Home entrepreneur Homeschooling Help: Education and The Skills That Matter

Homeschooling Help: Education and The Skills That Matter

by Kelly Crawford

Homeschooling Help Education and The Skills That MatterMore money, more time and more effort toward federal education has had one result: less real, meaningful education and even failing standards by the system’s own measure. If you are thinking about homeschooling, I challenge you to dive into some research and see that it isn’t as difficult as you might think and that “school” doesn’t always equal education. Really, what have you got to lose?

And if you’re already homeschooling, congratulations! And relax. Education doesn’t always look exactly like we think it does. Remember, the classroom model isn’t very impressive. Even in research where test scores are high, experts are beginning to realize test scores have much less to do with what employers are looking for and what makes a successful person in the real world.

Here are some important think-outside-the-classroom things you should consider:

1. Refuse the notion that “earlier is better” when it comes to formal academics. There is so much research not only refuting the idea that a jump-start in formal academics benefits children, but we now know that it can actually have negative effects on their ability to learn and process information.

Children have a unique ability to process information and they need a load of tangible experiences in which to do it. Old fashion play is not just play; it’s an important, tactile form of education, preparing them for more abstract learning in the future and hindering them, if they don’t get enough of it.   Why Kids Can’t Think

2. Conversation, conversation, conversation. I’ve written over and over on this one, and it seems quite obvious, but conversation becomes more scarce as we immerse ourselves into the technological world. It takes deliberate effort to cultivate an atmosphere of extensive conversation in the home, but so much learning takes place through this one medium! Talk, listen and ask questions. Talk in the car, in the kitchen, around the table and throughout the day. Challenge thoughts and opinions by asking probing questions and even play “devil’s advocate” to help your children formulate solid reasoning and communication skills. To be able to give an answer, in and of itself, of what we believe and think and feel, is a rare but valuable asset.

3. Be convinced of the skills that matter most and hone those. Guess what the seven most desired universal job skills, according to Forbes are:

  • The art of communicating clearly and concisely
  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Good writing ability
  • Getting along with others
  • Able to learn (re-engineering skills)
  • Computer skills

There’s no algebra, physics or chemistry in that list, though those skills might be helpful in specific, specialized areas, and yet most of us are far more concerned with developing those measurable facts over diving into these. We need to at least be spending as much time on what is recognized as the most important skills for success, don’t you think?

4. Give them experience. The Chinese Proverbs well states: “Tell me, and I’ll forget. Show me, and I’ll remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand.”

This is why the “play” I mentioned earlier is so important in the early years. Experience (tactile learning) creates the foundation for knowledge. But experience continues to be THE GREATEST teacher throughout life. Look for ways to let your child do things. And it can be simple. Cooking, planting a garden, making their own purchases, making phone calls, writing letters, dabbling with the computer, building a fire, changing a tire, using tools, yard maintenance, taking pictures…the list is endless.

We have found that teaching is a form of hands-on experience that is very beneficial. Even after six years of college, grammar never became so clear to me until I started teaching it. I’ve tried to remember this in our home education and have an older child teach a younger child some concept. The older child thinks it’s for the benefit of the younger, but it’s not so much.

5.  Nurture creativity and business skills. Once upon a time, we were such an entrepreneurially-minded people. But with the advent of forced, compulsory schooling, there was a mass, deliberate effort to change all that–to make a mostly docile, following society instead of risk-taking leaders. That effort literally changed the entire face of our culture. We need to resurrect some of that ingenuity again in our children instead of drugging it out of them. We need to teach our children the value of starting their own businesses, developing strategies for earning multiple streams of income, and breaking the notion that the only option in life is becoming an employee. I love Cameron Herold’s message on raising entrepreneurs.

Most kids get excited about making a dollar or two, so let them! Help them create a simple business plan (learning basic economics in the process in invaluable, something else we don’t teach enough). Let them feel, by experience, the relationship between an idea, developing the idea and turning it into a profit. They may hate it. It may solidify for them the fact that they DO want to be an employee and not deal with the challenges of owning a business. But give them the chance to know that.

Educate them–live life with them, let them explore, experience and expand their ideas. These things will transpose to invaluable assets no matter what they end up doing in life.

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Laura March 8, 2013 - 12:05 am

Hello Kelly! This is sooo exactly what my hubby and I want to do with our family of energetic boys…boys who need more than living in town can do…homeschooling in a small town is the worst kind…in the city, you have museums and things…in the country you have space and chores…in a small town you have neither…or at least not as much…already, I’m noticing a general antsy-ness in my older two boys that makes for traditional “school-time” hard to do…but if we have a day where there is hustle and bustle and trotting to and fro and up and down, they are much better…In our current circumstances, however, we don’t see any way of persuing anything more than what we already have…we can’t do a business here, as there is no space for one…we have very little capital to work with, and boys who are growing and stretching and yearning to be “MEN”! I try to be aware of this and actually start giving them jobs that are a little harder or above them than I really think they are ready for…to stretch them a little…but I run out of jobs so fast! We would prefer to be waaaayyy out in the country…but the Lord has not led that way…and I think the round of housework (dusting, sweeping, food prep and so on) has them a bit tired out and they would like something more active and tangible…more manly, if you will, but helping daddy [at work] isn’t an option…we have our house for sale, and are eyeballing property left and right… and even have found some that would be perfect…how do we know what to do when our current circumstances don’t seem to fit? and yet God doesn’t seem in a hurry to move us? (I feel so bad for them, because I don’t even feel safe letting them play in the yard unsupervised, as we are on a main road with lots of cars/trucks roaring by all the time and I have so much to do, I can’t be out with them as much as they would like…and on top of that, there are people walking by all the time–people that look a little seedy…a few have even cut right across our yard! The fear that my kids might be in danger keeps me from allowing them much freedom…but I don’t want it to get to the point where they resent that protection)

natasha March 8, 2013 - 10:04 am

We have the same problem, only we have all girls and we rent, which makes it harder to do things we want. I know what you mean by running out of things for them to do. They could raise rabbits-build the hutches-then sell their droppings as compost, and they can learn how to butcher the rabbits for meat. you can keep chickens on a small property in town depending on your ordinance. Make a compost pile and have them take a pitch fork and turn it.
get this kind of a lawn mower http://artofmanliness.com/2012/05/23/in-praise-of-the-push-reel-mower/ it’s safe for them to use and it is great exercise. I got one for my husband when he got a job that wouldn’t be as physical, I didn’t want him getting fat. It worked, he was sweating.

We all really got interested in feeding the birds, and my husband helped my girls build bird houses and feeders. You can get bird house plans online and if the boys are old enough they can do it themselves. I think they have tools that are lighter and smaller for kids, we were going to get some for our girls so they can help my husband out in the garage. If you can get ahold of some pallets for free there are tons of things to make out of pallets, furniture, play houses etc, look online or pinterest. They have to go out and clean and scrub the feeders and the bird bath once a week too.

-they can take a soap, brooms and a hose and scrub down your siding of the house.
– we get radios etc from the goodwill and have the girls take them apart and see how they work, try to put them back together.

My husband was in boyscouts and loved it, if you get in a good troop they will do a lot of camping etc. some troops are not as active. We are Catholic and we have boy scout troops that are with the Catholic Church I think other troops have churches they are associated with. Or you could try a 4H club.

Check out your metroparks- they have naturalist training and other activities.

Home Depot has some kind of kids program where they make things, it’s free.

Show them how to tie different knots, do rope climbing- you can look up different military style ways of doing it. great exercise and also it could be useful one day. Youtube has NavySeal rope climbing techniques. They can also learn basic combat medic skills, which is very useful! topographical map reading is fun and you can test it out.

We didn’t have too much snow this year, but the girls and I did get outside and shovel, it was great exercise.

They could make things like a smoker to cure meats, a pizza oven outside etc, they have great ideas and some of them are cheap in books on self sufficiency, they even have some just for the suburbs/city living. They might enjoy doing some survivor cooking outdoors. Teach them how to dress a squirrel and make some stew. This guy is awesome http://www.pbs.org/food/chefs/steven-raichlen/- he talks about the ways people have cooked all over the world through history. He has some books.

My husband and girls watch those survivor shows- like man vs wild etc, and my girls have so much fun going out in the yard and making shelters and camp fires ( unlit unless my husband is there of course) We go to the parks and find the edible plants and they point out areas that would make a good spot for shelter, we practice with the compass too. Check out different survivor books at the library and have them practice.

I get tired of housework too, and I am excited for spring where I can get outside and do some yard work and gardening. We would love to move out in the country, but now is not the time for us. I really have to stretch myself with ideas so they are tired by the end of the day, they have unlimited energy!

Erica March 8, 2013 - 1:14 pm

My husband & kids love those survivor shows! It leads to endless discussions on what-would-I-do in that situation. I recently bought a lapbook unit from In The Hands of A Child about basic survival skills to use with the kids and can’t wait for the weather to clear up so that we can start trying some of this stuff out! It was only $5 and was a download so I got it right away and the boys have already begun reading it and talking about what they want to do from it. My second oldest son loves surfing on YouTube and finding survival type stuff – I’ll have to have him check out the SEALS stuff you posted! Not too long ago while we did an apartment clean out he found a book about camping that he put to use the end of last summer. It’s old, but heck it was free and even though it is old it still has tons of useful information in it.

Erica March 8, 2013 - 1:08 pm

Don’t know if this is something that might help…but we sometimes have the kids make things – bird feeders, magnets, crafty items – and then sell them on eBay, Craigslist, Etsy, etc. They can learn how to make the items, how to market them, how to post the item(s), and then how to package/sell them. It would not only give them something to do, but there might be some extra motivation in making money while doing it. Not to mention that it will keep them busy…and give you some peace of mind that they aren’t bored with nothing to do.

We don’t live in a great neighborhood – in fact due to our finances we have always lived in questionable areas. And I refuse to allow the kids outside without supervision. I didn’t decide to home school them just to let the seedy neighborhood kids get them into trouble – my kids do that just fine on their own! LOL One day I just realized that if they have a “job” that not only engages them but also teaches them money management that they enjoy it and it keeps me from having to hear how bored they are all day!

I can understand the frustration of your situation – just remember that God DOES have a plan for your family and while it is tough to wait right now…there is a reason for everything in our lives. Trust Him to open doors as He thinks they need to be opened. I’m still struggling with that one at times because I know what I want, but sometimes God turns around and tells me that what I want isn’t what He wants….and He leads me another direction. Best of luck in selling your home…and buying a new one!

Word Warrior March 8, 2013 - 1:44 pm


Erica and Natasha had some great suggestions. Also, I would look intently for someone under whom they could “apprentice” or tag along with from time to time. (I’m not sure of their ages or if this is an option at all.) Certainly, some creativity on your end is in order 😛 And I hope the Lord provides a new place for you soon!

Rachel March 8, 2013 - 2:46 pm

Great ideas about apprenticeship! My husband is a self employed contractor. He has a few boys (high school age) that he occasionally hires for projects. He said he would rather hire a young kid who knows nothing but is eager to work, than an experienced carpenter that likes to do things *his* way on *his* time schedule. His goal is to eventually hire someone full time that know nothing, but is trainable!

Word Warrior March 8, 2013 - 3:06 pm


My husband feels the same way. He currently employs 3 homeschool just-graduated guys full time. He tells me all the time what great workers and fast learners they are (among other things like their integrity, etc.)

Smitti March 8, 2013 - 11:15 am

Thank you so much for this timely message. God has used you to emphasize something my husband has been telling me for years (but I was too sinful/stubborn to hear). Praise God!

Erica March 8, 2013 - 12:58 pm

Once again you sent a message that I NEEDED to hear right when I needed to hear it! We don’t give our kids an allowance – never have & never will. My family thinks I am nuts for not doing it because, well….that’s how we grew up so I should continue that trend. I feel like we are a family unit and therefore we work together to have a clean house, food to eat, etc. We never wanted them to feel entitled to getting money every week for things that they have to do regardless, especially when they are on their own. Their father is a high school drop-out and has been quite ingenious in coming up with ways to make money when we need a little extra…and it’s carried over to the kids. Mainly the teens. My 2 oldest are going to an online school, but it’s still under public education standards and I’ve been realizing through the past few years how much junk they are learning and NOT retaining. I have started to supplement their education by teaching them “extras” like sewing, cooking, grocery shopping, budgeting, car repairs, etc. It has lead them to realize that school just isn’t “for” them. They are definitely NOT employees! They think outside the box. As a family we go out one night a week and get metal and other sell-able things our of people’s trash. Yep, we are trash pickers! LOL But while doing this my oldest son sees more potential out of some of the things we get. Instead of scrapping everything I am now working with him to allow him to work on selling these finds on eBay – we work out a price that he’ll pay us for each item he wants and then he’s responsible for cleaning the items up, taking pictures, posting the items, and then selling them. Depending on my involvement in it he sometimes ends up paying me for “working” for him. I think he’s learned more in doing this than he has in his last 3 1/2 years in high school!

I really enjoyed watching the message from Cameron Herold because it not only reinforced what I’ve been doing but gave me more things to focus on with the younger kids so that they can also have more avenues available for them when they get older. Although my oldest daughter (at 7 yrs) is already telling me that she is going to be just like me – a stay at home mom that home-schools her kids…only she told me that she plans on having 99 kids! 🙂 But she also sees me selling items on eBay & Craigslist and knows that I do work, but it’s not a traditional job.

Thanks again for this timely message that I needed to hear so badly today!

Word Warrior March 8, 2013 - 1:48 pm


Love it! Amy Dacyczyn (The Tightwad Gazette) praises the art of trash picking and talks about how much money they made reselling the items. Since we live in a such a wasteful society, this can be a great way to find extra money.

We have a friend who has a reputation of collecting scrap metal and now people just brings it to him and he regularly cashes out at the scrap yard. Opportunities abound for the inquiring mind 😉

Rachel March 8, 2013 - 2:49 pm

We will take scrap metal and turn it in for money on occasion, but more often than that we call a local guy that makes a living collecting scrap metal. I have him saved in my contact in my phone as the Metal Guy. He works VERY hard, but has made a decent living on what he makes with metal. Not a bad idea at all!

Erica March 8, 2013 - 3:04 pm

Never heard of The Tightwad Gazette – but will be on the lookout for it now! I am the queen of being a tightwad, so it sounds right up my alley! I still remember when we first bought our first house and I was talking to the insurance agent and he asked me how much the items inside our house cost…I was at a loss since basically everything except our beds are trash treasures or were given to us by family members…then he explained that if the house burnt down and if we had to purchase items to replace them how much would it cost? I still didn’t know what to tell him because honestly if that happened I would have no problem setting up a house the same way once again!

My husband is the best at it though – he found a 60″ flat panel TV that was in the trash (just needed a new screen protector – $50 piece of plexiglass) – added a nice TV stand that he adjusted to make it so that TV mounted on it – then put in a PS3 that he had gotten on a trade deal (along with some games he found in the trash)…traded it all for a car — and we had less than $100 in everything. It just amazes me what people throw out!

Word Warrior March 8, 2013 - 3:09 pm

Oh, you must get those books…life-changing for me. And here’s a great clip of her more recently: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=AUFyD-FTf-E#!

shannon March 10, 2013 - 7:27 am

Thanks Kelly. I can’t believe what our formal education system has become. I took my son to the library last week for storytime. We sat at a table to color with a lady and 3 girls. The woman asked how old my son was. When I told he was 3 years old, she said “Oh good, just at the age when they start learning”. What in the world do people think children are doing before they enter kindgergarten, just wasting time for the “important stuff”? Smh…

Kelly L March 11, 2013 - 12:36 pm

This is a great post! I have a tendency to go to the “legalistic” side of almost everything, including learning. This just made me realize that I haven’t been screwing it up! We just came back from a work related conference, and our 12 year old was able to converse with 30 year olds – 80 year olds. You just made me think of it as a well based education, not just social skills. Thanks!

6 arrows February 20, 2015 - 5:34 pm

#5. The other day after one of my piano students left after lessons, my youngest daughter and I had a conversation in which I pointed out that I got paid for teaching. Her eyes lit up when she learned a person can earn money doing something enjoyable from home. 🙂

She had had no idea a person could work from home. When I told her about my business, and being paid for it, she had first said, “You have a JOB?!” LOL! 😀

Yes, a paid one, and an unpaid job in the home, too, for that matter, which yields wonderful dividends. 😉

Laura February 23, 2015 - 1:24 pm

I have taken the weekend to think about this post.

Most of it I would agree with. Teaching for the test is NOT really learning.

I’m still not sold on the idea that Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics aren’t useful to everyone. Chemistry is a real eye opener to world around you. And if you are looking for ways to improve problem so loving skills, look no further than Chemistry.

You may think, ‘my kids aren’t interested in becoming scientists or medical professionals, so science is less important than other subjects’. Even business professionals can need science. Think about someone running a water treatment plant. Or someone in sales at a pharmaceutical company. A person managing the computer system at a hospital.

However, I don’t think it the end of the world either. Community colleges have introduction to Chemistry, Biology, Physics, etc… So any one at any age can start learning those subjects should they find themselves in need of it.

Kelly Crawford February 23, 2015 - 6:27 pm


I’m confused as to where you got, from the post, that “chemistry…isn’t useful for everyone.” The only reference to those subjects was this:

“We need to at least be spending as much time on what is recognized as the most important skills for success, don’t you think?”

Also, the idea that chemistry or other sciences have to be taught like a class, instead of studying them in a more natural way, is a misconception.

Laura February 23, 2015 - 10:23 pm

“There’s no algebra, physics or chemistry in that list, though those skills might be helpful in specific, specialized areas, and yet most of us are far more concerned with developing those measurable facts over diving into these.”

That is the sentence I am referring too. It implies that it is only helpful to those in specialized areas. And you have made reference to that idea before on this blog.

Learning Chemistry in an organic way is great. Classwork is also part of it. Learning to balance equations, converting standard/metric/IS, learning how bonds form, learning the reasons behind reactions, etc.. You cannot just have an equation and Google it, you actually need to know how to do it. The classroom part might seem “boring”, but are we only suppose to do stuff that we find interesting? That does not seem like a good way to teach having a good work ethic.

You want to act confused, but you know what I’m what I am talking about. I am a long time reader of this blog and have read your opinion on this before as well.

Kelly Crawford February 23, 2015 - 10:55 pm

I have mixed feelings. But I lean toward the idea that unless and until your career path dictates a need for learning higher sciences in-depth, a student will almost entirely forget any technical form of the subject. Real sciences, real chemistry, etc….is needful for all of life and consequently, easily learned through life. I’m certainly not opposed to concentrated studies in these fields. I simply hold to the reality that people retain what is important to them. And since both our time and knowledge capacity is limited, it seems far wiser to spend it in subjects that are useful and that we will be able to remember and apply.

It happens though, if a child has a fascination with the sciences, he will most definitely pursue those studies and an observant parent will equip him to move in the direction of his interests.

Conversely, observant parents need to spot a child who isn’t bent toward engineering but is a gifted builder, and move him in the appropriate direction as well.

Laura February 23, 2015 - 1:27 pm

*problem solving skills
Not loving skills

Homeschool- Getting Started - A Titus 2 Family February 24, 2015 - 12:11 pm

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