Worldschooling, Not Unschooling

1114746_i_love_my_worldAs many of you know, I struggle with the unschooling label. Generally, I don’t consider myself an “unschooler’. Or rather, I wear the label very loosely. I prefer the term “zenschooling,” since it is more in line with how I process the concept of education, and how we practice it as a family.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover another term that resonates with us – “worldschooling.”

Read more at the new Just Enough blog.

Education and the Search for Truth – June 8th, La Crescenta

On June 8th, Tammy Takahashi will be speaking at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Verdugo Hills.

She’ll be addressing the topic of Education and the Search for Truth, an exploration into the reasons people homeschool, and what we’re all really looking for in a 21st century education.

At this event, you will also have a chance to get a sneak peek at her new book Deschooling Gently: A Step by Step Guide to Fearless Homeschooling. Books will be available for purchase.

This is a free event. The talk will be presented during the middle of the church service, and will last about 30 minutes.

All are welcome. If you are going to bring children, please call the church ahead of time, so they can make accommodations. Their children’s program is generally small.

Education and the Search for Truth
by Tammy Takahashi
Sunday, June 8th
10:30am-12:00pm

Unitarian Universalist Church
4451 Dunsmore Ave, La Crescenta
818-248-3954

Chelsea Link, 18, Homeschooled, Accepted to Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Stanford, U of Chicago, and Northwestern

Chelsea Link says this about her extraordinary, yet relaxed, life: “I think I’ve had a pretty normal high school experience . . . just without the high school.”

Another interesting quote by Christopher Watson, admissions dean at Northwestern, “We haven’t changed the way we review applications, but the way home-schoolers are submitting applications has changed,” he said. “They’ve become very good at taking out the question marks.”

Perhaps it’s a combination of the two? Northwestern may not have changed it’s admissions process, but other universities have.

Congratulations Chelsea! Reading science magazines and playing music is a fine way to go through childhood.

5 Homeschool Must-haves for 2008

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. But I do like to reassess my life and make adjustments when the time is right. Jan 4th is a great time to reassess; the holidays are over, it’s almost time to start classes again, and I have a huge deadline in a couple of days. So yes, it’s time to get my head on straight (again) and move forward.

5 things in 2007 made a difference for me. And for 2008, they will be must-haves for our homeschooling success.

1) A place to work. I’m not super neat, although I like clean spaces. And I’m not obsessed with keeping the house organized, although I am comforted by knowing where things are. The one thing that keeps us sane, is having one clean space where we can do our projects. If we can have 3-4 clean spaces, even better. It worked well in 2007 to focus on the key points in the house that need to be clean, and letting the rest go.

2) My own hobbies. It may not seem like having my own hobbies is important for homeschooling. But in 2007, the times I was anxious, nervous, or over-worried about my kids were the times that I felt like I had no purpose. Scrutinizing my kids became my purpose. The times I had my hobbies in order, and felt like I had my own meaning, I was a better parent, a better teacher, and our homeschooling was overall more effective.

Case in point: I’ve been learning about social networking and social bookmarking. I’m pretty tech savvy, but this is giving me quite a bit of a challenge. There is just so much to know. I feel like there’s a wall that I have to get over. Once I’m over it, it’ll all make sense. It’s so important that I go through this, because with this experience, I am reminded what my kids feel like when they are learning something new. What they really need during this time isn’t for me to try and pull them over the wall. It’s a whole lot easier to help someone get a foothold and boost them over the wall when they want to do it, than it is to carry dead weight over it. I didn’t learn about social networking before now because I didn’t want to. My husband tried, but I wouldn’t budge. Now, I’m willing to put the effort in, and every little boost is welcome.

My own hobbies = understanding how to help my kids better.

3) A hug in the morning and a hug at night. This is a ritual I promised myself I’d do when my kids were born. First thing in the morning – a hug. Last thing at night – a hug. 2007 was a great year for that. I did slide here and there because of being sick, or falling asleep before the kids did, or being grumpy. Overall, it was a good habit. The morning hug is like a reset button for the day. The nighttime hug helps us all sleep better. Being close is our number one priority. 2008 will be another year of hugs and love.

4) Tape, paint, paper, pencils, markers, marbles and paper towel rolls. We’re fans of pre-fab activities and projects. But nothing gets a workout like the random open-ended materials we have on hand. 2007 was pretty good with that. So I’d like to do even more with this. Maybe even get a big clear box, that can hold lots of small boxes, each with a different kind of material to use. Glue, paint and other messy things will be in a separate box. All of the working materials in the big box. And have it near our clean space. What do you think – which cheap open-ended material could I store in there? The possibilities are endless!

5) Free time. Scheduled time is easy to come by and easy to manage. It’s the free time that we all need more of, and we all need to (continue to) learn how to enjoy. Time is a commodity that we can never have more of. Asking for more time is like asking for the moon. All we can do is rearrange the time we have, choosing to spend it in different ways. Free time is when I get to work on those hobbies, in my clean space, while giving the kids hugs. Free time doesn’t happen on its own, we gotta make it happen.

2008 is going to be great! Equipped with these five homeschooling must-haves, we’re ready to have a fantastic year.

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Good and Bad Schools, Education

“‘good public school’ —Now that’s an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one. With public schools it’s not a matter of whether they are good or bad. There are just different levels of bad.”

This is a quote I read today on a blog about why someone chose not to homeschool. (email me for link)

Now, I’m not exactly public school’s number one fan, but I have to ask – why does this person have the right or the privilege of deciding whether or not schools are “bad”? “Bad” – what does that mean exactly?

When someone says school, or homeschool or parents or whatever is “bad”, I immediately wonder what they are talking about. What do they mean? Because odds are, their idea of “bad” is very different than my idea of bad.

Comments like these may make us feel powerful and strong, but they make us look like dorks. To be honest.

First of all, there is no such thing as a universal “good” or “bad”. Especially when it comes to education. There are schools and educational approaches that meet our needs or criteria, and there are those that don’t. But since every person has different criteria for a good education, what one person would consider a “good” school, another person will see it as “bad”. One person sees test scores, graduation rates and credentialed teachers, another sees gangs, unhealthy competition and socialist indoctrination.

Secondly, people aren’t perfect. Nobody. So, why does my opinion of what is a good school or education count more than someone who doesn’t agree with me? Why does mob rule have more clout? Simply because more people believe it? Everyone’s opinion of whether an educational program is “good” or ‘bad” is based on their internal system of beliefs and experiences.

This is one reason that I don’t argue that homeschooling is the best choice for everyone. Although I believe that homeschooling is indeed the most flexible, and everyone is fully capable of homeschooling if that’s what their desire and intention is, I still don’t see homeschooling as some kind of elevated plane of existence. It’s just… different. Better for some. Not for others. Better for me.

I see no problem with people saying homeschooling is better. But for me to agree or make any kind of critical assessment of their statement, it must be made clear what their idea of “better” and “good” is. Because if we don’t agree on that basic premise (which we probably won’t), then what that person says is “better” about homeschooling, may actually be “worse” in my eyes. Or perhaps, not really that significant at all.

So, “bad” , “good”.. .that doesn’t mean anything to me when I see it if it doesn’t have a concrete context. If we want to get our point across clearly, we need to be careful when we use ambiguous words to describe schools and education. Most likely, the person who is reading our commentary isn’t thinking about what we think is good and bad, but their own definition – unless we prep them first.

If we just want to get people all riled up, well then, that’s a different story entirely.

Three Tenets to Homeschool By

1. Everyone is a genius in their own right. Great mathematicians and artists are not the only gifted ones. There are those who are gifted in communication, in motivating others, in dealing with stress, in explaining things, in remembering details, in managing people and projects, in being organized, in seeing the true nature of people… There are so many ways to be gifted, and most of them are overlooked because they can’t be measured.

2. It’s far easier to fill an adult’s academic and knowledge holes than it is to fill a spiritual or emotional one. A child’s enthusiasm for life, emotional life experiences and how he is supported is far more important and influential than the facts he learns along the way. A child who has a positive attitude towards himself and the world around him will grow up to do great things, no matter how much he is capable of academically.

3. Education is a family adventure. Learning and growing is not just for kids. Parents who pursue their own learning and growth foster a love of true education in their children. When mom and dad are learning just as much as the kids are, and show a genuine interest in the world around them, it’s contagious. A parent who is curious about her world on many different levels, and shares that with her child, makes her job as a homeschooling parent much easier.

What are your 3 homeschool tenets? If you blog your answers, link to your blog in the comments.

Reasons for Homeschooling

So, there have been a bunch of studies showing the reasons that people choose to homeschool. These reasons get quoted a lot in articles.

But I have two questions in this regard:

1) Why don’t these questionnaires offer the choice of: “Flexibility and freedom to meet everyone’s needs”. How about the choice of, “Family closeness”? And what about the choice of, “To have more joy, meaning and happiness in our lives”?  There are so many good reasons to homeschool that never get mentioned. I suppose, that one could assume these reasons as a result of the choices indicated on the survey. But, really, one would have to think a little bit before coming to that conclusion. I doubt many people get that far after reading “concern about the environment of other schools” or “to provide religious or moral instruction”.

2) Why do parents choose to send their children to public school? If I had to guess the number one reason, “Because that’s just what people do.” or “We don’t have any other choice.” Nobody homeschools for the former reason, and very few people homeschool for the latter (and usually as a result of the public schools totally botching things up). In my estimation, any reason to homeschool is better than those reasons. Even if I don’t agree with the reason or the ultimate how. At least homeschooling parents are standing up and making a conscious choice. (I read an article somewhere that, on average, people spend more time researching which car to buy than the best way to educate their children.) Of course, not saying all public school parents are like this. Of course not. However, the percentage of public school parents who choose public school because they have seriously considered other options and studied the validity of teaching methods at the school down the street is significantly less than 100%.

So, I’d like to see a two new polls: 1) A homeschool poll that has more options to check off. And 2) a public school poll that includes “Because we have no choice” and “Just cuz that’s what happens at age 5, right?”