Brook in her first business at age 16
By Brook Corbyn

I was in public school from kindergarten until the end of second grade. Even though it was only elementary school, I made straight A’s and was in every “advanced” or “honors” class that was available.

But towards the end of second grade, my mother became a travel nurse. We moved to a new location in the U.S. every three to six months so public school was not an option. Home school had not been in the plan, but this circumstance caused my parents to opt for home school.

It was a tough transition, mostly because my parents and I found out that I didn’t know anything a second grader should.  Even though I was making A’s on double digit multiplication in public school, I could barely add and subtract single digit numbers.  Because of the way the public school system worked, we were taught to memorize facts for tests rather than actually learn valuable skills.

My father was the one who home schooled my brother and me. He started us out on a curriculum designed for our specific ages.  We had structured lessons from workbooks on every subject. We even had desks and a chalkboard.

Theoretically, it was the “perfect” school environment. It ended up being a duplicate of public school, except with higher standards.

My brother and I did poorly on this strict, structured curriculum, so my dad decided to try a new approach.  He decided to “de-school” us.

This was the best decision he could have made.  Instead of making us memorize facts for tests, he taught us how to actually learn.  From that point on, my brother and I accelerated in our school beyond whatever  grade we should have been in.

How we “de-schooled”

Instead of following one single curriculum, our dad bought lesson books from different sources and incorporated more “free” learning. One of the most important parts of our new curriculum was reading. We would go to the library and we were allowed to pick out any book from the non-fiction section.  This allowed us to pick out topics that we were actually interested in.

Normally, we would get up to five books and actually finish all of them. When you are interested in a book, then you actually pay attention when you read it and you retain every detail that is in that book.  If we ran across a word we didn’t know, then we would look it up in the dictionary.   My dad would verbally test us on books we had finished and ask us questions about information in the book and test our vocabulary on big words.  The verbal tests soon became unnecessary as we got more and more excited about learning.  My brother and I would go around the house talking about and applying the new things we had recently learned from the books.

In my opinion, reading is one of the most important subjects in school, as long as the kid is reading about something they are interested in.  For example, I was interested in animals, so I would check out three books on animals one week.  From those books I would not only learn about animals, but I learned geography from distribution maps, math from learning how to build animal cages, history from the history of animals, vocabulary from looking up words in books, sentence structure from paying attention while reading, and more educational elements.

Then, I would take interest in building animal cages, so the next week I would check out books on building animal cages.  I would learn about more math, geometry, measurements, building materials, and more vocabulary.  Then the next week would lead to another interesting topic and so on. Before I knew it, I checked out books from every section in the library.  We also kept a daily journal that we were required to write at least a full page, and then my father would go back and mark any errors.  For our math, we used a workbook called “Saxon Math.”  They have it available for all grades.  It was a program based on free learning.  The book had a reading section before the math problems, so you could read and see examples of how to work problems.  We did our math by ourselves (unless we needed help), and my dad would use an answer key to mark the errors.  As far as the other subjects, our assignments varied a lot depending on our current age at the time.  Sometimes we would watch a history DVD, or do projects out of a science book, or make a world map.  Since we usually only did school three or four days a week, we had a lot of free time.  This is where more “free learning” comes in.  Both my brother and I played musical instruments, I started learning Japanese on my own, our whole family played competitive tennis, and we always had projects going around the house (growing plants, science experiments, cooking, etc).

What our grades were like

A lot of people have asked my brother and me what grades we made on our school work.  With our style of home schooling we made a 100% on everything. Instead of making a 70% on a test and moving on because a 70% is a passing grade, we corrected our work until it was a hundred percent.  So, when we were finished with a certain type of problem, we actually knew how to do it.

Periodically, we would take the current end-of-year test that was issued to public school kids.  We always finished them faster than normal and made a 90% or above.  We have even made 100% several times before.  When I was fourteen, I took the twelfth grade graduation test just for personal amusement. I made a  95% on one part and a 100% on the other part.

Did we like home schooling?

I absolutely loved being home schooled.  Although I can’t speak for my brother, I believe he appreciated it as well. Coming from a public school where he was always in the principals office, my brother had a little bit of a difficult time with home schooling and doing his school work on his own (or with somebody).  Hence, he was in trouble a lot. Despite the troubles that occurred, I believe he is truly appreciative for his home education and would home school his kids without question.

I had to return to public school for a brief period during ninth grade and a brief period during tenth grade.  Each time was one of the worst experiences I have ever had.  I was in the most advanced classes available and I still could not believe the simplicity of the school work. I had already completed the school work they were handing out several years prior. I couldn’t believe that in a ninth grade, advanced, geography class we were coloring like kindergartners, or that in a tenth grade AP-English class we were playing Simon says because I was the only one in the class who knew what a verb or a noun was. They push so many “facts” on the kids, that they can’t remember anything.

After my first time in public school, I tried to do the same math book that I completed prior to public school and couldn’t remember how to do it.  My brain was so overloaded with facts, that I didn’t have the energy or brain power to do any of my other hobbies and projects I had while being home schooled. I remember coming home from school all the time and saying “Dad, I feel like I am getting dumb”.

Where my brother and I are now

My brother is currently twenty-one. He graduated at sixteen. He also started college classes at sixteen.  He was studying to be a marine biologist.  He finally settled on going into the military, because that is a dream he has had his whole life.  My brother is married and is in an elite spot in the Army.

I am currently eighteen and I also graduated at sixteen.  I started my own successful hunting guide business at sixteen before moving to Chile at eighteen. After moving to Chile, I started a business that helps individuals and families relocate to Chile.

Did we have friends?

This is the number one question/concern my brother and I receive.  Anyone who found out we were home schooled would immediately come back with “what about friends?” or “what about socialization?”.  Well truth is, you don’t have to be in public school to have friends or socialization.

We were not in public school, we moved every three to six months, and we still had plenty of friends.  Because of our free time, we were able to have a wide range of hobbies.  I played competitive tennis, so I met many public school and home school kids through tennis tournaments.  I found that I had far more quality friends when I was home schooled versus public school.  In public school, as soon as the end of day bell rang, all of my “friends” disappeared and I didn’t have any contact with them until the next school day.  They were basically 8:00 am to 4:00 pm friends.  When I was home schooled, I might have had fewer friends, but my friends were of higher quality.  I could call up one of my friends and we would plan an activity and go do something productive.  One thing that baffles me is that I can not remember 95% of my public school “friends” from three years ago, but I can remember all of my friends from when I was home schooled up to ten years ago.  I think that speaks for itself.

My opinion of the public school system

I think the public school system is designed to create a population of followers rather than an active population of thinkers.
Individualism is definitely not promoted in public schools and neither is associating with people of different ages.  As a home schooled person, I can easily talk to adults of all ages, kids or people who are my age.

While in public school, I noticed everything is segregated.  They have it designed so that kids from different grades have minimal contact.  I also noticed the complete lack of ability for public school kids to carry on a conversation with adults.  The only adults they see for the majority of their day are teachers and “superior” people that they are scared of (such as principals, vice-principals, school police, etc).  They eventually get the thought that all adults are superior and kids don’t associate with adults, because that is the layout of public school.

All of the segregation teaches a young person to only associate with people who are the same age and creates difficulties for them when they go into the real world.  In the real world, people have to talk to people of different ages and status or they don’t get anywhere.  I also couldn’t believe the lack of free time a public schooled student has.  When I went back to public school, I had to drop many of my hobbies, because I just didn’t have the time.  My daily routine was wake up, eat breakfast, go to school, get home at four, do a few chores, eat dinner, finish homework, then go to bed.  On the weekends, I would generally have homework to finish and then I would have about a day and a half to catch up chores and hobbies before restarting the entire process over.

This is not to say that all public schools are bad and all home schooling is good. There are definitely people who home school using online curriculums that are based on the public school system.  This is far from what makes home schooling so effective.  There are also the groups of people who use home schooling to intentionally shelter their children from the outside world.  This is also far from the general idea of home schooling.  Overall, my entire family has found that home schooling is incredibly difficult to get wrong and the majority of home schooled kids have excellent educations.

Children are designed to learn new things and have amazing capabilities to retain information. When they are not being over loaded with facts, home work, tests, work sheets, extra curricular activities, and assignments, their brains begin to work in a completely different mode.  They begin to crave learning and develop hobbies, personalities, likes, and dislikes. They try out new things and figure out what it is they actually want to do in life.  This makes an adult with a solid foundation that will forever benefit from their invaluable education.  Whether or not public school is purposely designed for it, one thing is for certain and that is public school is “dumbing down” kids.

Home Schooling in Chile

One consideration for many people making a move, whether it is within the United States or to a foreign country, is if they will be able to home school their children at the new location.  Fortunately, Chile’s education laws are centered around education freedom.  According to the Constitution of Chile, Chapter III, Article 19, children have the right to education and parents have the right to open, organize, or maintain an educational establishment.  Furthermore, Chile does not pose any requirements for notification, testing, or teacher qualifications (something that is becoming rare in the United States).  So as long as you are in Chile, you are free to home school any way you see fit.

Brook Corbyn

About the writer: Brook is the owner of  Consult Chile, a relocation and immigration service.
Although she is based in Valdivia she handles residency and citizenship anywhere in Chile. Contact information is:
Telephone Chile +569-6580-8823
Skype: consultchile

For more of Brook’s articles:
Corral, Chile