Every truth has four corners: as a teacher I give you one corner, and it is for you to find the other three. Confucius

26 April 2011

John Lennon

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I wrote down "happy". They told me I didn’t understand the assignment.

I told them they didn’t understand life.

John Lennon

18 April 2011

Hi Everyone,

Thought I would share an example of the beauty of intrinsically motivated learning.....

My 14 year old daughter Alexandra has recently being trudging through her year 10 maths requirements. She's been doing well enough, but has been far from inspired. That was until a week or so ago when she came to me and said:

Mum, could I study business maths this year because I've just been doing some on the computer and I really like it. It's something I can actually use in my life, and it makes sense.

Since then,
Alexandra has been doing maths everyday without prompting and is mastering levels that are more appropriate (acc to curriculum content) to a level or so above what she's been doing.

I am not saying that maths is her strongest suit or that she is wanting to be a mathematician, but she is doing well because it is meaningful to her and she is motivated to learn it for a purpose
that has more value to her personally than a tick or a letter on a piece of paper.

I think this is worth noting because if I add up the number of hours I spent during my childhood mindlessly churning off irrelevant information it is staggering. I was always surprised when I got a particularly 'good' or 'bad' grade because to me it was not something I could predict according to how much of myself I had invested in the exercise. Consequently it meant very little to me in a larger sense.

Eventually I learned to do what I needed to achieve fairly reliable grades but this exercise always seemed like jumping through hoops to me and I believe I lost some of my joy in learning and creative drive for a while as a result.

For all of these reasons, I'm pleased that
Alexandra is taking the time to decide what is right for her and what will serve her best for her future learning.

I'll finish with a quote by
Johann Gottfried Von Herde:
Without inspiration the best powers of the mind remain dormant. There is a fuel in us which needs to be ignited with sparks.

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

14 April 2011

The Natural Child - Book Review

Hi Everyone

The Natural Child is a gorgeous book which I enjoyed from cover to cover. It's written by parenting counsellor and director of The Natural Child Project, Jan Hunt. It is full of compassion, ideas and gentle promptings about how we can all improve the quality of life for the children around us.

The Natural Child is divided into sections dealing with issues such as parenting with empathy and trust, living with a baby, siblings adjusting to baby, living with children, guiding children, helping children learn and advocating for children.

I particularly like that Hunt has not left off caring for our children's emotional needs once they pass infancy. Children remain highly sensitive and impressionable beings well into childhood and attachment parenting is advocated throughout this book not as over protection or neurosis but as a necessary connection to maintain with your child to ensure independence in thought and emotional well being through to the teen and adult years.

Hunt shares her experiences as a homeschooling parent, and offers suggestions about how to best serve the learning needs of children, including those with a learning disability.

In The Natural Child, Hunt advocates caring for all children within our community rather than just our immediate family. She believes that children are the responsibility of the society they live in and that if they are suffering through dysfunction, then we as a community are all accountable. She offers practical suggestions for improving the experience of the parents and children around us, and shares that even if we see no immediate effect from our actions

the sheer act of standing up for the child can have a

significant impact on the child herself

Definitely something to consider.

I will finish with the concluding paragraph because I believe it sums up the book better than I ever could...
When we believe in our child fully, we trust that they are doing the very best they can at every moment, given their age, past experience and present circumstances.......Having someone dependably "on their side" is absolutely critical if a child is to grow into adulthood with a generous capacity for love and trust.
If we aren't on their side, who will be?
Talk Soon, Cynthia x

12 April 2011

Teach Your Own - Book Review

Hi Everyone,

Today I'll review John Holt's classic homeschooling book Teach Your Own . Holt wrote this book originally in the early 1980's when homeschooling was a
very alternative mode of education and his theories were even more radical for this time.

Holt is a person I see as one of the original (modern) proponents for natural learning and the
unschooling of children. His philosophy is clearly one of trusting children to want to learn and facilitating that as a parent wherever you can. This may mean providing music, art, singing, drama lessons for children with a particular creative bent. It may mean trips to art galleries, museums, national parks, whatever will best serve to motivate and inspire your child in their passion for learning.

Holt also cites many examples where he found incidental openings to teach children without making himself separate from or above his pupils. He openly shares where he's made mistakes along the way and how he simply changed what he was doing for a more favourable result. He takes a lot of the pressure off of homeschooling parents to be perfect and simply encourages you to self correct and get on with it and to encourage your children to do the same.

I find Holt's original work fascinating, enlightening and inspiring if a little idealistic for functioning within our current society and education guidelines. For this reason I enjoy the edition of
Teach Your Own updated by Patrick Farenga (2003). Farenga is a homeschooling parent and co-producer of Growing Without Schooling an unschooling magazine founded by Holt 1977- 2001.

In this edition, Farenga updates John Holt's revolutionary works around subjects such as homeschooling and the law, reasons for homeschooling, learning difficulties, how to get started, school response to homeschooling, current learning materials, homeschooling organisations etc.

I strongly recommend this book to any homeschooling families who are interested in getting all the information before deciding which education model they will use. John Holt has a massive amount of practical experience with children which he shares generously and without jargon for the benefit of all, and that alone makes him worth reading in my opinion.

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

10 April 2011

Changing Education Paradigms

Hi Everone,

I was given this link about the changing paradigms of education in our society presented by Sir Ken Robinson and I thought it worth passing on. It has a bit of information about the history of education, self esteem in learners, the increasing medication of children for ADHD, outcomes of the current education system and other theories and research findings. This presentation is given in a fascinating, sketchbook style. Definately worth checking out.

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

07 April 2011

I just had to include this....Jay's gone 3-D with his writing. He got up this morning and, inspired by his Lego magazine wrote LEGO with his bricks...awesome!!

Hi Everyone,

We've had an exciting development in our house, Jay has spontaneously started writing words! A couple of days ago I was in another room and Jay called me to the kitchen table and said

Look what I've done. I can write now.

He had taken the readers he and Freida like to use as story books and copied the sight words. Since then, he's been up early several mornings in a row practicing his writing and asking me to spell out words for him.

I believe he is so motivated because he became curious about writing by himself and because
he wanted to. It's just clicked for him and he's very pleased with himself indeed :)

I'm excited because I love seeing my kids passionate with learning and it is more reassurance for me that we are on the right track with our eclectic/free range learning style.

A while ago I attempted to share a phonics programme with Jay and he was bored senseless with the repetition. Thank goodness I didn't force him to persist, I could have ruined this whole process of exploration for him, and be going through the motions every day to get those lines of letters written in the little phonics booklet....not much fun for either of us.

This experience puts me in mind of a theme that keeps repeating in the books I've read on homeschooling. The theme is Trust your child to want to learn. It's a natural process and it will happen without pushing.

Two books I have found particularly reassuring are John Holt's
Teach Your Own, and Laura Grace Weldon's Free Range Learning (I will review both books on the blog over the next few posts).

I'll leave you with a quote that says it all.....

Every truth has four corners: as a teacher I give you one corner, and it is for you to find the other three.
Talk Soon, Cynthia x

01 April 2011

Book Review - Dumbing Us Down

Hi Everyone,

Today I'll review Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto.

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, award winning teacher of 30 years John Taylor Gatto looks at the education system in the western world.

Taylor Gatto is a deep thinker with a knack of looking at the world in a fresh way.

He defines the process of compulsory schooling as a structure designed to create individuals who are emotionally and intellectually dependent, indifferent to the value of what they are presented in the classroom, are encouraged to base their self-esteem around grades, fitting in etc. He does not say that all school children fit these criteria, simply that these were the messages he observed directly in his time teaching in mainstream schools.

One of my favourite quotes on homeschooling appears on page 24 of this book:
It is absurd and anti-life to be part of a system that compels you to sit in confinement with people of exactly the same age and social class.
It sums up one of the major reasons I homeschool my children. I have a strong belief that tolerance and acceptance of others comes from spending time with people from different cultures, ages, backgrounds and experience, which is why this quote resonates.

Another major point I took away from Dumbing Us Down was Taylor Gatto's distinction between networks and communities. He defines a network as a group on individuals interacting because of a shared interest or condition. Relationships generally finish when the interest fades or the condition changes (school) . Community is a group of people who know you on a deep level and will continue to be in relationship with you no matter what your circumstances and interests are. Community is invested in the individual person in a way no institution can be (familial).

Overall this is a fascinating book, whether you agree or are comfortable with all of John Taylor Gatto's points, he will make you think and reassess your views on education.

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

Taylor Gatto, John. Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2005.