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How To Teach Kids To Teach Themselves

The crux of the video is that 4 essentials (Trivium + 1) are necessary for self-teaching:

  1. Gathering Information (Data)
  2. Organizing Information (Logic)
  3. Information (Rhetoric)
  4. Experimenting

FRLHere’s the transcript:

Fred:– To start with, was the idea of being self-taught. So our focus, with, is what we did with our kids and that is to grow them to become independent learners. Where they are going to teach themselves, they are the actual teachers. Now, Jody’s here, say hi.

Jody: Hey everybody.

Fred: When I asked Jody about this, a little bit ago– Making a note here. I said, what should I tell them about being self-taught? Or raising kids or those that can teach themselves? And specifically I would say this, they are the teacher, so you want to teach them to teach themselves. So, you’re the teacher but you’re teaching them to teach. So it’s teaching them to teach their selves, and I asked Jody, so what is it that I should mention? And Jody said.

Jody: That this is a possibility, that this is doable, this is obtainable.

Fred: Yeah, it can be done.

So, what we get into are the extremes on the continuum, and so in between two extremes is where self-teaching happens. And it looks kinda like this, on one extreme your child or your student can be overly-dependent on you for everything. For every answer, for every instruction, for repeating instruction. I’ve seen this– We were talking about this a few days ago, friends of ours who wound up having their– In these two cases, their moms write their college papers or if they didn’t write their college papers, they heavily edited them, one of the two. And so, lo and behold, that didn’t turn out– Well, it turned out fine I guess, except that these kids didn’t really learn. So, they’re over there on that hyper-dependent level, where you can be doing everything for your kid.

The other extreme you’d draw on this continuum would be to abandon the child. So that you don’t help them at all, in fact, it works from– Basically, just look at, are you doing it all? If you’re doing it all, you’re probably getting close to that, they’re just dependent and they’re not being taught how to teach themselves. The other extreme is, are you doing nothing? And if you’re literally doing nothing then you’re not engaged in teaching, you have abandoned the child. And so the child is left to her or his own devices. In between is that range of self-taught, in varying degrees of what we’re fiddle with, but I would say in my mind you’re trying to aim for probably 75% towards abandon. So, in other words, you don’t want to abandon them but you’re largely over the halfway point, where you’re moving that direction. Because eventually what’s gonna happen is your kids are gonna grow up, and if they get trained well they’re going to abandon you. And I don’t mean emotionally, or not be a child or whatever, but they’re going to abandon being reliant on you for their learning, for their instruction. They may go unto college, they may go unto other endeavors or may just continue to teach themselves. So, if you’re doing it all, you ask yourself the question “Am I doing it all?”, you might want to wake up and pay attention to that and start moving away from that.

If you’re doing nothing at all, then you might want to engage a little more and see what’s up with that. Because there’s this balanced range in here. If anything is, when you’re in the middle, the way I found the people who are hyper-depended, they sound like I’ve abandoned my kids. Honestly if I talked to people who probably really have abandoned their kids, listen what I did, they’d probably say “No, you did too much”. So, when you’re in the middle of a polarity, you’re always in trouble. And if you don’t understand this just look at politics, you know? If you’re in the middle anywhere, mostly Conservative, mostly Liberal, there will be more Liberal people that look at you as hyper-Conservative and the problem. Or Conservative people might look at you– If you’re a little more towards the middle, and think of you as radically Liberal. Because that’s what polarities do. And I don’t have a real solution for it except, maybe to point it out and to get over it. That’s the game, self-taught, you want to teach them to teach themselves.

So really quickly I just want to share with you exactly how to do this. And it involves two basic components. One is the trivium and the other is experimentation. So, how you grow kids who are self-learners, is that you want to be engaged in teaching them to do three things, the trivium. One is to take in information, the second is to organize information and the third is to communicate information. So, roughly those are the data, logic and rhetoric stages of a kind of a classical education, classical conversations, classical orientation around the trivium. There are different versions of this, so this would be my basic understanding of how I think about it. So,what you’re doing is, you’re trying to organize your school in a way that the kids are taking in information, so they’re constantly able to read, do math, exposed to literature, it could be art, it could be conversations, could be debates, discussions or all kinds of ways in which information can come at us. And the problem is not that the information comes at us, the problem is that we don’t know how to organize it. If we genuinely don’t know how to organize it, then it is a serious challenge. And that’s what we’re finding in this day and age, with the internet and everything else, people are bombarded with information and if they don’t know how to organize it very well they can’t hold on to reuse it. Until you’re going to wind up being confused and then when the FBI interviews you, you’re going to be able to be perjured because you’re going to miss some data point, at some point in time, if you don’t know how to organize it. So that second stage is like drawing the lines in the parking lot, so you can park all the cars where they need to go, so you’re making optimum use of the space. So, organizing information is really that logic stage, so how you’re making it make sense and putting it together in your head. And your brain, your student’s brain can hold a limitless amount of information, as far as we know. I know you feel like you’re gonna pop sometimes, but that’s not really what’s going on. The more you can learn to organize it, sometimes it’s with mnemonics, tricks, and understanding, that’s why we teach that organic mnemonics thing. Sometimes it has more to do with maybe a mind map or certain categories or certain vocabulary you’ve developed. But learning to organize that information is part of what being a self-taught person is.

And then third is the rhetoric stage, or what’s called communication and that’s where you’re using this organized information with other human beings. So there’s something greater accomplished in terms of community, team-work, etcetera. That gain in itself is how they’re going to learn to be self-taught because you’re going to be encouraging them you’re going to cause them to learn. And you’re causing them to take in information, organize that information and communicate that information. So there’s that Socratic learning that could play into it as well in communication, but that’s the frame.

But there’s another piece, and that is experimentation. And experimentation gets down to a simple process of “Try, Learn, and Try.” Now, technically you probably have a hypothesis or a theory in play, but frankly what is going on is, you’re trying something and you’re learning a little bit and you’re trying some more. And this is why back in the day when computers were coming along, and I knew a lot of parents who were getting their kids to take coding classes, sort of, not coding like we talk about it today, but it had to do with a computer, so I always kinda chided them because, it’s seemed like a complete waste of time, because, computers were changing so rapidly. You know, the code back then is not particularly what we use now at all and it’s not how it works. They’re more user-friendly etcetera, but what I was noticing with kids is they all figure it out faster than the parents do anyway. Most of you, if you have a phone and your older kids have access to it they probably understand more about it, faster than you do, because they’re experimenting they’re not fighting off some old learning or old idea. And so, as a result they are nicely and wonderfully engaged in that process of experimenting. Which is, they’re trying something, they’re learning a little something, they’re trying something more and they keep repeating that cycle so that they can improve and grow. And that’s what being self-taught is about.

Now in our simple understanding, it involved reading, writing, and arithmetic as we talk about a fair amount and the nature of comprehension and what reading and taking in information and exposing yourself to the best minds in the world and in history can mean to you, to be able to find that information. The writing, the math part is, you know, the language of science, just as a reminder and it is a learning of logic and absolutes tied into it too. So that you’re learning a really important skill set there as well. And then writing is actually engagement, obviously, we’re using language in communicating, but writing in particular forces you to really think and so it’s really organizing the information and figuring out how to communicate it and by default reviewing it too. So as a result of those three essential skills, that’s what they need to be able to teach themselves, so you’re teaching them to teach themselves. A simple way of thinking about it is, you’re teaching them to read and to do math and to write and in doing that you’re focused not only on the knowledge but the skill set involved in those things. That sets them up with what they need as the tools for learning. So they go through life taking in information, organizing it, and communicating it, using it with others and in the process constantly being comfortable with “Try, Learn, Try.”

When Your Child Misses His Old Friends

I received an email today from a mom who had moved recently. Her son hasmade new friends, but really didn’t think the new one’s where as good as the old ones he was missing.

Here’s my note back to her.So, the easiest thing to do is for him to get a few things clear in his mind:1. His heart does not have one or two spots for friends (competition and comparison)…it has hundreds and hundreds of spots. Once a friend has a spot, just let them have it forever 🙂 New friends get new spots in your heart!2. Help him process that you are not moving back. He may ‘know’ this, but it probably isn’t articulated and owned. He probably needs to say “We are not moving back” about 70 times. Once he knows that fact deep down, he will start making good use of where he is.3. Answer him with, “So what?” Then when he answers, ask “So what?” again. Honestly, so what if his old friends were better? Why does that matter? 4. Help him understand a better story about friendship. Friendship grows over time. He’s comparing long-term friends to recent friends (not fair). Set a date in the future when he will have known his new friends as long as the old friends…then on that date, sit down and ask him to compare the friendships. Between now and then we can drop the discussion because it isn’t fair.

Hope that helps,Fred Ray Lybrand


How to Balance Homeschool, Parenting, and Marriage


So, how do you balance homeschool, parenting, and marriage? What a great question. It’s part of our 100+ questions on homeschooling. I’ll tell you, this is not as difficult as it sounds. The problem is when we don’t understand two simple things. One is balance and the other is hierarchy. Okay, so balance. Balance is the right amount of the right thing.

My name is Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand and my wife, Jody and I mentor families in how to raise independent thinkers, independent homeschoolers. Well, there’s nothing more valuable in all of this than a mom and dad getting their mind and trying to produce an outcome how this stuff balances, homeschool, parenting, and marriage.

So first, balance. What is balance? A lot of times we tend to think balance is 50/50. We do this for a certain amount of time. We should balance it with something else. You’ve read this long, you should go outside and play this long, you might say. That’s not exactly the nature of balance. Balance is the right amount of the right thing. So, soup, you don’t want it to be 50% salt, but some salt or flavor in the soup really helps dramatically rather than if you have unsalted V-8 Juice or something like that. So, it’s the right amount. So, the right amount of attention to homeschool, the right amount of attention to parenting, the right amount of attention to marriage, that would be the nature of the game.

Now, circumstances can affect us. When people are deployed, for example, overseas, it’s hard to spend that much time on the marriage, as it were. But that notwithstanding, in the normal day to day nature of things, what we want to understand is first, it’s balance, the right amount of the right thing. You get to sort of figure that out, how much attention to homeschool, how much attention to parenting, how much attention to marriage, how those things overlap. But the second is hierarchy, and that is what you value first, second, third, and how you put that together is going to affect everything. If you have a family system where the homeschool is ahead of the marriage, it’s going to take a certain look. If you have a homeschool in which a parenting, whatever you understand that to be, is the dominant thing over the marriage and homeschool, it’s going to have a certain look.

I’m going to argue with you that from a leveraging viewpoint, the small-but-powerful thing is that the marriage is the priority. I know this comes as difficult information, because I know marriages have struggles. Jody and I coach couples and have done that for decades: and we have worked through our own challenges in marriage as well. No one’s saying it’s easy. And I know in particular the readers I’m talking to right now, are predominantly women. You moms are the ones who predominantly homeschool. That’s just a fact. You may not know this, but in the divorce world 70% of the divorces statistically are initiated by the women. So, that kind of tells me something is amiss or strugglesome (and the women are often the more stressed) This may or may not be the case your marriage. The question is how do you get your marriage to be as good as it can be? When the marriage works, the parenting starts to work too; and that gives you room for the homeschooling to work. That would be the sequence.

You have a (1) good marriage and (2) good parenting, so you’re a (3) great fit for homeschooling. If you’re using homeschooling to make up for the parenting and the marriage, you’re going to have struggles.

So, the reason it works this way, as you can imagine when you were a kid, if your mom and dad actually were secure in their love and creating an environment which you didn’t ever think, “Are they going to get divorced?”— that world gave you a context for growth as a child. I know both Jody and I had those struggles growing up, worries when our parents were conflicting. My parents did finally divorce though Jody’s didn’t. But those kinds of insecurities on the child will drive some acting out, some struggles, or some distractions and stress of various kinds. So that kind of marriage, just from a safety viewpoint, creates a context of something awesome in the family.

The challenge here, I think, is that when we come around to parenting and homeschooling, we tend to think 50/50. So, dads should be 50% involved. Moms should be 50% involved or something like that. It’s never going to work that way. Somebody is going to be better at certain things than the other. Somebody is going to be available for more of the full-time context. It’s not uncommon for the dads to work and the moms to have that great gift of nurture. So, I would say that’s probably very traditional in homeschools, but not unique. In our context, I did a lot with homeschool but Jody certainly did that greater portion, especially in the early years. She was home with them and focused on growing the kids; that was OUR game plan.

So, how about you and your marriage and your homeschool and your parenting? I’d argue it needs to work as follows. Work on the marriage. You do that largely by what you model and focus upon. Is the marriage the priority? How do you show that to the kids? Do you two ever go out without the kids or spend any time alone without the kids? Is it a family room and a family bed and a family everything? If you do that, you’re making no distinction to marriage. And in my experience, you’re not modeling to the kids to go out and to be independent, to find themselves a spouse, to build their family. That’s really what you want to do. Of course, I realize you might be a single parent homeschooling, but doesn’t the principle hold? If your ex is in the kid’s lives, then the better that relationship, the better for the kids. Aim for peace and cooperation always, even if you can’t have it.

Jody and I would model it this way: Our bedroom is not for the kids. That was our place. Our focus was to let that be our place, and they can wonder what went on or not; and hopefully, we came out happy from being in there. It was a refuge. It was our place. At the kitchen table, we didn’t sit across from each other because that’s oppositional. We sat beside each other. In church, we would sit by each other and put the kids around us on either side, not corralling the kids between us. It was just our understanding. But in doing that, we were saying to the kids, our marriage is central to this thing. And so, figuring out how to make sure we spend time together, to learn how to resolve things together, to learn how to be like-minded about homeschooling and parenting together. That’s the key. It’s the centerpiece of the marriage. And if you don’t have kids aren’t you still have a family? Marriage is family and kids are added for a time. That’s the game.

So, what I would challenge you to understand is that whatever you need to do, you began by making the marriage the priority. And then inside of that, you’re like-minded about how you approach parenting, what are you modeling to the kids, what are your standards of what you’re trying to do. And then, inside of that, the homeschool game can begin to make sense. I hope that helps.

Fred Ray Lybrand

P.S. This topic of parenting and marriage is fully covered in our book, The Absolute Quickest Way to Help Your Child Change.


So, how about you and your marriage and your homeschool and your parenting? I’d argue it needs to work as follows. Work on the marriage.

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Jordan Peterson Rule #5

I want to a comment a little bit on Jordan Peterson’s principle from his book about the 12 Rules for Life concerning children. His thought on rule Number 5 is “You don’t want to allow your kids to do anything that will cause you to dislike them (I think ‘hate’ for emphasis from my experience as a counselor)”. 

He could soften it or stretch it or whatever he’d like to do, but he said it the way he did perhaps for a really good reason. I’m not only inclined to agree with him, but I’ve kind of been saying that for about 22 years or more. Here’s the point; he understands, as I understand, that you’re not a saint and when you allow your children to do things which you don’t like, you’re going to come around to being frustrated with them. I think he would say you ‘take revenge’. He also observed, and he’s right, that other people are not going to like what your child does either. But we live in a world where we think we can’t do anything as parents. We’re kind of into fads and trends and we think these little crazy creatures that have been given to us are just ‘how they are’ and there’s nothing you can do. Well back 22 years ago I wrote a little book called The Absolute Quickest Way to Help Your Child Change” and in there I basically say, “Hey! You can help your child change. It’s based on principles that we can find in the universe and amazingly and wonderfully you actually have a creature that is desiring this guidance!” What we tend to do is not understand that these babies want us, whether they realize it or not, to guide them. They’re not qualified, they’re not adults yet, they don’t know anything. That’s what we’re doing here; we’re wanting to guide and shape and develop their behavior. We don’t take away freedom that way, we actually empower them.

In my 2014 release I put four questions together that let you look at behavior in a fresh way:

  1. What do I see?
  2. What do I want to see?
  3. How am I encouraging what I see?
  4. How can I encourage what I want to see and discourage everything else?

I’ll walk others through these questions and Peterson does the same kind of thing because it’s profoundly ‘common-sensical’ –based on one fundamental thing he and I share in common; we think this universe is designed, that there’s design for maleness, there’s design for femaleness, and there’s a design for things like personality and the way things function. Because of those designs we can actually anticipate and work with principles. That is where the secret is if you are inclined to awaken and continue to add momentum to life. In parenting, you’re going to see the opportunity to structure things around your child so they really learn.

You already use this principle innocently and perfectly with language. If you’re from Alabama like I am (I now live in Texas and I don’t think it sounds much different) or if you’re Jordan Peterson and you’re from Canada, you can see they say cool things up there or down under or in the UK or who cares, true? What you need to know is language has been a subtle reward-and-discourage training that you do with your children. When they say something in a proper way you give them what they want. When they say it in an improper way you correct them or you don’t know what they’re talking about. In this way they learn to pronounce and communicate properly in that context, in that dialect, and so they can master language in the region they’re in… so that they actually can circumnavigate life well. That’s what training is and it works with language, so why not do it with [other] behaviors? You have a great future out there, but please equip your child with some self-discipline. It comes from the outside first and then they internalize it. Look at Peterson’s book. Look at my book. Think for yourself. Grow a kid who can do the same. Bless you.

The Myth of Socialization and Homeschooling

The common critique is that homeschoolers are poorly socialized, but nothing could be further from the truth. And yet, the critique is valid for all parents. Maybe there is a greater temptation for those who homeschool, but there are some simple things you can do to make this a non-issue.



Teachers Are Unnecessary for Independent Homeschool Learning


Do we need teachers? Well, yes and no. We need to learn to be a teacher of ourself, but no, teachers are not a necessary ingredient for learning. They can help if they are good, but most learning is self-learning. In this video I lay out the quick case for reconsidering the importance of a teacher in the learning process.


The Myth of No Wrong Way to Parent


Sorry, there are ways to parent wrong. While there may not be an exact way to parent right, it’s far more precise than we all seem to be admitting these days. Cutting slack to ‘style’ is just an easy way to harm the kids we love. This video is a keep-improving message!