2015-04-19 Startup life and homeschooling#
Startup or no startup, some things just have to get done. For me, my children's education is so important, it must fit in, no matter what.
Craig and I made the decision to teach our children to read before they started school, at age five.
I believe that the most important child development age is the six months before they turn five. This is the time children create within themselves their identity. Each child will own this identity for the rest of their primary years, and possibly their whole life. I wanted my children to go through life feeling they are the best.
My ideas about education have evolved as my children got older. I've tried many ideas over the years. Here are a few which I feel are most useful.
Frequent library visits#
Luckily, we lived close to the local library. We go there often. It became so familiar for my children that, my youngest would take her jacket and shoes off, as soon as we arrived, then sit on the carpet and read to her teddy.
Less toys more books#
I've always wanted my children to be good in maths. But, to be good in maths, you must first be good at readingScore.
Distractions mean children won't read. With great pain, my husband and I tried an experiment. We got rid of all the toys (except for Lego and books). We didn't know anyone who had done this before so it was hard at first. Now it's clear. Less toys means happier children, because they read more. Now, my older children take books with them anywhere they suspect might be even a little bit boring.
With no toys, the most interesting thing in our house is books.
Thanks to tablets, my children mastered their 100 times tables by age five. Here are some really good and simple apps:
Math practice flashcard (best for when they're just beginning)
100 squares (we use this one daily)
Khan academy (perfect for when they're older)
No computer games#
I want to protect my children, but I've chosen to stand back let them fight their own battles by teaching them to:
- Persist for what they want
- Resolve differences through dialogue
When the kids squabble, I'm surprised at how well they resolve it themselves. They've learnt to negotiate, compromise, cooperate, sympathize and most importantly, be friends with each other.
Craig and I also taught them to persist their way through problems and be tough. At one point our second son was being picking on by our first son. We got our second son boxing gloves and Craig did mixed martial arts lessons with him for a month. It raised his self-esteem, made him tougher, and the problem simply evaporated.
Camping and survival skills#
Our favorite family activity is "camping for a day" (startup life doesn't give us more than a day off, for now). The kids collect firewood, make campfires, climb trees, build dams, and just go a bit wild.
They learn to handle big knives from a young age. It's hard, as a parent, when they cut themselves, but they've developed a great sense of safety and respect.
We don't have a TV and don't miss it at all, but Craig's a big fan of documentaries. He started the children at age three watching Nigel Marven prehistoric park documentaries.
As they get older they enjoy BBC iPlayer documentaries. The topics vary from science and nature, to music and food. They also subscribe YouTube channels like:
During Lego time, they often have a documentary playing in the background. I've noticed that when the documentary gets interesting the children stop playing Lego and just watch.
The privilege of programming#
In our family, programming is considered a privilege. The younger ones see the older ones build cool stuff, and aspire to do the same.
However fulfilling programming is, Craig and I have a rule, they must first obtain their GCSE in mathematics at an A-star level (achieved by only the top 5%). Normally this national UK exam is taken by 16 year olds at the end of high school. So far, our two oldest children have achieved their A-star grade at age nine! I guess they're pretty motivated :)
Good maths skills are fundamental to programming. Once they've got their maths to A-star level, the programming is easy.
Advantages of our approach#
1. Choose your own style
Homeschooling lets me adapt to the time, structure and learning style of each child. This flexibility works well with a startup.
2. Better resources
Startups demand a lot of time, but they give you good exposure to online tools that can help with homeschooling. At first, the lack of time felt like a disadvantage. It forced me to find alternatives. These alternatives have now become an advantage.
- Khan academy
- Hiring a local student tutor
- 100 squares.
- MEP worksheets
- Odesk (see the pic below of our oldest with his Philippines maths tutor)
3. Siblings become friends
When the younger ones need help with home work or readingScore, they go to the older children now. They have a built-in desire to help each other out. They test each others games, teach each other maths tricks, celebrate each other's victories, and comfort each other when hurt.
4. Children don't feel poor#
I'm always on a tight budget with the groceries, and always buy the "Smart price" budget brands. We choose to live in a poor neighborhoodName. The low rent means we can put more money into Zipier. Despite this, we'll happily spend to get good maths tutors, and laptops for each child. The children don't feel poor.
5. Massive self-esteem#
My children believe they can start their own business. They believe they can pick up a book and learn something. They believe they can change the world. They don't get bothered when other kids criticize them. They don't mind being different. Much of this is because they've grown up around a startup.
6. They learn to be grateful#
Some of our employees live in developing countries. When Craig returns from a trip to the Philippines with the boys, I notice a difference. They've learned to be grateful. It's opened their eyes to another world. They see children sleeping on the streets hungry. They eat their vegetables :)
7. They see their parents more#
My kids get to see both parents all day long. I'm available for questions and hugs. My eldest is learning programming by watching real programmers. We're able to guide them more than any school teacher could.
Disadvantages of homeschooling#
1. Bored at school#
We keep our kids in school for as long as we can, usually until seven or eight. School is great while they're very young. But as the learning gap increases, and they are further ahead, their behavior changes. That's when I know they're bored and take them out for homeschooling.
2. Can't hide the truth#
My children are always watching Craig and I. They see things as they are. They can tell when things are bad. They ask questions and I'm honest about the situation.
They've realized that the world isn't such a nice place. They've seen me fire employees. They've seen poor people in developing countries begging for food. They've seen customers who complain about their free product.
3. No family holidays#
This one is self-explanatory. With a family of six, we rarely have time for real family holidays. Any trip overseas, it is always business related. Most times Craig takes one or both of the older boys with him.
We do manage, however, short educational day trips, like science events or programming events like (CoderDojo) or simply just a trip to one of our camping spots. But that's it for now.
4. Kids become unemployable#
It will probably be hard for my kids to be happy as an employee, simply because they've directly observed the startup founder experience. They see so much. They ask questions. They want to do their own startup one day.
5. Little respect for teachers#
This one is a tricky one. Children are normally taught to listen to and respect their school teachers. With homeschooling, children learn faster with online media, but also develop their own opinions that may be contrary to a teachers.
6. They wonder about other children#
Sometimes it is hard to explain to my children why other children have toys, TV, or play computer games. They listen to me for now, but I hope as they get older they'll understand.
We've made it this far#
Our home has turned into a startup office and homeschool. The boys sit next to us as we work. I even nursed our youngest child as I worked. Each child has their own desk. Their desk has stacks of pencils, their laptop, a tablet, blank papers, even a desk toy. :)
My kids say, "I go to school to play, and come home to work" (work in their context means learning).
If you're considering homeschooling and have a startup, I hope this article helps. The trials and errors we've been through have benefited my children. It seems like Craig and I have somehow cultivated a homeschool world within our startup home.
The kids haven't suffered. It has made our lives far richer.