Saturday, September 01, 2007

Guerrilla Learning; How to give your kids a real education with or without school. By Grace Llewellyn and Amy Silver.

Grace and Amy have had enough of the ivory tower that is un-schooling and home based learning which hoards it’s knowledge of how children really learn, for the precious few. So they have set out to blast out our secrets to clueless schoolers with their book Guerrilla Learning; How to give your kids a real education with or without school. They are selling the goods to anyone who wants them; all can now enjoy the exciting methods of imparting knowledge that is inherent to this approach. Home based learning, natural learning, life long learning, interest based learning, call it what you will, it works. Even if it isn’t a reality for you, you can still find ways to benefit from the world we un-schoolers dwell in, we who have already reclaimed our right to directing our own learning. 

I mean, it is becoming obvious to mainstreamers from all walks of life that these non intrusive ways of educating kids are hugely successful- Broadly speaking home based learners are indeed a resourceful bunch; generally these families know their kids very well. They know their talents, their interests, and they usually can find ways in which to fuel their passions further. They are very good at searching out opportunities for their kids and being supportive of their interests too. 

Amy and Grace want to impart some of this know-how to all of you on the outside, so that your kids won’t loose out on the miracle that is learning beyond institutions and the system.
What’s that I hear from the non-schoolers? You mean this doesn’t sound like your happy homeschool? Do I hear anxious sounds of uncertainty and self doubt? Panic in the rear? Don’t worry! If the well has dried up, the “fire to kindle’ never got pass the spark, even you, the un-schooling family will gain a boost from immersing your selves in this book. (Admit it- it does happens- we get lazy and loose too you know. So you can wipe the smirks of your faces, un-schoolers, and don’t be in such a hurry to dismiss this book). “Guerrilla Learning” is at your service and to the rescue!
So what is this book all about? Well, to help you change your stagnant and long outdated ways of thinking about education and how you get it, these fine gals have proposed five basic keys to guerrilla learning whether your kids are in or out of the dungeon called school. (By the way they nicked the phrase “guerrilla learning” of John Taylor Gatto. 

If you don’t know who that is, it’s up to you to find out). These are opportunity, timing, interest, freedom, and support.
Opportunity. More fundamental than attending elite schools and universities is a person’s “attitude, sense of personal power and possibility, and comfortable familiarity with a wide range of subjects and activities.” So as they say, “ read. Write. Talk. Play music together. Go see dance and theater and paintings. Read poetry, write things... Provide them with resources, materials, people, places to go to of course. But “do these only out of love.”
Next is timing. “If we could wave a magic wand and change American schools, we would change this: the idea that earlier is better, that there is some intrinsic value in children’s learning things (1) on cue and (2) early. Our experience, and a large body of research in developmental psychology, insists that there is enormous, mostly unrecognized value in children simply being allowed to learn things when they are ready,” they write. And then go into detail.

Interest- jump on it when it rears it’s inquisitive heads. Don’t wait until it dies away. But don’t be too pushy- the child must own her own interest. You might not even recognize it for what it is. Amy and Grace to the rescue again. Don’t overlook or under rate your child’s interest- just because it doesn’t fit your narrow system of evaluation. Yeah, it’s video game all day long, or sexist comic strips- but there might be a diamond in the rough for all you know. Build on this interest.

Freedom. Ah freedom, the biggy! We never give them enough of it. It’s always hurry, hurry, hurry. But let them have the time and space to move as they wish, to choose, when, where and how. The freedom of choice to discover and follow their own interests and impulses and to “commit oneself.” We need to stop being the nosy parkers that we are and mind our own businesses if you please.

Next is support. What’s the use of being brilliant if there is no support mechanism to bloom in? This means explaining, celebrating, witnessing and listening, listening, even when you are bone tired and not in the mood.
Each of these five keys are covered in depth with exercises you the adult can complete at the end of each key ( this is a self-help book after all) to get the old juices flowing.

The book is packed with resources, books to read, web sites to go to for inspiration, ideas to get things rolling; arts for example- art museums, galleries- keep art supplies handy at all times, explore architecture ,textile design, film making, jewelry making, statues at the park, sing songs together, play music. The list goes on...Physical science- stock up on science experiment books, simple equipment, hand lens, graph paper, anatomy charts, newspapers that include astronomy news. “Choose a small space in your house to transform into a cornucopia of science inspiration...cover hall ways with inviting, informative charts, maps or posters about dinosaurs, the phases of the moon, the wild flowers of your region...” 

In a helpful fashion, the book relates concepts and ideas back to Amy’s kids, Grace’s experiences and other parents input.
The book ends with appendices of valuable information which include alternatives to traditional schooling for those who don’t have the guts to un-school. Also included are organizations that promote alternative learning such as “Creating Learning Communities”, EnCompass, Power to the Youth and Genius Tribe, started up by Grace Llewellyn herself.
Guerrilla Learning is about getting for your kids a real education with or without school as the rest of the title says. It’s also about changing your own self- getting into the thrill and joy of following your muse to quote a cliche.
Guerrilla Learning is an absolute gold mine. It is a must for any family who cares about their children’s education, and honouring their children’s calling. Pick it up at your local library, buy it if you can. Beg, borrow or steal but get it. You’ll be sorry if you don’t!

Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc 2001

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