by Jessica Mesman Griffith on March 5, 2015
I started collecting books about homeschooling before my daughter's first birthday. I imagined she and I would spend our days in the beautiful library at the college where my husband worked, reading on blankets in the fields, playing in the surrounding Virginia countryside, pressing flowers into nature journals. I didn't want her going to public school in the county, losing her taste for hobbits and her strange, adorable elevated diction and vocabulary. I didn't want her to lose touch with her imagination. I didn't want her heart and soul to be formed by Taylor Swift.
It's hard for me even to remember when I could have been so idealistic about so many things at once —my own patience as a mother, my capacity for spending so much of my time with children, my daughter's capacity for living in a previous century. Plus I love Taylor Swift.
By the time she was three, my daughter was in preschool, but I still read all the homeschool literature and followed the blogs. Now, homeschooling has become almost mainstream — last year, 2.2 million American children were homeschooled, according to the National Home Education Research Institute. But even just a few years ago it was still transforming from something only wacko homesteaders and religious fanatics did into an aging-hipster hobby. I wanted in on what seemed like part of a larger (sub)cultural movement toward DIY sustainable living. I was so tempted by what looked like a bohemian-artist-intellectual dream life: no early rising! No carpool line! No PTO meetings! No lunches to pack! Museums on Wednesdays and vacations in March! All those blogs with pictures of happy, close-knit families making their own kefir made me swoon with envy and admiration.
So when my daughter's school "issues" began — and her teachers pressed me to get her diagnosed (with Asperger's and ADHD) and medicated — I was almost happy. I felt I had confirmation that traditional schooling wasn't meeting her needs. I withdrew her from first grade, and we got started at home.
I'd researched for years. I'd read all the books and all the blogs. My husband was a professor. I had this, right?
Turns out I had no idea.
Some parents, often the ones trained as teachers, attempt to replicate the classroom in the home — desks, chalkboard, and all. But most of us wanted to homeschool to get away from what we see as the restrictive trappings of the school environment, which was designed not for learning but for the management of large numbers of children in a single room.
It took me at least a year to stop thinking in terms of grade levels, test scores, class periods, recess, and even desks and classrooms, and to stop worrying about what my daughter was missing in her old school. I had to mourn those moments parents of schoolchildren enjoy: wouldn't it have been sweet to see her in her class's production of The Tale of the Gingerbread Man?
I worried there would be holes in her education, stuff I'd forget to teach her — like geography, or her phone number. But I quickly learned there were already gaping holes in her education that her school wasn't addressing. She was many grade levels ahead in some subjects and behind in others. When ordering curricula, she didn't fit neatly into any category, and it took time and trial and error and money to choose from several grade levels and companies to get the right materials for her.
"How will your children learn to make friends, respect authority, and get along with all kinds of people?"
I also worried about how I would teach my daughter math and science or other subjects that don't come easily to either of us. So far, this hasn't been a problem, but if it becomes one, my plan is to hire a tutor or send her to classes or co-ops to learn material I feel less confident teaching. Some school districts also permit part-time enrollment for homeschoolers, or allow kids to attend "specials" such as art, music, or gym, and even play on the sports teams of their local school. As homeschooling becomes more prevalent, laws are evolving and school systems becoming more flexible and welcoming.
I wasn't the only one who needed time to adjust to the transition from schooling to homeschooling — my daughter did, too. I faced much skepticism when I stepped in as the teacher, and I heard plenty of, "But that's not how they do it at school."
De-schooling didn't mean getting rid of rules altogether, though: I learned that despite my bohemian fantasies, routines are important for kids (and for the sanity of the homeschooling parent). As a homeschooler, of course, my schedule won't look like a school schedule. It has to be flexible to accommodate the dinner that needs to go in the oven and the errands I need to run and the baby's diaper that needs changing and the freelance story I have due in the morning. Not to mention the tantrum my daughter throws when I try to make her do math.
Our current schedule looks like this: math, language arts, reading, and religion every morning — these are the nonnegotiables — and a flexible afternoon that might include clubs, field trips, park days with other kids, nature study, music, art, or theater. I quickly realized that even "down time" could be used constructively. My kids read books on everything from van Gogh to Tut's mummy throughout the day. In the car, we listen to audiobooks or a series like Classical Kids, which teaches age-appropriate music appreciation. We take long walks and collect samples from the woods to draw or research. We cook dinner together. After a few months of homeschooling, you get the hang of weaving education into all the day's experiences, until it becomes second nature.
Homeschooling is fraught with competing and contradictory philosophies. Here's a crash course in the major factions:
Traditional homeschoolers recreate school at home with textbooks and tests, or enroll in correspondence schools like Seton or Calvert or the K-12 programs available through the public school systems in their areas.
Unschoolers advocate child-led learning, mostly through natural life experiences, and they base all educational choices on the child's interests. If your kid loves dinosaurs, you study dinosaurs. If they want to learn Elvish, you learn Elvish. Younger children learn through play, household chores, and social interaction. The movement's godfather is John Holt, an educator who coined the term "unschooling" in the 1970s.
Radical unschoolers go further than John Holt to oppose all coercive education as counterproductive to learning. No classes, no enforced structures, no formalized learning, period.
The Charlotte Mason method focuses on literature and the study of arts and nature. Charlotte Masonites talk about "spreading a feast" of rich "food" before the child, who then gravitates to what is natural for his age, ability, and temperament. This method tends to be a favorite among Anglophiles and academic types like me. It's also beloved by Christians for its attention to habit-training and the development of virtues. Masonites can be annoyingly wholesome.
Unit studies build an entire curriculum of math, language arts, and science around a single topic. There are unit studies available for purchase on everything from ancient Egypt to Little House on the Prairie. Five in a Row is a wildly popular curriculum for younger kids; it builds a unit study around a favorite children's book each week.
Classical homeschoolers teach according to the three stages of the Latin Trivium, which they believe best addresses the natural development of the intellect. The classical homeschooler's bible is The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer.
Eclectic homeschoolers borrow what they like from all the other approaches.
With all those competing philosophies and curricula, one of the biggest challenges I faced as a new homeschooler was narrowing my goals to what I could actually accomplish, realistically, in a day. I had big dreams of teaching Latin and French in addition to the core subjects of reading, writing, and arithmetic, plus art and music lessons and extracurricular sports and clubs. I felt there was so much wasted time at school, and that we would use all the extra time to expand and enrich her education. But kids need down time, too.
One of the most common questions I get as a homeschooling parent is, "How will your children learn to make friends, respect authority, and get along with all kinds of people?" Helpful grandmothers who find me in the grocery store with my kids on a Tuesday at 10 am tell me that children need school in order to learn how to be a functional member of society. But consider this: other than school, your child will never again be confined to an environment exclusively populated by people his or her own age. NEVER. Why are we so hung up on socializing our children only with their peers?
And in any case, there are so many clubs, classes, lessons, and field trips for homeschooled kids that they can socialize as often as they care to, with as many different kinds of people as I can imagine. Most of the homeschoolers I know complain that they're never at home.
Another question I get is, "How do you grade your kids on reading, walking in the woods, and cooking dinner?" The answer is: I don't. My state doesn't require me to report my curriculum, turn in grades, or test my children, so I don't. Some states require testing and reporting, and if we move again we may have to adjust our record-keeping habits, which are admittedly bare-bones. But this laissez-faire approach works for me so far. When you are teaching a child one on one, it becomes readily apparent even without testing where she is excelling and where she needs more work. But for those who are concerned about how their children stack up to their peers, educational testing is usually available through the local school system or through private companies like Sylvan.
To avoid burnout and resentment, I must take regular time for myself to just be a grownup
My children are still of lower elementary age, but if we decide to homeschool through high school, I imagine we will begin to keep records and transcripts for college applications. As homeschooling becomes more mainstream, colleges are also becoming more accustomed to working with homeschoolers' less-conventional applications and lack of standardized GPAs. It's very common for homeschoolers to begin taking college classes in their high school years, anyway.
When other parents send their kids off to kindergarten and I see their lives returning to the land of adults for several hours a day, I have yet another reason to question my decision to educate my own children. To avoid burnout and resentment, I must take regular time for myself to just be a grownup. It also helps to have a supportive partner who helps bear the burden, or is at least an enthusiastic cheerleader of my choice to homeschool.
Curricula, art supplies, classes, co-ops, field trips, commuting to all those cool homeschool events and conferences — all of it costs money. Depending on where you live, you can easily spend more on homeschooling than you would on a posh private school, especially when you're first getting started and learning by trial and error. My best asset is my library card.
My children. Are with me. So. Much.
But they're also the best thing about homeschooling. A wise mother once told me that we send our kids off to school just as they're becoming really interesting people. When you homeschool, you get to enjoy those interesting little people, not just the exhausted child you meet at the end of the day. I don't have to wonder what happened at school and extrapolate my kids' lives from one-word answers. I know them better than anyone. Family — not their classmates — is the primary influence on the development of their intellects, imagination, and character. I delight in their discoveries and their progress. We have shared interests and obsessions. We are close.
That closeness — though it's a challenge and a frustration at some point each day — is also a gift.
And I can always send them back to school.
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As time marches on and home schooling becomes more and more accepted, it is wise for us to go back and review the price tag that was paid for our current freedom and liberty. Most of us involved in home education today have no idea how difficult it was to keep your children at home in the late 80’s or early 90’s. Both the state government and local school systems were convinced that they alone were qualified to teach children. Even though home education is the oldest form of education known to man, our modern version did not come free of charge. In order to provide you with an understanding of the legal battles that led up to our current laws, we are sharing with you a portion of an article written by David A. Kallman, a Lansing attorney who represented many home school families during the years we struggled to gain our independence from the government schools.
“One of the first cases testing the right to home educate in Michigan involved Peter and Ruth Nobel. From Allegan County, the Nobel’s were teaching their children at home in the 1970’s, long before most people had ever heard about the concept. They were using a curriculum provided by Christian Liberty Academy. The Nobels were prosecuted for allegedly violating the compulsory attendance law because they were not certified teachers. The state’s position was that certified teachers were required for all home schools, and that if they were not used, then that home school was not a proper school under the law. In fact, the state continued to maintain that position for 23 years.
Attorney John Whitehead, who later started the Rutherford Institute, came to Michigan and defended the Nobels. Allegan County District Court Judge Gary Stewart heard the case and issued an opinion ruling in favor of the Nobels based upon the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.
However, District Court opinions are not binding anywhere else in the state. It is only controlling precedent within the borders of that court’s district. The pressure continued to build as more and more people began opting to teach their children at home. Prosecutions began popping up all over the state. Fortunately, in the early 1980’s, attorney Michael Farris saw the need to legally assist home educators all over the country and so he formed the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). For a $100 fee a family could join the association, and if they were taken to court, HSLDA would provide the legal representation at no additional cost (editors note: annual member in HSLDA is still only $100). This pooling of the resources proved to be very effective and enabled HSLDA to help home schoolers all over the United States. I have been privileged to work with HSLDA over the years in representing their members in courtrooms all over Michigan.
Throughout the 1980’s and the early 1990’s there was a very adversarial relationship between home educators and the state. The state attempted to regulate home educators out of existence through the use of teacher certification requirements, curriculum requirements, regulation of the days, hours, and length of the school year, and numerous other requirements. Many families had visits from local school officials, protective service workers, police officers, and other state officials. Many times they would be given ultimatums to either have their children in the public school the next day, or else their children would be removed from their home.
It was a very stressful time for home educators throughout our state. Iowa, North Dakota, and Michigan were considered to be the three worst states in the country in which to try and home school. Many attorneys and home school organizations were kept busy attempting to represent families in court and deal with prosecutors, Dept. of Social Services workers, and school officials.
The prosecution of families in District Court continued until the Michigan Supreme Court in 1993 decided three cases: People v DeJonge, People v Bennett, and Clonlara v State Board of Education. The DeJonge case threw out the teacher certification requirement for those who home schooled out of religious conviction. The Bennett case required the state to comply with the private school code’s requirement that an administrative hearing be held before a parent could be prosecuted under the criminal law. This effectively stopped the prosecution of all home educators until the administrative hearings were implemented, which to this date has not been done. The Clonlara case affirmed that the Michigan Department of Education did not have any authority to promulgate administrative rules dealing with home education. Therefore, the MDE’s expansion of the law in its handouts were interpretations only and were not necessarily enforceable against parents.
The DeJonge case in particular was very effective in stopping the harassment and intimidation of home school families. Mark and Chris DeJonge were from West Michigan and were home schooling two children at the time. Mark was a dairy farmer and he and Chris used the Christian Liberty Academy curriculum with their kids. They challenged the teacher certification requirement based upon their right to freely exercise their religious beliefs. Their case was truly a marathon, and took over 9 years to complete. They set a tremendous example of faithfulness and perseverance to see their case through to the benefit of all parents in Michigan. The trial Judge said on the record that it was clear that the DeJonge children were receiving a fine education, but he still had to find them guilty of violating the compulsory attendance law because they were not certified teachers. After seven lower court decisions went against them, the Michigan Supreme Court finally ruled in their favor in May of 1993. As a result, the teacher certification issue fell by the wayside.
Since these court decisions in 1993, the climate has improved tremendously in our state. There have been a few court cases initiated, but they were all dropped after a review of the law and the applicable cases. Home educators’ legal standing was strengthened even further in 1996 by the passage of an amendment to the compulsory attendance law. Language very similar to that added to the Probate Code over ten years ago was added as exemption (f) to the compulsory attendance law:
(3) A child is not required to attend a public school in either of the following two cases: (a) The child is attending regularly and is being taught in a state approved nonpublic school which teaches subjects comparable to those taught in the public schools to children of corresponding age and grade. (f) The child is being educated at the child’s home by his or her parent or legal guardian in an organized educational program in the subject areas of reading, spelling, mathematics, science, history, civics, literature, writing, and English grammar.
(4) For a child being educated at the child’s home by his or her parent or legal guardian, exemption from the requirement to attend public school may exist under either subsection (3)(a) or (3)(f), or both. As a result of this amendment, the focus in District Court prosecutions is now be on the education of the child and not on the form of the educational process. Exemption (f) only applies to homes where the parent or legal guardian is doing the teaching. In all other cases, exemption (a) is still available. Parents now have a choice as to which exemption they wish to operate under, or they can choose to operate under both.
In summary, we have come a long way since the continual harassment of the 1980’s and early 1990’s. It is much easier to teach your children at home today. This does not mean that the fight is over. Laws can be changed. Administrations of state government can change. We must learn from the past, not drop our guard, and not return to the problems of the past. Be sure to stay informed. Contact your legislators. Join your local support group. Join groups such as INCH and HSLDA. Vote for candidates who support home education. Let’s be sure that we keep the freedoms that have been earned over the past thirty years.”
Reprinted with permission of David A. Kallman, J.D.
Excerpted from the “Michigan Home School Legal Manual” by David A. Kallman
To obtain a copy of the Legal Manual, contact the law offices of David Kallman in Lansing at (517) 484-6135.To read more, click here to download the pdf version.
Doctorul în psihologie și neurocercetătorul Dragoș Cîrneci ne spune care sunt parametrii ce diferențiază și influențează stresul, ce înseamnă stres bun și stres rău, fiecare cu efectele sale aferente, impactul pe care îl are stresul asupra corpului și creierului, de ce unii oameni pot gestiona stresul mai bine decât alții și care este legătura dintre stres și copilărie.
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by Mike Sygula,
I recently saw a comment under a controversial video discussing , an archaeological site. The presenter is a well-known author and former musician but doesn’t have an academic background in archeology. Here is the comment:
“ This guy isn’t an archaeologist. This is bullshit. Look him up on Google. He’s a fucking musician who just has a thing for African culture which is great and all that but it DOES NOT MAKE HIM A GEOLOGIST OR A SCIENTIST!”
We are often judged by our formal education diplomas.
However, it is worth asking ourselves these questions :
Does the fact that someone has no academic degree in a particular field mean that this person is not capable of being an expert on that topic?
Why do we give so much credit to formal education in this information era when anyone who has Internet access can learn almost anything for free?
To answer these questions, we should first review a few realities.
There are undoubtedly many benefits to be gained from going through a degree program, such as learning about theory and practice in one’s field and the higher likelihood of getting a job afterwards. But how much it is really worth remains a controversial issue. For example, in the US, the costs of tuition fees can reach up to almost $50,000 per year for a 4 year undergraduate program. This does not include accommodation, food or textbooks. International students can pay much more. Many students stack up astronomical debts which will take years to repay and many ultimately end up working in low-skilled jobs.
Moreover, the traditional model of education does not suit all types of learners. Conventional learning methods are not designed to stimulate experimentation, creativity and curiosity. Every learner is different and everyone has different learning styles yet mainstream education puts everybody into the same box. What often happens is that the system forces students to conform to preconceived standards which do not enhance their individual capabilities but actually suppress them.
We are living in the information age today; we have access to an enormous database of knowledge in nearly every field we can imagine, we can learn almost anything via video or text format. Increased access to lectures, journals, articles even documentary films and platforms like TED or Khan Academy allow us to watch lectures and study a broad range of topics for free. You can also find masses of documentaries and lectures on Youtube. Blogs, journals, free encyclopedias, forums and of course e-books are cheaper than paperbacks and you can also find so many texts online which are free nowadays.
The truth is that if you want to be good at something, it doesn’t matter if you get a formal education or not. If you are willing to work hard and you are smart enough, you can achieve anything. Many great minds didn’t even finish school, some didn’t go to college or university and very often didn’t study their specialist subject.
Lets us look at some examples:
Elon Musk, rocket scientist, self-taught programmer, self-taught inventor. Founder and chief technology officer of Space X, the first privately owned company sending rockets and spacecrafts into orbit. He lowered the cost of these technologies dramatically and plans to colonize Mars in the future. Among other achievements, he co-founded and became Chief Product Architect at Tesla Motors, the first company to commercialize electric cars. He was also involved in Paypal and Solar City, which creates solar panels. Although he studied Physics and Business at university this was vestigial to the education needed for engineering these technologies. When asked how he learned about all of these subjects, he said:
“I read a lot of books and talked to a lot of, a lot of smart people”
Sir Richard Branson left school at the age of 16 and struggled to study due to his dyslexia. Almost half a century later, he runs over 400 companies and is currently involved in commercial space travel and high-tech architecture among many other industries.
Lech Walesa, born in Poland, a former electrician with no higher education, fought communism in the 80s and gained huge popularity after creating the first independent trade union in the Soviet bloc. He then won the Nobel Peace Price and became president of Poland from 1990 to 1995.
Steve Jobs was the co-founder of Apple, one of the most successful companies in history. Despite only studying at college for a few months, he was able to reinvent personal computing and create the most popular hardware and software of our time.
Michael Faraday, who received virtually no formal education and had to work in the bookshop to help his family from the age of 13, managed to teach himself by reading books. He became one of the most influential scientists in history and revolutionized our understanding of electricity.
These are just a few examples of independent learners but there are many others who succeeded. Times are changing and anyone can learn almost anything these days without attending formal educational institutions. The path we choose is up to us. Thanks to the Internet, new careers and industries are emerging and they are often led by self-taught visionaries.
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A.S. Neil talks about freedom and his Summerhill School in England. Summerhill is often said to be the first school based on freedom and democratic ideals. The documentary was called "Here and Now".