Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Book discussion and reading: Natural Born Learners. Learn about Unschooling!

Book reading/discussion
Natural Born Learners: Unschooling and Autonomy in Education
Thursday, August 7th, at 2:00 pm.
Hamilton Public Library
Locke St. Branch.
All welcome!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New Book Promotion

***BOOK PROMOTION of Natural Born Learners***
Kindle count down deal starts AUGUST 01 at 0.99 cents (48 hours in duration).
3 increments takes us to August 7th at the original price of 3.99.
Stay tuned!!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Self-Determined Education, Unschooling and Activism

I sometimes think about self-directed learning, unschooling and autonomy in education in terms of ‘quiet’ activism. It’s about advocating for our children's freedom to learn as they want to and helping them to take responsibility for being in the world, right from the beginning of their life and on. Unschoolers and practitioners of autonomous education are actively demonstrating another way to attain education. We are redefining the way education is understood, what it means to be educated, what learning in an atmosphere of freedom looks like; that it can be done.
This can feel uncomfortable; especially when we ourselves are still deschooling our minds, trying got rid ourselves of doubts, mistrust in our children's ability to learn, uncertainty about if we are doing it right, if it will work....
Not surprisingly, many unschoolers are living lives under the radar, by no means attempting to influence others or trying to prove ourselves. But there are also a significant number of us who continuously seek to 'up' the noise level; writing about, documenting and advocating for unschooling lifestyles and philosophies. The results of these activities are seeping into the mainstream conscience, both indirectly and directly.
It might be a little ambitious to say that it is a movement as yet, but there is certainly an enormous interest in the concepts and ideas of unschooling (I had over 10,000 downloads of my book in the 5 day free book promotion).
Parents are catching on that there is this thing happening, and it sounds pretty intriguing and it makes sense and how do I get some for my kid? Educators are frustrated at the exploratory and creative limitations set for their students by the powers on high, and crave more freedom in learning within the classroom--and outside of it. They know that their charges are getting shortchanged.
When it comes to the traditional understanding of activism (being engaged and about engaging in social and environmental issues), unschoolers have a fantastic opportunity to be get involved and participate in creating change. It is fitting because unschooling is the epitome of justice and respect towards some of the most vulnerable in our society, children. Why not extend that concern to include other vulnerable and oppressed groups? Unschoolers can become strong, world citizens at any age. It is never too late to discuss justice issues, local politics, environmental concerns, and to bring your children along to events, meetings and activities.
I am very interested in hearing from readers about their experiences with social justice, environmentalism, and anti-oppression work/awareness in their unschooling practices. Do you think that you are stronger citizens because of your unschooling lifestyle and believes? Do you think unschooling has opened areas of inquiry into justice issues? Tell me!

On TV!

I think both unschooling and deschooling are about creating and reclaiming places and events for adults and children of all ages to live and learn together.
- Susannah Sheffer and Pat Farenga,“Reflecting on Growing Without Schooling” Vimukt Shiksha 2002

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Skellig: A book with an unschooled kid.

One of the favourite things I've always loved about being a parent is reading to my kids. Sadly as they grow older there are fewer opportunities to do so-and the kids prefer to go off and read their own books by then. Still, I am lucky to have the attention of my youngest kid yet and I just finished reading a most wonderful book called Skellig by David Almond.

How surprising it was and exciting to discover a girl (Mina) living the unschooled life; who moves in the world and learns following her natural curiosity so thoroughly and whose experience, contrasted against the schooled life really brings forth the 'rightness' of what authentic learning is about.

It is now school that is portrayed as un-natural, a curiosity to wonder about (rather than self-directed learning). When Michael (the protagonist) is working on his school work (after missing school due to the distress he is in because of his very sick baby sister), Mina looks at the worksheets; It is thought that Man is d-----------------from the apes. This is the Theory of E--------------This theory was developed by Charles D--------------. There was sentence after sentence like that. Mina read the sentences out loud. She said, "Blank blank blank," in a singsong voice when she came to the dashes. She stopped after the first three sentences and just looked at me.
"Is this really the kind of thing you do all day?" she said.

When she flicks through the book that Michael and his class are reading she asks about the red sticker.
"It's for confident readers," I said. "It's to do with reading age."
And what if other readers want to read it?"
"And where would William Blake fit in?" said Mina. "Tyger! Tyger! burning bright/In the forests of the night." Is that for the best reader of the worst readers? Does that need a good reading age?"..."and if it were for the worst readers would the best readers not bother with it because it would be too stupid for them?"she said.

If you're looking to get inspired about life, beauty, the extraordinariness of things get ye a copy of this book!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Exploring Canada Day with Canadian Kids

Happy Canada Day!!
Just listening to a radio show (Radio Free School) we did back in 2007. Listen to children's views on being Canadian.

interviews - Making Pancakes/Crepes. Opinions on Canada (Canada Day July 1). Karl Hess from the film Anarchism in America

music - Constitution Breakdown, and Anti-Confederation Song, from Classic Canadian Songs from Smithsonian Folkways

tech - beatrice and randy

listen - download here

The real non-resistants can believe in direct action only, never in political action. For the basis of all political action is coercion; even when the State does good things, it finally rests on a club, a gun, or a prison, for its power to carry them through. -Voltairine de Cleyre

Monday, June 30, 2014

We are all Unschoolers: A Personal Reflection.

"Next to the right to life itself, the most fundamental of all human rights is the right to control our own minds and thoughts. That means the right to decide for ourselves how we will explore the world around us, think about our own and other persons’ experiences, and find and make the meaning of our own lives.”
John Holt, American educator and author.

When I think about it, I’ve been directing my learning for most of my life. I was unschooling myself as a young person—and I didn’t even know it! I didn't have the name for it.
I recall as an 11 year old, teaching myself French because I wanted to attend the francophone school that my older sister was going to attend (We had just emigrated from England to West Africa). I was extremely motivated, I was intrinsically motivated, I was emotionally invested. I wanted to do this thing and I knew I could.
I worked very, very hard. Throughout the entire summer, I hung around les soeurs (Catholic sisters) of the secondary school, as they prepared my sister to enter in the fall. They gave me french books to read, comic books like the 'Adventures of Tin-Tin' and basically left me alone to figure things out, offering help when I needed it. I studied conjugation and vocabulary and sentence construction on my own.
As it happens, I didn’t end up going to that school but what I learned was that if I wanted to, I was able to be utterly focused without anyone forcing me or trying to get me to be so.

I bet everyone can think of a time, when their interest to learn something was burning and all consuming, and you learned because you really wanted to know, not because someone wanted you to.

In this way, we are all unschoolers.

As I got a little older, I learned to question what I read in books and what people were telling me. I remember disagreeing with a statement in a textbook and feeling thrilled and empowered that I could do this—me, little ol me, challenging ‘the voice of authority’ that was that textbook! This was an epiphany for me that I have never forgotten because it was the beginning of my being able to challenge and explore what I believed in, what was interesting to me, what was my reality and not some imposed authority outside of myself. I was 14.  Later in my life, my children would be much younger to arrive at this revelation—I attribute this attitude to the support they would receive from their father and me.

When I was asked not to return to high-school due to too many absences in chemistry, a subject I found confusing and overwhelming, I studied math and advanced math at home and when it got to the point when I needed some help, my mother was able to hire a tutor once a week to help me as I prepared for my A levels (British system). I guess, I also learned this sort of ‘do it yourself’ you can do this from my mother, a creative, inventive person, skilled as a tailor and pattern maker (self educated) who has a high-school level but who has never doubted that any of her 5 daughters could do what ever we set our minds to.
It's not really that surprising after all that when I had my own children, the idea of unschooling them was something that felt natural. Now I'm seeing my sisters, although they are not unschooling, they have the philosophy on their radar and it informs their decisions/thoughts when it comes to the schools their children attend.  They can think about how we are all unschoolers, whether in school or out, and we just need to nurture opportunities for kids to explore their interests more.

"Nobody can give you and education. Education must be taken by those who want one. The will and dogged persistence of the seeker are the only essential tools needed to become educated. Teachers, text, money play only minor roles and papers, pencils, tests play no role at all."(Gatto).

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

You say you want community?

We're all talking about community. How do you find it? How do you get more of it?

But what is community anyway? Is it companionship? Lots of friendships? Is it people who think the way you do? Support? All of these? Does it have to be face to face consistency in order to qualify? Or will online sharing of resources suffice? Getting a clear sense of what one means by 'community' is a first step to getting what you want from it. 'Community' can simply mean the physical presence of people you like being around.

Some people are willing to go to great distances to find  their community. For example, very dear people I know are heading out west to an eco-village so that they can find like-minded people and live and out their beliefs.  For me--currently, I should add, because things do change--I need less community than others. I struggle with being too busy and I am lucky to already have a built in community: family. Not only my offspring and partner, but also my sisters, their families, my mother. This is already quite a lot to manage--if you want to spend time with them all it takes a bit of planning and I already feel guilty that I need to do more with them!

Creating Community
My first thought is to look at what you can offer: What do YOU have to give towards building community? I've seen many people grow a community around what they can contribute personally, as opposed to hoping for it to happen. Here is a great idea for building community around the love of books:http://www.brainbuildersinc.com/blog/how-to-grow-a-community-of-readers
Community is reciprocal after all and everybody has something they are good at and can share.

The second thing to do is to broaden your definition of community. I think it can be really helpful to stop looking for people who fit what is sometimes our narrow definition of community. You're bound to be surprised.
You are looking for a mother with children exactly your age? You will find that you like the mother but your kids don't get along. Or you don't approve of the mother but you like the kids. With unschooling, there is no need to caught up looking for other unschoolers to hang out with. You might find allies in the most unexpected of places. My kids best friends while unschooling were all school kids.

Communities of Common Interest
We can make community happen when we pursue our interests. Unschoolers know that you can make friends how share your interest but are not the same age as you are..and that's okay! Your kid can hang out with the local astronomers crowd even if she is 1/5th their age.
Volunteering is a key way to connect with others and nurture bonds and relationships so get your kids out there, helping out.

Parents can still help their kids find community even when they are teens. In fact, it is often at this age when they need the most help connecting with others.
Once the kids start getting older, the peer group takes on more meaning and importance to this age group. Art, theatre, music all create community for youth and there are many opportunities to get involved even if your teen doesn't like the limelight!

Unschooled teen will have had time to develop skills that are teachable to younger kids--skills like swimming, music etc and I find that here's where these kids can connect with kids doing similar things and forge new friendships. Online community becomes super important, where they seek connection for social reasons but also to explored common interests together.

A word on solitude:
Of course, sooner or later, everyone has to learn that solitude is okay; being alone can be a good thing. Unschoolers have that advantage because they will have spent hours of their day to day alone anyway.

Many kids who don't go to school have the opportunity to work and safe money for travel.
There are more an more opportunities for youth to meet other youth doing the same thing and here is a link that is specific to youth travel:

I hope this helps some of you and I'd love to hear from others about what they are doing to nurturing community for themselves!

“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody," says Jane Jacobs.
I find that when you replace the word 'cities' with 'communities,' you get the same message!

Still giving it away~!

What is the biggest challenge you face in unschooling?
Share it for a chance to win a copy of Natural Born Learners! (Name will be entered in a draw). You get two chances at winning if you also like my page! This challenge goes until Saturday 21st. Winners announced on Sunday 22nd June.

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