Some Home-ed pointers

Some articles pointed out by others (Key-Words and Padki):

"Homeschooling's true colors: investigating the myths—and the facts—about America's fastest-growing educational movement" Jul/Aug 2005, Mothering. A fair article on home education. Nothing too controversial and clears up a lot of myths.

"Wild Child" and "All in the Family" in Oct 2005, Dallas Observer. Both are on unschooling families but neither family's parents seem to have any clear vision for their children (they seem to see themselves filling some sort of supporting roles rather than leading role).

The main problem I see is that both homes are lead by the mothers. Neither father has taken on the responsibility of their children (education, moral training, vision casting). Without the fathers, furture of our children is unclear (largely hit or miss, I believe).

I'll blog more about responsibilities and freedom, regarding education, soon...


Forced anything is bad

When you force by gun point to share my wealth, I don't call it donation, it's theft (or taxation). When you force a person to do your menial job, it's called slavery. When a person is forced to have sex, it's called rape.

When people are taught by force, what do most people call it? That's right, education. [I believe that the correct term is "schooling."]

Unschooling goes against the tide: there are no forced anything. Force is used to get something you want done that the other person does not. Education is the last thing you want to force on anyone. Just as a coach does not have remote control for each players, you want to motivate and encourage your children. You want to show them that you are a learner too. You show them the tools and usage and let them loose.

I do my best to let my children do their own dictionary look up. I know how to spell most of the words they ask but I have them look it up. Tools like Franklin's Electronic Speaking Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary helps find spelling (corrects misspellings) and with the computer generated pronunciations, even I find it useful! Now that they know how to use it, I almost always tell them, well sound it out and go look it up.

Likewise with computer programming, they are into playing games and I had promised to get them going on writing games. After they reminded me this promise for few months, I finally got them the evaluation version of Stagecast and made sure that they can follow the tutorial and off they ran on their own. They quickly found the limitations of the eval software and were trying to push the limits and then I finally got them licensed version where the limits were taken off. (They each have a notebook and so sometimes they work alone, other times they collaborate and others, they just share ideas.) Just this weekend, I downloaded examples, some of which were pretty well done and they learned a few trick or two from them.

[This was started as a comment to "Homeschooled Wild Child"]


MIT prof. fired for lying

"MIT professor sacked for fabricating data" starts off with:
A high-flying researcher has been fired from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston for fabricating data. A New Scientist investigation can, however, reveal that serious doubts are also being expressed over the accuracy of data published by the same researcher much earlier in his career.
Sad how people in the "higher institutions" seem to belive they are above it all [I didn't think about the pun when I first wrote it down, but I'll leave it as is].


Problem with Public Schools #915

Here's an "incident" in Austin: "AISD Investigating Alleged Exposure By 5th Grader".

So tax money is being spent by the public school (AISD is Austin Independent School District -- that's independent of other gov. to tax you and me) to look into this 5th grader exposing himself.

Not only is having public schools bad in the first place, they are called to "do something about officially" which a little bit of fatherly discipline can't cure. The boy is probably an extrovert and needs attention (the father isn't around maybe?). And since he can't bring knives and guns to school to show off, what *does* he have with any shock value? Boys will be boys and dads are needed to keep them shape. Not super moms and certainly not public "officials." (I guess this later rant really belongs in my men's study blog. (grin))


Einstein's Big Idea ain't big enough: Or why the Word trumpts all ideas

I've recorded PBS's "Einstein's Big Idea" and have been watching it over few days as I worked out but I found one thing interesting: pre-Einstein physics assumed that mass and energy (and time) were constant, but Einstein had a breakthrough in thinking that time didn't have to be constant. Yet there was one thing which was assumed to be constant: light. But now there are studies which cast doubt into the light being constant. If light is non-constant, then what?

There is also this long unfulfilled desire to find the Grand Unified Theory of everything in the universe....

It's funny how the matter has a similar story: atom was thought to be the smallest. Then we discovered subatomic particles and quantum mechanics. Can we say that we have now reached the bottom? Probably not.

What's really amazing is that we humans can make simple assumptions and turn them into breakthroughs for better understanding the universe we live in (but also surprised in not finding the "final" answer). And amidst of all the changes in theories and ideas, one thing is constant: (human) language and this semi-universal, yet rigorous subset of human language called mathematics. Yes the flavor of human language keeps changing (Greek, Latin, German, English, etc.) but the fundamental need for humans to describe the "new" ideas in language hasn't changed (and the power of each language is such that they can be translated from one to the other). The language of mathematics have allowed a more precise way to describe the universe without direct need for a human language, yet without the verbage, ideas expressed in the math cannot be understand by others reading just the math.

So, all the more reason to be in awe of the Word:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

self-education: why it's a big deal for me

25 years ago was my Helen Keller moment. Yet, people don't realize how fundamental this change was for me (or how poorly I'm trying to communicate this change). It's not like I started a new hobby. I wasn't doing extra studies to impress others. I wasn't going for extra credits.

Instead, I got hooked on learning for the sake of learning. (I picked my college majors after I had learned and mastered the subjects, not the other way around.) Note that I learned many things in spite of my course load (I was learning things on my own, while I took courses mainly to get credits, not to be educated). In highschool, college and grad school, I was able to pick and choose many electives but in very few classes did I learn things because I was in the class (the only educational classes were the ones where the teacher gave examples or case studies from their past).

I could have taken tests for credits but I don't think they allowed all courses to be skipped (otherwise, why pay so much money for the tuition?).

And when I read about homeschooling, it was so liberating: I finally got a name for my condition: a homeschooled student! (I just happened to be sitting in classroom lectures -- most of my learning was done outside of the classes.)


How Long Homeschooling?

On a mailing list, I was asked "how long have you been homeschooling?" And wrote a long response, but after looking over it again and the responses I got, I want to re-present as the following:
  1. 25 years ago was my "Helen Keller moment" of education. In my 10th grade, I was ahead of my class in math (pre-calculus) and was studying at my own pace. I hit a brick wall when I encountered calculus (specifically, derivatives). I had to reread the chapter on derivatives several times (over several days, I'm pretty sure) and then somehow it clicked and I made a break through: I understood how calculus works! It gave me the confidence to pretty much learn anything I wanted to put my mind to. And it started to corrode the assumption I had held from my youth (absorbed from my Japanese parents) that education = school, including the necessary push to be open to home education. [Read more about what I learned since then in my older blog entries.]
  2. 19 years ago (or so), I first read about homeschooling and it clicked: All those years since my breakthrough made sense to me. I had been self teaching myself: the essence of home education. [Again read my blog on what changes I made] I also knew from then on that my children would be home educated. And I started reading a lot about home education, philosophies, examples and success stories. I also put money where my mouth is: I started donating money to TRI which supports various rights, including homeschoolers. (Keep in mind that at this point of my life, I had a job but still single and not a girlfriend in sight.)
  3. 14 years ago my Japanese wife agreed to marry me in spite of my insistance on home educating our future children. (We already had worked out many (more major) differences before we were engaged, so future educational issues were minor and we believed that we could work it out over time.)
  4. My oldest is 12 years old and since I personally believe in unschooling, I could argue that we started our "real" studies at birth.
  5. Somewhere around 6-10 years ago (I'll pick the middle and say 8?) is when my wife "bought into" home education, but of delayed academics kind (not on the same page as yours truly but close enough (or closest) to unschooling that I can live with it).
  6. 4 years ago was when we first started the formal teaching of our eldest. [Since the formal time is at most 1 hour a day, they are effectively unschooled most of the day...]
So my answer would be: "25 or 19 or 14 or 12 or 8 or 4 years, depending on what you mean by that question: please read my blog to see which answer is appropriate."

[Someone mentioned that compulsory age is when the clock starts ticking (for that author) but as an unschooler, I completely disagree. No government or laws is going to tell me when I start educating my children. As a parent, it is my responsibility and mine alone (with my wife, of course).]


Einstein Never Liked Schools and He Turned Out OK

Daniel of Key-Words pointed out the Salon article "Endless Summer" and it covers a bit of unschooling but, if you ask me, poorly presents it.

For one, there is no mention of Sudbury Valley School one of the few private schools which actively live out the unschooling philosophy, and they have been in business for almost 40 years. Sudval has many graduates so Salon should have at least interviewed one of the early graduates (I've seen on Japanese TV a mother who graduated from sudval and was sending her child to the same school).

For another, books like "Einstein Never Used Flash Cards" point out the value of unstructured learning (at least for preschoolers). Moore Foundation has done studies on the value of delaying schooling until 8 or 10 years (or even later).

I guess what's really needed are books like "Einstein dropped out in highschool but ended up with Nobel Prize" -- OK the title maybe not quite true, but he wasn't your typical obey the teacher and keep his nose to the grind kind of student. He was so "bad" that when he finished college, he had to settle for a patent office job rather than university teaching/researching position.

A side comment: whenever I hear of young child or teenager getting into college I smirk, since those children are precisely the kind of students who will always be good students (i.e., followers) rather than some innovator or revolutionary. Many of the tech innovators are college drop outs: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates (some would argue that Gates was never innovative but he didn't become the richest because he wasn't creative on the business skills), and Michael Dell. They had visions and passions that no amount of degrees would have helped. (Those with degrees innovate in spite of their schooling, if you ask me.)