Tag Archives: independent learning

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.



Filed under independent learning, nontraditional learning, Uncategorized

Keeping up with your home schooled child while you are away…

Single parenting may be one of the hardest things anyone can take on. It is a task best-managed by two people .  But that is not always possible.  The extended family and good friends can provide endless help.  But, tThere are so many single parents who are just trying to keep bread on the table for their kids.  How can a single working parent home school their children?

Today, I am going to limit myself to situations where the child is old enough or mature enough to stay alone. I am one of those who still believe the world is basically a safe place without monsters behind every tree. I could be proven wrong today, but I am going to pray that my beliefs will be proven true. I also believe it is good for a child to be allowed to take on more responsibility early in their lives.

Home schooling families are generally ones who have many friends. They are actually the families involved in many things outside of the home. Many have trusted neighbors close who may home school. They may also have elders close who might not mind looking in on the kids or at least making a phone call. The most important part of all this is that the child feel safe and is safe when left alone. They should feel that there are other adults to whom they can turn. So if you have trusted neighbors you might try asking them to either check in on the kids or make phone calls at some regular time. They don’t have to live really close to make a phone call. Often all that would be needed would be a simple call to be sure things are ok and on track. A family member might also be willing to do this at a certain time each day. There are also home school consultants who will call to check on your children. They will do this for a fee. What they do is call the child to make sure everything is ok, then call, text or email the parents to let them know how the child is handling the day. Often work places will not allow parents to make such calls.  Because of this, more services are becoming available to parents along with bonded tutors who can be trusted to work with your child when you are not around. All that can take place right in the home.

Please remember that we are really talking about here is the trust you have in your child as well as the safety of the surroundings. But having said that there are other ways parents can keep up with their kids. Cell phones are now nearly ubiquitous. Many of the devices have GPS systems installed in them. This allows the parent to track where their kid is if they have the phone on them. When you discuss these things with your child you may want to assure them that the point is not to keep up with the child but to assure yourself that the child is safe and sound. Having the child phone or text you at certain times of the day to verify what they are doing and where they are will also give you much piece of mind. One easy thing to do is to have the child take a picture of themselves in the house or where they are supposed to be at particular times during the day with their phone. They can then send these pictures to you by mms or by email to let you know where they are. They can bear a time and date stamp. The same thing can be easily done with the web cam and a chat program where you can establish and internet link to talk to the child and see what they are doing. There are a number of services that will do this for you.

Some parents install internet ready cameras in their homes so they can keep up with what is happening over the internet.  This is becoming very common among people who take care of the elderly.  Many care givers who do not want to place an elder person into a permanent care situation will simply install small web cams around the house so they are able to check on their elders.  Many of these systems can be installed so that you can actually talk to your child over the cam system.  It is entirely possibly now to keep up with what is going on in the house from anywhere you have an internet connection.

Many parents choose to involve themselves in a Co-op where children can be left during the day for a fee. The child will do their home schooling assignments, be in the company of other children and adults until you are free to pick up the child again. Many churches are now beginning to figure this out as a way to make extra income or become involved in a home school ministry by providing a place where kids can be while their parent is away.  Check with local home school associations or other home schoolers to track these services down.

If you don’t have a formal co-op perhaps it would be possible to get several trusted families together to provide needed supervision during times you cannot be at home.

Other solutions would be an alarm system that includes a panic feature. But with a reliance on family, friends, and other home school families you will most likely be able to manage well.

There are also excellent churches that sponsor classes for home schooled kids and supervised study halls. Perhaps the best place to start a search for these organizations would be a local home school association or home school stores in your area. A number of stores also have classes and supervised activities.

However, all of that may be unneeded if you feel your child is responsible or if you can check in with your child during the day or the time you are gone. All that leaves you with is the need to organize assignments. When I was a child I loved to organize myself. I even made a schedule out for myself from about the fifth grade. Yes, I was a strange child. That being said every child has a particular need for organization. Some need more while others need less organization.

I like systems that provide everything in one place that a student will need to work on a particular assignment while the parent is away. Some parents use shoe boxes, other use file boxes. One of the best systems is Sue Patrick’s Work Box System. Sue has created an organization system that is bar none as good as anything I have seen. You can find Sue’s materials here

You, of course, know your child better than anyone. You know how much independence your child can accept. I was by myself a tremendous amount when my mother worked after my father passed away. I was fine at those times because I had organized things to do. Remember there is always a solution to every problem. If I can be of help in any way brainstorming solutions or helping you figure out what to do, drop me an email here. There is a solution to every problem.


Filed under home school, independent learning, single parent homeschooling

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.


Filed under parental rights, parenting, single parent homeschooling

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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Filed under single parent homeschooling

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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Filed under home school, single parent homeschooling

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…..



















 graphic awareness….

where will it go….

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

the gang…..influence4






sense of design….











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.


Filed under home school, independent learning, parenting, Uncategorized

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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Filed under home school law, independent learning