Education, Education Delivery Programs, Home Schools, Home-Based Education, Ivan Illich, Life Learning

Reflections on Illich 01: Home-based education is education in community, not in isolation

The 1970s work of Ivan Illich has been an important point of reference in my PhD dissertation.  In many respects, Illich understood a Biblical Christian approach to the education process.  I am hoping to comment on a series of quotes that are recorded elsewhere in this blog (Illich quotes) .  This is the first of the quotes.  The full text can be obtained:

Illich, I. (1970). Deschooling Society. Cuernavaca, Mexico: CIDOC.  Downloadable from: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html

p. xix  “Universal education through schooling is not feasible.  It would be no more feasible if it were attempted by means of alternative institutions built on the style of present schools.  Neither new attitudes of teachers toward their pupils nor the proliferation of educational hardware or software (in classroom or bedroom), nor finally the attempt to expand the pedagogue’s responsibility until it engulfs his pupils’ lifetimes will deliver universal education.  The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring.”

Here, as in other parts of Deschooling Society, Illich identifies that schools and schooling, because of their very essence, are unable to deliver true education.  Reformation of schools will not bring about the changes that are necessary to enable education to be accomplished.  Schools are, fundamentally, anti-education.  The thing that schools do best is school its attendees.

No amount of reformation, according to Illich — adjustments to the ways schools are constructed and run, changes in teachers’ attitudes to students, the use of technology in the classroom, and even a change in how students are engaged — will alter the outcomes of schooling.  Schools can only school.  And they can only school, and not educate, because they are total institutions that are designed to control every participant and process within them towards a stated end: egalitarianism and unquestioning submission to the state or some other dominating institution, i.e. an organized religion.  This is not an education, it is indoctrination.  It breeds narrow-mindedness, and an incapacity to think independently.

Schools are not to be reformed, they are to be abandoned altogether, and the vast resources that are taken from families and businesses (through taxation) to fund the schooling industry, should remain with the families and the businesses to fund home-based education and more financially viable private enterprise.

The proper context for education to take place, according to Illich, is living life: “the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring.”  And the support structures for a thorough education are “educational webs.”  Education must be in a context greater than the family.  The family is an essential base from which children move in and out.  Parents are important gate-keepers, who must vet and monitor the kinds of influences that their children are exposed to in the marketplace.  However, no parent is able to provide everything that the child needs for a well-rounded, reality-grounded education. 

There are three essential agents in an education, from a Biblical perspective.  The three agents are: the family, the church and the marketplace.  And the family needs to engage both the church and the marketplace as important sources of educational moments and experiences, not just lock their children away in a family fortress, as some (a small minority) home schooling families do.

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Home Schools, Home-Based Education, Unschooling

Some more discussion around the terms associated with home-based education

This has been posted at the blog site: ‘Go School Yourself” http://goschoolyourself.com/2014/07/18/de-schooling-success-no-summer-break-for-us/comment-page-1/#comment-72  I have reproduced it here to encourage as much discussion around the topic as possible.  I am really interested in what others have to say about the matter.

Thank you so much for your feedback. This looks like the beginnings of a long discussion, and I hope it will expand to include a lot of people who can make detailed comments from their positions in the spectrum. My full PhD dissertation is posted at: https://www.academia.edu/7970729/Deschooling_Unschooling_Australian_Biblical_Christian_Education

I am proposing that we set up a blog site that is specifically dedicated to this topic, and that the developing definitions ultimately be written up into a series of peer-reviewed journal articles which can be released into the marketplace for ongoing feedback and refinement.

It seems to me that a lot of criticism is aimed at home-based educators through straw-man arguments, and that is possible because when the term ‘homeschool’ is being used, it means everything and in so doing, means absolutely nothing (to paraphrase John Lennon). But if, as a movement, we can define the terms, with shades of application that cover the full gamut of manifestations of home-based education, then we can knock down the straw-men with a word.

So, back to your reply. I feel stronger that the term “home-based education” is a good umbrella term. It is home-based, because it is not “home-bound”.

In my research I came across families that were home-bound. Everything that was done in the name of home schooling, replicated the school in the home. The only problem was that the children were separated from anyone outside the home. The focus was academics, without any influence from others in the community. It seemed logical to me that these kinds of manifestations should be called, home schoolers. The term has two words that easily evoke imagery that enables the visualisation of the situation: most of what happens in the home looks very much like what happens at school. In 2013 the New South Wales state government, in Australia, released a set of regulations governing home schooling, and the NSW state government has made it illegal for any kind of home education to take place that is not registered, and to register, the home education must look exactly like what takes place at school. http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/parents/pdf_doc/home-edu-info-pack-13.pdf In fact, what is required of home schooling parents is over and above what is achieved by professional teachers in school classrooms. That, from my perspective, is home schooling. It is on the extreme of my proposed model, it exists, and is mandated by state and territory governments in Australia. I talk about it in some detail in my PhD dissertation. From that definition, there are many who call themselves home schoolers (homeschoolers), but who, in actual fact, do not run their home-based education exactly like school (but it must be conceded that some do – I have evidence of that fact).

So, what term can we use that distinguishes home schoolers from other home-based educators? I found the term unschoolers, and I think that term is useful. Unschoolers consciously do stuff that does not look like school.

Now, on the other extreme, there seems to be those families that are so unlike school, that they make the child’s decision-making processes the sole guide to what takes place in life. The child chooses when to go to bed, the child chooses what to eat, the child has free and unfettered access to the internet, the child, in effect, brings him/herself up without any kind of supervision, interruption, guidance, input from the parents; a complete hands-off approach. My research has found such families – they exist – and it is a radical extreme of the home-based education community. And sadly, these are often called homeschoolers, and the outcome of their hands-off parenting gives ammunition for policy makers to label homeschooling as child neglect. I have evidence. This group looks nothing like school, so in that sense they are unschoolers. However, I have identified them as the ‘radical unschoolers’. Now, many who, at the moment, call themselves radical unschoolers would be offended by the characterization that I have made. So, my argument is, those who would be offended by my definition of radical unschoolers, are in fact not radical unschoolers, but unschoolers with a particular emphasis.

Unschooling, therefore, is home-based education that does not look like school, but it does not precluded a whole range of strategies and manifestations of education being employed where appropriate: these manifestations and strategies I have called emphases in my dissertation. In this sub-category called emphases I have included: natural learning; discipleship; child-led learning; child-focused learning, academics-focused learning; life learning/education in life/education for life; apprenticeship; eclectic learning; kitchen table/dining room table education; practical learning; activities-based learning; democratic education; anarchistic education; etc. This means that the pool of unschoolers is a very large pool that includes: unschoolers with a discipleship emphasis; unschoolers with a natural learning emphasis; unschoolers with a gentle-parenting emphasis; unschoolers with a range of emphases at different times and for different children and for different circumstances and opportunities. I have tried to talk about these emphases in my dissertation, and am fully conscious of the fact that a whole PhD dissertation could be developed around just this single point: the words used to describe home-based education.

I am not claiming to be the authority on this matter. I am simply wanting to provoke a discussion, and get as many people involved in the discussion as possible, and then synthesise the discussion into some useful articles that can then be used by the home-based educating community to defend themselves from being all lumped in with the people on the edges of the movement who attract the wrong kind of attention. Don’t get me wrong, I would defend their right to bring up their own children in the way that they think fit. It is not for me to interfere with a parent’s parenting. However, when we talk about these things we need much more precise language to draw from.

Am really looking forward to ongoing discussions around this issue.

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Education Delivery Programs, Home-Based Education, Unschooling

Flexi-Learning Centres as a service to home-based educators

I am thinking about the concept of a Flexi-Learning Centre in accessible locations around Australia, primarily serving the home-based education community.  What do home-based educators think?

I am proposing that in Australia there be developed a federation of Flexi-Learning Centres. These centres would not be in competition with Flexible Learning Centres ‘Youth +’ run by Edmund Rice Education Australia. Flexible Learning Centres ‘Youth +’ are run as registered schools and they target youths who have fallen through the gaps in regular schools. The Term Flexi-Learning Centre was a term coined by me in 2001, and was included in a proposal to establish such a centre in Toowoomba, Queensland, at the time (This was a long time before Edmund Rice Education Australia called their facilities ‘Flexible Learning Centres’).   Flexi-Learning Centres, in contrast, will be privately managed, partially supported by the tithes and offerings of local churches, and partially supported by commercially contracted fees paid by the users of the service. Typically, Flexi-Learning Centres (F-LC) will be run out of private homes, or rented facilities. Access to the facilities and/or resources is by paying a locally determined fee.   Their target market will be home-based educators, whether home schoolers, unschoolers or radical unschoolers. F-LCs would be equipped with a growing Biblical Christian research library, consisting of physical books that can be read in-situ, digital books that can be accessed in the F-LC by computer, or accessed on-line through a purchased password. Christian home schooling textbooks could be available for loan or purchase. The F-LCs would have a range of technologies available for educational use, such as photocopiers, printers, scanners, computers, and access to the internet. There will be a place where lessons can be conducted, discussions and meetings can take place, and help and guidance can be found. A cup of coffee can be purchased, and serious discussions about things Biblical Christian can be freely engaged in. The F-LCs will be a learning clearing house, where a database of skills and knowledge providers (who have been vetted by police checks, character reference checks, and due diligence on the local grapevine) will be made available to those who want to obtain direct instruction or apprenticeship in specific areas. Access will be by payment of a locally determined fee, and inclusion on the list will be by payment of a periodic fee. It is envisioned that all kinds of different learning opportunities will take place in, around and out of the F-LCs. A very limited sample might include such things as: parenting workshops, household budgeting workshops, vegetable garden design demonstrations, pet care classes, Bible Studies, teaching evangelism, worship services, permaculture design ideas exchange, intensive phonics instruction, mathematics instruction, controlled science experiments demonstrated, and so on.

Associated with the F-LCs would be a portal enabling enrolment in an Australian campus of the New Geneva Christian Leadership Academy (NGCLA), currently located in Appomattox, Virginia, U.S.A. Local Biblically competent scholars will be encouraged to function as mentors for young people engaging in formal study through NGCLA. NGCLA would offer tailored learning units that can be linked together by students into a meaningful string of relevant and practical learning in accordance with the students’ interests and passions. NGCLA, over time, will develop a comprehensive digital library of books and articles that relate to all facets of life from a consistently Biblical Christian perspective, and in particular, providing an Australian perspective to the topics. Students will be encouraged to make their studies practical, with a measurably actionable outcome at the end of the study process. Local mentors will meet with the students on a regular basis, typically weekly, and will set small research assignments relating to the student’s interests. At the regular meetings the students will report back on what was learned in the previous period, and the mentor will ask clarifying questions around the things that have been learned, and then assign a further research question to be investigated over the next study period. This cycle of study and questioning will continue until the student has sufficient knowledge to engage in a practical project. At the conclusion of the practical project, the student will write up the body of knowledge learned through the research phase, and report on the experience gained in the practical project. This combined theoretical and practical report will form the basis for awarding a graduation acknowledgement in that area of interest. Students can engage in as many or as few of these cycles of learning as they want. It would be hoped that the things learned would enable the student, over time, to develop a range of marketable skills and knowledge sets that can be turned into an entrepreneurial enterprise. One of the cycles could be related to how to set up a viable internet-based business. Another could relate to setting up business accounts, and legally minimising tax payments. Payment to the mentor will be lesson by lesson, and this will encourage the mentors to make their appointments with the students interesting, so that the students will be encouraged to return. This will ensure that poor teachers move on, and good teachers are rewarded. To make the process viable for the mentor, and affordable for the students, there may be a small group of four to six students at each of the meetings.

NGCLA would also offer the opportunity to study formal bodies of knowledge from a Biblical Christian perspective, with the view of encouraging the students to contribute to the wider community of Biblical Christian scholarship and perhaps contribute to the development of a series of whole Bible commentaries and research resources in varied spheres of cultural endeavour. Individual students can work on projects on their own, and communities of students can work on projects cooperatively, mediated through the communication networks that are associated with the F-LCs and the Australian and international campuses of the NGCLA.

Connected to the NGCLA would be a publishing house that regularly gathers, peer-reviews, and publishes scholarly articles in digital magazines that focus on a range of cultural activities and foci. These magazines, after release, will be stored on the NGCLA database for use by NGCLA research students who are taking on advanced studies. The emphasis will be on the Australian context, but articles will be accepted for inclusion from like-minded communities in other countries. Permission will be obtained to reprint pertinent articles that appear on web sites on the world wide web. This database will have mirror sites around the world to protect against cyber terrorism and vandalism.

Is this something that would interest home-based educators in Australia?

Would love to hear from any one about this idea.

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deschooling, Home-Based Education, Natural Learning, Unschooling

The flexibility of home-based education

In preparing research for my PhD dissertation, one of the participants in an interview made the following statement:

“… over the years we went through times of more flexibility in academic learning.  At times we were less academic, and more kinaesthetic.  In town we sometimes reverted to natural learning.  We went backwards and forwards in methods.  Over time we saw that development of character was critical; the development of godly character.”

This is one of the most powerful features of a home-based education: total flexibility.  Parents need to be deschooled, and that takes time.  The home-based journey may begin looking a bit (or a lot) like school, while confidence is being built.  However, everyone learns together, and if there is constant communication, instruction modes and ways of learning can be trialled, embraced or laid down for a time.

There are many, many ways of teaching that parents can study, trial and consider the benefit of for specific children, for specific learning objectives, for specific seasons of learning.  No one style is better than another, and all of them can sometimes be a wrong fit in a particular context, but a right fit in a totally different context.

Above all else, it has to be kept in mind that the objective is character development.  Listen to the children.  Children love learning, and if they are not loving the experience, work out why.  Is it an instructional misfit?  Are they not ready for that phase of learning?  Are they bored and need a fresh approach to the same thing?  Are they simply having a bad day, and need a big hug, a break from it all, and an opportunity to make a fresh start after a good, long sleep.

 

 

 

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Home Schools, Home-Based Education

Defining the Terms

George Orwell, in his book, 1984, illustrated the power that comes from defining terms.  New Speak had the capacity to make anything to mean whatever the controllers of a society wanted it to mean.  People with a radically different agenda have been redefining terms for political advantage forever.  My wife cannot use her middle name in public places, because what once meant a happy, fun-loving disposition now refers to a life-style choice that my wife has no desire to have anything to do with.

Since the early 1960s, when Rev Dr Rousas J Rushdoony acted as an expert witness in support of parents who were taken to court because they chose to educate their children at home, the terms home school or homeschool have been widely used to describe such education.  I have chosen to use this term in my dissertation, and throughout this blog site, in a more precise way.  When I use the term home school, I am meaning the setting up of a school-like environment and conducting schooling in the home.

I am now proposing a different term to be used as the coordinating term that describes the education of children out of a home as the base for such an education.  The term I propose to be used is: ‘home-based education’.  Home-based education includes home schooling (as I have defined it) as one of the modes of home-based educational delivery, but home-based education also includes unschooling and radical unschooling as alternative modes of home-based education.

Home-based education is conducted in the context of living life in the company of others; particularly in the company of other family members.  Every part of life is an opportunity to learn something.  This could include learning from formal academic studies, household chores, engaging in communication events with other members of the family, and having foundation skills and ideas developed in young impressionable minds.  The Fabian Socialists and Marxists understand the importance of capturing the young mind, before it is shaped by the family, the church, and other local community sources of skills and knowledge.  This is why they are so adamant about having children sent to school to be socialized (i.e. be indoctrinated into the mindset of socialism).

Home-based education is not home-bound.  The home is an important base, from which the members of the family move in and out.  Amongst the Australian Central Desert First Nations People, the Warlpiri, they have a kinship system (‘skin system’ – has nothing to do with skin colour, it is merely a corruption of the term kinship), and the Jangala/Jampijinpa Nangala/Nampijinpa clan have a concept of complementary states of water.  One state is static water, and the other state is moving water.  Both are critically important.  Static water, such as a billabong, provides a sanctuary for fish and birds to feed and breed in and around.  However, if the water remains static for too long, then the billabong either dries up, or goes stagnant.  In the cycles of the seasons, moving water must flow in and out of the billabong to provide fresh water, to aerate and oxygenate, to flush out accumulated rubbish, and to enable fish and birds from other areas to mix with the fish and birds of the billabong, to strengthen the gene pool.

Home-based education needs to have a safe sanctuary to withdraw to, but it must not become a stagnant pool, so insular and protective, that it becomes stale and stagnant.  This highlights the difference between home-based education and home schooling.  Home schooling is so home focused, that there is no (or very little) interaction with the broader community, and there is no trust that other members of the community can have a positive input into the lives of the young family members.

God has ordained that the home, the church and the market place have a role to play in the development of an educational environment for the younger members of the family.  Certainly, the parents have the primary role of being the gate-keepers of the family, and they need to be discerning as to who they expose their children to.  The church has a very important role in helping parents to develop a godly sense of discernment, and should work with the family to set up safety barriers and limits as to who, in the market place, has educational access to the children.  However, no sets of parents are able to supply everything that each member of the family needs to have a rich and meaningful education.

 

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Home-Based Education

What is in a name?

Very interestingly, amongst the home educators that I interviewed there was a range of names given to the process of home-based education.  I am in the process of interacting with those names and considering as to whether they are synonymous, or whether they are ways of identifying different aspects of home-based education.

So far the list includes:

  • interest-driven learning/education
  • child-led education
  • natural learning
  • eclectic learning
  • self-directed learning
  • home-based education
  • discipleship
  • learning in life
  • learning for life
  • our walk with the Lord
  • our life
  • God’s people walking in His ways
  • family-friendly education
  • activities-based learning
  • hands-on learning
  • hack schooling
  • democratic schooling
  • anarchistic schooling
  • kitchen table/dining room table education
  • learning from life experiences
  • practical learning

I am very much leaning towards using the term home-based education as the umbrella term, with a range of delivery methods ranging from home schooling (i.e. reconstructing school in the home) to unschooling (i.e. educational delivery in a way that does not resemble schooling, but is guided by the parent and at the same time is also sensitive to the motivation, gifts, interests and calling of the children) to radical unschooling (i.e. totally child-directed, without any hindrance or direction from adults).

The list mentioned above provides the words to describe the elements within home-based educational delivery.

Still wrestling with this, and would very much appreciate what others may have to say about the matter.

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Aboriginal Education, Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), Denominational Christian Schools, deschooling, Discipleship, Education, Education and Culture-making, Education and the Church, Education and the Family, Education and the Marketplace, Education and the State, Education Delivery Programs, Funding, Hebrew Pedagogies, Home Schools, Home-Based Education, Indigenous Education, Indigenous Pedagogies, Ivan Illich, Life Learning, Natural Learning, Schooling, Schools, Socialization, State Schools, Teaching, Tertiary Education, Themelic Christian Schools, Unschooling

God doesn’t want you to send your children to school: He wants them to have an education

After climbing to the top of the academic tree of education by earning a Diploma of Teaching (Primary), Bachelor of Education, Master of Education (School Leadership), Doctor of Philosophy (Christian Education) and a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment [mostly self-funded], and working for about 30 years at all levels of school from Preschool to adult education, I have come to realise that the deficiencies in educational outcomes for children in the western world are because of schools and schooling. Schools and schooling have always been the problem.

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My new book is now available from Amazon.

Education and Schooling are not synonymous. A proper education does not require children to be sentenced to twelve years locked away in a total institution as if they were criminals, mentally insane, enlisted in the military or part of a religious cult.

The state has no mandate, at all, to be involved in education. Education is the proper sphere of the family, with support from the church, and assistance from free-market tutors and other community custodians of skills and knowledge.

True education should be delivered through unschooling, with a discipleship emphasis. Ivan Illich explored the idea in the 1970s, and the Triune God of the Bible emphatically agrees.  You can get this book from Amazon.

Some time ago, now, I walked away from working in a school as a school administrator. I am on the road to deschooling, but am conscious that there is much more of the road that needs to be traveled.

The focus of my research is around Biblical Christian deschooling/unschooling.  Over time I will be triangulating the things that I have found in the literature, with interviews conducted with families that are actually unschooling, and comparing the results with the development of my own thoughts over 30 years, as recorded in my personal journals.

I look forward to the day when home-based education is the norm, not just a curious anomaly.  Those who would like to read my book, you can get a copy from Amazon.

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The dissertation for my post-graduate doctoral degree is located here: Dissertation found at this location .

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