Stealth Schooling: Just Don’t Call it “Educational”

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When I explained the idea of stealth schooling, my husband’s eyes lit up.

“It’s like that cookbook!” he said.

I looked at him, confused.

“You know,” he said.  “The one where you hide the broccoli inside brownies so your kids will eat it.”

It’s a pretty good analogy, except for one big difference. Those recipes were a pain in the butt to make. They involved so much planning, steaming, pureeing, freezing, and thawing that by the time I finished I had to lie down and take a nap. And pink pancakes made with pureed beets just didn’t go over as well as you might think, at least in my house.  The cookbook’s been gathering dust on a kitchen shelf for a few years now.

Stealth schooling, on the other hand, is easy.  This is important because as homeschool moms go, I am kind of a slacker. (Look for a blog post on that topic soon).

For us, stealth schooling simply means helping our six year-old “Jack” find fun materials while not pointing out that they are educational.  Like a lot of gifted and 2e kids, Jack resists most top down or structured efforts to teach him, and he can turn off to whole subject matter areas pretty quickly if he feels pressured or coerced.  But if he’s having fun and making his own choices, he learns a boatload without even realizing it.

Here are some of our favorite stealth schooling techniques:

 1. Strewing.

The classic unschooler’s move involves leaving educational stuff lying around where kids will stumble upon it and get interested on their own.  When I remember to do it, I’ll plop reading material by Jack’s place at the table so he’ll see it at breakfast.  Most of the time he’ll start reading without my having to say a word.

 2.  Videos. 

I don’t know about your kids, but if mine is watching something on a screen, any resistance he might have to learning melts away.  He loves Mythbusters, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Liberty’s Kids, Schoolhouse Rock—and because it’s screen time, he feels like he’s getting away with something.

3. Educational software and games.  

Ever since Jack taught himself to read at three using, I’ve had to concede that online and game-based learning was a natural fit for him. Since then, he’s learned geography from Stack the States, Stack the Countries, and Sheppard Software; the US presidents from Presidents and Aliens; algebra concepts from DragonBox; fractions from Motion Math; and a whole host of things from BrainPop. I’m not crazy about the addictive tendency of the medium, so we do limit screen time. But it’s incredible how much he’s learned this way, and he’s loved every minute of it.

 4. Keep reading fun.

When we go to the library, Jack gets free reign.  Some months he wants all graphic novels or Junie B. Jones, other times we leave with stacks of biographies or history books.  Even when I have opinions, I don’t intervene (although I admit, I’m pretty glad he hasn’t ever requested Captain Underpants).  So far, our hands-off policy has really paid off.  He loves to read, and—who knew?—he’s learned a slew of great words from Calvin and Hobbes.

 5. Any writing counts. 

My own personal ninth circle of hell?  Trying to get Jack to write a thank you note.  I cajole, he rebels. I yell, he cries.  Paper gets ripped and feelings get hurt. It’s a disaster.  Writing “assignments” aren’t much better.  Now I look for stealthy writing opportunities as they arise: grocery lists, birthday wish lists, funny signs that get pasted on the walls.  We even co-wrote a chapter book a few months ago—he dictated and I typed it up—because he got excited about the story.

 6. Experiential learning of all kinds.

Museum visits, travel, fun classes—all of it counts.  I just resist the urge to say: “Isn’t this great? It’s so educational!”

Nothing in the above list is revolutionary.  It’s all pretty standard stuff for most homeschoolers.  What makes it “stealth schooling,” in my book, is simply the low-key approach.

That’s harder than you might think, at least for me.  I was a teacher for many years.  I’ve always LOVED school, and school-y projects, and even homework.  I’d like nothing more than to clap my hands and say, “OK, Jack, HERE’S what we’re going to learn today!” except that he would probably throw a fit, or go running out the door.

Gifted and 2e kids can be as easily spooked.  Stealth schooling is like wearing your moccasins. Tread lightly, and they might not even notice you’re there.

This post was part of a blog hop sponsored by Gifted Homeschoolers Forum.  For a variety of perspectives on stealth schooling, click here or scroll down for all the links.


You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But You Might Have to Trick Him into Drinking For His Own Damn Good – Buffalo Mama

The Gentle Way – Chasing Hollyfield

Stealth Schooling: A Tale of Two Teachers – Wenda Sheard

Stealth Schooling: Bait, Hook, Reel, Release – Little Stars Learning

Homeschool Tips: Simple Stealth School – How to Work and Homeschool

Stealth Schooling – Building Wingspan

My Experience with Stealth Schooling – Cedar Life Academy

Stealth Schooling – Sprite’s Site

Stealth Schooling and Strewing – A Voracious Mind

Stealth Schooling – Mommy Bares All

Comments: 7 thoughts on “Stealth Schooling: Just Don’t Call it “Educational”

  1. […] Stealth Schooling: Just Don’t Call it “Educational” – Thea Sullivan […]

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  3. Jade Rivera says:

    “Strewing” is one of my favorite things. Sometimes, I pretend that the things I want my students to read belong to me. I let them know, “Maybe, I will let you look at it when I’m done.” This REALLY sparks interest, and is done in a fun, light manner. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Katie says:

    Hey! This is really strange. I randomly read your article titled “My Little Einstein” and it really resonated with me. I had a very similar childhood but I had to stay in public school. It was pretty boring for me. But anyways, I thought I would share a link to an awesome website. It’s called the Khan Academy ( I think your son would love it! I’m a graduate student and also a teaching assistant. One of my students recommended that website to me the other day and I’ve had a blast learning and relearning things :).

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