Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Peter Kowalke:Grown homeschoolers-What are they doing now?

What is grown homeschooler, writer, former
Life Learning Magazine columnist and producer of the film 'Grown without Schooling,' Peter Kowalke up to these days?

What about the grown homeschoolers he knows? Are they different? Peter provides insight into the varied paths of people who choose alternatives to schools in a phone interview with Radio Free School.

Listen to the interview here

Or read an excerpt from the interview below.

Is there going to be a 'Grown without schooling 2'?

There continues to be a need both among grown homeschoolers to share experiences to share what makes grown homeschoolers. There is a need to tap in to that community and for parents who are interested in growing homeschoolers. But we are all so busy so we don't have time to put out something polishes so where does that leave us? Quick and dirty blogs. So hopefully you'll see something from me soon.
If there is a gws 2 it will be done with this quick and dirty blog style- so a mish-mash of various formats not necessarily a traditional documentary

What about the second generation of grown homeschoolers? Are you in touch with these that are married, that have kids?

I am in touch with a great number of grown homeschoolers. I just talked to one in Florida- Lynda Young.
In some regards I look for what is different because that is where the story is. As I've been talking to these home schoolers, I've been trying to sleuth out well are you doing anything different? "Are you doing anything wildly and crazy?"
In some regards I'm disappointed because there is not a lot of wild and crazy going on. It's not dramatically different that what their parents did and what people who aren't growing homeschoolers are doing.

One difference that I am noticing so far is that a lot of the homeschoolers I've talked to are calmer. They are not as stressed about the process. They are okay with their children reading late. They're okay with their children not knowing geography- you know, or following their interests and that looking a little scary at points.

And getting back to Lynda Young and what I was about to say about her- you know she did point out that sometimes there is a little alienation in the sense that she is around these parents who are sending their kids to school.
And lot of the things she is doing like like the family bed, and one of her kids nursing somewhat later than most kids- non schooling- there is just this litany of somewhat unusual alternative parent which when you look at the children and you look at the family it seems all great but the priorities and values are a little different.

What is interesting is that you are seeing there what you see elsewhere with grown homeschoolers which is that they are charting their own course; they are doing things a little differently and not just in a uniform different way-not just they all do it the same way. There is a lot more thinking about it individually. Sometimes the solutions they come to are a little bit different than the mainstream dominant culture. That is something they are facing and sometimes it is to a competitive advantage.
You kinda wanna stand out especially in this economy. So being different has its advantages but if you just want to blend in with then maybe homeschooling is not so good for being average and normal and doing things like everybody else does.

There have been a few magazine where I'm noticing talk about the 'drop out economy,' 'reasons why you shouldn't send your kids to college.' Because the world that we are heading into is not going to be a world that university prepares us.
I am not the biggest fan of the college system and the way that we institutionalize education. It always seemed a little strange that you don't go to school; you homeschool and then and when you get to college level, you go back into institutionalized education. The reasons that I homeschooled were really a critic of the institutionalized process. I don't see them us preparing us particularly well.

I definitely went to college - it was a long and drawn out process but I knew that I needed that degree.
One of the things that the education system does that is so pernicious is that it ties certification to education. There is a certain logic for the need for certification-but the sad part is that it should be an ideal world scenario that you can 'learn it anyway you want it. Just show us that you know it and we will certify you.'
But sensing a business opportunity the education apparatus really restricted the way we can learn. You pretty much have to do college! Even the alternative colleges are really variants on the various models of the traditional college models so it really forces you to do it one way- that is a real shame.

I have been talking to people who are saying no -not going and they are finding ways to just being more self sufficient more entrepreneurial.

Oh yes! There are grown who have that critic and some of them one to go to college and try and some of that group challenge and try not to go. My read on the outcome most of the time- it does vary wildly but it is certainty not easy to skip college- and a lot of the homeschoolers will do it because as much as we dislike it we don't want to fight that battle.
We are tired of fighting but there are a number that have gone without college and I am always excited to hear that. But then you do see later on at some point struggling or questioning it. They don't say, "Well I should have gone to college"- but a lot of times between the line they say, "This is hard.
It's not as easy as it sounded at first. This is tough."

It's so much part of our culture!

Yes. That is the problem. We are not set up as a society to recognize that. so It is an uphill battle to make a large amount of money. The most successful of homeschoolings I have seen who skip college are those who live lightly they are much closer to back to the land, I don't need much because it is hard to avoid.
I'd like to think that we can get past that but I don't know I am somewhat pessimist of changing the whole direction of society. I'd be content just to carve out a little corner for myself.

How do you define success?

You know its tricky. Some days I feel successful and other days I don't and the days that I don't feel successful are the days when I am making direct comparisons with my peers using their metrics. It really does comes down to
the fact that I am in a society and every society has its values and what they consider success and as much as you wanna define it the way that you think it makes sense its the dominant view of success is put upon you.

How I define success? I define success in how many loving relationships I have- how many good strong connections I have with people I define success in what I accomplish and if I do it in a moral way? I define success in "Am I healthy?"
I was just out to dinner with a friend who is not a grown homeschooler and she works herself to the bone. She gets four hours of sleep, she's unhealthy and her hair is falling out. She is quote on quote 'successful' but it's not just how much $$ you make. l am still opposed to materialism like a lot of grown homeschoolers where they find success beyond how much material I can acquire.

But at the same time it is tough to always live inside your definition of success. There is no easy answer. If you walk a somewhat individual path, that's kind of the price you have to pay.

In the previous interview we did- what you noticed about home educated kids is that they questioned a lot - i noticed that with you. You are not afraid to question if self directed learning is is the way to go. You are brave enough to question that.

I definitely still believe in it and I am glad I was homeschooled. I still plan to do that with my kids when I have the opportunity but yeah- I do think that homeschoolers especially unschoolers do have more time to think about things and to challenge.

And i think that the challenging comes from the fact that grow up not in school and that is is a pretty big challenge to a system that until relatively recently went unchallenged. And to do that it is hared not to internalize that at some level to question what some people think is so fundamental you come out and say, "Yes. I questioned it and I am glad what else can I question?"

That is why I like hanging out with homeschoolers because they are doing a lot of fun interesting things. Not all of it- there is some kooky behavior sometimes some failures along the line, but pound for pound there is a lot of trying things experimentation open mindedness and that is a beautiful thing.

Indeed and if we can have some influence on people who were not raised that way- we are ourselves a walking challenge so it is a good thing to impart on society there-that to give little challenge.

One of the things I have noticed in my own life in relationship to that being a challenge as a grown homeschooling i have been a challenge my whole life- and I am not alone in feeling that people have to feel challenged.And I am tired of it.
And so I have noticed it is a "be the change you want to see in the world" as Gandhi said. I think that at this point, and a lot of my grown homeschoolers are approaching it this way too. A quite example; less about converting the world. if you want to do it that is great- we think we are doing something good here. As I get older it is not that I am losing sparks - just that I fought it for so long. Let someone else do it!

But again you are thinking of doing a blog so you do have that interest right?

Basically there are 2 parts to it - the real reason to connect to other homeschooler because they are doing cool things and also because there is the societal pressure to do it. And that can wear you down-so to hang out with people who think the same way similar ways. And the other half is just to give back. There are a lot of questions that parents have asked over the years. That would be the more static part.


Anonymous said...

Parents that raise their kids outside the traditional system run the risk of making their kids uncomfortable with mainstream culture. You should ask you self if this is right. Is it worth it?
This guy clearly feels out of place in the regular society.

Anonymous said...

Parents that raise their kids inside the traditional system run the risk of making their kids uncomfortable with mainstream culture. You should ask yourself if this is right. Is it worth it? Plenty of schooled adults feel out of place in "regular" society, don't you agree?

culture is complex said...

Perhaps a little discomfort with mainstream culture is in order - consumerism and conformity seem to be fairly commonly accepted, to the detriment of developing a sustainable and peaceful culture. I think there is room enough for people to find their own paths to knowledge, especially if they are not hurting anyone.
I do get annoyed at this attitude that makes every home-schooled person have to prove themselves to the highest standards emotionally, physically, financially, etc. It's just unfair - it's like bigotry: ex. the person was rude: tall people are rude.
I am glad that Peter shared his insights so honestly, warts and all, and is living a decent life following his interests.

culture is complex said...

"the tall person was rude: tall people are rude"

Anonymous said...

I loved Peter's documentary. It was very challenging but really honest.
And really inspiring-in spite of the not always attractive, sometimes 'different' looking folks that represented homeschoolers! (There were some complaints about that-believe it or not!). IMO-its the way most of the general population look like really.

rfs said...

Interesting interchange. Thanks for the comments all.
My reply to anon 1 is this: new and fresh culture is created when people go outside of mainstream culture. That's what keeps things hopping-that is what makes art, new inventions, new ideas. If there is no counter culture, no forging new paths then we would be stick hacking our raw meat with sharpened rocks.
@culture is complex-love this comment.A sign of maturity is being able to put aside the dictates of society and be less tied to,more independent of what society thinks.

Sara said...

As a grown homeschooler I rejoice that I am uncomfortable with the mainstream culture. That is not to say that I do not have many friends who hold to the values of mainstream culture, or that I do not respect them as persons. Perhaps our apparent satellite existence stems not so much from maladjustment, but from a skepticism of all things dominating. We do not wish to dominate because we have seen first hand the corruption of all human hierarchical structures.

Peter said...

Oh, I wouldn't mind dominating. I'd be a benign dictator and there would be ice creme for everyone.

Peter said...

... I just know that comment is going to come back to bite me some day. "It was a joke, Judge! Honest!"


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