Skip School Now! It’s Time for DIY Education

I’ve been preaching it for years: It’s time for individuals with the skills and entrepreneurial spirit to just DO IT… and start creating alternative learning businesses, organizations and associations/groups so that anyone can choose to skip compulsory state schooling, and get the education they want for their children.

I was enjoying a new site to me this morning. It’s called Dropout Nation, edited by RiShawn Biddle. In a post from 2011 called The Promise of DIY Schools, RiShawn details how the concept of Do It Yourself (DIY) schools have been a part of our history for quite a long time, especially since the ending of slavery, when public schooling wasn’t immediately available to the children of recently freed slaves.

…Imagine if such DIY ethic was brought into reforming American public education? We’re not necessarily talking about the so-called unschooling movement (which consists of very few kids and their parents), or the more-mainstream homeschooling. This would go beyond that. The idea would be that teachers, parents or others committed to reforming American public education would simply start their own schools, either in their own homes, in storefronts or even in the basements of churches. While the schools would still be subjected to standards and accountability — including testing — to ensure that every child is getting high-quality instruction and curriculum, they would be able to create cultures of genius with little bureaucracy in the way.

I will have some fine points to add to this article, but suffice to say, it’s worth reading.

Another Skipping School post worth reading.

Admit it Liberals, You Hate (School) Choice

I think it’s really sad that some people only want to fund public education for some kids in only certain public schools, but not other public schools or any other workable educational options.

Why the discrimination people?

My Facebook friend, Nate Spencer says it’s about “money and power. Those other schools don’t tend to be NEA shops. Kids first indeed.”

I keep thinking that “money and power” are becoming old saws of late, Nate. Do you suppose there are other reasons? The “power” part I get… but I think it’s about the overall power that is derived from keeping a monopoly alive so that it feeds the millions of people that feed off of it. Only this monopoly doesn’t make a few greedy capitalist industrialists powerful, but rather several unions, contractors, suppliers, bureaucracies, workers, etc. etc. etc.

The Government Education Complex (read more about it on this blog: The Government Education Complex Defined) is the monopoly that uses taxpayer dollars (money taken by force) to keep itself alive via a political construct called districts. School districts are like mini fiefdoms, that require funding, not directly from the community they serve, but from the state and the federal governments, so that they can perpetuate themselves.

Over a century ago it was decided that taking our money by force through taxation in order to pay for the schooling of other people’s children is a good thing. It has been ingrained in our psyche that only public schooling is something worthwhile, and worthy of paying for with our tax dollars. But unfortunately for the Education Complex, along came a few different models of learning that happen to work better than the old factory school (districts) model and parents are now making choices, rather than abdicating their choice to the one and only government school closest to them. (Or in some cases, a non-local school that the government buses their children to because they determined some diversity quotas must be met.)

NOW… it’s suddenly not the right thing to pay for educating ALL children. NOW we should only pay for the kids who attend DISTRICT public schools. Not just ANY public school. Charters, and other options, you see, threaten the monopoly (and let’s face it.. the unions too; but that’s becoming an old saw as well.)

I guess all I want at this point in the debate is a little intellectual and moral honesty. If you are a Liberal and you believe Public Charter schools are all bad and shouldn’t exist because they are “pulling, stripping, stealing” money away from the district public schools, then pretty-please agree to the following… at least in principle:

1) Public School funding is really about funding “certain” children and not all children. IF you want to choose to go to a public school — ANY SCHOOL — that isn’t unionized or operates in a manner other than in a politically controlled district using master contracts that citizens can’t approve personally, you should have to pay for it yourself, just like all the other “rich” people who pay for private schooling. Your tax dollars can’t go to private schools or non-district schools. It hurts our old district schooling system too much and it hurts the children left in the poorly performing schools when you take your money and children out of the system. These systems must be fixed, no matter what the cost; even if it cheats some children out of a decent education.

2) Yes, yes, yes… I agree that charter schools are really public schools. I’ve been using the “charter schools aren’t public schools” and “charters get to pick and choose their students” lie because it furthers my agenda, which again, is the following: MY district school deserves taxpayer money before OTHER public schools and other educational choices receive money. The end justifies the means.

3) I realize that poor and “at-risk” children also might have parents who want to take advantage of charters or even vouchers. I feel for them. I really do. I’m a Liberal after all. We really really feel for these kids. That said, I have to admit that even though these options might in fact help these poor and disadvantaged students, it might actually hurt MY school district, therefore I can not support even poor and disadvantaged children receiving taxpayer support for THEIR choice to leave their assigned school district. It puts too many other kids at risk. And besides, how can we be sure the parents of poor and at-risk kids know what they’re doing? They can’t possibly know what’s best for their child’s education. They aren’t the professionals.

4) I’m still for choice!! I just have to look out for MY CHOICES first. You know what I mean? Therefore, I will work hard with my political friends and lobbyists in the statehouse, paid for with donations from my union dues, do make sure that all workable educational choice and reform ideas are aborted before they become viable law. I will, though, in the spirit of intellectual honesty, stop blaming Bush and NCLB for all of the problems we have today with our public school districts, especially with the prospect that Obama’s Race to the Top plan will be NCLB on crack!!

SEE!! That wasn’t so hard, was it? You really can be a pro choice Liberal and at the same time, deny ‘certain’ children their right to a good education of their parents’ choice. And people will probably still like you.

Admit these things, my liberal friends, public school district apologists and opponents in playful and philosophical discourse and I bet we can start to have more honest conversations about the future of education reform.

Cooperative Learning – The New 1,001 Room Schoolhouse

Okay, let’s dispatch the ‘dinosaur’ jokes right off the bat: Yes, I’ve been a homeschooler for over fifteen years and counting. Yes, that’s when there were dinosaurs and we all wrote with sticks (called pencils) on pieces of wood (called paper) and counted on our toes (called calculators.)

There, feel better? Let’s move on, shall we?

The kids have been cracking a lot of ‘dinosaur’ jokes on me lately. I’ll grant the fact their jabs are prompted by my grumbling about how things used to be, and how “things — like education and schooling” aren’t that way now, and, “It’s just not right that you kids don’t have to do the same school junk I used to have to do when I was a kid.”

“Back when there were dinosaurs and you were a Caveman, Daddy?”

Uh… yeah. Now where did I put that club?

“No, no, no!” I say. (Because I’m apparently getting old enough to keep forgetting where I put my club.) “There weren’t even one-room school houses anymore when I was a kid. We had one-building schools — factories actually — still have ’em. We schooled in one big building where many children from many grades go to learn many things. I was just thinking that you kids, being homeschooled by a Caveman, don’t even have a building for schooling.”

I start getting the glassy-eyed stare. Quiet clicking of keypads. ‘KWIM? Doz ur DD do ths 2 U 2?‘ ‘Ugh yes!’ ‘LOL!

I understand it’s hard for ignorant texting tots to imagine something they’ve never experienced, but I guess that’s the way life is for us Cavemen. It’s our job, nay, our duty, to explain it to them. Paint it on the walls with our fingers if we have to.

[MEMO from the Observation Deck] The cycle of life: old people spend most of their lives explaining how hard, or easy, or more important things were in the past, while the young people patiently pretend to listen while plugged-in to their iPods and texting their friends on FaceBook about how clueless Cavemen are about how MORE hard or easy or important their little teen lives are.

Anyway… because I’m apparently a Caveman, my smallish brain keeps tapping me on the shoulder and telling me I should be lecturing my children on how we used to learn things in “the old days” and that, maybe, they should, oh… I don’t know… crack a book or two and fill out a worksheet or three and think about grades or something. For heaven’s sake! Watch a filmstrip about the Magna Carta!

“Well kids,” I begin, as they fire up their phones, preparing to act like they’re taking notes. (I may be a Caveman, but I know darn well they’re getting ready to make live observations to their FaceBookBuddies. ‘The Caveman’s going to lecture! KWIM?LOL!‘)

I lecture nonetheless: “Back when I was a kid, we went to a school building called … uh… The School … and we went from room to room learning different things every day for twelve years.”

“How many different rooms, Caveman… uh, Dad?” said the smartypants on the living-room couch tapping on his phone.

“I don’t know. Five. Six. Depended on how many subjects I was studying. Math, Science, Literature, Band, Shop, Gym, Elective Something, ummm… Lunch.” I realized I was running out of schoolish classes.

“OH!” An epiphany from the child laying on the floor caused her to bounce. “So you had a special room for lunch, like in Oliver Twist? Did they feed you gruel every day? Did you ever say, ‘PLEASE SIR, MAY I HAVE SOME MORE?‘”

“Well, to tell the truth, the food wasn’t that… HEY! That’s not the point. And when did you read Oliver Twist? Dickens’ books aren’t until you are in a higher grade. See? This is what I mean. If you kids were in a The School, you wouldn’t be disrespectful to your Cavedad. Mind your manners. (The ones their mother taught them.) You’ll be eating your lunch in the barn if you keep it up.”

One of my other sweet orphans-in-progress, speaking out of turn, said, “One thousand and one….”

Huh? I asked her to explain herself.

“Well, when you went to “The School” with the dinosaurs and wrote with sticks, you only had five or six rooms where you could learn stuff — much of which, by your own admission, wasn’t too important. You even had one room for your meals that was apparently fraught with danger, pain and torture if you asked for more.”

“That was from a book!” I interrupted. “And I was only punched once when I refused to take a Senior’s tray back to the kitchen…. Okay… twice.”

“Still,” continued the varlet who reads too much, “There were relatively few learning rooms in your The School Factory of the past. What we homeschooled kids have now, in the present-tense real world (where we don’t count on our toes, is what she was getting at) are thousands of ‘rooms’ where we can learn thousands of things, any time, all the time.”


Lecture over. Shut down by a lightning bolt of the obvious. I should have named her Thor, or Zeus. That would have showed her!

She was right: What we call homeschooling, is really the organized chaos of scheduling and orchestrating 1,001 Educational Opportunities for our children. We visit places: Libraries, live events, reenactments, plays, historical landmarks, museums of all kinds — “Look, Dad! There’s a caveman display! Go up and see if they found one of your pencil thingies.”

We take ‘field trips’ of all kinds, large and small, every week. We don’t homechool… we car-school!

Most important, we participate in cooperative learning classes with other homeschoolers. It’s a phenomena that’s happening all over the state, and I’m sure, all over the country. Parents who are taking back the responsibility of educating their children, are networking with other parents, and forming all kinds of free-form cooperative learning sessions, or classes.

Our family is participating in a High School Chemistry Co-op in Anderson. [MEMO: Check out our “Homeschooling 101 Workshop” coming up next week at Minnetrista Center. If you’re thinking about homeschooling, you won’t want to miss this — if anything, come see what a homeschooling caveman looks like. <G>]

We have another co-op we go to for the younger kids. This session includes math, PE, speech, composition and even lunch that’s so good EVERYONE wants “some more!”

Homeschoolers are networking fools, in spite of the fact that our kids think we’re Luddites. We network on statewide discussion lists like IndianaHomeschoolers, managed by the Indiana Home Educators’ Network, all the way down to local lists, like HomeschoolCOCO in Delaware County. Every day, thousands of homeschooling parents all across the state are helping fellow Hoosiers learn about the free-range learning opportunities homeschooling provides for our families and our children; and not a single government approved The School Room is necessary.

Come to think of it, my Orphan-in-Training was probably a little low in her estimation. 1,001 probably only scratches the surface. Still don’t you hate it when the kids are right? Cavemen have feelings too.