Here is another post from our new series, Of Art + Technology.
Tis the season for gift-giving and receiving. While the average kid may have a wish list of games and tech toys that level up and allow you to see in virtual spaces, many of these tech treats are passive activities that while innovative, don't allow your kids to be the innovator. Learning by making, as a concept and a tool of instruction, has been around for ages now and is highly beneficial given the fact that concepts and skills learned through doing are bound to sink in better than the ones which are learned theoretically, passively or by rote. Today, learning-by-making, or MakerSpace has been adopted by many schools and educational institutions into their curriculum. Using a whole range of kid-friendly tools, apparatus and instructional videos on the internet, kids can be encouraged to have a more active interaction with the concepts of art, science and technology. In simpler terms - kids can learn to make their own tech toys.
I've said it before, but it's worth repeating,"Homeschooling can feel like an isolated endeavor". This feeling is acutely felt in the urban community as the usual go-to resources like co-ops and learning centers can be prescriptive, cliquey, or expensive. Yet there is a push within our emerging diverse homeschool community to create opportunities to "come together" - connect, discover opportunities, share resources and build community.
Last week, I attended the Homeschool Conference & Explorers Day Camp in Philadelphia. The event which was hosted by The Academy of Natural Sciences and organized by Maleka Diggs, owner of Eclectic Learning Network was a blast! While I served on the Parent Panel, I walked away with as many strategies and insights from the other parents and presenters as I hopefully offered them. The attendees were representative of many different social-ethnic-economic groups. There were dads (oh yeah!), single moms, ex-teacher parents (like myself), WFHM/SAHM?WOHM, virtual and blended homeschoolers, some with one child in school and another being homeschooled, folks who have homeschooling from the start and others about to embark on the journey.
Here are a few take-aways we can all benefit from.
Remember, there are programs and services and communities of like-minded and mission-shared families out there available and hoping to connect with you. You need to get out there and connect back. Show up, and you'll be shown possible ways to move forward.
As an educator, I’ve had rare experience of teaching PreK-12 (and even university and graduate school level). Let’s just say, my professional journey was two parts exploration and experimentation and three parts building on prior knowledge and being open to where and I how I could be of best service. Each assignment was approached with curiosity, intention and an open-mindedness that often looked like play. Yes, play - joyful, self-directed, interactive, collaborative, reflective work. Play, has always been regarded as an important vehicle for learning by early childhood education programs. Today, the value of this play is becoming more prevalent in the primary education system. Yet, when I heard a homeschooler “pooh-pooh” the merits of educational play, I realized that we need to reassess the definition of educational play and build homeschooling programs that incorporate age-responsive play as a means of achieving more effective learning. It is a proven fact that when children are left to their own devices in an open and tolerant atmosphere where they are free to make their own choices, they learn better.
Allow me to preface this post, and first entry in our new blog series on art and technology integration, with a bit of clarification about the "virtual" aspects of The Little School Project. While technological fluency is essential in 21st Century teaching and learning, our Community Blueprint and parent-teacher professional development programs are not distance learning/digital classroom experiences. The curriculum model will be available online, however, it is not a virtual learning program. The adult-learning programming encompasses online and face-to-face interactive engagements. One of the core values at the LSP is community social impact. That requires getting offline and connecting with those in your home and neighborhood. With that said, we fully recognize that for single parent or dual income families, virtual learning may be the most viable homeschool option. We encourage you to use it as a compliment to other active and collaborative learning solutions.
Virtual learning has been in existence since it was first employed in the year 1990. What started out as a great method of distance education, virtual learning today, has become an important tool for homeschooling parents; particularly those who are time, financial, or work-homeschool balance challenged. A virtual learning program has many merits,
When I moved to Japan in 2004, I had no idea my 1-year teaching contract would morph into almost seven years as a fully engaged resident. Hiroshima quickly became my home and while I was technically the teacher, I learned a tremendous amount how children learn and are “raised” by their parents, teachers and the community. As I changed companies (I worked with an educational organization that placed me as a teaching specialist in local jr and high schools and private universities) and transferred to international schools (through the IB), I became witness to cultural approaches to education that extended beyond taught content and classroom activities. The Japanese education system is very different from ours. I am reminded of this each night that my daughter and I do her KUMON (Japanese style Math and Reading supplemental learning strategies) work. In a more general sense, it is quite obvious considering the vast differences in the way of living across both our countries. While different, there are certainly a few things that we can learn and adopt from our Japanese counterparts. Here are a few things that they do differently in schools which are worth a thought.
The summer I turned fourteen was spent reading books in preparation for boarding school; which I was due to start that autumn. The suggested reading list was intense – Grapes of Wrath, Night, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and Lord of the Flies were at the top of the list. Not exactly beach-worthy paperbacks. Forget the beach, I spent most of that summer in the shade, with a serious-titled work of fiction and a cold Pepsi. Flirty socializing became an even more awkward endeavor (imagine adolescent frivolous chats about the mall, tennis camp and Duran Duran peppered with communist considerations stemming from Animal Farm) so much so that my only summer crush was on Holden Caulfield. Since then, summer has always been synonymous with reading and deep pondering. Aside from my back issues of Vogue, it’s unlikely you’ll catch me under a beach umbrella with chick lit. If you share my love for productive pleasure reading, consider our suggested summer reading list and I’ll see you at an outdoor cafe, under a shady tree in the park or on an air-conditioned commute out of town with your nose buried in a good book.
There are few writers who can draft witty prose on falling in and out of love, working 9-5, the anxiety of being bourgeois and Proust without sounding utterly pretentious if not completely uninteresting. Alain de Botton is entertaining, swoon-fully philosophical and quite possibly one of the most brilliant and relevant contemporary writers around. While I compulsively collect his books like Prada shoes (gently used off Ebay), if I had to choose a favorite as a summer read, it would have to be…. Ok, well I can’t pick just one. My top picks: “The Architecture of Happiness“ (philosophy and psychology of architecture and the indelible connection between our identities and our locations), “On Love” (his debut novel of the serendipity, elation, conflicting and Marxists aspects of romantic relationships) and “The Art of Travel” (considerations of the pleasures of anticipation; the allure of the exotic, and the value of noticing everything from a seascape in Barbados to the takeoffs at Heathrow).
According to “The Concise Art of Seduction 24 Laws of Persuasion”, by Robert Greene, the luxury of getting your way lies in how well you wield your personal and creative power. Greene’s broader sense of seduction (to lead, guide, direct, influence another individual or individuals to willingly go along with your wishes, whether benevolent or not) is explored in a masterfully designed essential guide for persuasion. His 24 laws are clearly and cleverly outlined and supported with literary, historical and anthropological examples of observing the principles and techniques. Like Botton, Greene has a passion for the complexities of relationships and the establishment of power within those relationships. His books (and these are my faves too), The 48 Laws of Power, The 50th Law of Power (co-written with Curtis Jackson/50 Cent, yes that 50 Cent) and The 23 Strategies of War, are modern and uniquely pro-peace guidelines for navigating team-building, collaboration, change-management and a happy home. Kumbaya.
What could be more luxurious than the 4-hour work week? Sitting on a remote island with a bevy of uber-efficient virtual assistants handling all of your business and personal life management needs. Young, visionary, and boyishly cute Timothy Ferriss, author of “The 4-Hour Workweek – Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich” is a savant at demystifying societal values about work customs, earning a living and living like a king. His detailed guide to effectively minimizing your work load and maximizing the quality of your life is easy to follow, motivational and real. This book is a perfect compliment to LSP homeschooling approaches - smart, creative, strategic maximization of time and energy. After re-reading his book months ago, I obtained two virtual assistants and broke my email addiction – leaving me more time to spend with my daughter and family, design programs that really spoke to my mission and set a firmer a foundation for living a more authentic life. And well, chill. There are no gimmicks here. Just a book, a plan, a will and a way.
Other books on my list: The Year of Yes (Shonda Rhimes), The Audacity of Hope (Barack Obama),
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Tell anybody you are planning to homeschool or are already doing it and the first question you will be asked is ‘what about socialization?’.
While homeschooling parents have a lot of challenges to face, the issue of socialization doesn’t come into picture unless you are homeschooling a single child. However, it has become a big deterrent for families with a single child who wish they could homeschool.
The term ‘Socialize’ means to ‘mix with others socially’ or ‘behave in a way that is acceptable to others and the surroundings’. A school’s environment tends to focus on the latter definition of the term while homeschooling enables socialization according to the former. Since teaching and learning in a homeschooled household takes place in various places, the children learn to mix with children and adults of different ages, gender, background, intellect, ethnicity and even profession. Their interactions take place at the bus stop, the post office, in the grocery store or maybe the museum.
Homeschool parents wear multiple hats - parent hat, teacher hat, project manager hat, cheerleader hat, etc, etc. It's easy to get consumed with the tasks that define each role, and forget the primary essence of each role - conscious connecting. As a parent, it becomes extremely necessary to raise your child by understanding their needs. It’s best done by pouring all your conscious effort on the child in a calm and lovable manner. There is a saying “Today’s children… Tomorrow’s future…” A future where people have compassion, honesty and are well behaved can only be shaped now. That is why it is very to start now for a better future. Who best can do that other than the parents? So we have picked up a top 5 tips/hacks to be a conscious parent.
curriculum includes all those student activities, academic and non-academic
When thinking of advocacy in homeschooling, images of religious causes come to mind. In modern homeschooling, despite a secular approach, advocacy, be it environmental, cultural/ethic-specific, or political is a huge part of the philosophical and practical. At least for the homeschooling parents. But what about the kids?
Several years ago, I discovered Meatless Mondays (or Meat Free Mondays, as its known in the UK). Moved by its mission, in a nutshell is to raise awareness of the climate-changing impact of meat production and consumption, I started a campaign at my school. Pumped up and stoked to offer my students an active opportunity to make change, I was surprised that their initial resistance was based on a fear of vegetarianism. You’d think I was asking them to eat nails. “No meat!”, some almost cried. Of course this was optional, there were no incentives and we were only talking about one meal on Monday, lunch. As the weeks passed the protests ceased. In fact, most of the students admitted to enjoying the change and the challenge. On the superficial level, they noticed a difference in how they felt, their energy level, their openness to try new foods. Still some of them had a sketchy understanding of eating meatless. Their solution to no hamburgers is double orders of fries or pizza. On a deeper level, they began to sort out the connection between consumption, supply and demand and the impact on the environment. What they all realized was the power in action as a means of advocacy. It was one thing to discuss the impact of mass farming but it’s another to experiment with a solution that they could contribute to. In essence to walk the talk. They were empowered and they constructed their own meaning of all they were learning. Most of them went back to eating burgers on Monday, because that was not a practical or really heart-felt way for them to advocate. But all of them looked at other organizations, individual and collective strategies to make a positive impact.
It seems it's only during senior year that students are asked what they want from their education and how well prepared they feel about the next steps in their learning journey. Even at graduation, guest speakers offer advice and their truths, gospels according to their triumphs and stumbles. Yet, aside from the usual suspect questions - "Where do you want to go to college, and what do you want to do after college?", few conversations are initiated where students get to really speak their mind. So I asked how they experience school (traditional and home school) and learning in their lives, and about our role in preparing them for the future?