Monday, October 31, 2005

Just Great Quotes

These are some of my favorite unschooling related quotes. Anne Sullivan's really reflects my personal view of 'education'

Anne Sullivan

"I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must taught to think. Whereas if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less slowly. Let him come and go freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself, instead of sitting indoors at a little round table while a sweet-voiced teacher suggest that he build a stone wall with his wooden blocks, or make a rainbow out of strips of colored paper, or plant straw trees in flower pots. Such teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experiences. "

Albert Einstein

"Imagination is more important than knowledge."
"Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school."
"Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen."
"The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education."

Stephanie -my friend from VAEclectic
(she didn't write it, she just made it famous lol)
"Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he's not interested it's like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating."

Agatha Christie
" I suppose it is because nearly all children go to school nowadays and have things arranged for them that they seem so forlornly unable to produce their own ideas. "

George Bernard Shaw
" What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge, not knowledge in pursuit of the child. "

Justice Sandra Day O'Conner

"So long as a parent adequately cares for his or her children [i.e., is fit], there will normally be no reason for the state to inject itself into the private realm of the family to further question the ability of that parent to make the best decisions concerning the rearing of that parent's children."

(in the U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion TROXEL Vs. GRANVILLE:)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

the 'S' word

No, not that 's' word, the homeschool 's' word. Socialization.
I rarely talk or write about socialization because it seems like such a no brainer to me. But I realize as I read comments from those who are basically clueless about homeschooling that it is a concern, especially when the press throws out stories about neo-Nazi teenagers who happen to also be homeschoolers or homeschoolers with 16 kids and such. It should be obvious these days that homeschooling cuts across all levels of society, all cultural boundaries, all economic classes, all religious varieties and is implemented using virtually every kind of educational style. Practically the only generalization you can make about homeschoolers is they school at home.

So what about socialization? Well, in public school you spend 99% of your time with other people who are the same age as you. How often does that happen in adult life? Right, never. Homeschoolers spend time with all ages of kids and have far more direct interaction with individual adults than public school students do. Which do you think makes a more well-rounded adult?
Homeschool students also have more privacy, more control over their own choices (I never make my boys wait until recess to use the bathroom) and more free time to explore their own personal growth (morethanfine). In school, kids have no privacy, no choices and no time to explore.
Finally, it is rare that homeschoolers get their lunch money stolen or have to sit by themselves in the cafeteria (haha.) See why I think it is a no brainer? There is also not even one teeny tiny shred of research to suggest or support that long hours spent confined with one's age mates is good for a child's development, social or academic. It is my (not so) humble opinion, that the structure of public education is actually detrimental to social development and often something that must be overcome in adult life.

The truth of socialization is it is actually a reason to homeschool, rather than an argument against it.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A taste of radical thought

In my last post I warned not to read John Taylor Gatto unless your were prepared to be radicalized. Not sure if you are prepared or not? Then I recommend you spend a few minutes with Gatto's American Education History Tour. If you are prepared for a whole new view of the public education model, you will get a little taste of morethanfine radical thought. If you're not prepared, you will have only wasted a little bit of your time!

And from that, a quick thought about test scores:
Former presidential candidate (2000), Bill Bradley had a very low score of 480 on the verbal part of his SATs, yet graduated from Princeton, won a Rhodes Scholarship, and became a US senator;
President George W. Bush got degrees from Yale and Harvard, became governor of Texas, and president of the United States—with a mediocre 550.

If you can be a Rhodes Scholar, graduate from Ivy League schools and become governor, senator, and president with mediocre SAT scores, what exactly do the tests measure?

To have a mind of your own...

I just thought of another morethanfine reason to keep my kids out of school. I was reading the epilogue of John Taylor Gatto's "The Underground History of American Education"* and he writes about George Washington: "As a boy he learned the hard things: duty, piety, courage, self-reliance, to have a mind of his own..." My! How that resonated with me!

If my 3 boys would just grow up knowing these things, I would know I had succeeded as their mom/teacher. I feel like I need to frame those words and put them on the wall somewhere so I will always be reminded that these are the goals, not Algebra II or spelling or high SAT scores. To have a mind of his (her) own is the greatest gift homeschooling can give a child.

Personally, I still sometimes struggle to not "go with the flow" and to have a mind of my own. Actually, I do have a mind of my own, but it is drawing on that tiny reserve of courage and self reliance that gives voice to that mind that is the real trick. The courage and self-reliance was supressed by the public school experience, so the mind is locked inside the walls of dependence and insecurity, until you find your confidence and the mind is freed and the voice can be heard!

A mind of your own and the confidence to express it! That's the goal.

*WARNING! Do not read Gatto unless you are prepared to be radicalized!


...And Texas hosts its first World Series!
My mom has been a Houston Astros fan for 38 years. We moved to Houston in 1968 and she has never waivered from her support of the Astros even though we returned to California in 1975. I can't imagine how many weeds she pulled listening to Astro games. It takes a faithful fan to persevere with a team that has never even played in a World Series, much less won a championship! I don't know how they will fare against the White Sox, but it is morethanfine to simply be bringing the World Series for to the Lone Star state for the first time ever. Go 'Stros!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Do we really need an expert to tell us what to think?

I just heard that Dr. Phil is going to weigh in on homeschooling this week on his show. Why, oh why, does anyone care what Dr. Phil has to say about homeschooling? I don't know much about him other than he has a pretty funny pop-psych shtick and says stuff like 'that dog won't hunt' and such. But were his children homeschooled? Does he have personal experience with homeschooling or homeschooling families? Why would we have an interest in his opinion?

I think it is just a symptom of our culture's expert dependency (not to mention celebrity worship, but that is for another day.) We want an expert opinion before we form and trust our own opinions. I think alot of that is a result of our public school upbringing. We are trained from a young age to listen obediently to authority, trust all the information poured into us and not question what those in charge of us say or do. (If you are interested in reading more about that read some of the writings of John Taylor Gatto . ) That training makes us look for an authority to tell us what to do or an expert who we can rely on. Making independent decisions, questioning authority and solving our own problems creates anxiety, we are so carefully trained not to think for ourselves. Kind of ironic that we have to be retrained later in life to "think outside the box", when the system has so carefully trained us to stay safely in the box and wait for the expert to validate us.

I am on the board of a statewide homeschooling organization and one of our goals is to empower homeschoolers with knowledge and encourage them to have the confidence to handle any issues they may encounter along the way. Homeschooling is absolutely and completely legal and if we know the law, there is no need for a lawyer and nothing to fear from school officials or social workers. Kids are designed to learn and it doesn't take an educational expert (aka teacher :-) to help them learn what they need to know. I think part of the homeschooling journey is the thrill of freedom (morethanfine!) that comes when we realize we don't really need an expert after all, maybe just a few friendly veterans homeschoolers will do the trick!

If you don't know any, may I suggest:

See ya on the lists!

Monday, October 10, 2005

5 am virtue and the 7:05 Bus

Why is it, that getting up early is virtuous, but staying up late is a vice? My DH (dear husband) is a night owl who often gets some of his best work done after 11 PM---why is that less admirable than someone who gets up at 5 AM to be productive...perhaps it is a holdover from our agrarian roots, because it is harder for farmers to be productive at midnight?

Personally, I am a big believer in getting plenty of rest. I think the reason some kids have behavior and attitude problems in school is they are just plain tired. It is also my theory that lots of rest is one of the best illness preventatives (along with lots of hand sanitzer!)

One of the very best reasons for homeschooling is never, ever having to worry about the 7:05 bus! I cannot believe all those poor elementary school kids standing in the dark when I go out to get the paper at 6:59 in the morning...and it's not even cold yet!

I am so grateful that if it is cold and gloomy (or just plain pitch black) or if we had a busy weekend or a late night, I do not have to drag my 2 elementary age kids out of bed, force some breakfast down their throats, search for bookbags and homework and drag them off half asleep to stand in the cold darkness to wait for the bus! Okay, maybe that is a little overstatement, but I am grateful nonetheless. When we have particularly busy weekends, we often have "sleep late Monday" and there isn't anything much going on til at least 10 am. What a perk! I can also allow my high school freshman to read the book he is into until 11:30 if he wants, knowing that he can sleep in the next morning--what difference does it make if he does school (aka reading) from 9:30 to 11:30 PM instead of AM? It just leaves more daytime to practice that complicated Chopin piece. Yes, flexible schedules are just one more way homeschooling is morethanfine.


Baseball , the NBA and NASCAR

My thoughts turned to sports this weekend as the Astros defeated the Braves in an 18 inning game. Although I am not really an Astro fan, or even a very faithful baseball fan anymore, it brought back great memories and made my mom supremely happy!

As long as I can remember, I have been a sports fan. I get it from my mom! When I was a kid, we lived in Houston and she would take me to watch the Astros in that amazing architectural wonder the Astrodome (okay, it was 1969.) My dad wasn't into baseball and my brother and sister were older and definitely not interested--so that left me. She taught me how to use the scorecard and keep score and we always had a great time, even though the Astros rarely won much back then.

When we moved back to California (I was 13), I became a Dodger fan, while my mom remained an Astro fan. We made it a point to go see the Dodgers play the Astros a couple of times every season, even though she would totally embarass me, rooting out loud for the visiting team; but California fans are pretty mellow, so no one ever paid much attention.

Then the Dodger management changed and they traded away most of my favorite players and stopped being the team that nurtured young players through the minors and stuck with them for years and became just another trade 'em away franchise---my interest waned. Now I don't pay much attention to Major League Baseball, although we do go to a few games of the local triple A team, the Norfolk Tides, each season. But watching the Astros playing the Braves and then the Angels playing the Yankees reminded me how I used to be so into baseball. It all came back: the lingo, the plays, the strategies. It was fun. I hope the Angels beat the Yankees tonight. (After all the Angels manager is long-time Dodger Mike Scioscia and I just hate the Yankees on principle---to much arrogance, like USC and Notre Dame.)

But after I lost interest in baseball I became, for a time, an NBA fan. First it was the Showtime Lakers (Magic, Kareem and Worthy), then it was Kobe and Shaq (until they became to unbearablely childish to root for) and finally the San Antonio Spurs. I loved the Spurs style of play--it was about the team, not about the superstars--even though with Robinson and Duncan they had bona fide superstars. It is tough to keep track of basketball living in a football town---the NBA coverage in the local paper is often limited to one column a couple of times a week (don't even get me going on the who-cares-Redskins lol.) Now I only really watch the playoffs and finals (I really like Manu Ginobli :) So we have become (much to my amazement) a family of NASCAR fans.

It all started one day in 2003, when Matt Kenseth won a race. My youngest (then 6 yr old) son had to stay home from church one Sunday with a fever. He was laying on the couch flipping channels and discovered a NASCAR race and ended up watching the cars go around in circles for 2+ hours. Matt Kenseth won that race, so my son became a Matt Kenseth fan--although he only knew him as #17 for a long time. Since then everyone in the family has chosen a driver (Kenseth, Stewart, Gordon, Johnson and Sadler) and we watch the races that are on regular TV (no cable, so we miss the races on TNT.) We are certainly not fanatical, but we enjoy rooting for our drivers and rooting against those we don't like (we aren't terribly fond of Biffle or Junior) and the broadcasters' commentary and all the inside info they throw around make it interesting. There is also an amazing amount of science involved!

Funny thing is---my dad was a NASCAR fan for years, he loved the Intimidator (Earnhardt Sr.) and was also a Mark Martin fan. Dad passed away a couple of years ago before his youngest grandson converted the rest of the family. There is something kind of full circle about it. I started out as a baseball fan because of my mom and have become a NASCAR fan like my dad (he would have been happy to see Mark Martin win at Kansas yesterday.) Interestingly, the last year of my dad's life, he was an invalid and so my mom would sit with him every Sunday and watch the race---as a result she is a NASCAR fan too! I guess sports are all in the family (even my sister is a fan, although she persists in following NFL football :) BTW I also like to watch Grand Slam tennis and the occasional golf tournament!


Friday, October 07, 2005

We don't do no stinking co-ops

Okay, no offense to those who use, run or love co-ops but lately it seems the lives of some of my dear homeschooling friends have been taken over by co-ops and become frightenly schoolish! Granted, I am the only admitted unschooler in the group...although my nefarious relaxed ways have infiltrated the homes of some of the once tightly scheduled. But lately, all I hear from my kids' friends are "I have to finish my homework", "I have a paper to write" or "I need to stay home and memorize vocabulary words for a test tomorrow." Don't get me wrong I love these people and I think they should pursue whatever course works for their family, but all these classes (8am-2pm for some) do not fit into my idea of homeschooling. It made me sad when one 14 yr old friend of my son's chose to skip an awesome field trip to see historical reenactors at the local botanical garden, because he needed to study his Spanish vocabulary all day...*sigh*.

However, in the name of true disclosure, we do attend one co-op, that is quite different from those I have described, which makes it morethanfine. It it tiny (6 families) and more fun than academic and there really isn't anything in the way of 'homework'--at least not as long as I have any say in the matter!! This year I am doing Reader's Theater with middle school and high schoolers, we are starting with "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (abridged) and I am really looking forward to it. In my book, co-ops are for enrichment and fun (you know that 'socialization' thing lol) not to turn homeschooling into a part time version of traditional school. Once again I am the rebel that doesn't follow the trend of my peer group .

And I am sure in the future my sons will enroll at the local community college for some of the academics I don't want to tackle at home...but in the meantime, we don't do no stinkin' co-ops.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Our calls count

Thanks Kara for following up on the calls to the Senator's office. It is good to know that we are being heard and they are logging the calls. Guess Scott just checked in a little too early yesterday. Here is what Kara said on homeschoolingfreedom:

"I just hung up from a very nice discussion with a woman in Senator Inhofe's office. I explained to her that I was calling regarding yesterday's comments from Mr. Somerville on my blog. I told her how I picked out Senator Inhofe for the calling campaign*. This person was very nice and interested in what I had to say. I read her the comments and she asked me who Mr. Somerville was. I explained who he was. She assured me that Senator Inhofe's policy on calls was to log in the issue and tally the for and against calls. She said that two people had that responsibility in the office and that she was one of them. I asked her if it would be fair to categorize that the office was receiving a fair number of calls on both sides of the issue and she said yes. So there you have it folks. Our calls do count and they are being received. I had explained about how I was working on the issue with the blog and she asked for the url. I shared this url and and the one for HR 3753/ S 1691-Homeschool NonDiscrimination Act 2005 with her. I explained to her the diversity of the opinions that I linked to from this blog and I thought it reflected how HSLDA does not speak for all homeschoolers. She assured me that she would speak with the Senator about our conversation. I left the conversation feeling good about our work on this bill. Let's keep those calls and emails going."

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Fringe benefits

I observed a morethanfine fringe benefit of homeschooling yesterday afternoon. We had taken a field trip to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens for their annual 'History Alive' event--where there are reenactors from many different historical eras. 5 homeschooling families got together to go with kids ages 3-14.

At one point, I watched as my 8 year old son walked and talked with the 12 year old daughter from another family. They had no concern about the 4 year age difference or that he is in 3rd grade and she is in 7th or that she is a girl and he is a boy. They are just friends who were enjoying a conversation about a Viking reenactor.

It is too bad that school often forces kids into an age/grade segregation mindset. It is cool to see all different kids mingle together and enjoy each other's company regardless of age. I am so glad we are homeschoolers!


Saturday, October 01, 2005

Christian unschooling?

Can you live in a Christian home and 'unschool'? Interesting that this is a point of controversy in some Christian circles. I think there is a great deal of misunderstanding about what unschooling actually is (and of course it is different in every family.) John Holt used unschooling just to mean homeschooling--schooling outside of the traditional classroom. The word has morphed quite a bit over the years--it now tends to mean schooling at home without a set curriculum, following the interests and talents of the children instead. To some it means never using a textbook or curriculum material, to others it recognizing the gifts and talents in their children and allowing the learning to be directed by that. And unschooling is not a description of a parenting style, permissive or otherwise--it is a learning style.

One scripture that speaks to me is Deut. 6:6-7 "And these words... you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."

To me that sounds like schooling all the time and learning at every opportunity--that is like unschooling. I also think of the way Jesus taught---he didn't sit the disciples down with the Pentateuch and the Torah and begin teaching them formal lessons. He told them stories and parables and taught the people as he walked among them using examples from nature and from their lives. If I told you I taught my kids following Jesus model with stories and examples from their lives and from nature, I don't think you would have a problem with that. For me that is what unschooling is all about.



Unschooling is a tricky word

I was just reading on a homeschool list that a mom didn't like to tell people they were unschoolers. I was the same way until recently. I used terms like eclectic and relaxed and child led to dance around that loaded word 'unschooling'.

I admit, I was worried about what other people thought about it and it seemed the disapproval would come from two opposite fronts. From the perspective of those who use a curriculum and follow a tight schedule and have a yearly plan, unschooling looked sort of like no schooling or overly laidback go-with-the flow random scatteredness. But, among the group that looked on any use of curriculum or texts as a no-no, the fact that my son used an algebra curriculum and that we followed the Sonlight book list, 'disqualified' us as unschoolers . So we were relaxed, eclectic, interest driven, autodidatic homeschoolers (r.e.i.a.h?). Try to say that 3 times fast (or even remember it once :).

But this year I decided to just say it...outloud...we are (gulp) unschoolers! We learn together each day with a loose structure, no overarching yearly plan and a smattering of curriculum when we feel we need or want it. The loose structure is pursuing some reading, writing and math each day and practicing piano everyday and reading aloud everyday. The rest is unpredictable and always open the whims of interest and desire.

It's funny to look back and realize even when I was a school teacher I often unschooled. I was required to have a daily schedule posted outside my classroom door, but the chances of you walking in and actually finding us doing what was on the schedule at any given time was pretty slim. I was a teacher of tangents--if we got interested in something as a class, we would pursue it, even if it meant grammar or math would have to wait until after lunch--or even til tomorrow. I actually had to shift my reading aloud time from after lunch to before, because we would start reading after lunch and get so into it we would read right through til the final bell :)
Sadly, in our test obsessed schools these days teachers rarely experience that kind of joy of learning nor the freedom to pursue their students interests. What a shame.

So in a nutshell, I have always been an unschooler but it has just recently become morethanfine to admit it! And there is great freedom in just being what you are and not making excuses for it.