Monthly Archives: October 2009

The role of responsibility in single parent homeschools…

Can single parents home school their children?  Most certainly yes.  The adolescent in American society has been marginalized.  Teenagers are able to do much more than society has indoctrinated us to believe.  We have come to believe that during the teenage years kids are just unable to take care of their lives.  Nothing could be further from truth.  The social beliefs held by society regarding teenagers hold that they are basically not responsible, unable to think for themselves and unable to make rational decisions.  Perhaps so, but we have trained them to be that way.

The first thing we have to do is rid ourselves of the notion that young people, after an age where they can care for themselves, are unable. Adolescence is an invented concept, an illness almost.  This condition was created to justify the continued confinement of young people in state institutions where they are forced to follow strict guidelines aiming to help them grow out of this invented malady. 

Young people are not disabled.  They may be inexperienced, untrained, lacking in the social graces but that isn’t their fault.  Rather it is the fault of a society that keeps kids in a perpetual state of childhood long after they are able to do much for themselves.  We create kids who are unable to cope with life by not allowing them to live life.  We seek to control them far beyond the years when they need or want control.  They are shackled to us as people who are actually mentally ill or disabled.  I don’t believe this is the case. 

I have come to believe that most of the problems we have with kids in this era are caused by the way we treat them especially after the age of about 12.  We have never seen an era in American history when we have so  crippled the development of young people.  How do we expect them to grow into young adults capable of taking care of themselves and their business when we keep them in de facto day care until they are close to or at the age of 18. 

We make every decision for them.  We tell them when to change classes.  We tell them that you study math from 9 to 10 in the morning nor can anything else be done during that time.   Institutions tell them when they can go to the bathroom.  They tell them when they can eat, what they can eat and give them about 25 to 30 minutes to eat.  They have little or no control over what they learn or what they want to learn.  They are often told that what they want to learn is unimportant.  They are lied to about the usefulness of many subjects in their future lives.  Complain to me about that last statement if you can still work with Quadratic Equations or have ever used them in your work.  Better yet complain to me about that statement if you didn’t eventually figure them out for yourself. 

Everything we do with kids is designed to support an invented culture.  In that culture invented labels control who you are, how valuable you are thought of and often where you will live, how much money you will make as well as whether you will be regarded as a useful member of society. 

So, in setting up a child to be able to care for herself when a parent is not around first the parent must throw out all that garbage.  Parents have to give up the idea that kids are incapable of caring for themselves.  Yes, they are still responsible to the parent legally and morally but they are able to do the work of men and women much earlier than our culture seems to think.  Can a child prepare lunch? Yes.  Can a child follow a schedule?  Yes.  Can a child stay alone after a certain age for the greater part of the day?  Yes. 

I did.  I had no choice.  At home I was regarded as a young adult able to care for myself, take care of my needs and behave responsibly during the time my single mother was at work.  I was taught that I was able and responsible from the time my father died when I was 12 years old. 

I was thrust into an environment where my mother had to work or we didn’t have bread on the table.  I had to man up.  And I responded to it.  Yes, I still did childish things.  I liked to play.  But I also owned my life.  I soon came to believe that I was man enough to make the basic decisions about my life.  I took on learning projects at a very early age at the encouragement of my mother but also on my own.  If I wanted to know something I learned it.  Soon I came to regard school as superfluous to my life.  I had enormous problems with school after that.  I didn’t get into trouble because I was taught not to disobey, but it rubbed me raw that I had to slow down for the school, do what I perceived to be silly, and surrender my independence to the school at the start of the school bell.  I was a kid who was able to cook, able to plan my own learning, able to take care of the house, able to do all the things I needed to do to live successfully on my own when my mother was not around.  

Yet, while I lived a near adult life at home, I lived the life of a child in school.  I lined up with the rest, went to the bathroom when I was told, drank water when I was told and only then.   I could not take part in the most basic social interactions people are used to in the general society.  My conversation was controlled.  Attempts were made to control my thinking.  Attempts were made to make me think what the school wanted me to think.  Those attempts were unsuccessful.  I watched friends hit with boards because they spoke out of turn, engaged in normal childish behavior, forgot something  or expressed an opinion.  And I watched the culture approve of that. 

So step one has to be when working toward developing a single parent home school to give up the idea that your child is unable.  Your child is able to do far, far more than the culture has indoctrinated us to believe.  Trust your child.  Treat him as a young adult.  Extend freedom until a breakdown occurs then talk about it, pull back a little.  But, by all means sit down with the child to show him what is needed in a given situation, then expect him to fulfil what he needs to do.  The vast majority of the time the child will come through.

Don’t forget that adolescence is an invention designed to support government schooling.  It is a concept designed to keep young men and women in a perpetual state of childhood until they are nearly 20. 

And above all remember that your child was given to you by God.  Your child does not belong to the state.  Your child is a holy gift from God with all the rights all people are born with as stated in our government documents.  We seem to be forgetting that people crave freedom, independence and self-realization.  Give those things to a child and you will see miracles occur.

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Single parent homeschooling…

Can single parents homeschool their kids. I believe the answer is yes. I do have to admit though that I am a bit of a free-thinker both where it comes to homeschooling and traditional schooling.

First, parents would have to decide on whether or not to make a committment to what to many seems to be a radical concept. Remember that schools are a 20th century invention originally conceived to produce a strong, compliant workforce. Schools were based on a Prussian system of severe discipline and the belief that students were best educated in a one sized fits all situation. In the past kids were given much, much more responsibility. They responded to it. We have largely forgotten that kids are able to do almost anything an adult can do given training. I have always been amazed to find out what kids can do when they are trusted as well as given responsibility.

The principle is simple. You extend responsibility to the child until the child proves that he or she is unable to accept any further responsibility. Then you back off to a point where the responsiblity could be managed. Then as more self-reliance is developed extend the opportunity to the child again. Am I talking about teenagers or pre-teens? I am talking about both. The positively worst thing one can do to a child is to do anything for them that they are able to do for themselves.

From the time I was in upper elementary school I was in a single family household. My father had passed away. My mother had to work to keep bread on the table. I was alone most of the time. During that time I was responsible to do what I needed to do at home as well as just enjoy myself. I would add that I was a public school student. The times I am referring to are times in the summer.

Let me just think of some things my mother did that kept track of me. First of all she called every hour on the hour. She made a schedule for me with me sitting there with her. The schedule listed everything I was going to be doing that day even if it was free time watching television. I was free to go to friends homes, ride my bike, be outside in the yard or do the other normal things kids do. Now, of course, there will be those who argue that the world is a much more dangerous place than it was then….I am 58 so we are talking about the 60’s. I wonder. I am not so certain that a kid in his or her own home is in much more actual danger. That call kept me on the straight and narrow.

Everyday during the summer I had a number of things I had to do. Those things ranged from practicing my trumpet to various home school assignments that took place even though it was the summer. I learned so much more in the summer anyway on my own. My schedule was laid out hour to hour. And I loved it because I was in on making it.

Today there are so many more technological ways to keep up with kids from gps locators to web cams in the house to text messaging and the traditional phone call. Of course all this is predicated on responsible, good parenting with good training of a responsible child. I will be the first to admit that this is not going to be possible if a parent does not set a good example themselves or hasn’t raised a respectful and responsible child.

But having said that…there is no reason why an older child cannot be left alone for extended periods of time with an arranged schedule while being in constant contact with the parent.

We are going to be looking at many more ways single-parents can home school their children in the future. I welcome your contributions as well.

God bless.

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Single Parents and home schooling, is it possible?

Yesterday, I got an excellent note from a reader named Amy. Her note was a response to my post of the 20th. I could just feel her frustration in the note. Education in this day is so difficult. The difficulties arise out of our present culture. Amy has inspired me to investigate the whole problem of how can single parents home school their kids while managing to keep body and soul together as well as staying sane. I thought today I would just make the blog entry my response to Amy’s wonderful note.

Dear Amy,

I completely understand your concerns. I have a foot in both worlds. First, I am a career teacher. Second, I am a stong advocate of home schooling and independent learning. I share your concerns. Home schooling isn’t going to be possible for everyone. There will always be a valuable place for public, private and other kinds of educational venues. Your concerns are completely valid. I have seen several creative single parents make it work while working full time jobs. First, there are so many resources out there now that did not exist years ago. I serve some families as a consultant supervisor to their kids by being in constant electronic contact with the kids and the parents. As I develop the blog, I will outline some of the ways that single parents are making it work. Tragically, about 50% of all parents are now single. Flexible day care situations help. So do family resources. Regarding the more advanced subjects the resources available to kids now are immense. I have not seen a family who wants to make advanced study work have a failure. But, there are others who can’t. In that case there are co-ops and tutorial services available. Please understand, I am not at all opposed to public/private schools in the traditional mode. Rather I am about solutions to improve the traditional school but also to develop solutions for the parent who choses to home school whether single or not. Remember that schools are a recent invention in the history of mankind. Personally I remember almost nothing I learned in school other than things I was really motivated to learn. I learned all the math I know including calculus myself. I also take it that you are a working teacher. As you know so much of the time in schools now is wasted taking care of disciplinary/social issues. Most of what is taught in twelve years can be taught in 5 to 7. I do share your concerns. Please stay with me as we work through these things together. I sense a true concern for kids in your writing. You are the kind of person who needs to be in teaching even though I sense your frustration with several things. Remember I taught for over 30 years. The last 15 I have also been involved with home schooling and independent learning. I invite you to stay with me on this journey. I also invite your comments which are excellent and perceptive. Thanks so much, John

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Socialization, lost kids…independent learning and home school

“I just wonder if the kids are being socialized properly”… often the first comment you will hear from someone who criticizes those who choose the independent route to education….But they don’t know…they can’t.  They can’t be there everyday…with kids looking for their way….trying to find a direction to go…. a leader to follow….and without a leader often they follow……..

the gang….

north, south, east, west…..

calling out to the darkness in their lives….

but there is no answer….so they find themselves….others like them….looking….lost….

socialization….what would happen if their environment were different….without the violence, the tidal power of peer influence with the pull of a black hole….unseen….dark power…..pulling them relentlessly in….relentlessly….

so is the socialization…..the lack of love….the lack of leadership….the lack of fathers…. the desperation of single mothers…..working…..ends don’t meet…..babies hungry….crying….who can look after the older ones….

too often the gangs….

so here is art….. obvious talent…..

socialization…..

 

influence2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

rhythm……

       influence5_1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 graphic awareness….

where will it go….

who will nurture the talent, the eye, the hand…..

the gang…..influence4

influence9

influence11

influence12

influence13

influence15

sense of design….

influence16

influence17

 

influence17

influence17_1

influence18

influence19

influence20

influence21

 

lost kids look for those adults who are not lost…. able to lead them away…. but they are not there….

Socialization….who do they then look to….themselves….the gang….the group….the peers

who accept them….who provide something that looks like love….

love unsupplied…. lives lost….. blood in the streets….. in the gutter…. running into the waste water…..

socialization…..so who in the end do we want kids to look up to…..God….their parents……

their parents……. that is why we…..

Socialize to the family…..

to the parents…..

to love….

that they all need.

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What about this independent stuff….Independent learning and Home schoolng

One of my youth ministry kids has this quote on his MySpace… “To live is the rarest gift in the world,  most people exist and that is all”….16 years old already possessing wisdom it takes others years to obtain….he was a home schooled kid for about 2 years.  I home schooled him during a time when his mother was extremely ill.  He is right to live is most certainly the rarest gift in the world….so many just exist….walking through time as if there will come no end….accomplishing what?  

Guitarist in development

Guitarist in development

During that time he mastered Algebra, geography, history, wrote a books worth of journals, wrote several autobiographical stories, as well as becoming a very proficient guitarist. 
Time….was something I was able to give him while he schooled at home.  As he wondered if he would lose his mother, he had time without pressure, time without bells, time without square cubicles governed by some who would understand and some who wouldn’t understand, time to work on algebra a lot, time to take field trips to parks and historical sites.
But, he is a musician first, just as I was.  Musicians need time. 
Every day after his other work he spent hours on the guitar…fingers flying….frustration then triumph, new plateau the more frustration, then more triumph….his self-esteem soared…. tastes expanding everyday from rock to the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet….so much music to absorb.
But he found he had time…..
That’s independent learning…. time….no pressure….mastery.   Every great musician, painter, sculpture, wood worker and artist was an independent learner… often very, very different….so different they didn’t fit in school….so different many were kicked out of school, labeled stupid, or disciplinary problems…yes
Yes art takes time….creativity grows without pressure, training your hands, your eyes, nothing will happen with pressure, just intensity….which the right place help you to develop.
Creative woodworking ideas don’t just happen, there must be time…
work of John McGeough

work of John McGeough

work of John McGeough

work of John McGeough

Time lets you work until it is right….just as practicing the guitar can only make you great with time…..long blocks of time….
Independent learnng….time to pursue excellence,  time to pursue love, time to fulfil talent.

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Why I love independent learning

identification

identification

thought
thought

The only way I could learn to conduct was on my own with my brilliant tutor and mentor Robert Linder.

I can read the bible when I want to read the bible.

I can worship when I want, pray when I want, and sing praises when I want.

I only way I could wander the woods learning the trees and plants was with my grandfather and by myself.

I learned kindness from my mother and grandmother and my Aunt Isabel at home.

I learned to make tomato gravy from my Aunt Isabel who loved me and who I loved.

I love to read what I want to read.

direction

direction

I can be creative.

I can finally design my own learning projects.

I can study what the bible says about being a better man.

I love to follow my heart. 

I am stubborn. 

I remember what I choose to learn.

Everything important I learned happened after I left school.

I like being able to mess around with materials like paint, paper, leaves, stems, shells, on and on.

escape

escape

I love math when I can follow my desires to learn it.

I love science when I have time to connect it to what it means.

I am one who values independence.

I never liked being told to stand in line.

I could be as intellectually weird as I wanted to be at home.

I could learn as fast as I could.

I didn’t have to wait.

I hated leaving something I loved to go to something I really disliked after 40 minutes.

I knew everything I took at school wasn’t the most important thing I would learn.

I love arguing.

I love libraries.

I love listening to Mozart while I study.

I love surfing the web for knowledge as I loved surfing the library for knowledge.

I can go to the bathroom anytime I need to go.

I can practice trumpet for hours.

I can lay on my back in the sun and think

I can think.

I can use internet sites to discuss things with real people in other countries.

I can find where things are happening on Google Earth.

I can read as many newspapers and sites as I want. 

I can prepare real lessons for kids who want to learn as their tutor.

I can write what I want to write.

work by John McGeough

work by John McGeough

I can research anything.

I can learn anything.

I can blog.

I can go to MIT on a website.

I can learn from brilliant minds on TEDtalks.

I can pursue a line of thought as far as I want.

I can write sermons.

I can try to see the universe in a grain of sand.

destroying angels

destroying angels

I can continue to learn to cook.

I can be inspired by beautiful and brilliant blogs.

I can compare totally different views on political issues.

I can fulfil my talents.

I can value my talents.

I can learn Gaelic.

I can be me.

I can call a congressional office.

I can try to find out why….anything.

I can go visit someone who is sick.

I can find out what that mushroom is that is growing in my yard.

I can watch snow peas grow.

I can examine an insect under my microscope.

I can study photography.

I can learn micro photography.

I can go to Sheldon Reservoir to get algae samples.

I can woodwork.

I can design my next wooden toy.

I was never hesitant to be intelligent at home.

I never felt different at home, or in a library, or at a university.

I could stop and watch the world go by.

 I can follow my muse.

I can let my mind wander.

I can walk along the seashore analyzing wave patterns.

I can do stock photography to improve my eye.

There is no end to why I love independent learning…or why I preach it to others…God gave us gifts and we can be free to use them….

curious

curious

 All photographs by John McGeough

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Woodwork and Homeschooling and the art of “doing”

I study the lines of a wall cabinet….a piece made to take to Humble Trade days this weekend….proportioned to the Golden Ratio.  I work in the shadow of the greats….minds like Pythagoras, Fibonacci, and Johannes Kepler….all who revered and valued the ratio….the Golden Mean…everything in the cabinet is constructed according to the Mean…

The ratio says that one line is beautiful if related to another by 1.6180339887….numbers without meaning to most.  But holy to others…biologists, artists, architects and so many others have found the mathematics of beauty in the Golden Mean.  It is a ratio that strikes a chord in the human mind and heart…for to our eye it looks like nature…because it is nature.  The Golden Mean is expressed in the relationship of branches to trees.  We are built according to its descriptions….No less a man than Galileo say the Mean in the way we are constructed.  

So, I used geometry, also algebra and a bit of calculus because I don’t construct in right angles…..

And since my cabinet is of the west, I studied western architecture….the ranches, homes of the natives of New Mexico….living history….fitting my work into a cultural lineage that goes back into the dim mists of time. 

History…of New Mexico, Texas, the New World, Spain….what things you must know to build good furniture…not without problems however….then research until the technical problem is solved….How do I build a cabinet that stands partly in the tradition of the west which means Hispanic culture and also in the classical lines of the Golden Mean…. Research…learning….

Reading….I read books on Hispanic and western architecture, technique in working with mesquite, the origins and use of Turquoise, the symbols I use on the cabinet to let it tell of hope and faith and a good future…. Reading….

Tired….having done real work, moving wood, moving machines, cleaning up…actual physical education for  a classical purpose….

I look again at my geometry curious….Golden spirals, along with Logarithmic spirals….how would I have ever learned about those….

And where does red oak grow, and mesquite?   Red Oak…grows leaves with 7 to 11 lobes each… this fabulous tree can grow two feet a year…no wonder the one in the neighbor’s yard seems bigger everyday….I would never have guessed that it tolerates pollution well making it a good city dweller.  But it likes zones 3 through 8 basically the southern United States…a tree of the south…with grain so open you can breath through it.  But a beautiful wood it is too. 

The geography of Mesquite includes the American Southwest….of the American Indians…..a tree that is a bearer of beans, knurled branches, not tall but rugged…a bearer of beans and vicious thorns….thorns that can puncture a modern tire.. the beans can be ground into flour…meat roasted on mesquite is heavenly…

Today across america millions of kids sat in geometry, algebra and math classes wondering what is it for?  I wish we taught them that math is for building houses, boats and calculating doses of medicines given to precious children…that they could learn this by doing or seeing it… no….doctors of common sense have said no, it must be learned in the abstract then tested in the abstract….dead like the body of a dissected cat… and we wonder why they are rebellious….we wonder why they are bored…

Over the last few years school board after school board in their infinite simpleness eliminated practicality for theoretical learning….for they listen to the doctors of common sense who may never have taught a living child instead of listening to their own hearts….they have grown simple by listening to those who have set themselves up as experts.  But, I forget, many of them are products of industrial assembly line education as well…How could they know better…they were raised with the system that corrupted them….and they remain corrupted because they were taught to read problems and do artificial problems rather than life. 

So we send them to school, to walk from square to square, to follow a bell…Pavlov would be proud…so would the Prussians of old who did not value individualism but simple obedience….and they try to learn in the abstract…

Would they were at home living life in the woodshop or the metal shop… or on a commercial fishing boat….practicing a difficult musical instrument…studying real math to accomplish real goals…instead of the false assignments of the schools….

When I decided to do woodwork, I got a book and found a mentor….then I “did”….How many kids can build every stick of furniture in their home when they graduate high school, how many could grow enough food on a suburban lot to feed themselves in times of scarcity….none today unfortunately….but now much of the furniture in my home is home built by my hands,  hands that never took a class on woodworking…..what a message there.  

How badly we are failing our children… by letting them be educated by the government instead of the people who should be educating them….their parents….but the things we worship are important…the nightly mass of the television set…the rituals of Monday night football….the university of life being watched instead of being lived.   

If you want to learn “do”.  If you want to be a sheep….well that’s the easy way…

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