Saturday, May 28, 2005

Do We Really Need School - New Documentary Film based on Gatto's Best Selling Book

In her Universal Preschool Blog, Diane Flynn Keith, author of CARSCHOOLING, urges us to support a new documentary on education based on John Taylor Gatto's book The Underground History of American Education.

A documentary that will hopefully help to reform education across the globe as it answers the question John first posed in his award winning book DUMBING US DOWN: do we really need school?

"Do we really need school? I don't mean education, just forced schooling: six classes a day, five days a week, nine months a year, for twelve years. Is this deadly routine really necessary? And if so, for what?

Don't hide behind reading, writing, and arithmetic as a rationale, because 2 million happy homeschoolers have surely put that banal justification to rest. Even if they hadn't, a considerable number of well-known Americans never went through the twelve-year wringer our kids currently go through, and they turned out all right.

George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln? Someone taught them, to be sure, but they were not products of a school system, and not one of them was ever "graduated" from a secondary school. Throughout most of American history, kids generally didn't go to high school, yet the unschooled rose to be admirals, like Farragut; inventors, like Edison; captains of industry like Carnegie and Rockefeller; writers, like Melville and Twain and Conrad; and even scholars, like Margaret Mead. In fact, until pretty recently people who reached the age of thirteen weren't looked upon as children at all. Ariel Durant, who co-wrote an enormous, and very good, multivolume history of the world with her husband, Will, was happily married at fifteen, and who could reasonably claim that Ariel Durant was an uneducated person? Unschooled, perhaps, but not uneducated.

We have been taught (that is, schooled) in this country to think of "success" as synonymous with, or at least dependent upon, "schooling," but historically that isn't true in either an intellectual or a financial sense. And plenty of people throughout the world today find a way to educate themselves without resorting to a system of compulsory secondary schools that all too often resemble prisons.

Why, then, do Americans confuse education with just such a system? What exactly is the purpose of our public schools?"
The Underground History of American Education
Diane reveals that Gatto has his entire book available to read for FREE online. A product of nine years of research and a half-million dollar investment, this book pulls back the curtain to reveal the actual purpose for which mass forced schooling was conceived and identifies the problems with modern schooling and what can be done to fix it.

Join FREE Book Discussion - to participate simply join the FREE EduTalk e-list at Yahoo groups.

According to Diane you can donate to the production of a new Documentary Film Series based on the book which will be a hard-hitting and compelling exploration of American compulsory schooling. It's important for Australian homeschoolers to pay attention to what's happening elsewhere in the world, especially the United States, as this is where the educational authorities look for guidance when reforming Australian schools and curriculum... Will we blindly follow where US schools lead and make the same mistakes, leading to devastating consequences for so many young people?

The documentary, Diane, a verteran homeschooler herself, says will "examine the troubling anomalies of our current system" and "penetrate the untold history of our schools" as well as "survey the many extraordinary alternatives available to students, parents and teachers."She urges us to help us make this film a reality. Learn more about it by visiting:


Saturday, May 14, 2005

How Do You View Your World?

by Grace Chapman

Grace is a home educating mother of three in far north Queensland. Until recently, Grace was the editor and producer of Stepping Stones For Home Educators. Her articles have appeared in magazines such as Byronchild Magazine and Education Choices.

Perspective. How do you see your world most of the time? Is it full of burdens or challenges? Do you see challenges/difficulties as opportunities for growth? Growth of what? The heart—not the physical heart but the storehouse of love, peace and joy. Do you see the child who is behaving radically different or difficult as a burden, or as an opportunity for you to stretch your way of being?

What an eventful three months! It seems disasters, crises and challenges are falling thick and fast. Generally speaking from what I have seen, many are having the ‘rug pulled out from under their feet’ - providing the opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons. I send my love to all of you—especially those who are focusing their efforts on recovering and rebuilding their lives following any disaster/crisis/challenge.

We have not escaped the stormy seas —Amongst other things, I miscarried at three months, Nick’s job almost disappeared and it seemed that no one wanted to install solar power systems but I say that we’ve ridden the stormy seas and are now on calmer waters. I am grateful to the many friends who offered me kind words of comfort and understanding when they learned of the miscarriage. I didn’t think I would sink as low as I did - but there’s no accounting for the power of hormones, feelings, and ‘lost’ dreams. I am eternally grateful to my Mother and Father who rearranged their lives to give me the time and space I needed to recover mentally, physically and emotionally. Just thinking about the love and compassion that I received ~ and know that people have for each other ~ overwhelms and excites me!

I speak with many people who are worried that they might not be doing the best thing for their children. I know that feeling well. I lived with it for the first few years of being home based learners, even though I ‘knew’ I had made the best choice for our family. It was the choice that reflected our values but once the decision was made there was still an underlying sense of doubt. Not anymore though. If there is one thing I could give to families just starting out as home based learners, it would be to encourage you to know what you value and make the choices that reflect those values. That goes for people who enrol in schools too, as well as for families who have been home based learners for a while. Save yourself the sleeplessness and agony of being unsure. Whatever you choose to do, do it with joyfulness. Joy comes from doing what we know is right. When we are joyous, then hurts don’t hurt so much and happy times last longer. Joy helps you to do your best and doing your best leads you to feeling joyous!

Joyously. Passionately. Without reservations. That’s how we are meant to live our lives so once you’ve made a decision on you’re approach to home based learning, do it without reservation. That doesn’t mean you won’t see any trains coming your way nor will you do it with any lesser degree of excellence. Change your approach when you see the need to do so. If lots of ‘distractions’ are coming your way, then embrace them without worry about what ‘schooling’ the kids are missing out on. Life, what happens in your family, is your child’s greatest education. The distractions could be an opportunity for you to find out what you value. Prioritise. Choose to do what best reflects your values—and don’t look back! We’ve got all the time we need and I believe that if we live our lives joyously, without holding on to worry or guilt to drain our energy, then we really will do all the things that are important to us. And we will see more of the golden opportunities that always surround us.

A friend pointed out that now is a good time for family discussions on consumerism, advertising etc. Why now? Well the Harry Potter movie has been released, right on Christmas time and look at the paraphernalia that is on sale. It’s a prime example showing how advertising and consumerism go hand in hand. Now, as at Easter, is also timely for respectfully discussing differences in religious practices.

At this time of year, when the accent is on the spirit of unity, goodwill, generosity, giving and receiving, I wish you Joy, Peace and Well-being.

In appreciation of the individuals who have contributed to the informative and inspiring content of this and every other issue of “Stepping Stones” (SSHED), I leave you with this powerful quote from Cardinal Henry Newman, cited in Inviting the Mystic, Supporting the Prophet. p7

© Grace Chapman

Living With Depression

Grace is a home educating mother of three in far north Queensland. Until recently, Grace was the editor and producer of Stepping Stones For Home Educators. Her articles have appeared in magazines such as Byronchild Magazine and Education Choices.

The most revolutionary act one can commit in this world is to be happy.
Hunter ‘Patch’ Adams

The past three months have certainly seen many fast moving events changing many people’s lives in different ways. I figure it’s part of the evolution of our way of life on this planet and imagine that life as we know it is going to become more shaky as time moves on. In relation to education in particular, I guess conditions in institutions, ie. schools will become more extreme. Although this will be uncomfortable for many, it will make it easier to implement the very necessary changes to the way we educate our children en masse. My daily prayer is that each of us will have the faith to follow our hearts with clarity and trust.

My own time has been spent being very inward as I miscarried early in September, at three months, then eight weeks later I urgently needed a curette which I trust has placed me on the path of recovery.

Emotionally, the miscarriage led me to feel many energy draining emotions again—sense of loss, sense of failure, confusion, fear, resentment, bitterness and disheartened. My heart felt too flat to want to look after anyone, including myself. To all the ladies I know who are excitedly awaiting the arrival of their babies … please don’t think you can’t share your excitement with me. Now more than ever, I love to hear other women’s expressions of how they are feeling.

In late September we explored the north west of Queensland. Lawn Hill National Park was our ultimate destination. We were only there for 24 hours when we were asked to leave because a bushfire was raging down the gorge! There hadn’t been a fire of such a size for 2 years! We were there long enough to explore the gorge by canoe for a few hours one morning. We also managed to walk through the forest. Now that was a beautiful experience. I’ve never walked through such a forest before. The trees are so old and so different from the tropical rainforests that I’m used to. The feeling of being in that forest touched my heart very deeply.

The Gregory River is a wonderful haven to camp alongside. It is such a contrast to the surrounding hot, dry country. The five of us enjoyed our selves very much in different ways—fishing and putting the fish back into the water, canoeing, sketching, making music, reading, eating and chatting with the locals and (for me, wallowing in long bouts of silence).

Our time away from home provided the opportunity for me to explore my strong, dark feelings and I allowed them to dominate my actions. What a brave family I have! They weren’t comfortable with the way I was behaving yet all I could see reflected in their eyes was their Love for me.

By the time we arrived back home I felt a strong sense of appreciation—for our cool, wet environment [how wonderful to feel soft green grass beneath my feet] - for familiar friends—for family. I still wasn’t at my optimum level of good health but I was ambling along, doing what ‘had’ to be done. Routines were established—daily reading together (mainly me reading out loud) chores, daily listening to or making music. I set to work with collating Stepping Stones, tending to the vegie garden, running the house, helping in the office (Our business is designing and installing alternative power systems.), doing an occasional day as relief teacher and being with the children. Any form of guided language or math study with the children was nonexistent. They weren’t missing it and I was too flat to push it. Therein lies the beauty of home based learning. While our family was experiencing many unexpected challenges [financially, physically and emotionally], the individual needs— emotionally, physically and mentally—were still being met. The children’s lessons were first hand experience with life—problem solving where a great deal of emotion was involved. They heard Dad and I sharing our fears, they heard and felt my feelings of depression—and they saw us acting not as victims but as people who take responsibility for shaping their lives.

It was an opportunity for me to review some of my beliefs. (I was even wondering… What is a value? Sometimes I think I’d just rather be a ti-tree! They grow, they have a beautiful scent and shape, they flower, provide shade and shelter… a tree just knows how to be!) Here are some of my beliefs about life...

  • I am responsible for shaping my life. Life is beautiful. Life is simple, not always easy but it is meant to be simple.
  • Look for the blessing in any situation/ make lemonade out of lemons!
  • Acknowledge my feelings at all times and choose to ride with the feelings that serve me best. It’s OK to feel anger, hurt, sadness, jealousy, fear etc.
  • If I don’t like the way that things are looking, then look through a different window. For each person in this world there is a unique way of looking at things. Choose the window that serves me best.
  • It is possible to feel joy at any given moment. Sometimes I just have to stretch deeper inside myself to feel it. That isn’t always easy but it is simple.
  • Love is my foundation.

One very special fact I have been reminded of through first hand experience is that the virtues of Kindness, Love, Gentleness and Patience, are very powerful medicine. I am eternally grateful to my parents, family and friends who helped me see and feel this in many different ways. Towards the end of my acute recovery time I read a lot of novels. (Dirran loved this period of time. Whenever he came romping onto my bed with a book, he knew I’d be happy to read it with him. It was a very close time for us.) Anyway, I couldn’t read so many novels without sharing some of the more impressive ones with you. Reading novels leads me to process so many of my thoughts, feelings and emotions. I am especially drawn to books from the young adult fiction shelves.

I wonder what Summer will bring? Cyclones? Floods? Snow? (not likely up here) Watermelon! Mangoes! Swimming in the river! Lots of smiles and compassion, love, always love...

© Grace Chapman

Procrastination - Fear of the Unknown

by Grace Chapman

Grace is a home educating mother of three in far north Queensland. Until recently, Grace was the editor and producer of Stepping Stones For Home Educators. Her articles have appeared in magazines such as Byronchild Magazine and Education Choices.

Welcome to the new year. How are you going so far? Got so many new things you want to do that you are overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin? Haven’t mounted the horse yet? Or, have you dived into your new year resolutions and projects and are gasping for air because you’ve taken on so much? Only got a hold of the galloping horse’s tail? Or are you riding the horse, enjoying the rush of wind on your face? This is the time of year that can be painful for the procrastinator. If you are having difficulty making decisions that require you to do things that you don’t normally do (like whether to homeschool or not) perhaps the following quote, placed on your mirror will help you.

When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project,
all your thoughts break their bonds; your mind transcends limitations,
your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world.
Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamed yourself to be.
Patanjali (c. 1st to 3rd century BC)

Or perhaps this one does more for you…

To escape criticism—do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.
E. Hubbard

Fear of the unknown is a powerful thing isn’t it? It can be paralysing. Yet it’s opposite, Love, is equally as powerful and is likely to bring about more of your preferences.

© Grace Chapman

Friday, May 13, 2005

2005 Budget Ramifications on Single Parent Homeschooling Families

How will the new federal budget will affect home-schoolers receiving Parenting Payment?

From the news reports it looks that when the youngest child in the family turns 6 the parent is obligated to seek a minimum 15 hours work a week. Without looking into it more deeply I think I could safely say this will only affect families who are receiving government assistance such as single parenting payment. If this is the case, then yes, we have something to worry about as home educators and it would be wise is we all began to lobby our politicians to plead our special case.

For some years now it seems to have been a policy of Centrelink to encourage parents who are in receipt of financial assistance from the government to seek work once their youngest reaches high school age. In one case last year a South Australian mother, whose partner is on unemployment benefits, was called into an interview and was quite apprehensive. The emphasis on the interview, however, was on the client's long term future plans for gradually moving back into the world of work - looking at education rather than getting a job right now.

I know of several single parent families dependent on Centrelink benefits for the bulk of their income (with many already employed part time) who are very worried about the ramifications of the Federal Government's 2005 bugdet.

Here is a letter Debbie Dunn published in the last Homeschool Australia newsletter. I agree with Debbie that it's important we start to do something about this now.

Hi Everyone,
I am concerned that those among us who are single parents may have our choices severely curtailed if the new initiative by the government to get single parents back into the workforce when their children become school-age comes into effect. If you see this as a step in the wrong direction, putting more stress on families already under stress, now is the time to speak out. Below is the contact details of the Senator to contact, plus you may like to contact your local federal MP. I have also included in-line the letter I have composed. Feel free to use this as a basis for your own correspondence.
Love Debbie

The Hon. Kay Patterson, Senator for Victoria
Minister for Family and Community Services
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women's Issues
Liberal Party of Australia

Parliament Contact:
Tel: (02) 6277 7560
Fax: (02) 6273 4122

Electorate Office:
Shop 3, 10-40 Burwood Highway,
Burwood East Vic 3151

To The Hon. Kay Patterson,

Recent plans by the Government to pressure single parents of school-aged children to return to the work seems out of step with the pre-election rhetoric of the Liberal Party's "concern for families". Single families are already feeling the strain of parenting in isolation without having more demands made from Centrelink.

Many of these families do choose to work but I feel it is imperative that we as a society value the choice to be a full time parent as a worthwhile endeavour. The fallout from families under stress litters our society already. Do we really want more "latch-key kids"; more parents too exhausted to have a decent conversation with their children; more institutionalization of the family with care providers having to step into the parent's role?

The families of Australia are very diverse, each with individual needs and dynamics. How does your government propose to take into account these differences? My personal situation is a case in point. I have opted to home educate my children. Only recently have I become a single parent and now, at this time of trauma, I may be required to return to the workforce, causing even further upheaval for my children.

To home educate ones children is a legal right in Australia. I place the duty to educate my children as the highest priority in my life and feel strongly that this contribution to society is of as much value as any job I could do in the workforce. My children see me working every day... organizing outings and activities, household chores (usually shared between two adults), doing the family finance, involvement in community projects (eg. Waterwatch, Urban Forest) etc. Even in purely financial terms, the cost to the state of my children attending school is greater than paying me single parenting payment.

I would entreat that you give due consideration to all the ramifications of the proposed changes and in particular the plight of single parents who wish to exercise the right to home educate their children.

Your Sincerely, ..........................................................

yours in love, light and peace,

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Top Secret! The Power of Homeschooling Camps

Robin and I are heading off to the annual Milang Homeschoolers Camp on Friday. We thoroughly enjoyed the inaugral camp last year, organised by Stephanie and her enthusiastic family. The camp was well attended, with a host of homeschoolers heading down from Adelaide for Saturday.

Few people realise the power of a homeschooling camp. We attended our first one way back in 1990, at a place called Bridgewater in Victoria. The camp was organised by the Alternative Education Resource Centre, now HEN (VIC) and I found out about it through their newsletter Otherways. Dozens of families enjoyed the week long camp. For the first time I felt that I had finally found my 'community', such was the strength of the camaradie shared at the camp.

If you've never been to a camp you've missed out! It's hard, at first, to ease into camp life, especially when some of the campers are already familiar with one another, or if the camp is held in the same place each year and draws the same families who know the place inside out. I remember feeling like an outsider, but went with the flow, accepting that, yes, I was a newbie and like newbies everywhere I needed to take a deep breath and sit and watch, feeling a little uncomfortable, listen to the conversations, venture a few words here and there and slowly, but surely, I warmed to camp life and the 'old timers' gradually drew me into all of the activities.

The children, of course, took a lot less time to integrate, make friends, and generally have a good time!

Most of the camps I've been on have been unstructured: the structure evolves as each day dawns. We've camped in tents, slept in dorms and cabins and a mixture of both. Daily activities usually include going for walks, visiting local places of interest, art and craft, singing, cooperative games, concerts, shared meals, workshops, and chatting. Lots of chatting!

Nothing beats living closely with others over a few days to get to know each other and make firm friendships. I remember my children not seeing kids from camp from one year to the next, but when they got together again it was as though only a few days had passed. For parents worried about the social outcomes of home education - get thee to a camp! You'll be reassured.

Belinda Moore writes about a camp she attended on the Homeschool Australia website:

"The company was wonderful – old friends we love to catch up with, and new friends to meet. For us, the company of like-minded homeschoolers at an annual camp is a huge boost in our confidence in the decision to home educate. And being with the older home educated children and teens is always inspiring and encouraging. They are a beaut bunch of kids!"

I'd love to hear about your homeschooling camping experiences.