Category Archives for "Problem Solving"

What if My Kid Hates Homeschooling?

This question is sadly more common than one would think. Why do some kids hate homeschooling?. It’s similar to hating a food, like spaghetti. Two or three of our children hated spaghetti—I don’t know why. Hating school, hating some activity is actually a hint to us, because what’s really going on with hate is probably a reward structure. Your child is actually being rewarded to grow their hate or frustration.

When you see a consistent behavior in your child, that behavior is somehow rewarded by you, or by something intrinsic in the child that connects to what’s going on. So, if a child complains about school and the response is for them to not have to do it, well, that’s reward. So technically you can be training your own child to hate school. I would ask you to consider what exactly do they hate. Get a pen and paper out and just think, “What is it they hate?”

Do they hate math? Do they hate how much time they have to spend on math? Do they hate that they don’t understand it? Is it making them feel dumb? Do we not have some way to measure and show their improvement? Do they hate reading itself, or do they hate what they’re reading?

It’s common for children to hate writing, which is why we developed a whole course on it. This hatred comes from the psychology of your child, along with their griping and getting away with it. What I mean by the psychology of your child, when they write, is that they’re trying to write something perfect, which you can’t do to begin with. As a result, they hate the experience of trying to write something perfect and it doesn’t turn out perfect.

This problem is going on in their head. It needs to be sorted out and I can tell you, concerning the way we humans learn, one of the most important things is to just establish Okay, Get Help, and Make It Great. So, let’s do an okay job for starters, and then we’re going to give you some help, some feedback on your writing, and then you make it great. This is a part of the challenge.

Your child hating something is not authoritative. They need to learn to tolerate school, not disrupt the family about it; in the course of time they may surprise themselves when they become competent with a subject. When their competence grows, children tend to feel good about school. They may even begin to enjoy school, but at the very least they will tolerate it.

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How Do I Determine My Child’s “Learning Style”?

There are three things to note here.

Number 1: There is value in having insight into your child’s approach to learning. You can help them by rearranging schooling or encouraging their efforts to their benefit. Some years ago, a good friend of mine, who’s quite good at tennis, was frustrated about his backhand. His backhand stroke wasn’t as good as his forehand. One day I said to him, “Why don’t you just run around your backhand and hit the ball with your forehand?” He had quick feet, so he started doing what I suggested. His game improved because he was using his strength to overcome his weakness.

Number 2: Concerning learning styles, the most recent conventional way to learn is from the neuro-linguistic folks, where they talk about VAK: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Generally speaking, children (and all people) resonate with one of those methods more than the others. Some people are more visual by the way they absorb information, communicate, and work with it. Some people are more auditory, and some are more kinesthetic (hands-on). They like to touch what they’re studying and trace it. Montessori schools figured this out with younger kids, how well they like to learn kinesthetically. Kinesthetic learning also can be about feeling the subject, or what the student is feeling. So it has that visceral, human, real world aspect to it.

Understanding which style your child favors can help. I can remember one of our kids had memorized some material, a card deck of vocabulary words, and had learned it by sound. But I dropped the deck one day, so that the words were picked up in a different order, and in quizzing my child I realized they weren’t exactly learning the words. They were learning to mimic them to recite them, but not processing the words into their brain. Which leads to my third point.

Number 3: Your child is a whole person. They’re not just visual, they’re not just auditory, they’re not just kinesthetic. They’re a combination of all of those senses. There may be a one-two-three ranking order, you know, like a general, a captain, and a first lieutenant. But I don’t think you want to dismiss any of them. I think they need auditory, they need visual, and they need kinesthetic. Those things, when you combine them, work all the better.

-Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand

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What if My Kid Won’t Do His Schoolwork?

This question reminds me of a dad, some years ago, who asked me a question about parenting. His question was, “How do I get my son to clean up his room?” And I said, “Oh, that’s easy.” We know people are capable of cleaning up their rooms, because there’s something called boot camp or Basic in the military. All sons who go to boot camp learn to clean their space, shine their buckles, their shoes, their rifle, etc. So we know young men have the capacity to keep rooms clean. My answer to this dad (who I knew personally) was, “Here’s what you do. You get a big jar and every day your son does not clean his room, you put $ 5.00 in there. At the end of the month, I want you to send all of that money to some organization that you hate.” In my friend’s case, Planned Parenthood or the National Democratic Party would have worked. For you, maybe it’s just the opposite. But when I told him to send all that money to an organization that he doesn’t like, he replied, “Oh, you think the problem is me.” And I answered, “Of course it’s you.”

Your kids won’t do their work because of the way you’re rewarding, encouraging, or setting standards and letting it happen. You know you don’t let your kids go outside undressed in the dead of winter; you somehow make them dress. How do you do that? Well, if you can figure that out, you can quite figure out how to get them to go ahead and do their school work.

Our own method for our children was this: there’s an allotted time that you have to do each subject. For example, let’s say a student is supposed to read 20 pages in such-and-such time. Well, if they get through their 20 pages early, they can go do something for the rest of that time before the next subject starts. If they don’t get it done, like they have five pages left, guess what they’re doing in the afternoon? Instead of playing, they have to go back and finish those five pages. This way there’s a certain amount of, you know, accountability for them to get their work done.

If your student is not doing their work, you need to ask yourself this question, “How did I teach my student not to do their work? How did we (Mom and Dad) teach our children not to get their work done?”

If you’ll make up your mind, they’ll get it done. That’s as straight as I can get with you.

-Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand

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How Do I Balance Homeschool, Parenting, & Marriage?

The first thing you want to do is get a new definition of balance. Our typical idea of “balance” has to do with dividing our life in terms of equal time and equal priority. But what I like to stress to people is that balance is not a matter of giving coequal time to each area of your life. Rather, balance is about giving the right amount of time to each area. For example, if you have soup and you don’t put salt in it, it’s not as tasty or flavorful. But you wouldn’t want to eat a bowl of soup that was 50% salt and 50% soup either—that’s not balanced. Balance is the right amount of the right ingredient. So when you look at your homeschool, your parenting, and your marriage, it’s not just about that right amount of time and attention; it’s really about the right hierarchy, sequence, or priorities. The leverage point to all these aspects of life is your marriage. If your marriage goes poorly, your parenting will surely go poorly, because you won’t be aligned. Your homeschooling will go poorly, because it will be a “me against them” problem. What you really want to do is have a hierarchy, and the most important thing in your life needs to be your marriage (if you’re married, of course).

After marriage, your parenting approach is the most important priority, because it sets a framework for how your family functions. The third most important priority is homeschool. Homeschooling is not going to make up for problems in your marriage; it’s not going to make up for issues in your parenting. So you can see how it’s important to get your priorities down, and then you can start figuring out how to improve each area. It’s strategic to think about constant improvement. How’s our marriage getting better than it was last month? How about our parenting approach? How’s our homeschooling improving?

What is at issue more than anything in all three of these areas is something as simple as resolving conflicts or problems. You cannot avoid conflicts in a relationship because if you’re both the same, then one of you isn’t necessary. As humans, we’re all different and we find ourselves at odds with one another at some point. We’re always going to have that issue, but we can resolve our disagreements.

So how do we take an area in our marriage and solve it so that it never comes up again? How do we solve an issue in our parenting to where we’re so united in what we’re doing that it never comes up again? Even an issue as simple as bedtime. How do we decide our approach to homeschooling so that it’s settled, so it’s not anything we conflict about? So that we really know what we’re doing? Jody and I had to battle through every one of these areas, and we still work on them, so be encouraged. But realize that the key is to have the right hierarchy and the right proportions to each area of life.

-Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand

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You Can’t Test Creative Writing

Now even the UK is up-in-arms about the inadequacy of using standardized tests to access writing skills.  Here are a couple of quotes from an article:

Head teachers fear some pupils in England have been graded incorrectly in a writing test that forms part of their national curriculum tests or Sats.

It also polled members in one local authority – Lancashire – where 47 out of 48 respondents reported “serious inconsistencies” in the way different papers were marked.

In June, a review of Sats by Lord Bew recommended the creative writing test should be scrapped and children’s creative writing skills assessed by teachers.

See: Head teachers angry over Sats creative writing marks

Of course, they are running into the same issues we face with our own SAT writing section.  It is genuinely improbable that we will ever create a standard way to judge writing quality through a mechanical method.  We attempt it with the supposed ‘rules of grammar and punctuation’—but if you spend any time studying and reflecting, you will realize that such things are not standardized.  Actually, it is impossible to create a static set of rules for a fluid thing.  Language continues to adapt and adjust and grow.  Sorry, that’s just how it works.  Language may be the only truly democratic thing on the planet (Thank you Rudolf Flesch for this point!).  A writing course could be the answer, but wouldn’t it need to foster freedom instead of crush us by its rules?

If English had a static set of rules then wouldn’t we all talk like Shakespeare?  Well, methinks I doth protest too much 🙂

Language is indeed fluid, and creative writers come up with even more cool-and-unique-to-the-moment ways of communicating things.  You can rest assured that Shakespeare wouldn’t have written with the same ‘grammar’ if he were alive today.  Or, stated plainly, if he had—we wouldn’t know who he is!

Isn’t it time for all of the stuffy grammarians to recognized excellence in writing on the basis of some other set of criteria rather than their own ‘approved’ set of rules?  N.B. –  I didn’t say, “Give up on excellence in writing.”

My suggestion?  Go back to sound.  Recognize language is an instinct in the same way music is an instinct.  Pay attention.  If people like a song…maybe there is a reason.  If people like a writing style…maybe there is a reason for that too!  In fact, could the reason be that it just sounds cool, whether it is grammatically approve or not?

What if we permissioned (cool use of a verbifying a noun that I’d get a D for in school) our own children to write, at least occasionally, in a way that just struck them as sounding great?  What new writer with a new style might we gift to the world because of our kind empowerment to write in a fresh way (it will also possibly become the new ‘good writing example’).

Recently I ran a few of my sentences through a popular grammar-fixing software program…and I did poorly (a D 🙂

Next, I ran Faulkner and Hemingway through the same program…they did worse than I did!

Maybe the other experts will figure it out and we can have the creativity perfectly programmed out of us.  In the meantime, why not join my expertise and help a generation of writers by encouraging them to write with their instinctive ear for what sounds how they want it read?  Curse the rules…full Grace ahead!

Write well and write free,

Fred Lybrand

P.S.  Thoughts?  Comment away…let’s think together.

P.P.S.  If you found this helpful, you might want to know I have a whole curriculum available to teach children how to write by sound (instinct): It’s called The Writing Course

Typos: Lighten Up or Your Kids Will Never Write

I may be overstating my point, but I see people obsessing on Typos in their writing, reading, and editing…I mean, literally obsessing.  Honestly, it isn’t worth it and it really isn’t that important.  Worse yet obsessing on typos— it can really damage a young writer.  I hear how awful typos are a lot from educators, parents, and the occasional passerby.  I don’t hear the same complaint from real writers.

A few days ago, I got a note from someone who had visited my Writing Course site.  This person wrote these words:

If there weren’t so many typographical errors on your webpage, I might have been interested in this for our son.

Well, I could get defensive, but I’m actually glad to know about them.  You see, I believe that no one ever writes things perfectly to begin with…in fact, trying to write perfectly is the number one reason children don’t write much at all.  Imagine if you had to write a paper word-perfect from the very beginning!  Well, it is that attitude that subtly creeps into the lives of our children as we teach them anything.  They don’t realize that ‘you can’t start with perfect’ is not only a good saying, it is also a good motto.

We teach kids to write in 3 Stages: OK…GET HELP…MAKE IT GREAT.  If they just try to write something OK to begin with, they do the single thing they MUST DO to learn to write– they start to write!

Well, here was my response.  I hope it was gracious, but I haven’t heard back.  Of course, this person and I may just have a disagreement about this topic.

Thanks for your input. I appreciate the concern about typos.  I love to clean them up myself and almost never find a published book that doesn’t have a few.  Typos are really about editing rather than writing. And, while I am embarrassed, I do know that this is the very thing that often keeps people from learning how to write.  Many great writers where notorious as poor spellers, but again, that’s what editors are for.

If your son has a steady diet of having to get everything word-perfect, he will have a tough time getting on to the business of writing.  Typos are not grammar mistakes or style mistakes…they are the very things humans have a hard time seeing (that is why it takes many to eyes catch them all).

The first thing we teach is how to move from writing OK…to getting help…to writing Great.  Unless we learn to write this way, we never learn to write at all.

I’ll make sure the typos are cleaned up.

Bless you in you labors for your son,

Now, honestly there were a number of typos like ‘the’ before The Writing Course.  How was this missed?  I have no idea, jeepers!  And yet, if our kids learn to come to us and accept correction matter-of-factly, then they will be able to receive feedback for the rest of their lives.  On the other hand, if we are constantly badgering them about the ‘mistakes’ in their papers, then they’ll just learn to avoid writing like the plague.  Writing isn’t easy.  Writing must be learned.  And, even great writers have editors the count on to catch every mistake!

I beg you to practice lightening up about typos…especially in texts and on the web.  Do you get their point?  Do you make typos and don’t see them yourself?

I’m not saying we should not have standards and edit our papers well, but I’m just saying…



Fred Lybrand

P.S. Please comment with typos you see and I’ll fix them 🙂

P.P.S.  As a further thought, the New York Times just blogged this op-ed called The Price of Typos …here’s a quote:

Before digital technology unsettled both the economics and the routines of book publishing, they explained, most publishers employed battalions of full-time copy editors and proofreaders to filter out an author’s mistakes. Now, they are gone.

How Could Going to College Ruin Your Writing?

I have a terrible habit of not agreeing with folks very often.  It isn’t that I disagree, but it is that I don’t agree completely.  On the other hand, I occasionally find someone who says something I want to give everyone I see a hug about!

Michael Ellsberg wrote an article recently that clearly explains the problem with college writing (and frankly, the high schools can’t be left out because the teachers learned to write in college 🙂  Here are a couple of his points:

Knowing how to write compelling and persuasive emails, letters, memos, pitches and proposals sets you apart from the masses, who are mediocre communicators. It is one of the most effective skills you could develop for expanding your leadership and impact on the world—and for fattening your wallet.

Anyone hoping to learn writing should stay a thousand miles away from people who write in such a manner. That is, they should stay a thousand miles away from most university professors.  Click Here for the Article

It doesn’t get much more exact and on target.  His point is that the bureaucratic nature of education gives itself to a conformity in writing so that voice (my way of saying it) is lost.  Whenever you are busy copying you are never original.

That really is all there is to it.  Some silly notions about the ‘correctness’ of grammar and punctuation and style simply destroy both confidence and uniqueness in writing. Honestly, this is exactly why The Writing Course is so effective for those who dare to follow our wild ideas.

But do you need a writing course at all?  Heavens no…you actually just need to write, especially if you are reading some well-written literature!  Of course, if good minds give you helpful feedback, then you can learn at the speed of light.

Don’t avoid college, but do recognize it is a GAME that your child (or you) will just have to play.  It is best to write like they want (the game) and secretly despise the lessons (despise in a proper and friendly way 🙂 they try to teach you.

Impactful writers are simply going to be rebels of a sort…but Oh how we will need you!


Fred Lybrand

P.S.  For a free video on how to give feedback to writers, click here: How to Give Feedback to Writers.

Lighten Up – Don’t Teach Math Too Soon

teacher math helpAgain, learning math early is NOT the key. Besides proof with our own 5 kids (Brooks just made an 800 on the math section in his SAT and didn’t start math AT ALL until 8 years old), just look at what the Finnish schools do (sounds a lot like homeschooling as you read the whole list…except a few twists). Finland ranks #1 and USA ranks #23 (lots of reasons for this). The following article suggests a few things. MY APPEAL is to LIGHTEN UP about MATH until they are 7 or 8 (or 9). At 4-6 years old, just use math around them, teach them to read, and rote-learn math facts (actually I question whether or not this is really worthwhile that young).


The Finnish school system uses the same curriculum for all students (which may be one reason why Finnish scores varied so little from school to school).

Here are a few points-

Students have light homework loads.
Finnish schools do not have classes for gifted students.
Finland uses very little standardized testing.
Children do not start school until age 7…
Grades are not given until high school, and even then, class rankings are not compiled.
…more at…

All I’m pointing out is that the Finnish world thinks:

1. All children need to learn math
2. You get help for kids who need it
3. Focus on learning and to be more well rounded…don’t obsess on grades.

I’m not saying we should be like Finland. I’m saying that homeschoolers (and the schools) have terrific opportunity. Finland shows that even if you do some odd things (socialization)…ALL kids can still learn

Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand