I found this on an old education blog I had completely forgotten about. Thought it was worth sharing. There may be more to come from this blog, depending on what I find.
RECENT RAMBLINGS ON LEARNING (June 18, 2005)
(Excerpted from my personal weblog)
It should probably serve as fair warning that I am reading Guerrilla Learning.  It wouldn’t take much discussion of this book for me to raise some hackles on the topic of education, I’m thinking.  My suggestion to anyone who gets annoyed? Read the book, then decide for yourself.  After all, that is the whole premise of the book.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about education lately.  I couldn’t understand why I was experiencing burnout; even after 17 years of homeschooling, I don’t understand how I could feel overwhelmed by something I love so much and can’t imagine no longer doing.  I was talking to a friend the other day about Rosie mentioning that she might like to try public school.  My friend Laura told her she’s been watching too much TV.  Shows like “That’s So Raven” and “Boy Meets World” and “Recess” and “Lizzie McGuire”, while they are awesome shows (IMO), tend to glamorize public schools in very unrealistic ways.  Not to say there aren’t any Mr. Feeney’s (I’ve known some personally), no situations like those in the shows; they do exist occasionally in some places.  The problem is that they are the exception rather than the rule.
There were things I loved and things I hated about public school.  While I understand that life is like that, I also understand that while I attended school for all those years, I gained a tiny amount of true education and a lot of junk.
  • I loved kindergarten. Ms. Scott was an angel who loved me and cried when I was kidnapped. I learned to make my 4’s forward instead of backward, and I learned to cross the monkey bars all by myself. Tammy Craddock and Dena Ciccarello were among my best friends.  My mother drove the pickup/dropoff route, and she pulled everyone’s teeth because they wouldn’t let anyone but her do it.
  • I loved first grade and my beautiful “Miss Honey” teacher, Ms. MacBrayer.  She spent time with me, and scolded me gently that I would choke (which I did) if I held water in my mouth too long, and didn’t get mad at me for throwing up in the middle of reading group because I was nervous to read out loud.  Johnny somebody liked me, but Donald Pearman was my true love, and his sister Angela was one of my best friends.
  • I got moved into second grade midway through first, and I was devastated.  My sweet Miss Honey turned into Mean Ms. Daniels, who seemed to hate me from the start.  I was tiny and smart and scared to death of her and all my classmates, who were significantly bigger than me.  I don’t remember having a best friend in my class.
  • Third grade was a drink of cool water in the desert with Ms. Glover.  She loved kids and it showed.  She gave everyone birthday spankings on their birthdays (which made us feel totally special), and she drew stair-steps on the board to teach us multiplication facts.  She screamed out “Hallelujah!” and hugged me tightly in front of everybody when I made a 100 on a test.  Robin Barfield Sumner was my best friend, and I was envious of her beautiful blue eyes and long, black lashes.
  • I got beat up nearly every day in fourth grade by Linda Lawrence, but I loved sweet Ms. Mills and our Bible class.  I also loved my best friend, Leigh French, who picked me up and brushed the dirt off my face every time I got knocked down.
  • Fifth grade was a challenge, mostly due to family prejudice against my teacher’s race, but there were some memorably lovely moments…one being “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”, a five-page story I wrote for a writing contest that won me First Place and the treat of standing with the teacher at recess and drinking an ice cold Coke in front of everybody. I think that is when I truly fell in love with writing. Cindy Denny was my best friend, but Annah Young was my inspiration.
  • Sixth was certainly memorable, but much more due to boys and social dealings than with education.  I liked Michael Dean, Steve Langdale, and Jeffrey Roach.  Jeffrey teeter-tottered with me (which was like being married), then left me in the playground dust the moment that lovely new girl, Jasmine came to our school.  Patty Smith was my bud, and she hugged me when I cried over boys or whatever.  Jason and I wrote a play about Paul Revere, and I was placed in an independent learning program for the gifted (although some of my classmates said ILP stood for Ignorant Little Punk).  Two friends and I dressed up as hobos and sang “I Ain’t Got a Barrel o’ Money” and made Ms. Smith laugh.
  • Seventh grade was made a little scary with daily torturing from Demaris Lawhorn.  I liked Jeff Miles (several times) and took up playing the trumpet.  I was poor as dirt, and was reminded of it pretty often by others, but I met a wonderful girl named Laura Varnadoe and our friendship made life pretty happy. 
  • Eighth grade was clouded over by my father’s death, and I can’t remember what I learned that year, save for how to lock people out of my heart so they wouldn’t see how much I was hurting or how angry I was inside.
  • Can’t remember much educationally about ninth, other than Mr. Brown’s antics in civics class and typing love-notes to a boy named Mike in typing class instead of doing my assignments (the only ‘D’ I ever received in school).  I mostly remember skating and moving to Minnesota (and meeting my dear Karrie) and then moving back here and liking Mike and winning the Outstanding Bandsman award. 
  • In tenth, what stands out is that Mike and I broke up and I ended up dating (much too young) a guy who took more from me than my heart.  As for education, it was purely music; it was all my young cluttered mind could absorb that year.  I think Mr. Acosta probably saved my life, although he never knew it.
  • Just before my junior year, I met my sweet Steve.  He was all I could think about (some things never change…hee hee), so academics were pretty far down on my priority list.  The exceptions are MamaNich’s AP English class (where my love for writing was cemented), Ms. Fales’ American history class, and of course my music classes.
  • The summer before my senior year I found out I was pregnant.  Steve and I got married in July and I started my senior year a mommy-to-be.  Plans got changed rather abruptly. I resigned as Band Captain, left my beloved music classes, and decided to take advantage of the fact that I had enough credits to finish school in January.  My last class was Jan. 14 and our son was born three weeks later.  I walked the stage with my class in June to receive my diploma, then posed for pictures with “Jeffy” wearing my graduation cap.  Academics?  Oh, yeah, those. I remember getting good grades, but not much about how or what I learned.  The one class I remember is Child Development, which I pretty much taught while the teacher looked on with interest as she sat there spaced out on some kind of little white pills.
Overall, what I learned academically at school by and large didn’t make much of an impression on me.  Like I said, there were moments.  Ms. Glover’s method for teaching multiplication facts stayed with me, so much so that I have used it with my own children.  Mr. Brown’s presentation of the US presidents was phenomenal, and I’ve used that, too.  Ms. Nichols’ prodding, challenging, delightful encouragement will never leave me.  I carry her with me through every word I write.  As for what I learned other than academics, I bear scars I can’t begin to word from some of it. 
I’m not necessarily Anti-Public School across the board.  I will say, however, that what public school has become has less to do with real education than with crowd control, unrealistic (and barely beneficial, at best) standards, and kids growing up way too fast in ways they were never meant to.  I know how true this was when I was in school, and (as my kids love to remind me) that was a LONG time ago.  Something tells me things haven’t improved much, if at all, and that the reality is likely a lot worse than most of us can even surmise.
(Yes, I’m ready for the flaming comment arrows.)
Talking with Laura about some of the concerns she has about her daughter’s school, as well as talking with Kelly about things her kids have gone through in school this year and in years past, I am only made more certain that homeschooling is the best possible educational option for our children.  I won’t speak for anyone other than us (or at least I will try not to), but I do believe we are doing what God would have us do in our family.
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Some interesting quotes I came across:
“I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas, if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less showily. Let him go and come freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself, instead of sitting indoors at a little round table, while a sweet-voiced teacher suggests that he build a stone wall with his wooden blocks, or make a rainbow out of strips of coloured paper, or plant straw trees in bead flower-pots. Such teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of, before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experience.” — Anne Sullivan


“What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge, not knowledge in pursuit of the child.”

— George Bernard Shaw


In his acceptance speech for the New York City Teacher of the Year award, John Gatto said, “Schools were designed by Horace Mann. . .and others to be instruments of the scientific management of a mass population.” In the interests of managing each generation of children, the public school curriculum has become a hopelessly flawed attempt to define education and to find a way of delivering that definition to vast numbers of children.

The traditional curriculum is based on the assumption that children must be pursued by knowledge because they will never pursue it themselves. It was no doubt noticed that, when given a choice, most children prefer not to do school work. Since, in a school, knowledge is defined as schoolwork, it is easy for educators to conclude that children don’t like to acquire knowledge. Thus schooling came to be a method of controlling children and forcing them to do whatever educators decided was beneficial for them. Most children don’t like textbooks, workbooks, quizzes, rote memorization, subject schedules, and lengthy periods of physical inactivity. One can discover this – even with polite and cooperative children – by asking them if they would like to add more time to their daily schedule. I feel certain that most will decline the offer.

The work of a schoolteacher is not the same as that of a homeschooling parent. In most schools, a teacher is hired to deliver a ready-made, standardized, year-long curriculum to 25 or more age-segregated children who are confined in a building all day. The teacher must use a standard curriculum – not because it is the best approach for encouraging an individual child to learn the things that need to be known – but because it is a convenient way to handle and track large numbers of children. The school curriculum is understandable only in the context of bringing administrative order out of daily chaos, of giving direction to frustrated children and unpredictable teachers. It is a system that staggers ever onward but never upward, and every morning we read about the results in our newspapers.

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6/14/05
School planning is going well.  Everything seems to be coming together, and I am doing a lot of great reading on teaching approaches. You’d think I’d know and have tried them all by now, which I probably actually have, but it’s really interesting to explore them all every so often.  I’m also reading up on learning styles to make sure I am meeting each of the children’s needs to the utmost. They deserve nothing but the most devoted attention.  I love my kids.
I bought some chalkboard paint yesterday and painted a chalkboard surface onto the front of the wardrobe in the school room.  Then on a whim I asked the boys if they’d like one in their room.  They were enthusiastic, so I painted the door of the upright freezer, which is in the laundry room but faces inward toward their bedroom.  Now they have this huge chalkboard there instead of just “the freezer”.  Today I plan to paint the inside of Rosie’s bedroom door with it so she can doodle chalk art in various colors all over the back of her door.  Just another way to bring art into our home, plus it’s downright functional. Just might paint the back of the school room door, too. Hm. Wonder if there are any other unsuspecting surfaces around…

 

6/15/05
The more I read on the topic of educational approaches, the more I lean toward unschooling.  This is a bit surprising to me.  This isn’t the first I’ve read on the subject, and I’ve actually implemented many of the related concepts through our homeschooling years (which would be best described as relaxed to slightly structured).  I remember reading on a website once that unschoolers are adamant about not being lumped in with relaxed homeschoolers, and I remember thinking, “Well, what’s eating them?”  I’m beginning to understand, though, that the philosophy is very specific.  It isn’t the absence of education (at all!); it’s more the undoing, the stripping away, of the “schooling” mentality that sits at the core of the public school system’s foundational purposes.  In reality, it is education in its truest form.  I invite anyone whose eyebrows raise at that notion to read some of John Holt and John Taylor Gatto’s books–just so you’ll be able to draw your own informed conclusions.
Maybe I just wasn’t ready to comprehend it before, but suddenly it’s making a lot of sense.  Right now I’m trying to understand my reticence to fully embrace it when everything in me is nudging me toward it.  The only thing I can think of is that this is bumping against everything I have ever been taught about education.  The sad thing is that my own school experience only proves out the point of writers like John Holt and John Taylor Gatto…so why is it so hard for me to believe it?  The only thing to do is to put it to the test, to try it on for size.  And it is looking very much like that is what we will be doing.  I’m a little nervous and a lot excited–for the kids and for us.  [I’d also be interested to see comments from any experienced unschoolers out there.]
NOTE: If you’re looking for an unschooling blogring, check out LifelongLearning.  It’s new, but it’ll grow!
I’m almost finished with Guerrilla Learning (spectacular book), so I’m off to read.

6/18/05

I ordered a few more learning-related books from Amazon.  Just more great stuff for our home library.  I really should start purging books and streamlining our collection, come to think of it.  There’s no telling how many books we have that we could easily pitch or donate. Right now we have…let’s see…nine bookcases in the house (if I counted right), only four of which are actually in the library. 

The chalkboard in the library is working fabulously.  We’re all having fun with it.  I’m having trouble finding colored chalk in the skinny form, though; I can only find it in the sidewalk chalk size, which is huge and unwieldy.  And I need a better eraser than the one I bought at Wal-Mart.  Our old dining table (along with the two remaining green dining room chairs) is now in the library, which takes up a lot of room, but it works for now.  I spread colorful informational placemats all over it (U.S. presidents, U.S. states and capitals, multiplication facts, world map, cursive writing model, etc.), which has already captured the interest of Matt in particular.  I have to say I am excited about watching our kids’ natural love for learning reappear.

 

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