Issue 39 | January 4, 2013 | Featuring Miles Sullivan

Newsletters Archive


Have you ever considered what strong driving forces can be gifts dwelling within students?  They can be the vehicles for change leading to success in all other areas of endeavor.  The key is to recognize the gifts and unleash them, as in the case of Miles Sullivan, as told by his father, Gregory.  

But first, Happy New Year from all of us at NARHS!  As a thank-you for staying with us, we'd like to offer you something special. 


INSIDE NARHS: Happy 2013!

This week postcard announcements will be sent through the mail to each of you about some great prices and programs being offered by NARHS starting right away.  If you are very curious and can't wait for the postcards to arrive, you may go to the website and read about what is coming.  Because you stayed with us through the changes, we have a great big "thank you" gift to show our appreciation for the trust and loyalty displayed this past year. 


Learn. Do. Teach.

It is the time-honored way to acquire real skill at anything. First one learns the rudiments. Then one tries your hand at doing something. When you become skilled, then you can supervise others, and the torch is passed.

This approach is no longer attempted in public schools --or even allowed-- and so we decided to teach our children at home. We wanted intellectual rigor. Solid work habits. Intellectual curiosity. Good manners. Honesty and forthrightness. Our son Miles has them all in spades.

We'd decided to move to the edge of the map -- a little town in far western Maine, dominated by a gigantic paper mill, squatting over the river and the waterfall that powers it. We purchased an abandoned Victorian house for less than the price of a car. Like everything that happens at the edge of the map, if you want it, you have to make it yourself for the most part.

It was just then we decided to teach Miles at home. My wife was already teaching his very much younger brother at home. Miles wasn't doing well at public school, which tells you all sorts of things about the school, and nothing about him. It was February vacation. I took him to our new house in Maine. There was no heat. No running water. The roof had a hole in it you could climb through. It was a paradise for Learn. Teach. Do. We never looked back.

We installed all the new plumbing together. Rewired much of the house. Installed some heat (not enough!). Climbed up on the roof and banished the squirrels and the rain and snow to the outdoors. He saw the bones of a house, and what makes it go. He banged away at it like a man, and I was proud of him. When the house was habitable, we went back and got his mother and little brother and moved in.

If we wanted heat, we had to make it. We calculated the physics of moving heavy things, then built a sled under an 800 pound furnace and slid it down the steep driveway, still slumbering under three feet of snow, and Miles winched it up a ramp into the house. He figured out how many BTUs are in a cord of wood while stacking it.

Of course Learn. Do. Teach works when you're all alone, too. You eventually learn to be your own teacher. With help from NARHS, my wife would determine the curriculum for the coming year, and Miles would get right to it. NARHS is a godsend in this regard; we're willing to put our shoulder to the wheel, but why re-invent it? We benefited greatly from their guidance.

We had trouble keeping ahead of him. His work was challenging, and we gave him a lot of it, but he began to do his work for the following day the evening before. He was hungry for it. He began to really teach himself, the mark of an adult.

Music was his passion. I was once a working musician, as is my brother. Miles began to noodle around with a guitar his uncle sent him for Christmas. We did not push him to play, but he began to play all the time. He saved his money, earned doing chores for neighbors, and purchased a guitar and amplifier for himself.

He got good, fast. He began to enlist other children in town to play with him. He'd painstakingly learn all the parts of the songs, then teach them to his friends. He began performing at public occasions in our town -- charity events, the opening of a skatepark, a fun run. He was in the local newspaper more than a disreputable politician. He had trouble finding friends that would keep up with him. They couldn't stick with it like he could. So he 

enlisted his eight-year-old brother.

They made a spare bedroom into a music room. There was no electricity or heat in there, and the plaster was falling off the walls, but they went in there every day, sometimes twice a day, and practiced. I gave Miles' little brother daily music lessons at first, but they soon became superfluous. Miles taught him. The two of them got really good playing together, even though little Garrett is only nine years old now.

I'm a writer and  artisan, and mydaily essays are popular with many homeschooling parents and people interested in traditional arts and education.  I posted some videos of the boys playing from time to time. My readers began to make requests, and offer money if the boys would play them. We allowed readers to contribute money to help us purchase proper musical and video equipment for the boys, and the result was overwhelming. Thousands of people watched, and dozens and dozens sent money, from many countries, on three continents. The boys call themselves Unorganized Hancock.

Learn. Do. Teach. Try it; it's infectious.