I want to raise kids who never lose the wonder and curiosity they had when they were five.

Think about your kids when they were five. They were like, “Why is the sky blue? Why does a cat have fur?” Kids don’t have to lose that curiosity and wonder. Traditional schooling methods take that away, and destroy it. Typical schooling methods tell the child what to learn and to stop asking questions. Memorize the facts If a child is good at memorizing things, then he or she is considered to be a good student by the system.

So many kids cannot memorize…and most of the they are being made to memorize doesn’t matter. Kids will ask, “When am I going to use these things in real life, Mom? Why do I have to learn this? It means nothing to me.”

Guess what? They’re right. Most of it they are never going to use, and a lot of it isn’t really even a building block for their future learning. It’s just a way to move on to the next grade.

Let’s fuel curiosity and raise a generation of clever kids.

Raising Kids Who Are Thinkers

I’m the girl who could not handle structured schooling, it’s because I’m too much of a leader. In the 1980s, when I was in school, it was common for girls to be more easily manipulated by an authoritative system. It was expected of girls to give in, and learn in silence.

Traditional school works so hard to create submissive students. It crushes leaders.

Many boys are also natural leaders and don’t submit quickly to a authoritative system. It’s actually a good quality! Many kids, like me, resist submission, more and more these days. But schools tend to squelch individuality.

Schools don’t raise up leaders. We often are trying to push our kids into submissive learning, and that’s the main idea of socialized public schools. Get all kids to conform, make them good employees and obedient citizens. What are they trying to REALLY do? Create a population that doesn’t ask hard questions.

THINKING moms want to nurture THINKERS and LEADERS. May your homeschooling style reflect the truest of your values and the most precious of your goals.

What does it mean to raise a THINKER?

  • You may raise a child who will question the religion they grew up with.
  • You may raise a child who will question what they hear on the news.
  • They may question the information in their college textbooks.
  • They may question your morality.
  • They may question their future boss.
  • They may question pop culture.
  • They may question family stereotypes.
  • They may question popular political policies.
  • They may question the motives of loved ones.
  • They may question traditional values.
  • They may question law enforcement.
  • They may question the traditional historic narrative.
  • The may question their identity.
  • They may question their heritage.
  • They may question the main stream thought cycle.
  • They may question the wisdom of debt.

Can we all agree we want to raise THINKING children who are brave enough to question everything? Even traditional values and popular reasoning.
If you say you want to raise a THINKER but will shun your child if they ask uncomfortable questions, you are not really raising a thinker.

My teens all went through a stage of deeply questioning my faith, values and political perspective. For example some of them came through this period of intense questioning with a decision to be part of a church that is not like the one they grew up in.

Are you okay with raising thinkers? It’s risky! You may try to say “Be a thinker… but never question…”
And don’t forget kindness, compassion, understanding and personal liberty in the process!