Homeschooling in an Airstream

Take a Peek Inside What It’s Like Homeschooling in an Airstream


“How do you do it?” If I had $1 for every time someone has asked me that in the last year. I’d have an excellent hands-on homeschool math activity! Almost everyone asks a variation of this question when they find out I live in an Airstream that I work and homeschool from.

Truthfully? It’s exactly the same way you do. One day at a time. Is that too simple of an answer, though? Our experience is quite different from others who choose an at home education. Aren’t all experiences different to some extent? My classroom is a lot smaller (and a lot less Instagram ready.)
 

How I Ended Up Living, and Homeschooling, in an Airstream

Before I tell you about what my days look like, let me tell you a bit about how I ended up here. Like many things, it’s a very long story. I'll provide the short version. It started with having a baby while living in a one-bedroom apartment. We were content with a small space. Eventually, we have to move somewhere bigger. No apartment complexes would lease a one-bedroom to a family of three. As our space grew, so did our stuff. We realized we wanted to downsize, a process that took several years.

In 2013, we ended up living in a tiny rental house. During our time there we started toying with the idea of building a tiny house. We even got on the wait-list for our preferred builder. Most of our free time was devoted to designing tiny house layouts, planning, and researching. It was a year-long wait list so we had A LOT of time before we had to put any money down. During that time we came across information that made us second guess our decision.

Our quest took us, where else, to Craigslist. One night we saw her, our beautiful little Airstream Argosy. We knew right away she had to be ours. Within a couple weeks we owned her and began researching a whole new kind of project. Our Airstream renovation took about a year and we moved in last fall. Currently we are stationary but we plan to be able to travel full-time in the next couple of years.

It has been an adventure for sure. An adventure in personal space, planning, organizing, and much more. It’s especially been an adventure in homeschooling! We can’t have a beautiful Montessori-inspired homeschool room in this tiny little home. I have to exercise a lot of self-control on what I buy. We’re having educational experiences we never could have imagined would come from this way of life.

My school day looks a little different than most

 

Homeschooling in general is a huge commitment. Trying it in a tiny space has major ups, and downs. For example, we have to “build” our classroom every single day. School happens in the living room. Which also happens to be the dining room. It’s also my office. Oh, and my yoga studio. Don’t forget, it’s also my bedroom. So… as you can see, we have to build and tear down everything. Every day. This adds a bit of time into our homeschool routine.

 

Everything has to be put away as soon as we’re done. In such a tiny space, it’s easy for things to get messy fast. Plus there’s no space to leave things out! During our school day, we end up spending a lot of time putting away books and materials after lessons are complete.

 

We don’t have beautiful Montessori shelving. This is something I often long for.   Instead manipulatives are stored in the drawer that is next to my son’s jammies. Items we’re not currently using are stored in upper cabinets. Sometimes I don’t plan right and we have to spend extra time taking everything down to get what we need to finish our lesson. Somedays I love how neat and tidy we keep things. Other days I’m nothing short of annoyed by the extra time this adds to my day.

 

As much as possible, we have school outside. It’s not uncommon for us to haul everything out to a mat on the grass. One of our goals with living small was to spend more time outside. Our hope was to have a space so small we felt "forced" outside for more space. That has definitely been something we’ve experienced. Even with only three of us, space runs out pretty fast. We end up outdoors or loading up our materials and heading to a local park often.

 

Frustrations and disagreements are more acutely felt in a tiny space. If a lesson is difficult, or we’re disagreeing, it can get hard. Even though my son has his own room, it feels a lot more intense when that room is 3 feet away instead of on the other side of the house. We generally get along quite well but when we need our space, it can be difficult. Nothing can be left on the “back burner,” so to speak. We’ve also learned techniques for handling frustrations and disappointment.

On the flip side, homeschooling and living in a tiny space has made us so much closer. We have to have good, honest communication.

 

We have to deal with issues. We are grateful for the chance to snuggle up and read literature. We love laughing together writing silly stories. I know all homeschool Mamas enjoy these sweet moments. Somehow it feels different in a cozy, tiny space. I love the concept of Hygge that’s sweeping the nation. When we’re sitting inside having a great lesson together, I feel like I get the concept. When we were schooling in a more “normal” living space, it didn’t feel as Hygge and special as it does now.

My Encouragement to You

 

Nearly as often as I have people ask me how I do it, I have people say “I’ve always wanted to try that!” It is a HARD lifestyle, so much harder than we imagined it would be. It’s also so much more rewarding than we thought it would be. We love it and the pros definitely outweigh the cons for us.

It never hurts to give something new a try. Pack up your ShillerLearning materials, print a bunch of FREE printable packs (they hardly take up any space!) rent the house for a bit, and give it a trial run. There’s a whole community of Road Schoolers and tiny living dwellers, waiting to welcome you! Make sure to take advantage of the incredible community out there. It’s full of homeschoolers from all walks of life all over the world.


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Amanda Osenga

Amanda is a former Montessori teacher, now homeschooling her dear son - an only child. Her family resides in an Airstream parked in Washington State and loves Washington's outdoor opportunities. When not homeschooling, Amanda blogs, loves reading, and creates hand-lettering pieces.


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5 Learning Goals To Set Your Child Up for a Successful Future



5 Learning Goals to Set Your Child Up for a Successful Future

How can one hit a target that doesn’t even exist? Homeschooling without defined goals is like standing in one's backyard with a bow and arrow spinning in circles trying to decide what to shoot at. Or worse yet, letting those arrows fly randomly and hoping for the best.

 

As fall approaches each year, the panic settles over many homeschool parents and they become glassy eyed from pouring through catalogs and websites of curriculum options. How to choose the best materials for each child can be agonizing.  

 

As a veteran homeschool mom of 27 years who was also homeschooled as a child, let me ease your burden just a wee bit.  

 

Before you even start looking at all the options, may I suggest you step back and decide what your big goals are. What are the most important lessons, skills or qualities you’d like to be sure your child leaves your homeschool with when the time comes for them to launch?

 

The answer to these foundational questions will then guide and narrow the rest of your decision making process. And hopefully significantly reduce your stress levels.

 

No matter what your plans are, it is very important to note that your homeschool goals do not need to mirror those of any other family or school, public or private. (I am going to share our family’s goals with the hope that these will get you started thinking about your own!)



When I was a new homeschool mama, I would sit for hours, researching and writing lists of all the specific skills I hoped to cover each year with each child. This exercise was fine and it did help steer our choices for the year but after a few years I realized that everything boiled down to a few foundational targets I wanted each child to hit before they “graduated” from my homeschool.

 

So each year I still make a general list of subjects and skills we will cover but everything always points back to our family’s “Five Learning Goals.”

 

The Donnelly Family Learning Goals

 

1. That the child would learn to read well.

2. That the child would learn basic mathematics.

3. That the child would learn to communicate effectively both orally and in writing.

4. That the child would learn how to learn.

5. That the child would cultivate a lifelong love of learning.

 

(Number 5 is the one that is the absolute most important to me!)

 

When I sit down one day to write each of them a transcript or a diploma, I will look back at these foundations to our homeschool and judge our mutual success as student and teacher. If these targets were met, I will have confidence that any subject they didn’t completely ace or a skill that wasn’t on our radar can easily be filled in if they find a need for that skill or knowledge in their adult life.  

 

The ability to read well is the key that unlocks any door.  

A deep love of learning will inspire and drive them to seek the knowledge they need.

An understanding of how to go about learning will steer them to be able to follow their dreams.

The ability to communicate what they have learned will insure their usefulness in whatever professions they pursue.

And mathematics, well we all know that math is used all day every day in one way or another.

 

May I encourage you to take some time to evaluate what your family’s most important outcomes are for your homeschool and then let everything else be driven by your foundational goals.

 

Welcome to the beautiful world of homeschooling. It’s hard. It’s wonderful. It’s worth the investment of time and money. You can do this! And here at ShillerLearning we are available to come alongside you in your education journey. Feel welcome to call 888-556-6284 or message/email with your questions. We are passionate not only about helping your kids learn but helping them learn to love learning.

 

Catherine Donnelly

Catherine began her formal education journey in Montessori preschool. Following a short stint in regular school she was homeschooled from 5th grade on. After being her college's first homeschooled graduate, she and her husband decided upon home education for their five children. 27 years, and many adventures later, she is till homeschooling their youngest 3 children. The foundation of Maria Montessori's principles have been a consistent thread throughout their learning journey and Catherine was delighted to discover Shiller Learning and join forces with them in 2020. In her sparse free moments she can be found reading with her children (or hiding in a corner reading by herself); writing articles for her blog, books or various clients; playing with her children; or dressing up in various time period costumes and traveling to historical sites.

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Language Arts Kit A (PreK/K-G1)

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How Much Control Do You Really Have Over How Your Child Turns Out

 

How Much Control Do You Really Have

Over How Your Child Turns Out?



(The answer is both more and less than you might think…..)

As parents, especially homeschool parents, we sometimes link so much of our own views of success or failure to our children. When our child is excelling academically we pat ourselves on the back thinking we are doing such a great job. When they struggle in math or reading we berate ourselves, wondering if we are in fact ruining this child’s future with our inept teaching. (Hint: Don’t take the credit or the blame here. But DO keep searching for the right tools to help your child succeed and be the best that they can be. No one cares as much as you for your child. Keep looking until you find the best educational fit.)

Similarly when our child is kind and polite at a social gathering using their pleases and thank yous generously, we hide our self satisfied smiles of pride in our great parenting and offer a sympathetic smile to the parent whose child took a bite out of a cookie, put it back on the plate, and ran outside with nary a nod of appreciation. Really we are internally shaking our heads, glad that one is not ours. But wait….. Sometimes that child IS ours. Then, we hide our shame by laughing it off, “kids will be kids,” secretly embarrassed, knowing we have failed to teach this child manners.

“You are NOT going to believe what YOUR child did today?” greets the frazzled mother as her tired husband steps in the door at dinner time. Dad, not yet ready to be lambasted for the failings of his genepool on little junior, hesitates, feeling somehow less-than before the conversation even starts.

But wait…. How much of our children’s character IS the result of nature? Did they just come wired a certain way, and we have no control over how they turn out? And how much of who they become IS the result of nurture and really does weigh heavily on the shoulders of parental responsibility?

While not a genetic scientist nor a trained psychiatrist, I do have some experienced observations that will ease both your concerns and turn you into a detective searching out the best in each of the children you’ve been gifted with.

Clearly children are wired with certain propensities right out of the gate (or the womb). Often even observable prior to birth, they arrive with a basic set of personality traits. This observation, while guilt relieving, is not absolution for the parents just yet, because there is clearly a very malleable side to all children. Nurture is inextricably intertwined with nature - the parenting, education, friends, and everything that makes up a child’s environment will have a profound effect on who they are and who they become.

As a young parent, I learned to hold my confidence in myself as a result of my child’s successes very loosely. I recognized that things could quite easily go the opposite way and didn’t want to be left holding that bag entirely either. What I did begin to recognize in my children, in children I worked with, and in humans in general is that each character quality they possessed has two distinct sides.

Let me demonstrate:

- Lying is clearly a negative trait. Could lying have a positive side? YES. Imagination and creativity. This child can write an amazingly creative story and come up with answers to questions on the spot.

- Rude and outspoken = a child that is not easily pushed around and will stick up for what is true.

- Disrespectful = confident in themselves and less likely to be swayed to peer pressure.

- Shy = humble, introspective and thoughtful, able to be comfortable within themselves.

- Lazy = innovative thinker often looking for easier or better ways to do things. (Many inventors claim they are lazy.)

- Tattler = great reporter and recorder of details. Possibly a good story teller.

- Bossy = leader, organizer, someone willing to take responsibility. These humans get things done.

- Aggressive child = assertive personality often justice oriented and willing to stand up for what they believe is right. (The parent’s job is to help them learn what is right and what is worth standing up for.)

- Short Tempered = passionate, powerful emotions.

- Forgetful = engrossed in life.

- Prideful = confident.

- Obstinate = determined, able to stand up for what they believe and persevere when things are difficult.

This list is not exhaustive, but you get the idea.

You’ve also read the memes about the strong willed child and how IF they can survive childhood they will be one amazing adult!. This is a beautiful, though often frustrating truth. The qualities in our children that may seem difficult or unpleasant, ALL have a positive side. Every single one of them. It is our honor bound duty to find them!

As parents it is our job to search for the beauty in our child’s personality and even more importantly to help them discover who they are and celebrate their strengths. Way too often, even within the homeschool community, I have seen kids pegged as “bad kids” when in reality their personalities are wonderful and amazing and they need to be loved and respectfully guided into all that they were born to be.

 

Oprah Winfrey said, What you focus on expands, and when you focus on the goodness in your life, you create more of it.

 

This is nowhere more true than in the life of a child. The child who is punished constantly and always criticized for their “bad behavior” does often grow up to be a bad adult. If you take that same child and place even one adult in their life that believes in them and encourages the good side of their personality, they are exponentially more likely to grow up to be a world-changer or at the least a wonderful human being.

As a parent, I had to learn to make decisions based on what was best for my child, not what was best for my pride. Knowing that even though I was seeking out the good side of my child’s character qualities, not everyone cared to take the time to see that beauty. Sometimes this meant finding more nurturing environments or curricula, and sometimes it meant understanding talks with my child in navigating negativity from less understanding adults or advocating for my child in these situations.

YOU are your child’s best advocate, cheerleader, and champion. Not just to the rest of the world, but to themselves. As you constantly dig deep and find the good side of each of their qualities you are helping to build them into exactly who they came prewired to be.

YOU dear parent, have got this! Keep finding and focusing on the good and just watch it expand before your very eyes!

 

Catherine Donnelly, author and homeschool coach with the Rising Stars Foundation

Catherine Donnelly

Catherine began her formal education journey in Montessori preschool. Following a short stint in regular school she was homeschooled from 5th grade on. After being her college's first homeschooled graduate, she and her husband decided upon home education for their five children. 27 years, and many adventures later, she is till homeschooling their youngest 3 children. The foundation of Maria Montessori's principles have been a consistent thread throughout their learning journey and Catherine was delighted to discover Shiller Learning and join forces with them in 2020. In her sparse free moments she can be found reading with her children (or hiding in a corner reading by herself); writing articles for her blog, books or various clients; playing with her children; or dressing up in various time period costumes and traveling to historical sites.

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Practical Ways You Can Help Your Child Manage Emotions



Children will always have emotions. However, some kids find it very hard to manage their feelings. This post will outline nine practical and effective ways that you can help your child manage their emotions without overwhelming them or yourself.

 

Importance of Emotional Management to Children

1. Emotional problems can be very damaging to a child's self-esteem; it can also negatively affect their relationships with peers and their ability to focus on schoolwork. Studies have shown that the more emotional control children have daily, the more successful they are in life.

 

2. Emotional problems can disrupt your child's learning process. Being overly emotional is a problem for students since they often do not know how to cope with their emotions and usually get distracted by them instead of getting work done.

 

3. Emotional problems can trigger other behavioral issues. An emotionally overwhelmed child is most likely to act out and become disobedient or disrespectful to authority figures like parents and teachers.

 

4. Kids with Emotional Management Issues are more likely to have relationship problems in the future. These future problems can be related to both intimate relationships and friendships. It is not just kids that struggle with emotional management; many adults do as well. Read about adults who need help managing their emotions here.

 

5. Children with poor emotional management are more likely to have social problems as teenagers and adults. These social issues can include but are not limited to bullying, drug abuse, and risky sexual behavior.

 

Nine Effective Solutions for Managing Kids Emotions

Here are nine ways that you can help manage your child's emotions. Every child is different. Sometimes the solutions I outline might not work for your child; however, you should find a solution that does work for your kid. These solutions are based on proven research and have worked for many parents.

 

1. Talk to your kid about the emotions they have.
Kids feel better when they talk to someone about their feelings. Whether it is a parent, a teacher, a friend, or even an adult who is not familiar with the child, your child feels better when talking out their feelings with another person. Most people feel better when talking through their issues with someone else.

 

2. Have your child think about what they have done to cause their emotions.
Sometimes, kids feel intense emotions simply because of a particular situation they are facing or how it was dealt with. When you ask your child to think about what has happened, most kids will tell you what event triggered their emotions.

 

3. Help your child find healthy ways of dealing with their feelings like taking a walk, reading a book, doing an activity that makes them happy, etc.
Sometimes kids need to take in their feelings to be able to let them go. Helping your child find a healthy way to deal with their emotions can be very helpful. Try to think of ways that would make your child feel comfortable when they feel overwhelmed.

 

4. Help your child express their feelings in a healthy form.
Kids who are bullied, picked on, or made fun of are more likely to be angry and get hurt emotionally by other kids. If you help your child find healthy ways of expressing their emotions, they will be able to take their anger healthily.

 

5. Make sure your kid has proper health and physical care.
Emotions will affect your child's ability to focus on schoolwork and their physical well-being. If you have concerns that your child's feelings affect their work or health, talk to a doctor about it.

 

6. Enforce logical consequences to your child's hostile actions.
Sometimes kids act out of anger or frustration when they are not given what they want. This behavior is usually caused by why your child did not get their way or feel that they were treated destructively. Enforcing logical consequences to their behavior can help them learn how to deal with these emotions more productively and healthily.

 

7. Help your child learn to accept and accept negative consequences.

Sometimes kids act out of anger or frustration because they feel as if they are not being listened to or valued by someone but instead punished for their actions. Please help your child learn to accept the negative consequences that come with their efforts.

 

8. Help your child learn to take healthy risks.
Kids who learn to take risks and experience positive feelings will be happier and more secure with themselves. Please help your child find healthy ways of taking risks that are beneficial for them.

 

9. Listen to and appreciate your kid's feelings when they express themselves.
Sometimes, kids feel intense emotions simply because of certain situations they are facing or how it was dealt with. When you listen to your child and appreciate their feelings, they will tell you what is bothering them.


Kids who have poor emotional management can be hard to deal with. The children who are in this group may feel as though they are misunderstood because their peers and teachers don't understand how they are feeling. They may lash out at other kids, their parents, or even teachers without understanding why they are doing it. However, with the right help and guidance, these kids can learn to manage their emotions appropriately and will be able to live happier and more fulfilling lives.

Guest Blog Author: Andrea Gibbs, Montessori Academy

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Anchors That Hold Your Homeschool Day Together

Anchors That Hold Your Homeschool Day Together!



Do you sometimes feel that your homeschool day literally runs away from you and before you know it, it’s time to start dinner? The kids are grumpy; you are wondering what exactly you accomplished today and walk into the kitchen hearing those lying voices whispering in your head, “You can’t do this. It’s too hard. You’re not cut out to be a homeschooling parent!”

 

You are not alone. As a second generation homeschooler who has been teaching my kids at home for over 26 years (my youngest is 9) I still have days like this. Let me share with you one of my favorite tactics that keeps us going and silences those awful voices in my head.

 

Anchor points. Rather than feel like I have lost all control of my plans for the day, anchor points hold us to a rhythm and provide natural breaks in our day where we can come back to refocus and maintain the momentum.

 

Here are anchors I have found helpful:

 

▪ Meals eaten together (sometimes with a specific discussion)

 

▪ Family Reading Time: Read an exciting book everyday (we read at 12:30 while the kids eat lunch)


▪ Morning Time: A time where everyone comes together and follows a short routine - I often combine this with breakfast (I like to read a fun history story at this time)


▪ 10-Minute “Everyone Moves”: This activity can be linked to a time or a specific subject


▪ Digital Hour: At my house no screens are allowed prior to 3:30 - this way they don’t ask and there is motivation to finish their checklists by then


▪ Quiet Time: This can be a time for reading or napping depending on the family needs


▪ Snack Times: Having snacks available or prepared helps this to be a stress reliever instead of a stress inducing time - and always a favorite for the family

When used with grace and flexibility, these anchor points can serve as place holders in your day - times or activities that both you and your children look forward to and help keep you on a steady track. If everyone loses it during reading, then stopping for a 10 minute movement break and a snack can serve as a reset and bring everyone back with smiles, ready to tackle math.

 

Keep your anchors steady but flexible and they will serve you. They are meant to help not provide another rigid framework to make you feel like you are failing. Fit the anchors into your day that make the most sense and change them up as the needs of your family change.

 

Catherine Donnelly

Catherine began her formal education journey in Montessori preschool. Following a short stint in regular school she was homeschooled from 5th grade on. After being her college's first homeschooled graduate, she and her husband decided upon home education for their five children. 27 years, and many adventures later, she is till homeschooling their youngest 3 children. The foundation of Maria Montessori's principles have been a consistent thread throughout their learning journey and Catherine was delighted to discover Shiller Learning and join forces with them in 2020. In her sparse free moments she can be found reading with her children (or hiding in a corner reading by herself); writing articles for her blog, books or various clients; playing with her children; or dressing up in various time period costumes and traveling to historical sites.

Want to See Inside Our Montessori-Based Kits?

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Give Yourself Grace



Homeschooling looks a little different in every single home.

 

It’s so easy to see a picture-perfect social media post about another family’s schooling experience and feel like a failure when you compare it to your real-life everyday. Let me assure you, that NO ONE is better equipped than you to love and find the best way to teach your children. Whether you are full-time homeschooling, hybrid or virtual learning, some days are just messy. Whether home educating is your way of life or you were thrown into it suddenly by a worldwide pandemic, YOU have what it takes to help your kids learn.

 

Stop for one minute. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Now let go of the idea that your homeschool should look like anyone else's. Let go of the idea that your homeschool should look like a public or private school. Trust yourself. Trust your children. You can figure this out.

 

As your family works together to choose what is important, remember that nobody can do it all. Give yourself grace for the days nothing goes as planned and realize; these days were still about learning, it was just a different lesson than you anticipated.

 

Give your kids grace too. Hug them, read to them, let them read to you. Get out math manipulatives and discover together. Cook something fun and talk about measurement. Go for a walk. Drop sticks in a puddle or a creek.

 

Life is short and you are so fortunate to have these days to grow and learn together. Teach your kids to be gentle with themselves by letting them see you be gentle with yourself.

 

Catherine Donnelly

Catherine began her formal education journey in Montessori preschool. Following a short stint in regular school she was homeschooled from 5th grade on. After being her college's first homeschooled graduate, she and her husband decided upon home education for their five children. 27 years, and many adventures later, she is till homeschooling their youngest 3 children. The foundation of Maria Montessori's principles have been a consistent thread throughout their learning journey and Catherine was delighted to discover Shiller Learning and join forces with them in 2020. In her sparse free moments she can be found reading with her children (or hiding in a corner reading by herself); writing articles for her blog, books or various clients; playing with her children; or dressing up in various time period costumes and traveling to historical sites.


Tips for Helping Your Child Overcome Undesired Behaviors

Tips for Helping Your Child Overcome Undesired Behaviors


At ShillerLearning, I recently answered this parent question:

"My 12-year-old son used to be best friends with another boy in the neighborhood but now that's off and they a scream at each other all the time, what do I do? "


two kids playing in the park

 

What’s your goal?

 

Is it to keep them from screaming at each other? Or something else?

 

Whatever goal you have, ask yourself why you have that goal. When you answer that question, ask yourself why that’s the reason. Keep asking why until you have the real reason: The REAL uncomfortable truth you are dealing with.

 

For example (I’m brainstorming here, I don’t know your situation), maybe you feel responsible in some way and that if you had parented differently there would have been a better outcome.

 

Whatever you come up with, now fill in the blank in the following sentence: The right thing to do in this situation is _______.


 

For example, you can’t go back and re-parent but you can have a transparent and open-minded (non-judgmental) discussion with your son about why he’s engaging in this behavior and helping him to understand his goals and the best way to reach them, just like you did for yourself above.

 

Tips to make this process work:

1. Don’t jump to conclusions: take logical baby steps and don’t assume ANYTHING

2. Don’t judge: deal with facts only

3. When you have a negative emotion, realize you have it but don’t show it: make your behavior support your goal, not your ego

 

What situation have you been in like this? What did you do?

 

Let's help each other: Tell us your story so we can share it anonymously with our readers. You may email blog@shillerlearning.com or comment below.



Larry Shiller

Larry Shiller is President of ShillerLearning, whose mission is to help kids learn and fulfill their potential. Shiller has degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Harvard Business School and is the author of Software Excellence (Prentice-Hall).

A father of three, Shiller is active in non-profits and his hobbies include working with local startups, music (Shiller is an accomplished violinist who - when not helping children learn math and language arts - performs in the NYC tri-state area), tennis (Shiller's team made it to the USTA national finals in his skill bracket), Quoridor (Shiller is a former USA Champion), backgammon (Shiller is the Voice of Backgammon, doing commentary on backgammon tournaments worldwide), table tennis, and flying (Shiller holds a private pilot's license).

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