Posted by: chrisdavis | January 16, 2012

Reflections of a Homeschool Pioneer, Priority #4: My Sister Is an Only Child

One day, when I was a young boy, I saw my mother reading a book. The title of the book: “My Sister Is an Only Child”.

“That’s a dumb title for a book!” I thought.

Recently I was watching a CNN special on how to fix American public schools. One of the people interviewed was Professor Ken Robinson. Robinson is a favorite of mine and I strongly suggest everyone watch some of his talks at TED Conferences [Go to You Tube and enter his name. He is not only very funny, but has some important things to say that anyone who cares about children needs to hear].

The interviewer, Fareed Zakaria, asked Robinson how American schools could be improved. Here is the short exchange between Robinson and Zakaria (I can’t quote it exactly, but this is close):

Robinson [responding to Zakaria’s question]: You have three children, don’t you?

Zakaria: Yes.

Robinson: I have never met your children, but I know something about them. They are very different from one another, aren’t they?

Zakaria: Yes, very different.

Robinson: Herein lies the great problem with public schools: Every human being is different, yet, we don’t treat children as if this was the case. We treat them as if they were the same: same abilities, same capacities, same interests. What we need is to celebrate the individuality of each child. Public schools were originally created on a factory model, to educate masses of children as efficiently as possible. This requires conformity, uniformity, and standardization. But, we are not making motor cars, here. We are raising unique human beings.

At that moment, the title to my mother’s book jumped into my mind (I had not thought of that book in decades). I thought, “My sister really was an only child!”

If you think about it seriously, every child is an ‘only child’.”

I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that famous educators like Robinson are finally saying things we homeschoolers have been saying for a long, long time.

As a homeschool parent, are you treating each of your children like he or she would be treated in the public (factory) school?

Or, do you shun conformity, uniformity, and standardization as you homeschool your different children? If so, in what ways are you celebrating the individuality of each child?

Please comment below. I would really like to hear from you on this important issue.



  1. I think this message is very liberating, yet it seems to have taken me “some” time to shed the fear of not conforming with the public school model. Fear is a deadly trap…killing off our liberty and freedom that being lead by God gives.
    Thank you for encouraging; for being there long after your young ones are grown to give those of us still in the place of home educator a life line of encouragment.

    Please keep sharing. For some of us, it takes some time to fully accept these truths and we need to continue to hear these good words of truth.


    • Rhonda: thanks for the comment. When you “shed the fear”, what practical changes did you make? We often make “fear based” decisions that begin us down a road that is difficult to get back from. So, what changed?

  2. Thanks for asking. So many things come to mind, but on the practical level that you asked about, I started to search for curriculum that would fit my children’s abilities, personalities, their strengths, or challenges. I stopped expecting them to be at a “grade” level, but to follow a path that was challenging, yet fit their abilities at that stage of their development. I want my children to know that they are successful because God has made them who they are and has good plans for them.
    In the beginning I chose curriculum out of respect for the good reviews it had, but came to learn that it was not worth our time if it didn’t work for our children and lead them to successes in their education.

    • Thanks for sharing, Rhonda. Fear is a biggie, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be great if a little buzzer went off every time we made a decision because we were afraid? “It was for freedom that Christ set us free”.

  3. My son is an “only” child in the figurative sense and the literal.

    I am glad he is unique, though I have to admit sometimes it causes difficulties. It doesn’t cause difficulties because of who he is, but rather the fact that I don’t always keep in mind that he is not like me in all ways.

    I wish we could shake up the educational world and show everyone that operating our of fear is probably doing more harm than if we didn’t educate at all. I see fear in a lot of things I read. I read articles on how America is lagging behind and they want to push more math and more science and more standardized tests to achieve success. I read from fellow homeschooling parents- how they worry that their 1st grader isn’t retaining their history lesson. I also hear the fear when they worry about their young child struggling in learning how to read.

    I don’t want to seem harsh towards other homeschooling parents, because I have lived in fear also. I was almost panicked. It took a year or so to finally make it past those fears and walk towards freedom. Although, I have to admit the fears try to pop up from time to time.

    I do some things like the schools and huge part of the reason is that the world just hasn’t caught on to what learning really should look like. So, I do still operate under some fear, but a lot less.

    • Cindy, I think people like you are already “shaking up the educational world”. We are so marching to a different drummer, the educational systems will eventually have to admit that the Emperor is naked.

  4. Hi Chris,

    This is my first year homeschooling a seventh grade male child. I am learning so much in this year. Sometimes I find myself going back to the public school system and I have to go back to the drawing board to remember all that I’ve learned about my child. This is not easy but it is rewarding. Thank you for all of your encouragement!

    • Kristie, thanks for sharing. 7th grade seems to be that time when boys are really expressing their individuality. These are what I call “the years of identification” when you can really begin to see what God has placed within the child to be expressed in his life. Open avenues for him to express his interests and give him time for those expressions.

  5. Amen, brother! Thanks for sharing. Now, on to finding that book! :>)

  6. I do try to treat my children as individuals, but there is always that nagging voice, because they are never where their peers in the system are. And the nagging continues to tell me they’ll never make it in the real world because, they don’t know how to funciton in the system. This is especially upsetting with my oldest, who is not academically strong in anything, but is an absolutely fabulous vocalist, actor and budding dancer. The sideways glances I get as I explain his hope for the stage! It is like the whole world is saying, “…and when he bombs he’ll be flippin’ burgers!”

    • Stephanie, the “real world” is wherever your son’s Father wants him to express the giftings and callings He has put in the boy. My 3 sons grew up in musical theater. The youngest (age 25) transitioned to acting/film production and the middle one (age 28) is a professional actor/dancer for Carnival Cruise Lines. They carry Christ with them into a dark and needy world. Good for them! People who think the systems of this world and its treasures are all that matter don’t really understand the Kingdom of God. Let them have their judgments while your son goes out and changes lives…

  7. Stephanie,

    I have had to realize that some fears pop up from time to time.

    Here is something to think about: would the public school give him any advantages over homeschooling? Probably not. In fact, he might feel worse about himself and not even try to pursue his dreams.

    While it is true that not all people attain their dreams, not one person who doesn’t try will. The only ones who can hope to achieve them are the ones who try.

    By the way, what is wrong with flipping burgers? I used to work in fast food and worked my way up to assistant manager. I probably could have gone farther, but I chose to leave. It is not prestigious, but it is honest (and hard) work.

    • Cindy: Great comment! I love what you said, “While it is true that not all people attain their dreams, not one person who doesn’t try, will.” As I said to Kristie, above, let’s try to open as wide a door as possible for our kids to achieve their dreams.

    • I suppose there is nothing wrong with burger flippin if it is where God wants someone to be.

      • Isn’t this the essence: “I only do what I see my Father doing and I only say what I hear my Father saying.” Some would say the Father is saying the same thing to everyone and expecting everyone to do the same thing. Concerning some things, this is true. However, because He gifts each one of us differently, He will do different things with each of us and speak different things to each of us as it “fits” with what He has us doing with our lives.

  8. It’s so great to hear these words of wisdom .. we need to hear them again and again. I am also reminded of something you said while travelling in Israel. You said that we will see glimpses of approval from our Father when we, and our children, are on the right path. You said amazing opportunities will arise that catapult our children farther and deeper into their dreams, and along their path. Our family has been blessed with many mentors placed in our path. Adam (11 yrs) calls a 50-year old paleontologist enthusiast his ‘friend’ because of the great relationship they have and interests in fossils they share. Christian (13 yrs) has a 70-year old ‘friend’ who he meets in the woods behind our house. Together they feed the wild animals and follow animal tracks in the snow. William (11 yrs) delves deeper and deeper into robotics and computer programming through books and video and astounds us all with his knowledge. Each is so unique and I can only encourage, mentor, inspire and watch in awe. Where would these precious boys find the time to follow their dreams if they were on the conveyor belt 6+ hours each day? Fossils aren’t in the Grade 6 curriculum, Wilderness Experiences in the Grade 8 curriculum nor Computer Programming in the Grade 6 curriculum. We are fortunate that the Ontario government doesn’t require us to do mandatory testing or the like so we do not live under a heavy layer of fear, though it still lingers.
    Ken Robinson’s book The Element is a fascinating read, as are John Gatto’s books, and DeMille’s The Thomas Jefferson Education (thanks Agnes for the recommendation!) .. and, of course, Chris Davis’ many CDs, blog and books 

    • Diana. If parents could see what the Lord does when we open up opportunities for the children to step into their dreams. He makes connections for His children that we could never make for them. “My” boy’s opportunity to teach a college computer class at age 15; another the opportunity to discuss making movies with Mel Gibson; another the opportunity to spend a year working with one of the country’s leading stock options traders. Who could have made these connections for :my” boys? Only the One who REALLY wants them to succeed with their dreams.

      Thanks so much for the great reminder of what He does when we allow Him to be the kid’s Father. –CHRIS

  9. Chris,

    A little off subject here, but do you still sell any CD’s of yours from years ago. I do have a recording from a homeschool book fair and I also have the book “I Saw the Angel in the Marble”.

    I will also tell you this, I have only lent that book to one woman. Some books I will lend, knowing there is a risk of not getting it back. That book is one I will be careful with, it is not worth the risk of losing it. I will only lend it to reliable people.

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