where wildly different is perfectly normal
Homeschooling: acquisition of skills or accumulation of facts?
Homeschooling: acquisition of skills or accumulation of facts?

Homeschooling: acquisition of skills or accumulation of facts?

It’s that time of year again. That time of year when I get just a wee bit crazy (erm…crazier), and it’s not because I’m still scanning the horizon for the Disaster of the Day. It’s the start of “this is the curriculum on which we agreed, now shaddup and go do your work.” Hold me. Give me wine and chocolate and gentlemanly eye candy and a hot bubble bath and something to read that will take me far, far away from the insanity that is trying to plan the last two years of high school for a kid so far out of the box that he no longer uses the box for climbing but has actually set the box on fire and is using the energy from the flames to power the intranet he’s built in the basement for the AI he’s programming to do his bidding. Or something like that. I have no idea what’s down there, other than a couple of ancient servers he has set up and hacked into working. I just know that my electric bill is high and that he’s designing a Faraday Cage for his machines.

It’s compounded by the fact that said child is 16 and we have started the college hunt.

Back the hell up forever just a minute. Let us pause to reflect upon that statement. The boy is now 16. Six.Teen. Not just a teenager, but a full fledged teen full of delightful snark and a passion for technology and social justice. I met my husband when I was 19; our son is only a few years shy of that. I’ve been writing this blog since he was four, and a hell-raising WTF IS UP WITH THIS CHILD? four at that. My brain hurts considering those ages and dates. Second half of the statement. We have started the college search. No. No way, no how. It is not possible that the hell-raising WTF IS UP WITH THIS CHILD? four year old who made me a mother and contributed to me being a writer is starting to look at colleges. I remember college. Clearly, vividly. I loved college. I thought I was stressed in college. I wanna go back and bitch-slap college me for thinking that was stress. His college experience will be vastly different from mine, but frankly I still feel like a freewheeling coed and thus cannot possibly have a child that age (note: I was never freewheeling, I was too busy…and too boring…a cube: square on six sides). I just can’t even. All the can’t even is right here with me, you will not be allowed any.

Until last year it was pretty laid-back; I’ve gradually tightened the screws. He was learning, I know that, but there wasn’t a lot of output. We had conversations and debates and for a long time it worked. I did finally create a transcript for him, so he could do the dual enrollment program he’s in this year.

Now it’s junior year, and it’s for realz.

So as I’m planning for the next several months and helping Andy figure out the years beyond that, I keep coming back to the intent of our homeschool. I know why we’re homeschooling, but what’s the intent? What’s the outcome we expect from at-home learning? Why in hell are we doing this again?

Is homeschooling an acquisition of skills or an accumulation of facts?

After 5 1/2 years of homeschooling (which I never, ever, ever thought I would do, I am the very model of a reluctant homeschooler), I feel pretty confident in stating that for us, homeschooling is an acquisition of skills.

Facts are easy. Google and Siri were designed for facts. With the push of a button I can call up damned near any fact in a matter of seconds….and forget it about as quickly.

Skills are more complex. Brains exist for skills. Developing skills that last for a lifetime takes thoughtful and intentional practice.

Yes, my homeschooling teen will have accumulated plenty of facts by the time he is launched, but I’m more focused on him developing long-term skills that he’ll need for life. Critical thinking tops that list; dear lord there’s a dearth of critical thinking skills out there. The ability to coalesce prior knowledge and new learning. The soft skills needed for life: tact, ability to work in groups, boundaries, calling out bullshit (sexism, fascism, racism, ageism, homophobia), communication, and most of all: TIME MANAGEMENT.

Now, of course he is still in thick of fact-focused learning. If Andy were to just work on skills to the exclusion of everything else he wouldn’t be getting a complete education. But he has a pretty good memory; facts are reasonably simple for him. Putting those facts into use is a skill that he (and frankly, a lot of students) needs to improve. So as we round out the last few years of homeschooling, I’m pushing skills more and more. He’ll need them as he goes off to college and eventually, to live on his own. Because as much as I adore my sons, I want them to live on their own, and preferably not in a van down by the river.

So what do you think? Skills or facts? What’s the focus in your homeschool? Something to ponder while you’re in a hot bath with wine and chocolate.


Today’s post is part of the September GHF Blog Hop, on teaching reluctant gifted learners. This month’s participants have a wide variety of viewpoints and opinions, so I encourage you to take a look at what the others have to say!


  1. Skills. For real. Like, life skills that do not involve surviving in prison. Because my (also 2e) child will either be president or inmate at the rate we’re going.

    At this point – age 6 – facts are interesting but not as important as the skills.

  2. I love this — thank you for sharing your humor and wisdom! I know so many families eager for help with time management, and I agree completely with focusing on long-term skills. Thank you for a wonderful post!

  3. Right now, I guess it’s just skills? Facts? Both? I don’t know? Perpetual confusion and terror is more like it 😀

    But honestly, I do love this post. As Emily said, your humor and wisdom are a much needed boost.

Whaddya think?

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