Ask Matt James
Matt James, physician and author of
"Homeschooling Odyssey," along with his wife Barb have been homeschooling for 25
years. Four of their children have gone to Stanford, one of their children dances in the
School of American Ballet in New York, and their youngest is looking forward to his own
exciting opportunities. Oftentimes we think that Homeschooling has to take 4-6 hours a day
in order to be effective. Yet the James family has been able to send their children to one
of the most prestigious universities in the country by homeschooling one hour a day.
Q: Do you believe children can receive an outstanding education
homeschooling just an hour a day?
A: Yes, but there is a question of semantics here. It is true that we
require an hour a day, or less, of academic chores, but this is possible because the kids
learn so much from living, and from the natural and spontaneous reading that is a big part
of their lives. We keep interesting material in our home library, and we avoid practices
which would take the fun out of reading, such as coercion, testing, grading, or the use of
reading series. With no television, VCR, or video games in our house, our kids read a lot
in order to make their lives more interesting.
Despite a minimum of mandatory academics, our homeschoolers
stay busy. They practice the piano. They play in the forests and the fields. They work on
projects of their own making. I remember when two of our girls produced an ABC book,
complete with copy and illustrations. It took them three months.
The kids do chores on the farm, and they help me and Barb
with our work. They play sports and dance. We do things together. We play golf, and they
drive the cart. They take science classes at a local school, or they play in the band
there. We go on field trips and road trips. The little kids visit their brothers and
sisters on the college campus. They hang out in the dorms for days.
Q: What did you focus on during your one hour of "academic
chores" each day?
A: We worked in areas which would not be adequately mastered through
unschooling, such as grammar, spelling, and arithmetic. We used simple workbooks,
available anywhere, to teach these subjects.
Q: Does one-hour-a-day homeschooling work well for both young
children and teens?
A: The bulk of our experience is with pre-teens and early teens. For these ages
our academic goal is literacy, as well as the preservation of each child's innate
instincts for curiosity and exploration. The literate child has acquired his own
"Hubble" telescope which he can focus with clarity upon areas of special
interest for the rest of his life. Conventional areas of study during the high school
years include subjects like algebra,chemistry, or physics. A student who wants to master
these subjects in a homeschool setting will have to invest time. History and literature
need never be a chore. To put the time issue in perspective, consider the experience
of our 17 year-old daughter, Julia. She attends a school for performing artists in NYC,
for three hours a day. Half of that time is spent in English and History classes.
Graduates of her school go to Harvard and places like that.
Q: Many parents would love to try homeschooling, but worry that
it will take too much time. Do you believe that working parents and single parents can
homeschool their children effectively?
A: Absolutely. Working parents can schedule work hours so that one parent is
available. Single parents can get help from friends or extended family. Where there is a
will, there is a way. It is a historical fact that the basic elements of literacy can be
attained through an hour or so of daily study. In times past, children studied in the
evening, after working during the daylight hours. Read about Ben Franklin or Abe Lincoln.
Remember, basic literacy in our dumbed-down society places a child in the
ninety-ninth percentile of accomplishment.
Homeschooling Odyssey by Matt James
This book tells the story of a homeschooling family who found love and happiness by
largely avoiding the defining institutions of our age, such as school, day-care, and
television. $8.95 plus $2 S/H. For ordering info, email:
Do You Still Have Questions About
Then contact Dr.
Matt James: MattJames@homeschool.com