Monday, May 16, 2011

Story about how my teenage son opted out of school

I just had the pleasure of contributing to the The Teenagers Guide to Opting Out (Not Dropping Out) of School. It got me thinking about how my passion for alternative education and learning really started. I first became aware of and interested in unschooling when my oldest son was in the 8th grade. He began to experience panic attacks and, of course, we looked for solutions. We went to doctors and a psychiatrist, but acupuncture finally helped. He healed with several needle treatments and Chinese herbs that nourished his nervous system. The doctor believed that the symptoms were probably due to 2 different occasions when he banged his head (minor concussions) snowboarding and skateboarding. The relief I felt was immeasurable and his well being became my main focus.

During this time, I discovered Grace Llewellyn's book The Teenage Liberation Handbook. Everything she talked about rang true for me and made perfect sense. Based on my new awareness and the ideas forming, the next couple of years of my son attending public school were confusing and infuriating. When he would complain about school/homework/teachers, I started to tell him that he had a choice and didn't actually have to go to school. I stopped caring about grades, tests, what his teachers thought, etc. He thought my suggestion to consider 'no school' was crazy. However, on one special day at the beginning of his 10th grade year, he told me after school over a hot chocolate that he would like to try home schooling. He was concerned that he might want to be able to go back to high school if he changed his mind, so we found a public independent study program and he kept up with the state curriculum at home. It was basically more of the same boring assignments. He would cram it all in the night before we had to visit his teacher to turn in his work. It was obvious that he wasn’t passionate about it nor did he need any of it. He was merely jumping through hoops to get to the next level and destination. I realized that this was how he had approached most of is school work throughout the years- by doing the absolute minimum required and somehow coming out with decent grades. He became an expert at “getting by.”

After about 4 months of independent study, he decided he was done for good. He took the California Proficiency Test and quit the public school system.
He clearly hated writing essays and reading books in which he had no interest. He tested very high in English and mathematics, but I did not get how those tests worked because they clearly did not show an honest or helpful picture of my son.  

After the first year of deschooling (which included lots of sleep and hanging out with friends), he enrolled at our local community college and started exploring different subjects such as psychology, philosophy, drawing, photography, dramatic arts, 3D animation and auto repair. I encouraged him to not worry about transfers to state colleges and required classes. We were letting go of these imposed expectations and we were learning to follow our own hearts. I learned to trust him and his own life path....

Next time...more on his learning journey.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Leaving High School Legally in California

Several years back, when I was trying to figure out for my son this "how to get out of high school legally"stuff, it seemed impossible. I was confused and had no idea how simple the paperwork and process really was. I hope this short post makes the process of getting out of the public school system easier and less painful for you.

Once you pass the California high school proficiency examination, you are free to self construct the rest of your life and education. Here's the info you need:
  • You can find general info about the exam here
  • For info about eligibility requirements for registering for the exam, (under and over 16 years old), click here. 
  • To register for the upcoming exams, click here. 
  • If you are worried about being legal before passing the exam, you can file your own private school affidavit form, otherwise known as your PSA. For info, click here.
Don't let the process intimidate you. It's actually quite simple!

Monday, October 04, 2010

It's Happening!

I am super duper excited to announce that I am starting  
The Learning Collective! <----click here

Our 1st session will take place in my backyard but I am already reflecting about the kind of space we will rent...a big open urban 2 story loft...a room big enough to hold a performance, a party, a dance or yoga class....a place for tweens and teens to just hang out, listen to music and create art freely...I will call it The Main Hub...a place to  

I have not felt this kind of passion in a long time...a long, long time...passion is what will make this happen and it is lighting it's fire vibes under me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

this is insanity

be very careful when watching tv or using a computer. ahriman might get you!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

the 3rd leg

I've been thinking lately that there is another leg beginning to form outside of the realms of traditional brick and mortar schooling and un/homeschooling. A leg that is connected to our communities and relevant to our real day to day lives.

I've been trying to formulate this vision to my local un/homeschoolers lately and the resistance that I feel from them is almost as frustrating as the resistance I feel from schoolers. Most of my un/homeschool friends in local life and on twitter are into being anti social or shall I say anti group or perhaps anti community. There seems to be a deep fear of intimacy and connection amongst homeschoolers. I can't and don't want to relate to it. I've been haunted by this for the last several months. I've been taking the steps to start to form a collaborative community learning collective that embodies the best of both worlds (something like a free school, purple thistle, daytime only sumerhill and of course, un/homeschooling.) I have received mostly disinterest from my homeschool friends. Most of them say things like, "We all choose homeschooling for different reasons," or "I'm not a group commitment person, that's why we homeschool" or even worse "What can they (facilitators/mentors) do that we can't?" Oy vey.

It was timely today when one of my favorite un/homeschool superstars, Scott Noelle author of the Daily Groove posted this message to our little un/homeschooled world:

So... What is the one thing most of us are sorely missing?

In a word: tribe.

While I am always the first and last person to say that the problems we face are best solved from the inside out, I keep bumping into an undeniable fact: Our biggest problems are made bigger (if not caused) by the social structures and norms that arise from our culture of alienation.

We are "social animals" living in artificial environments that are antisocial by design. From housing to commerce to family structures to legal systems, too much of modern life reflects the values of separation, competition, suspicion, and "every man for himself" instead of connection, creativity, trust, and partnership.

We've come to accept this as normal. It's "just the way things are." And most of us are able to adapt well enough and make the best of it... That is, until we have children!

Children come into the world biologically pre-programmed with a lot of needs that were easily met in the social environment to which our species adapted — the tribe. But children's needs (and thus parents' needs, too) are extremely difficult to meet in a society where isolated nuclear families are expected to substitute for the village it takes to raise a child.

Nice try... but one or two parents do not a village make.

Now imagine a community where you not only know your neighbors, but you know them intimately and you feel safe being completely authentic with them. Where you never feel the drain of being "social" because the social you and the real you are one and the same. Where everyone feels relaxed about giving and receiving support — including parenting support — which flows and balances organically without keeping score. Where the desperate need for "time to myself" disappears as evolved social structures eliminate the need for self-sacrifice.

You may now be wondering if I'm going to start advising people to don loincloths and relocate to the nearest jungle, or form communes, or build "intentional communities." The answer is no, no, and no. Those paths may be right for many families, but I'm still committed to the process of transformation from the inside out.

I will continue to promote inside-out strategies -and- I'm going to start integrating the vision and spirit of tribe more directly into my teaching and support services.

(More to come...)

~ Scott Noelle

What do you think? Are you interested in a more social, authentic, community based version of un/homeschooling or regular schooling? Would you like to see and experience something radically different? I would.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

settling in (again)

everything is golden
I am blessed

Friday, August 27, 2010

5 more days

my son is leaving to go to NYC in 5 days. 5 more nights of lighting his candle at night. 5 more days of doing his laundry. 5 more days of him waking me up when he arrives back home at night. 5 more days of how it has been for the last 18 years. yes I am crying just writing this.