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Entries in homeschool (13)


Educación Sin Escuela and Other News

UN MUNDO POR APRENDER: Educación sin Escuela (ESE), Autoaprendizaje Colaborativo (AC) y Educación en Familia (EF). Edited by Erwin Fabián García López.

For those who understand Spanish and want to know more about homeschooling, this new book is for you. The National University of Colombia, in Bogota, has held three conferences about learning without schools, autodidactic and collaborative learning models, education in family settings, and flexi-schooling models. The articles are based on presentations given at the first two conferences, including my keynote speech for the first conference in 2009, The Challenges Homeschooling Presents to Social Science Research (revised for the new book; I’ll add the updated version to my website soon).


The Alternative Education Resource Organization has given its website a facelift, adding many new articles, especially from homeschooling sources.


Libertarians have supported homeschooling part of their platform for individual freedom for a long time and this new article, In Praise of Homeschools, from the Ludwig von Mises Institute is another solid example.


Michelle Barone is a professional counselor whose work I’ve enjoyed at several homeschooling and unschooling conferences. She is presenting a free workshop via teleconference, Finding Your Way: Unlimited Possibilities in Your Unschooling Life, that may interest you.


Education is scarce, but learning is abundant

The paradox in the headline is one that is made by humans, not nature. Education—namely, what goes on in schools and is certified by them—is made scarce by defining only those who have school degrees as being educated; this means the more degrees one has the more educated you are supposed to be. Those who can pay for the most expensive (scarcest) degrees—or if they are poor receive an even scarcer scholarship—are thought to be more educated than those who attend schools in less tony zip codes. This mentality leads most parents to fret that their schools are shortchanging their children, and the current call for teacher accountability to be tied to student achievement is one example. Costly studies, programs, and additional teacher certifications are all being done to make sure that if a teacher teaches, the student will learn it and prove it by getting a higher score on a test than they did before the teacher taught the material.

Since homeschooling throws this paradigm out the window it is ignored by policy makers, educators, and most parents who feel their children won’t learn anything worthwhile on their own or from their community. However, homeschooling has much to add to this discussion, particularly in times of economic contraction and tuition increases. Homeschoolers have been finding people and places for their children to learn with and from for decades, but they are not necessarily certified teachers, though some are. Indeed, many of them are local businesspeople, other homeschoolers, and people who are willing to share their interests with others.

The fact is, if you know how to do something you can help someone else learn it. You may not be a good teacher at first, but it is possible to learn how to be a good teacher on the job, especially if you are able to get honest feedback from your students. Most important, learning is a journey and you don’t need to have a master teacher who holds your hand every step of the way. Teachers, like guides, change depending where you are in your journey. Few people are exploring where and how teachers and learners can find one another since it is assumed this process can, or should, only happen in school according to bureaucratic formulas. However, John McKnight and his colleagues have been learning otherwise for many years.

John McKnight is a pioneer for encouraging people to get more involved in their local communities and develop local resources that aren’t controlled by distant institutions, and his work has inspired me over the years. His website,, is a great place to learn about his work. This blog entry was particularly striking because it deals directly with low-cost ways to learn. He writes: 

Throughout the United States, local school districts are cutting back on teachers and curriculum while increasing class size.  With our current economy, it doesn’t appear that this trend will soon be reversed.

This grim prospect depends upon whether we have the novel belief that it takes a school to educate a child. Historically, the primary source of education was the knowledge and wisdom of the villagers. However, as the power of schooling grew, the neighborhood knowledge got devalued and unused. And so it is that local people often feel cornered as schooling recedes.

In one African-American, working-class neighborhood in Chicago, they’re finding out what their neighbors believe they know well enough to teach the local young people. When they interviewed 19 adults living on 3 blocks, they found that they were prepared to teach 37 different topics.

To see the list of topics and learn more about this, read John’s essay “It Takes A Village to Educate a Child.”


Want to Learn? Don’t Go to College

PF: Nadia Jones, a homeschooler who is now a working adult, is a guest blogger for me today.


For many in the United States of America, going to college has been considered a stepping stone to making money, despite the fact that hardly any of the skills one learns in college has any bearing on the daily tasks required of most jobs, even high-paying ones. The other, learning-based view of college is that a higher education is necessary in a civic sense—it helps mold young minds to think critically, to become more knowledgeable and sensitive about the world within them and around them. This has been the traditional (though now in our technocratic age, obsolete) view of the necessity of college.

As someone who has been to college, I can say without hesitation that neither objective was achieved after I graduated from a top-twenty liberal arts school only a few years ago. As an English major, I was not prepared for the job market in the slightest, unless you count learning to please superiors by agreeing with their point of view as an employable skill. Using the more traditional view of the importance of a higher education, the one that I believe in more whole-heartedly, I was equally disappointed. All the promises they fed me since orientation about being a scholar, about learning to think for myself, ended up being a beer-soaked, mind-numbing process of learning how to navigate the system.

This is how it works—you choose a few classes that sound interesting or that meet requirements. You attend them whether or not you feel like it. You work really hard to make good grades your first semester until you realize that there’s this thing called grade inflation. Grade inflation, a phenomenon in which higher grades are given for work that would have received lower grades in the past, is increasing rapidly, as noted in this New York Times article. The result is that we students learn that you don’t have to work hard, to improve over time, or to do anything really except to “win over” the professor.

Professors, whose performance (and pay) are increasingly being evaluated based on student reviews, and whose research dominates their professional lives, have no incentive to direct their students to achieve the goals of learning and critical thinking. As such, the student-professor relationship has become one that is based on a radical free-market ideology. Instead of students and professors, we have customers and salespeople. In this environment, the only positive outcomes are that students meet others who are much like them—reasonably smart but overly-opportunistic, entitled young men and women whose idea of success is going through the motions of college, grubbing for grades, going to parties, making friends, and networking for that high-paying job. In the process, learning is sacrificed.

Now do I regret having attended an institution of higher education? Not necessarily—I did have fun. But the fun incurred is not worth the student debt that now cripples my finances. I learned more by reading on my own before and after college than I ever learned in any of my classes. Even if college used to be a place where one could leave having learned to think and to evaluate independently, a college education in America now is nothing more than a four-year summer camp after which you earn a credential that everyone says you must have in order to succeed.

I question this logic, however, because I know several people, both friends and family members, who never went to college and are smarter, more enterprising, and dare I say, more successful, than 90% of the people I know who hold bachelor’s degrees. If you have an interest in working in academia, then yes, a college education is necessary. But for almost any other goal in life, whether personal or professional, it won’t help you much except to dig you deeper in debt. Trust me, I know.

Author Bio:

This is a guest post by Nadia Jones who blogs at online college about education, college, student, teacher, money saving, and movie-related topics. You can reach her at nadia.jones5 @



Homeschoolers in the News and in College

Amy Milstein, an unschooler living in Manhattan, sent me this good article and video about homeschooling done by a local PBS affiliate. It is, I think, an honest, even-handed portrayal about why and how homeschooling and unschooling are done. The interview at the end of the video, with two unschoolers who did well in college, should be interesting to all parents who worry about their unconventionally raised children getting into higher education.

On that note, this recent article will also be of interest: 15 Key Facts About Homeschooled Kids in College.


Research Proves Kids Can Learn Complex Things On Their Own

I learned about this research from a press release, since the research paper itself is in German. However, I find it striking in several respects, not just because it supports self-directed learning for children.

1) The release opens with this sentence: "Self-directed learning has long been heralded as the key to successful education. Yet until now, there has been little research into this theory." Something that is "long-heralded" must have some basis in reality for people to recognize its efficacy, and there is more than a little research into this theory. A brief perusal of my Research page, the work of Holt, Neill, and alternative schools everywhere, research such as that done by Alfie Kohn, Frank Smith, and Thomas Armstrong, as well as studying history prior to the invention of compulsory schooling about 150 years ago, shows that self-directed learning is not just how every baby learns a most complex thing—how to speak—but also how most children and adults learned until we corralled everyone into classrooms.

2) Professor Kristina Reiss, one of the researchers is quoted:

"We now know that students – also those who are weaker in math – have the skills to master even very complex subject matters at their own pace,” continues Reiss. “Although extended phases of self-directed learning are often advocated, they are still not part of the everyday school curriculum. But they are an important option for teachers as varied lesson formats ensure a lively and interesting learning experience.”

It really bothers me that this research admits that providing time and space for self-directed learning should be advocated for use in schools, but when unschoolers claim they are doing this (GWS has printed their stories since 1977) they are often taken to task by educators for not providing a rigorous, or even adequate, education to their children.

3) Germany, Sweden, and other countries outlaw homeschooling because they claim their public and private schools provide a professional education that no parent can provide. This makes little sense if self-directed learning is in play since the teacher, if there is one, is "the guide on the side, not the sage on the stage" in that situation. It is interesting resources, access to people and places, doing things alone and with people, supportive parents, friends, and mentors that encourage self-directed learning, not necessarily a professional teacher's "varied lesson formats."

I can sense the thrust of where this research will be used in classroom practice from the quote above: it will be used as another technique to get kids to do what teachers want them to do in order to complete the teacher's lessons, rather than as a genuine attempt to build on a child's self-directed learning, as unschoolers have successfully been doing for decades.


The Journal of Unschooling and Alternative Learning, another academic resource that supports self-directed learning, has a call for papers for their next issue. As an advisor to the Journal, I've been asked to solicit articles for the next issue. If you're interested in doing so, here's the information you need:

I am pleased to invite submissions for the eleventh issue of the online peer-reviewed publication, the Journal of Unschooling and Alternative Learning (JUAL), to be published as papers become accepted. Authors of original research interested in submitting manuscripts to be considered for publication in JUAL should review the JUAL home page, and the Submissions for detailed information on submission requirements.
JUAL seeks to bring together an international community of scholars exploring the topic of unschooling and alternative learning, which espouses learner centered democratic approaches to learning. JUAL is also a space to reveal the limitations of mainstream schooling.

JUAL understands learner centered democratic education as individuals deciding their own curriculum, and participating in the governance of their school—if they are in one. Some examples of learner centered democratic possibilities are unschooling, Sudbury Valley, Fairhaven, and the Albany Free School. In terms of unschooling, we view it as a self-directed learning approach to learning outside of the mainstream education rather than homeschooling, which reproduces the learning structures of school in the home.
It will offer readers relevant theoretical discussions and act as a catalyst for expanding existing knowledge in specific areas of practice and/or research on learning relevant to the journals mandate. The journal will be available at as a free publication containing material written in French or English. JUAL will initially be published as articles become accepted for publication. When enough articles to make an issue are available, we will publish them as an issue.
I invite you to circulate this announcement to colleagues, graduate students, researchers and/or organizations who may be interested in submitting a manuscript to JUAL for consideration.
Questions can be addressed to the editors of JUAL by contacting Carlo Ricci at