Amy: I would say most homeschoolers might start off that way [re-creating the classroom] - that's all they know - but generally they do work out of it.

 

Dan: One of the other things I think in both homeschooling and free agency, there isn't a single right way to do anything. You can't just buy a kit, open it up and build it, and everything will be cool. There is learning in the process itself. This is a journey that you're on with you and your family. And the journey itself is a learning experience. If you think you can just walk in this precooked, pre-made setting and everything will be fine, then you are missing the point.

 

Amy: What do you think about your first homeschooling conference so far?

 

Dan: Well, my first impression was driving here today and pulling into the parking lot and seeing several hundred cars, vans. I was wowed by that. I said to my wife, "Oh, my God," and then when I couldn't find a parking space, I knew something was up. It feels like being at a gathering of free agents in that there is creativity in the air.

 

I think there's less posing, less posturing, less hierarchy. You have people here who are smiling because they are pursuing what they want in their own lives. I love the idea of mixing grownups and kids. I think being exposed to a greater variety of people - including adults, including kids of different ages - it's healthier. It's also better preparation for the real world.

 

Amy: You write that kids (and adults) "lose the intrinsic motivation and pure joy derived from learning and working when somebody takes away their sense of autonomy and instead imposes some external system of reward and punishment." Can you elaborate?

 

Dan: You can figure this out through your own life experience, or you can figure it by going to scholars who have studied this. But there is now an enormous amount of research in the field of psychology about happiness. And one of the things that shows up among people who have a sense of well-being - it's not money, it's not prestige, it's not things.

 

It is -- are they doing something that they love? That's why I like this idea in psychology literature of intrinsic motivation: Are you motivated by trying to get some external reward - a grade, a promotion, a 780 on your SAT? Or are you motivated by what's in your heart and in your soul? Are you motivated by the pure joy and exhilaration and challenge of the experience?

 

Discovering what that is that gives you that sense of joy and exhilaration is essential. In some sense, that is what life is about. It's the journey to figure out who you are, what is your unique contribution, what makes you different from all these other people on the planet. And what's going to be your singular, unique contribution to this world?

 

And that too is a process of discovery. There are many people, unfortunately - it's a shame, it's sad - who haven't even begun taking the first step in that journey because in some sense they don't know they are allowed to do it.