Homeschooling Pushouts and Loopholes

No, readers, this post does not have to do with physical education for homeschoolers. I only wish it did.

Pushouts and loopholes are the names given to certain actions government school officials are doing to avoid reporting the truth of their drop out and graduation rates in their schools.

In other words, the government schools are very busy misusing and abusing laws and in the process are dragging innocent homeschoolers into what is THEIR problem. Here's a link to what's been happening in Richmond Indiana, but I also hear that this sort of abuse of the laws may be going on in other states as well.

I used this topic to experiment with some new online software at With this site you can type in dialogue and create a video. It's a lot of fun and I highly recommend it for homeschoolers. Your kids can learn while having LOTS of fun.

Anyway, here's the video I made on my take on the pushout and loophole issue:

A New Project: Debbie and Carl

Just thought I’d make a post about a personal self-education project I’m doing. I created this project while I was in a bicycle-riding stupor one day. If you want to see what a bicycle riding stupor looks like, here you go:

Anyway, you can learn more about my project here.

Homeschooling As A Method of Child-Proofing

I've recently discovered Peter Gray's Freedom to Learn Blog and I enjoy reading his perspective on learning. His most recent post, ADHD and School: The Problem of Assessing Normalcy in an Abnormal Environment makes the case that problems resulting in ADHD diagnoses may have more to do with the schools than any actual "problem" with the children diagnosed.

This topic is interesting to me because I've encountered it in different situations (on a purely anecdotal basis of course).

As a homeschooling parent, I met many families over the years whose children were having great difficulty in the school environment and were told their child had ADHD. Yet when they removed their child from school, those problems either went completely away or were lessened so tremendously, there was no need for any medical intervention.

Then when I worked in a private reading clinic for 8 years, I encountered many, many more children who were diagnosed with ADHD, some on medication, some not. And as I worked with these kids, I could not really see any big "problem" other than that they were active, curious kids who simply required more energy to work with than others. This was not a problem at all for me because they were just so much like my own son.

One other interesting comment I heard more than once had to do with parents saying they did not give their kids ADHD medication during summer and other breaks. These parents said their child did not need them when they were not attending school.

It certainly appeared to me than many of these kids were just trapped in situations where they were being forced to learn something at a specific time set by others with no regard to their individual interests, needs and desires. And I was more grateful than ever that I decided to take my kids out of school and give them the freedom to learn in their own way, on their own time.

So it occurred to me after reading the above post from Peter Gray that maybe homeschooling can be considered as a way of child-proofing. After all, isn't putting children into institutional schools and working hard to "train" them to learn about the world with such constraints kind of like putting vases on low bookshelves and then working hard to "train" a toddler to not touch them?

Neither case is necessary is it?

Life can be a whole lot easier if we just get rid of, not only the vase, but the school situation too.

Then both parent and child have much more freedom to enjoy living and learning with each other.

A Picnic of Learning: Shay Seaborne's Interview

Today we get to meet and learn more about Shay Seaborne. Shay has been very active in the homeschooling community in her state of Virginia and has also been active nationally, through her writing and various other activities. You can learn more about her at her website.

I should warn you that Shay apparently has a natural affinity for things like slimy, oozy, fish guts. But with a last name like Seaborne, I guess that just makes sense. Read on for more...

1. How long have you been homeschooling?

I filed my first notice of intent to homeschool fifteen years ago, and will file my last one this fall, but my children, now ages 20 and 17, have been home educated their whole lives.

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this freedom and flexibility benefited your family?

Homeschooling my children provided them with a custom education, borne of my intimate knowledge of them and tailored to each of their individual needs. I spread out a picnic of learning and they were free to choose according to their own tastes.

Performing arts have been a core element to our homeschooling, and led to many explorations I would not have expected. For instance, one of my daughters loves the works of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. She discovered her appreciation for these writers after her theatre group perfomed "A Tale of Two Cities," which led her to read Dickens, which led her to Austen. Both of my daughters appreciate and understand a wide variety of theatre, opera, music, cinema and classical literature.

My favorite benefit of homeschooling has been the ability to go with the flow, to take advantage of whatever real life opportunity presented itself on a particular day or in a certain moment.

When "The Splendors of Ancient Egypt" exhibit came to a museum in Richmond, a group of homeschooling families took advantage and arranged a private tour instead of sticking to any pre-determined curriculum.

A trip to a national park turned into a lesson in doing good by rescuing abandoned kittens, taking them to a high quality animal shelter and making a donation to help cover their care and adoption.

When the weather was perfect for a trip to the beach, my children were not stuck behind a desk. I'd put out a call for other homeschoolers to join us for an impromptu day of hunting for fossil shark's teeth and having a picnic or cook out.

A breezy Wednesday morning could find us renting a boat for a marvelous sail while most everyone else was at school or work.

We also took best advantage of Virginia's short-lived snowfall. Often, by the time school busses were bringing children home early due school closure for snow, we had already played hard in the snow, built our sculpture, and were inside drinking home made cocoa, and looking outside to see the snow melt.

Homeschooling's flexibility was also very important when I was divorcing. My children's education was not disrupted by moving to a new school district; they continued to learn in the same way they had always learned, and were able to maintain contact with the same "school" friends. This core stability greatly assisted their transition into our new life together.

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of homeschooling?

It's hard to separate homeschooling from just living; there is no line in our house. My daughters remembrances of especially fun times include: hanging out together as a family, talking and laughing; spending time with their friends and "eating juice pops on top of the playhouse"; playing imaginary games and building a fairy resort in the garden; and dressing up as suffragists, making signs and staging a protest with their friends when we were focused on learning about woman suffrage.

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one of yours with us?

Several years ago some fellow homeschoolers and I had a "not back to school" picnic at a waterside park on the opening day of public school. Our kids, ranging in age from about three to 15, waded barefoot in the sand, picking up miscellaneous tide-tossed items like shells, interesting pieces of wood and colored bits of frosted glass.

A young boy, hoping to "gross out" an adult, showed me a decomposing fish. Without blinking, I told him, "If you find one that still has eyes, bring it to me and I'll show you something neat."

That sent the boy scouring the shore, and soon enough, he brought the dead fish with eyes. I called the kids around and whipped out my pocket knife.

Laying the fishy corpse on a log, I sliced open its belly to reveal the entrails. Showing the "guts" to the children, I pointed out the liver, intestines, heart. Curious faces leaned closer.

"Hey, where are the lungs?" I asked.

Puzzled expressions until one child said, "Fish don't have lungs, they have gills!"

I agreed, and pulled open the gill cover to show them the pale fringe inside, telling them these are normally pink in a live fish. The knot of students and I discussed the fish for a few more minutes before I sensed their interest wane, then I tossed the carcass back into the water, saying, "Let the crabs eat!"

Turning around and looking about for the first time since the fish with eyes was given me, I saw my own two daughters, far, far down the beach. In talking with them later, they confirmed my suspicion; they had sensed what was coming and hightailed it, distancing themselves from their mothers embarrassing act of impromptu dissection.

Is Educational Freedom Really So Hard To Understand?

So by now anyone involved in the homeschooling community has heard about the homeschooling piece produced on Good Morning America, which was specifically about unschooling. If you haven’t seen the video, here’s the link.

After this aired, they received such a response, they had the parents back on and they were able to explain a bit more about unschooling and what they do. Here’s the link for that interview.

Then Joy Behar interviewed them which gave them yet another chance to explain their view of the unschooling philosophy. Here’s the link to the Behar interview.

All of this created a lot of action online. What I found most interesting is how so many people were making definitive judgments about a topic based on a 5-minute news story based on a single family.

The judgmental people exhibited no inherent curiosity to learn more, to dig into the topic further in order to get a broader understanding of what to them was a completely new idea about learning and education.

And that in itself says all we need to know about the present-day state of education. Our system teaches students to react exactly in this manner. To listen to a 5 minute lecture from the "teacher" who is the "authority" and supposedly gives them everything they need to know about the topic.

However, I know there are those out there who do understand that learning about something new takes time and requires looking at a variety of resources.

So that’s why I wanted to do these interviews, to create a fun and comfortable place where people could grab just a glimpse of what it’s like to live with lots and lots of educational freedom and see how differently it plays out in each individual family.

Many people who have responded to my interview request are self-proclaimed unschoolers, but the most important thing is not unschooling, it's freedom.

Freedom is what creates the specific educational environment that works well for each family.

That’s the main lesson I would like for the general public to learn.

Was John Holt Libertarian?

Finally, finally, finally, someone did a "history" of sorts on John Holt and his developing philosophy as he studied and analyzed the topics of learning and education.

This video discusses Holt and how he "reasoned himself into libertarianism," which was something that I always thought must be the case, and also because I feel as if I did the same thing and it began by reading many of Holt's writings.

I highly, highly recommend this podcast for everyone whether you think you know all about John Holt or somehow have never heard of him until now.

None of Her Children are Wired To Code: Laureen Hudson's Interview

For this interview, we are going to visit Laureen Hudson and her family who live in the San Francisco Bay area. Well, to be more exact, they actually live IN the San Francisco Bay - on a boat. She blogs at The Excellent Adventure and also has some homeschool writings here.

In addition to living in the Bay, Laureen and her family are planning a round the world voyage. In the meantime though, they are teaching people a thing or two about real-world socialization...

1. How long have you been homeschooling (or if finished, how long did you homeschool)?

Officially, just two years, but y'know, learning begins at birth.

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this freedom and flexibility benefited you (your family)?

This is so completely huge, that it's hard to narrow down to just a few things. Here's my top three:

1) Unschooling the world

We live on a 47' catamaran, and are planning a round the world voyage. That's completely impossible to do in a traditional schooling framework. And I can't see trying to maintain a standard learning path while being in the middle of a journey like we're planning. They'll be immersed in such a wide range of topics; meteorology, navigation, oceanography, biology, mechanics, physics, language, culture, food, topography, physical education...

I can't see trying to slow that down or alter it to fit what a group of strangers think is "appropriate" or "typical" for kids of their ages. What they'll be doing with their lives isn't typical, so it seems sorta Procrustean to try to make their education fit a typical mold.

2) Unschooling nurture

We have three children, three years apart. I deeply believe that learning to be a family, to be together, to care for little ones, depends on actually doing it, being there in the thick of it with siblings. I feel that age-segregating kids into classrooms might be a big contributor to how completely disconnected we are from how to nurture.

And at the other end of the spectrum, my father died this last year, and we were able to drop everything and rocket out there to be with him for a few weeks before the end, and be with Mom for a few weeks after. You can't do that kind of thing when the all important school schedule controls your life.

And I can't help but think that being removed from those sorts of life experiences is part of why our culture handles them, generally, so poorly. Before school, kids were part of the entire range of life experiences through their family and their neighbors, and now, most people have never seen a birth or a death. My kids have seen both, and I fully believe it's more enriching than memorizing prepositions.

3) Unschooling our lifestyle

None of my kids is wired to code. Part of that is because of our liveaboard lifestyle.

At 4, Rowan was totally capable of disassembling our space heaters, cleaning them, and reassembling them. It's not on the preschool curriculum, um, anywhere, but it's a talent he has.

Kestrel has a really amazing emotional intelligence; he actually seeks out people who are sad or withdrawn, and draws them out. Again, not a curriculum item, but a talent he has.

I cannot see any rational person placing making paper chains above these kinds of real world, practical skills.

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of homeschooling?

Every single morning, we hang out on someone's bed, and cuddle, and talk about our days and our dreams, and sip tea and hang out. We only have to rocket out of bed, eat breakfast, and dash off someplace if there's a previously-agreed-upon adventure that requires it. And maybe my sights are really low, but I think that those mornings are the sort of fun you look back on and say "Life? Life is good."

I love being able to say "yes!" Let's go. Let's do. Let's. Yes. These things are fun, and fun is good. =)

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one of yours with us?

We live in a marina currently, and a marina full of liveaboards is a lot like an oldtime small town. Everyone knows everyone, everyone is sort of in everyone else's business. Every so often, we have bonfires up at the firepit on shore, and the whole marina comes out to hang out and socialize together. And it's the sort of thing where I feel totally comfortable letting my kids loose, because everyone kinda looks out for them.

One person had brought a friend of theirs to the event, who did not know my children. Being thoroughly social, both my boys pounced on the newcomer, dragging him around introducing him to people, offering him food, generally being the welcoming committee.

Eventually, the topic of homeschooling came up (as it does), and this newcomer, with a totally straight face, said to me, "But, if they're not going to school, what about socialization?"

One of our neighbors literally punched the guy in the arm, and said "What are you, stupid? You've been interacting with those kids for three hours, clearly they're more socialized than you are!"

Free Range Learning: Laura Weldon's Interview

Laura tells us that her family is a bit odd but I don't think so. Just look at these quite normal photos she sent me:

See what I mean? A perfectly normal fun-loving homeschooling family. Laura and her perfectly normal homeschooling family live in Ohio, on a small family farm they call Bit Of Earth.

After you read her interview below, you might want to have more fun by visiting her website/blog where you can learn more about Laura and her new book coming out this spring, Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything.

But first, let's hear Laura expound on the finer points of growing toe bacteria...

1. How long have you been homeschooling (or if finished, how long did you homeschool)?

We’re going on our thirteenth year.

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this freedom and flexibility benefited you (your family)?

More and more I see that following our interests (mine too!) is an extraordinarily powerful way to learn.

For example, my daughter got interested in forensic science when she was around 12 or 13, probably due to mysteries she’d been reading. Because she was interested she did the following, all generated by her own passion to learn:

  • She read anatomy and pathology books, even contacting some of the authors with follow-up questions.
  • She did dissections on her own and with other homeschoolers.
  • She performed necropsies on animals that died here on our farm (it’s actually quite helpful to know that a chicken died of a blocked oviduct and not a respiratory disease).
  • She conducted a systematic study of decomposition by watching a muskrat over a period of weeks as it went from road kill to dust and bones.

The phase of intense interest passed but this powerful introduction to science served her well when she entered college. She’d never taken a “real” science class or lab before becoming a college student, yet graduated summa cum laude with a degree in biology last year.

Our interests lead us all over. Because the rest of us are less disciplined than my daughter we pursue one thing or many things for a while, then drift off in other directions. I tell my kids nothing we learn is wasted. Skills and knowledge gained while pursuing interests stick with us.

The creative intensity and precision my son brought to making his own rocket designs from balsa when he was eight years old now benefits him as he delves ever farther into electronics, geology, music, photography and his other current passions.

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of homeschooling?

All of us are odd and sarcastic and completely ourselves, not caring much what others think of us. We’ve come up with homeschool projects that appalled our friends, such as the time we grew cultures from bacteria we swabbed between our toes. Yes, it became a competition as we checked on those petri dishes and no, we haven’t really looked at the winner’s feet quite the same way since.

We also suffer from the ridiculous idea that what we find fascinating could be fascinating to everyone else if we just explain it sufficiently, so our dinner table conversations are a zigzag of topics that tonight included caddis fly mating habits, plasma welding techniques, the best socks for backpackers and a Supreme Court ruling.

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one of yours with us?

I’ll admit to dragging my kids around to a few art galleries one day, sure they’d find something thrilling. They weren’t entranced by the armadillo made of repurposed catcher’s mitts or the screens playing cartoons backwards.

They were, however thrilled to see me run full speed ahead toward the meter maid approaching our van with ticket book in hand. Justice had been served in their eyes. Now when I mention art galleries they remind me cheerfully the meter has expired on experiencing culture.

Learning Happens Spontaneously: Beatrice's Interview

Beatrice and her family live in Hamilton Ontario and she's been involved in Radio Free School, "an all volunteer weekly radio show by, for, and about, Unschoolers/Home-based Learners."

1. How long have you been homeschooling (or if finished, how long did you homeschool)?

I have three daughters ages 14, 12 and 11. My two older girls started public school a little over a year ago. Prior to that they had never been to school. My youngest is still at home with me.

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this
freedom and flexibility benefited you (your family)?

Even though my oldest two go to school now, we still practice 'freedom in learning' at home. I let them sleep in and skip school if they so wish to and they can tag along if there's a particularly fun outing we are planning. This happened just the other day when daughter no 2 skipped school to go cross country skiing for her first time with daughter #3 teaching her how it's done.

They had a great time together making snow angels, throwing snow balls at each other, climbing trees really bonding as sisters-something we miss when she goes to school.

With my youngest we are able to plan our day (given some restrictions such as my work and her scheduled classes) as we see fit. If we decide to go to the art gallery, or ice skating there is no one to stop us! It's great because learning happens spontaneously in this way.

We are talking for example, and then the question comes up in the conversation "how long do turtles live?" We go straight to the computer and find out. We don't need to wait for a teacher to answer the question.

This leads to other questions, related or not, so we have a picture of what authentic learning is like-it is meaningful to the learner herself. We can delve into information as deeply or as little as we like. Keeps learning and being in this world fresh and engaging.

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of homeschooling?

Fun is always good and I personally am guilty of not having enough of it!

Still when I see my daughters laughing together with their father over a youtube video of crazy trampoline mishaps or when we get together with other families for skating and hot chocolate while other families are off at work and school, it makes me feel lucky we have this kind of a lifestyle.

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one of yours with us?

When we still had the weekly radio show we put on for over 7 years, we had the opportunity to visit an archaeologist at the local university and held a 2 million year old piece of poo from a cave in China! Not funny exactly but we had a lot of fun joking about it!

I Heard Aboout It First On School Sucks Podcast

I just finished listening to an episode on the School Suck Podcast series titled, The Decentralization of Information and Communication. I really liked this episode. It was filled with such optimism about the future of education now that we have so much opportunity because of technological advancements.

In this episode the host Brett Veinotte interviews the creators of a new website called Alekese. This is just one project of many out there of people experimenting with online learning and making connections with others for learning.

This post is titled as it is because Brett likes the potential of this particular project so much that he predicts it's really going to take off and change education and information access for the future.

The site is pretty new but it still includes quite a bit of interesting information. It's useful for those in the homeschooling community not only for the obvious reason of a method of freely accessing information on learning a topic in an organized fashion, but also for those who have developed expertise in a certain topic because anyone can start a "tree" of information.

Who knows, Brett may be right and it may indeed explode so go check it out and see what you think.