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Carlos Birdsong

Tech-Savvy Homeschool Dad's Guide to Raising Future Leaders


Introduce yourself.

Hello! I'm Carlos Birdsong, and together with my wife, Malaka, we're raising our two wonderful daughters who are turning 16 and 10 this year. We reside in Charlotte, NC.

As a full-time homeschooling dad since 2020, what were your children's educational experiences before homeschooling, and what made you decide to make the transition?

Our children have journeyed through a variety of educational settings. They started in Montessori Schools, briefly attended public schools, and are now homeschooled full time.

The pandemic led many, including us, to reconsider our perspectives on education. We noticed our kids thriving in this new environment, and it also instilled in us, as parents, the confidence that we could effectively educate them without formal training.

Given the numerous benefits and positive results we observed, we chose to continue homeschooling.

From your perspective, what are some of the key differences between homeschooling and traditional schooling? What benefits do you believe homeschooling offers to children?

Both my wife and I are products of traditional schooling, and it's interesting to compare our experiences with our children's homeschooling journey.

One of the key differences we've observed between homeschooling and traditional schooling is the environment. Homeschooling offers a more personalized and distraction-free setting, allowing for a tailored learning experience. Another difference is the flexibility in pacing and curriculum, which isn't typically available in traditional settings.

The most cherished benefit of homeschooling for us has been the quality time we get to spend with our children. We've been fortunate to witness firsthand their 'ah-ha' moments and see their genuine joy in learning. This intimate involvement in their educational journey has allowed us to bond deeply and create lasting memories.

How has homeschooling transformed your perspectives on education, work, and finances? In what ways has this decision positively impacted your family's dynamic and overall well-being?

Had you asked us about the most crucial subjects in education before our homeschooling journey, we would've pointed to math, language, and science. Now, our emphasis has shifted to critical thinking. With industries emerging today that were inconceivable two decades ago, the question arises: how do we equip our children for an unpredictable future? The answer, we believe, is by nurturing them into adept critical thinkers.

In the realm of education, critical thinkers cultivate the skills and habits necessary to gain knowledge. In the workplace, they discern how to enhance a business's value, whether as an employee or by founding ventures that address genuine issues. When it comes to finances, they make informed decisions that pave the way for future prosperity.

Furthermore, homeschooling has brought our family closer. The shared experiences, the daily interactions, and the collaborative learning environment strengthens our family. Children often mirror the behaviors they observe. So, as parents, it's not just about imparting lessons; we must embody and live out these principles ourselves. Ideals to work towards, we're not perfect. :)

You mentioned on your blog that there have been some difficulties in your homeschooling journey, such as a decrease in income and awkward conversations. How did you navigate these challenges and maintain a positive and supportive environment for your children's education?

Homeschooling, like any endeavor, comes with its set of challenges. It's essential to have strategies to navigate these hurdles.

Uncertain about an educational choice, be it a class or curriculum? We refer back to our homeschool mission statement to gauge its alignment. For us, the guiding question is, 'does it cultivate or promote critical thinking skills?'

Faced with a costly educational resource? We evaluate its impact on our family's homeschool budget.

Engaging in a conversation where someone is highlighting their child's achievements in a different educational setting? We choose to celebrate with them. It's vital to avoid comparisons, judgments, or the urge to one-up with our own child's accomplishments.

As our children's interests, learning styles, and knowledge grow and change, our homeschooling approach adapts as well.

How did you ensure your homeschooling children had diverse socialization opportunities beyond traditional school settings?

Socialization begins at home and persists regardless of whether children are in traditional schools or homeschooled. From their parents, children learn essential social skills like practicing good manners, sharing, waiting their turn, seeking assistance, and following directions. They also naturally pick up on social cues in various environments, whether it's speaking softly in a library or engaging with peers at a park.

We intentionally create real-world social scenarios for our children. This includes tasks like asking questions in a store or placing an order at a restaurant. Our children interact with a diverse age range, from younger kids to older individuals and adults. This broad exposure helps them practice empathy and understand different perspectives. Such experiences are invaluable in teaching them effective communication, respect, confidence, and the importance of being of service to others.

You've built a project Can you please explain what is it and how it helps homeschooling families? is a free web app I developed, primarily for homeschooling families, though it's accessible to anyone.

Powered by OpenAI, this tool simplifies the process of crafting educational activities tailored to a child's interests. In just three straightforward steps, users can generate activities that merge a chosen subject with a child's passion.

You start by selecting a subject, specifying an age range, and then describing one of your child's interests. The platform then offers a step-by-step guide that parents can either view online or print for convenience.

Being a tech dad you use technology to design curriculum and activities for your kids. Can you share some examples of how you integrate tech and tools into your homeschooling activities?

With two decades of professional experience in technology, I've naturally integrated tech tools into our homeschooling regimen. The tools we employ can be broadly categorized into those for operational purposes and those directly utilized by our kids. Here's a glimpse into some of them:


Notion: We use this platform as a daily log to track educational activities.

Homeschool Admin YouTube playlist: A curated list of videos that we watch, ensuring parental guidance during the viewing process.

Microsoft To Do: Its standout feature is the ability to share specific lists as needed.

Facebook groups: We're members of several groups, which are invaluable for learning, sharing, seeking feedback, and occasional sanity checks.

ChatGPT: An excellent tool for delving into subjects, seeking guidance, and even for homeschool coaching.

Tools our kids engage with:

Anki: A platform for smart flashcards.

Google Classroom: For structured learning.

MIT's Scratch: Introducing them to coding.

Meta Oculus: Perfect for virtual field trips.

Xbox: Used for team-building games like "Overcooked" and simulations such as "MS Flight Simulator."

Duolingo: For language learning.

Khan Academy: A comprehensive learning platform.

Devices: PCs, Chromebooks, and tablets are all part of their learning arsenal.

While we heavily integrate technology, we also emphasize the importance of non-electronic tools and activities, such as journaling, using whiteboards, cooking, and outdoor explorations.

How do you approach the selection of curriculum and learning materials for your homeschooling?

In our homeschooling journey, my wife and I see ourselves as curators of our children's educational experiences. Central to our approach is our homeschool mission statement, which emphasizes the importance of critical thinking.

When evaluating any curriculum, class, tutor, or learning experience, we assess its alignment with this core principle. If a resource doesn't quite fit the bill, that's alright; the key is making informed decisions.

There have been instances where we've invested in materials that weren't the right fit at that particular time. This is one reason we steer clear of all-in-one solutions, preferring instead to craft a tailored, hybrid curriculum by piecing together various resources. Our homeschool networks are invaluable in this process. Through them, we both offer and receive recommendations, ensuring we're always informed about the best programs and opportunities available to our community.

You mentioned following unschooling while also using a curriculum. Could you explain what unschooling means to you and how you balance it with a structured curriculum in your homeschooling approach?

To us, unschooling is synonymous with interest-based learning. It's about harnessing our children's passions and weaving educational experiences around them. Take their love for chocolate chip cookies, for instance:

Walking to the store to buy ingredients: This teaches independence, socialization, exercise, and money management.

Following a cookie recipe: This involves adhering to instructions and applying math skills.

Baking the cookies: A practical lesson in science.

Eating the cookies: An exploration into nutrition and the biology of digestion.

Evaluating the taste: This encourages comparison and the idea of process improvement.

Cleaning up: A hands-on lesson in life skills.

While we might not dissect every activity to this degree (though sometimes we come closer than the kids might prefer!), the underlying philosophy remains consistent.

As my wife aptly puts it, "every moment is teachable." Being cognizant of this mindset allows us to seize countless learning opportunities in our day-to-day lives.

How do you assess your children's progress and learning outcomes in your homeschooling environment? Do you use any specific evaluation methods or techniques to ensure they are meeting their educational goals?

In North Carolina, where we reside, there's a mandate for annual achievement testing for homeschoolers. We adhere to this requirement, but we consciously avoid prepping our kids for it. Year after year, they consistently perform well.

However, our assessment isn't solely based on these tests. As parents, we're in a unique position to witness our children's growth firsthand. Our evaluation is continuous and organic. We notice when they start asking more inquisitive and insightful questions. We see them becoming more self-reliant, taking on added responsibilities, applying their existing knowledge in innovative ways, and proactively seeking out new information. These everyday observations are, to us, the most genuine indicators of their learning progress.

Do you ever experience moments of doubt or comparison as a homeschooling parent, particularly when you see other children progressing differently in traditional school settings?

Absolutely, moments of doubt do arise. When you're deeply invested in an outcome, especially one as significant as your child's education, second-guessing is inevitable. Every parent, irrespective of their educational choices, desires similar outcomes for their children: health, happiness, and success. It's essential to remember that every child's journey is unique. My advice to new homeschooling parents would be to resist the urge to compare their children to others. Instead, seek out supportive communities that genuinely celebrate each child's individual accomplishments and milestones.

Have you encountered any negative opinions or judgments from others regarding your choice to educate your kids at home? How did you handle those situations?

We haven't really faced outright negative opinions. Instead, it's often friends and family seeking to understand our choices. We respect their decisions and don't attempt to persuade them to adopt our approach. Our primary focus remains on the outcomes that benefit our children, and we believe every family knows what's best for their own situation.

How did you train your kids to handle and respond to any negative opinions or judgments they encountered about homeschooling? Did you provide them with strategies or advice on how to address such situations?

We haven't provided any specific training in this regard. When present during discussions about homeschooling, our children naturally present an honest perspective. They speak about their hard work, their lack of longing for traditional schools, and they often list both pros and cons. Most importantly, they share what they genuinely enjoy about their homeschooling experience.

As a homeschooling parent, what is your go-to resource or source of inspiration for lesson plans and educational activities?

Our top go-to resource has been Black Family Homeschool Educators and Scholars. They offer a private Facebook group, a YouTube channel, and frequently organize "teach-ins" by hosting homeschooling experts. Their content and insights have been invaluable in our homeschooling journey.

Who are three (or more) homeschoolers or education experts that you recommend people follow and learn from, and why do you find their work valuable?

I highly recommend following the work of the "Black Family Homeschool Educators and Scholars (BFHES), LLC."

Founded in April 2020 by Dr. Khadijah Ali-Coleman and Dr. Cheryl Fields-Smith, both of whom are seasoned researchers and homeschoolers. They not only manage and nurture the BFHES community but are also recognized thought leaders in the homeschooling arena.

Their insights and expertise have been invaluable, and their contributions to the field make them standout figures for anyone interested in homeschooling or alternative education methods.

Could you provide some advice or tips for parents who may be considering homeschooling their children? What are some essential factors they should take into account?

For parents contemplating homeschooling, here are some pieces of advice to consider:

Craft a Homeschool Mission Statement: This will serve as your guiding principle and help you stay focused on your educational goals.

Establish a Budget: Determine what you're willing and able to spend on resources, materials, and experiences.

Engage with Homeschooling Communities: Even before you begin, join homeschooling groups or forums. They can offer invaluable insights, support, and resources.

Be a Curator, Not Just a Teacher: You don't need to teach every subject yourself. Instead, learn to curate diverse learning experiences for your child, drawing from various resources and experts.

Involve Children in Adult Activities: Often, kids learn a great deal by being involved in everyday adult tasks. Whether it's cooking, shopping, or managing finances, these real-world experiences can be as educational as formal lessons.

Share your social links or anything you are building or creating related to homeschooling.

I write about homeschooling and technology at Carlos Birdsong.

Ai tool for homeschoolers:

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