Announcing the App, Passion Education — Transcending Today’s Homeschooling

Between October, 2016 and January, 2017 I conducted over 20 separate 45-minute interviews with homeschool parents and surveyed 130. (The main takeaways can be found in detail here.) I have good news and bad news, homeschool parents, about how homeschooling is predominantly implemented. Overall, though, I have great news because I know how we can rectify the bad news.

Good News: There Is a Common Dream

The good news is that there is a general aspiration that is commonly held among parents who homeschool their kids. It is good to know that because it could mean that there is a general solution, too, and I have discovered that there is. We will get to that.

Parents aspire to raising their children with educational activities that stem from interests their children are already passionate about. The hope is that, by making subjects engaging, parents would see their kids willfully learning more about them independently — and all along the way the child will come back to share what they learned and ask questions. The dream for parents is to be able to invoke a passion for learning in their kids that results in unceasing self-guided education and skill development.

Achieving this educational momentum with children is essentially what is outlined in the book Passion-Driven Education by Libertas Institute’s founder, Connor Boyack. This approach to homeschooling has strong overlap with education methodologies like Unschooling, TJEd (Thomas Jefferson Education), Montessori, and others.

The Role of the Parent in Passion-Driven Education

First of all, the parent treats the interests of their children the way they would the interests of an adult — they do not belittle them. To use an example from the book, rather than looking at a boy’s love of the mobile game, Angry Birds, as a hindrance to his education, the parent could use it as an opportunity to ignite his interest in related subjects like biology, physics, graphic design, technology businesses, or software development. The PDE parent is constantly keeping up with their child’s passions and crafting engaging strategies to perk their interests in other valuable skills and fields of knowledge. The main concept to grasp from the book, Passion-Driven Education, is that of a “hook”. A hook 🎣 is a strategy, like the ones spoken of earlier, that is used by the parent to capture their child’s passions 🔥 to draw them into other subject matter📔. (Sorry, iPhones don’t have a hook emoji so the fish-on-a-hook emoji 🎣 will have to do. 😁)

Designing Effective Hooks

Remember, a “hook” 🎣 is a strategy to capture someone’s passions 🔥 to draw them into other subject matter 📔. A hook is (1) age-, (2) passion-, and (3) subject-specific. The committed PDE parent is continually devising (1) age-appropriate hooks based on what they know about their child’s (2) passions and the (3) subject matter they intend to pull them into. If the parent can proceed in a way that engages their child most, their child’s desire will increase to explore that newly-introduced subject.

The Role of the Child

The child is at the center of the parent’s attention. If the parent can execute their job well, the child can experience a constant state of flow, ever learning about the world on their individual timeframe and in an organic sequence that makes the deepest impression for them. They are ever learning when they are ready — not just when their parent is ready to teach. The child will develop an insatiable craving for broader and deeper knowledge and skills as their parent’s hooks lure them to do so. Somewhere in the process of PDE, the child can take off and engage in prolonged self-guided education. The parent will forever be there to accelerate the child’s growth, of course, but the child will have already been equipped with a lifetime supply of fuel of their own — curiosity and purpose. The child, empowered with intrinsic passion for education, will later spontaneously discover their life calling for themselves and approach their adult pursuits with purpose. The passion-driven educated child will not later aimlessly accumulate debt in higher education, but know beforehand what they intend to learn and for what end. The passion-driven educated child will not later find themselves trapped in a career, but have the habits set from which they can take control of their own life.

This is the dream we share in the implementation (and fruits) of homeschooling our children. Here’s the bad news.

Bad News: Homeschoolers Rarely Realize that Dream

Parents do not feel they have the necessary (1) time, (2) creativity, or (3) qualifications to routinely capture the minds of their kids with engaging hooks. These self-perceived inadequacies that parents have are the great setbacks of homeschooling today.

To be clear, this does not mean homeschooling is falling short of public schooling — it is not. The academic results of homeschooled students are, at large, still empirically better. This is true of all cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. The potential outcomes of homeschooling are far greater than those of public schooling, but homeschoolers are still getting nowhere near what is humanly possible. There is so much untapped potential that we are not, yet, realizing.

Parents Are Falling Short

Parents find inspiration here and there and, on occasion, introduce highly engaging experiences to their children. However, almost no homeschool parents’ day-to-day activities resemble their ideals of homeschool implementation. As a result, their kids are typically not engaging in passionate and productive self-guided learning for prolonged periods of time. Just about all homeschool parents I spoke with maintain the dream and aspire to it, though. Very few feel they know how to reach it, so most parents fall back on factory schooling methodologies. This is tragic.

Factory-model schooling held me back from finding my life calling until I was in my mid-twenties. I could have found it a decade earlier if I’d had a mentor who understood their potential for impact and how to invoke that passion for learning within me. Millions of homeschooled kids are perfectly set up to not go through what I did, and yet no, they are.

Parents need something — a tool of sorts — to solve their perceived lack of time, creativity, and qualifications in order for them to routinely engage their kids in learning.

What tools are parents currently using?

Aside from the traditional resources — books, prepackaged curricula, documentaries, educational games — these are the main tools being used:

Facebook and Yahoo Groups: Parents are scrolling through the feeds of homeschooling groups looking for inspiration. They are constantly hoping they stumble into something good; however, they do not have much browsing control.

Pinterest: Homeschool parents curate Pinterest boards for hours, looking for activities to tweak and tailor for their kids. Neither Facebook, Yahoo feeds, nor Pinterest boards are conducive for making specific searches. You just have to take a gamble and hope you will win.

TeachersPayTeachers.com: The materials on TeachersPayTeachers.com are not designed for homeschooling and they are not free. Parents are paying for factory-schooling curricula that have been generalized for classrooms of 20 — 30 students.

When analyzing the resources that homeschool parents turn to, one thing is clear:

Cross-Pollination Is Key🌻🌼🐝🐝

Parents are predominantly turning to each other. They grow from interacting with each other. They empathize with and help one another. The millions of homeschool parents currently trying to effectively work with each other come from all educational, professional, cultural, and religious backgrounds. They find hidden lessons, activities, and projects here and there, where other parents do not. They have come up with tremendously engaging hooks for their kids (without thinking of it in those terms, of course). For the most part, though, the hooks stay with them and never circulate. Increased cross-pollination is needed and demanded. Ideally more homeschool parents would be sharing and learning from each other about these hooks.

What is stopping them from circulating these hooks?

The Barriers That Block Parents

  1. Parents Lack a Common Medium of Exchange
    Parents are organizing all over the place, separated between thousands of individual Facebook groups, Yahoo groups, other platforms, and forums. The existing meeting points are inherently non-conducive for the exchange of ideas of large groups. At some point there can be too many people crowding these online venues, creating unmanageable comment feeds. As a result, parents segment themselves until they find their desired relevant (but small and limited) groups.
  2. Homeschool Ideas Are Inherently Niche
    Nowhere on the internet, as miraculously vast as it is, can you expect to easily browse significant quantities of homeschool-parent-implemented activities that are right for you. You can do Google searches, but does the average parent really have a web presence outside their private social accounts? No. Does the average article of a homeschool parent blogger really make the first page results on Google? Nope. Can you count on an easily discoverable blog post to be written about how to get 10-year old Pokémon fanatics interested in physics? Probably not. What about activities to spark an interest in economics for a 16-year old girl who loves animals? Go fish. People out there have probably come up with ways to do these tasks but have not had the outlet to share them where others are looking.
  3. Parents Lack a Common Format for Sharing Their Ideas
    Homeschool parents today are like computers before the age of the internet. The internet works because programmers universally accept the HTTP protocol which makes it possible to receive incoming data and display it on computer screens in ways that are useful to humans. Homeschool parents of all kinds are scattered around the world using their own homeschool methodologies, thinking in separate education paradigms, and using different communication channels in their unique ways. If a universally-adopted protocol existed, the way the internet relies on the HTTP protocol, then homeschoolers would have an improved experience searching for and writing about their homeschool activities. If everyone understood what an effectively designed “hook” is, then they would communicate them to each other more naturally. It would be a major catalyst for homeschool parent cross-pollination.

Considering the three barriers that are blocking homeschool parents — (1) wrong mediums of exchange, (2) no central source of the niche content that they demand, and (3) no universally-accepted format of idea sharing…

Homeschool parents are starving for their own AllRecipes.com type of experience.

AllRecipes.com (the web app)

However, instead of browsing user-submitted and -rated cooking recipes, they could browse parent-submitted and -rated homeschool activities.

Great News: Passion Education is Being Developed

The name of this app is Passion Education. I have spent the last few months conducting user research and designing the right user experience for the app.

There have been over 20 homeschool parents who have participated in individual 45-minute feedback sessions with me, trying the prototype. Originally I just wanted to figure out if this idea was good at all. If it were not, I would not be building it. At this point, the overall idea is no longer in question: it is solid and it is demanded as soon as possible by the homeschool parents who have tried it. I asked no leading questions in these interviews. Every interview was conducted according to sound user research practices. My objective was entirely to uncover design errors, not at to sell anything. I have nothing to sell. The value of the app will be delivered almost entirely by the users.

This is the home feed of hooks on the Passion Education mobile app. (And, by the way, the visual design will almost certainly change.)

Passion Education is an idea-exchange platform for homeschool parents, where sharing niche ideas is appreciated and everyone shares their activities according to a universally-accepted format. I have found that the methodology, Passion-Driven Education, codified successful agrarian model education to be the most easily-grasped by parents. The hook 🎣 analogy works. Focus on our children’s passions is structurally baked into this established communication protocol. Age-, passion-, and subject-specific hooks. That is the effective format of parent-submitted content for this app and it can be crowd-sourced on mass scale.

If you have a young boy who loves everything about Star Wars, this will be the place to look for hooks that you could use to expand his education from that starting point. If you have a teenage girl who routinely SnapChats with her friends, it would be wise to search Passion Education for ways to build on that hobby to prepare her for today’s tech-dominant work force. And if you have come up with several tricks of your own, this will be the tool for you to make real impact in helping others raise their children. You will receive recognition and appreciation for your work, too.

Now, I Need Your Help

We will want to have thousands of parents signed up for the beta group of this app because everyone’s positive experience will rely on the ability to browse many hooks. That kind of volume will be necessary for us to reliably capture our children at whatever spontaneous turn their curiosity takes them. The success of this app depends entirely on its user-base and that is why it will be free.

If we want to prepare our children for an unpredictable future then we need to empower parents with a solution that transcends our inadequate education systems today.

Sign up to be part of the beta group on PassionEducation.com. Share this article and the sign up page with your friends. Share them in your Facebook groups. Get in contact with me through JordanClive.com where my social accounts are listed — or in the comments section below. Click that ‘recommend’ heart below. Invite me to join your online groups. Introduce me to the homeschool influencers and community organizers that you know. If you are in charge of any email lists, blogs, or other information sources, share the news about this app.

Over the coming months my cofounder, Richard Lucas, and I will be coding the app and anticipate a beta release this summer.

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