Have You Bought Into the BIG Education LIE?

Earlier this week I watched a quick video called The Truth About School, and I got all fired up! We just kicked off an extended series on education, so the timing was perfect for today’s rant about the big education lie. I hope you’ll stick with me through it, but even MORE importantly, I hope you’ll join the conversation by giving your two cents in the comments below. We need ideas. We need voices. But first, let’s look at the problem.

As I was watching the video, I had an aha moment. It wasn’t a new revelation. It was more like a sudden awareness. We send our kids to school for 13 YEARS! That’s a long time.

And wait…there are initiatives in different parts of the country to lower the compulsory education age. Really? The government wants my kids for even more than 13 years? To do what? I can tell you for sure what they’re NOT doing. They are NOT preparing our kids for life and no new legislation can convince me that that’s changing any time soon.

For five years my family lived across the street from an elementary school, and we grieved as we watched lines of innocent children pouring out of buses, filing lethargically into big stone buildings where they would be trapped for the lion’s share of the day’s sunlight hours having the love of learning beaten out of them.

Think I’m being dramatic? Why is it that a third of adults in the U.S. report that they have not read one single book in the past year? It’s because they do not love to learn. Ask anyone who loves learning how many books they’ve read in the past year, and I guarantee you’ll find out it’s way more than one.

Can you tell me why people applaud politicians who say we need to “invest in our future” by increasing education funding? We are a brainwashed society (probably because we’re also a product of the stupefying education system) who is standing by and allowing the government to take our hard earned dollars (dollars that our public eduction did NOT teach us how to earn, keep or grow, by the way) so they can squander 13 years of our kids’ lives.

What the heck are they doing with all that time? Again, I can tell what they’re NOT doing — they are NOT preparing our kids for life.

Does school teach kids how to start a business? Ask your middle schooler to explain the difference between a sole proprietorship, a DBA, an LLC, an S-Corp, a C-Corp and 501(c)3. Ask your high schooler how to choose which kind of business entity a new business owner should become and the steps it takes to do that.

Does the school teach our kids how to file taxes? Ask your tenth grader what W-2 is or a 1099 or a Schedule C. Ask him to explain the standard deduction.

Does school teach kids the steps between an idea and a successful product launch? Does it teach them how to sketch an idea, build a basic mock-up and then turn that mock-up into a prototype? Does it teach them how to turn their prototype into a working product and then take it to market?

Nope. Watch one episode of Shark Tank, and you’ll find out that our education system does not prepare our children to succeed in the marketplace.

Let’s talk about finances. In the course of that grueling 13 years, does the school system teach our kids about our banking and finance system? Ask your 9th grader to explain the principles of compound interest. Ask your 11th grader what steps you need to take to buy a house. For heaven’s sake, most kids don’t even graduate knowing how to open a bank account or how to balance a checkbook.

You might be reading this and saying, “Oh my son’s school did a lesson on balancing a checkbook. I know education is bad in other schools, but OUR school is good.” We actually hear some version of this all the time. I think parents are so desperately afraid to face the truth because they don’t have an alternative. Let’s face it, not everyone can homeschool.

But the truth is, schools are not preparing our kids for life.

Kids should be learning not just how to balance a checkbook, but how to comparison shop when they’re opening a bank account. What should they be looking for in a checking account? Should they open a money market instead? What is a CD and why or why not should they have one? What’s the difference between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA? What’s the difference between stocks and bonds? What are mutual funds? How do you evaluate whether or not an investment opportunity is a good one?

Does the school system even teach our kids how to be wise consumers? Does it teach them how to find independent product ratings and do cost comparisons? Does it teach them about extended warranties and why you would or wouldn’t want to buy them?

We all live in some kind of house or apartment and drive some kind of vehicle, right? Does school teach our kids how to maintain or repair those things? Nope. We have to depend on other people for everything. Obviously there are some things that we would want to call an expert to do. But after 13 precious years, most kids graduate from the public education system not knowing how to change the oil in their car, repair the brakes, or replace a worn out belt or a broken water pump. These are all fairly simple tasks, and during lean economic times, it can be a big help to do them yourself and not have to pay someone.

We all have to eat right? So does our school system use a portion of those 13 years to teach us how to grow or prepare food? Ask your 4th grader what hardiness zone you live in. Ask them when it’s the best time of year to plant vegetables in your neck of the woods. Ask them what kind of soil you have and what kind organic material and mulch they should add. Ask them to explain the difference between annuals and perennials and how to decide between tilling or building a raised bed.

I remember my first trip to the grocery store as an independent adult. I had no clue what to buy. Hmmm….I should get some milk and some bread, people buy those things, right? School never taught me how to plan a menu, make a shopping list and cook the food, and that was back in the day when we were still required to take HomeEc. I remember reading a recipe that said I needed to make a roux. What the heck is that? Or a bechamel? If your high schooler was asked to bring a crudite to a party, would she know what it was? As it turns out, these are not advanced food preparation things. These are the basics! But unless their parents are foodies, most kids have no clue how to really cook. No wonder fast food places are so successful in this culture.

So, the education system doesn’t prepare our kids for the business world, our finance system or consumerism. It also doesn’t prepare us to be effective members of our government system.

Does your kid know how to effectively lobby for something that impacts their daily life? Do you? Does your kid even know the difference between federal, state and municipal government? Do they know which lawmaking branch deals with education? Do they know who is responsible for the traffic laws? Do they know how to track their representative’s voting records? If not, how on earth can they cast an educated vote?

Aren’t you starting to feel like we’ve created a society where all the important information is elusive? It’s as if everything that we really need to know is a big secret.

So what the heck is our government doing with our kids for 13 YEARS?

There’s been a big push toward foreign language. As Jody and I talk to college admissions officers, we’re hearing that they want to see quality foreign language credits. But the fact is, we are still a nation of people who speak only one language. My family members in the Middle East all speak multiple languages, and they learned them at school. But in spite of the policy changes, we are not producing multilingual kids.

So what are we teaching them? A bunch of facts? Well, not even that!

Here’s a fun test for you. No peaking, okay?

How long did the Pony Express run in the U.S.?

50 years?

100 years?

Most people we ask give us one of these two answers.

Are you ready for the real answer? The Pony Express ran a single mail delivery line from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacremento, California (it didn’t deliver mail all over the country as most people believe) for a year and a half. That’s it! Basically, the Pony Express was a big flop. It was a business failure. So how come we all know about it, and we all think it was tantamount to the U.S. Postal Service of the 1800s?

Because one of the Pony Express riders, William Cody (better known as Buffalo Bill), who was out of work when the Pony Express went belly up, began touring the U.S. and Europe with his Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Shows that depicted the exciting perils of riding the Pony Express.

As I’ve done history with my own kids, I’ve learned so much that either I’d missed in my own public school education or was never taught. Do you remember learning about the Dust Bowl migration? I don’t. But it was the largest human migration in the history of this country. From 1931, when the drought in the Plains states began, through 1940, 2.5 million people relocated. Not only did the Dust Bowl stimulate the most seismic movement of people in our country’s history, but it also played a part in the economic downturn of the Great Depression. Yet, I’m not sure that I had even heard the phrase Dust Bowl in my public education.

So what are our kids learning? English is now called Language Arts in most schools, but it seems to me it’s more about the arts than the language these days. Ask your 7th grader the difference between a verb, a participle and a gerund. Ask him what a semi-colon is and how it’s used. Ask him to list the six basic verb forms and explain the proper use of each one. Forget your 7th grader, how would you do on that test?

As a writer, these things happen to be my wheel house (but don’t ask me anything about sines, cosines and tangents). I can tell you that few adults understand the grammar rules of our language. I’m consistently aware of glaring syntax and punctuation errors in emails, blogs and Facebook posts. But I don’t judge the people. It’s the school system that should be ashamed! We graduate kids from high school with just enough writing ability to skate by.

So, what’s the answer to all this?

We have no idea!

But it’s time for us to wake up from The Matrix that is our public education system and start searching for real solutions.

Let’s talk about it and brainstorm and make calls to our leaders.

If you’ve got any thoughts to share, we want to hear them! If you had a say in what our kids learn over these 13 years, what would it include?

Let’s keep the conversation going…

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

More Posts

How to Build a Creative Environment

Embracing boredom helps build imagination, creativity and innovation in our kids. Although we can’t stuff these things into our kids, we can set up an environment that will support the journey.


Stock the house with lots of supplies in easy to reach, organized ways. Recycle glass jars, boxes, plastic containers, and other things to hold supplies. Collect items to store in these containers. The list is really endless, but here are a few suggestions to get you thinking. Just be sure to group like items together and to make it easy for kids to see what’s available and easy to clean up when they’re done.

  • old socks
  • bubble wrap
  • cork
  • googly eyes
  • pom poms
  • popsicle sticks
  • paint
  • a variety of different glues and other adhesives
  • drawing supplies
  • paper of different colors and textures
  • string
  • shells, rocks and sticks
  • straws
  • empty spools
  • bottle caps
  • Nails, wood, hammers, saws, etc

Painting and Drawing

Limit coloring books, but have lots of paper in all different colors, weights and consistencies, and have a wide range of things to draw with (pencils, oil pastels, chalk, markers, crayons, pens, quill and ink, etc.). Encourage kids to use brush alternatives occasionally when they’re painting: string, cotton balls, bubble wrap, potato stamps, q-tips, wine corks, fabric, Walmart bags, leaves…the list is endless.

Encourage kids to use a variety of different surfaces for drawing and painting: old cereal boxes, blocks of wood, tiles, junk mail, t-shirts, etc.


Music speaks the language of the soul. Fill your house with all different kinds of music. If you’ve got cable TV, chances are you have a wide range of music channels. You can also create customized music lists on Spotify.

Play classical, jazz, blues, rock, rap, gospel, Latin, swing, funk, ska, show tunes, country, hip hop, techno, dubstep, Asian, disco, folk, polka, opera, blue grass, R & B, punk, world fusion…play it all! Sure you want to filter out songs with bad lyrics, but there are plenty of acceptable options within each style.

We find that this is a real challenge for some Christian parents. It’s as though they think the only music that’s acceptable to God is on the Christian radio station. God created music, and He loves it! How do I know? The angels sing; heaven is full of music. David, a man after God’s own heart, was a musician, and the Psalms are all set to music.

Encouraging kids to listen to and play music is God honoring because it explores something He created and is quite fond of. Plus, playing music is one of the few activities that actually builds NEW brain cells!

Language Promotes Creativity

Jody and I must sound like a broken record when we say that conversation is king, but we believe so strongly in the power of language that we just have to squeeze it in at every opportunity. Talk, talk, talk and listen, listen, listen! Filling your home with conversation helps build a creative environment.

Encourage kids to journal. Almost everyday we have our kids do something we call sensory writing. For at least ten minutes, we have them sit somewhere unique (under a desk, in the car, in a tree, on the sidewalk, etc.) and write about all the things their senses are experiencing (what they see, hear, smell, taste and feel).

It goes without saying that books are great boredom busters and obvious tools for promoting imagination. Stock the house with books. Listen to audio books in the car. Read poetry and plays together. Read newspaper editorials and talk about them.

Words are imagination building blocks. In fact, according to readaloud.org, the number of words a child has in his vocabulary on entering kindergarten is a key predictor of his or her success.


Stock the house with science supplies and experiment books. If you don’t know how many baking soda benefits exists, then I suggest a little reading on your poart, everyone should have baking soda, vinegar, glue, food coloring, iron shavings, magnets and other science basics on hand. Home Science Tools has just about anything you could need for reasonable prices.

Fill your bookshelves with experiment books. Here are some suggestions to get you started:


Toys can either be creativity boosters or busters. Avoid single purpose toys — toys that do only main thing. Instead, look for open play toys — toys that can be used in many different ways. Here are some examples:

  • Blocks
  • Lincoln Logs
  • Tinker Toys
  • Legos
  • K’Nex
  • Snap Circuits
  • Play Silks
  • Dress Up Items
  • Dollhouse
  • Play Dough
  • Cash Register
  • Play Kitchen
  • Sand Pit
  • Water Table


If we can empower our kids with a wide range of skills, we’ll give them more choices for boredom-busting, imagination-sparking activities. With YouTube and Instructables, Squiddo, Pinterest and Google, your kids can learn how to do just about anything.

Arm them with some basic skills to help them build imagination through boredom:

  • knitting
  • crocheting
  • sewing (by hand and on a machine)
  • drawing
  • origami
  • using a power drill
  • using a hot glue gun
  • hammering
  • using different screw drivers
  • using different saws
  • making paper
  • knot tying
  • paper mache

Here is more info about the tools to use.


It’s never too early to inspire babies. Make non-toxic finger paint and play dough. Put the baby in a contained place like the high chair, and let him have his way. Don’t worry about whether or not he eats it; that’s all part of the experience.

Give babies big chunky crayons and blank paper and let them play with it as soon as they can hold the crayon. Again, don’t worry if they want to taste the crayon. Just make sure they don’t bite off a chunk that can choke them.

Line the floor with old towels and pull a chair up to the sink. Fill the sink with bubbly water and a variety of utensils like ladles, measuring spoons and cups and a colander, and let baby stand on the chair and play.

Tomorrow we’re going to talk about how to embrace the mess that comes with inspiring creativity. Check back and be sure to leave us a little note!

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

More Posts

Negative Reinforcement is Not All Bad

Negative reinforcement gets a bad wrap! But it’s a real world tool for discouraging bad choices, and when it’s used in the right way and in the right circumstances, it can be a powerful teacher.

Take the transportation system for example. If you get caught speeding, you’ll get a ticket. You’ll have to go to court, pay a fine and get points on your license, which will stay there for a few years, alerting insurance companies that you’re not exactly a safe driver. As a result, your insurance premiums will go up. Get caught often enough, and you’ll lose your license. Car insurance is very important, but don´t forget to get some Private Medical Insurance for those unexpected accidents.

That’s negative reinforcement, and it works!

Some friends of ours have traveled to countries that don’t have these kinds of laws, and they say those are scary places. One friend told me she was shocked there weren’t more dead bodies strewn about. She did see one person who was fatally struck while she was there, but the driving experience was so terrifying, she was amazed that the streets weren’t lined with dead bodies.

I’ll take our negative reinforcing traffic system any day over one where anything goes.

Negative reinforcement doesn’t have to be harsh or unforgiving or hurtful. It’s simply a tool to help teach the concept that bad choices equal bad results.


Negative reinforcement can be useful for helping kids to break bad habits, to get through challenging situations, to correct a repeated bad behavior (bickering, forgetfulness, poor grades), for dishonoring or disrespecting someone…basically, for most bad choices.

An Element of Fun

But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. As Mary Poppins says, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Even bad results can have a fun twist.

For example, when we want to help our kids break a bad habit (nail biting, nose picking — it happens!), we tell our kids to do 10 push ups every time they’re caught doing the bad thing. It works! And they get in shape in the process.

A friend of ours shared something with us a few years that has stopped our kids from mistreating furniture (standing on chairs, jumping on beds, sitting on tables, etc.). If you mistreat the furniture, you lose furniture privileges for the day. That means the kid eats meals that day picnic-style (the table and chairs are furniture, you know), does homework and watches TV from the comfort of the floor and camps out with a sleeping bag and pillow on their bedroom carpet (the bed is furniture too).

The Punishment Fits the Crime

Okay, so we don’t really mean punishment. We’re not our kids’ punishers or jailers. We’re their mentors and teachers. What we really mean here is that a negative consequence should relate to the misbehavior. For example, if your child didn’t do his homework, it doesn’t make sense to say he can’t go out to dinner with grandma and grandpa tomorrow night. First of all, that punishes grandma and grandpa.

Whenever possible, try not to punish other people for your child’s offense (birthday parties, family get-togethers). Sometimes it can’t be avoided, and in that case, you can talk about how their actions affect other people too.

But in the homework scenario, grandma and grandpa didn’t have anything to do with the child not doing his homework. The truth is, he was too wrapped up in a TV show and was too tired by the time it was over. A better consequence would be to ban television until homework is done and inspected.

If the reason he didn’t do his homework had been that he was disorganized and forgot what was due, you wouldn’t take away TV. Instead, you might sit down with his teacher and enlist her help. Ask her to look over his homework before he leaves to make sure it’s accurate, and check his backpack to make sure he has everything he needs to complete the assignments. Then sign his homework list so you know she’s checked it.

When he gets home, have him show you the list and the supplies and together you can make a plan for the evening to make sure he finishes everything. Then have him bring you each thing as it’s done, so you can check it and make sure he puts it neatly where it belongs. At the end of the night, sign his homework list to show the teacher you’re on board. This is a negative reinforcement in the sense that it’s a loss of independence, but it’s also a preventative method as it helps him become more organized so he doesn’t miss future homework assignments.

At risk of sounding like a broken record, the goal of correction is to teach – not to punish!

Time Out

Time out is a negative reinforcement, and when it’s done well, it can be useful. For a complete description of how to do a successful time out, check out the post on Willful Disobedience. Time outs are helpful for young kids (preschool and elementary age) who are having a bad attitude (it can help them cool off and reset their mood) or arguing with you (it’s a reminder that mom is the boss and it’s their job to obey without arguing). But if you are using Time Out as your consequence for Willful Disobedience, it should never be used for any other misbehavior.

Here are some other ideas for negative reinforcements:


Negative Reinforcement

Nail biting

Do 10 push ups


Serve others (to recognize that you’re not more important than others)


Lose upcoming fun occasions (movies, sleepover, etc.)

Incomplete chores

Loss of privilege (i.e. TV or computer time)

Not doing homework

Loss of freedom (i.e. not able to go to a friend’s house, or loss of cell phone or ipod)

Mistreating a sibling

Do the sibling’s chores that day

Jumping on Furniture

Loss of furniture privilege

Check back tomorrow. We’re going to talk about Positive Reinforcement.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

More Posts

How to Handle Tantrums

If you’ve been with us for a while, you know that we LOVE a good definition. Shared language brings peace and order.

So for the sake of child training, let’s start with a good definition for tantrum. We hear the word thrown around a lot, but when it comes to this method, a tantrum means “a violent demonstration of rage or frustration.”

We’re not talking about Willful Disobedience, which we covered yesterday. We’re talking about a total loss of emotional control. It can look like screaming, kicking, flailing, hitting, spitting, throwing things…TANTRUM!

When a child is in the midst of a true tantrum, no training method will be effective. Instead, we need to help our kids learn (hopefully at an early age) how to regain control of their mind, will and emotions when they’re nervous system is flooded with intense emotion.

Jody and I often say that the prison system is full of people who couldn’t control their emotions for just five more minutes.

When we teach our kids how to manage their emotions, we give them a great gift.

My Tantrum Journey

As many of you know, my oldest child is autistic. When he was two years old, he had absolutely no expressive or receptive language, which means he said no words and understood no words. He couldn’t even point or gesture to communicate. So when he was hungry or tired or bored or cold or wet or unhappy or uncomfortable in any way, all he could do was throw himself on the floor and cry. My husband and I went through all kinds of mental gymnastics to figure out what this child needed. We were slaves to his outbursts.

For most of his second year, Griffyn wore a big contusion on his forehead from banging it against the ground. And we wore circles under eyes from sheer exhaustion.

But toward the end of his second year I learned something that forever changed our lives. It’s called The Extinction Method, and it works on tantrums like nothing I’d ever seen before or since.

We’ve used on all of our other kids during the terrible twos and with many of the families we’ve coached, and we have found that after using The Extinction Method correctly two or three times, tantrums are a thing of the past because the child learns the valuable skill of getting his emotions under control all by himself.


Before we tell you how to do it, we have one important disclaimer. If you are consistent and committed to the process, The Extinction Method WILL break tantrums. However, if you give in, even once…even a little bit, we promise that the next tantrum will be longer and louder. Once your toddler knows that you have a weak spot, he will up the ante until he finds it again.

The Extinction Method

Here’s how it works. When you see a true tantrum coming on, put the child in a safe place, remove any items that could get broken or could hurt him, and stay nearby so that he can see you. If your child sleeps in a crib or uses a playpen, these can be useful places to place the child as soon as the tantrum comes on.

Get down on their level, make eye contact and very calmly say, “You are having a tantrum. You need to calm yourself down.” Then, do not say another word or make eye contact again until the tantrum is over.

No matter what the child does or says, DO NOT respond AT ALL to the child until he has calmed himself down and has brought their emotions under control.

But DO stay nearby where he can see you. Remain fully aware of your body language and facial expressions, and no matter how hard it becomes, do not tense up, sigh or show any outward signs of anger, sadness or distress.

Make no mistake — this is not for sissies. This is where the rubber meets the road in parenting. It’s hard work and it could take every ounce of self control you can muster. But it is worth it.

Keep busy. Do dishes, read a book (or at least pretend to read a book), clean the room, fold laundry, make a grocery list…and all the while, stay totally calm and quiet, as if nothing were happening.

Avoid getting on the phone, computer or iPad. Those things can make the child feel like you are escaping him. During a tantrum, you need to let him know that you are there, while also giving him the space he needs to work this out.

How Long Should You Let it Go On?

A truly willful child can keep this going for a LONG time! Griffyn’s first tantrum during The Extinction Method lasted for two hours. I thought I was going to jump out of my skin! But the next one was much shorter, and the third lasted a matter of minutes. There never was a fourth. He had learned what to do when overwhelming emotion flooded his nervous system.

The only acceptable reason to acknowledge the child at all during The Extinction Method is to remove him from harm’s way. During Griffyn’s two-hour tirade in the crib, he pooped in his diaper, took it off and smeared it all over the crib and walls. I lifted him out of the crib without a word, as calm as I could be (but thoroughly FREAKING OUT on the inside!). Put him in the tub, washed off the poop, all without making any eye contact or saying a word. He continued to scream and thrash, and I did my best to act as if nothing was happening. I got splashed, hit, kicked and got poop in my hair. I wanted to scream and quite frankly, to throw him out the window, but I forced myself to stay completely calm and even aloof.

Once he was clean, I put him in a playpen in the room with me as I calmly cleaned the crib and walls. He eventually exhausted himself and fell asleep, and I cried and then scrubbed down the bathroom and took a shower. It was HARD work, and on that night I had little hope that it would ever change. But I remembered the workshop instructor who first taught me this method saying that it would get better. I held on to that hope and held my breath.

The next time Griffyn had a tantrum, it was remarkably different. I put him in the crib and although he kicked and screamed for a while, he didn’t have the panic and desperation he had had the first time. No poop catastrophe, and this time, he calmed himself down without falling asleep.

By the last tantrum, you could see in his face that he knew he was going to have to work it out on his own and the sooner the better. It took a few minutes, but he did it.

We’ve helped many families successfully use this method. Along the way, we discovered a few things that may help any of our readers who are currently dealing with tantrums.

When to Acknowledge the Child

If the child falls asleep, don’t disturb him, but be aware that he may wake up and start the tantrum again. Just continue as before.

As soon as the child calms himself down, go to him gently, and tell him you are very proud of him that he calmed himself down. Give him lots of hugs and kisses and then ask if he’d like to read a book with you or play a game.

Calm can look like a gentle cry or whimpering, as long as the violent outburst that characterizes a tantrum has stopped.

Sometimes the tantrum will start up again once you acknowledge him. Just gently say, “You are having a tantrum again. You need to calm yourself down,” and go back to The Extinction Method. But be careful not to confuse crying with a tantrum.

Sometimes, once you acknowledge the child, the relief of finally getting your attention again can be so overwhelming that they can’t help but cry. Once they recover from a tantrum even toddlers can feel remorse and even guilt for having been so out of control, and that can also make them very sad.

As long as there’s no violence involved (no screaming, flailing, kicking, angry words, etc.), just show tenderness and compassion. You can say, “I understand that you feel sad. It can be scary to have a tantrum. But you did a great job of calming yourself down. I’m so proud of you, and I know that next time you feel very angry or frustrated, you’ll be able to calm yourself down again.” Even if your child is still too young to understand all those words, he will understand your love and compassion.

Some Notes About Older Kids

If you use this method in the toddler years (i.e. the terrible 2’s or even 3’s) you won’t have tantrum issues after that. But if you didn’t know how to do this when they were toddlers, you might have a preschooler or school-aged tantrumer on your hands. First, let me say, you need to let yourself off the hook. Do not, for one moment, feel any guilt or condemnation for having not done this sooner.

The truth is, this method is NOT obvious. It’s not something you “should have known.” In fact, it defies every natural instinct we have during a child’s tantrum.

Older kids can be more challenging in some ways. For one thing, they’ve got a better command of language, and often they’ll use it in violent ways. Don’t be ruffled by hateful words or harsh accusations that you don’t love them or that you’re torturing them. Kids can be master manipulators. Don’t be tricked into responding in any way during a tantrum. Continue to stay busy nearby until he calms himself down.

The good news with older kids is that they understand more, so when the tantrum is over, they will have a much better understanding of what is happening. When the tantrum is over, you can assure him that he’s not a bad person but that he just became overwhelmed with anger or frustration and didn’t know how to handle it. Then you can tell him that he calmed down all by himself, and that you are so proud of him for learning how to do this. Let him know that the next time he feels rage coming on, he can calm himself down again, and that he’s just going to keep getting better and better at it.

If you have any questions about The Extinction Method or tantrums, please feel free to leave a comment, send us a message or go to our Facebook page and contact us there.


Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

More Posts

Great Reads for Kids at All Levels

We have all heard that leaders are readers, and in everything we do, leadership is our focus. We want to help families build leaders for the next generation.

We can (and should) start reading to our kids at an early age. Reading out loud to our little ones helps increase their phonemic awareness, which allows them to recognize sounds and blends when they learn to read. Reading out loud is one of the GREATEST steps we take toward building lifelong readers.

But what should we read? Below is a list of suggestions at different age levels. We want to hear your suggestions too. Leave a comment and help expand our list.

Birth to Pre-K

  • Nursery Rhymes are GREAT at this age. Read the same ones over and over and over.
  • Beatrix Potter books
  • Dr. Seuss books
  • Eric Carle books
  • Sandra Boynton Books
  • The Amelia Bedelia Books
  • Berenstain Bear Books
  • The Corduroy Books
  • The Madeline Books
  • Are You My Mother, by P.D. Eastman
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin Jr.
  • Click Clack Moo: Cows that Type, by Doreen Cronin, Betsy Lewin, and Randy Travis crc
  • Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratny
  • Good Night Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown
  • The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson
  • The Hoppameleon, by Paul Geraghty
  • The Little Engine That Could, by Watty Piper
  • I Love You Stinky Face, by Lisa Mccourt and Syd Moore
  • Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch
  • Pat the Bunny, by Dorothy Kunhardt
  • The Pokey Little Puppy, by Janette Sebring Lowrey and Gustaf Tenggren
  • The Rainbow Fish, Marcus Pfister
  • The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown
  • The Saggy Baggy Elephant, by K. Jackson
  • Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

Early Readers

This is a list of books that budding readers can read to you. You may want to consider supplementing reading education with “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons”, available at Amazon.

  • Bob Books
  • Little Bear books
  • Step in Reading Series
  • Eric Hill Books
  • Dr. Seuss Books
  • I Can Read Books, by Harper Collins
  • Stephen Cartwright books, from Usborne (these are super fun because on every page, your child is challenge to find a little yellow duck hidden in the picture)
  • Dick and Jane books
  • Whose Mouse are You?, by Robert Kraus
  • Who Took the Farmer’s Hat?, by Joan L. Nodset
  • Nate the Great, by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat

K- 3rd Grade

Many of the books on this list are meant to be read by an adult to a child. We have found that if you put white paper and markers in front of a young listener, the right brain will be occupied enough to allow the left brain to hear the story. Don’t be concerned at first if they do not follow the storyline. The ability to see “a movie” in their mind as they imagine what’s being read comes in time.

  • Beverly Cleary books
  • Shel Silverstein books
  • Magic Tree House books
  • A-Z mysteries
  • A Bear Called Paddington, by Michael Bond
  • Because of Winn Dixie, by  Kate DiCamillo
  • The Borrowers, by Mary Norton
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl
  • Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White
  • Horrible Harry in Room 2B, by Suze Kline
  • How to Tell Time (A Little Golden Book), by Jane Warner Watson
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick
  • Little House on the Prairie Series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Matilda, by Roald Dahl
  • The Polar Express, by Chris VanAllsburg
  • Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles, by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
  • The Sisters Grimm, by Michael Buckley
  • Stellaluna, by Janell Cannon
  • Stuart Little, by E. B. White
  • Super Fudge, by Judy Blume
  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, by Judy Blume
  • The Trumpet of the Swan, by E.B. White
  • Verdi, by Janell Cannon
  • Winnie-the-Pooh, by A. A. Milne
  • You Are Special, by Max Lucado

4th – 6th Grade

  • 39 Clues Series
  • A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
  • Baby Island, by Carol Ryrie Brink
  • Bridge to Terebithia, by Katherine Paterson
  • Chomp, by Carl Hiaasen
  • The Devil’s Arithmetic, by Jane Yolen
  • The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau
  • The Chronicles of Narnia Series, by C.S. Lewis
  • Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan
  • Fever 1793, by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Flush, by Carl Hiaasen
  • Guardians of Ga’Hoole, by Kathryn Lasky
  • The Giver, by Lois Lowry
  • Gossamer, by Lois Lowry
  • Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman, by Gladys Aylward with Christine Hunter
  • George Mueller: He Dared to Trust God for the Needs of Countless Orphans, by Faith Coxe Bailey
  • Hinds Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard
  • Holes, by Louis Sachar
  • Hoot, by Carl Hiaasen
  • How to Train Your Dragon, Cressida Cowell
  • The Indian in the Cupboard, by Lynne Reid Banks
  • Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell
  • James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
  • A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket
  • Lyddie, by Katherine Paterson
  • The Midwife’s Apprentice, by Karen Cushman
  • Mrs. Brisby and the Rats of NIHM, by Robert C. O’Brien
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • No Talking, by Andrew Clements
  • Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
  • The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan
  • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms, by Kate Douglas Wiggin
  • Redwall, by Brian Jacques
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor
  • The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Scat, by Carl Hiaasen
  • The Sign of the Beaver, by Elizabeth George Speare
  • The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo
  • Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt
  • The Warriors Series, by Erin Hunt
  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare
  • Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls

By 7th grade, you can begin introducing students to the 101 Books for the College Bound Reader list, which we will post tomorrow. The list was originally compiled for and posted by the College Board, creators of the SAT exam.

Students aiming for higher education (college and beyond) need to increase their stamina, vocabulary and thinking skills, and one of the best ways to do that is to begin tackling this list and digesting as many of these books as possible. Aim for 2-4 books per month from 7th through 12 grade, including (and especially) the summers. And keep track of what they read. It might be the one thing that sets them apart in the college application process. If you are purposeful, your child could feasibly conquer great 120 titles.

We’ve added some other titles that are not on the College Board list.

7th – 9th Grade

  • Charles Dickens Books
  • J.R.R. Tolkien books
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
  • Abraham Lincoln: Selected Speeches and Writings, by Abraham Lincoln
  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, by Benjamin Franklin
  • Beloved, by Toni Morrison
  • Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card
  • Foxes Book of Martyrs, by John Foxe
  • Do Hard Things, by Alex and Brett Harris
  • The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
  • The Hiding Place, by Corri Ten Boom
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
  • The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde
  • The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling
  • Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
  • The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • The Lottery and Other Stories, by Shirley Jackson
  • The Masque of the Red Death, by Edgar Allan Poe
  • Night, by Elie Wiesel
  • Our Town, by Thornton Wilder
  • The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
  • War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells
  • What Smart Students Know, by Adam Robinson

10th – 12th Grade

  • 1984, by George Orwell
  • A Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  • Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Confessions, by Saint Augustine
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, by Mark Haddon
  • Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville
  • Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser
  • The Federalist Papers, by Alexander Hamilton
  • The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls
  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God, by A. W. Tozer
  • Josephus: The Complete Works, by Josephus
  • Mans Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl
  • Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
  • Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Saras’s Key, by Tatiana de. Rosnay
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Khaled Hosseini
Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 1 to 30), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

More Posts

Fight TV With Duct Tape

The duct tape bug bit our families about a few years ago and inspired our kids to make a wide range of multi-colored fabrications, from wallets and purses and messenger bags to hair bows, pocket folders, and book marks – all out of duct tape. But they have only begun to skim the tip of the duct tape iceberg. For a treasure trove of duct tape creation ideas, visit DuckBrand.com.

In the Stahlmann and Hagaman homes, TV and other screens are very limited. We’re big Netflix fans, and we use TV for family movie nights, documentaries, and rewards for a day of hard work. But TV, video games, iPods, and the computer are not allowed to consume much of our kids’ time. Although I will say the iPhone has created a bit of a challenge, but that’s a whole different blog.

We’d so much rather see them exploring, learning and creating. By the way, we’d LOVE to hear your suggestions. You can never have too many creative options!

Sometimes, when our kids learn a new thing, they like to make a YouTube video about it. What a great way to practice communication and public speaking skills. Here’s one Jody’s daughter Sydney made a couple of years ago, teaching viewers how to make pretty duct tape flowers. She’s so stinkin’ cute!


Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

More Posts

Living in the Growth Zone

Want to help your kids reach their potential in all areas? Encourage them to live in the Growth Zone.

A couple of years ago I read a book called Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers From Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin, and it introduced me to a concept that has been fruitful in my home (and Jody’s too!).

There are three basic zones where we can choose to live: the Comfort Zone, the Growth Zone and the Incompetence Zone. Most of us choose the first for obvious reasons – it’s familiar, it’s automated, it’s habitual, it’s quick, it’s easy…it’s comfortable. The Comfort Zone is simply doing what we are good at, what we like, what we always do.

In some areas, the Comfort Zone is both appropriate and efficient. Think of morning and evening routines. We want our kids to wake up, start the day with prayer, make their beds, tidy their rooms, brush their teeth, get dressed, and get to the breakfast table on time. Routines help make this process quick, smooth, and comfortable. As it should be! The same holds true for the bedtime routine.

But when it comes to schoolwork, life skills, exercise, and specialized skills, we want our children to blossom and flourish. We want them to strive for excellence and mastery, and this process is inevitably and necessarily uncomfortable.

Think about developing muscles. It takes consistency (working out even when you don’t feel like it), discomfort and endurance.

The Music Example

My husband is a musician, and he teaches guitar part time. When a new student comes, he tells them that their success hinges not on the time they spend in the lesson but on the time they spend practicing at home. The more they practice, the better they will play. But here’s the catch – practicing guitar can be painful for a new student (the strings literally hurt their fingers), and it can be boring. Until they learn enough basics to begin playing something recognizable, chords and scales can be a drag. But unless they are willing to drill these basics over and over, pushing through the discomfort and the boredom, it never gets easier, and it’s never fun.

But the key to mastery in every area is pushing through the difficult part to reach success. My husband has been a musician for more than two decades, but he still practices an hour every day (sometimes two or three) and learns new theories, seeks out new sounds and sets new goals.

Guitar practice is a great example of how the zones work. Often my husband’s younger students have the most difficulty practicing. They don’t have the inner motivation to get through the discomfort, so it falls on their parents’ shoulders to enforce practice time. Typically, his teenage students have a clear goal, and they’re more willing to persevere.


It helps to have incentives. If our kids can’t find an intrinsic reason for growing, we can offer extrinsic rewards. Some parents shy away from rewards, thinking that it’s just bribery, but if presented well, rewards can go a long to helping kids learn to develop their own inner reasons for pushing through to success.

Just as consequences teach that bad choices equal bad results, rewards teach that good choices equal good results!


In our house, kids get points for things like housework, and at the end of the week, points can translate into cash. That’s not to say they can choose to abandon their duties if they don’t feel like working. In fact, not doing your chores with excellence can lead to discipline in our family, but if they work hard, without being told and achieve a level of excellence, our kids will be rewarded.

Leaving the Comfort Zone

With or without rewards, growth always begins by leaving the Comfort Zone. For music practice, it means setting aside time (typically an interruption in a person’s schedule is uncomfortable) and drilling the basics over and over (often painful to the fingers and usually boring). Then, at the lesson the student has to display what they have learned so the instructor can inspect how well they are doing and what needs adjusting. This can also be somewhat uncomfortable for the student.

But when a student is willing to endure these discomforts and is willing do it again and again, he will grow. Consistent practice of foundational skills over time is operating in the Growth Zone.

Pushing Into the Growth Zone

Now, once a student masters a set of skills, he has to begin learning new ones or else he becomes comfortable and stops growing. This seems like common sense, right? But in life, we see it happen all the time. How many times have we, as grown adults, worked hard at something only to reach a comfortable place and then stop? Think about weight loss. Anyone who has ever battled the bulge can probably relate to a time when they worked hard (leaving their Comfort Zone) for a season, only to slip back into old, more comfortable ways once they’ve achieved a small measure of success.

So continuing to push into the Growth Zone requires consistent evaluation and increasing challenge.

The Incompetent Zone

But there is also a point where we can push too far. As a teacher, my husband has, on occasion, over estimated the ability of a student and given him a task that’s too difficult. In that case, the student is pushed into the Incompetence Zone, and just as he can’t grow in the Comfort Zone, he can’t grow where he is still incompetent.

Let’s look at another area where this concept can help our kids grow and succeed. One of my main goals as a parent is to raise children who are capable of running a household with excellence by the time they leave my home.

Growing Life Skills

I want my kids to be able to budget money and save, plan and prepare healthy meals, maintain a beautiful home that offers a place of rest and rejuvenation, and be good stewards of their things (cars, tools, appliances, etc.). All of this takes training.

I will never forget the first time I went grocery shopping for my new apartment. I was out on my own, and I had to make all of my own meals. Eating out for every meal wasn’t in the budget, and I didn’t have the dining hall to fall back on, as I did in college. Nor did I have roommates who would pick up my slack, as I did when a bunch of us moved off campus.

Walking up and down the aisles on that first shopping trip, I grew more and more perplexed. Hmmm…what should I get, I thought? Milk! People buy milk at the grocery store. It’s a staple, right? Oh, and bread! That’s important.

I went on to collect a strange hodgepodge of things in my shopping cart that I thought I’d need. But after a day or two, I realized that I didn’t have much to make actual meals, and I was pretty sure I couldn’t survive forever on cereal and pasta.

It took years for me to learn how to make a menu, use recipes, and build up a stock supply of spices and other ingredients. Cooking is both a science and an art, and I had to learn the building blocks to be able to eventually do it well.  Truth be told, I don’t enjoy cooking (thank you God for giving me a husband who does!), but I can do it, and I can do well when I have to.

Still, it was an uphill battle, as was learning how to clean efficiently, budget, balance a checkbook, save money, and so on. I decided that I didn’t want my kids to struggle as young adults the way I struggled. I wanted them to leave my home as fully competent adults.

Finding the Growth Zone

When we start teaching our kids life skills, it’s easy to allow them to either live in their Comfort Zone or to push them into their Incompetence Zone. I remember trying to teach my older daughter how to sweep. She was seven at the time, and I soon realized that no matter how hard she tried, the broom was too cumbersome for her little body, and she was not going to do it with excellence until she was taller. At that point, she was an incompetent sweeper.

My fourth child is now nine, and sweeping is not on his task list, but after almost a year of consistent training, he does an excellent job of washing the dishes, wiping down the counters, folding and putting his clothes away, changing his bed sheets and keeping  the living and dining room tidy throughout the day.

When he started, it was messy and uncomfortable (both for him and for me). He would wash and rinse the dishes, and then, dripping wet from chest to waist, he would come find me and ask for an inspection. There was water all over the counter and the floor, and there was still some food and soap on the dishes, which meant I needed to do some retraining, and he needed to try again. Dishes took a LONG time to get through in the beginning, and I made sure he did it all by himself, including drying up the water mess, changing his clothes and hanging the wet ones out to dry and then being responsible for putting the clothes in the hamper when they dried.

Once a chore is mastered, it’s time to either have that child train up his replacement (a younger sibling) or add a new level of responsibility (perhaps learning how to plan and cook the meal). Otherwise, they will slip into the Comfort Zone and the growing will stop.

Growing in Academics

Perhaps your daughter has great math grades and her homework has become a breeze. She might be operating in the Comfort Zone, and that means she’s no longer growing. I’ve heard this story many times – a child gets great grades for a time, but eventually they start to slip, and parents are left baffled. What happened to my honors student, they ask?

Chances are they grew comfortable, and began to find excitement and stimulation somewhere else. But by encouraging them into the Growth Zone, we can help our kids find lasting success.

So take our math whiz who now breezes through her nightly homework. It might be time to hop online and pick up some supplemental math workbooks or find games that will challenge her skills. Help her set a goal and choose a reward for completing the goal. Maybe you can contact her teacher and see if there are any students in the class who might enjoy a peer tutor (learn more about one on one tutoring at home). If so, your child could reinforce her own skills by teaching them to someone else, plus it will build a strong work ethic and sense of civic responsibility.

In the summer and on long breaks, you can help your kids get ahead in math or master those times tables. You can assign them to a read a great novel or pick up a book of fun science experiments and challenge them to finish all the experiments before the end of the break. You can download a song of the 50 States and offer a date with mom when they can recite all the states and capitals, or pick up a field guide of trees and challenge them to identify every species they can find on your block.

Growing Kids Means Growing Parents

Most kids won’t push themselves into a Growth Zone; they have to be coached. Let’s face it, human nature does not gravitate toward discomfort. We, the parents, have to also remember this means growing for us as well. It’s not comfortable to consistently remind (and sometimes demand) our kids to practice an instrument or sport or do extra academic work. It’s often inconvenient to stop what we’re doing to inspect a child’s work and re-teach a skill and then inspect it again. But we can not expect what we’re not willing to inspect. And without allowing our kids to work at something again and again, we won’t help them master a task.

However, if we can work diligently with our kids to examine their school work, special skills, life skills and health and wellness, we can help them set big (but attainable) goals and then hold them accountable to consistently working. In the end, they will achieve well-rounded success.


Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

More Posts

Transcending The Ballet Budget

It’s back to school time, and that means time to pay tuition for ballet, club soccer, swim team, and whatever else your budding star might pursue this year.

While we all know financial constraints are a reality, especially when it comes to extra curricular activities, if it’s God’s plan, He will provide. If your child is passionate about something, but the cost doesn’t fit your budget, pray and ask God for creative ideas to fund it.

Call the activity directors and ask if there are scholarships or financial aid or if you could exchange work for lessons. You might be able to answer phones, file, stuff letters, and so on, in exchange for all or part of your child’s tuition.

Horse back riding lessons are pricey, and we have a big family. But when our older daughter had dreamed of being an equine vet and know everything cheap flea medicine to the most newest treatments for animals and humans like the different pain treatments from charles willis, so we knew that horses need to play a part in her extra curricular plan. During her annual week of horse camp, she had built relationships with the trainers and worked out a deal to exchange cleaning out stalls for riding instruction.

Now that music is her primary focus, opera is a focal point in her education. On our own, we wouldn’t be able to afford the youth opera program, but the opera house has wealthy supporters who want to infuse the next generation with a love for opera. Their endowments mean scholarships for kids like Skyler who are passionate about music.

If all else fails, talk to family members. A semester’s tuition could be a far more valuable Christmas or birthday gift than toys or clothing – especially if it’s something that feeds your child’s true passion.

As you plan this year’s extra curricular activites, don’t let financial constraints hinder your child from pursuing her passions. With God all things are possible!


Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

More Posts

Another Question…Really?

One thing Jenni and I have discovered throughout our research of the education process is the need for our children to be able to ask the right questions.  So, when you feel bombarded with 50 questions, don’t despair.  Instead, rejoice that your children want to become expert investigators.

Every time your child asks a question, write it down.  Tear the questions off into individual strips of paper, and place them in a box or jar.

Teach your children how to use Google.  Show them what words to type to research a particular topic.

Once a week, have your child pull one out, and research that question in depth.  You will be amazed at what they will learn and retain by answering their own questions.

After they’ve completed their research, have them put together a presentation to teach the family what they’ve learned.  This incorporates public speaking and organization — priceless skills.

Below are some questions to add to what your kids may ask, just to help them get started.

  • What happens to a potato’s chemical composition when it’s deep fried?
  • Why do certain shoes cause foot odor?
  • Why are flamingos pink?
  • Why do some chickens lay eggs that we can eat and some lay baby chicks?
  • How can you purify water in the wilderness?
  • Is global warming real?
  • What does the moon have to do with the ocean’s tide?
  • How does the rain get in the clouds?
  • How deep is the ocean?
  • Can I dig all the way toChina?
  • How does a microwave work?

Share your questions with us.  We’d love to hear what your kids are asking.


Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 18 to 30 and one precious baby grandchild. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired
tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan
organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy.

As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation.

She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

More Posts

The Power of Definitions – Bringing Peace and Order to Your Home

To hear our radio show podcast by the same title click here.

From the White House to the school house to your house, a clear definition can prevent a world of trouble. Even the highest office in the land could stand an occasional dictionary review (apparently they don’t teach the meaning of the word “is” in law school).

All joking aside, clear definitions do bring a certain peace and order.

In the Stahlmann house, “obedience” is defined as “immediately, cheerfully, and thoroughly.” I heard the definition nearly a decade ago from a homeschool mom with an army of kids – very well behaved kids, might I add.

When our kids were little, we spent a good amount of time defining each of the three attributes of obedience. Most of them understood “immediately” right off the bat, but “cheerfully” and “thoroughly” took some time.

Over the years, as I’ve shared our definition with other parents, “cheerfully” seems to have inspired the most raised eyebrows. “Kids can’t always be expected to be cheerful, can they?” When it comes to obeying orders, they sure can.

I’d say one of the most valuable lessons our kids can learn is that attitude is a choice. We can’t always control what happens in our life, but we can always choose our response. And although it can be difficult to choose a good attitude, a good attitude bears good fruit. (For a glimpse at how we recently confronted an attitude struggle in our family, check out Without Anger or Excuse.)

“Thoroughly” can be a tricky one. Some kids seem to come pre-wired with a dominant thoroughness gene, and others…well…don’t. I call them 80%ers – they always seem to think they’re finished about 80% through the job.

I have to admit, it does take some effort to teach the “thorough” part of obedience, because it means we parents have to be willing to follow-up (often again and again) until the job is 100% done. But we can’t expect what we’re not willing to inspect. The good news is that over time, our kids will learn to strive for excellence in all they do.

As they’re learning how to be thorough, it’s okay if they miss a few details, as long as they ask for an inspection before assuming they’re done, and they’re willing to make adjustments with a cheerful spirit.

When we catch our kids slipping in one area of obedience, we’ll ask, “What’s the definition of obedience?” and instantly they know what needs to be adjusted. That’s the power of a definition!

Another thing worthy of defining is your family rules. When a child misbehaves, you can point to the family rules and calmly say, “It says here there is no screaming allowed in our house, and you were screaming.”

Which leads to the next thing worthy of defining, and that’s the consequences for disobedience and misbehavior (breaking a family rule). Deciding ahead of time what the results will be creates an atmosphere of justice in your home. Your kids don’t feel wronged by discipline because the expectations of them were clear, as were the results of poor choices. They won’t enjoy it, of course, but they’ll know it’s fair, and fairness is especially important to young souls.

On a side note, a great principle to post in your home is “Good choices equal good results. Bad choices equal bad results.” Imagine the fruit our kids will produce if they arrive at adulthood understanding that they can always make a good choice and that many good choices, over time, will yield good results. It’s the biblical principle of reaping and sowing. Sow good seed and reap a good harvest.

Our oldest son has autism, and because communication is one of his greatest struggles, definitions are particularly important for him. When Griffyn clearly understands what is expected of him, and what the results will be for both good and bad choices, he has an easier time making good choices and accepting the consequences for bad ones.

Definitions create boundaries, and boundaries offer safety. Perhaps no one is more sensitive to that fact than our sweet Griffyn.

Stop by later in the week to read about the Power of the Three Question Correction, and the Power of Routines.

In the meantime, we’d love to love to hear about your family rules.  Here’s a peak at ours.

Stahlmann Family Rules

  1. Obey mommy and daddy immediately, cheerfully and thoroughly!
  2. No spitting, hitting, kicking, pushing, snatching, throwing things, or hurting people or animals.
  3. No screaming in the house and no temper tantrums.
  4. Always treat each other with honor and respect.
  5. No playing with water in the house.
  6. Put things away when you are done using them.
  7. Take snacks only with permission and always eat at a table.
  8. No going outside without shoes or permission.
  9. Don’t interrupt when someone is talking.
  10. Always tell the truth!


Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

More Posts