Better Answers to Everyday Questions

"There are 72 students in a school and 6 classes. How many students are in each class?"

Rosie says - "There could be any number from zero to 72 in a class."

Pam Sorooshian

My son is in a karate class with kids who go to school. They were talking and they all had to do a report on a type of spider. they were given a list of spiders and asked to choose one. One of the kids choose the daddy long legs.

My (homeschooled) son perked up and said "The daddy long legs isn't even a spider. It's an arachnid but not technically a spider. Does your teacher know this?" I wonder if she did...

Doug Lowthian (Orcabait), November 5, 2003

Sandra Dodd, of Holly Dodd (Holly was 12 and told an older story, in 2003):

My husband's oldest brother came to visit and she and Marty discussed how to deal with his quizzy questions, usually math. She told me a story from when she was littler, maybe eight. Uncle Gerry had been here, and Holly was brushing her teeth. He stood watching her, and started in about how important it is to brush teeth and floss, because (as Holly reported, he said in a teacherly voice) "Do you know how many sets of teeth you have in this lifetime?"

Holly said, "Two?" (in a kind of "is this a trick question" tone) and she said he was already holding up his index finger as the "one" of the coming "right answer," and he added another finger and sheepishly said, "That's right. Two."

So Holly won a big point and never even told us about it at the time. Cool story. I don't think he quizzed them this time. It's getting to the point that they're likely to know something he doesn't know and he likes to maintain his semblance of superiority. LOL!

original (2/3 down that topic)
Update in 2021, Holly 29 years old, and Gerry having recently been in town when Holly was here, too. Holly was very helpful to her uncle, driving him to an auto parts store and helping him figure out what his plan might be to get back to Alamogordo, if his car couldn't be fixed easily. She's nearly 30 now, and he's in his mid-70s. After she left, he went on for a while about how helpful and good-hearted and wonderful she is. I appreciated hearing it, and passed it on to her later.


One of the problems many unschoolers have (ok, not a problem, but a side-effect of unschooling) is that they don't see one simple answer to a question. I remember when I was helping Lexie prepare for the STAR test. The question was which mammal is largest. There were four pictures. There was a horse, a dog, a cat and rabbit. However, all the pictures were all about the same, meaning that they were, in the drawing, about the same size.

The "right" answer was the horse, obviously. However, Lexie started asking questions... "mom, what kind of horse, how old, is it a minature horse, is it a greyhound dog? Maybe the Rabbit has had a growth charm put on it and it's the size of the horse.

She was thinking too much, for this simple, one answer question.



I have the neighbor kids over today, after spending last night with us. Shai brought her homework, because they have a bunch to finish before spring break is up...she's in second grade.

The FCAT is the big test down here [Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test] that all funding is based on, so they teach to the test all year.

Here's a sampling of the 2nd grade practice test:
(all I can say is ARGH!)

6. Which takes less than one minute?

f. a picture of a person washing a car
g. picture of a girl eating breakfast
h. picture of guy tying shoe
i. picture of a lady baking a cake
*This is important HOW? Like kids can't figure out what a minute feels like from just playing and being in a HOME? And boy, we sure need to test them on this....cripes.
10. About how much does the dog weigh?
(there is a drawing of what appears to be a German Shepherd, but it's hard to tell)
f. about 8oz.
g. about 8 lbs.
h. about 80 oz.
i. about 80 lbs.
*I can't even tell how much the damn dog weighs...how is a second grader supposed to guess? It could be a miniature or a large dog...this appears to be an attempt to suspend ALL logic.
11. Which would you use to find out how long it takes for a tree to grow?
a. drawing of two clocks
b. drawing of one week calender
c. drawing of two month calender
d. drawing of one year calender
*Another assault to a child's intelligence! Why not find a tree and observe it all year instead!? Sheesh.
13. How likely is it that you will eat food today?
a. certain
b. never
c. unlikely
d. impossible
*Duh. I imagine after answering this kind of inane BS I would start to write some very creative answers.

The rest of this practice test was all math related questions. Pictures of coins to figure out monetary amounts (why not give the poor kids some REAL money?), estimating, measurement etc...

I have to say, even the most concerned and schoolish thinking parent could surely see that kids learn better by LIVING?

I am in complete and utter shock that this is what these poor kids have to learn all year. Their entire school year and the schools entire success rest on this test. Sheer insanity.

Anyone want to send their kids to school now? snark, snark.


Rebecca (Phred):

Yesterday Jaiden was playing with some pre-school workbooks that my mom had gotten for him. We were sitting on the couch and he was having me read the directions of the pages he couldn't figure out on his own. We came to a page that had three sections with three unrealated objects, you were supposed to figure out which two were the same color and then color them.

Jaiden was kinda stuck on one that had a piece of fruit (looked like a plum to me), a bunch of grapes, and a duck. I asked him if he needed some help. He explained to me that he didn't need help, but that the workbook people had messed up. There were too many answers to that question.

I was stumped. To me the plum and the grapes were the answer and I couldn't figure out for the life of me what he was talking about. Part of me was getting frustrated with Jaiden, but I took a deep breath and asked him is he would tell me what it was that he was seeing because I didn't see what he was seeing. This is what he explained to me.

If the fruit was a plum, then it went with the grapes, but what if they were green grapes, not purple grapes? Then the plum couldn't go with the green grapes, and the plum couldn't go with the duck. So maybe it wasn't a plum. Maybe it was a peach or a necterine, and it was yellow/orange, it didn't go with the grapes, it would go with the duck. But, we had been looking at ducks a week ago, and he didn't see any yellow dunks, the only yellow duck he had seen was his rubber ducky, and the picture looked like a real duck, not a plastic one. So he decided that the fruit wasn't part of the awnser, it was the grapes and the duck. I was still stumped and asked him if he would tell me how he figured it out. This is his reasoning: his favorite grapes are green, but the stem is brown, so the grapes are green and brown. The ducks we saw at the park had green heads and brown bodiess (mallard ducks, I think) so they both were green and brown.

I was speechless. I am so glad I took a deep breath and let him do it his way.

Rebecca (Phred)

Stacey wrote:

What a wonderful story!!! How cool to actually experience the processing, and hear Jaiden's reasoning.

...now you reminded me of an "A ha!" moment I had, right before pulling my youngest out of ps kindergarten.

I went into school to pick him up at lunch time. The teacher was walking the class down the hall...and hollered to me to stay until everyone was picked up, because she had something important to talk to me about. She was very serious. Once everyone had left, my son sat on the bench looking truly worried at what she was about to tell me.

She informed me that math must just not be his thing. She and her assistant had been trying to get a simple concept across to him, and he just wasn't getting it. She said she had asked him to count backward from 5. He would look at her a little confused, not say anything, and then start with "100..." She would stop and tell him, "NO...you have to start with 5"....and he would say he didn't know how to do it. This process was repeated several times before it was time to go... and she said he only actually got it after the assistant did it FOR him. (No one had provided him with any demonstration of what they wanted, and they had not counted backward in class before).

I told her I didn't know what the problem was, because he counts backward all the time at home, blasting off rocket ships, running races, etc.

When we got home, I asked him at dinner if he could count backward from 5. He said...(very emphatically) "I KNOW how to do it NOW, Miss Anna showed me....5 4 3 2 1.....but that doesn't make any sense!!"

I asked him, "What does make sense?" And he said "100...." and I interrupted, just like his teacher, to tell him that he had forgotten to start with 5. He was so angry, he just did one of those growly things and left the room. I went and apologized, and said, "O.K. tell me the rest." He said, "MOM....I have been trying to tell you people all day!!! 100....paused, waiting for me to stop him, then VERY slowly....95....90....85.... 80....75...." all the way down to zero. I wanted to cry. I felt so bad for not listening to him the first time.

Of course this made complete sense, because for the past month in school, they had been counting by 5's every day. So when she asked him to count backward from 5.... well, you get the picture.

When I explained to his teacher what had happened, she told me it clearly indicated that we have an attention problem on our hands, that he wasn't listening carefully to instructions. She spared not even one moment to consider the thought process that was required for him to have come up with the answer he did. It didn't matter, it wasn't the pre-determined answer, it didn't fit anywhere on her chart.

I am still conditioning myself to take lots of "deep breaths," because when I STOP talking, that's when he usually starts discovering and processing.

I watched him yesterday staring out the windows in his bedroom. I thought he was enjoying the woods, or watching a squirrel. A little later he came out to me and said, "hey...did you know that 24 has 8 threes in it...did you know that 24 has 4 sixes in it... did you know that 24 has 2 twelves in it....... He brought me into his room and pointed out the windows. Actually, he was pointing AT the windows. He had been studying the panes, and grouping them into equal sets.

We were at dinner with my in-laws last weekend, and he said..."Did you ever notice that with odd numbers, there is a middle one?" My mil gave him, and then me, an odd look. He pointed to his middle finger, and said...look 2 on this side, 2 on this side, and one in the middle. Then he did it with three, and then told me to hold up my hands so he could show 7 and 9. My mil later told me that she was just surprised that he even knew what an odd number was.

I can only imagine what keeping him in a "school" atmosphere would have done to him. By the end of kindergarten he would have been convinced that math was not his thing. And maybe it won't be later...but, goodness, don't squelch it now!! Maybe the teacher was right— "school" math wasn't his thing. Not enough windows?


A mom named Holly wrote:

My 14 year old had kind of the same experience when she was 10. We were taking the TAAS on line and one of the questions asked if a carpenter has a board 10' long and needs a board that was 6'7" long, how much will he need to cut off. After sitting for a few minutes looking confused, she said "It doesn't matter- he'll just measure 6'7" and then cut." That was the last question she did.

I was the director of an educational center last year where I tutored kids and helped them with their school work and this year help kids with their homework at the local government school. From kindergarten up, the work is confusing because it has no application in the real world. It's easy to say illogical things when you're not following any logic.

(a mom)

Susan in VA:

I told the story before of how Sarah didn't understand that when she took one many years ago, and would analyze each question.

One question was if a horse ate 10 apples in 5 days, how many did he eat each day? They wanted her to choose 2, of course, but she sat there and worried about it for 15 minutes. What if the horse ate three one day and one the next? How could she know?

I found myself saying, "Don't think about it, just pick an answer and move on." I told my child not to think! YIKES!

Laying down our thoughts in deference to an expert's, even if they don't seem right to us?

Some people do. No people should. —Sandra
Many churches teach this. Don't rely on your emotions or feelings. They are not reliable because they are influenced by the sinful desires in your heart. Spank your child even if you feel nauseous and lightheaded at the thought of it, because you must not let those emotions keep you from doing what is right.

By turning off and ignoring the cues that something is wrong, eventually we become numb to those cues. Just like a baby who is left crying for long enough will stop, because they have lost hope.

Sometimes it is too painful to turn those receptors back on, too. Change is good, but can rend and tear as well. But the mere struggle is part of the rebirthing and letting go process.

Those who can't bear the pain go back to the way they know. Those that push through it and beyond end up.....unschooling! WHEE!

Susan in VA (WifetoVegman)
Note from Sandra:
I have also put this story at SandraDodd.com/instinct.

During a drought, what is lacking?

The recommended answer: rain
Marty's answer: a boat ride

When I put the drought question on Just Add Light and Stir,, Karen James wrote a story:

That's great! My favourite response of Ethan's to many questions that are geared to have one right answer is "It depends." I used to think (because of my own schooling), "What does it depend on? The answer is ____. Period."

Now, because Ethan has proven to me so many times that is really *does* depend, my own mind hardly searches for that one "right" answer any longer. I love the expansion of the many possibilities! It's so much more fun to think about more than one answer, and so much less limiting to live in a world with more than one right way.

It took me a long time to see that. Ethan has never seen it any other way. How great is that!?

—Karen James

The student was correct.

This looks to be from a math workbook, with a response by a teacher. It was going around in public.

The "word problem" itself is called "Reasonableness," and the student was absolutely correct, but the teacher missed the point, didn't see or consider 'reason' (right there next to the question) AND assumed the pizzas were the same size.

Here's the question for the teacher: A first year teacher spent 5/8 of her monthly income in one week. The superintendent of the same district spent only 3/8 of his that same week. The superintendent spent more money. How is this possible? I think the teacher would get that one. 🙂




Answers to the Most Repeated Unschooling Questions of All Time