All posts by Stacy Conaway

Ten Signs You Need to Find a Different Kind of Education for Your Child

This post comes from an original article by Jerry Mintz at the Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) website: The Ten Signs You Need to Find a Different Kind of Education for Your Child. Published here with permission from AERO. Click over to the article for more of Jerry’s thoughts on alternative education models, and find out if the AERO Conference might be something for you and your family.

1. Does your child say he or she hates school?

If so, something is probably wrong with the school. Children are natural learners, and when they’re young, you can hardly stop them from learning. If your child says they hate school, listen to them.

2. Does your child find it difficult to look an adult in the eye, or to interact with older or younger children?

If so, your child may have become “socialized” to interact only with peers within their own age group—a very common practice in most schools—and may be losing the ability to communicate with a broader group of children and adults.

3. Does your child seem fixated on designer labels and trendy clothes for school?

This is a symptom of an approach that emphasizes external rather than internal values, causing children to rely on shallower means of comparison and acceptance, rather than deeper values.

4. Does your child come from school tired and cranky?

While a student can have a hard day in any school, consistent exhaustion and irritability are sure signs that their educational experiences are not energizing, but actually debilitating.

5. Does your child come home complaining about conflicts that they’ve had in school, or unfair situations that they have been exposed to?

This may mean that the school does not have a student-centered approach to conflict resolution and communication. Many schools rely on swift, adult-issued problem solving, depriving children of their ability to emotionally process and thoughtfully discuss the situation at hand.

6. Has your child lost interest in creative expression through art, music, and dance?

Within the traditional system, these creative outlets are often considered secondary to “academic” areas, and are not as widely encouraged. In some cases, courses in these areas are not even offered any more. This neglect often devalues, or extinguishes, these natural talents and abilities in children.

7. Has your child stopped reading or writing—or pursuing a special interest—just for fun? Are they investing the bare minimum in homework?

This is often a sign that spontaneous activities and student independence are not being valued in their school. Children have a natural inclination to direct their own learning; however, an emphasis on meeting standardized test requirements limits the abilities of teachers to nurture and encourage this inclination. The result can be an increasing apathy toward subjects that were once exciting, and a loss of creativity.

8. Does your child procrastinate until the last minute to do homework?

This is a sign that the homework is not really meeting his or her needs—perhaps it’s “busy work” or rote memorization—and may be stifling to their natural curiosity.

9. Does your child come home talking about anything exciting that happened in school that day?

If not, maybe nothing in school is exciting for your child. Why shouldn’t school—and education—be a fun, vibrant, and engaging place?

10. Did the school nurse or guidance counselor suggest that your child may have a “disease,” like ADHD, and should be given Ritalin or another behavior regulating drug?

Be wary of these diagnoses and keep in mind that much of the traditional school curriculum these days is behavior control. If test requirements limit a teacher’s ability to engage students, if students are discouraged from following their own passions and expected to sit for five or six hours a day with limited personal attention and interaction, I suggest it’s the school that has the disease, EDD—Educational Deficit Disorder—and it might be time to get your child out of that situation!

Discuss this post at the Alternative Living & Learning forums here.

Original AERO article by Jerry Mintz here. Definitely worth a read.

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EDUCATION: NEXT GENERATION

This is a free online conference scheduled for May 23-27, 2016. Sign up for the conference on their website at www.ednextgen.com. They will be interviewing 25 experts discussing social emotional learning and mindfulness.

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Is Unschooling an Experiment?

Most of us grew up in the public school system, and so naturally our frame of reference may be limited to this particular model of education. It’s easy to conclude that since we did it this way, and most everyone around us does it this way, then it must be the best way.

From such a limited viewpoint many people may see unschooling (natural, child-led learning) as a radical experiment: something new, unproven, maybe even a little crazy. But when we take a broader view of history and look at how humans have lived and learned and thrived over many centuries, we can see that compulsory public schooling is actually the “new” experiment—an experiment whose results are rightly being called into question by many people today.

In 2008 Peter Gray*, research professor of psychology at Boston College, published an instructive article titled “A Brief History of Education” where he lays out how public schools came about, how we got to where we are today, and some of the motivations behind the expansion of the public school system. (Hint: the motivations were rarely about the healthy development and well-being of children.)

Dr Gray’s article is really good, I encourage you to read it. Here are a few excerpts:

If we want to understand why standard schools are what they are, we have to abandon the idea that they are products of logical necessity or scientific insight. They are, instead, products of history. Schooling, as it exists today, only makes sense if we view it from a historical perspective.

In the beginning, for hundreds of thousands of years, children educated themselves through self-directed play and exploration.

For various reasons, some religious and some secular, the idea of universal, compulsory education arose and gradually spread. Education was understood as inculcation. […] The only known method of inculcation, then as well as now, is forced repetition and testing for memory of what was repeated.

Employers in industry saw schooling as a way to create better workers. To them, the most crucial lessons were punctuality, following directions, tolerance for long hours of tedious work, and a minimal ability to read and write.

Everyone assumed that to make children learn in school the children’s willfulness would have to be beaten out of them. Punishments of all sorts were understood as intrinsic to the educational process. In some schools children were permitted certain periods of play (recess), to allow them to let off steam; but play was not considered to be a vehicle of learning. In the classroom, play was the enemy of learning.

Read the full article here:
www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/200808/brief-history-education

Discuss this post in our Alternative Living & Learning Forums here.


* Peter Gray, PhD researches and publishes on how children learn, with a specific focus on the role of play in the learning and development process. He spoke at the 2015 Texas Unschoolers conference. A video of that talk, called The Biology of Education, can be seen below.

Peter Gray: The Biology of Education

TEDx video: The Decline of Play, by Peter Gray

Peter Gray’s 2014 talk at TEDxNavesink

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Introducing Alternative Living & Learning Forums

We have recently added something to the Texas Unschoolers website.

The Alternative Living & Learning forums — at texasunschoolers.com/community.

One thing we have found is that when families begin to question the public education system and ultimately find their way to unschooling or another approach, they often begin to question and reevaluate many other institutions and “standard” practices in our society — work, religion, politics, health care, parenting, diet, technology, and more. Our goal with the discussion forums is to provide a place for people to talk about these topics, share their experiences, and learn about possible new paths of their own.

Registration on the forums is free, and you may use your real name or remain anonymous. An email address is required to verify your account and your personal information is kept confidential. There is a Frequently Asked Questions page to help you learn your way around the site, and you can use the Contact Us link at the bottom of each page to get in touch if you have questions.

We hope you will join in the discussions and be part of a growing community of families seeking a better way.

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Fotor (free image editor)

FotorIf you or your kids are looking for a Photoshop-like program for image editing and basic graphic design, Fotor is a free application you might want to check out. They have versions for the Mac and Windows. You can also get it for iPhone and Android devices.

I downloaded the Mac version a few weeks ago and found Fotor to be surprisingly full-featured for a free app. You can do basic edits to images (crop, resize, straighten), add text and borders, make adjustments to exposure, saturation and white balance, make photo cards and banners, or add several different effects to the image. There is also a nice collage option that lets you group together several photos with a frame or some interesting shape combinations. You can export your finished work to JPG, PNG, BMP or TIFF formats.

Fotor is definitely worth a look, especially for anyone who is looking to get started with some basic image editing and graphic design skills. They also offer some of these features as an online editor at their website so you can try them out before downloading if you want.

Stacy

 

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