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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deschooling, Schooling, Unschooling

Much can be learned by unschoolers from Indigenous pedagogies

If you haven’t checked out Tyson Yunkaporta’s web site: http://8ways.wikispaces.com/ then you really need to give it a check out.

Indigenous ways of teaching/learning are very unschooling-friendly.

The best teaching day I had in my whole teaching career was when I employed two of Yunkaporta’s motifs.  I had a great time, and the students in my class had a great time, and time flew, and the day looked nothing like a day at school.  By the end of the day we had learned so much that was really interesting, and the students remembered everything that we had learned.  It was a class of Indigenous students who had previously not produced very much school work.  However, they produced pages and pages of stuff in response to the fun learning that we all had.

The best un-school day in my school career (from my Master of Education (Leadership) dissertation: Warlpiri Business as Pedagogy: A Learning Journey :

“I will illustrate how the application of Indigenous pedagogies makes a difference in the classroom of Indigenous students, by sharing a personal experience. I recorded the following on Thursday 12 July, 2012. It is a reflection on my experience of consciously applying two of Tyson Yunkaporta’s 8 ways Indigenous pedagogies (Yunkaporta, 2009, pp. 35-38). The experience had previously taken place on Monday 28th June, 2012, and it proved to be the most satisfying experience that I have ever had in a classroom.  I had read Tyson Yunkaporta’s (2009) PhD thesis, the night before, Sunday 27th June, 2012, so I was not overly familiar with his ideas, but they rang true, and the two that I used had particularly stuck in my head.

“The students in the class that I worked in were all speakers of Central Desert Indigenous Languages, and English is possibly their third, or fourth or subsequent language. The student cohort was an ungraded Middle School cohort (Years 7-10), made up of boys and girls, notorious for their disengagement from mainstream classroom learning situations. Some of the students were barely literate, and reluctant copiers, and did not exhibit independent writing behaviours. The following is an account of what transpired:

“I work in a private school that is funded at the level of other private schools, but does not collect fees from the parents (because they are amongst the most disadvantaged minority group in Australia). Getting teaching relief for the school is very difficult due to the isolation of the city in which the school is found. The teacher for the ungraded Middle School class phoned in on the Monday morning to say that he would be away for three days for health reasons. As the Curriculum Coordinator, it was my responsibility to act as relief teacher for the class. However, I was only notified half an hour before the school day began of the teacher’s absence. To add difficulty to impossibility, I have morning duties, which have to be attended to, and they occur during the half hour that would otherwise be used for preparation for lessons for the day. There was no time to gather resources. There was no time to sketch a plan for the day. There were no available instructions from the classroom teacher to follow.

“Two and a half years earlier, I had been the Middle School teacher in the same school, and memories of the very difficult times experienced trying to teach Middle School aged Indigenous students, using the strategies learned in teacher training, flooded back to me with a rush. Oh the deep, gut-wrenching dread!

“As the bell rang for the school day to begin, I walked into the classroom with some of the early arrivers. The students meandered around the classroom, while I drew two of Tyson Yunkaporta’s 8 Ways icons (Yunkaporta, 2009, pp. 35-38) on the blackboard (blue-tongued lizard icon and returning boomerang icon).

“Using the classroom interactive whiteboard (IWB) with internet connection, I then located clips of blue-tongue lizards, watching short excerpts until one was found with two blue-tongue lizards walking across the screen.

“This was viewed several times, and acted as a stimulus to draw the interest of the students as they variously arrived over the first thirty minutes of the day. When sufficient students gathered around the IWB, observations were made about the behaviour of the lizards, and students began to engage in the conversation that opened up. When there seemed to be general interest in the conversation, I pointed out the blue-tongue lizard icon on the blackboard, and commenced doing an improvised dance, imitating the blue-tongue lizard’s movements in search of food. Some discussion was then had around the lessons we can learn from blue-tongue lizards, and how our food is knowledge, and if we ingest knowledge, and allow it to become a part of our lives, it can make us strong.  The returning boomerang icon was then pointed out to the students. One of the students asked the question, “How does a boomerang come back?” I entered the question into a google search, and came up with the Charlie Drake song, “My Boomerang Won’t Come Back.” After listening to the song, the students thought it was quite funny. I continued to google the question, and came up with a cartoon clip that demonstrated the aero-dynamics of the flight of a boomerang. It also demonstrated the techniques of throwing and catching boomerangs.

“I took a sheet of scrap paper, and blew across the top of the sheet whilst it was held at one end. At rest, the paper curved downwards. However, when I blew across the top of the paper, it rose to the horizontal position. When I stopped blowing, the paper sank to its curved position again. This was repeated several times, and the students were then invited to find scrap pieces of paper, and try the same experiment.  I then showed the students how to make a ruler boomerang, by tying two wooden rulers, with their curved sides facing in the same way, in the middle with string. This made an X shape. All of the students then made their own ruler boomerangs.

“The class then went outside to the school oval, and the boomerangs were tested. It was observed that in whichever direction the curved side of the ruler boomerang was facing, that was the direction the ruler boomerang tended towards. It was established that the boomerang needed to be thrown vertically, with the flat side facing away from the body, and this enabled the boomerang to curve across the body, and eventually to come back to the thrower.

“Initially the girls sat on the sides of the oval and watched the boys. No attempt was made to coax the girls to participate, but as they saw how much fun the boys were having experimenting with different throwing techniques, the girls soon joined in and had a lot of fun also.

“The class returned to the classroom, and there was some lively discussion about what was observed. We talked about the principle of lift, using the language of: “When air moves over a curved surface, it has to travel a longer distance than the air that moves over the flat surface. This makes the air moving over the curved surface weak. The arms of the boomerang try to fill up the space made by the weak air, which is what makes the boomerang curve in that direction.” (It should be noted that I have subsequently been advised that my explanation was poor science. This was the explanation I was given in school 45 years ago, but not being a Science-oriented teacher, I have not kept up with the developments of knowledge in this area. However, the explanation worked for us at the time.  A better explanation can be found at:  http://tiny.cc/tlj6nw)

“There was then discussion about how this principle applied to the wings of aircraft and the wings of birds. Aircraft wings and bird wings were found on the internet and projected onto the IWB, and the curve and flat sides of the wings were commented on.

“One of the ruler boomerangs was then hung up by a piece of string from an air-conditioner duct, and remains as a reminder of the lessons learned from the question.

“Then I posed the question, “Where do boomerangs come from?” Two visiting students from the continent of India were sitting in the back of the classroom. I proposed to them that boomerangs came from India. Both of the students protested strongly that this was not the case. Both denied this as a possibility.

“The rest of the class was asked, “Who thinks that boomerangs may have come from India?” Half the class put up their hands for yes, and half of the class put up their hands for no. I then googled the question, “Where do boomerangs come from?” An article was found which identified boomerangs as having been discovered in the Ancient Cultures of America, the Middle East, Australia and Southern India (Wikipedia, 2012b). The Indian students became very interested in this novel discovery – they in fact had some cultural connection to what many have identified as an Australian Aboriginal technology. The students in the classroom then engaged in some discussion with the Indian students, and there was a deeper connection that had not been in the classroom before.

“I then drafted a report, with input from the students, and projected it onto the IWB, and the students copied the report, with diagrams. They wrote far more than they normally write, and were fully engaged in copying down all the notes and filing them in their writing folders. This was about 1½ pages of notes, with half a page of diagrams. This was far more than most of the students had ever written in a single sitting.

“The students then went out for morning Recess. The time flew for the morning session, and I have never seen Indigenous students as fully engaged in school-based learning, as they were engaged throughout the morning, without any need to consciously bring the students back on task.

“After Recess, the blue-tongue lizard dance was rehearsed, and the top-most dot was pointed out on the icon. I explained to the students that this represents the first feed of knowledge. The second dot was then pointed out, and it was explained that we were moving on to the next feed of knowledge. As we take knowledge in, like a blue-tongue eats insects, the knowledge is absorbed by us and makes us strong.

“I then remembered that the classroom teacher had previously planned to run a soup stall during Recess of the approaching Friday.

“A spreadsheet was projected onto the IWB, and categories of: Price, Number of Customers, Income, Costs, and Profit were put into strategic cells.

“Formulae were placed next to these headings, and variables were placed in each of the cells that contained a formula. As the variables were changed, it was projected that the class could make a range of between $0.00 and $198.00 profit, depending upon how the variables were decided upon. The students became more and more interested as they learned that their decision-making processes could determine the size of the profit that their stall could make. It provoked a lot of discussion.

“After an optimum array of variables was decided upon, I proposed a chant that the students could memorise: “If you got no profit, then you got no business; and if you got no business, then you got no business to be in business.” This was chanted several times, until all the students had it down perfectly.

 “We then talked about the importance of marketing, and its capacity to increase the number of customers; the importance of selling the value of the product, so that customers want to buy at the optimum price for the optimum profit.

“Using the internet, and projecting the results onto the IWB, I googled pictures of differe nt kinds of soups, to include on two large advertising posters that the class eventually made. However, before we moved to making the posters, we conducted a spelling activity, using dictionaries. I wrote the names of the soups that appeared in the pictures on the IWB onto a blackboard. Many of the names were written with incorrect spelling (deliberately). Students had to find the words in dictionaries, and indicate as to whether I had written the words correctly or incorrectly. Previously students were very reluctant to use dictionaries, but this time the activity was made a competition between the boys and the girls, with points allotted to each side, and most of the students entered into the activity very enthusiastically.

“The soup words, after their spelling was corrected, were then collated to make a class rap: “At Friday’s stall we’ve got onion soup, We’ve got potato soup, we’ve got, pea and ham soup, We’ve got … “  This became a reading activity, as the students had to read the soup names in the rap to be able to chant the rap with the rest of the class. Once again, most of the students participated in this activity.

“The remainder of the time, leading up to Lunch, was taken up with making the two large advertising posters. Interesting invitations to customers were written, various pictures of different kinds of soups were drawn, and an optimum price was committed to.

“Students then went to Lunch having been fully engaged for the one and a half hour block.

“After Lunch, once again I performed the blue-tongue lizard dance, and the third eating spot was introduced. Yunkaporta’s story of the integrative nature of the returning boomerang was discussed with the students (Yunkaporta, 2009, p. 25). At the lower level, the details seem to be very far apart, and perhaps unrelated. But, as you follow the arms of the boomerang to the apex, you find that the parts are integrated at a higher/lower level. I threw out the challenge of finding a way of integrating the various feeds of knowledge that we had dipped into during the day.

“A spreadsheet was projected onto the IWB, and this time we looked at how to create formulae. As a group we took the raw commands: = , A1(etc.) , + , – , / , sum , ( : )  and combined them in various ways and observed the different results that happened when the same data was associated with a different formula. Students wrote these formulae by hand into their work books.

“Because the students had worked so hard for most of the day, we finished off the day with a game of basketball in the school hall.  At the end of the basketball game, just before being dismissed to go home, I once again did the blue – tongue lizard dance for a final time. At each of the stops where the lizard eats food in the dance, students were challenged to recite the things that they learned at that part of their learning journey through the day. The students were able to recall, in some detail, all the pertinent pieces of knowledge that they had been exposed to (Box, 2012b, pp. 143-146).

“Without any preparations, with only the resources that were at hand, and with the availability of an IWB connected to the internet, the class had a continuous stream of higher level learning, which was accessed by applying two of Yunkaporta’s Indigenous pedagogical concepts and processes. Nurtured by my input, the Indigenous students explored this learning with some support from technology and simple resources which just happened to be on hand at the time (rulers, string, paint, and so on). Points of frustration and resistance (which had been my every day experience when I previously applied Western-inspired pedagogies to the same class level in the same school, 2½ years earlier) – points at which, in the past, the lesson would collapse and melt down – simply did not arise.

“Everyone enjoyed the day. Everyone learned something (even the Indian students visiting the classroom learned something). From my perspective, it was the best day of teaching and learning that I have ever experienced in my whole teaching career – best day ever.

“This kind of teaching requires that teachers have a broad range of life experiences to draw upon. A resource-rich classroom would be an asset. A detailed study of Tyson Yunkaporta’s 8 ways Indigenous pedagogies needs to be internalised and automated, so that his icons evoke layers upon layers of application, and the most appropriate icon being available for recall for the specific context being explored. A personal experience of participating in Indigenous dance would also be helpful.

“From this recount it can be seen that employing Indigenous pedagogies can elicit responses that often do not follow the application of Western pedagogies in classrooms with tradition-oriented Indigenous students”   Box, L. A. (2013) Warlpiri Business as Pedagogy: A Learning Journey. Sydney: National Institute for Christian Education. Dissertation submitted for partial fulfilment of a Master of Education (Leadership) degree.

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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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Unschooling

Gary North and the Unschooled Disciple

Like him or hate him (and there would not be many who had an ambivalent opinion), all must agree that Gary North’s life has been an amazing string of accomplishments.  At age 18 he was converted to Christ, and soon after his conversion he realized that he only had one life to live, at the end of which he was to give an account of it before the Great White Throne of Judgment.

Gary believed he was called to write a theory of economics that was consistently based on the Bible, but in scanning the economic literature over the centuries from the time of Christ, he could not find any serious writing on the issue of Biblical Christian economics.  So, he set about writing an economic commentary on the whole Bible.  He allocated 10 hours each week, 50 weeks a year, and in just over 39 years he completed a 31-volume economic commentary on the whole Bible.  Gary North has read, studied and commented on every verse in the Bible that has something to do with economics.

Having completed that task, and having written a plethora of books on other subjects that caught his attention along the way, Gary North, in his early 70s, is now embarking on a task of writing a consistently Biblical Christian theory of economics with accompanying multi-media teaching material, using his own work as an authority to do so.

Gary North has critiqued every other economic theory that is in existence.  He would have to be the world’s, and perhaps history’s, most eminent expert on economics.

Imagine what could be achieved by Christian unschoolers who are encouraged to pursue their passion–their vocation and call of God upon their lives–with Gary North’s accomplishments held up as an example of what can be done by someone with a long-term vision, and freedom to become an expert in one field.

As I think of the possibilities of unschooling, and reflect upon the accomplishments of one man, Gary North, I imagine the day when thousands upon thousands of Biblical Christian unschoolers  release their lives’ works to the world, and there is a radical shift in how life is lived on the basis of thoroughly researched, expert Biblical Christian scholarship.  In that day the Scripture shall be fulfilled which says:

“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, and many nations will come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord to the house of the God of Jacob, and he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’  For out of Zion shall go forth the law (teaching), and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Micah 4:1-2).

http://www.garynorth.com/

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Discipleship, Unschooling

Maturity is the goal of education, not just accumulated information

Amongst my research data, one of my respondents said, “Education is about growing a child into maturity.”  Maturity is a recurrent theme throughout the Bible, and lack of maturity is a cause for discipline, or even judgment.

Jesus commanded, in Matthew 5:48, “You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  The word translated perfect could just as well be translated as ‘mature,’ and in fact, in the Amplified Bible, the passage is translated to read, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect [that is, grow into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity].”

The Apostle Paul picked up this theme when he wrote: “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.  You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.  Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity … and this we will do if God permits (Hebrews 5:11-6:3).

The commandments of Jesus, as they apply to every area of life, are the words of righteousness that Paul is referring to.  Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  In fact, it is impossible to please God without such obedience, through the help of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:7-8).  It is through regularly putting these words into practice that spiritual growth takes place.  It is through regularly putting these words into practice that a sense of good and evil is developed.

This is why the great education passage in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says, “… You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, …”.  Not just as information to be committed to short-term memory for a test, and then forgotten; No! No! No!  Children are to have these commandments demonstrated by willingly obedient parents, who gently, but firmly discipline their children into a life-style of obedience, not as a duty, but as a heart-felt expression of love towards God, and appreciation for all the benefits He has bestowed upon us through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The reward for maturity is an inheritance, and the promised inheritance is the earth.  Jesus was given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18) when he completed His obedient duty to His heavenly Father.  This was the fulfillment of God’s promise that He made to His Son, recorded in Psalm 2: “I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you.  Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.'”  This same reward is given to those who are mature in Christ: “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, … And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things TO THE CHURCH, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:11, 22).  “… made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, …” (Ephesians 2:5-6).  “… to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that THROUGH THE CHURCH the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities …” (Ephesians 3:8-10).  “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).  “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world …” (Romans 4:13).  “… the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring–not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, …” (Romans 4:16).

If all we do is help children to accumulate information, coaching them to commit it to memory so that they can pass tests, and examinations, then we fail them miserably.  Doing will always precede knowing.  You do not know, if you are not doing.  A head full of information, without corresponding doing only fills with pride; “puffeth up”.

Unschooling children, through a discipleship emphasis, should be a process of maturation, so that the children will become suitable recipients of the inheritance that Christ has reserved for them: cities (Luke 19:17), nations (Psalm 2:8), and the earth (Matthew 5:5).

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deschooling, Ivan Illich, Unschooling

Some thought provoking quotes from Ivan Illich

Ivan Illich published Deschooling Society in 1970.  The concept of deschooling has moved on from Illich’s definition.  However, many of the ideas in his book are worth revisiting.

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.”

p. 4  “Everywhere not only education but society as a whole needs ‘deschooling’.”

p. 13  “A … major illusion on which the school system rests is that most learning is the result of teaching.  Teaching, it is true, may contribute to certain kinds of leaning under certain circumstances.  But most people acquire most of their knowledge outside school, and in school only insofar as school, … has become their place of confinement during an increasing part of their lives.”

pp. 13-14  “There are very few skills that cannot be mastered by intensive drill over a relatively short time at a cost far less than the cost of 12 years of schooling.”

p. 16  “Skill teachers are made scarce by the belief in the value of licenses.  Certification constitutes a form of market manipulation and is plausible only to a schooled mind.”

p. 17  “… discrimination in favour of schools which dominates … discussion on refinancing education could discredit one of the most critically needed principles for educational reform: the return of initiative and accountability for learning to the learner or his most immediate tutor.”

pp. 17-18  “… (the) two-faced nature of learning: drill and an education.  School does both tasks badly, partly because it does not distinguish between them.”

p. 20  “The most radical alternative to school would be a network or service which gave each man the same opportunity to share his current concern with others motivated by the same concern.”

p. 23  “A deschooled society implies a new approach to incidental or informal education.”

pp. 26-27  “… I shall define ‘school’ as the age-specific, teacher-related process requiring full-time attendance at an obligatory curriculum.”

p. 28  “The school system is a modern phenomenon, as is the childhood it produces.”

p. 29  “If there were no age-specific and obligatory learning institutions, ‘childhood’ would go out of production.”

p. 31  ” The most important role of schools is to create jobs for accredited teachers, no matter what their pupils learn from them.”

p. 32  “The school teacher is a ‘secular priest’.”

p 39  “We cannot begin a reform of education unless we first understand that neither individual learning nor social equality can be enhanced by the ritual of schooling.”

p. 40  “Once we have learned to need school, all our activities tend to take the shape of client relationships to other specialized institutions.  Once the self-taught man or woman has been discredited, all nonprofessional activity is rendered suspect.  In school we are taught that valuable learning is the result of attendance; that the value of learning increases with the amount of input; and, finally, that this value can be measured and documented by grades and certificates.”

p. 40  “Most learning is not the result of instruction.  It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful setting.”

p. 48  “School prepares for the alienating institutionalization of life by teaching the need to be taught.  Once this lesson is learned, people lose their incentive to grow in independence; they no longer find relatedness attractive, and close themselves off to the surprises which life offers when it is not predetermined by institutional definition.”

p. 48  “School either keeps people for life or makes sure that they will fit into some institution.”

p. 75  “Everywhere the hidden curriculum of schooling initiates the citizen to the myth that bureaucracies guided by scientific knowledge are efficient and benevolent.”

p. 76  “A good educational system should have three purposes: it should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives; empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and, finally, furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known.  Such a system would require the application of constitutional guarantees to education.  Learners should not be forced to submit to an obligatory curriculum, or to discrimination based on whether they possess a certificate or a diploma.  Nor should the public be forced to support, through a regressive taxation, a huge professional apparatus of educators and buildings which in fact restricts the public’s chances for learning to the services the profession is willing to put on the market.  It should use modern technology to make free speech, free assembly, and a free press truly universal and, therefore, fully educational.”

p. 91  “To guarantee access to effective exchange of skills, we need legislation which generalizes academic freedom.  The right to teach any skill should come under the protection of freedom of speech.  Once restrictions on teaching are removed, they will quickly be removed from learning as well.”

p. 92  “At their worst, schools gather classmates into the same room and subject them to the same sequence of treatment in math, citizenship and spelling.  At their best, they permit each student to choose one of a limited number of courses.  In any case, groups of peers form around the goals of teachers.  A desirable educational system would let each person specify the activity for which they sought a peer.”

p. 93  “The inverse of school would be an institution which increased the chances that persons who at a given moment shared the same specific interest could meet–no matter what else they had in common.”

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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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