Homeschooling for the 21st Century – Part One

Here is part one of a new article, culled out of my last webinar.  You can read part two at:

part two – homeschooling for the 21st century

At one of our blogs, a woman wrote to say that homeschooling isn’t what it was in Lincoln’s day, as if to say it is less effective today. Well, let’s use that great man as a sort of comparison point, or base line for the discussion at hand.

It is true; homeschooling is not the same as in Lincoln’s day.  Our values have changed, the reasons that people homeschool have changed.  In his day – there were no real public schools and few private schools. Tutoring was relatively costly. Lincoln was from a pretty poor family.  His log cabin origins are common knowledge.  In Lincoln’s time, people homeschooled because they had no other options.  Lincoln certainly did not have many options, being from a fairly poor family.

We picture Lincoln – the famous image, by firelight and reading borrowed books borrowed from lawyers under which he interned.  Abraham Lincoln was a man who made the most of everything he was given.  Would he work by candlelight today, with a few borrowed books and his own ingenuity to get him through?  Nope.  Today, Lincoln would use the resources available to him, as he did in his time.  In his time, resources included borrowed books and candles, when he could get them.

Today, available resources include massive numbers of books, electric light, cars, libraries, zoos, museums, TV, DVDs, the Internet, even webinars like this one.  One can only dream about what an Abe Lincoln could achieve today, educationally.  What potentials did he never realize? What could he do with the tools available today?

Today, as then, such a person would make the most out of what is available.  And what’s available today is astronomically greater than in Lincoln’s time.  What does this mean to you as a homeschooler?”  It means that the potential for learning is absolutely enormous.

By the way, all the books that Mr. Lincoln learned from are pretty much still around, often for free on the Internet.  And for those of you who believe that books are the core and source of knowledge, we’ll discuss that shortly.  For now, let me just say that books can contain “information” that can be as misleading, as incorrect, as plain wrong as any Internet site.  More to come on that subject.


My answer –there are likely many people of comparable ability and potential to the successful homeschoolers of the past, such as Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Mark Twain, and the rest who fill our history books.  YOUR OWN CHILDERN MAY BE AMONG THEM.  Potential is a remarkable thing.  It can lay unseen and dormant for years, and then – when a certain experience takes place, or the right educational key is turned, it can explode to life in the form of intense interest and surprising aptitudes on the part of the student.  This is supposedly one of the most important functions of education – to find the key, the experience or ideas which will turn a student’s potential on.  And if we lack Lincolns and Twains today, it’s because education has failed miserably in this respect, today.  Potential was never awakened.  It was not seen.  It was permitted to rot and atrophy and die.

As you probably know, I am an advocate for homeschooling. It’s my belief that homeschooling potentially provides a student with a vastly superior education than schooling in any form. This is backed up by a lot of numbers and research. I’ve taught for public and private schools, at the University level, as a private instructor in thousands of workshops, and as a homeschool dad running a homeschool group. Homeschooling by far works best for most students- and most families.

But I understand that many parents do not believe they can effectively homeschool. They’ve been told that they “don’t have degrees,” and that they “aren’t qualified.” This is all nonsense, of course. You’re legally not required to have any kind of a degree to homeschool your kids anywhere in the U.S. A lot of people who have degrees and who call themselves “professional teachers” are simply awful, and even destructive at what they do. A lot of parents…hundreds that I know of…have homeschooled their kids right into universities and careers.

In a serious effort to make homeschooling easier to do, and more commonly successful in terms of education received, I’ve authored my own curriculum. It took some 15,000 hours to write, over more than a decade of work, and is intended to replace the need for schooling a student from age 5-Adult Continuing Education. The curriculum is called Steps (or “CTT”). It has been used by over 20,000 students worldwide over the past 10 years. Hundreds of “success stories” attest to how well CTT works.

CTT courses are written in a way that gradually allows the student to take over his own education. Each course itself largely does the teaching, relieving mom and dad of that duty unless they wish to use our daily lesson plans in various subjects as springboards for family discussion and discovery – as many families do, every day. The parent has the job of making certain the student is working and has what they need to study. (And you’ll need to find a good math program for homeschooling as we don’t provide one. There are many.)

Below are links to our site discussing each level of curriculum, and every subject at that level that we offer. (You can start any level at any time. We don’t have “semesters” that start at a certain time, and each course stands alone well.) You’ll find free videos describing how every subject and each level works. You’ll discover free samples of every course we offer. Our site offers many other services and surprises, including numerous free courses you can download and try out.

Starter is for ages 5-6, and for preliterate students of any age. It focuses on starting to develop literacy skills, while teaching about various subjects. Starter includes full two-year programs in Reading, History, Science, Creative Writing, and Living Your Life, courses that develop life and study skills for the youngest students. Every lesson plan at the Starter level works to develop literacy.

Elementary is for ages 7-8, and for students who are developing literacy. It includes two-year programs in Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing (which also teaches the parts of language at this level), and Living Your Life courses which develop life and study skills in preparation for more advanced studies to come.

Lower School (ages 9-10) offers two-year programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, P.E. Electives, and in various arts such as Animation, Music Theory, and Acting. At this level, students must read fairly well, and studies are progressively turned over to the student.

Upper School (ages 11-High School, and Adult Continuing Education) provides programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, Current Events, Literature Guides, P.E. Electives, and in arts such as Animation, Acting, Music Theory, and Music History.

For parents who wish to teach at home, but are intimidated at the thought, and for parents who just wish to improve the homeschool experience, we offer a ten course homeschool program for homeschool teachers, as well as several books about education and homeschooling today.

We want you and your children to win with homeschooling!


13 comments for “Homeschooling for the 21st Century – Part One

  1. April 29, 2011 at 9:26 am


    I love this comparison to Lincoln’s education, what a terrific idea for an article! I’d also like to point out another thing, not only did Lincoln not have any other real options, we forget that back in his day, HOMESCHOOLING IS HOW IT WAS DONE!! It was how children were educated…period. Oh, the wealthy may have had access to hired tutors who would come into the home, but parents did NOT bundle up their children each morning and send them away from the home for the entire day to learn. In fact, I daresay the idea at first must have been a bit laughable, with many parents saying “I can teach them all they need to know, and I don’t need some supposed ‘expert’ doing my job!”

    Somewhere along the way, we lost the confidence in our ability to teach our children the basics of what they need to know, to the point where even these days at homeschool conventions there are literally hundreds of books for sale that purport to teach parents how to discipline their children and how to present their faith. Since when did we become so ignorant that we can’t even teach our children right from wrong?

    Or is it that we have been brainswashed, as a culture, for so long that we have grown to the point where we assume so little responsibility for the education of our children that now even the most basic concepts are lost to us and have to be relearned. When a homeschool convention has to feature tools like chore charts and books on how to teach your child to behave well, I think we have concrete proof of just how much we as a society have abdicated over to the public school system over the past 150 years or so.

    Did the trend towards public education bring about more opportunities for our children to learn from better educated folks? Yes. Did it work? Sometimes, but most of the time not so well. As evidenced by test scores the nation over, our kids may have access to experts in all subjects, but we now have proof that access alone does not equate to knowledge gained. I can have a PhD teaching biology to my children, but if they don’t understand exactly how to best approach my specific child, if they do not know how best to impart information in a way that “clicks” for my child…then their PhD doesn’t do my kid any good at all.

    We have gotten off track with education into thinking that a well educated person will be able to educate well. We can see now that this is not true. We also know that group learning with the wide span of abilities present hurts all learners, as no one is able to learn at a pace appropriate for them.

    Abe Lincoln was a well educated man, maybe because he wasn’t taught by an expert and because he was able to work at a pace that was a good fit for him…something denied the children of America today.


    • April 13, 2012 at 3:06 pm

      @ Cindy You make so many great points. My favorite -“When a homeschool convention has to feature tools like chore charts and books on how to teach your child to behave well, I think we have concrete proof of just how much we as a society have abdicated over to the public school system over the past 150 years or so.”

  2. Greg Gamble
    November 17, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    Here is a twist on this to consider. A very well educated man of his day told his readers to add knowledge to a foundation of virtue. I will let you all figure out who it was so the importance of that bit of wisdom stands on its own. It occurred to me years ago, when I was younger and seeking basic understanding and knowledge of many things, that most of history’s heroes are remembered for their acts and virtue, and the subtext of most hero stories is that their acts were underpinned by their good virtues. When a child is self controlled, at peace, with a free conscience, and living in balance with his own needs and others, he or she is considered to be virtuous. I have watched 30 plus years of children being homeschooled,and public or private schooled,and my observation is that those who possessed and were possessed by virtues and social graces learned best, excelled further and are leaders in many fields of endeavor today. What or how little, where, when and under whose direction learning takes place is governed by the choices, motives and purpose of each student. I would argue that homeschool produces higher percentages of literate and functional students because the wide variety of control (or lack of) mechanisms, virtues and environments are tailored to facilitate inductive and deductive learning. Increasingly, for many reasons, schools, businesses, sports programs, governments etc have deliberately pushed away the age old codes of behavior, ethics,morals, expectations and disciplines from daily regimens,and thus, have turned education and learning into a means to financial and egotistical ends. Until mass instruction was forced on us, education was employed as a tool to fashion character into a young person. Public schools that still retain a critical mass of teachers that have not caved into the prostitution of knowledge for gain are still molding students, to some degree, into responsible citizens. I havnt read Lincolns story, as Canadians prefer to learn about the sanitized lives of Kings, Queens and similar despots, forgetting of course that they were mostly replaced because they lacked virtue.

  3. November 18, 2011 at 5:15 am

    I studied and wrote about John A. Macdonald, and am a fan of what I know of him. His life didn’t seem sanitized, and what he accomplished seems pretty marvelous.

    I wish there were more public schools like the ones you describe, but frankly, I don’t believe that there are any – not unless they stop using the critically-based tools of education that have been carefully inculcated over the past 100 years, such as testing, grading, classroom learning and the rest of it. Thanks for the interesting thoughts!

  4. Greg Gamble
    November 19, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Actually the statement came from Paul the Apostle. I know of a few public schools in Toronto that are very similar to the public school I went to the sixty’s. They are in wealthy areas where parents can buy good quality teachers and programs. The children well behaved, excel in education and most going to high school and college or university. The majority of these communities have two parent families, higher incomes and their communities develop meaningful activities that draw the children in. Where this kind of community used to be the norm it is now the exception. Solid economics seems to weigh heavily in support of solid education although I would not bet the farm that it necessarily produces a virtuous education. I would argue however that most of today’s wealthy and powerful elites lack the scruples and virtues of our ancestors.

    • November 20, 2011 at 3:05 am

      Not sure what quote you refer to. I think it’s usually a mistake to generalize about people and “classes”, Greg. I’ve known rich and “poor” people who were disgusting, and rich and poor who were terrific. Contrary to popular belief, money does not make the man. And yes, I think it’s interesting what you described about affluent communities. However, again, I do not believe at all that $ is the determining factor where education is concerned. I believe that intent, methodology, the closeness of a family all weigh in with other issues, and that money can contribute, but should never be used as an excuse where education is concerned. I know a family that homeschooled their daughter through High School and did not spend hardly a dime! She’s doing very well. That family united to provide her a quality education – and money was not a factor. They are emblematic of many others.

  5. January 12, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Most public schools are not preparing students for life in the 21st century, which is clearly going to be different thanks to the changes in our economy. Homeschooling is the very best way to tailor each child’s education and capitalize on their gifts while preparing them for a world much different than the one we were prepared for.

    I say this as a mom who just finished homeschooling four children for the past 25 years, and whose latest book, Thriving in the 21st Century, recommends homeschooling as the very best way to prepare children for the future. 🙂

    So glad to see someone writing about this subject!

  6. January 12, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Thanks, Barbara, for the kind words! It’s a very important consideration when deciding in what manner one wishes to educate their children. Congratulations on homeschooling four children! Wonderful and well done!

  7. April 13, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    Thank you for your article Steven. I will be homeschooling my daughter for the first time this coming year. I have provided her with the best education I could so far beginning with private school and then a public Middle School of the Arts. I never thought I would be homeschooling my daughter in High School but the lack of choices for High School in my area made me realize it is the best choice for her. We are both very excited about it and look forward to this new adventure. I look forward to your posts!

  8. Brendaliz
    December 16, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    How can I homeschool my daughter if I have to work? Most people send their kids to public schools because they can’t afford private schools and they have bills to pay. I really wish I could stay at home to homeschool my daughter.

    • December 16, 2012 at 3:46 pm

      Hi Brendaliz,

      I’ve thoroughly answered that question in other articles here. In short, help start a homeschool co-op, or group, or join up with one already in existence. LOTS of working parents have done this. Some go so far as to start small homeschool “schools” that grow into large private schools, and this is done all over the world, in some of the poorest areas. By joining a group, the jobs homeschooling requires can be spread out (as can the very low cost) between numerous families and adults. You may have to commit a day a week to the co-op, to teach or supervise, or take a weekend day to help create some part of the program – but it can be set up around your work schedule. Again, thousands of people have done this.

  9. March 12, 2013 at 10:36 pm


    I really enjoyed this post. I recently talked about this issue on my blog about whether homeschooling is more effective than public/private schools. My kids are still rather young, one is three and he is really eager to learn. He is not in preschool and I teach him here at home. I download things to guide me to understand what I should teach him at his age. I have found that homeschooling is great for kids to get a one on one experience and I feel that these students are more intellectual and advanced. My husband and I are both business degree graduates and I definitely look forward to learning more about this so that I can do what is best for my kids and their education. Thank you so much for the information.

    • March 12, 2013 at 11:08 pm

      Hi Reina,

      You’ll love homeschooling! A three year old should really be allowed to have fun, I believe. You could begin reading by doing a lot of reading to your children, and perhaps develop word recognition as an approach. But at age three, fun is good! Thanks for reading!

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