Teaching the love of creating things

I homeschooled my children. More accurately, my wife and I homeschooled them; I taught some writing and some high-school level math, and she did most of the rest.

Teaching in school now all too often is some teacher delivering rote assignments to students who do them by rote. I worry that, as bad as that is for students, it’s going to get worse, because now the teachers will use AI to generate rote assignments, and the students will use AI to do the work. That will certainly teach something — like how to cleverly avoid doing actual work — but it won’t teach what it’s supposed to.

Now that my children are mostly grown (one graduated college and working, one finishing her last few semesters), I have thought back on what we actually taught them.

When I taught math and writing, I think I wanted to teach them to love math and writing. 

Math is full of fascinating patterns and new ways to stretch and exercise your brain. And that is fun, if you can look at it the right way.

Writing is a pure act of creation that you have full control of, and that is definitely fun if you get into it.

So, at least the way I taught them, the objective was for them to learn to love math and writing.

In a similar way, my wife taught them to love history and science and culture.

This doesn’t make us superior to regular teachers. Believe me, school teachers would love to do this every day. They just don’t have the time to do it for dozens of students while laboring under onerous requirements and standardized tests. While my wife and I were creative, our real advantage was that we could concentrate on what we wanted to without rote requirements, so we could indulge our creativity in teaching in ways that are difficult for school teachers.

In case you are wondering, we also taught other young students and our kids went to classes at other homeschoolers’ houses and learned from other parents. All of us shared that sort of idea of teaching kids to love to learn, so that worked out pretty well.

How did it turn out?

I want to respect my adult childrens’ privacy, but I can tell you a little bit.

My son learned to love creating original audio and video and now works for a small marketing agency doing tasks that include a lot of writing. He seems to like it, and they seem to like him. So perhaps learning to love to write for him was worthwhile. He also does his own creative writing and photography. So despite the silliness of how they taught him in college, he has been able to embrace the act of creation and make a living from creating things.

My daughter has proven adept at creating computer code and creating music. She’s also a really effective teacher, helping other students to learn and passing on the knowledge she has. Again, there is the challenge of escaping the drudgery of how learning happens in school and its lack of relationship to what an adult life will be like, but at least some of the spark still appears to be there.

We should teach creation

As AI takes on more and more of the rote jobs, I feel like more of what tomorrow’s adults will do is to create things that AI can’t create.

So we should teach our children to love to create things. Because that’s what humans are meant to do.

I have no idea if that’s good for the economy. But I sure think it will be good for humanity.

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  1. You and your wife might be the only two home schoolers who are on neither the loony left nor the religious right.

  2. Your prejudice is showing.

    During the time we were homeschooling our children, I probably met 150 homeschooling parents. The one thing they had in common was a belief that they could do a better job of educating their children than the schools did, along with the time and energy to do that. Lots of people have that first belief — they just don’t have the time to act on it (or never considered it possible).

    The homeschool parents I met were extremely diverse. About 5% were politically extreme — about the same proportion as any group of parents. “I can do a better job of educating my children than the schools can” is not a radical belief, nor is it a sign of an extreme point of view.

    All parents homeschool their children. Who teaches them to talk, to learn the alphabet, to count, and to have appropriate values? Their parents. The only difference between the homeschooling parents and the others is that the others stop (or at least slow down) when the kids get to age 5 or so.

  3. My wife has taught in various settings (homeschool, private school, and now public school) for a variety of age groups, and the rote approach is absolutely discouraging. Almost all love of learning, discovery, and creativity is snuffed out because mandated standards and testing ensure conformity and mediocrity. And there is no place/time for individualized learning approaches (a huge benefit of homeschooling). It’s painful to witness. So much potential unrealized, and for public school teachers (who are fleeing in droves), no way to change the system.

  4. Love this. While I didn’t and don’t plan to homeschool my children, I always respected those of you that could :).

    And your post is so timely! I just had a conversation with a few teachers about how they could use AI in a good way. I thought maybe they should have the kids use it but then the task would be to make it their own and personalize the details in a way that AI would not have the subject matter expertise to do. A few thought this could be helpful and a few had already started using it in order to test and see if the kids could spot the real vs. the AI.

    And while I don’t use math as much in my current career, I certainly loved it in school and love the way you refer to it. Enjoying your blog – glad I asked about it.

  5. This is wonderful “So we should teach our children to love to create things. Because that’s what humans are meant to do.”. My parents gave me the gift to love love reading and building things and those gifts have been priceless in my career and in life.