Andrew Pudewa is a well-respected speaker and author in the homeschool community. He is the founder and director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing and his materials are widely used to teach creative writing to homeschool students.
Yvette Hampton: I want to go back to something that you talked about just a little while ago. You were talking about phonics versus other methods of teaching reading. Talk about that a little bit, because I know that’s something that you’ve studied, and I understand the difference between the two, but I’ve never actually heard anyone explain how has that played into what’s happening today in education?
Alex Newman: I’ll try to condense it into as quick a time as possible. It’s such a huge subject, but it’s such an important subject. I had the chance to work with Sam Blumenfeld, who was banging the drums on this for 60 years, so I’m so glad you asked me that because I know there’s a lot of homeschool moms out there right now who are thinking about this exact thing. And I know how hard it is because my wife and I — me knowing all this — we tried to go out and find phonics books for our children and we’d order one and we’d open it up and the first page would say, “Here’s the list of sight words your children are going to remember.” Oh my goodness. Kick me in the face, please. Really?!?
Alex Newman: I’ll try to boil it down quick. There are two basic ways today of teaching reading, and then there are some variations on those, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s just call it two. There’s the phonics method, which has been used from the time we had our written alphabet, going back clear to the Phoenicians. It was an incredible development in human ingenuity. Instead of having symbols represent words or ideas, we had symbols that represented sounds. And so a P makes a “puh” sound and an O makes a “ah” sound, and a P is a “puh” sound, and so that spells, “pop.” That’s very, very simple. That’s phonics. Each symbol represents one or more sounds. You blend those together and then you can decipher any word that you might come across. I mean, it could just be any combination of symbols, and you can sound that out and understand what it’s supposed to mean, assuming it has meaning.
Alex Newman: The other basic way of teaching reading, which is used all over the United States today, is the whole-word method. It’s got such a bad smell, they started coming up with new disguises for it. They call it the “sight word” method and the “look say” method and now they’ve got “whole-language”. They introduced some caveats and stuff to try to conceal the craziness. But the heart of this one is, you treat the words as symbols themselves. And of course, words are not symbols. Words are collections of symbols that you can sound out to determine what that word means. So the history of this is really instructive.
Alex Newman: I mean, I don’t want to give any bad feelings toward the people who developed this. They were actually good Christians who had the best of intentions. The guy was called Reverend Gallaudet. He was running an asylum for … they called it the deaf and the dumb back then … in Connecticut, and what he said was, “Well, we can’t teach a deaf child how to sound out a word because you can’t teach a deaf child what the symbol corresponds with in terms of sounds. So, what if …” And he got this idea from some French monastery where they had been trying this out on deaf and mute children. “So, what if we teach the children to memorize entire words as if the word itself were a symbol?” So, take the word “cat” as an example. If you were teaching it phonetically, you would say a C is a “cuh,” an A is a “aah, and a T is a “tuh,” and so the child could then read that by deciphering what each of those symbols stands for.
Alex Newman: Gallaudet’s method – he actually created a primer for this in early America – was, “Let’s teach the children how to decipher ‘cat’ just from the symbol.” So, C-A-T, you don’t decipher that as a C, an A, and a T. When you see the squiggly lines like that, that means “cat,” and you can memorize those. And what he figured out was really smart kids could memorize hundreds, and really, really smart kids could maybe even memorize thousands of words that way. And so, if you’re a deaf child and you’ve never been able to access the written word because you can’t hear sounds, that is an enormous leap forward in terms of being able to communicate with the world. It was a great development.
Alex Newman: But then Horace Mann said, “Hey, why don’t we try this in the public schools that I’ve created in Boston?” And they did, and it only took a few years for the quackery to be exposed. I’ve actually got a book behind me right here, The New Illiterates, by Dr. Sam Blumenfeld in 1973, and he has got a treasury in there. In the appendix, he republished the letter that the schoolmasters from all the public schools in Boston wrote to Horace Mann about this quackery that he had put into the schools, teaching non-deaf children to read using the whole-word method. It’s beautiful, it’s eloquent. It’s not written like it would be today. “You’re a poo poo head and we don’t like you, so you should be quiet.” It’s just a beautiful, eloquent explanation of why the whole-word method is not a proper way for teaching reading when you have a phonetic … In China, that’s how they do because that’s the writing system they have. For them, a symbol actually represents a word, so you actually have to memorize tens of thousands of symbols. Our writing system is not like that.
Alex Newman: So they took it apart, they dismantled it, and in this beautiful essay they said, “Sorry, Mr. Mann. We tried it. It didn’t work.” They actually explained that the children were getting symptoms of what we would today call dyslexia. They said they couldn’t read. They would read words backwards
We didn’t hear about it again until our good friend John Dewey came along and said, “Hey, let’s resurrect that whole-word method.” And he tried it out in that experimental school that the Rockefellers funded. Actually, the kids graduated illiterate. They couldn’t read properly. And John Dewey thought, “Hey, this will be perfect. Let’s create some reading primers.” And he did. He created the Dick and Jane series, which a lot of our parents and our grandparents used. “See Spot run. Run, Spot, run.” This is just teaching the children to memorize the whole word.
Alex Newman: Now, this is ubiquitous in America. Now, there are still a lot of rogue teachers who will defy the Common Core standards and who will use only phonics, but if the administration figures it out, if the school board figures it out, if the state superintendent figures it out, there’s going to be a big problem. Now, a lot of parents now have figured this out, so they teach their children to read using phonics before they send them to school. And after you know how to read using phonics, all the sight words in the world are not going to hurt you. But it’s such a tragedy and it’s so unnecessary. America was the most literate society on the planet before this innovation came. If you look at the literacy data we have from the early 1800s it is very clear. Dupont de Nemours did a study of literacy in the United States in 1812. He said “not more than 4 in 1,000 young people were unable to read and write even legibly,” he said.
Aby Rinella: Wow.
Alex Newman: If you look at the reading statistics from the government today, they will tell you that most of our children today are below basic proficiency. We have tens of millions … maybe a hundred million, maybe more … who are functionally illiterate. Some parts of Washington DC, half the population is functionally illiterate, and the reason why is very simple. They were taught to memorize words rather than to sound out the words.
Alex Newman: So, what they do under Common Core now, they say, “Well, first we’re going to do the sight words, then we’ll sprinkle in a little bit of phonics,” after you’ve already built that faulty reflex in your brain. And so that really does enormous, devastating damage to the children, and that’s why so many children today can’t read
I think Satan probably just thought this was brilliant. “Hey, if they can’t read, they can’t read the Bible.”
Yvette Hampton: That’s right.
Alex Newman: “And they can’t go to the library, they can’t educate themselves, they won’t know their history, they won’t be able to read their Constitution.”
Yvette Hampton: That’s right.
Alex Newman: “This is positively brilliant.” And that brings us to today.
Thankfully, the solution to this problem is clear. There is an effective method for teaching reading to our children. Phonics works.
For more on this subject, listen to our interview with Andrew Pudewa, entitled “The Importance of Reading Aloud.” In this lively conversation, Andrew Pudewa, founder of the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW), explains the importance of reading to our children to establish a firm foundation as they become great readers, writers, and communicators.
Alex Newman is an award-winning international journalist, educator, author, speaker, investor, and consultant who seeks to glorify God in everything he does. In addition to serving as president of Liberty Sentinel Media, Inc, he has written for a wide array of publications in the United States and abroad including the Epoch Times, The New American, the Law Enforcement Intelligence Brief,WND (World Net Daily), FreedomProject Media, and many more. He also serves as executive director for Public School Exit, a ministry to rescue children from government schools. One of his major works was an exposé of government schools with internationally renowned Dr. Samuel Blumenfeld called Crimes of the Educators published by WND Books, endorsed by conservative leaders ranging from Phyllis Schlafly to Ron Paul. Last year, he travelled across the United States for the “Rescuing Our Children” speaking tour urging parents to get their children out of public school. Alex has appeared on hundreds of TV shows including Newsmax, One America News, the Dove Network, the Christian Television Network, the SonLife Broadcasting Network, and many more. In addition, he serves on several advisory boards for education-focused organizations, including U.S. Parents Involved in Education (USPIE), the Nehemiah Institute, and the Samuel L. Blumenfeld Foundation for Literacy. For the last seven years, Alex has also been teaching advanced economics to some of America’s brightest high-school seniors through FreedomProject Academy, an accredited K-12 Christian school offering a classical education to students worldwide. Alex and his wife homeschool their 4 children.
If you are considering homeschooling or just need some great homeschooling encouragement, please check out HomegrownGeneration.com for over 9 hours of FREE homeschool videos from the 2020 Homegrown Generation Family Expo.
I, of course, have been preaching on this for 20 years. That if what you want is a person who is good at speaking and writing, the single most important thing to do every day is read out loud to them in huge quantity, all through childhood.
Yvette Hampton recently had the opportunity to talk with Andrew Pudewa, for the Schoolhouse Rocked Podcast, about the importance of reading aloud to our children. They also discussed the ideas of mastery of subject matter and maximizing our homeschooling time by teaching integrating multiple subjects. Andrew Pudewa is the founder of the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW). He is a popular speaker and author, who has been talking to homeschool families around the world for 30 years. We were privileged to have been able to interview him for Schoolhouse Rocked and have been blessed by the support of IEW as a gold sponsor of the film.
Yvette Hampton: As we’ve filmed for Schoolhouse Rocked and talked to so many people, including you about education and the educational system. One of the conclusions that I have come to is we seem to think that all of our kids need to master every single subject – straight A’s. That’s the thing. Every kid must get straight A’s.
Even colleges want these kids to get straight A’s. And you have talked about, basically, doing what the public school system does is they learn to the test. I mean they basically learn so they can pass the test so they can move on with their life. Whether it’s something that they’re interested in or not. And as I’ve looked at my own kids and I’ve looked at other kids and interviewed so many people, I’ve realized God has not created all of us with a bend to master every single subject.
You talked about science, your passion is music, I know, and English and language arts. It’s not science. And so why do we pressure these kids to have to ace every single thing? And I’m not saying that they don’t need to learn the basics of science and the basics of history and the basics of all these … writing and all these different things. But not every one of us is created to be a historian and a scientist and a writer and all these different things.
And I just feel like we pressure our kids so much to become something that God did not intend for them to be. And we’ve often told our kids, and I’ve said this on the podcast before, “You have to learn to read well so that you can read God’s word. And you have to learn to write well so that you can write about him. And you have to learn the basics of science so that you can understand the universe and the world that God created. And you have to learn the basics of history so that you can understand the history of God’s world.”
But I don’t feel that it’s necessary for them to master every single one of these subjects in order for them to have succeeded in school. What is your opinion of that as you’ve talked to parents and educators?
Andrew Pudewa: Well, it’s always a balance between … There’s kind of your core knowledge, I think. There’s cultural literacy, there are things that everyone … To be an American citizen, a literate American citizen, things you should know. And so we do try to cover that. And I think when E.D. Hirsch wrote Cultural Literacy, and then that came into the Core Knowledge Foundation and that came into the What Every Third Grader Needs to Know series of books.
Now, that was very helpful in reminding us that pretty much, we’re either natives or immigrants by birth. But what binds us together is this shared cultural literacy, knowledge of Western civilization, familiarity with some good and great books and all that. So there is that, but then there’s also the question of how much chemistry do you need to have some literacy?
The funny thing is, I think all of us who went to high school, if you said, “Well, okay, you spend a year in biology or chemistry or whatever, of that book, of everything you studied over that year, what percentage of it did you remember or still know one year after that class was over?” Well, I mean most people are saying like five percent, if you’re a genius. Two percent if you’re normal.
Yvette: Unless you are really interested in that and want to be a chemist.
Andrew: Right. And then you go and you study it more. That reactivates that. So how much do we need of a subject to say, “Yes, I’m familiar with that in a way that makes me able to get the jokes and understand and read.” I think a lot of it is we teach a whole lot of that stuff in high school so that people will retain a little bit into adulthood. Maybe that’s not the most efficient way to do it, however. Maybe there’s a way to say, “Well, maybe we could do less, and then less is more.”
One thing I’ve noticed about my kids, and we were talking about this a little bit, you and I before, is that so much of what they remember and took into adulthood wasn’t in the textbooks. It was in the storybooks. It was in historical fiction novels. It was in the books that involve various elements of science and government and literature and things. Literature, well, that is books.
I’m thinking, for example, of Swiss Family Robinson. That is an adventure story, but it’s also practically a primary natural history of Oceania and New Guinea. I mean there’s so much stuff about animals and geography in there. So the author of that, he understood to catch the imagination of kids, you tell them a good story. And while they’re listening, teach them stuff.
That’s what I think parents who discover that they can often find their kids learn so much more and remember it. See, that’s the trick. They carry it with them into the future, future years, from the read-alouds that they do at home. And choosing many good and great books that have historic illusions, geographical information, biographical information.
Like I said, sometimes natural sciences, government elements, they’re all often … A good book is a good book because people say, “Wow, I learned a lot from that. It was fun and I learned a lot.” That’s what made it good. How else would you define a good book? It was entertaining. But if you could have it’s just entertaining versus it was enjoyable and I learned a lot. Well, that’s kind of a no brainer. What would you choose?
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Yvette: Yeah. And that perfect. I love that answer. One of the questions that we actually got from one of our listeners was, she asked how can read-alouds cross subject barriers and maximize our homeschooling hours, science, literature, theology, history, ethics, all in one? And that perfectly encompasses that. I mean, you can read a good book and it can encompass all of those things at one time instead of breaking them out into different subjects.
Andrew: Yeah. And I, of course, have been preaching on this for 20 years. That if what you want is a person who is good at speaking and writing, the single most important thing to do every day is read out loud to them in huge quantity, all through childhood. Because that more than anything is formative. It’s forms the vocabulary base, it forms the database of syntax and grammar patterns. It builds a stock of literary devices, schemes and tropes of rhetoric, and it will build in general knowledge.
It’s funny, I’ll meet kids who seem to just know so much. It’s like you say something and then they say something and you’re like, “Wow, how did you even know that?” And then I’ll talk to their mom, go, “What do you do?” “Well, we don’t really have … We’re not all that organized. We just read a lot.”
Yvette: Yeah. I love it. And I’ve actually heard you speak several times about the importance of not reading, because I think a lot of people think, “Well, we read a lot to our young kids who don’t yet know how to read.” But you’re talking about reading aloud to our kids who are even in high school, to our teenagers.
Yvette: Talk a little bit about that, because I love this. And for those of you who have not heard your take on this, they need to hear it. Because this has literally changed our homeschooling, and I read to my girls all the time and they … Well, my eight year old is still becoming a strong reader, but my 12 year old, of course, can read. But she loves me reading to her and I love reading to her. And talk about that for a minute.
Andrew: Well, I think we do tend to kind of fall into the mistake of as soon as a kid can read on their own, it’s like, “Oh, great. You can read to yourself now. That’ll free me up to do Peng and The Beautiful Yangtze River here one more time with the four year old.” So we tend to favor the younger children. But my argument is that it’s when kids read on their own that they most need to be read to at a level above their own decoding skills.
They need to be read to the things they would not, or could not read on their own. Because if they just read what they can read, they’ll keep reading what they can read. That’s easy. But they won’t necessarily try to read something that has longer sentences or more obscure illusions or more complex vocabulary, because it’s harder. And so they’ll either skip stuff or they kind of say, “Well, I don’t like that.”
But if we read to them, if they get it auditorily, we not only don’t skip stuff, we read all the words, we read it in the right context with the right vocal nuances that help improve comprehension. That’s actually how you improve reading comprehension, is not by throwing books at kids and saying, “Here, read this and take a test to see if you understood it.” We create reading comprehension by reading out loud to them at above their own … at a level above their own reading level, and talking about that. That’s what creates the understanding of the vocabulary and the idioms and the more complex ideas.
So, a lot of kids in school, they read, read, read, read, read, read, read, but they kind of do lateral shifts. And then as adults, they don’t want to read a great book like Jane Eyre or Ben-Hur or something. It’s too hard. So if we want our kids to enjoy reading harder stuff, the absolute best way is to bring them into that world by starting reading it to them and talking about it, defining it, understanding it.
Yvette: Yeah. I want to actually encourage any moms or dads who are listening to this who might be intimidated by that. Because I’ll tell you, I did not … I know how to read, obviously, and obviously when I graduated high school, I knew how to read. But I was not a strong reader. I didn’t not grow up reading books. My parents never really read to me. I remember them reading Cinderella and Green Eggs and Ham. Those are the only two books I ever remember my parents reading to me over and over again.
And so when I got out of high school, I was not a super strong reader and I hated to read aloud. I was the kid that whenever the teacher was … we were reading Romeo and Juliet or whatever it was we were reading. And they would say, “Okay, so-and-so is going to read next.” And I mean, I would start … My palms would start sweating and I would start getting all shaky and nervous because I hated to stand in front of my class and read.
And right after I got married, I was 20 when Garritt and I got married. My very first job was … I was a preschool teacher and I remember sitting down and they were like, “Okay, go read to this group of four-year-olds.” And I mean, I was reading again, obviously, preschool books. They were Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat, things like that. And I was terrified to read in front of these kids, not because I didn’t know how to read the books, but there was just something about it. There was something about standing in front of these little kids or sitting in front of them and reading out loud to them. Because I felt like I was going to fumble on the words and it was just terrifying to me.
And of course, over the years, I’ve become a much stronger reader. And now I read to my girls all the time. And so I want to give that encouragement to moms who, and dads, who maybe are just intimidated by the idea of reading aloud to their kids. Even if you have teenagers, just do it. I mean, the more you do it, of course, the better you get at it. I love to read now. I love to read aloud, but I also love to just read on my own. And it just opens up a whole new world of learning, not just for your kids, but for yourself.
But it can be scary, because we’re not all excellent readers and not everybody grew up knowing or learning how to read aloud in a really effective way. So anyway, I love it now. It took years for me to learn how to love reading a lot, but I love it-
Yvette: Oh, of course. Yeah. She’s one of our cast members on Schoolhouse Rocked. Absolutely. We’ve talked with her.
Andrew: We should get your listeners connected up with her if they are not already, because she’s so encouraging, particularly in that area of read aloud. I would also love to mention that a lot of what I’ve been teaching and speaking about for the past many years, I’ve written articles. And those articles are now all collected into one book, and it’s available. And did I give you a copy?
Yvette: You did. Yeah, I’ve got it.
Andrew: Okay. My book, However Imperfectly, Lessons From 30 Years of Teaching. So that’s available at our website, along with all of our product stuff, IEW.com. And you can also, of course, call us or text us or email us if you have any questions about teaching writing to your children or spelling or literature or early reading. We’ve got materials for all of that.
Yvette: Yeah. We’ll link back to all those things for sure. Let me ask you one more quick question, and I know Sarah Mackenzie, Read-Aloud Revival is her podcast. I’m sure many of our listeners have heard it. She has an excellent podcast, and I think you’ve been on her podcast a few times now, right?
Andrew: Well, Yvette, when I get envious of her big numbers, I just remember, I was her first.
Yvette: I know, I remember. I remember. It’s an excellent interview too. She’s so encouraging when she talks about the importance of read-alouds. And so one of the things that she has is a book list and she has an excellent book list. I love the way it’s categorized. It’s by age and it’s just a great book list. But do you also, is there an IEW book list somewhere or what do you use? When parents ask you, “Okay, I want to read aloud to my kids. How do I find great literature to read to them?” Where do you direct them?
Andrew: Yeah. Well, we have three. One is a free list, you can just get it off the downloads tab off our website, IEW.com. It’s called Books for Boys and Other Kids Who Would Rather be Making Forrts All Day. And it is divided just into elementary, middle and high school reading levels. We also have, we sell a book by Adam Andrews whose website is centerforlit.com. His course is called Teaching the Classics, and he has a book called Reading Roadmaps, I believe.
The one we published, which is the most extensive book list I’ve ever seen is called Timeline of Classics by a homeschool mom, Gail Ledbetter, and it can be got in ebook form or you can get a paper spiral bound from our website. And it’s got well over a thousand books listed. And they’re organized in time periods. So they were either written about or written in that time period. It goes from ancient all the way up to modern, tells the author and gives the approximate reading level. And that’s a resource that people probably use for their whole life.
Yvette: Yeah. Okay. That’s great. I’ll link back to all those. And then I know one that I’ve really enjoyed is Hunting for a Child’s Heart. That one has some great book recommendations and little blurbs on each book, which is awesome. So we will link back to all those things. But I feel like we could talk forever and ever. So we will definitely love to have you back on the podcast again at another time. And we can talk about more things homeschooling and how to encourage and equip parents who are on this journey of home educating their kids. But thank you so, so much, Andrew, for your time today. I know you are a busy man, so we appreciate you taking the time to talk.
You can find Andrew Pudewa and IEW online at IEW.com.
Andrew Pudewa recommends the following resources in his interview.
“I can assure you that all of those things that seem super important, like, “did you get through the math book by the end of May?”, actually, in the big picture, are not all that important. I would say some of the least important part about growing up is the academic side. The most important part is the adventures, and the breadth of knowledge and experience and of course above all the relationships and the spiritual enrichment, that is so much more easily facilitated when you’ve got the time and space and priority to do that.”
Yvette Hampton: Hey everyone, I am so excited about our guest today. Before we started the Schoolhouse Rocked podcast, we sent out a question to our Schoolhouse Rocked followers and just said, “Hey, we’re starting this podcast. Who do you want to hear on the podcast? What guest do you want, and what do you want us to talk about?” Of course, many of you wrote in and said, “Andrew Pudewa.” We saw his name over and over again, and so many of you are very excited about hearing him and wanted to hear more of him because those of you who have heard him speak know that he is just full of wisdom and knowledge and insight when it comes to homeschooling and family and education.
Yvette: We, of course, are really excited to have him as part of the Schoolhouse Rocked cast. Welcome, Andrew. We are really excited to have you on today.
Andrew Pudewa: Hey Yvette, it is great to be with you. Thanks for the invite.
Yvette: Sure. Tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and your family.
Andrew: Well, my wife and I have homeschooled all of our children. The oldest now is 39, and the youngest just got married at 18. That’s seven kids, six married, 11 grandchildren. I’ve been at this teaching business for a little over 30 years and the time has flown by. I have a little company called the Institute for Excellence in Writing. We publish video material as well as books and activity types of curriculum to help students with language arts, really to help teachers and homeschool parents help kids learn how to write better, but really, it encompasses all of the language arts, listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
Then of course, the result of good listening, speaking, reading and writing is better thinking, so a little tagline on our company. If you’re go to our website, iew.com, you’d see our little tagline. It’s listen, speak, read, write, think. It’s a good role. I’ve been at it full time for close to 20 years now, working with homeschoolers all over the world. I had the great privilege and pleasure of going with my wife to Russia for the Global Home Education Conference in St. Petersburg in Moscow, Russia last May. Then I went on an undercover trip over to China, I won’t even say where, to do a three-day conference for expat homeschooling families who live in China. We came back, finished up the summer, and then in August went to New Zealand and did a six-city tour of New Zealand to serve the homeschoolers over there. I’m looking forward to when that movie is out and ready and everyone in the world can stream it and see it.
Yvette: Well, we’ll have to, of course, translate it into Chinese obviously.
Andrew: I’d go for Russian first only because homeschooling in Russia is it’s exploding. I mean, it is going to grow so rapidly over there.
Yvette: That is amazing.
Andrew: The government evidently is either neutral or supportive about homeschoolers in almost all places. There are classical conversations, programs, I think. Many dozens of them. There may be as many as a hundred CC communities now across the huge country of Russia, and that’s just going to grow.
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Yvette: It’s been so encouraging to find out that when we started Schoolhouse Rocked, we, I think, had a very narrow vision of, “Well, this is for the United States because we were kind of in our little California bubble,” and that was what we knew. We didn’t realize that homeschooling is growing leaps and bounds across the entire world. It’s not just in America, and so it’s been really exciting and encouraging. Like you said, we really desire to get the movie out. We changed our focus. The movie is obviously filmed in the United States, and all of our cast members are from the U.S. but it has changed our focus to just say, “Wow, this is not just a movie that can change people’s hearts in the United States. It can change people’s hearts around the world.”
That is so exciting. I love that you’ve had the opportunity to go to all these different countries and talk about homeschooling. This is actually not the exact direction that I want the podcast interview to go because I have some questions for you, but can you tell us just in a nutshell what the flavor of homeschooling is? What are parents like in other parts of the country as you’ve gone there and talk to them about homeschooling?
Andrew: Well, I’ve been around a long time. I’ve been speaking at homeschool conferences really 20 years now, and so the demographic has changed, of course, as homeschooling has grown more and varied types of people have become interested in it. Well, I would say once upon a time, almost everyone was homeschooling for moral or religious reasons. Now, we’re meeting people who are coming into it through all different directions. Their primary reason may be academic. They just know they can do a better job teaching their kids one-on-one or three-on-one and in an individualized focus setting than any school and teacher no matter how good the teachers are just because of the nature of institutional education, again, people coming in from that side.
You’ve got people coming in with special needs and special circumstances saying, “this child has this thing going on”, and it could be health. It could be neurological. It could be some type of learning challenge. It could be giftedness. They’re just saying the schools are not equipped to maximize this child’s potential. I can do that better. They’re coming in on that side. Then there are other people that are just looking at the whole situation saying, “Well, there are so many things about that school I don’t like, and I can’t afford that option. And I’m not really sure that I want to homeschool, but I don’t see any better options.” I like that because they come in, and then hopefully, they begin to taste and see the goodness of the homeschool world and the culture and all the resources and opportunities that are available now that weren’t 20 years ago.
It truly is a case where I think more and more parents are realizing everyone homeschools. It’s just some people do it full time. Everyone has to teach their children at home. It’s just are you going to make that a primary part of your life, or are you going to do it on the side? We meet a lot of parents that are coming to conferences now saying, “Well, I don’t know. I don’t know if I can do this. Maybe I can, but I’m not sure I want to, but man, all the people here are so happy.”
Andrew Pudewa on School at Home
Yvette: Yes, and you see whole families together, which is really exciting. That’s one of my favorite parts of going to conventions is when you see mom and dad and kids walking around together and looking at curriculum and going to the different workshops. It’s really exciting just to see that dynamic of the entire family being together.
Andrew: Absolutely. The family is so under attack. In the western developed world all around the world, the family is under attack, so homeschooling seems to be on the vanguard of, “Let’s recapture. Let’s retain. Let’s rebuild. Let’s communicate to the world the great beauty of families functioning, learning, operating, growing together rather than being split apart by the busyness of life and technology. The institutions that can distract us.
Andrew Pudewa – Homeschooling Brings Growth
Yvette: I know for you, because you travel so much, you’re always on the road – I imagine it has allowed you to be able to have a really special kind of relationship with your kids because when you’re home, you’re able to be with them and instead of them being away at school. You actually get that time or got that time, because most of them are adults now. They’re all adults.
Andrew: It was a trade off because when you’re gone for three or four days, 30 weeks a year, that’s a lot of time to be gone. There’s mom feeling like having to do both sides of the parenting, but then when I’m home, I was always home. That was good. I could schedule classes and do things. Then a part of it, in our case because it was a family business rather than me working for other company, I would often take one or two kids with me. In the early days, I needed them. I needed their suitcase space to bring the books, I need them [inaudible 00:09:48] the booth.
Growing up in a family business, I think, it has its pluses and its challenges, but overall, I think all of them gained a lot of very practical, very memorable, positive and maybe a few bitter moments, but it certainly cultivated attitude of entrepreneurship that I can see in all of them now. They’re all grown up, and they’re all very entrepreneurial thinking, and a couple of them have started businesses on their own. It’s great to see. Great to see the… It’s wonderful, Yvette, to have adult children. You don’t have adult kids yet, do you?
Yvette: Not yet. Ours are still young.
Andrew: Well, one thing I would say to everyone who’s in that case of young children or in the thick of it with a teenager and a four-year-old all at the same time is it’s so great to have adult children because I can assure you that all of those things that seem super important, like, “did you get through the math book by the end of May?”, actually, in the big picture, are not all that important. I would say some of the least important part about growing up is the academic side. The most important part is the adventures, and the breadth of knowledge and experience and of course above all the relationships and the spiritual enrichment, that is so much more easily facilitated when you’ve got the time and space and priority to do that.
Although, it’s easy for us as homeschool parents to get caught up and worried about the academic side because we’re responsible for keeping the transcript and having grades and being sure that this kid is going to make it into college and get a good job someday. There’s that anxiety, so we’re always balancing that freedom along with that anxiety about academics.
Andrew Pudewa – Homeschooling is Efficient
Yvette: That’s a real struggle of course for homeschool moms. Our oldest is in seventh grade this year. I’m now starting to think, “Oh gosh, she’s going to be in high school in two years, and I have to start keeping real transcripts for her.” They’re seriously… I mean, there can be a lot of anxiety that goes along with that. Like you said, it’s not about just the academics. I mean, those are important but it’s so much more. School is so much more than just academics. It’s about character building and family and relationships and stuff like you said.
It’s so exciting, but that doesn’t always take away the questions that the moms have. It’s a big responsibility that we put on ourselves and that God gives to us when we choose to take on this role of home educating our children, because it is an important thing in so many areas. I mean, it’s their whole life that you’re holding in your hands. Only by the grace of God can we get this done effectively.
Andrew: That’s what you realize is they were God’s kids all along.
Andrew: I’m a big supporter of HSLDA. They, of course, are strongly behind the support for global home education freedom. In the early days, people would join HSLDA because they thought, “Oh no, if social services comes banging on my door, if the truant officer calls, what would I do? I want this insurance,” so they would join HSLDA for that purpose. I believe that we’ve become a bit complacent in the homeschool communities because we haven’t had too many huge legal problems in most dates. You and I both homeschooled in California for a while and that’s a very homeschool friendly state.
I’m in Oklahoma now. It’s probably the most homeschool friendly state, and even the less homeschool friendly states, which I will not name by name – You out there who live there, you know where you are. We take for granted now the freedoms that we have to do this, but honestly, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association does so much more than provide “legal representation” insurance in case you have a problem. I would just encourage everyone to join the HSLDA, not because you think you might need their services, but because what they’re doing is a tremendously good work and that is holding every single agency or government or office that interfaces with homeschoolers accountable in subtle ways.
Not just, “Is it legal or not,” but do homeschool graduates have the same opportunities and rights? Is someone infringing on that by saying, “No, no, your school diploma doesn’t count.” Then of course they provide some wonderful services. In fact, as having kids going to high school, you might want to look into their transcript service because they have a great little service. It’s not very expensive, and it will help you to stay organized for this next decade of having kids go through high school and all that. I wish everyone would join the HSLDA, because more than any other organization that I know of, they are standing on the front line of the right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children.
I fear that right, while we may be taking it for granted, could be not only infringed, but actually cut in many cases very quickly without us even noticing it.
Yvette: I appreciate that, and you’re welcome, HSLDA, for that commercial! That was not planned, but I love that. You and I, last month, I think it was, we were at the HSLDA national leaders conference in Washington, D.C. We’ve been members of HSLDA for many, many years. I guess, this is our eighth year of membership with them. We’re now actually lifetime members because we figured we’re going to do this forever, so may as well just go for the lifetime. I really didn’t know all the things that they offered, and we’ve been members for a long time. There’s so much stuff on their website, but they really are a fantastic organization.
The freedom that they have fought for and the freedom that they continue to fight for and protect for homeschool families is incredible. Like you said, I think we do take for granted that we have this freedom to homeschool. When we started, we really didn’t know all of the backstories that had gone on in all… I mean, there were parents just like you and I who were regular homeschool parents, who were threatened in big ways for choosing to take their kids out of school and saying we’re going to home educate them. They fought long, and they fought hard, and they fought tough to get these freedoms for us today.
Most people don’t know about that. The other thing that I really had my eyes up into two were state organizations. They don’t fall under the leadership of HSLDA, but I know they work very closely sometimes with HSLDA, but on their own, they really work hard to protect their freedoms and their individual states and then they’re there for their own state families to encourage them and equip them and to keep their own freedoms for their own individual states. I think a lot of people… We’re actually going to be doing an interview later this week with Rebecca Kocsis. She’s one of the state representatives for Chia, which is in California.
We’re going to talk with her about state organizations. I agree. It’s so important to stand behind those people who are standing in front of us and keeping those walls broken down so that we can continue to homeschool our kids. Anyway, so I have a couple of questions. You and I could talk all day long. When we interviewed you for Schoolhouse Rocked, I remember, I think I might’ve asked you maybe four questions, and your interview was two and a half hours long. It was awesome, and it was funny we came away from there. We said, “Well, goodness gracious, how do we pull the gold out of this?”
The way we do that of course is we’ve got the Schoolhouse Rocked Backstage Pass, and we will at some point have your full interview up on there that people can view, but I do have a couple of questions for you. Like I said, we had people write in and ask specific questions, and they wanted to know some things. There are a couple that I thought you would be just great at answering because I know you talk a lot about motivation in the homeschool day. One mom wrote in. She said, “How do you motivate the daydreamer to buckle down and complete their assignments quickly but well so that they can have more free time to pursue their passions? We’ve tried everything and even a scaled back assignment will take all day because she has no drive to finish. Do we just have to nag?”
How would you answer that mom? Help her out.
Andrew: It’s hard to give a specific answer to a specific question without knowing a few more details, but I would talk about principles of motivation, which I have studied extensively and talked about and written about. What I have come to understand over these decades is that there’s really four forms of motivation. One, I would call intrinsic, so something has intrinsic relevancy, right? If something is relevant, meaningful, interesting, engaging, applicable, useful to some degree, it’s easier to learn. Wouldn’t you agree?
Andrew: If something is not interesting, applicable, meaningful, useful in some way, it’s harder to learn.
Andrew: This tangible quality of relevancy when you can get it there, when it’s present, teaching and learning are easier, and when it’s less present or absent, teaching and learning are harder, so four forms of relevancy, I would mention here. If anybody wants to listen to this in more detail, there’s a 90-minute talk. You can get off our website called Teaching Boys and Other Kids Who Would Rather Be Making Forts All Day.
Yvette: I love that title.
Andrew: It’s a very popular talk.
There’s intrinsic relevancy. That’s when something is just so interesting that you are totally engaged. You want to learn about it. You lose your sense of time. You’re fascinated. You’re excited. You tell everybody what you’re learning and doing. That’s a super blessing when it happens, but unfortunately, it’s not something you can force. It sometimes happens more often with some kids than others. I mean, there are some kids who are just naturally more inquisitive and curious and will get excited and go pursue something and others who are just a little bit less so, a little more passive, wait around what to do.
To the degree that we as homeschoolers can find things that are intrinsically interesting to children and get them to do that, they’ll be motivated. They’ll use their time. They’ll use their time to be productive, but you may or may not find something that the problem usually comes between what mom believes would be useful learning and what the child believes is relevant and interesting. There could be a gap between those two.
Andrew: On the unschooling side of the philosophical spectrum is don’t ever tell kids what to do. Just let them pursue their interests all day, and they’ll learn and come out great in the end. That feels a little dangerous to most of us. Although, I have families that have done that, and there were schools actually around the world that are based on that principle. In many cases, the kid too seem to have come out pretty good on the other end.
Andrew: I think that total unschooling freedom idea is pretty – Most of us are a little bit, “Well, that’s too risky.” Then there’s things that people have to learn that maybe they’re not interested in intrinsically. The next form of relevancy to motivate with would be inspired relevancy. You may not be particularly interested in something but because someone whom you love or respect is interested in that thing. You hang out with them, and you catch vicariously a desire and interest to relevancy from that thing. I’ve seen this happen in any number of cases of parents who put kids in a class. The kid’s like, “I don’t want to do that class.”
Andrew Pudewa to Homeschool Dads, “Support and Encourage”
Then the teacher or one of their friends or they make a new friend, someone in that environment is so inspiring, but suddenly that kid likes that class and wants to go and want to read more, and wants to study and wants to become good. I would say probably the most frequent story I hear is the public speaking or speech and debate. Kids are very shy. I don’t want to do public speaking. I don’t want to stand in front of people. I don’t want to memorize the speech. I don’t want to do a debate. You just get them in there and do it for a while. Pretty soon, it’s the bug. The bug bites like the acting bug.
That’s, “Wow! That was cool. I got to do that.” Not only do I want to do that. Again, I want to be good at it. I’m going to polish this speech. I’m going to practice this thing. I’m going to do extra research so I can be good. That speech and debate in my world, is the most obvious example of power of inspiring. For us as homeschoolers today, we have a lot more opportunities to help get our kids connected with people who love something. I personally don’t really like science very much. I’d never wanted to teach science.
If you said, “Here, you have to do biology or physics with your kid,” I’d say, “Well, let’s hurry up and pretend we did this so we could do something meaningful,” but now with coops and classes and programs like Aquinas learning, classical conversations, online classes, which are really very surprisingly interactive with experts, teachers, and many of these teachers now were homeschool kids themselves who are now adults teaching online classes and teaching coop classes for the next generation of homeschoolers. This is so exciting because of their enthusiasm.
I’m sure you’ve seen this.
Andrew: You go hear a speaker or a teacher, and you are so inspired to learn more.
“We must be a special creation from an infinite intelligence, because the things humans do, particularly this activity of writing, is so incredibly complex.”
Andrew: Kids are like that, but some things are just not interesting. A lot of work books that kids have to do, they don’t see the relevancy. “Why should I have to mark all the parts of speech in this grammar workbook? Why should I have to do all this math? Math is not part of my real life. I don’t use double digit multiplication in reality. It’s just a few exercises and futility that stresses me.” What could be like that? English spelling stuff, even in our world of teaching writing, a lot of kids don’t like having to stay in one spot and wrangle their brain around the process of thinking of something, saying it to themselves, hearing what they say to themselves, remembering what they say to themselves.
Find a few letters to make a word they might know how to spell and not forget all that while they’re doing it. I mean, I’ve been often about thinking about the writing process. It’s so phenomenally complicated. For me, it’s proof that humans could not possibly have evolved.
We must be a special creation from an infinite intelligence, because the things humans do, particularly this activity of writing, is so incredibly complex. Anyway, so how do we help kids with that stuff? Well, this is where we’d move into the third area, and I think this is most applicable to the person who asked that question. That is contrived relevancy. It’s not intrinsically interesting. Nobody’s thrilled about it. Nobody’s going to inspire you. Now, how do you get wanting to do something? That’s when we can try to change it into a game. Sometimes, it’s a very small shift from a chore to a challenge.
That’s the trick. If chores can shift the thing from being a chore to be procrastinated, avoided, done in slow motion, tedious, complaining, to a challenge, “I’ve got to get this done,” then we see really good success. I’ll give you an example of just the slightest little shift that makes a huge difference. Let’s say you have a grammar workbook kind of thing, and you turn the page, and it says, “Identify all the prepositional phrases in the paragraph below. Underline each prepositional phrase with a single underline, and the preposition itself with a double underlie.”
I mean, who wants to do it? I wouldn’t want to do it. You will write stupid. I mean, what’s the point? It has no relevancy, no bearing on reality, but we have to do it. Well, now here’s the shift. In the paragraph below are hidden 13 prepositional phrases. Find them all and you win.
Yvette: Let’s make it a game.
Andrew: That’s just different. For boys in particular, but also for a lot of girls, it’s like, “Oh, well, I like to win. Okay, great. I’ll play the game.” Now, at some point, just saying you won isn’t quite enough.
Yvette: There must be candy involved.
Andrew: Some kind of economic system.
Andrew: Whether you use pennies or points or pop charts or peanuts, the thing that’s interesting about that is that’s the physical manifestation of something of value to the child that communicates to the child, “Your efforts are valued. I appreciate your work.” Now, some people would say, “Well, you’re bribing the kid to do what he should do anyway.” Well, bribery’s when you pay someone to do something illegal or immoral. That’s neither. You’re creating a game. I love my job. I love working, and I love traveling around the world.
I love teaching, but I’m not sure I would do it quite so much if there wasn’t some kind of economic side to it. Children are… They’re preparing to be adults, boys in particular. If you can set up some type of system to say, “Hey, if you do this much of whatever in this amount of time, then you get these points or these chips or these whatever, and that has value.”
Andrew: You can exchange those for some privilege or benefit. Then just be sure the privilege or benefit is something that you would want for the child anyway.
Yvette: Sure. Well, if you think about that even in life, whether you’re an entrepreneur or have a job where you’re employed by someone else, you do the work and then you get paid for that work that you do, and so you’re still getting something in return. You’re not just going and doing the job just for the sake of doing the job. That’s life. That’s actually a life skill that they’re learning, that you do this because it’s going to produce this result or you’re going to get this in return.
Andrew: If you don’t go that route, then you are stuck going the last… get down to the worst and least effective form of relevancy, which I have termed enforced. Enforced relevancy is when you say you will learn this or you will do this or you will suffer some penalty. I’m not talking about discipline. I am saying, of course, there are things that we all have to do we don’t want to do, and the consequences for not doing them are negative and children need that, but in terms of learning, what happens when you use that type of forced relevancy is you most likely to get the appearance of learning or a very temporary.
I’ll do everything on this page, but when I turn the page, I’m not even going to remember it. I’ll study for the test. As soon as I pass the test, I can forget all that stuff because it wasn’t really important. I really never cared. I just didn’t want to suffer the consequences of getting a bad grade or whatever.
Andrew: Sometimes, we resort to that. I mean, I would be the first person to say… I have said things like, “You’re going to have that math finished or you’re not going to eat ever.” I don’t have an easy solution to that person who asked that question, but I think by contemplating some of these basically principles of motivation, and like I said, I don’t know the specifics. My guess is that this person who has a fairly young child who is probably easily distracted. Maybe as young as six or seven. I don’t know. Maybe as old as eight or nine, but it’s possible that she’s taking kind of this let’s do school at home approach, and here’s the pile of books with the number on the cover, and you have to do x number of pages in each of these things every day.
“Some kids read and do math grade at five or six, but as the schools have pushed the academics lower and lower, we in the homeschool look at that and say, “Oh no, we have to do that. We have to start pre-k curriculum, which to me is the most ridiculous, oxymoronic thing you could ever say.”
Andrew: “So we stay on schedule and get done by the end of the year. And if we don’t do all that, then we can’t do other learning activities or anything else.” Sometimes, people start there, but then, I think, they come to maybe a little bit more organic understanding, especially, of younger children. I think, we start school too young.
Yvette: Yes, I agree.
Andrew: We try to press your kids at five and six years old into reading and doing abstract math when they’re not ready for it. Now, some kids are.
Andrew: Some kids read and do math grade at five or six, but as the schools have pushed the academics lower and lower, we in the homeschool look at that and say, “Oh no, we have to do that. We have to start pre-k curriculum, which to me is the most ridiculous, oxymoronic thing you could ever say.
Yvette: Sure. That’s the stage where kids still need to wiggle and move around. That’s one of the things I have heard you say several times about read-alouds and audio books and things like that is it’s okay for your kids to be flipping around on the ground or playing with Legos or doing whatever it is they do as long as there is moving, because in a classroom, we expect our children to sit still. They have to sit in their chair. They have to sit on their carpet and crisscross their legs and put their hands in their lap and be still.
Well, many kids can’t learn that. They are physically incapable of learning that way effectively. They need to move. They need to explore. They need to be able to do things with their hands and draw pictures. I mean, my 12 almost 13-year-old, she still is like that, and she’s not a real high energy person. She’s pretty mellow, but she still needs, even in church, I mean, she’s always drawing. She has to draw. If she doesn’t doodle on her paper, she’s not going to hear anything that the pastor is saying.
You can find Andrew Pudewa and IEW online at IEW.com.
Andrew Pudewa recommends the following resources in his interview.
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(Brittney Howard, voiceover)
“I felt like I was ruining them.”
(Andrew Pudewa, voiceover)
“If I had to spend all day, every day, with my kids I would go crazy.”
(Brittney Howard, voiceover)
“I really thought, ‘I am messing it all up.’”
(Yvette Hampton, voiceover)
“We did not have a very good view of homeschooling families, in general, and so we thought, “we would never do that to our children.”
There’s a revolution transforming education
and it’s not happening in the classroom.
A lot of people homeschool because they believe their children will get a better academic opportunity at home. I for one was a child who was pretty much always just painfully bored in school. I just remember most of school was about how to survive this excruciating boredom, and you couldn’t work ahead, you couldn’t do anything other than what everybody else was doing. It was like life started when school ended.
Hi, I’m Colleen Kessler and I am a homeschool mom.
I’m Sarah Mackenzie.
I’m Christopher Perrin.
My name is S.D. Smith.
My name is Rod Brown.
I’m Rebecca Farris, the Well-Planned Gal.
I’m Robert Bortins. I’m the CEO of Classical Conversations.
I’m Bryan Osborn. I’m a speaker with Answers in Genesis.
I’m Andrew Kern.
… Andrew Pudewa
… Connie Albers
… Mona Weathers
… Kathy Kuhl
… Scott LaPierre
… Janice Campbell
… (Pam Barnhill) and we have been homeschooling since the very beginning.
Homeschooling today is much different than homeschooling 20, 30, 40 years ago. There are so many Co-ops, so many opportunities for kids to interact with other kids.
That’s what the homeschool journey is about. It’s about being there with your kids. It’s about learning with your children. It’s about teaching them the love of learning. It’s about understanding who they are, and how God made them, and what calling does God have on their life.
But recognizing that one of the best ways to do that today, in our particular culture, is through homeschooling.