Monday, July 20, 2015

Learning Beyond the Book

(My dominant hand still remains in a great deal of pain and rather useless so I am resurrecting an old blog post with some new updates. It is also that time of year where even unschoolers are gearing up for the new school year so it also seems fitting to bring this one back....)
Bome Bell's at Tinkering School.
Alternative education must be catching on. A few weeks ago we were asked to submit our re-enrollment packet to Cedar Life Academy (the Private School Satellite Program that we "hire" to provide paperwork assistance and homeschool mentoring) early because they are wait listed!

Part of the enrollment process is submitting a Course of Study for the school year. Different from a curriculum written by someone who doesn't know my child and knows nothing of the kind of parent I want to be, Bome Bell and I collectively design a description using our local requirements based on natural learning.

In a discussion between celebrity unschooler mom, Pam Sorooshian and educator and activist, Marion Brady, Brady said that a school curriculum:
A. has no clear, overarching aim 
B. does not respect the brain's need for order and organization 
C. neglects important fields of study 
D. disregards the inherent seamlessness of knowledge 
E. fails to move students through ever-increasing levels of complexity 
F does not distinguish between degrees of importance of content 
G. insufficiently relates to real-world experience 
H. neglects higher-order thought processes 
J. unduly emphasizes symbol manipulation skills 
K. has no built-in self-renewing capability 
L. is overly dependent on extrinsic motivation 
M. makes unreasonable demands on memory 
N. lacks a comprehensive vocabulary shared by all educators 
O. assigns students an unnatural, passive role 
P. fails to put specialized studies in holistic perspective 
Q. does not encourage novel, creative thought 
R. penalizes rather than capitalizes on student variability 
S. encourages simplistic methods of evaluation 
T. neglects the basic knowledge-creating process 
U. fails to address ethical and moral issues
Pam responded by saying;
"all of this matters a lot for designing a curriculum that is going to be "used on" students who are required to be "in school". What a great world it would be, if this kind of thinking about schooling was pervasive. But the only one that really matters to unschoolers is "O"...assigns students an unnatural, passive role. Unschooling could almost be defined as the opposite of is allowing children their "natural, active roll" in their own learning. If we do that well, all the rest of Brady's points would take care of themselves."
At Chez Collier, we believe that life is not compartmentalized into subjects and neither should education be. All subjects overlap and are inherently intertwined, however, for the purpose of California State Department of Education, we have included ten subjects below and how we believe they will be learned as The Feral Child enters eighth (GASP!) grade!

English: Improving reading skills through various novels and short stories; types of poetry; biography and autobiography; listening skills; refining dictionary skill; spelling

Social Sciences: Lands and people of the world; yesterday and today current events; contemporary problems and issues; the environment; world geography and map skills

Foreign Language: Hayden will have the opportunity to develop an understanding, speaking, reading and writing skills in Spanish and French.

Physical Education: Swim lessons with the probability of joining a team; continuation of jujitsu with the probability of earning his purple belt; youth workshops at Coach 2 Edify; health and physical education will be fully integrated as part of daily living skills.

Science: Heredity and genetics; effects of weather and climate; rocks, soil and minerals; ecology and environment; conservation; laws of motion; energy

Math: Order of operation; ratios, proportions and percentages; basic geometry concepts and terms; elementary business math; use of calculators and computers; maintaining his own debit card with attached account

Fine Arts: Painting, drawing and creating at home and at classes held at Learn Beyond the Book; attending theater and musical events; attending community events; learning about artists and composers.

Applied Arts: Consumer and homemaker education will be offered in a variety of ways including general business education and agriculture.

Career Technical Education: Game design and programming classes will be offered at Learn Beyond the Book and include such topics as game design, interactive experience design, game design and game play, gaming algorithms, interactive design concepts, logic and representation and game scripting.

Health: Shopping and preparing food, discuss healthy diet and nutrition, participate in emergency preparedness, develop good hygiene.

The above areas of study will be offered yet if Bome Bell chooses to learn something else, that is acceptable. I still will make all subjects available. Understand, this is only a guideline for the school year and things can be added or removed as needed. The Course of Study does not only keep me in compliance but also helps me look at what we want to accomplish. I review this list monthly, as part of my personal homeschooling assessment, and update it at any time I choose.

There are no tests. I am able to assess Bome Bell on a daily basis, as I watch him discover new things, and observe his skills improving. I have the privilege of being “on the spot” when “a light turns on” and he makes a new discovery. I don’t have a timetable for when he will learn each new skill, and trust that he will learn everything he needs for his life in his own time. Consequently, there is no need to assess or compare him to others. I keep this blog about our family’s learning. We also keep nearly everything he produces.

It may not seem as such to the "schooly mind" but Bome Bell's education is very important and I believe he is learning no matter what activity he is engaged in. Therefore, he is learning (or being taught) all his waking hours. It would be very difficult to separate when he is learning, from when he is not. I believe living and learning are inextricably linked. 

Our weeks are filled with interesting activities, which provide an exceptionally rich education. Our days are structured around ordinary routines though there are never two days the same. Every day I am committed to Bome Bell’s well-being and education, and endeavor to provide him with a memorable and excellent foundation for his future.

We are always learning, and have read some excellent resources on home education, and how children learn. We make great use of the internet in learning new information, challenging assumptions, and assessing our course of study.

Our routine is changeable...I see this as a positive thing...being adaptable to the needs of my child. My love for Bome Bell is not, however, and what is best for him is always at the forefront of my mind. I am very proud of this guy. I already have four years of his college tuition saved up and I plan to help him have the very best education he can possibly have doing what he is passionate about.

I sincerely hope this helps those who have asked me questions about homeschooling/unschooling and how we do it. If you reside in California and have more questions, please contact Karen Taylor at Cedar Life Academy ( Karen also provides homeschooling information on FacebookPinterest and her blog.


  1. What a super cool way of learning! I'm so happy when families find a learning program that fits them well. =) Bummer to hear that you're still in pain on the hand. Sending you some healing vibes <3

    1. I will take those healing vibes. What was once, "look at me! I broke my arm Rollerblading! I'm such a badass," has turned into, "this sucks and I wish a rat would just come along and naw my arm off to escape the pain". The good news is I am healing. The bed news is I am impatient. Thank you.