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.