Bryan Caplan’s Ambitious Homeschooling

Economist Bryan Caplan runs the most ambitious homeschooling program I’ve heard of. Importantly, his two older sons, now in college, always were interested in academics and were serious students. Caplan provided an environment in which they thrived.

Caplan’s sons took numerous Advanced Placement tests starting in 7th Grade, learned Spanish thoroughly, aced the SAT, attended several college classes, and successfully placed a peer-reviewed history paper while still in high school.

Neither Caplan nor his sons were impressed by the local public schools (or, rather, they were strongly negatively impressed): “The academic material was too easy and moved far too slowly. The non-academic material was humiliatingly infantile. . . . With the noble exception of their calculus teacher, my sons’ high school teachers just showed videos and treated teens like babies.”

Caplan’s sons did very well with college admissions and scholarships. Yet, surprisingly (to me), “they were waitlisted by Harvard and Columbia, and rejected by all the lesser Ivies.”

For those interested in homeschooling and in education generally, Caplan’s review, and his previous remarks on the subject, are well worth perusing.

Core Knowledge Releases New Language Arts Materials

On August 24, 2021, Core Knowledge released new language arts materials for sixth grade. Although most of the material relies on additional books, included in the set is a reader on ancient Rome and another on social justice. The works are in draft form; I don’t know when the final versions might be released.

I’ll note as an aside that, in my view, the reading by Ida Tarbell on Standard Oil (in the work on social justice) is basically wrong. For a corrective, see Alex Epstein’s history.

Gustafson’s Introduction to Montessori

Mike Gustafson, who founded the Massachusetts Montessori Atlas Academy, sat down with Jon Hersey to discuss his school and its approach.

The Montessori approach, says Gustafson, recognizes two key principles. First, “children . . . are forming themselves. They are doing the work. No one else can do it for them,” although adults can “help them with it,” of course. Second, an appropriate environment matters “to help them grow and develop to reach their full potential.”

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Core Knowledge Releases U.S. History Texts

Core Knowledge has released a two-volume U.S. history aimed at students grades 7 and 8. Although I have not yet had a chance to review the materials, I’m optimistic that the set will fit in nicely with my homeschool materials. Like many other Core Knowledge books, this set is available for free pdf download. See also my post on Core Knowledge books for grades 1 through 8.

Endlings Explores Family Themes

It’s a rare film or television show that appeals both to young children and to adults. Endlings (Hulu) is one such show. It’s excellent.

Set in the near-future, the show tells the story of a man who cares for four foster children, each with a unique set of problems. This is the thread with rich themes of building family and dealing with loss that will keep adults as well as children interested. The second-layer story involves a space alien who travels around the galaxy picking up the last surviving members of species heading to extinction. In this future, elephants are in big trouble. The humans and the alien join forces to save exotic animals (mostly escaped aliens) and to thwart the meddling of a woman with darker motives.

The production is high quality, and the acting is consistently good—especially that of Neil Crone, who portrays the foster father. I genuinely enjoyed the entire series (two seasons), and I felt good letting my six-year-old absorb its thoughtful and positive messages.

Chris Edwards on Education Reform

In a recent podcast episode with Michael Shermer, Chris Edwards, a teacher and author, points out that online resources can take the place of many in-class presentations. He’s obviously right about that, but he’s not too specific (at least here) about what future role he sees for classrooms and teachers. My sense is that teachers should use classroom time for things obviously done better in groups, such as certain sorts of science projects. I think that classroom math instruction often is useless but that one-on-one tutoring always will be helpful, especially for students falling behind or with special needs. I suppose that certain sorts of math lessons are especially amenable to a group setting. (Interestingly, at this moment, my six-year-old is watching newly released Generation Genius videos on K–2 math, which are quite good.)

Edwards also points to the obvious truth that measuring educational results by time that students spend in seats is absurd. What matters is mastery. My own sense is that students waste an enormous amount of time in classrooms. I think that, especially in younger grades, students should spend limited time in deep concentration learning the traditional subjects and spend the rest of the day playing and working on their own projects. That’s basically the approach I take in homeschooling.

I found Edwards’s remarks thought-provoking; it’s a long discussion, but some people will be interested in the entire exchange.

Horwitz on Economics

In my view, Austrian economics is a great place for students to start because it focuses on the logic of economic activity rather than on mathematical modeling or statistical analysis. And most of what goes by the name “Austrian economics” just is economics and is compatible with mainstream economics.

Steven Horwitz has written a short (and free!) book on the subject that would be appropriate for advanced high school students (as well as for adults). (You can also buy the book from Amazon; paid link.) And Horwitz recorded seven short lectures to accompany the book.

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