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Entries in GWS (3)


What Do Teaching, Learning, and the Death Penalty Have in Common?

The answer is: Susannah Sheffer.

Susannah is my friend and colleague who edited Growing Without Schooling magazine for 16 years and she has a new website that brings her beautiful and diverse writing together in one place.

Of particular note to homeschoolers is this page, where Susannah’s work with GWS, adolescent girls, North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens, and her insightful writing about teaching and learning is gathered:

Susannah is also involved with death penalty and prison issues, and her new book, Fighting for Their Lives: Inside the Experience of Capital Defense Attorneys, is coming in March 2013. Here is how it is described:

Intimate conversations with the dedicated lawyers who try, but too often fail, to prevent executions.

How do those who represent clients facing the death penalty cope with the stress and trauma of their work?  Through conversations with twenty of the most experienced and dedicated post-conviction capital defenders in the United States, Fighting for Their Lives explores this emotional territory for the first time.

I know Susannah has been working on this book for a few years and I can’t wait to read it and tell you more about it. I hope you’ll buy it and read it too.


John Holt: April 14, 1923 to September 14, 1985

Sept. 14 is the anniversary of John Holt’s death. He would have been 88 had he lived, but he died at the young age of 62 from cancer. In honor of his memory, and to support those who act upon John’s ideas and further them, I have revised the website. All the issues of Growing Without Schooling magazine are now online and available for free, as well as many articles, video and audio recordings, and photographs that have been out of the public eye since we closed HoltGWS. In the case of the video and audio recordings, some have never been available until now.

If you take the time to explore the site you will discover John’s thoughts about how schools could be better, how unschooling and homeschooling are self-selecting and self-correcting activities that do not need central authorities to dictate content and standards, and how his goal was not to create an insular education movement for children but rather “A life worth living and work worth doing—that is what I want for children (and all people), not just, or not even, something called ‘a better education.’”

At a time when education reform is about technocratic fixes and students are just test scores to be processed by the school machine (there are teachers in schools who resist or ameliorate these issues for their students but they are outnumbered) it can be disheartening for me to remember John. After all, things have gotten worse for students, not better, since John died. Sure, we can point to test scores that may have improved as a result of billions of dollars being spent and regulations that keep children in school longer, but what of their lives? Compared to 1985 when John died, more children live in poverty, have broken homes, do not have health care, and suffer from a lack of community and free play in their lives; children now read less and less for pleasure, are less civically inclined, and they face jobless recoveries while trying to pay usurious college-loan debt.

But John was not a pessimist, and he believed that if shown another way to help children learn and grow some people would choose it. You can read about John’s “Nickel and dime theory of social change” in the first issue of Growing Without Schooling. If you do so, I hope you will continue reading through the site and gain courage and ideas about how you and your children can forge lives worth living, not lives handed to you based on your school test scores.



Unschooling Math

Susannah Sheffer edited Growing Without Schooling (GWS) magazine longer than any of her previous or subsequent colleagues did, including John Holt himself. During her time at GWS Susannah created several small packets and booklets on specific topics that used material exclusively from GWS. I’ve been going through all my GWS documents seeking material that hasn’t been used before for the creation of some new books, articles and materials I have in mind. However, when I rediscovered this little pamphlet by Susannah I thought it could be immediately useful to people who are uncertain if math can be learned by children without formal textbooks, lessons, and wheedling and needling by parents to finish their homework.

I scanned the original booklet and am providing it as a free download in Portable Document Format (PDF), so you’ll need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view it. If you would like to read it and comment on it, please visit my download page and click on “Unschooling Math.” I would appreciate your comments and thoughts about it, particularly if you would like to see or share more material on the subject of unschooling math.

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