Today, Connor and Brittany talk to Anna Martin, mother and homeschooler extraordinaire.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Brittany: Hi Connor.
Connor: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: So today we have one of my favorite moms in the world, not my mom, but somebody else’s mom. Her name is Anna Martin. You can find her on Instagram as the libertarian homeschooler. So she is, I’ve met her and her kids and her husband, just an amazing, amazing homeschool mom, have the opportunity to spend some time with her in Atlanta. So, Anna, welcome to our podcast.
Anna Martin: I am so glad to be here. Thank you for having me.
Brittany: Of course. So we talk a lot about alternatives to the public school system on this show, and you are, I love watching what you do with your kids and all the things they’re involved with. So it’s kind of a starter question I would like to ask, like, what made you want to start homeschooling? What got you into this world?
Anna Martin: I knew that I wanted to have, my children at home with me before I even had my children. Even before I met my husband. I knew that if I had children that I was going to homeschool them. In fact, when even before we went on our first date, I told my husband, who was not my husband at the time, I wasn’t even dating him. I said, well, you know if I have children, I’m going to homeschool them. It was important enough that I wasn’t going to go out on a date with him, even if he wasn’t going to homeschool his children. So that’s how long, that’s how long I’ve been homeschooling my children or thinking about it.
Connor: Now, let me ask you, Anna, what kind of prompted that? Like in my case, I was, I was public schooled. I didn’t even really know about homeschooling at all. And I came across and we’ve talked about it before, John Taylor Gatto’s book, Dumbing Us Down. Yes. And for me, when I read that, I was like, okay. Like I was also single and I was like, you know, I know the moms do most of the work in homeschooling, but I really hope to marry someone who’s open to this. So in your life, like were you homeschooled, or what kind prompted you to think about these alternatives?
Anna Martin: I wasn’t homeschooled at all. And in fact, I thought that I would be sending my children to Montessori school when I was younger. I thought that’s just what I would do. But I met someone who was homeschooling her kids and it was very attractive. And I thought, oh, she has her children at home. And I remember sitting in a school and feeling like I was wasting a lot of time. And it didn’t seem like her children felt like they were wasting time at all. They were doing what they wanted to do, what they were interested in when they wanted to do it, and to the degree to which they wanted to do the thing. And I thought, oh, that’s really good. I like that a lot. So, that was a few years before, I went out on that first date with my now husband. And, he didn’t know anything about homeschooling, but he too read John Taylor Gatto. Cause I handed the book to him. and many, many a dad has been converted by our good friend. Oh yeah. John Taylor Gatto.
Brittany: So I would like to know, cuz one thing I love about your Instagram and even your Facebook is just showing us what a day in your life looks like and watching it. It’s funny cuz I’m so invested in your son’s life. I watched them play the organ, you know, I watch what they’re doing. I don’t know what the word is for the kind of, I’m gonna say boating. I’m gonna butcher this. I know he does something.
Anna Martin: No, that’s exactly, you’re right.
Brittany: Oh, is it Okay? So, I would like to know one, like what a day in your life is like, and I’m sure that varies, and how your kids got exposed to the things that they’re into now.
Anna Martin: Well, the days varied. The child who was an organist is no longer a child. He’s 20 years old. He’s a grown man. Wow. And he is actually at the Curtis Institute of Music. He got into a really, really good school and he was very interested in not having any debt after he went to school. And, because he’s there at the Curtis Institute of Music, he will not have any debt. So that’s really fantastic. but so he’s, he’s not, with us most of the time, but because we’re having this interesting pandemic he is at home. right now, people used to ask me, are you gonna homeschool college too? And I would laugh, um, but our son is in fact homeschooling college right now. So, but let me tell you what we did today. today, our younger son, Ben, who is 16, he’s the rower. He’s the ourisman. he likes to wake up at six o’clock in the morning and I hear him wrestling around upstairs every morning at six o’clock. And by six 30 we’re at the gym because he does all of that rowing. And, so we go and we run and then he does his rowing and I do my flexibility and mobility work. And then he comes home and he gets his things done. But because he’s 16, he’s already got ideas about what he’s going to do with his time. And so he manages his own day and I’m managing my own day and we’re sort of running parallel to one another, but I’m not really all that directly involved with what he’s doing because he’s found classes that he wants to take. And so for example, on Monday he’s takes Latin on Monday mornings. Wow. and then, he might go ahead and do some driver’s ed on Monday afternoon. I mean, there’s all kinds of stuff that he will do on Mondays, Tuesdays he will do, his American literature class and then he will do another class. it’s American history and then he will do his Algebra two class. So he has all of these things. And then, on Tuesday he also does Swedish. And then on Tuesday, he’s also got a barbell class. So there’s, there’s, he’s got a very, very full Tuesday. And he’s also got a very, very full Thursday. But he’s really on top of his own time. And I think that the reason that he is that way is because he saw his brother on top of his own time. And he knows that what, we do in our family is we manage our own time. We have goals, we meet them. We have this funny little thing that we do in our family. We all do very hard things. just the other week Don did a 50-mile mountain bike ride. Wow. and so, he kind of tagged out and the three of us are looking at him going, well that’s a crazy thing to do. That was really remarkably difficult. And so now it’s someone else’s turn to do something really, really hard. So I did a small hard thing last week. I got into some very, very cold water. I did some cold water exposure for an extended period of time.
Brittany: How long?
Anna Martin: I was just in the water for about five minutes.
Brittany: And, that’s a long time. If it’s ice-cold water.
Connor: That’s too long.
Anna Martin: I got out and went into the whirlpool, warmed back up, and then went back out into the cold water. And Ben, the 16-year-old saw me doing this and he thought, ah, man, mom did something hard. And so now he’s doing cold exposure,
Connor: He’s gonna show you up.
Anna Martin: Well, this is what we do. And our older son Oak, he plays the organ and he’s constantly doing things and, you know, he’s always giving concerts and putting on tuxedos and doing things and we’re all always looking at him like, really? Did you just have to raise the bar again? this is what we do as a family. We sort of have this friendly rivalry amongst ourselves.
Connor: Anna, let me, take advantage of that cuz you’ve got a very interesting story, but a lot of parents look to you because you’ve been very public over the years through the libertarian homeschooler sharing you know, about your family, but also kind of I’ll say consulting and advising and kind of advocating may be for, you know, giving kids the, this freedom and empowering them. And so I wanna spend our remaining minutes making sure that we kind of get some of your advice and your thoughts that can benefit the families listening. Let me maybe first start by asking you about, what you’ve mentioned already. so often in schooling and even in homeschooling for many people, we create this like fictional world for children where learning is, you know, curriculum and books and tests and activities and worksheets and schedules and all this kind of stuff. And then, oh, hey, now you’re an adult. Okay, now go learn in unstructured environments and whatever you want and with no boundaries and, so forth. And I have long felt. And what we try and do with my kids is that they need exposure to the authentic human experience of learning, which is unstructured, which is curiosity-led, which is, you know, comes in spurts and starts and so forth. And so do you, do you share that view? And if so, you know, know why do you think it’s important that other families consider, providing their children that type of educational freedom at a younger age?
Anna Martin: Well, that’s exactly what we do. And the reason that we do it is because our older son was, he had ideas about what he wanted to learn. I had ideas about what I wanted to teach him, but what he wanted to learn, it was different from what I wanted to teach him. And you can, you can try and teach someone all you want, but it’s sort of like throwing marshmallows at their head and calling it, feeding them it that’s a different thing. So he had ideas about what he wanted to learn and he had a lot of patience with me when I was throwing marshmallows at his head. But there came a point where you could tell that he was just at his wit’s end with me and he wanted to be done with my teaching and he wanted to begin his learning. Those are different things. Yeah. So, a person really needs to be allowed to do their learning, whatever that, might be and whatever that might look like. And I don’t think that time is ever wasted. And he taught me that pretty quickly. But I had to learn it again with my second child. And I realized that I had to learn it again with him when I said, what’s the best way for me to teach you something if I need to teach you quickly? And he said, you know, the best way for you to teach me something is not necessarily the best way that I learn something. And I thought he’s figured it out too, and he’s gonna have to teach me how he learns and what he wants to learn. And I thought that I had already picked up that lesson, but I think with each child we have to learn it again. each child needs to learn their things in their particular way. And I think as parents, we really want to do the right thing and we want to be very careful about making a really good scaffolding for them. but when we give them the space to do their own learning, it serves them so well. as they get older and as they’re gonna have to decide for themselves, how am I gonna spend my time? What am I gonna do? When am I gonna do it? What really interests me? And here’s a really important, thing that a child needs to know. What do I really not ever want to study? so all of these things in my experience are learned, best by a child independently. That doesn’t mean that you abandon them. That means that you watch what they’re doing and when they seem to hit on something on a, sweet spot, um, they sort of, they sort of catch fire. You can see it and you feed that, you stoke that little fire, whatever that little fire is, stoke it. And even if you think, I cannot believe I am stoking this particular fire, do it because they’re learning something about themselves and the way that they learn and what is interesting, and you, boy, it true did take me a long time to finally decide that my older son should get organ lessons. I thought that he would outgrow it. I thought that he would be a pianist but he told me when he was six years old, I’m going to be an organist. And I didn’t leave him until he was about 16 and going off to, going off to school to be an organist. So sometimes it’s a slow learn, you know what I’m saying?
Brittany: Yeah. So what would you say to parents who are scared to do this, right? Because I think a lot of parents think, how is my child gonna learn how to read if I let them decide? Or how are they gonna learn how to do math? Or how are they gonna learn science? What would be your advice to those parents who are, kind of scared to let their children kind of teach them what they want to learn?
Anna Martin: Yeah, I think that is a reasonable thing to have running through your mind. And I want you to know that it doesn’t stop. You will always second-guess yourself and you will second guess yourself. Not because you have reason to second guess yourself, but because you’re good parents and you’re always going to be a little bit concerned and a little bit afraid that you’re not doing everything that you should be doing. That doesn’t mean that you’re not, and it doesn’t mean that your child isn’t learning, it just means that that’s what a parent’s mind does. Just when you hear that, that when you hear that tape in your head, how are they going to, and then, you know, insert skill here when you hear that, no, you know, acknowledge it. Oh, there you are. That’s, there’s that worry again. And then just keep going there. if you see that your child is really struggling with something that they need. if your child is 14 years old and is still struggling with reading Yeah. It is it that needs to be addressed. if your child is seven and is struggling with reading, give ’em a little bit of time.
Connor: And a final question for you as we wrap up, and I want you to talk to the kids who are listening. a lot of them are probably unlike your son who knew from the age of six, he wanted to learn the organ, and instead, they don’t really know what they wanna learn. They’re not quite sure yet what their passion is. They haven’t yet figured out, you know, with laser focus what they want to, you know, learn deeply and be committed to, what should those children be doing? what should they be? You know, asking their parents for help with how, how should they be pursuing education and knowledge and enrichment if they haven’t quite yet figured out what their kind of focus is or will be?
Anna Martin: If you have not yet figured out what you are going to do or what you’re supposed to do, that’s great. That means that you’re still supposed to be looking at everything. It’s a wonderful thing to not know what you want to do at six years old. it’s terrific that you have got lots of time to go out and to be looking at everything and experiencing all kinds of different things. They’re going to be a handful of things that you think, oh, I’m good at that. You are particularly well suited for a number of different things like your actual physical body type. Like our younger son, he’s really, really tall and he is really, really strong. And I thought, oh, he could play basketball. And then I thought, Nope, he wouldn’t like basketball. And I said, do you think that you’d like to try rowing? And he showed up at the rowing club and lo and behold, everybody was about as tall as he was. I thought, oh, I’ve landed in the land of the giants He has, these particular things that he was given like a piece of land. You’re like a piece of land. maybe you’re Florida and maybe you’re made to grow oranges or maybe, you are the Canadian prairie and you are meant to grow grains. We don’t know. And so you have to try a lot of different things. If you try and grow grains in Florida, you’re probably not gonna have a really great time of that. And if you try to grow oranges in the wind-swept prairies of Canada, that’s not gonna work for a while, well either, but you need to try. So you’re gonna put down a whole lot of different kinds of seeds and a lot of different kinds of plants. And some of them are gonna grow really, really well on this piece of land, which is you and cult. It’s gonna be, you’re gonna feel it and you’re gonna be able to cultivate those things. And you’re gonna think this is a weird thing to be growing, but that’s who you are. And when you find that thing that you’re really, really good at doing, go ahead and follow it. It may seem very strange and you’re gonna think, there’s no way in the world I’m ever gonna make a life out of this. You don’t know that that’s what you are supposed to be doing. For whatever reason, there’s something that you’re supposed to be doing, there’s something that that is gonna grow really, really well on the plot of land with your name on it.
Brittany: Oh, that was so beautiful, Anna. It was such a pleasure to have you on to talk to you about this. It honestly made me, I think the next date I go on, I’m gonna tell whoever I’m gonna date with. Like, all right, we’re homeschooling or nothing if you’re gonna marry me.
Anna Martin: That’s right. Right. We homeschool or we go Dutch on the cake.
Brittany: Exactly. Well, Anna, thank you so much for joining us. It was such a pleasure.
Anna Martin: It was wonderful.
Connor: Thanks, Hannah.
Anna Martin: Thanks, guys.
Connor: Well, I thought that last piece was especially great advice, so hopefully the kids out there are listening you know, you don’t have to have it all figured out. And even the parents, like so often as homeschooling parents or even parents of public school kids, it’s hard to know what your kids are gonna become, what their interests are, what you need to do as a parent to support them. We’re all just figuring it out together, and I think we need to give one another room and freedom and forgiveness to say every day is different. We’re gonna go one step at a time. That was just a really empowering message. So I’m glad we could have her on.
Brittany: So am I. And again, it was, I got to meet her in Atlanta and it was so good to see her and her kids and see how great they are. So, really good episode. Really glad to have her on.
Connor: Totally. Well, until next time, Brittany, we’ll talk to you later.
Brittany: Talk to you later.