Don’t Rush Your Children

If there was one message I believe the homeschool community needs, it’s this:


This is not based on my feelings or my wishes; it’s based on some remarkable (even shocking) reasonings.

Consider this:

All of the learning necessary for success in high school can be accomplished in only two or three years of formal skill study.

William Rohwer, from The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook*

After homeschooling our 15 children for the last 34 years, I can say that academically this is true. If you stripped education of everything except what was necessary to be able to become a life-long learner (the tools–reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic) it would only take a few years.

And here’s an anecdote that my shock you:

When Dr. J. T. Fisher, later “dean” of American psychiatrists, started school at thirteen, unable to read or write, and graduated from a Boston high school at sixteen, he thought he was a genius until he found that any “normal” child could do the same.

The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook

The Army Got it.

People who know I homeschool have giving me numerous old textbooks over the years. One of them was a graded reader for the high school level published in the 1950’s. In it was the tale of an army literacy school set up during WWII. I read the account with great interest, and have done some research into it.

Turns out, during both WWI and WWII the draftees (remember, these were randomly selected persons from all strata of society; rich and poor alike) were given a basic literacy test, and about 25% did not pass. In WWI that mean that 700,000 were considered illiterate, and in WWII 750,000 were not acceptable for lack of basic literacy.

However, in 1942, more men were needed, so the US government decided to allow 10 of the 25% to re-enter, as long as they were deemed “trainable.” These men were then enrolled in a special program. They were put in well-funded training units with qualified teachers and specifically-designed course materials.

In this program, they were able to take 95% of these men who could not read or write at a first-grade level and bring them to a third-grade level in just two months!

Did you read that right? These men were able to take a leap of two or three grade levels in reading, writing, and arithmetic (the army readers were a mix of reading and arithmetic) in just 60 days.

Why is this important?

Because it confirms the idea that it doesn’t take huge amount of time to teach basic academics if a child is ready.

It means we can relax.

It means we can enjoy the years we have with our children, and that the academics should never, ever even come close to taking six hours of every day.

John Taylor Gatto once said that basic academics only take 50 contact hours of teaching–and I believe him (these are hours being taught by a teacher, not the hours the student spends studying on his own).

But the child must be ready.

You can take a child of early age and try and cram all sorts of information in, and he may or may not receive it, but will it be of help to him when he is 10 or 12 years old? Will all of the pushing and prodding and worry and frustration pay off later?

Consider the sad account of the life of William Sidis. His father, Harvard psychology professor Boris Sidis, decided he would make a super-baby out of him. So, he started while William was still in his crib with flash cards that enabled his son to read at a very early age. Then the lad progressed quickly and was able to write in both French and English by the age of four and by five could write about anatomy.

But he also was developing a silly giggle whenever he was stressed, and was unable to function well. At 14 he gave his first Harvard lecture but afterward was so hysterical that he was taken to a sanitarium. He told the press he only wanted to live like a normal person. He eventually ended up working as a clerk in a store. Saddest of all, he died at 44, not wanting to have anything to do with the father who pushed him so fiercely.

Study after study has shown that children who are pushed into academics at early ages do not have an advantage over children who learn the basics when older. For so many, especially boys, their senses, coordination, neurological development and cognition are not ready to receive targeted study.

However, once they are ready, they take off like rocket ships. I have had a few of these “sleeper” geniuses in my house! Oh, how the relatives fretted and fumed (and became abusive) of these children–but they have since gone on to shock them all as bright, successful adults. When I take them all and compare them as grown-ups, you cannot see any difference.

Schools, colleges, curriculum peddlers, and social engineers do not want us to become aware of just how little time basic education takes. A long, slow education process gives the movers and shapers more time to work on little minds to mold them into societal “norms” (like the baby elephant chained to a stake so that when it grows up it does not know it can pull the stake up and become free).

If we forced all parties to teach in the most efficient manner (as the army schools were able to do), it is conceivable that “school” could begin at the age of 10 or 12 and be concluded by the age of 14 or 16. The time before could be spent on developing their bodies, getting outside, basic reading and practical math, study of scriptures and home life skills. The years after “school” could be devoted to application in the areas of vocation, and afterwards for scholarly pursuits. Even college and university studies could be shortened by more concentration on the subject area and less “liberal arts” (or dibs and dabs of useless information) so that one could be completely college-educated by the age of 20.

After homeschooling for these last three decades, I have found that, at a certain point, the children begin taking their education in their own hands and learning everything they can on the subjects in which they are interested in and they perceive will be most helpful.

I actually have a podcast in which I give more information (and some giggles) here:

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10 thoughts on “Don’t Rush Your Children”

  1. You’ve been homeschooling as long as I’ve been alive I totally agree with this Sherry! I especially notice how useless the early academics are. My children have naturally learned to read around age 7 and a half or 8 with some light phonics work with me and following along as I read aloud. And suddenly they catch up and surpass their peers learning phonics for years in school!

  2. Sherry,

    I agree with you! No need to push kids who are not ready. And don’t get me started on useless information cramming just for the sake of it! My question for you is: how do you know when a child is ready vs not ready and when it’s a character issue? I have a 13 year old son who can read but hates to. He has been a struggling learner his whole life. He is bright but is restless and bored with academics. It is a struggle getting more than an hour or two of sustained work out of him each day. He is nowhere near ready for high school level work. It’s the same with chores or really anything- he’s quick to get restless and give up. He loves video games but even gets tired of them. It’s difficult to figure out what he’s good at and passionate about because he’s always petering out energy and focus wise. He does like exploring nature but we live in a stuffy neighborhood where he can’t do but so much exploration without getting into trouble. He’s also profoundly lonely because it’s hard for him to make friends. I’m not sure what direction to go with him.

    • I think I’ve been where you are a couple of times! I know it’s hard, but this is just a tough age. You might want to check out “Future Men: Raising Boys to Fight Giants” by Douglas Wilson (he might even enjoy reading it). This is what came instantly into my mind, so it truly could be from God for you 🙂

    • I’ve heard from others to cut out the video games and see what happens. Something about the way video games cause neuro pathways that make it really hard to focus on things that are hard. Just a thought!

    • I have a fidgety child and a focused child. I have found that puzzles and puzzle books hold their attention well for at least a few weeks at a time. One favorite is the Brain Games Sticker by number books. I know they have quite a few animal themes, they might also have other themes more suited towards teens? I also plan on incorporating many puzzle and logic books once they are older and using it as a part of their math curriculum; The Critical Thinking Company has a lot of wonderful books like these and I think they are currently having a sale 🙂
      Aside from math, our only priority focus is our Bible/Character study. We don’t do a lot of strict language arts and I don’t think we will until we hit MS/HS. I mean how many times over does a child want to tell you the definition of a noun or a verb? Am I right, lol?

  3. Hello. This is my first time posting here, I watched all your videos and read all the blogs about homeschool,
    you really opened my eyes and brain how education works.5 Years ago I ordered a box of CLE curriculum and how my heart sank when it was not working. I was totally blaming myself and so did my friends. Because I was Elementary teacher for 4 and half years, so I should know right? So I turned to Charlotte Mason but oh how different life is being a teacher or a mom with my own kids. Thank you for all your encouragement.

    • I am so glad I could be an encouragement to you! I think we all start at about the same place and eventually come to the same conclusions because they are just the truth about how things work.


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