Soundbite at the Museum?

28 02 2008

Another great learning-as-life post from Holly and Lucia unschooling in Paris. This one connects art, science and inspiration through real sounds we’ve never thought to imagine before.

(Puts me in mind of Young Son announcing one Christmas that sound was his servant.)

RIP Bill Buckley

27 02 2008

I say it is a loss to the intellect, reason and civility of a different world.


p.s. and to the thorough exercise of the English language! 🙂

Parents Make Sex Film With Their Little Girls

27 02 2008

Yeah, a sensational slug but not altogether unfair for this NYT story

So far it has been seen only at film festivals and at schools of public health, including those at Harvard and Johns Hopkins. But the film will soon be available here.

In it, two incredibly sweet and precocious sisters — Vineeta and Sevilla Hennessey, ages 6 and 4 — accompany their parents, the filmmakers, to the 2006 International AIDS Conference in Toronto. They interview top AIDS experts, gay activists, condom distributors, a sex toy saleswoman, a cross-dresser playing Queen Elizabeth II and an Indian transgender hijra in a sari.

. . . one childish question leads to the next. . .

More Than Self-Governing, Social Networks Are Self-Creating

26 02 2008

New scientific thinking (with video!) from’s “Third Culture” on how our social networks create and recreate our changing reality, very much as biology does:

It is customary to think about fashions in things like clothes or music as spreading in a social network. But it turns out that all kinds of things, many of them quite unexpected, can flow through social networks, and this process obeys certain rules we are seeking to discover.
We’ve been investigating the spread of obesity through a network, the spread of smoking cessation through a network, the spread of happiness through a network, the spread of loneliness through a network, the spread of altruism through a network. And we have been thinking about these kinds of things while also keeping an eye on the fact that networks do not just arise from nothing or for nothing. Very interesting rules determine their structure.

What about family privacy principles, culture, entertainment preferences and boycotts, religion, politics, free will and choice in all things large and small? Homeschool advocates working in the legislative process, for example, could certainly benefit from understanding it through this science!

And for real folks who wisely keep their distance from political social constructs, does this also apply to our deepest sense of who we are, and can it be studied and understood scientifically as “created” but right here on earth moment to moment, rather than being immutable and divinely ordained?

Hey! Could it be this emergent theory of human consciousness and experience of reality, rather than “evolution” per se, that is the elephant in education’s living room?

Is that the scientific theorizing that anti-science religious creationists REALLY fear humans learning about, and most intriguing to me then, do they so effectively spread this fear precisely through the kind of scientifically verifiable social contagion this research investigates, thereby validating it even as they preach against it??

You just gotta go read and think about this stuff! And then I hope we can socially spread the germs of our thinking all around our networks. . .Paul, Nance, Daryl, Scott and I had the vaguest glimmer of this idea being important back in the NHEN forums (wow, look, January 2004, four years ago already — maybe it’s the social contagion of election year politics that infected us??) and so we started a discussion there we boldly called, “Brainstorming Network and Systems Theory for Homeschoolers.” Of course we only scratched the surface of our ignorance, trying to find an intelligent QUESTION, never mind expecting intelligent answers at that point. 🙂

Now, today, here’s the barest hint of what the cutting edge of social network contagion sounds like (I’m so excited!) : Read the rest of this entry »

Response to Nate

26 02 2008

[refer to original post and comments at “The Apple You Were Fed”]

I’ve read this book. I am going to throw in there that I have a degree in literature too, just to give some background on where I get off disagreeing with you.

**People disagree with me all the time — with and without degrees. I am a Mom. 🙂

To be sure, there are things that you’re saying with which I totally agree. Your review does seem a bit “harsh,” to use your word, which I suppose is the nature of a bad review. I will especially buy the whole “should have been labeled as an evangelical work” comment.

**Thanks. And that was the point of my comments. I originally became aware of this book when JJ posted about it in what I thought was a hopeful tone. She seemed to see a book about working across major differences to help each other through life’s difficulties. I was disappointed with what I found at the authors’ website though. I got the message there that the ONLY way to deal with difficulties was to find Jesus.

Not the encouraging idea that JJ thought she saw, at all.

You say:

“As sincere as these ladies sound in their beliefs, I don’t think they truly understand that all of the lessons they learned are just life lessons, which are learned, I hope, by all adults as they mature and have nothing to do with God or Jesus or any other religious icon. They are simply common sense adjustments to the reality we all face every day, some more difficult than others but none requiring magic of any kind.” I find this comment to make a little less sense than the rest of your review. The whole point of the book was that they failed to learn these lessons until they used God’s love to fill the void in their lives.”

**Yes, I agree, that is the point of the book. And not what I think we were initially led to believe it was about. I feel that the authors look at life’s issues and pretend that they can deal with them in a real-world way, but really their agenda is to assure us that they can’t and we can’t. That we need Jesus.

Furthermore, COME ON, “life lessons . . . are learned . . . by all adults as they mature”? They address alcoholism, infidelity, coldness, lack of self worth, etc. It would be nice if everyone learned how to overcome those problems without “God or Jesus . . . [or] magic,” but not everyone does. In fact, I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who recovered from these problems who swear by such hocus pocus as religion.

**Since you include the whole sentence I wrote above, let’s read it. I include the phrase “I hope” for a reason. Not everyone, of course, does deal well with life’s strains. Read the rest of this entry »

Testing, Best Practices and Other HS Evaluation Efforts

25 02 2008

Yep, it’s the silly season again — not just for presidential campaigning but for independent family education as a state legislative target.

“Maybe with oversight we’ll find out there are no problems out there and it’s fine and dandy. I hope that’s the way it is, but it’s our responsibility.

Those kids should get an education in this state” . . . Schimek said she just wants quality control checks, she doesn’t care how they’re done.

As Kay and Dana and other hardworking home education advocates face renewed legislative meddling attempts in their own states, I thought I would offer this perspective, FWIW.

It was 2005 and a legislatively awakened mom was asking me — as an old education policy pro now happily homeschooling — about data collection and evaluation attempts aimed at home education. Her state department of education had created a professional position for same, and she was wondering about its potential to help or harm:

“The position requires that
the individual for this job be able to:

1) comprehend and remain current in research and best practices in
home schooling

I would like to know what you think of the term ‘best practices’
being used with homeschooling?”

Here’s how I responded for her, and for our “parent-directed education” list:


First a riff about “best practices” as a concept and then homeschool-specific thoughts.

Nance is right, “best practices” is education jargon. It’s meant to be fuzzy yet generally understood and accepted, like social norms or manners or grammar.

In the past 25 years, public schooling has made a new specialty out of collecting and promulgating “best practices” because imo, it’s a way of seeming helpful and expert without any generalizable research or enforcing regulations; it’s more like writing an advice column or suggesting recipes.

In benign form, “best practices” are anecdotal and non-binding, so there’s just nothing to argue about — best practices are ideas that have helped some folks somewhere move toward the “good” end of some widely accepted continuum. Best practices are proffered routes to take you where you say you want to go.

Neither law nor formal teacher preparation defines homeschooling best practices, that I know of — they barely acknowledge homeschooling’s existence and learn nothing about us, just assume schooling is superior!

. . .Which has always been a bone of contention with me. School laws that charge ps personnel with evaluating homeschools armed with nothing but schoolish best practices as their measure. Read the rest of this entry »

Wanna Check My School Math?

24 02 2008

Our big neighborhood has a homeowners’ newsletter and I just flipped through the latest issue to see a column about the local school district, written by a fellow resident who’s been on the board for years and now is running for the state House. So he’s killing at least two, maybe three birds with this one school-PR stone. Maybe he hadn’t figured on me reading it, though? 😉

Among the happy fact-blurbs — the cost to run the schools in this county is just under a million bucks per DAY! This is at a time Florida is slashing property taxes and holding monster school district budgets harmless (so public safety and law enforcement, libraries, transportation, family service assistance from meals and health clinics to rec programs etc. get to take the full hit. Academics are just more important, right?)

But then he goes on with his happy little fact blurbs, chirping about all the non-academic things the schools are spending big bucks on — including the same stuff getting cut from city and county budgets!?

* Our school bus system is the largest transportation agency in Leon County logging over 4 million miles per year. . . our buses travel to Alaska and back twice a DAY in total mileage.” Read the rest of this entry »

Six-Word Life Stories and the Debate Last Night

22 02 2008

NPR has been playing around lately with a poetic form of short-short story, capturing a life story in “six words.”

Stephen Colbert for example, offers these six: “Well, I thought it was funny!”

Reading the transcript of last night’s CNN debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, I found one and I claim authorship! (Favorite Daughter wrote something last year about “found poetry” and when I find it, I’ll link that too. It all connects, don’t you think?) A natural gem of six facets telling a sparkly, self-contained, true, funny and tragic story of this bizarre campaign season, at least to my peculiar eyes —

“It’s time we said no more.”

(That’s verbatim from the transcript, I swear, although I admit to taking a bit of poetic license, because that’s not how she meant it — and those six words were in her opening statement! She went on to say more, quite a bit more and much of it pretty desperate and destructive imo, too bad. Her power of story was stronger stopping right there.)

Feminist Unschoolers to “Bitch”: We’re Here, Not Queer

22 02 2008

BITCH Magazine spent several months putting together a feature article for which Favorite Daughter and I were extensively interviewed as “feminist unschoolers”, or so we were sold on participating when first contacted. The end result is definitely not the usual media take on home education and unschooling! Fair warning.

“Learning Curve: Radical unschooling moms are changing the stay-at-home landscape” is now online, with reader comments. Here’s mine:

We’re Here, Not Queer

My always unschooled teen daughter and I were interviewed at length for this piece but do not fit this strong queer-punk angle, which unfortunately mirrors other media stereotypes we read about ourselves, just reversing the image as mirrors do.

Someone who did make the article yet still felt the reflection didn’t do reality justice, gave her bloglink above for fuller perspective. So here’s a feminist unschooling teen blog left out of this mirror image altogether, her radically individual identity not hippy, Christian, queer nor punk thus so unsuited to stereotype that she apparently has no reflection at all, like a vampire who can’t even fit the mold-breaking mold. (Does that make her “post-moldern”?)

My progressive, feminist unschooling mom blog — with a longtime online partner who also is not hippy, Christian, queer or punk — is Cocking a Snook!

JJ Ross, Ed.D.

FavD and I are not exactly offended though, just — nonplussed? We think BITCH does much better work portraying the religious extreme of home education stereotyping (the Duggars, Andrea Yates and the Quiverfull movement as patriarchal politics, for example) in a way progressives and feminists — unschooling or not, queer or not — had better learn about and start responding to effectively, WITH unschooling moms and daughters rather than against us for not being in public school.

Lynn suggests Thinking Parents study up on the “Christian Worldview” that political patriarchs are pushing as morality and family values inside and outside of home education, with “no room for compromises – nor respecting different viewpoints. It’s all about culture war…

Mind Your Head About Home Education and Religion

20 02 2008

“This is a difficult issue,” he said. “It deals with the intersection of the two things most important to most people — their faith and their children’s education.”

Here’s the thing — home education and religion are two things, not the same thing. Two things that, however intimately connected you choose to make them in your own private family life, nevertheless are not the SAME thing and shouldn’t be, at least not in law, politics and public policy debate.

Both liberals and conservatives have their own fatal flaws, as authority figures nobly legislating away our individual liberties for our own good. But religious belief in the infallibility of one’s own cause adds a scorched-earth dispensation to any political cause, one that quickly becomes more of a threat itself than whatever good it believes itself divinely chosen to create or impose. No end can justify means so mean.

This is particularly true in education thought and belief (or so I think and believe!)

A la Philip Zimbardo, I want all political creatures to get far enough outside their political “situations” to see this objectively and compassionately as thinkers, rather than from the emotionally fraught power-struggle roles they play within the situation. That is the tremendous value of unschooling for example — after several years of having NO role in schooling whatsoever, it is astounding what you finally begin to see and understand about all the role players within education politics.

Maybe I should just quote Marvin Minsky in Wired:
“I once peeled a label off a London bus.

Home education was thrown out as a creationist threat to the body politic yesterday, as Florida officially adopted new science standards for public education. Plus, the sitting board member representing creationist religious beliefs (not modern science education) actually suggested that if the vote went against her legions of believers, her fellow board members would need to enter the witness protection program! I am not making this stuff up, folks; if you are a homeschooling family no matter what you believe about science OR religion in politics, it’s high time to mind your head — time for your reason to think about your beliefs, try to get both on the same side at the same time, and then figure out what to teach your kids about it all, so their freedom to do both can endure.

Yesterday wasn’t the first time, just the most recent. Last spring for the government-celebrated National Day of Prayer, local homeschoolers got so caught up in their beliefs that they clearly weren’t minding their heads. I reasoned they’d plumb lost their heads AND their minds. Read the rest of this entry »

Ed Reform Quote of the Day

20 02 2008

“I find myself (once again) in the uncomfortable position of seeing ideas that I have supported as part of a broader set of reforms turn into unhealthy obsessions.

I feel like someone who said that people should wear hats and then turned around to discover that people were talking about nothing else but their hats and walking around naked.” — Diane Ravitch to Deborah Meier in their ongoing education blog conversation

Learn Journalism Through Role-Play Video Game?

19 02 2008
So I asked myself — nah, too easy! I’ll keep my power of story snark out of the Chronicle’s story, this time anyway. (But feel free to write your own punchlines if you’ve had virtually harrowing encounters with intrepid young reporters, or old grizzled cynical ones, or any stereotypical journalist in between.)

Teaching Journalism Through a Role-Playing Game

Online games have been developed to train firefighters, soldiers, and others preparing for fast-paced jobs. So why not a game to train journalists?  Nora Paul, director of the Institute of New Media Studies at the University of Minnesota, described to an audience of game scholars and developers on Monday how she and a colleague, Kathleen Hansen, helped to create such a game with a $10,000 grant from the university and advice from some experienced gamers. Ms. Paul and Ms. Hansen, a journalism professor at the university, modified the computer game, NeverWinter Nights, to develop a three-dimensional role-playing game to teach students about the intricacies of being a journalist: coming up with a story angle, identifying sources, preparing questions, synthesizing information, and writing an article.
The presentation was part of a game developers conference in San Francisco.The game has students assuming the role of a reporter who is responding to a chemical spill that forces the evacuation of a neighborhood.
In an effort to show students that journalists need to treat people with respect, for example, the game depicts a cocky journalist getting the cold shoulder from sources.
Ms. Paul and Ms. Hansen are fine-turning the game after testing it out on some honors students. The students who played the game responded positively to it, Ms. Paul said. But she noted one kink that needs to be resolved: a reporter suddenly dies after arguing with his editor.—Andrea L. Foster