Making Parenting Choices: Using the Ask-Try-Do Framework to Change your Approach to Learning

Making parenitng choices and using the As-Try-Do framework to change your approach to learning at

I love this quote of Diane Flynn Keith:

We can get too easily bogged down in the academic part of homeschooling, a relatively minor part of the whole, which is to raise competent, caring, literate, happy people.

I still shake my head at the time and energy we wasted when we began homeschooling by replicating a school mindset of separating learning from life.

We wasted time looking for the perfect curriculum to follow instead of asking what was really important to do to create a life of learning.

We were so in need of deschooling—especially me, the former schoolteacher.  

How can you change your approach to learning?

Luckily we had a 3-step process to rely on that we already used when choosing to make changes: what I call the Ask-Try-Do framework.

  1. Ask hard questions
  2. Try new things
  3. Do what matters

Making big, fundamental change does not happen in one fell swoop. It takes small, practical repeated steps, with a big dose of honest reflection, humor, and humility.

Luckily you evolve and use Ask-Try-Do as often as you need.

Here is what applying the Ask=Try=Do framework looked like for us at the start of our transition to homeschooling and self-directed learning.


Choosing Homeschooling is a Self-directed Learning Journey

When we first used the Ask-Try-Do process to help us decide to move from public school to homeschooling, we didn’t really ask enough hard questions or investigate the many ways to homeschool. We didn’t look deeply enough into what wasn’t working and so we ended up, at first, just taking the school model home with us, OOPS!

Dale and I discussed subjects he wanted to study, selected curriculum, and set a daily schedule based on Dale’s early riser- fast finisher preferences. On our “first day of homeschool” we enthusiastically powered through our schedule of subjects and recesses from 8am -noon. By the time we called halt, Dale and I were both glassy eyed.


“Mom, that was more one-one teaching than all my years at school.

No offense, but this is NOT how I want to learn.”


Ask-Try-Do, like self-directed learning, is a continuous, reflective process.

When using the Ask-Try-Do framework it is important to be willing to get out of your comfort zone in order to grow. We had to challenge ourselves to be really honest when asking/answering questions as well as to look beyond the most familiar and convenient options for learning.


What do you want to learn? Why?

How do you want to learn that? Why?

Do you want to learn alone or with others? Why?

Dale wanted to:

  • enjoy learning by doing; work on projects that are useful and challenging
  • take lots of field trips, especially “behind the scenes” kind of tours.
  • find other people to learn with and make new friends

Some Tips for Parents/Mentors:

Take time to answer the why questions. It isn’t always easy yet can lead to powerful learning experiences.

It’s hard, but try to keep from immediately problem-solving which may result in more effort on your part and less learning for your child.  Give them the gift of doing their own work.

Keep asking questions and listening so that you and your child can learn more about themselves, learn how to generate solutions, and take ownership of their learning.


What could we change? We discussed as a family and decided to:

  • Allow time to deschool and actively rekindle curiosity
  • Ask more questions about our long-term goals and what really mattered to us
  • Broaden our perspective on what learning looks like and research how many different ways there were to learn a topic or pursue an interest
  • Value learning life skills as much as academic skills
  • Dedicate time to involve Dale in researching* and finding resources so that it wasn’t just me presenting an activity or menu of choices ( link to blog post?)


*Research can involve more than using the internet and looking at books. We many of the A-Z strategies detailed in the lifeSPARKS Guide and Workbook to help us gather information: we Asked, Discussed, Networked and looked for opportunities to Explore and eXperience.


We made a variety of changes requiring me to listen and chauffeur more, and to control and talk less.

Ouch! Thank goodness we can all learn from our mistakes!

For starters, we:

  • Threw out most of the curriculum and schedule we started with
  • Agreed to each keep a daily journal to reflect on and log what we were doing, learning, and thinking about.
  • Dedicated a specific time each week to discuss feelings, evaluate progress and schedule, and figure out next steps
  • Committed to attending a weekly homeschool park day and monthly field trip. Joined local homeschool groups and the Bay Area Field Trip email list that Dale found when looking for activities online.


For two more specific examples of how to apply the framework in two curriculum areas see my guest post on the Outshoool blog, How to Use the Ask-Try-Do framework for Self-directed Learning.


Adopting a Process for Lifelong Learning and Living

Making unconventional choices about education can be threatening to those around you. Asking hard questions, trying new things and doing what matters can also lead to some uncomfortable realizations about your own mindsets and behaviors. I was surprised at how many of my assumptions about learning and parenting were not serving us. We reexamined what we thought was most important for us as a family. We had to model taking responsibility for our learning and growth. It wasn’t always easy and we made lots of mistakes, but it was so worth it.

I hope the Ask-Try-Do framework and the A-Z strategies for lifelong can ease your transition to reclaiming and sharing responsibility for and love of learning.


Please share your ideas and experiences in the comments section below




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