624: Andrew Pudewa on Any Family Can Homeschool (& Why You Should Consider It)

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Andrew Pudewa on Any Family Can Homeschool (& Why You Should Consider It)
Wellness Mama » Episode » 624: Andrew Pudewa on Any Family Can Homeschool (& Why You Should Consider It)
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624: Andrew Pudewa on Any Family Can Homeschool (& Why You Should Consider It)
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I’ve considered myself a homeschooling mom ever since my oldest was born (so 16 years now)! Every day of my 6 kids’ lives is part of their homeschool journey. And it’s been quite an exciting and sometimes challenging journey. Which is why I’m so excited to be talking with Andrew Pudewa today.

I was recently on Andrew’s podcast but today we’re talking all about homeschooling: why any family can do it and why you might want to consider it. Andrew is the founder and director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing. And he speaks around the world on topics related to teaching, writing, thinking, spelling, practical experience, and more.

Today’s conversation centers around common homeschooling myths and how you can get started. Things like homeschoolers aren’t socialized or it takes too much time. We also touch on how college isn’t what it used to be and why almost any high school student can finish some (or all) of their undergrad college classes during high school.

We discuss what kids really need to know in life, and what employers are actually looking for (hint: it’s not math skills!). I’m really excited to share this episode with you and I hope you’ll join Andrew and me and listen in!

Episode Highlights With Andrew

  • Why the pandemic led to an increase in homeschooling but why this is still happening even with schools open now
  • Homeschooling vs other alternative education options
  • Do homeschooled kids actually not get enough opportunities for socialization?
  • Why homeschooling can take much less time than regular school and still accomplish just as much
  • Why boredom can be a good thing and the downside of how much we’ve eliminated it
  • How to teach as a homeschool parent even if there are topics you don’t know yourself
  • The way high school kids can take college enrollment courses virtually and get credit
  • How to get started homeschooling if you’ve never tried it before, including how to know your state’s requirements
  • What bedtime story culture is and why he feels it is so important
  • Can homeschool students still go to college? Yes, but is that the best option?
  • Why he shares my opinion that entrepreneurship is a great way to teach life skills
  • Reading out loud to children is the number one predictor of writing skills in adults and the number one predictor of adults who like to read
  • Shockingly, over 2/3 of high school age students have not read one book in the previous year
  • Parting advice: the least important part about growing up is academics. Why? When you look at great people, many of them didn’t even do great in school but they made huge contributions to the world because of their character

Resources We Mention

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Katie: Hello, and welcome to the Wellness Mama Podcast. I am Katie, from wellnessmama.com. And this episode is all about why any family can homeschool and why you might want to consider it. I’m here with Andrew Pudewa,who I got to be on his podcast recently. He’s the Founder and Director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing. He’s a dad of seven. And he travels and speaks around the world, addressing issues related to teaching, writing, thinking, spelling, music, with clarity, insight, practical experience, and humor. He does seminars for parents, and students, and teachers. And he’s helped many a reluctant writer become a much better writer and a powerful writer.
And he also has a lot more to his bio than that. But I was really excited to have this conversation with him, where we got to tackle some of the most common reasons families think they can’t, or shouldn’t, or won’t homeschool, and how some of these might apply to you. We talk about homeschooling versus other alternative education options, and why homeschooling is still on the rise even now that schools are back open after the pandemic.
We talk about why the myth that homeschool kids don’t get enough socialization. We talk about why homeschooling can take so much less time than even driving your kids to and from regular school. We talk about why boredom can be a good thing, and the downside of having eliminated it. How to teach as a homeschool parent even if you don’t know the content yourself. The way that high school kids can take online college enrollment courses virtually and get credit while they’re still in high school. How to get started homeschooling if you’ve never homeschooled before. He talks about something he called bedtime story culture and why it’s so important. We talk about can homeschool kids still go to college? And the answer is, yes, but should they? We talk about entrepreneurship as a teaching tool. We talk about reading out loud to children. He shares the shocking statistic that only two thirds of high school students have not read one single book in the past year. And much, much more.
So, a very wide-ranging episode with a lot of important takeaways, even if you don’t homeschool or plan to. So, without further ado, I know you will enjoy this conversation, and let’s join Andrew. Andrew, welcome. Thanks for being here.
Andrew: Oh, it’s such an honor. I said to someone this morning, I’m more excited about this than if I had been invited to the White House.
Katie: Oh, well, that’s a huge honor. Thank you. I’m also more excited about this than if I had been invited to the White House. And this is a topic that’s very near and dear to my heart. Because I’ve been a homeschooling mom for now, well, since my oldest was born, 16 years, because I consider every day of their life part of homeschool. But we’re gonna go deep on a lot of things related to education and schooling at home today. But before we do, I have two fun notes in my show notes. The first being that you’ve eaten many strange things, including whale meat and scorpions. As a person who’s also eaten probably at least six species of insects and several types of worms myself, I just want to hear what led to those interesting culinary experiences.
Andrew: Well, the first one, I lived in Japan for a few years when I was much younger. And part of the thing that Japanese people would do to foreigners is kind of test their tolerance for what they would perceive as odd things. So, I did okay with pretty much everything, even when I didn’t know what it was. The whale meat just basically tasted like rubber. The one thing I couldn’t do was bazashi, which is, it’s raw, cured horse meat. It was just beyond my mental capacity to do that. And then I was in China teaching over in China, and we had time to tour around. And they had weird insects, you know, in the night market. So, I thought, okay, I’ll get a video of this just to show at least to, you know, my students and my kids that, yep, I can eat scorpions, if I have to, so. The other thing is, I have a tolerance for eating things that taste really bad, if I believe that they’re good for me. So, that’s kind of an interesting thing. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Katie: Oh, good question. I mean, definitely things normal people might consider weird would be, like, I often swallow raw liver in the morning for the availability of nutrients. I’ve eaten everything from mealworms, to crickets, to various types of stinging insects and scorpions as well. None of which are nearly as unpalatable as people might think that they are. Yeah, I don’t know what would be the weirdest. The one I have, and I may butcher the pronunciation, but it’s a specialty where they cook sort of partially formed chicken in the egg. And you eat the chicken with the bones that’s been, like, sort of pickled. That was the one thing I couldn’t handle. That was my line, apparently.
Andrew: Yeah, I’ve heard of that. Yeah. Another one in Japan was baby bees. So it’s bee larva, you know, in mixed in with the honeycomb and the honey and everything, just kind of like crunchy honey. But, you know, some people don’t like that idea of eating a nascent animal rather than an already grown up dead one, I guess.
Katie: Yeah, it is funny. It seems like we have more aversions in the U.S. than other places to a lot of these things. I’ve been slowly learning a little bit of Japanese. And my Japanese name is Hikoko. It was given to me by my friend who knows Japanese, who’s teaching me. But I think anytime we can get cultural experiences from another country, that’s so much fun. And I also have a note that you have a black belt in Aikido, and I’ve been doing martial arts for about the last two years as well. So, I’m curious, was that an adult pursuit, or have you done that your whole life?
Andrew: Well, I started doing karate as a young teenager, I was probably 12 or 13. And I would say that had just a tremendously beneficial formative effect on me in terms of building confidence and giving me a good sense of being in my body, especially during those awkward early teenage years. And then I didn’t do it for a while. And then when I went to Japan, I got into martial arts. I did Aikido, and karate, and Japanese archery, which is called Kyudo. And so that was a big lifestyle thing. And then, unfortunately, I’ve really been completely out of it for the last 15 years, just building a business, having a family. I’m tempted to try and go back and learn some jujitsu. But, you know, I am 62, so I gotta be careful I don’t, you know, seriously hurt myself in the process. But I love the philosophy of Aikido, which is, you know, the redirecting of the aggressive energy from both a spiritual, mental, and physical perspective.
Katie: Yeah, I’ve got to do a little bit of it in the past, and I loved that. That was my favorite part as well. Which what’s fun is, I think all of these things we’ve just talked about in a fun biographical way, touch on the idea of lifelong learning and learning something from every situation we find ourselves in in life. And I know that we share a lot in our philosophies about education, because we’ve gotten to chat a little bit about this before, but I’m excited to go deep with you today. I think maybe to start off in a broad sense. For me, I’ve always homeschooled my children, and I’ve always been a proponent of it. And I was personally homeschooled until high school when I was growing up. But it still seemed like some not many families were willing to consider until the pandemic hit, and then kids were home anyway. And so a lot of families realized that was an easier option than trying to keep up with the schoolwork through these kind of weird systems they had to put together very quickly.
But what surprised me is that it seems like families are still considering it. And we’re still seeing families switch to homeschooling, even though most school situations are now open, and kids are allowed to return to their school environments. And for me personally, this is a reason I’ve started talking more about the homeschooling side on this podcast and on the blog, is because I sort of built my own system for my kids when they were entering school. And in the back of my mind, I always thought, well, when my kids are grown, then I’ll actually turn this into a system other families can use, because it’ll probably be that long before people are willing to homeschool, and before they’re willing to do virtual options. And then of course, the pandemic hit, and now it’s much more widely accepted. But I would love to get your take on that, is, why do you think we are seeing more and more families turning toward homeschooling?
Andrew: It was kind of a perfect storm of circumstances. Indeed, the pandemic saw a huge growth in homeschooling, depending on what statistics you look at, somewhere between a 40% and 100% growth just in that year of 2020. And I, of course, have a business and we do a lot of our business is providing curriculum for not just homeschoolers, but alternative education endeavors. Such as hybrid schools, and charter schools, and online schools, and special programs. And so I think that kind of woke people up to the idea of, oh, okay, my kids could be at home and learn. Another thing I suspect was the way a lot of schools, and most of them were really unprepared for this, but this idea of putting young children in front of a screen for five or six hours a day. I think a lot of parents thought, “That just isn’t good. That doesn’t seem healthy. That’s not kind of a normal way for a child to live such a large number of hours of their life.” And so they kind of said, “Well, okay, if the kids are going to be home, the school’s offering isn’t necessarily what I would consider ideal. Maybe I could take over part of this or all of this.”
We also saw a kind of an opportunity for parents to have a front row seat as to what was going on in the classroom. So, you know, a lot of parents, they put their kids in school, and they really don’t know what’s happening on a day-to-day basis. But now they’re looking at their child, looking at the school on the screen, thinking, “Really? Is that what they do? And so, maybe I could do, you know, better than that, perhaps.” And then parents, a lot of them were forced to stay home and not go to work. So while we’re all here together, we might as well change.
And then along with that was kind of an explosion of support for the homeschooling, or what we might even call accidental, or unintentional homeschoolers. And, you know, we at IEW, did some work. We actually put together a pretty good Facebook group called Unintentional Homeschooling, that has since changed to, you know, Homeschooling Helps. So a lot of people just kind of got into it, thinking, “Okay, well, when things go back to normal…” But then different areas, things didn’t go back to normal, or in the same way.
And there was also a firestorm of people concerned about, you know, some of the…not everywhere, but in some places, kind of a real agenda-driven, a politically-driven agenda, I would guess, coming into the classrooms that a lot of parents just didn’t agree with. So, all of those things coming together. And so we didn’t see really any decline. In fact, we saw continued growth in 2021, 2022, our best year ever. And most of my peers who also work in the homeschool curriculum and support world also seeing the same numbers.
Katie: Yeah. And I was on the phone with many, many friends that over the last few years, who were trying to make this switch and who were a little overwhelmed at the idea of what they thought that was going to look like when they started actually homeschooling their kids. And a couple things that I’ve said for years is that I think, when people say, like, “I can’t believe you have six kids.” I say, “Well, actually, I think six is undeniably easier than when I just had one,” for one. And for two, they’re like, “I can’t believe you homeschool them all.” I’m like, “I actually firmly believe that it’s easier than having them all in schools, especially if they were all in different schools, and I was getting them up at 6 a.m. to get them ready, to drive them there, and my whole life was being a chauffeur instead of being a teacher.”
But understandably, for parents who have never homeschooled or considered homeschooling until the last few years, it is a big adjustment. And I think often, the fear of what that adjustment’s gonna look like can keep a lot of families from being open to considering it. And I know, as a homeschooling mom, there are many objections that we encounter from people who have lots of opinions about homeschooling. So I’d love to sort of just jump into some of those now and tackle them with both data and experience from both of us, and give a more realistic expectation.
Andrew: Excellent. Yeah, let’s do it.
Katie: Okay. So some of the most common ones I definitely get are the socialization aspect, the fact that I don’t have a teaching degree, the amount of time it’s going to take. And I think some of these also stem from the expectation of parents thinking they need to recreate what a traditional school environment would look like at home, and keep their kids sitting down for eight hours, with very defined changes in subject, and schedule, and everything kind of running like you would in a school. And I know there’s so much within each of those, but maybe let’s start with those as common objections.
Andrew: Sure. Yeah, the socialization question is always one that, you know, is on the forefront of people’s mind. Well, what if my kids aren’t having this opportunity to learn to get along in a social environment? And when you think about it, an age-segregated classroom, where everyone in the whole room, except for the teacher, is approximately the same age, plus or minus four and a half, five months, is really a very unnatural kind of environment. There’s nowhere else in society that we do that. You know, it’s very easy to point out to parents and say, “Do you think children learn good habits, good attitudes, good behaviors, from other children their same age?” Most people think about that for a moment and go, “Well, I guess not. Not really. I mean, they’re more likely to kind of sink down to the lower common denominator of attitude, behavior, motivation. So how do we learn good attitudes, and habits, and behaviors? Well, usually from people who are further down the path of life than we are.
And so, when you meet homeschool kids, very often, you know, they are spending more of their time with children who are older and/or younger than they are, especially in a big family like yours and mine. And if you’re in a homeschool coop, or, you know, that kind of group, that social environment, they’re much more likely to interact with other people’s children who are also a year, or two, or three, or five, older and/or younger.
And so, what I notice is that homeschool kids tend to kind of be socially superior, in that, they’re comfortable talking to other adults. They’re comfortable being in an environment with kids who are considerably older. They tend to have a little bit more natural development of leadership, and coaching, and mentoring of younger children. So, in a way, homeschooling is the best circumstance for good socialization, because you have the best opportunity for them to grow in some of these ways that we would like to see. Whereas when you put, you know, 27 nine-year-olds in one room together for six hours a day, even the best of teachers can’t really overcome that kind of, I don’t know… Like I said, kind of the lowest common denominator effect. Like, if we’re going to get along, you’re not likely to come up to my level, so I’m going to have to come down to yours. That type of environment.
So that’s really the least of the problems. And oftentimes, one of the best… In fact, I have a friend who basically was really resistant to his wife homeschooling his children, until he went to a homeschool group activity for the first time, and he saw all these kids that were very comfortable talking to him, and interacting with each other across this wide swath of ages and demographics. So, I think there’s more diversity, more opportunity to learn from people of different…not just ages, but different social circumstances and worldviews. So it’s actually more diverse. And it’s actually better for socialization. So that’s usually one of the easier ones to get people to go, “Yeah, I can see that.”
Katie: Agreed. And I think my kids still get exposure to kids closer to their age as well through sports or through activities. But like you said, the majority of their time, they’re getting a more diverse age range in who they’re interacting with. And I consider myself extremely fortunate that my parents live close by, and they’re both retired, and so they are involved with the kids in a homeschooling capacity as well. So they’re actually getting kind of three generations all at once. And they’re interacting often with their grandparents’ friends, and I love them getting that. And I feel like, like you said, they’re getting to learn from people older and wiser than them. And they’re learning how to interact with adults, which is something that they are going to do themselves as adults when they get there.
The other big one I hear from moms that probably comes up as the biggest objection is, that they don’t have time. And my response to this is always that, once you actually integrate that habit of homeschooling, I find it takes less time to actually homeschool my kids than most people spend in the car, and arranging all the logistics of just taking their kids to and from school. But I would love your take on this, because I think this is one of the big ones that stops a lot of families from considering it.
Andrew: Yeah. One of the misconceptions I think a lot of people have is that somehow, they have to spend as much time homeschooling their children as their children would be in school. And I’ve been in a lot of schools. I’ve taught in schools, I’ve done a lot of observation and professional development for teachers. And I will, you know, quite honestly say that even in the best schools, more than half the time is just spent on logistics, and kid management, and discipline, and kind of just organizational issues that don’t necessarily translate into direct learning. And when you realize that, you kind of get to this point where you think, “Wow, if I could get two or three good hours a day, that’s actually more net learning time than most kids get in six or more hours of being in an institution that has to manage all that stuff.” So there’s an efficiency there that you can tell people about, but they don’t necessarily believe it until they experience it.
The other thing we see is that, you know, everybody wants independent learners, right, and lifelong learning. This is, you know, wonderful kind of buzzwords. But schools aren’t well equipped to help kids do this, because you’re trying to take a group of kids, kind of move them through a curriculum, you know, according to the same schedule, doing most everything in the same way, to get the same predictable result. Kind of like, you know, a machining kind of thing. And, of course, the two problems with that are, number one, all kids are different. So, what does work with one child doesn’t necessarily work in the same way or at all with another child. And so this kind of institutional model that treats all children as being the same in certain ways, does end up failing certain kids. You know, especially in a special needs circumstance, or you have a double what they call a twice exceptional child. One who’s, like, super smart in certain ways, but then has difficulties, maybe dyslexia, ADHD, or something. So they don’t do well in these hyper structured environments. So, that idea of homeschooling so that kids can learn how to learn on their own.
And the advantage there is, yes, you have a lot of kids and you’re busy. So what do they have to do? Well, they have to occupy themselves. You know, I think one of the sad things about modern life is, we’ve kind of eliminated the idea of boredom as being a good thing. Whereas maybe, you know, 100 years ago, like, you’re bored? Great, go make something, read a book, occupy yourself. That’s your problem, not mine. Whereas so many kids today, I think they have, not even intentionally, just environmentally have adopted this idea, I have a right to be constantly entertained. And so, teachers feel that obligation. There’s a word that I kind of dislike, you’ll hear it in the education world, edutainment. Like, somehow in order to teach children, we have to entertain them at the same time. No. Education, we want it to be engaging, but it doesn’t have to be entertaining in the sense that I’m there creating this amusement for your benefit. No, you can set up projects, and circumstances, and opportunities.
So, if you get a little bit of focused time with a child, and then give them a chance to go and apply that, or experiment with it, or go read on their own and come back and check in to you, in a way, it’s almost like the one room schoolhouse was 150 years ago. Where, yeah, you had one teacher… I know a man who his first teaching job was in a one room schoolhouse. He had 47 children between the ages of 6 and 16. All by himself, in rural Saskatchewan, and no electricity. He said it was actually one of the easier teaching jobs he ever had, because all the kids knew what to do. And if one of them had a problem, they would go to a different child in the class, an older one, and not pester him because he was busy. And so he would have a little bit of time and, you know, do spelling with the grade six, and then do spelling with the grade five, and spelling with the grade four. And then he would do geography. And everybody was doing their math on their own, and writing. So it was kind of like this big, big, big homeschool, where the kids knew what to do, because they had been set up to take care of themselves.
And then he ended up moving to Vancouver, he got a job teaching fifth grade, everybody was the same age. He said the hardest teaching job he ever got. Because if one child had a problem, everybody had a problem. And there was nobody to help each other. So I think we see kind of that a homeschool is a little bit like that one room schoolhouse that promotes independence, interaction, and learning from, and teaching each other, if you’ve got, you know, a few kids to be doing that. Homeschool coops sometimes look the same way. So, I guess the bottom line is, if you have a little bit of time to work with a child independently, and then give them the freedom, they will naturally be able, gradually, it may take a period of adjustment, but they will naturally be able to become self-motivated, independent learners. And I’m sure you’ve seen that in your family. In fact, I know it from little things you’ve said about your kids over the time I’ve been a fan of your podcast.
Katie: Yeah, absolutely. I think you’re right. There can be an adjustment period, especially if kids are more used to being entertained all day long and having structure given to them. But at the end of the day, that motivation eventually must come from inside. Like, we can’t be our kids’ constant exogenous motivation. And when they’re adults, they’re going to need things like self-discipline and self-motivation. And those come from learning by doing in those moments of boredom or having to figure something out themselves. And I think also for people who are new to homeschooling, I found that the environment helps a lot. So if you put time into curating your environment of your home, it helps forgive a lot of these, like, they don’t get bored as much. It answers questions. And structure within the home as well. But even more so, like, we have a craft room, a DIY room where they can go play, and do projects, and invent anytime they want. And they have an outdoor workshop where they can go build things. And they learn so much by piddling, and doing that, and using wood scraps, or whatever it may be. Same thing with, like, books are the only unlimited item in our budget. So if the kids want a book, we will always buy the book. That’s one thing they can always count on me to buy them.
And I think just little things like that help them learn those inner skills versus them being exogenous. So I think that’s one of the benefits I’ve seen, certainly with homeschooling with my kids. And one of the reasons I say completely, genuinely, it is easier than if I was taking them to school, even though I’m technically teaching them and doing what would seem like more work, it’s actually in the long term, much less work. And we also, in our house, have a focus on something called life skills. And the memes abound about all the things people wish that school had taught them, like, doing their taxes, or how to change a tire or whatever it may be. And instead, they learned how to play the recorder or whatever. But I took those to heart and realized I have this amazing opportunity to teach my kids applicable life skills that I have to do anyway, whether it’d be helping with the tax returns, whether it’d be changing an electrical outlet when it goes out, or whether it’d be cooking, a huge one, obviously, or any kind of project around the house. And so we do life skills as essentially sort of a subject in school, but with the idea that I want them to be fully functioning adults who have a baseline of knowledge to be able to tackle anything that life throws at them.
And I think the root of that also is really nurturing that love of learning and constantly wanting to learn. Because when my kids were first entering school and I was looking at, how do I actually prepare them for adult life in today’s world? The answer in an honest fashion is somewhat I don’t know, because we don’t fully know what the world is going to look like when they’re adults. And my job didn’t exist when I was entering kindergarten. So no one could have directly prepared me for it. But what helped me so much was that my parents really instilled a love of learning and gave me skills to be able to learn new things rapidly. So I realized if I can nurture those things in my kids, whatever adult life gives them, they will have some foundational skills to be able to tackle whatever that is and to enjoy it.
Another one I hear from parents a lot is that it’s too much work. That homeschooling will be too much work, too much effort. And I now know there are so many resources, including all the ones you have, but so many resources that make it so much easier than it was when people first started homeschooling. But what’s your answer to the, it takes too much work?
Andrew: Yeah, absolutely, there’s so much more than… You know, we started homeschooling over 30 years ago. And so, yes, the resources available have changed so radically, not just curriculum that comes in books, but the online resources. And this kind of fits in with that other objection you mentioned, which is, oh, I don’t have a teaching degree. You know, I’m not an expert. Well, you know, first of all, if you finished high school, you did experience learning almost everything that people today learn, possibly even more given the fact that, you know, reading levels, and test scores, and things have kind of been in decline for, well, many decades. But the great thing is, is, if you don’t know something that you believe your students should learn, there are people who do. And with technology now, there’s video classes, and online classes, and interactive opportunities. And as I’ve mentioned, you know, live groups where you can go once a week and take a class from an expert. So, you know, I know for my wife, and it’s ironic because she actually does have a degree in elementary education. But in a way, it was almost a handicap because she felt like, “Okay, I have to do school at home.”
But she was always nervous. Like, “I don’t remember math. I don’t remember how to multiply or divide fractions. I’m not good at algebra. I don’t think I remember any algebra.” And, okay, well, but you slogged through it once, you can learn right along with your kids again. And when you hit a point where you can’t necessarily keep up, that’s when you can bring in experts through the virtual opportunity. But, you know, this learning with kids, it’s really such an amazing thing to do. I’ll give you an example. When we lived in California, our kids… We’ve always kind of been in the classical education world, increasingly more so over the years. But my kids in California had a Latin teacher. So the older ones got a few years of Latin from a Latin teacher, and I wasn’t really involved. My wife would drive them there, and they would do homework, and I would see the book. But I didn’t know anything. And then when we moved to Oklahoma, out in the middle of nowhere, there is nothing. And I happened to listen to a talk called “The Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Teach Latin,” or “Why Your Kids Should Learn Latin” or something. And I was so convicted by this talk, I thought, “Oh, I really want my younger children to get this as well. But there’s nobody to do it. Oh, no, I guess I’m gonna have to do it.”
So I said, “Well, if they could learn it, I could learn it.” So I got a Latin curriculum, I got the video, I got the books, and I just started teaching first year Latin. And I taught some other people’s kids along with mine, so it would be a formal class. And we met twice a week. And I did that for six years. And I will tell you that I know it was good for the kids, but I think it was even more enriching for me to have to work through something that, you know, required stretching me… I think I studied twice as much as most of them, because the old brain problems. But I learned so much from teaching something that I didn’t already know. It also kind of keeps you humble to realize, wow, okay. You know, we get into our areas of expertise, and our knowledge and skill is always there. But to then teach something that’s new, you realize kind of what it’s like to have that beginner’s mind, and take a complex thing, break it down into tiny, tiny little steps, learn, practice, absorb, master, learn, practice, absorb, master, and go on. So I would just encourage any parent who is afraid that they don’t already know everything that they want their kids to learn. That is not a problem if you, yourself, are willing to learn along with your kids. And in a way, it makes it a whole lot more fun.
Katie: I agree. And I actually took…well, my parents did Greek and Latin roots with me when I was younger, and then I took four years of high school Latin as well, which I was surprised our high school offered. And I will say it’s been one of the more useful things I actually learned in public school, in that it helped a ton on the SAT, which we can talk about the whole college thing in a minute. But also now being in the health world and reading a lot of medical journals, having that Latin background helps a lot when I’m encountering new terms in the medical stuff that I may not know. I can usually figure it out pretty easily based on the Latin roots of it.
On a tactical side, a couple of things. Well, first of all, I love your recommendation that you don’t have to know all these things. And it really is fun to learn side by side with my kids. And a few tactical ways we do that, that I think are fun that other families can implement. The first was a recommendation from a friend, and we’ve done it for years, which is to start every day with three TED Talks on three separate topics. And the reasoning behind this was that kids are natural pattern recognizers, because that’s so much of how they learn. And they’ll try to draw correlations and patterns. And if you give them unrelated TED Talks, they’ll start trying to think of ways in which those things can work together. So if you show them one on maybe pollution, and one on robotics, and one on something to do with biology, maybe one day those seeds will be planted for them to figure out a way to combat plastic in the ocean using some kind of, like, fungus, or some kind of new technology, or whatever it may be.
But that’s one of the ways I feel like we get to learn from the best in the world, about the topics they know the best. And they’ve compiled their whole amount of research into this 14- or 15-minute talk. And then the kids are getting exposed to that on a daily basis. We also do a subject called topics, which is for about 15 minutes, everybody just researches something that they find interesting, and kind of keep, like, a little journal of it. And those have been fun because they’ve sort of become like De Vinci style journals of random knowledge that each of the kids have. And it’s just constantly kind of sparking that curiosity.
But circling back to the Latin thing. So I said that was one of the things that helped me the most with the SAT, which I did really well on. My parents were very focused on getting a college scholarship, going to college. And that was the reason I went to public high school, was to make that process easier. I have a much different take with my kids. But I think this is also an objection for a lot of families is, will my kids be able to get into college if I homeschool them? So I’d love for you to take that one on?
Andrew: Well, the quick answer is, absolutely, not a problem at all. Because colleges, for the most part, look at home schoolers as being above average in terms of qualified, motivated, likely to stay in school and do well. Statistically, homeschoolers do better than the average in all measures of success. But I would back up a little bit, and I would almost question whether it’s necessary to even walk the same route of, we do high school, so we can get into college, so that we can get a degree, so that we can get a good job. And, you know, honestly, if you look at the rigor of most undergraduate programs today, four-year bachelor’s level programs, especially for the first two years, the rigor required is below that which was required in high schools 60, 70 years ago. In fact, it’s probably below the level of rigor required for an eighth-grade graduation in 1900.
So, what’s happened is that college curriculums have, you know, and there are exceptions, but gradually the rigor has been lowered. So that a college class, for example, a college first year chemistry class, a semester long class is about the same level of complexity as a high school chemistry class. And the only difference, and they all acknowledge this, is that in high school, you do it for a year, and in college, you do it in a semester. But in terms of the challenge level and the complexity, it’s about the same.
So I actually have a talk that I’m going to be doing this year at homeschool conventions, called, Hacking High School: Rethinking the Teenage Years. And one of my goals for this talk is to point out that, right now, it is possible for almost any kid of 15 or 16 years old or older, who can read decently well, rate decently well, and knows basic math facts, to enroll in college level classes while they are in high school. This is sometimes called concurrent or dual enrollment. And so I have dozens and dozens of friends, more than I can count probably, whose kids at 15, 16, 17, are homeschooled, but they’re taking one or two, or even three or four college level courses, either online, or at a community, or junior, or technical school.
And so what you can do now is you can basically start college at 14 or 15, start banking credits. By the time you would be old enough to “graduate” from high school, you already have enough credits for an associate’s degree or beyond. I know a few people who actually finished high school at 18 or 19 with a bachelor’s degree. So, this is very, very doable. And one of the great things, well, there’s many good things about this. Number one, they can take these college classes while they’re still living at home. So that if they are having a difficulty, or maybe there’s some content that is, you know, something they haven’t encountered before, they may be don’t quite know how to deal with that teacher, or that text, or whatever, they can talk to you. They can talk to mom and dad and sort through that. Whereas if they’re off living in a dormitory, who are they going to talk to? Another advantage is that if you get a bad class, you know, a teacher that’s just not engaging, or attentive, or it just completely disagrees with your value system, you can drop the class and you don’t really lose that much. Because enrolling in a dual or in concurrent enrollment situation, it’s a whole lot cheaper than if you’re enrolling in a full time college class.
So, you can get a year, or two, or more of college credits for a fraction, I’m talking a third to a 10th of the price of what it would cost to go, you know, sit in even a public university classroom for two years. So, there’s that advantage as well. And, you know, if you do it right, you don’t really ever have to even take the SAT. You know, for example, at Tulsa Community College here, where I live, all you need to do to be able to enroll in TCC classes, is pass a reading test. And if you can read at a high enough level, boom, you can take the classes. And then some of, you know, the private, smaller, Christian liberal arts colleges, they love these online classes with homeschoolers, because that’s where they will draw some of their student pool from. So if a child enrolls in this class or takes a whole series of classes, and yeah, maybe they got a year of credits banked up. Well, they loved the school, why wouldn’t I consider actually going there to finish my degree. So there’s a lot more that could be said, but the opportunity for dual enrollment or concurrent enrollment, to me, is one of the best deals going right now, for people who want to look at alternatives to the sit in high schools for four years, and then go sit in college and do the same thing again.
Katie: Yeah. My oldest is just entering that world right now, wanting to do that. Even though I’ve sort of discouraged college unless they had a particular thing that actually required college education for all of them since they were little, his, I guess, teenage rebellion, he’s decided he thinks he wants to at least have a law degree. Because he’s like, “Mom, it’s a good thing to have in the family.” So of course, his high school rebellion is going to law school. So he’s trying to knock out his bachelor’s by the time he’s 18, so that he can go straight to law school. So we’re just now entering that world. Any advice for parents on finding those places where they can do dual enrollment or virtual enrollment and still be from home at that time?
Andrew: Oh, gosh, sure. There are so many options. There are programs that will help you as a family put together a series of courses. And oftentimes, these courses don’t even all have to be through the same institutions. So, you can take one class from this school and another class from that school, and then bank those credits inside one format. So, one group I know that doing this is called Unbound. And another group I know has a very much kind of a Christian clientele, is called Christian Halls International, CHI. And I know those people pretty well. In fact, our… Here’s an example proving that high school and college are pretty much the same. We have a video course that we designed as a first-year high school composition and grammar course. It’s called, Structure and Style For Students Year One Level C. We’ve got that approved as a full semester of high school and…I’m sorry, a full semester of college writing through two accredited universities, Southeastern and LeTourneau. And there’s more in the works, through Christian Halls International.
There’s also, you know, lots of schools that you can go directly to, again, in the Christian world. Liberty University probably has the largest number of online students as well as dual enrollment students. But there are certainly some schools that are not Christian colleges, but they also do this. So, I would say just do an easy search. And, you know, if anyone really would like to find out as much as possible about what’s available in the homeschool world, both for the dual enrollment and the other curriculum is, just go to a convention. There are conventions in almost every geographic area of the country, larger states like Florida, Virginia, Texas has two, Colorado, California, Washington. There are state homeschool organizations that have conventions. And of course, I usually speak at, you know, somewhere around a dozen of these things every year. And it’s just great. You can wander around the exhibit hall and see everything from robotics, to nutrition, to, you know, online advanced math. And there’s usually at least half a dozen schools there, showing you what they can do in terms of a concurrent enrollment, because they really do love homeschooled teenagers in their programs.
But, you know, you may have to travel a little bit, but I’d say it’s worth it. Because then you kind of get the best information, you can ask questions of people right there, you can meet other people who are doing homeschooling. And while a small percentage of homeschoolers actually go to conventions, I’ve never met anyone who went to a convention and said, “Oh, I wish I hadn’t done that.” Pretty much everyone’s like, “Oh, I’m so excited now.” So, you know, take a look and see what’s available there.
Katie: Yeah, especially if you are new, it’s a great way to get your foot in the door and talk to some families who have done it before, and get answers very quickly, and all in one place, like you said.

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I also love, to circle back a little bit, how you talked about, you know, a lot of times college is just part of that click where cycle of things we’re told, and it’s, so that this, so that this, so that I can get a good job. And one thing I’ve been working on and will be releasing soon is sort of a way to teach kids from an earlier age, alternatives to that, and have them actually get their feet wet, start a business when they’re younger, with even a small goal of just making maybe $500 in their first business. Because having been in the entrepreneurial world myself for 15 years, I now can see, like, so much of what we want to impart to our kids and that help them become functional adults is encompassed in the act of starting a business, from being detail-oriented, to keeping track of finances, to having to work through obstacles, to having to figure out how to solve a problem and provide value to someone else, so that they’re actually willing to buy whatever it is that you’re doing. And so I’ll be releasing that.
But I love that you brought that up as a challenge of many of us, including me, had that story, that I need to go to college so that I can get a good job, so that, so that, so that. And if we kind of break it down to first principles, we now live in a world with so much opportunity that that is often not true, and often not even the best path anymore. So I love that you brought that up. And I feel like we could talk just about the objections all day. But I think we got through some of the big ones. So I want to make sure we cover the positive sides as well. The first being, what are some of the best resources for families who are just getting started, who have not homeschooled before, or who really want to maybe try it but don’t know how?
Andrew: Yeah, probably one of the things people are thinking is, well, what do I have to do to start homeschooling? Like, what are the laws? And because education is really all governed by state law, different states have different requirements for homeschooling. Some are easier than others. Some states, all you have to do is just pull your kids out of school and tell the school district you’re homeschooling, and they forget about you. Other states require you to be in an umbrella program or be registered with some kind of umbrella program. That’s the way it is in California. And I think Florida has something like that. You probably know better. And other states actually require that you, you know, keep records and send those records into someone inside the school district or the governmental structures, to kind of prove that you’re doing something. And I wouldn’t say any state is terribly onerous, some require more than others. But you can find this out very easily by…one website I always send people to is hslda.org. That is the Home School Legal Defense Association.
You can join the HSLDA, which I recommend everybody does, even if you don’t think you would have a need. They are available to help you if someone challenges you on the legality of what you’re doing. But they have a pulldown menu for every state. And you can go and find exactly what the laws are in each state. And you can also find out what are the organizations in your area, either state organizations or sometimes regional organizations. And state homeschool organizations are very important because they do several things. Number one, they’re set up to provide information about homeschooling in your state. So, a little more on what are the laws, what are the resources, university and college requirements for homeschoolers. Another thing they do is they monitor legislation in the state, so that if some Congress person or a senator, state senator, whatever, proposes a law that would affect homeschooling, the state organization is essentially trying to just keep track of that, and challenge things that might not be advantageous to homeschoolers, or promote things that are. I remember Florida had what they called the Tim Tebow law, which was allowing access to public schools sports programs by homeschoolers who live in the state. So, there’s that kind of thing.
And then the last thing would be, the state organizations may or may not have events which may or may not include a whole statewide convention, or regional events, or connection with regional groups that would have their own events just to help with, you know, networking and meeting like-minded people. So, I would start with hslda.org. I would back that up with, you know, just doing a search on homeschool fill in the blank for your state, you know, laws/opportunities, stuff like that. And you should find a tremendous amount of resources.
And then Facebook groups are all over the place. And, you know, there are people who choose to homeschool, and what they want is a real box curriculum. Like, give me everything I need for a sixth grader. And then there’s people who get more into the kind of, you know, sometimes they’ll call it unschooling, or free homeschooling, or unstructured homeschooling. Where, you know, we’re not really worried about grade levels and curriculum that matches. We’re just gonna do these things with our kids. And then there’s…where I live, is kind of in the world of, let’s look at the classical approach. Let’s study those things like grammar, and logic, and rhetoric, and read good and great books together, and look at the rich tradition that we have. And so there’s a, you know, whole area there where people could attach to.
So, there’s probably almost as many, I don’t know, homeschooling styles as there are parents who do it. But I think a lot of people get in one way because they feel safe and comfortable. There’s even, you know, government funded charter school home study programs. So, you know, in certain states, you can actually enroll in a school district, and the school district will provide you with a contact teacher and a budget to buy curriculum. You know, and that’s one way that people kind of get in the door.
But what I’ve noticed is, the longer you’re at it, the more you start to realize, I don’t necessarily need to jump through all those hoops. I don’t need a little stack of books with a number on the cover for all of my kids. There’s lots of things we can do together. And before we lose the time, I want to also let you know, I have been a huge proponent of entrepreneurial education as really, the best form of leadership education. And I’d like to point out this kind of buzzwords people use, college and career readiness. This idiom was first…I think it first appeared in the College Board’s book test specifications for the SAT.
And this idea that somehow academics is important for college and career readiness. Well, I’ve tried a little thought experiment 100 times saying, “Pretend you are a person who has to teach or a person who has to hire and supervise high school graduates. What would you like in these people?” Well, nobody ever says, “Well, I want to be sure they finished Algebra Two, and passed, you know, Western Civ class.” No, everybody says, “Well, integrity, respect, punctuality, teachability, a level of humility.” All of these things that we would like the most in high school graduates are not academic in nature. They are all character, they’re personality, they’re practical experience, school of hard knocks in a way. And I think having a family business is at the very top of options there to develop what would be real true college and career readiness.
Katie: I love that as a thought experiment. I think that really does help you hone in on what are the things I most want to impart to my children while I’m in this education phase with them. And I would add to the list of things, like, communication skills, and relationship skills, and public speaking. Like, these are things as someone who’s also hiring people who are coming out of that college age, that I find it’s hard to find people who have those well rounded skills. And so, I think keeping that front of mind when we’re teaching our kids is a great way to, like, circling back to the beginning, make sure that they’re actually prepared for adult life, and whatever that’s gonna look like for them. Of which there will be many, many options. I also want to make sure we have a little bit of time to talk about something else that I know you’ve talked about before, and I love the term, which is bedtime story culture. Can you explain what that is and why it’s so important?
Andrew: Yeah. So, I teach writing and communication skills. That’s what I have done for decades. That’s what our business is all about. And I realized at one point in the early Os, 2002, ’03, that you can’t get something out of a kid’s brain that isn’t in there to begin with. And what I am really working on is helping kids speak and write in English, with reliably correct and appropriately sophisticated language patterns. And I think it was when I started to work with public schools, I realized the problem here isn’t necessarily on the getting it out, it’s what’s in there to begin with. And what we really need is to have a richer source of reliably correct and appropriately sophisticated language, vocabulary, syntax, idiom, literary, you know, aptitude. We get that in through two ways, main ways. Number one, through books, and number two, through memorized language. And of course, if you go back 150 years ago, that’s all that education was, was essentially reading good and great books, talking about them, and memorizing, you know, poetry, prayers, scripture, excerpts from famous speeches.
And what we see today is that everything has gone so much towards dreams. And kids have, as I mentioned, this kind of right to be entertained. Parents are so busy. Very often, they’re working long hours, they’re shuttling kids back and forth to that, they’re throwing food in the microwave. And then they’re so exhausted from life, all they want to do is plop down in front of a screen and watch something until they have to go to sleep.
And so that idea of reading aloud to children has kind of died out of modern culture. And, you know, I would argue that if what you want is a child who will grow up to read, and speak, and write English as well as possible, the most important thing you can do every day is read out loud to that child for as much time as you have. And that generally occurs in the evening. And if you can replace the screens, and the TV, and the Netflix with reading, you know, bedtime stories, but even whole books, chapter books, reading aloud to children every day, it is the number one predictor of good writing skills in adults, is having been read to a lot at a younger age.
And then that also, having been read to a lot, is the number one predictor of people becoming adults who like to read. And I know probably this won’t surprise you, Katie, but the statistic is pretty frightening. And that is, a super majority, meaning over two thirds of high school age students in the United States today, have not read one book in the previous year. And that is a huge change from even two or three decades ago. And I would view it as a very dangerous and unfortunate change. But I think if we could recapture that habit of put away the entertainment, we’re done. And before we collapse into bed, let’s read to each other for a while. And I’m sure you’ve practiced this, as many of your friends have.
But if I could, you know, go do a TED Talk for, you know, 14 minutes, that would be the message I would try to hone, refine, focus, and push real hard is, if what you want is literate, competent communicators, read out loud to your kids every day, right now, from when they’re toddlers until they leave your home.
Katie: I love that advice. I’m a little shocked for sure by that stat of two thirds of high school students. And I’ve also seen this play out in a multi-generational way. My mom was really good at reading to us when we were young. And I think that really did spark my own love of reading. And then I did that with my own kids. And the beauty of it is it’s not something you actually have to do forever. Like, when I had only toddlers, there were moments where I was like, “I’m going to be reading for the rest of my life out loud.” But they integrate that habit themselves so quickly once they can start reading on their own.
And then now I have my older ones will read to the younger one sometimes. But really, it’s like, once they hit good reading speed on their own… My 13-year-old currently will go through four or five books a week. And I’m just constantly putting books on his Kindle. And that’s his favorite pastime, because that’s what he learned to love when he was young. And like I said, that’s my one unlimited budget item. And he gives me a run for my money on that one. And I’m all for it.
And the memorization side, too. I think there’s this interesting juxtaposition, because on the one hand, we have constant access to the entirety of human information through the internet. So there’s less need to, like, remember all of the knowledge we’ve ever learned and have it available at all times, because we can always reference. But I think there’s something beneficial that happens in the brain when we’re able to memorize.
And I remember my mom had me memorize the entirety of “Paul Revere’s Ride” at one point, and I think pi to a thousand digits at one point. And I think they’re still there. I think I could still do it if I had to. But I think just learning how to retain information, the act of doing it helps you do it in other areas as well. And I know that there’s so much more we could talk about on this, maybe we’ll have to do a round two one day. I hope you get to do that TED Talk, actually, because I would love to hear it. But a few quick wrap up questions. The first being, speaking of books, if there are any that have had a profound impact on your life, and if so, what they are and why.
Andrew: Yeah, that’s always a hard question because there’s so many categories of books. One of the ones I’ve been mentioning a lot to younger families when I talk to them, is “Why We Sleep,” by Matthew Walker. I know you know this book. And you’ve talked about sleep. Everybody in the wellness network has, you know, been so helpful to me. But I think that book had a greater impact because here I am, you know, dad of a growing family. We ended up with seven kids total. I’ve got a business. I am burning the candle at both ends every day. And I spent a couple decades believing that if I slept more than about five, five and a half hours, I was being lazy. And when I listened to Matthew Walker’s book, it absolutely completely readjusted that paradigm. And it helped me understand teenagers and the shift of the circadian rhythm that happens as they go through puberty. And I recommend it to everyone, because I am now firmly convinced that the quality of my function in daily life is very directly affected by the quality and length of sleep. And I just wish I had learned that 20 years earlier.
And that’s, you know, by the way, another… We didn’t even talk on this, but another incredibly important benefit of homeschooling is, your kids can sleep longer. They can get all that morning sun that that you told me is so very, very valuable. They can learn to cook their own food and not have to eat whatever the school gives them. And learn all of those life skills about how to just be healthy, and happy, and emotionally balanced. So I guess if I had to choose one, I would put “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker.
I also read “Eat to Beat Disease” by William Li. And then that moved me kind of into a whole awareness. And my wife always fed me very well, but I started to take a lot of more personal responsibility for my own diet. And that just improved the quality of my life tremendously. And if I had to put one more behind it, I’d probably put “Dante’s Divine Comedy,” which is not easy, but there are some sections in there, in the Inferno and Purgatorio, that really made me think seriously and deeply about things that matter in my life, and parenting, and the spiritual life, and all that. So, I guess, you know, if I’m limited to three, those are the top three.
Katie: I love it. I’ll link to all of those in the show notes as well. I love that you brought up the sleep side. I think now that some of my kids are older, a lot of us have wearables that track sleep. And gamifying and making sleep competitive, where they’re actually trying to get more sleep has been one of the most fun things we’ve done as a family. But 100% echo what you said of, one of the huge benefits I see is that teenagers are supposed to sleep a little bit later. Often normal school schedules don’t allow for that. And my kids just being able to get enough sleep makes home so much calmer and less stressful. Plus all the other benefits of getting to learn how to cook and everything else that you said.
I think my parting advice today on this would be that, if you are on the fence, I would highly encourage you to try homeschooling because it is likely much easier than you think. And you will likely enjoy it much more than you expect to. And I read a blog post that said that we spend something like 97% of the time with our kids that we’re going to spend in their lifetime before they leave home. And that’s hit me pretty hard now that I have a 16-year-old and I’m watching those days tick by.
And so, now I’m even more grateful than I have been in the past, that I’m with them day to day, and I get the that amount of time before they leave. And there’s so many more benefits as well. We’ll have to do another episode. But for you lastly, any parting advice? And where can people find you online and keep learning from you?
Andrew: Sure. Our website is iew.com. It stands for Institute for Excellence in Writing. I have a podcast called The Arts of Language Podcast. My name is pretty rare. Andrew Pudewa, P-U-D-E-W-A. So you can, you know, find anything I’ve written or said pretty easily. And I guess the thing I hope that people will think about, they may not believe me, but I want everyone to think about it. I’m pretty totally convinced, the least important thing about growing up is academics. And a lot of people, they just think that’s the most important thing, that their kids take all these classes, and get good grades. And really, when you look back at great people, a lot of them didn’t even do well in school, but then they made huge contributions to the world. Why? Because of the character, because of the experiences that enriched them. So, you know, if you kind of think about that, your time with your kids is going by fast. The least important thing is the academic side. So don’t misallocate the precious time that you have stressing about getting the homework done to get an A in the class that really isn’t going to have… I mean, it’s good to work hard and get good grades. But that in itself isn’t the value, it’s the experience of having worked hard and learned something. And that can happen in a myriad of educational environments.
Katie: I love it. Well, I think that’s a perfect place to put a pin in it for today. This was a really fun conversation. I do hope we get to do a round two. And as we talked about when I was on your podcast, I hope that I also get to run into you at a homeschool event this year. But thank you for all the work that you’re doing in the world, and for such a fun episode today. I’m very grateful that you were here.
Andrew: Yeah, thank you, Katie. I just love what you do. Keep on inspiring me and all the other millions of people, I’m sure. You are a blessing to all of us trying to be healthy and last longer.
Katie: Well, thank you. And thanks as always to all of you for listening and sharing your most valuable resources, your time, your energy, and your attention with us today. We’re both so grateful that you did. And I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the Wellness Mama Podcast.

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.

Thanks to Our Sponsors

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Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

One response to “624: Andrew Pudewa on Any Family Can Homeschool (& Why You Should Consider It)”

  1. Lacey Avatar

    When will Katie be coming out with her homeschool curriculum that she mentions so often on her podcasts? I’m hoping it’ll be before I’m done homeschooling my 8 year old twins.

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