Passing the Baton of Libertarian Thought to Children

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If the sight of you frothing at the mouth when reading the newspaper is not enough to spark political discussion with your children, you might be interested in a book called  “Letters to Jessica, A Child’s Guide to Freedom of Mind and Spirit”.

Written in letter form to the author’s nieces, it comprises narrative, parables, and formal instruction to teach young children about the history of man made government and the intrusion and burden of the State upon it’s citizens.

Primary sources are used in examining the history of the development of government in America, and make for very interesting reading.

If you’re aiming to raise a free thinker, this is heady stuff: to this anti-state, libertarian mama, it’s pure gold. 🙂

Many thanks to Mr JMWatkins at End of Men*, for sharing…

* Please be aware if visiting, that Mr Watkins site does contain offensive language.

Homeschooling: Does it Work?

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In response to a discussion at “Pro Libertate Nostra”,  questions arose about the quality and control measures in place in the home school model.  I have copied the consequent article below and attempted to answer the concerns addressed by mainstream educators.

“Education for whom (and for what purpose)?” by tegis.

I study economics and school systems, most of the people in my class are pretty left-wingish and would not agree with the homeschooling idea (or any idea at all concerning private initiatives in the education sector), but for me freedom of choice is one of the most important pillars for modern education and it is extremely important that we actually debate things like how to challenge state monopoly on education and how to use our resources well thought-out. The left sees education as a tool for;

1. a way to smash the sc. class system and make everyone more or less alike, through (trying to) create us alike in mind.
2. spreading of their own agenda. This they have together with social conservatives – they just have a different agenda.
3. an institution where they construct workers – small cogs for the big wheel.

I definitely believe that homeschooling will have a function to fill in the future – everywhere. But the example of Australia is a good example on how the State actually do NOT wish for competition in this field. They want to have control of what kids are being taught and they are not going to let that go, unless there will come a real change – a change for more freedom for families, parents, and individuals to actually have a real choice.

Beyondbluestockings: It is correct that the Australian government does not wish competition in the education sector.  Under a conservative government Australia has enjoyed more freedom to homeschool than is the present case under the Labor party (here the conservative party are called “Liberals”, the liberal party called “Labor, or Greens, or Democrats”)

Tegis: It would be really interesting to know more about this, maybe Mrs. Bluestockings has some Internet sources to share with us when it comes to material (curricula etc.) aimed for home school situations?

Beyondbluestockings: There is an enormous choice, although there is a dearth of Australian content as homeschooling has been largely unknown or ignored in our country, and has only fairly recently come to notice here.  Here are two curriculum review sites, which will give something of an idea of what is out there, just to scratch the surface.

http://www.homeschoolreviews.com/default.aspx

http://www.cathyduffyreviews.com/

Tegis: Has there been any research on the subject, like how homeschooled kids stand in comparison with the other kids in State schools? How about exams and national tests – do they have to do that?

Beyondbluestockings: From the home school legal defense site:

In 1997, a study of 5,402 homeschool students from 1,657 families was released. It was entitled, “Strengths of Their Own: Home Schoolers Across America.” The study demonstrated that homeschoolers, on the average, out-performed their counterparts in the public schools by 30 to 37 percentile points in all subjects.

Each year the University of New South Wales holds the Australasian Schools Competitions, which are open to registered homeschooled children and give a detailed analysis of the strengths and weakness in each subject attempted.  The results are returned with the position your child holds within the state of residence.  This years results have not yet been returned, but the previous attempted competitions my students returned these places within our state:

Science 81  percentile
Maths 88
English 99

Science 98
Maths 79
Spelling 90
English 96

My youngest student has not qualified by age to enter any of these yet, but is currently working one to two grade levels above her age.

There are also tests for grades 3, 5, 7, 9, to measure numeracy and literacy standards in all state and private schools, which homeschooled children are requested to participate in.  The unfortunate element in the process is that it does not allow for learning things at different times to the state school, just as the old method of determining IQ did not allow for different educational experiences.  Some classical educators believe it is better to start teaching maths at around 10 years, and cover the work quickly and easily, rather than start when a child is 5 or six years, and take a long, sometimes challenging road to achieve the same result.  Such a person would be disadvantaged in the standardized tests, but not in the long term.  Similarly, some people choose to concentrate on formal grammar later than the state programs.  These tests are good, essential even, to the schools to see who is “falling through the gaps” but hardly suit the needs of home schooled children.

Tegis: Another obstacle that I see is that it is much easier maybe to stand up against your own mother or father if s/he is teaching them. A “real” teacher would have much more of an authoritarian role in the eyes of his/her students, am I right? Isn’t it easy for the kids just to cut class?

Beyondbluestockings: Ironically, this is one reason I chose to homeschool.  With the removal of corporal punishment from schools, the authority of the teachers has dissolved.  Combine that with absent parents, and parents who fail to train their children yet become hysterical if they are reprimanded by a teacher, you have a resultant disciplinary disaster.

I find as a parent who is constantly with my children, it not only forces me to address issues in my own life that are less than ideal as an example to uphold, but it means that I am very aware of the character of my children, and have many opportunities to teach them appropriate behaviour.  If I have authority to teach my child that it is an important discipline to get out of your pj’s in the morning, pick your towel off the floor, etc, then to sit at the table and start your maths is a natural extension.  It is not an area I have any more issue with than any other thing a parent may require of their child.  I can see that some parents would find it a challenge after children have been removed from school to the home environment, as the school system is inclined to erode the child’s belief in his parent’s intelligence and right to speak to him on any subject – but that’s a whole other post 😉

Tegis: As I understand it, you aim more for the earlier stages, am I right? More like grammar school level? As you say there are probably a lot of resources to be found for high school level as well, but to me it just seems that this is such a high standard of teaching that it demands too much background knowledge on the field.

Beyondbluestockings: It may have sounded as though my emphasis is on the grammar stage, and certainly there are many studies to show that the later a child enters institutional life the better his chances of success, however I am equally an advocate for homeschooling in the later years.

The curriculum is still self teaching for many choices, and where a student is struggling and the parent is unable to supply the answers, help from outside sources, be they a distance education school, a private tutor, a friend or relative with experience in that field, can be sought.  Although the idea that professional teachers will teach a subject to your student more thoroughly than a parent could is no doubt true, again, there are a lot of other factors in the educational equation.  The number of students that teacher is trying to teach, the attitude of the teacher and students, the environment of the school, etc. will all effect the learning outcomes.  One dedicated parent with a willing student, both eager to achieve learning, will go a long way..

Tegis: My worries are mostly about assessment and evaluation – how can we know that the kids actually get a good education delivered to them? How do we know some hicks are not just teaching them that the world is a flat pancake and the moon is made of cheese?

Beyondbluestockings: There will always be parents who are dead beats and who raise dead beat kids.  (is “dead beat” a universal term? I mean a.. a no-hoper, never has a job, someone whose finer self has not been awakened!)  These people have children who in the school system would be truant, and in the homeschool world be the same thing.  Generally, this type of person would not genuinely consider homeschooling. (because it really is a lot of work!)  What to do with those kinds of families is beyond the scope of my ramble here.  However, at worst, if a child endures his entire childhood without a scintilla of information penetrating his mind, be that in the public school system or a homeschool situation, adult learning opportunities abound.  In a very short time he would, should he choose to apply himself, acquire an education that would serve him to improve his lot in life.

Tegis: Some control or assessment seems to be needed, and homeschooling seems to obstruct that?

Beyondbluestockings: As a registered homeschooler, work samples must be submitted to the education authorities each term, along with a log of each day’s learning activities completed, a list of excursions, extra curricular learning, etc.  This is in addition to the beginning of the year submission of a scope and sequence of all material in your learning pathway for the year, which is subject to approval.  In most states, a moderator will come to your house to assess your learning environment, (does the child have a well lit, airy space to work?) and view your work.  ( I personally suspect it is really to see if your child is covered in bruises and looks unwashed and unfed. There is a ridiculous assumed correlation between homeschooling and child abuse in the minds of those who don’t condone the education of children outside of institutional control, as though children have never been abused in institutions!  And I will, with supreme self control, resist running off on a rant of that tangent)

Tegis: The best way would probably be national tests and for the funding every family should get a backpack of money (not real money like that but money that should directly go to education and that they only can use for that) for every child and that they then can use it for whatever system of education they would like. It seems to be the fairest way to handle it. I don’t think a tax refund is exactly the same thing, I’m  talking about school vouchers – that you then can use on whatever product within the education sector you like – formal or non-formal alike.

Beyondbluestockings: While I have explained the disadvantages for some homeschoolers with standardized testing, the financial package you suggest would seem more appropriate than the current situation.  Each implementation of curriculum in education has been a choice reflecting the personal bias in educational philosophy and religion of the chooser.  This is true of the materials used in all schools, and I believe should be so in each home where children are being educated.  Parents choosing to educate at home are inclined to spend a great deal of time and effort in research, and should be allowed to exercise the same choice in materials used without retributive financial consequences.

Tegis, thank you for exploring this subject with me.

Education – a victim of fashion

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Are teachers a race of people born yesterday? Considering that they are shaping the minds of the next generation of movers and shakers, one would certainly hope not.

Imagine this scene; a grown woman you pay private education fees to employ, after assuring you that she has years of teaching experience, has just conducted a workshop for parents on teaching writing. She now  begins leading a group of students in a writing lesson as a demonstration.

The task given the children was to write about a lolly they were handed in a paper patty. She then enthusiastically encourages the children to write anything. Anything at all, as long as you get something down on the paper. Actively encouraging the children to complain, moan, whine, to write anything that describes how you feel about the writing task, she then commends every single child for a “fantastic job”, “great writing”.

Does anyone see a problem here? Even if I lay aside for a moment my thoughts on praising children merely for existing, what is this activity teaching them about expressing themselves? That it is such a delight, such a marvelous wonder to hear what they think, that they can be obnoxious and disrespectful with impunity? What worth is there in hearing a child whine because they didn’t get served first, didn’t get the colour they wanted, weren’t allowed a second lolly? Can this honestly be called “creative writing”? Has education deteriorated to the extent that this kind of activity would be applauded? My mind boggles.

There is a line of reasoning, popular for the last few years, that goes along the lines of:

“anything that gets a child reading is a good thing. Doesn’t matter what the material is, as long as they are reading.”

Do you know anyone who reads trashy romance books? Do you think it improves their mind? Broadens their vocabulary? Will help them do better if they decide to go on to further study? Reading mind candy will not help you become a better student, and in the same way, writing rubbish (and being praised for it) will certainly not result in you magically becoming an articulate, persuasive communicator.

Creative writing appears to have an importance placed on it during the middle primary years that is hard to justify. Some children would rather eat glass than make up a story. Does it actually matter? While being able to communicate effectively is a vital life skill, making up stories is not, and neither is it the only path to gaining a command of language.

In years past, narration and copy work were integral tools of education. Learning expression and structure from master writers, and training your mind to order facts, are indispensable skills with advantages to students over lapping other disciplines.

Can one explain this to an educator who has a been licensed to teach? Is there any greater arrogance than assuming that today’s unproven methods are without equal?

Here’s a little quote from a teacher of another time and place….

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come, with those that shall come after.

OOPARTS

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A viking lens gives an imaging quality comparable to 1950’s aspheric lenses, a two thousand year old battery used for electroplating, and an analog computer made around 150 BC….

Out Of Place Artifacts are remarkable discoveries that don’t fit with the current ideas of science and history, which leave us pause to wonder if we are quite as clever as we think we are? They show complex thought and design, precision engineering, and advanced skills, all in time periods during which we have assumed people lived simply, with basic tools and instruments.

What if we, as a species, are not escalating in our intelligence, our technologies, our advancements for the bettering of mankind and the environment?

It’s quite a blow to the pride to think that these things were all discovered a long time ago, that the knowledge was somehow lost, and we have had to reinvent the wheel, so to speak!

Listening to some detractors, it would seem they would allow for any wild theory – aliens even, rather than admit that early man was not as deficient in the grey matter as popular science would dictate. One would think it would be a pleasing prospect to discover our forefathers were people to be esteemed for their ingenuity. How is that worse than being descendant from an ape?

Of course it could be upsetting on the grounds that it gives credence to the Biblical account of creation, and an intelligent first man, a possibility that causes every person to view science through the filter of their own religion. If these artifacts support the Biblical account of history, and point toward error in the theory of evolution, we will be left facing a Holy, Righteous, Omniscient, Omnipotent God.

There’s a thought to make any man tremble in his boots…..

Accelerated Christian Education, a foundation!

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In some education circles, it is almost social suicide to admit to using workbooks. How did they get such a bad rap?

Ten years ago in Australia, there was little choice if you wanted to homeschool legally, without being a registered teacher. So it was with some grouching that I began using this program, after having read all the literature about suiting your curriculum to your child’s learning style, unit studies, classical education, natural learning, delight directed learning, and living books education!

Today, I have a deep and abiding respect for the program.

People have the impression that parents utilizing this program sit their students at a desk for a few hours, then lock them in an intellectual cupboard for the rest of the day. It is difficult to comprehend how fellow home educators can so conveniently lose the perspective of holistic learning!

How can it be that a child involved in natural learning will gain from his learning opportunities, but a child who has used a workbook in the morning, is unable to benefit from the activities engaged in during the afternoon?

Or a child being educated with a living books approach can gain much from his reading, but a child who has completed workbooks in the morning, does not gather the same from his reading in the afternoon?

At heart, perhaps it comes down to intellectual snobbery? Whatever it is, it’s not pretty folks.

The same frustration a parent of a natural learner feels at people questioning how your child will ever learn anything without a program, is felt by those of us who use a program while being accused of taking the easy option.

On that point – it is easy! In fact, it is so easy, that despite longterm illness, family dramas and new babies, my children have been able to maintain a consistent study program throughout.

The beauty of this curriculum is that while life is doing unpredictable things to you, the basics of education are very adequately covered with children working independently in workbooks. At other times, there is much that can be added to enrich the material being covered, and you can borrow the best from other teaching methods to implement as you desire.

Every method and approach to education has advantages and disadvantages. It is your commitment, and how you choose to use a program, that makes it a successful tool in your educational endeavour.

English for the faint hearted

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Have you ever found yourself in the position of being about to use a word, the perfect word for the context, but you pull up short when you remember you have never heard it pronounced out loud?

Having been educated during the time of the abominable “Look-Say” literacy experiment, my ability to sound out words that contain unusual sound combinations is almost non-existent.

As a voracious reader since early primary, it was easier to just make up a pronunciation to use in my head, for a tough word, rather than bother one of the (also reading and cranky if interrupted) adults in my world. I never really kicked the habit.

Of course this can give me cause to blush occasionally, when I let slip one of the words I have created to “make do with” so as not to slow down the story. Until now, I have been trying them out on my husband whenever I consciously remembered one. Once he gets over the laughing fit, we’re good. Really.

You can only imagine my joy at stumbling across….

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/

How completely cool is this site? Not just word games (something I can waste hours on) but…..wait for it……..an AUDIO dictionary!! I will no longer cause dh to snort his cornflakes through his nose when I mispronounce something I have read incorrectly. Breakfast will never be the same again.

Did you know..

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that Mt Sinai referred to in the Bible, is not really on the Sinai Peninsula? Or that the Hittites were a civilization as powerful, and as feared, as the ancient Egyptians? How about that the documentation of the chronology of kings of all major people groups date back to the sons of Noah?

If you have ever wondered at which points mainstream history intersects with the biblical account, Diana Waring has done the work for you. Covering what was happening in the rest of the world, when the Bible is giving account of the children of Israel, she gives a chronological overview in her “What in the World’s Going on Here?” series.

Part one, a four CD set, covers Creation to Christ, part two is the Resurrection to Revolution, part three is Napoleon to Korea. For each stage of history, there are also available a three disc set of extra stories, expanding on topics covered within the period. Fascinating!

You’ll find Diana has done her homework, and her presentation is such that my children listen to her narrations for fun. These are wonderful for car travel, and I am keeping it a secret that history is actually a school subject!

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