Category Archives: nontraditional learning

Reflective Learning Journals

Information processing…  A concept that is so, so important but so limited in our busy world…. So what do we do to add to our information processing….our number crunching… our mental data filing.  Well there is something magical about the hands… there is almost no learning that does not involve the hands in some way… there is a message in this…

Writing… drawing… coloring… cutting… pasting… all can be part of an information processing strategy… The best examples of this kind of journal can be found by studying the way some of the most awesome minds in the history of the world learned.  Consider the journals of Leonardo…

Leonardo’s journals included everything… he did studies of zoology,  human anatomy,  drafts of writings,  diagrams of weapons, studies for his great artworks….he literally wrote down every thought he had in the course of his life… They are fascinating to look at for their diversity of thought and creativity…. they are essentially trains of thought as they occurred to him… in great detail….

So how do we use this idea… first get a good journal… I like Moleskin journals because I just can’t seem to tear them up…  Get one for every discipline you are studying..  One of my great friends has a journal in which he has his essential knowledge… quotes… formulas… drawings… and so much else…

As you read, think, study, or reflect, write down every thought you have no matter how seemingly unimportant…. then follow it if it seems to lead somewhere else….

Write down every question you have about the subject…don’t be shy…Leonardo constantly referred to his lack of learning…write down questions that come from reading… those that come from reflections… as well as those that may seem silly…

Write down things you are trying to remember… there is something magic about the hand… in writing is processing… amazing things happen when one writes down questions…. facts… learnings….

Then answer your questions….  you will find that one answer to a question leads to another question… then another and another… until you have learned as much as someone who took several courses in the discipline…

If you are a writer… write down things about your characters that you may need later… never trust your memory… a good idea drifts off into space so quickly you can’t imagine.  

Include articles you find… cut them out and paste them in… then write their significant points in the journal… draw their significant points…. outline them… but whatever you do.. just work the material… so it will be digested….

Don’t worry …. in this process you will find that you wake up each day with more understanding… the more information you collect the greater your mental database will grow….

Cut pictures from magazines, journals, books,,, (your books)  and paste these into your journals with captions that explain to your their meaning… to you not to someone else….to you…

Draw your concepts… forget artistry if you aren’t an artist… try to get as close as possible… just work a concept until you have learned it…. don’t study it… work it… process it… play with it… just run it through your mind without fear that you wont learn…. you…will…learn….

Reflect… take time to write a couple of pages that consolidate what you are learning in one place.  Your wonderful brain will absorb this material… you will also find that this form of reflection will point out what you don’t know…

Set aside a few pages to write lists or goals about things to do to learn more about your subject. 

If your discipline works with photography, travel to take pictures of locations, collect and photography samples… the act of hunting for samples will force you to explore….

Explore and note what you find… travel, research, go to libraries… make notes… carry your notebook with you where you go on your hunt… I cannot imagine that Leonardo traveled without his notebooks. 

Reflect, collect, write, record…. and learn…. journaling is one of your best independent or home school learning tools…..

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Developing internet Textbooks for home schooling or independent learning

I’ve been a few days since the last post.  My job as a teacher at the end of a semester takes up a lot of time from writing.  But that’s the way it should be.  But I’m back and inspired.

Organizing data….. one of the most useful things a home schooler, or distance learner can do.  There are ever more sophisticated techniques to collect information and organize it. 

Perhaps you or your child is about to take up the study of  weather.  You might want to call your book Internet Weather.  Immediately begin to design your course of study.  I you are like many people you will need some direction to understand exactly what you want to cover or understand what needs to be covered. 

Search for a syllabus for weather on Google or Bing.  You will have several thousand come up.  Now you decide how technical you want to go.  I actually like to use a notebook to list topic headings.  I find cutting and pasting to be something I don’t want to do all day. 

Look for a syllabus or topic arrangement that splits the topics into a logical hierarchy.  As you go through the links from your search look for topics that might have been left out of your first topic list. 

The next thing to do is to start the internet textbook.  Start a page in Word, Publisher, or a Webpage.  Google Documents are wonderful as are other open office suites on the web.  Place your major topic headings in place on the first page of your document.

After you have placed your major topic headings label them as chapters.  Then begin to accumulate links that contain information relevant to the chapter.  As you continue this process you will begin to understand even more what you need to include. 

I have included an example of one on weather that I created as a reference.  This particular one isn’t complete but you will be able to see the process and get the idea.  This really isn’t hard.  And doing this can save you a tremendous amount of money in the long run.  You can choose to leave it on the document as a set of links or print it out.

A Weather Textbook

 

by
 
John J. McGeough
 
 
The development of internet self-study resources is going to become an important skill in the future of independent education.  The purpose of this document is to function as an experiment in the development of a personal study textbook. 
 
Introduction
 
      A.  USA Today Fronts
 
    B. Guide to science of the atmosphere
 
    C. Time as it is used by weather resources….
        z time
 
1. Reading weather maps online….
 
2. Earth’s Atmosphere
    a. Atmospheric density
    b. The Greenhouse Effect
    c.  Earths Atmospheric structure diagram
    d. Earths atmospheric layers explained 
   e.  Earths atmosphere links from eMints
 
3. The Seasons
 
    a.      What causes the seasons? 
    b.      Activities for the seasons.
    c.      Another view of the seasons. 
 
4. Solar and Terrestrial Radiation
 
    a.    Basics of solar radiations effect on Earth’s weather.
    b.    Solar radiation and the earth’s atmosphere
    c.     NOAA Space Weather and relation to Earth’s weather
 
5. atmospheric Heat and Temperature
 
    a.  The Earths atmosphere and heat
    b.  Atmospheric heat
    c.  Methods of heat transfer in the atmosphere
    
6. Atmospheric Moisture
 
    a.  Atmospheric moisture and the Earth
         
 
    
7. Atmospheric stability and instability
 
    a.  Weather and water page
    b.  Atmospheric stability and instability
    
8. Condensation and precipitation
     
    a.  Atmospheric condensation and precipitation
     b.  types of precipitation
     c.  Forms of precipitation
    
9. Atmospheric pressure and wind
 
    a.  Atmospheric pressure and wind demonstrations
     b.  Atmospheric pressure makes the wind blow
     c.  Air pressure and wind
 
10.  Global Atmospheric Circulation
 
        a.  Global atmospheric circulation
           b.  Global atmospheric circulation animation
           c.  Global scale circulation
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Organizing information you collect for your learning project

Many years ago, long before my adventure into woodworking, I was fascinated by the idea of information.  I wanted to learn ways to organize it, categorize it and keep it in a manner so that I could access it anytime I wanted.  More importantly I wanted a way to keep a sensible record of the learning projects that I undertook.  I wanted a way to actually organize a notebook into a course of study as I went along learning about a subject.  I soon found out that every subject or discipline or skill lent itself to a particular way of organizing.

Notebooks and organization

Woodworking seemed to become a collection of photocopied articles and notes.  For this I used two things.  The first was a Moleskin gridded notebook.  I love these notebooks because they are almost impossible to tear up regardless of the abuse I give them.  I am in the habit of carrying one or two of them around with me at all times.   I start off by numbering the pages from 1 to the last page.  Then I reserve the first 5 to 8 pages for a Table of Contents.  As I read a book I make notes from the book in the gridded notebook.  I will either block quote or summarize what I have just read.  When I had finished a relevant section or something that I felt stood by itself I made a note of it in the table of contents.  So as I made notes on my reading or lectures I heard I had a complete record and easy way to find them using the Table of Contents.  In addition to notes I would write down thoughts, draw ideas for projects, or draw things I saw.  I also placed photographs into the book.  Each one, of course, was entered into the Table of contents.  In the beginning I tried to glue photocopied articles into the Moleskin notebooks.  But that proved unworkable as I accumulated a large set of photocopied and scanned materials.  So I decided to get a good three-ring binder for the articles. 

Three Ring Binders for photocopies and scans

When I purchased a three-ring binder I did the same thing first.  I placed several sheets of notebook paper in the front to work as a Table of Contents.  Then when I included a photographed article I numbered the pages of the article as I hole punched them to be placed in the binder.  As I placed the articles in I would add them into the Table of Contents with their title and page number.  I didn’t try to organize the articles by any type of theme or subject division in the beginning.  I found that i generally knew which notebook or which three-ring binder contained what.  I always made a title page with general lists of information to be found in the notebook or binder.  In that way I kept all of the information I was using organized. 

Should you use a computer to do this?

I have to confess that I am almost a complete computer geek.  If there is something I can do on a computer then I will do it.  But, when it came to the notebooks and the binders of articles.  I decided to keep the physical materials.  First, the electronics of a notebook computer and the dust in a woodshop make horrible playmates.  Secondly, while I often have a computer with me I often find it inconvenient to actually use.  There is the reality of battery life.  Then I always feel paranoid if I have to walk away from the computer in a library or some other public place.  A notebook can be easily carried as can a three-ring binder.  I’ve found that for every learning project I wind up with a notebook of hand notes – always a large gridded Moleskin.  By the way, I am in no way affiliated with Moleskin products.  They are just wonderful products that seem to meet my needs. 

The Calendar

I always carried an academic year calendar with me to note everything I do from getting up to going to bed.  I also use it to plan days but it becomes almost a journal.  I enter what I do when I do it.  I also make notes of conversations, locations, travel times and everything else in the calendar.  Within a short time you will find it to be indispensible.  My only criteria for my calendars is that they must show the day in hours.  When my mother became ill during the last weeks of her life, I kept notes of everything in the calendar.  When I spoke to the doctor or nurse about my moms condition I made a note of the conversation.  That saved the day on several occasions when someone said to me I didn’t say that.  I would just open the calendar and show them what they had said.  It also becomes a complete listing of everything you do during any given day.  If you are working this can become evidence of what you are doing on the job.  For a child, getting in the habit of keeping a record of your actions is invaluable training.  I now have many years of these notebooks.  They are fascinating to go back and look at what I was doing at a particular date and time.

The Tie between the articles and the notebook…

Most often I would also have notes about the article in each of the notebooks.  So if that were the case I would make a note of where to find the article in the three rings.  I was also careful to make notes about the books so I would have complete bibliography information.

No need for formal training for most things.

By using this system you will soon have your own texts written.  You will have accumulated a personal store of knowledge that will be beyond compare.  You will also be much more knowledgeable and organized than 99 out of 100 people in the US.  In  the next few blogs I am going to talk about how to organize a course of study so that you can design your own personal coursework and keep records so that you have a possibility of getting credit. 

I will also show you how to put this all on computer so that it can be digitalized and backed up.

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Learning projects as the key to independent learning

We all learn what we must by creating our own content.  By this I mean that sitting through a lecture is passive.  We learn by doing.  So much of what we do in our work is learned through our work.  I know it is entirely possible to teach yourself virtually anything.  I’ve done it many times.  Most of what I know I was introduced to in school at best.  The real learning took place when I began to “practice” the skills as a teacher.  The best learning skill I stumbled across was trying to break down things I was to teach so they could be understood by my students.   My students learned a little.  I mastered my subject. 

A few years ago I decided that I wanted to buy new end tables to go with a new sofa I had purchased.  I had just moved into a new house.  Furnishing it on a limited budget was proving to be a challenge.  Everything I looked at that I liked was out of my price range.  Everything I looked at that was in my price range was, frankly, junk.  I was completely frustrated.  But, a peculiar thing had just happened.  I had seen the movie called “The Edge”.  In the movie the main characters are trapped in the wilderness after a plane crash.  They are then pursued by a killer bear.  The point of telling you about the movie is that a line in the movie helped resolve my end table problem as well as giving me a way to add to my income substantially.  At one desperate point in the movie the main character says to another character trying to goad him into going on the line “what one man can do, another man can do”.  He repeats it again and again.  He makes the secondary character yell the phrase until he is pumped up enough to go on. 

So, standing in a furniture store I recalled that line from the movie.  I started looking at the end table I liked.  I turned it over, examined it from every angle and decided that this was something I should be able to build.  To that point I had never cut a piece of wood in my life.  So I set myself a problem.  I would become a woodworker.  I went to a bookstore looking for books on woodworking.  I bought several.  Then I spent the next two or three weeks reading everything I could about woodwork.  I went to woodworking stores with a picture of the end table I wanted.  The guy in the store said “first you build a box”.  Of course, I then asked him how to build a box as well as what tools I would need to build one.  He took me to a cabinet in the store.  First, he took the drawers out which he explained were open boxes.  Then he showed me the frame of the cabinet which turned out to be, guess what, a box that had a simple support structure for the drawers.  Then he showed me a copy of a magazine that had a plan for end tables, a dresser and a bed.  I asked him what I needed at the bare minimum to complete the job.  I bought a basic table saw and a couple of hand tools.  I had a number of tools at home in my garage that I inherited from my father. 

I studied the plans until I had them memorized.  Then I bought some oak plywood along with a couple of oak boards as the plan specified.  Within a week I had my two end tables made that were stronger than anything I had found in the store.  Today much of the furniture in my house is my work.  I also sell custom furniture.  Soon I learned to do other types of woodwork which I now sell at shows and through galleries.  My work is in homes all over the country.  Later I took a few classes which taught me new techniques.  But for the most part I simply ran into a problem then found a solution. 

I had embarked on what has become a life-long learning project that has furnished my home as well as giving me a substantial second income.  In that way I learned woodworking to the point where I am able to build virtually anything I want to have in my house.  I’ve also learned how to make it look as good as that which can be found in fine furniture stores.  In the process after the initial addition of some tools I have saved thousands of dollars on furnishings.   So, this is how you learn… 

First, set yourself a problem.

Then identify what you need to know to solve the problem.  I will outline how to do this in future entries in this series of posts.

Follow through with a plan while you learn by doing. 

Change course when needed. 

Add layers of complexity to your skill set as you go. 

Continue to do so until you are a master at the particular skill you are trying to learn. 

Remember that a learning project can be small or large.  A learning project can be easy or seriously complicated.  But you can teach yourself virtually anything while getting help from instructors when needed as you go along.  Most of what you do will be researched from the web or other print sources. 

In this way you can learn anything.  We will examine these processes in detail as we go along.  I invite you to stay with me on this journey in the discovery of how we really learn. 

And, you will do most of it at home.   

What we do with young people is almost completely passive.  They sit attempting to receive information in a way that is completely alien to the way people actually learn.  One cannot learn to ride a bicycle listening to detailed instructions being given about how to sit on the bike, how to move the pedals or how to steer.  One has to get on the bicycle to learn to ride.   Similarly, you can’t learn to swim without getting wet.  Kids can’t learn to swim by standing on the side of the pool practicing strokes.  They have to get into the water to actually apply the principles they must use to swim.

There are several things mature learners can do to ensure that they master what they want to know.  Parents working with home school kids can guide their children in duplicating what a mature, efficient learner will do.

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Questions and the Golden Thread….

october

 

It’s October ….how is that possible….only a few days ago was the day  of the funeral….then a wonderful, beautiful time at loving relatives for a first meal without a deeply loved person….  no, it was a year ago….time passes, healing happens. 

October.

October questions…today I asked a boy what October meant.  Learning is so strange…..a word follows a golden thread on and on….

Shorter days….the boy of summer said…”I don’t like it.  It gets cold”.  Why?  I asked.  “I’ll google it.” …. he walks over to the computer….. amazing world….I would have had to go without october knowledge….but this mere boy has the world ….. all of knowledge – well most of it…..  the Library of Congress may have less.  

“What did you find?”  ….  “Whats a Gregorian Calendar?”  was his answer?   Serendipity intervenes…..”What is a Gregorian calendar?” I respond….I get the – you aren’t going to tell me look again –  then a “wait a minute”..  

October….10th month of the Gregorian Calendar…. a calendar that came about because the Romans – actually Julius Caesar –  made a calendar …..the Julian Calendar….it was a calendar that was off by 11 1/2 minutes a year from the real passage of the sun through our glorious sky.  11 1/2 minutes….. “why would that be a big deal”  summer boy said.      

“How much time is that in a decade”?   …..   “115 minutes was the answer after a few minutes of blunt pencil scribbling…. decades became centuries……  the sixteenth century finally makes it onto the yellow pad… “How many days is 14,400 minutes?”  …..  more scribbling….furrowed brows…time passes….  “10 days?” summer boy asks with a question in his voice… “What do you think?”  I, his maddening tutor asks.   “Yea that’s it”. 

“Julius Caesar really got it wrong”.   “So, what happened” infuriating tutor asks. ….. a small smile…..  “I knew you were going to ask that”….

“Pope Gregory fixed it.”  “Who was that?”  “He was Pope in 1582 and he fixed it”….. “How?” ….  loud sigh combined with a big smile…. “He just stuck on 10 days”.  “Ok”, tutor says….. silence….”You want more?” summer boy giggles…. “Yea”……

“If a year is a century it’s a leap year if it divides by 400”.. “right”, tutor replies ….  thunder rolls, lights blink…..summer boy grabs the computer screen and says “Don’t you dare”…..

“We use this thing….now”  summer boy says with surprise….   “Why?”…. “cause it works.  It only gets off 1 day every 3,320 years”.   Summer boy does an awe inspiring pantomime of a person about to faint.

………………………

So people went to sleep on night and woke up 10 days later in 1582….. and because of that before we were through today a boy learned about the sun, the orbit of the Earth, time, math, multiplication, Pope Gregory, century upon century….more and more…hours passed…the golden thread of the question had laid out a tapestry of knowledge for summer boy and I….

Curriculum on curriculum… because  of October…. the tenth month that shares its first day with January in years that are not leap years….in those years October and January start on the same day of the week…. 

October is alone, lonely in leap years…. no month agrees to put its’ first day on the same day of the week as October….

One day in 3,320 years……Pope Gregory figured it out…. and today many summer boys would never know….

How strange is real learning when you follow the golden thread….

How wonderful are October questions…..

October…disliked by boys who love summer…..swimming, baseball, running in new-mown grass….

Questions are the golden thread of real learning.

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Give your life to a purpose, passionate living, home school, independent learning

I have a great challenge for you tonight.  What do you want to give your life for.  No, I’m not talking about dying a noble death.  I’m talking, no, I’m asking you to find something worth living for, not dying for.  I want you to find one or more passions; things worth spending your life doing or learning about.  Something worth dreaming about for hours during the day.  A thing worth planning years ahead, plotting, laying out a trail to lead to a golden end.   I have three.  First, the life of the mind takes center stage.  How do we actually learn.  Why is it that so few of us live exciting intellectual lives when I believe that most of us could live a passionate intellectual life.  And, on the practical side of it.  How do kids best learn.  I am convinced it’s not at school for most kids.  For me, school was a 12 year long prison sentence.  As  a teacher I work everyday of my life to try to make schools – or at least my little corner of the school world into a vibrant place that young people love.  Second, I practice two arts; photography and woodworking.  They are my connections to sanity as well as an extra income stream.  I am fascinated by the beauty of transcendent craft in wood.  The beauty of an artfully produced photograph always stuns me.  I drift from one to the other.  The third is bird watching.  Bird watching is as much a connection to God as the church.  In birds I see the magnificence of His creation.  I see the infinite variety, infinate adaptations, transcendent colors and the thing I dream about most – flight.  The photography, the woodwork, and the bird watching are for me.  The study of the mind as well as how it learns is for the world.  I want you to find something to change the world. 

Egotistic you say?  Not at all.  The field I have set for myself is impossible.  How people learn, how they make knowledge their own, then grow into experts is so hard a mine to explore that I will not live long enough to make a change I fear.  That is probably one of my greatest nightmares; that I know I will die before I have learned it all or made the difference I want to make to kids and other people who are trying to learn.   Not all people do learn.  Some shut down after the 12 year prison sentence that school was for me.   They never want to pick up a pen or pencil again because we have squeezed the guts out of the pleasure.  By the time many kids get out of school they find themselves ready to cast away the vestments of school to run as far away as possible.  To be naked of school is their goal.  But so many never find the joy out of school.  These unfortunates have been so convinced that learning cannot be a thing of transcendent joy that they look upon learning as a child looks upon vomit.  So they run, ridicule and resist any further intellectual life.  They have had enough.  They have fed at the table of knowledge and found it poisonous. 

What I am asking you to do, if you are one of the   many who have started to follow these electronic scribblings, is to find a new passion.  It’s there.   Somewhere in the darkest, cobweb infested mind there is a corner where a dim flame still burns waiting for holy breath to blow it into raging flame.  You had something you wanted to learn to do, or say, or perform at one time.  When you were a little child still resisting the poison of industrial education you still had it.  You looked at it with love.  Perhaps it was a love for a subject or a project that was so deep it went beyond love into obsession. 

You will find something to take out of that corner which can be dusted, made new and shiny, ready to be loved again.  You will find something as beautiful as I find discovering what it is that really, genuinely brings out that passion in a child.  That passion that says I have to do this thing or I will just wilt.  My life will die.  Look around you on your commuter train or look from your car.  Look at the faces of those going to work at jobs where they will labor with a sense of quiet desperation.  Perhaps you are one of those.  Stop it!  At least devote some of your time to the thing that makes your soul soar to the Heavens when you are doing it.  I’m not telling you to quit your job.  No, but, I am telling you to become an independent learner with a purposeful life seeking to add to human knowledge. 

Eric Hoffer discovered his passion.  Hoffer wrote ten books while he labored as a longshoreman.  His “True Believer” which set the standard in the social science study of self-esteem as it effects fanatical movements.  While he labored on the docks he contemplated the rise of totalitarianism and the loss of the self.  His postulate was that fanaticism had its gnarled, arthritic claws firmly planted in self-hatred, self-hate and insecurity.  All of this Hoffer did with little formal education and a labor job on the docks.  Eric Hoffer is now a major figure looked up to in the social sciences.  Had he let himself believe that he was less worthwhile for lacking the college degrees and the paper expertise of the dilettante, he would never have changed the course of American social thought. 

Frans Lanting is a photographer.  He discovered his passion in the Albatross.  These magnificent seabirds of the deep oceans are slowly yielding their secrets to Lanting.  He has made photographing them, documenting their lives his life’s work.  As he developed his photographic skills he came back to them over and over.  He is now the leading photographer of this magnificent species as well as one of the world’s foremost experts on the Albatross.  All through his pursuit of photography he intended to show the world the magnificence of the bird he loves.

Don’t live a life of quiet desperation.  Discover your passion.  Perhaps you left it years ago feeling that I can’t make a living at that.  You were probably wrong.  But, for whatever reason, you left it.  Maybe you wanted to become a premier doctor in some medical field. And maybe the time of medical school has passed you.  But you can still form a foundation to raise money for the field.  You can still write scholarly articles and books to help the laymen understand what it is that you want them to know about your passion in medicine.  You can also help them by writing passionately about the disease from which they may suffer.

In the next while we are going to explore how to do this.  We are going to look for a life project.  This will be something that will be significant to you perhaps to no one else.  It doesn’t matter.  You are going to use your full talents for something that will give life meaning to you.  Give your life a renewed purpose, a new hope, a new direction.  Pick your field, master it and make it your own.  Thousands of men, women and young people such as yourselves have done this without the Ph.D.’s  Don’t be intimidated by the terminal degrees.  Often these degrees take the joy out of the hunt for the people who earn them.  They focus so finely on one small swatch of the fabric of their discipline that soon they may know the most about nothing among all the experts in the world.  Being the master of a cubic  centimeter is not a match for having a broad understanding and feeling for the width and breadth of a whole discipline.  Hang on for the ride is going to be fun and bumpy.   But what a ride it will be. It will be the ride of your lifetime – a lifelong learning project to take you down roadways yet unknown.

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Homeschool law, judges, administrators and bias

You have days like this from time to time.  Sitting with several people eating lunch today, I over heard a conversation between a school administrator and a former school administrator now retired.  The school administrator was talking about a kid who had just withdrawn to home school.  This person made a derogatory remark about homeschooling in general because he suspected, perhaps rightly, that the parents would not do enough to home school their child correctly.  The phrase he used was something like it’s a load of garbage.  The retired administrator jumped into the conversation.

“I’d file on em”, he said.  “Even if they were homeschooling, I’d file on em”.  So this gentleman would file on home schooling parents who are operating within school law for taking their child out of school.  A direct violation of home school law in the state of Texas.  Of course, he doesn’t care because of his bias against home schooling.  To him home schooling is as he said “Judge Judy School”  meaning that all the kids will do is watch television.  I was grossly offended by the general ignorance of this statement and the general disregard for the law.  But it isn’t uncommon.  Many, many school administrators feel this way. 

On another front. A few months ago I accompanied a young man into court in an attempt to add support to his cause.   This boy had started home schooling.  His parent had fulfilled all the requirements of the state of Texas.  During the hearing the judges administrative assistant told all of us who were with the young man that this particular judge did not allow home schooling in his court.  So, this judge, who has a strong reputation of backing schools, simply through out state law.  By his personal policy he overturned the entire Texas State legislature with one sweep of his all powerful hand. 

You get the point.  Here is my advice as a home school consultant.  Never enter into a meeting with a school administrator without having the law in your hand so that you can physically point out the law to the administrator.  Otherwise you are likely to be at the mercy of the whim of a person who does not know the law or just doesn’t care.  If you are dealing with a court I cannot advise you strongly enough to visit the court with a lawyer who understands and is sympathetic to home school law.  Remember that judges have all the cards.  If you are in the hands of an ignorant judge or, worse, one who just doesn’t care about the law you have to have a lawyer.  Otherwise, you roll the dice. 

The bias in the organizational makeup of schools is natural and expected.  Any entity has an imperative to protect itself.  That is to be expected.  So wisdom would dictate to go into any situation with that assumption firmly in your mind. 

Home schooling and independent learning is becoming more and more accepted.  In fact, in some states the number of home schooled kids are close to overtaking the number of kids still in the public system. 

The principle at work here that must be defended is to maintain our rights as parents against the claims of the state on our children.  Laws are being proposed all the time that would eat away at parental rights to raise your children as you see fit.  Also important in this process is to firmly address the myth that home schooling can be a form of child abuse.  I do have one caveat.  Home schoolers must not defend parents who are conducting sham home schools.  The attitude of the administrators and the judge does have some grounding in reality.  There are parents who put out minimal effort to be sure their children receive a first class education.  The universal fact is that the one case of abuse on the part of a home schooler is the one that will get the media coverage.  We who believe in this movement must, absolutely must, see to it that somehow the best examples are publicized.  For every example of a family who barricade themselves away while failing to educate their children we must present a dozen examples of families that do the job really well.

When I first heard the exchange I am reporting I immediately became angry.  But, having acquired a fair set of battle scars in the past few years I kept my mouth shut realizing that they are also working from a perspective that really is looking out for the kids.  They just don’t understand what the benefits are as well as how effective home schooling is.  They have also seen the abuses that do occur. 

If we are to maintain our right to educate our children in our own chosen way, we must bring to the front examples of success to counter act the obvious failures.  We have all seen the abuses.  These are the cases that get the media coverage as well as gaining mythical status. 

But in the meantime go into situations involving school administrations and courts armed to the teeth with knowledge and a competent lawyer who understands home school law. 

If you have not done so already join HSLDA.  The Home School Legal Defense Association is the flagship of the home school line of defense.  Here is the stated mission of the HSLDA from their website:

To preserve and advance the fundamental, God-given, constitutional right of parents and others legally responsible for their children to direct their education. In so doing, we rely on two fundamental freedoms—parental rights and religious freedom. We advocate for these freedoms in the courtrooms, before government officials, and in the public arena. Additionally, we assist other educational organizations in similar activities, where possible and appropriate.

Since 1983, Home School Legal Defense Association’s primary goal has remained the same—to bring together a large number of homeschooling families so that each can have a low-cost method of obtaining quality legal defense. HSLDA gives families the freedom to home school without facing legal threats alone. Through many families sticking together, we have been able to keep the cost of a year’s membership close to the rate that you would have to pay for an hour of an attorney’s time almost anywhere else.

After a family joins HSLDA, there are no further charges of any kind for defending them in court. HSLDA pays in full all attorney fees, expert witness costs, travel expenses, and all other court costs permissible by state law for us to pay.

The vast majority of contacts member families face are successfully resolved through our early intervention without any court action. Many times, HSLDA attorneys call or write letters on behalf of members contacted by local officials. For those who wind up in court, HSLDA provides full representation at every stage of legal proceedings.

HSLDA’s board of directors also operates the Home School Foundation—a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization that supports HSLDA, other like-minded organizations, and special programs such as the Special Needs Children’s Fund.

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