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Nathan Spearing's daughter using a trowel.

Rethinking Education: Customizing Learning through Homeschooling

How can we produce the next generation of innovators and game-changers in society? By fundamentally changing the way that we do education. In this episode, Nathan discusses the benefits of homeschooling as the most customizable form of education and how breaking free from the confines of contemporary schooling in America helps kids’ minds explode with what’s possible.

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Show Notes

Welcome back to the Life on Target podcast. I hope you know your mission and are taking aim to hit the mark and that this conversation encourages you and enables you to live your life on target.  Today, I want to talk to you a little bit more out education. You no doubt know a little bit about my thoughts on this subject from previous episodes. I laid out what I thought was an excellent framework for education in the first few episodes taken from C.R. Wiley’s framework for personal agency and general competency in his book Man of the House, being skilled at four languages. The four languages: mechanical skill, people skills, organizational skills, and aesthetics. We don’t need to talk about these much more really; you can go back and listen to those episodes if you’d like. But what I want to do is use those as a springboard, a framework if you will, to have a more in-depth conversation about education, especially in light of the things that I’ve been doing the last couple months.  

We homeschool our kids. My wife is incredibly gifted at doing it. She homeschooled her younger siblings starting at age 16. She worked for a homeschool curriculum a little bit after leaving the house. And she is now homeschooling our five children. One way that she is able to do that so well is she is a voracious reader. And I personally think that all you need to do is read and work with your hands and with people and for people that do quality work. And that’s all you need to do well at life.

On the Job Training is Essential

Now, I’m not saying that that’s the path for a vascular surgeon—although who’s looking at the medical field these days and thinking that they got their crap together, right? Obviously, there are skills that require years of specialized training, but those jobs need to be more hands-on early. Like we called it in the military OJT—on the job training.

There needs to be more practical working out of what you’re learning in the classroom. There needs to be a lot less time in the classroom, especially for boys. Don’t get triggered out there, y’all. Boys and girls are different. Boys and girls do things differently. Specifically, boys need to be working with their hands earlier. They don’t need to be made to sit still in the classroom. It’s ridiculous. Bureaucracies are terrible at taking risks and making changes quickly. We need innovators, free thinkers coming up with new ideas and starting new companies. Those people are always trying to break out of the mold that society is trying to cram them into, and the way that we get more of those people, the way that we innovate, the way that we continue to improve is by changing the way we educate our kids.

I am saying that—despite what it sounds like to this point in the podcast—with a bit of humility. I don’t have it all figured out. I’ve never claimed to have it all figured out here on this podcast, but our oldest is 13. The verdict is still out. They could all be living in our basement in their thirties, still getting outpatient care like we talked about in the previous episode. But I highly doubt it.

Teach Your Kids to Love Goodness, Truth, and Beauty

Anyway, my wife does Ambleside Online. And it’s a free resource. It has lots of subjects, but the core of the curriculum is not textbooks. It’s good books, quality books, classical literature, things that show goodness, beauty, truth playing out in narrative so that kids get a moral framework early on in life. My wife reads the books out loud a lot of times to our kids in a time that they call morning time, and then has them dictate back—narrate back, not dictate—I get corrected on that it before by her. They narrate back what they heard. She doesn’t make connections for them. She doesn’t try to reduce things down to a “moral of the story” or “the facts” or “what color did so-and-so have on,” these little quiz things, but she just asks them to tell back what they heard. They have to form their thoughts. They have to make connections, have to figure things out.

My youngest actually made some crazy connections. At least what it seemed like for me. [He’s] six years old. I was reading them the Bible during family worship, which is something that we try to do, um, very regularly, every day, and read the Word of God, sing it, pray together. I pray for all the kids in bed, when I put them to bed at night. We make that a center staple for our household habits.

I was reading them Matthew 7:14, talking about “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” And my son looked over at me and said, “That’s just like in Pilgrim’s Progress, Dad.” And he starts relaying to me a part of the story. My wife didn’t make these connections from Pilgrim’s Progress to the Word for my son. She just put the good book in front of him. They read it, and now we’re reading verses and Scripture that talk about it. And he was immediately making connections based on the story that they had read.

Make Reading a Family Practice

That being said, she is always reading. I try to read every day. The kids see us do that, and they love the activity too. They’re bringing books with them when they come in the car. Every time I look over, they have a book. I realize it’s quiet. And I see my oldest in the back on the way when I was driving him between piano and violin lessons today, it was quiet. I looked in the backseat. He was in a book. He was reading. That is a good thing. You can’t be lazy as a parent and produce productive, disciplined kids. It just doesn’t work that way. You have to do the work so that they can excel. Louis L’Amour, an author—if you don’t know who that guy is, we may not be best friends yet—anyway, he wrote over a hundred books, a lot of them still in print. [He] has a lot to say about education. I was just doing research. It’s crazy all the different things that he has to say and the ideas that align with mine. But one particular quote that I liked when I was doing research for this podcast was:

Often I hear people say they do not have the time to read. That’s absolute nonsense. In one year during which I kept that kind of record, I read twenty-five books while waiting for people. In offices, applying for jobs, waiting to see a dentist, waiting in a restaurant for friends, many such places. I read on buses, trains, and planes. If one really wants to learn, one has to decide what is important. Spending an evening on the town? Attending a ball game? Or learning something that can be with you your life long?

Louis L’Amour

I think that that obviously was written a while ago. We have to put in there “binging Netflix.” We have to put in “scrolling the Instagram.” We have to put in all these kind of things. Go to your phone and look at your activities and imagine what would happen to you, your brain, and what you could do if you substituted what is categorized as the “social category” or the “messaging category” and substituted just a fraction of that for reading a book and what it would do if your kids, saw you reading a book instead of scrolling your phone.

Learning is When Their Brains Explode with What’s Possible

My wife tries to do morning, time every day. That’s kind of the staple, the couple hours in the beginning, getting all the kids in the room and doing that. But we can’t do that every day. Sometimes she’ll get a little bit down about it—I just really want to get morning time in. But some days I encourage her to scrap the plan and we take all the kids out to the land, like what we did last month, where all the kids came out and helped me pour the foundation for our barn that will one day house our bus that will one day house us. And we got to talk about the Pythagorean theorem of how to find the hypotenuse and square up the barn foundation. The kids got to work the trowels. They got to see Mr. Gary, Mr. Joey, my guys that work with me working alongside. Their brains exploding with what is possible because we let our plan be a little bit more loose.

We didn’t necessarily feel enslaved to being in the classroom eight hours a day. We were able to change the family schedule, to go do fun activities together, to experience things, to make connections, but also guess what? Learn.

Invite Your Kids into Your Work

I routinely take the boys on jobs with me, have them interact with clients, interact with subcontractors, where we talk about “Why are we here? What are we looking at?” “Oh, I have to inspect if I want to expect them to do it right.” “Oh, we gotta make sure that before we pay this guy, that he did all the work that he said he was gonna do.” And all these different interpersonal skills, job management, organizational skills that we talked about, the languages of agency. We have all those conversations when we’re in the car together, when we’re going to jobs,

I brought all five of them up to the office last night, after prayer meeting, they helped me do the sound, check, the audio check. I want them to see that I’m doing the work to try to get better, to try to produce quality products for people. I want them to be a part of it. I also gives me an opportunity to try to be patient, to not yell at them, to allow them and to enter in to where they are as children. And I’ll talk more about that in the future, but it is a way for them to take literature and these things that they’re learning in good story and see them play out in life, to make connections between the book and what is real.

Our church has a university model school that we used for several years. The university model, if you’re not familiar, is going to school for three days a week. So, our school at our church is Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and then homeschooling or following a home version of the curriculum specified by the teachers at home on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

And my wife and I used this for several grades, specifically back I was in the military and I was gone half the year as essentially an auxiliary network for us to make education a little bit easier for my wife. But I remember vividly my wife saying that she was just sad dropping the kids off. When she pulled up to the school three days a week to drop them off, she was sad. She just felt like she was missing large amounts of her kids’ life, that she wasn’t part of it. And she was literally just not around them for 21 hours of the week out of the 168 hours in a week. And she was sad about that. And I think that is probably something that is good to feel if your kids are gone for large portions of the time. And even as small, and as, as customized as that education was at our school, it’s still not as small or customized as it could be if the parents were teaching them directly, which is why I’m such a huge fan of homeschooling.

Homeschooling = The Most Customizable Education

Homeschooling is the only thing that customizes it for the kid by the person who knows them the most. And I’ve talked about this before in other podcasts: You should be considering homeschooling at this point, especially with the garbage that is being pedaled these days in government schools. The same policies, the same economic policies, the same health policies, the same regulations are being birthed in the education system. And we should be walking out, voting with our feet, and taking our kids to other places.

Speaking of taking our kids out and going other places, a few weeks ago I met with a father, a loving father in our church who was struggling with his 17-year-old’s education. He was going to the local public high school and I just kind of on a whim said, “Why don’t you take him out and homeschool him? Why don’t you just send him with me every day, have ’em work with our guys and learn the business aspects of things too, as he’s learning to work well?” And his eyes got bright, and he said, “Would you be willing to do that?” And I said, “I actually need guys. We need people that can work well. And it takes a little while to train him, but it would actually end up being a benefit for me as well.”  And I wanted to do it.

And so, we’ve entered into a conversation with our pastors and people at the church school. And I’ve been sharing the Ambleside resources with him. And we’ve talked about different online resources for getting the humanities, the history, the English, and things like that that are needed. But also, I’m going to have his 17-year-old son help me draft emails to clients. I’m going to teach him about the sales pipeline. I’m going to talk to him about cash flow. I’m going to talk to him about all these different things that will enable him to view starting his own business [as possible] in an era where manual labor, skilled blue collar trade labor is in increasingly high demand, and where he literally could write his ticket anywhere in the vocation market and do whatever he wants.

Pass On Your Learning to the Next Generation

We are about five days or six days into this hair-brained idea. I am posting a series called Work Well on my Instagram, talking about the different lessons or the different talks that I’ve been having with him each day. The things that I have kind of forgot because I got taught them by my dad when I was 13, 14, 15 years old. Sometimes I bucked against it. Sometimes he had to drop the hammer, figuratively, and now I am able to pass that on to him and pass that on to my sons.

And I’m going to video blog about it. I’m going to talk about the lessons because as they come up, I’m remembering the talks that my dad gave me. I’m remembering the things that I’ve learned after working on the job site. And I’m teaching him. And I just sent the dad a text before getting in the podcast booth here. And he says his son is having a great time, is super excited about working with you. I was talking to the guys that work on my crew. It’s just such a blessing. They’re, they’re moral, godly men, and I have no issues leaving this other young man with them to work. They’re actually starting to see the vision a little bit, even though it may be frustrating because the guy is learning how to work. We are on a bold, new experiment here. So, just wanted to share that with you in an effort to have you maybe take the shackles of education off and liberate your mind to think about new and bold ways that we can educate our kids.

And if you have a son or a daughter who is struggling, realize that it may be the system. It may be the fact that they’re trying to mass educate people in a cookie cutter way instead of customizing education to enable kids, early on, to start living life on target.

Anyway, I hope this episode was informative to you. I would like you to think about it. Engage with me on these social media platforms, follow along with the Work Well series that I’m doing, and let’s see where it goes. Let’s see if we can’t come up with some new and creative ways, some grassroots ways to educate our children better. Thanks for listening. Have a good one.

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