Rebirth of Reason

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Post 120

Tuesday, May 10, 2005 - 5:49pmSanction this postReply
Laure said:
I find that the children's section of the local library carries a huge selection of children's fiction based on supernatural themes, and is sorely lacking in kids' nonfiction. 
The same here. My son used to be a sucker for Pokemon, Digimon, and Dragon Ball Z stuff. Now he finally got out of it.

For children's non-fictions, you have to go to the normal non-fiction sections - cars, trains, ships, animals, plants, sciences, biographies, etc. Many of those books in our local library are actually for kids, and for me as well!

Post 121

Tuesday, May 10, 2005 - 8:19pmSanction this postReply
According to Gatto, UNDERGROUND HISTORY OF EDUCATION, pg.52, the literacy rate in the US was between 93 - 100% 'where such a thing mattered..'  that 'everyone was literate, rich and poor alike......
by 1940, it has dropped to 96% for whites, 80% for blacks.....
by 1973, the number found to be illiterate was 27%  - yes, by 1970's, 73% were literate, and that included those barely able to read newspapers...

consider, for instance, in 1818, Last of the Mohicans was published - so well that a comparative number today would be 10 million copies.. 'if you pick up an uncut version you find yourself in a thicket of philosophy, history, culture, manners, politics, geography, astute analysis of human motives and actions, all conveyed in data-rich periodic sentences so formidable only a determined and well-educated reader can habdle it today.  yet in 1818 we were a small-farm nation without colleges or universities to speak of...' 

this before public schooling was institutionalized..

(Edited by robert malcom on 5/10, 8:26pm)

Post 122

Tuesday, May 10, 2005 - 10:02pmSanction this postReply
Just a personal note, since I've been rather busy and haven't had time to post. There was a query about whether anyone on SOLO was "unschooled." Not from the beginning, but I spent somewhere between 3 and 4 school-years, between the 4th and the 9th grade, mostly out of school - on arriving in each new country (Israel, France, US) I didn't know the local language, and this served me as a good excuse to avoid going to school while learning what interested me on my own. In those 4 years I spent a total of about 7 months in-school: 4 on a kibbutz in Israel, and 3 in France after I had mastered the local languages.

I did have the benefit of 4 years in a superb elementary school in Poland, the first 3 with an unequaled teacher. In the short time in school in Israel, I learned the derivation of Archimedes' Principle and decided to become a scientist. I also had 2 great teachers later, in a New York City high school.

My advice to kids would be to alternate years: one year in school, one out. So far, no one followed that advice...

Post 123

Wednesday, May 11, 2005 - 12:16amSanction this postReply
> [Robert M, #121] "According to Gatto, UNDERGROUND HISTORY OF EDUCATION, pg.52, the literacy rate in the US was .."

I wish libertarians and objectivists would be careful about taking any factual assertion in a book by someone they agree with ideologically as truth. What kind of research did he do? Did he just pass on what he heard from someone else or read in a tabloid? Notice what Laure used in her last post - CENSUS BUREAU STATISTICS.

> [Adam, #122] "My advice to kids would be to alternate years: one year in school, one out. So far, no one followed that advice..."

You may be right, Adam. The importance of sufficient stretches of time to integrate, explore on one's own for those ready to utilize it. I would incorporate -some- form of independent study, certainly by adolescence. But that will be a part of PES.

Post 124

Wednesday, May 11, 2005 - 12:22amSanction this postReply
Laure and Hong wanted some ideas re non-fiction books for the late elementary levels of their kids:

Check out usborne.com. Every time I see one of their books in a classroom or have looked at it in a teacher's supply store [check these out also..most major cities have them, the name differs... they have all kinds of ed. materials, books and workbooks prominent among them. Catalogs exist, but it's better to have flipped through the book.] Pictures and illustration are very important at this age. When I was growing up, little golden books were great. And heavily illustrated books on dinosaurs, space and astronomy, and natural history. But Usborne can be good in history books as well as science. I've used one or two in classes. Also, the wonderful "The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home" (and, no, it's not just for homeschoolers) is basically an entire book on curriculum, grade levels, and good books recommended at each stage. (They include a lot of Usborne, if I recall). Even with them you still have to look at the books yourself. Bear in mind that there is nothing wrong with kids for many years preferring stories, fairy tales, myths, poetry...fiction...to non-fiction. School textbooks for those grades are worth looking at, but many or most I've seen are flawed: too much rote, memorize disconnected details and people and events in history, science, geography, etc. They suffer from the "pack it in to overflowing to impress the book purchasing committees so no one can say we left anything out" syndrome.

--Philip Coates

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Post 125

Wednesday, May 11, 2005 - 6:51amSanction this postReply
Glen Fletcher writes:

[ . . . ]

>I went to the Sudbury site that David or Kelly
>mentioned. It was interesting, but, like you would
>expect from a glossy brochure, it doesn't say
>anything about the typical students, or, more
>importantly, the failures.

A very interesting site, indeed, but as Glen points out, shallow and boosterish.

David Elmore had written (in post 75):

"There seems to be a misconception by Phil,
Hong and several others about the
motivational ability and incisiveness of
young children who are left to their devices.
If any of you are interested in 37 years of
evidence about how children function and
thrive when they are in charge of their own
learning, you might want to look at many of
the Sudbury sites, and this nice commentary
by an expert in the field:

David's link was to an online version of Chapter 9, 'Ages Four and Up,' from the book "Child Rearing" by Daniel Greenberg.

I found the chapter a long argument from authority -- without a single citation or reference to research to support the broad assertions made. Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the chapter:

"By age four or thereabouts, human beings have
a fully developed communication system which,
for all intents and purposes, makes them
mature persons. They are capable of
expressing themselves, of understanding
what's said to them, and of structuring
continuous thought; and they are capable of
doing things with their environment. You
could ask whether a person age four and up
belongs at all in a book on child rearing,
because I don't consider someone over that
age to be a child. To a certain extent the
subject doesn't belong here, and yet society
considers people to be children until a much
older age than four, and so we have to
discuss this largely because society forces
it on us.

I want to explain what I mean by a person
over four being mature. The key element of
maturity is judgment. At around four, people
have at their disposal a fully developed
sense of how to go about solving problems and
how to go about making decisions; they have a
sense of what they know and what they don't
know, what kind of information they need to
solve problems, and when they are out of
their depth. This is very hard for people in
our culture to believe about children. For
some reason, most people think that judgment
is developed much later. They aren't able to
pinpoint exactly when --some say 13, others
16, others 18, or 21. I do not see any
significant change that takes place after age
four or so. When I look at a four or five or
six year old making decisions, I see all the
components of the judgment process that I see
in a person aged forty. The process is the
same, a completely mature one, weighing the
questions and the available information and
the previous life experience."

[ . . . ]


Elsewhere on the site it is stressed that there is no testing, no exams, no grading. It makes me wonder how on earth they *know* that their methods work . . . and what objective measures they use to estimate the value of their approach . . .

Glen also comments:

>If Kelly and David do unschool their daughter when
>the time comes that it is actually of some
>significance, I hope that it is successful. But I'm

I am optimistic. I wish Livy every success, and I suspect she will grow up into a very interesting -- and reasonably 'larn'd' person.

Whatever the Elmores call it (unschooling, deschooling, nonschooling), she will be homeschooled, and will have the advantage of a home and community rich in resources and people ready to assist her educative journey.

She will be in the care of interested, intelligent and engaged parents committed to her happiness, and she will live in one of the most privileged societies on earth.

Simply having literate, engaged parents will likely provide Livy with a ticket to advanced literacy herself. Parents, in my opinion, spend their time teaching, teaching, teaching, whether or not they believe they are doing so. Livy will absorb from the Elmores much much more than what is formally given to her as instruction . . .

It is also my opinion that it really doesn't matter if the Elmores' attitude to education and their abhorrence to schools and 'teaching' is wrongheaded or dogmatic, or worse.

If, by age 12, Livy cannot read well, cannot write well, cannot understand mathematics -- when the State of Tennessee tests her, she will discover this fact herself, and her parents will happily acquiesce to her request to join her agemates in a classroom. If by rare chance, they disagree, she can simply walk down to Sleepy Hollow Junior High and register herself.

In any case, I think the chances of Livy becoming an illiterate, pig-ignorant Sleepy Hollow bumpkin -- pregnant at 12 and strung out on crystal meth -- are nil.

And if this happens, so what? As long as she is happy and pursuing her values, it hardly matters what I or other SOLO posters think.

(one thing that puzzles me is that while Kelly states that children are not 'little adults,' the Sudbury Valley School booster recommended by David insists that this is exactly what they are, fully functioning adults at the age of four. See this excerpt from the same chapter championed by David, cited above:

"I want to say a few final words about the
role of a person age four and up in the
family. I've assumed that a child up to age
four is the object of care and attention, as
is due to a developing member of the family.
It seems to me fairly obvious that once
children have reached the age of four or five
they become adults to all intents and
purposes and can take a full role in the
family, a full share of the family

-- many thanks to the passionate (and snarky) postings of all. A most illuminating thread.


Post 126

Wednesday, May 11, 2005 - 4:57pmSanction this postReply
David [#98] says:

1. Phil and his army whisk the "average" child away to enforced seating and education...It gets the child used to being told what to do, what to look at, what values others have.

Army? Whisk away? Enforced seating?

You underestimate children, David. They are much more resilient than you suggest. Just being made to learn something doesn't convert them into sheep or Orwellian robots. I've worked with children in every grade K through 12 so throughout this thread I'm giving you conclusions from actual experience seeing how *many hundreds* of kids actually act and think...as are all the women on this list who actually have kids in the K-12 school age group. Which you and Kelly do not. You and Kelly and Aquinas sure have a lot of absolute certainties about a wide range of topics in the entire field of education and children's needs based on some (Sudbury? Summerhill? John Holt?) books and less than one full year's experience working in or running a school (and, I assume, a very small startup set of classrooms).

2. You DO NOT need science to "assess what you might like to do"...I know many avowed science illiterates who know quite well how to operate their computers (there are manuals, after all), their PDAs, their car navigation systems. They can look through telescopes and electron microscopes with the best of them and ask questions about what they are seeing, if they are curious.

And do you think knowing how to operate technology or looking through an optical device is the same as having a solid understanding of science?

3. Geography ..Kids age 4 to 7 are fascinated at the size and shape of the Earth, and they know by just listening that the planet they are walking on is called Earth.

Are you trying to suggest that all they might need to know from geography is how to name their planet? That wasn't my meaning when I suggested they need to know what planet they are on. I meant in the extended sense. Knowing what continent you are on and at least a little bit about the others. And about climates, growing seasons, biological forms, arid vs. dry regions (and what effect aridity has on history), differences between jungle life and life in temperate regions, economic differences related to geography, what are the forces that operate to heat and cool the planet. And so much more.

4. Kids CAN think and communicate quite well...without a speck of instruction on English.

There is a vast difference in -level- between someone who knows enough to get by but makes prepositional and other errors like the one at the end of the last sentence and thus undercuts her effectiveness as a skillful, persuasive writer-speaker-communicator.

5. You don't need English or grammar for some jobs.

We all know what kinds of jobs those are and how much they pay. Do you really want children to have that kind of future?

6. You can go back and get your basic math and learn it in just weeks.

Absolutely false. On what do you base these bald assertions? Have you *taught* multiple levels of mathematics - as I have? Several weeks, my ass!!

7. I'll not have a sleepless night if my child never knows of the brave Greeks at Thermopylae.

You should if she not only doesn't know this concrete event but nothing else like it from other eras of history.

Maybe you are just a heavy sleeper.
(Edited by Philip Coates
on 5/11, 5:02pm)

(Edited by Philip Coates
on 5/12, 10:33am)

Post 127

Thursday, May 12, 2005 - 12:14pmSanction this postReply
Laurie, sorry it took me so long to get back to this. I second Phillip's recommendation of looking at the Well Trained Mind. She makes lots of great book suggestions. Some of the best books I found for the school were old used science books I found a homeschool used book sale. They were written back in the days when kids were still given details and not just fluff. Try used book sales at libraries too. I also love Sports Illustrated for Kids, and I think there are kids versions of other magazines (maybe Popular Science?). You might check them out. The Usborne Illustrated World History was one of the kids' favorites.s We used it as a base text, but they would flip through it all the time and tell me interesting facts. The suggestions that The Well Trained Mind has for historical fiction for kids were some of our favorites: Detectives in Togas (I think that was the name) was a hit. Also, the children loved the versions of myths that the WTM suggested. I hope that helps some. I spent a lot of time scouring bookstore shelves and found some gems, but as you know, a lot of ugly rock as well. :)


Post 128

Thursday, May 12, 2005 - 7:36pmSanction this postReply
Thanks, Kelly.  Just ordered "The Well-Trained Mind".  And good luck in your unschooling.  I'm sure your daughter will turn out fine, and that you'll be open to some fine-tuning in your approach as you see how things go.

Post 129

Thursday, May 12, 2005 - 9:16pmSanction this postReply
Hi Kelly,

> Some of the best books I found for the school were old used science books I found a homeschool used book sale.

I'd love to hear the titles and authors! (Old books can be ordered at various websites.)

I grew up with the science anthologies of Isaac Asimov (best known for the Foundation trilogy and other science fiction novels). He writes short science essays like little detective novels. Clear, simple, exciting. I think I must have started reading them by my early teens, so some should work for late elementary gifted and for middle school years. I've never found anyone better for non-academic and exciting, yet information-packed, science writing.

(He has written many books and tackles other non-fiction subjects, explaining them as well.)


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Post 130

Thursday, May 12, 2005 - 10:27pmSanction this postReply
I don't know whether this has already come up in some way or another, because I couldn#t follow this conversation as continuously as I wanted to.

You seem to regard the school only as a tool to get knowledge and perhaps expertise in rudemntary things like reading, writing and maths. But, especially to me, the school was also a location where you learned much about life and human beings. I think the time you HAVE to go to school, there is no way for you to run and hide. It teaches you independence and the ability to cope with people you even dislike. You will always meet those people in your life sooner or later and you really should be prepared how to handle them with the lest negative results. Sometimes you are even forced to work together with some of those unfriendly personalities, but when your job depends on it, you do it.

This is why we shouldn't forget the social component of the learning and teaching at school. It is, at least imo, very important to shape and strengthen the self-recognition and the self-confidence of ones own personality and resolve. If you have to deal for 6 years with a variety of different characters and there is no way to run away, you will soon acquire skills and a resolve in doing things, that couldn't happen when you are not in school.

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Post 131

Thursday, May 12, 2005 - 10:38pmSanction this postReply
Max, I think your point is highly debatable, at least in American schools.  They are the fountainheads of second-handedness, particularly in the high school years.  There is a very carefully orchestrated caste system built according to a mob mentality.  I've seen the view from the bottom, middle and top, and it ain't pretty.  The only values learned from such a social system are how to act "cool" so you don't stand out too much.  (My point of reference is from being the "smart" one among those "cool" kids, and in my last year of school I could stand the madness no longer.)

I learned so much more after leaving that ridiculous environment and going to college, where I could literally craft myself from scratch.  If I had to go back and do it again, I would not set foot in an American public school.

Post 132

Thursday, May 12, 2005 - 10:56pmSanction this postReply
Well said, Jennifer. I admire high-skool drop-outs with a plan.

Post 133

Friday, May 13, 2005 - 7:37amSanction this postReply
I didn't drop out.  :)  I meant that I didn't pay any attention to them, and spent most of my senior year making plans for the future.  :)

Post 134

Friday, May 13, 2005 - 12:15pmSanction this postReply
I didn't drop out.  :)  I meant that I didn't pay any attention to them, and spent most of my senior year making plans for the future.  :)

Heh heh. I wasn't referring to you, mademoiselle. 

Post 135

Friday, May 13, 2005 - 12:46pmSanction this postReply
Wow. I jumped into this late and it is like reading a whole novel just to get caught up.

I wrote and wrote and wrote and I had so much to say and everything was so scattered. However, what It all boiled down to for me was this:

1. I think that Livy will succeed but this is mostly due to her parents.
William Scott Sherick said it best in this thread “Simply having literate, engaged parents will likely provide Livy with a ticket to advanced literacy herself. “ and I firmly believe this. The most important thing in a childs life are people that encourage and support them.

2. For the majority though school is best. The system must be fixed though. Their should be more room for the child to choose but I still feel like they need a little help for the basics. I would rather see a system where they have milestones. [i.e. by the 12 grade you must accomplish these basics and take an objective exam on them.] However, it is at their discretion as to when and as to how much of each subject after those basic milestones are met. They would have all the freedoms to pursue what they wish. They would be guided by knowledgeable and caring people within the schools but mostly they would be taught to learn what interests them. Philips example I liked 70% what they want and 30% of the basics to enhance what they are interested in.
3. Parents – need to be a guiding hand but must allow the child to explore and pursue anything they wish. [This is tough. This is real tough, and If I could possibly focus the discussion on this I would like too] I want to know how much freedom do you give? Still all of this seems arbitrary. David and Kelly seem to say give them all the freedom unless they are going to get hurt. But if they do not know enough that something will hurt them how can they make decisions based on their values? Or better yet how can their values be driven by reason? The Mind is said to become conscious at the age of 3-4 but still their minds are developing during adolescence so freedom appears to be a time released right at first that is handed out by parents that truly know best.
4. The last thing that I wanted to ask is the point that Max brought up on socialization. What steps, if any, are you you taking in order to bring other children into Livy’s life?

Eitherway, I am still trying to figure most of this out, wanted to hop in on the discussion. My mind is in complete turmoil over the freedom issue. I want to give my kids complete and utter freedom and everytime I do they seem to find a way to show me that they are not responsible enough for it. When I say that I mean that they will hit or push and bite, thus, imposing on their siblings rights. They are 4, 2 and 8 months. But none-the-less when do you release the control and how much? Thanks, JML

Post 136

Friday, May 13, 2005 - 7:13pmSanction this postReply
Jeffrey said,

1. I think that Livy will succeed but this is mostly due to her parents.
William Scott Sherick said it best in this thread “Simply having literate, engaged parents will likely provide Livy with a ticket to advanced literacy herself. “ and I firmly believe this. The most important thing in a childs life are people that encourage and support them.

2. For the majority though school is best.
Thanks, Jeff, for the nice thought.

In a future where Objectivism has won, all parents will be nearly as good, as good, or better than Kelly and I. In that future, free-schooling will continue to be the ideal -- but even now, the main point in our discussion is that the primary focus of parenting a child should be on his free will, not the information packed into his head. After all, what good is information, if you don't think your life is yours to run? Coercion and education are incompatible -- outside the realm of safety and health.

Concerning the comment about 70% of "what they want" and 30% of the "basics," I'd say that translates to 70% freedom and 30% coercion. America's founders tried a similar compromise with slavery, and it led to convulsions and rebellion, just as it does with children. But, unfortunately, most people are mired in the forced-education model. They have much invested, whether it be a current attempt at using forced education or whether it be a rationalization of their youth being dominated by coercive education -- and the inevitable gleaning of some information. They do not understand that if we are to ever use coercion, we must have very good reasons for doing so; otherwise it can't be used -- because it is deadly to the spirit.

Livy is gregarious, so we try to get her around some of our friends' children, as well as "playgroups" in our area, where mostly mothers and their children meet once a week for several hours of fun. We're also thinking of moving to an area of the country that has a Sudbury school.

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Post 137

Saturday, May 14, 2005 - 11:17amSanction this postReply
Well, since I had the luck not to be on a US school then, it was still interesting to be part of both, a private and a state school.
In Germany, we have a law that demands from children to be present at a state-proven school from the age of 6 onwards until they reach the age of 18. Until then the parents have only the ability to choose what school they would take, a private or a state school. Homeschooling is still unallowed, despite the sad state of government-controlled schools. However, I am still sceptical about the homeschooling idea (even with a private teacher), not because of worse teaching or less effective lectures, but primarily out of social issues.

There is more to life than just to have a good intellectual and knowledge base. There is also a broad and increasingly influential social competence base that has to be acquired (I have said this in detail in the post above). In a world, which is so big as ours and which is more and more interconnected and increasingly complex, you have to learn certain social lessons, especially when you are young. They consist of self-esteem, self-evaluation and inter-human-communcation and most important situation assessment and solution of conflicts.
You have to deal with people you don't like, work together with people you would like to punch right into their faces. These are things that you best learn in bigger societies (more than 4-5 people), because there you will see the construction of special interest groups and a sort of "caste"-building. This development can be observed in any high school and is often parodied by the media (in famous teenager movies about high school or college).
Despite the obvious case that it is just not fair, it still happens and to cope with it is a major understanding of reality.

This is a problem I see and I'd like to see counter-evidence that disproves my concerns.

Jeffrey reminded my of an interesting point, I forgot. The US has most of its spare-time activities (like Basketball, painting, choir, musical instruments etc.) in the high schools. This is different in Germany, where we have many organisations supplying those hobbies for the interested in the afternoon (we seldom have school later than 13 o'clock (I think 1 p.m.)). So, how do you get your child to play and have contact with other children?

Post 138

Saturday, May 14, 2005 - 11:31amSanction this postReply

Do you really think that school is the only place that children can learn social skills and the only place they will have the opportunity to interact with other children?


Post 139

Saturday, May 14, 2005 - 12:34pmSanction this postReply
Agree, Aquinas - this is such a straw dog to kick around, especially in this day and age......

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