Monthly Archives: March 2011

A Final Group of Quotes

Here are some final quotes that kept us on target as we raised our children in our own homes:

“If the main reason for not sending our children to school and for keeping them at home is to teach them at home, then we have missed the main reason for not sending our children to school and for keeping them at home.”

“We have admitted no substantial change in man’s nature during historical times. Everything man does different is merely a new means of achieving old ends.”—Historians, authors & humanists, Will & Ariel Durant

“In school, to fail means to lose; in life, to fail means to learn. In school, success is completely up to each individual’s effort; in life, success is a corporate endeavor.”

“Children might learn what we want them to know, but they will certainly learn what they want to know.”

“Books make a full man, conference a ready man, writing an exact man.”—carved on a pillar in the National Library of Congress

“The purpose for everything we do in a child’s life is to provide him or her with the tools and the time to become excellent in what God has already placed within that child to do in life.”

“Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will not stand before ordinary men; he will stand before kings.”—Proverbs 22:29

“Posterity, you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.”—President John Quincy Adams

“For the first time in the history of humankind, the overwhelming majority of little boys and little girls continued under the direct domination and supervision of ladies until they reached maturity. This has never happened before in history. Crusades, wars, migrations, pestilence—nothing for a people as a whole ever before took so large a percentage of adult males out of the family context for so much of the waking time of the children. Most of us have not even noticed the change, nor do we have any idea of its radicality.”—Weldon Hardenbrook, describing the effect of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-1880’s when men left home to begin working in factories. From his book, Missing from Action

“I am a bear of Very Little Brain and long Words Bother me.”—Winnie the Pooh

Quotes that encoureged us

Even more of our favorite quotes that helped us stay encouraged as we kept our children from public school to raise them at home:

“The most fundamental political question is, ‘Who gets to teach the children?’.”–Plato [You can imagine why we responded with a resounding, “If this is really a political question, we say, ‘Definitely not the government!'”].

“Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance it accumulates.”–Henry Adams, author, grandson of President John Quincy Adams & great-grandson of President John Adams.

“Little substantive learning takes place in our schools as they are now organized,”–Adam Robinson, author of What Smart Students Know

“I am always ready to learn but I do not always like being taught.”–Winston Churchill

“I believe in teaching, but I don’t believe in going to school.”–Robert Frost

“I never let schooling interfere with my education.”–Mark Twain

“For every person wishing to teach, there are thirty not wanting to learn.”–W. C. Sellar, educator & author of 1066 and All That

“Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”–Oscar Wilde

“The one goal of education is to leave a person asking questions.”–Max Beerhohm, author

“Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.”–William Butler Yeats, 19th century poet

“You cannot teach a person anything; you can only help him find it within himself.”–Galileo

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”–Gil Bailie, author

“God has created us and our gifts for a place of His choosing and we will only be ourselves when we are finally there.”–Os Guinness, author

Quotes that encourage

Even more of our favorite quotes that helped us stay encouraged as we kept our children from public school to raise them at home:

From Albert Einstein…

“The order in the world and the universe is as likely to have been caused by a random big bang, as an explosion in a print shop is likely to produce a completed, unabridged dictionary.”

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.”

“It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.”

“There is too much education, especially in American schools.”

More of our favorite quotes…

More of our favorite quotes that helped us stay encouraged as we kept our children from public school to raise them at home:

From Isabelle Adams, former Australian Superintendent of schools:

“I am convinced that school no longer prepares students for the real world. The world has changed, but our schools have not.”

From Dr. Joel Spring, Professor of Education, State University of New York:

“The is no agreed-upon standard of knowledge in any academic field—an issue that most test companies try to avoid.”

“In the case of standardized tests, not only are the tests themselves disputed, but also the meaning of the results.”

“What does it mean to read at grade level? Since ‘grade level’ is an artificial construct, the idea that all students should master a given body of knowledge by a particular grade is also artificial. But in order for educators and officials to gain professional acceptance, and in order for the public to accept the use of standardized tests, everyone concerned must act as though there really is such a uniform body of knowledge.”

Quotes

More quotes that encouraged us as we raised and educated our own children.

As you read the following quotes, be aware that they come from a 35- year veteran New York city public school teacher and former New York state Teacher of the Year, John Taylor Gatto:

“I feel ashamed that so many of us cannot imagine a better way to do things than locking children up all day in cells instead of letting them grow up knowing their families, mingling with the world, assuming real obligations, striving to be independent and self-reliant and free.”

“The most destructive myth of the 20th century is that children cannot grow up in the unique circumstances of their own family.”

“Somewhere the idea that children should grow up to become what God created them to be changed to a new idea that children were really part of an economic unit of production who should be trained to find their place within that system.”

“Due to its emphasis on competition, institutional education leaves a large population of losers, damned to the self-concept that they cannot succeed no matter what they have a heart to do.”

“Education separates a child from the daily content of life.”

“School books school; real books educate.”

“None of the familiar school sequences is defensible according to the rules of evidence; all are arbitrary.”

“All theories of child rearing talk in averages, but the evidence of your own eyes tells you that average men and women don’t really exist except as a statistical concept. Children cannot be cut to fit. Public school goes to war against the diversity of the individual.”

“There is nothing asked of children in government schools that is real; there is nothing important to do there.”

“In the American school system, the highest good is for its graduates to get a job!”

“If you want to know how to educate a child, look at what the public school does and do something else.”

Words of Encouragement

In the earliest days of what came to be called “homeschooling”–when those of us who decided not to send out children to public school were being called weird (no doubt some of our behaviors and attitudes were weird)–we looked for any encouragement we could find. Often we found that encouragement in the testimonies of those who had gone before us, or from writers and people we admired. In the days to follow, I will share some of our favorite thoughts for you “newbies”; and, also, to encourage those of you still on the path…

Although I am not a fan of “unschooling”, I still consider what follows one of my favorite quotes from John Holt, father of the unschooling movement:

What is lovely about children is that they can make such a production, such a big deal, out of anything–or nothing. From my office window I see many families walking down the street with their children. The adults plod along. The children twirl, leap, skip, run. Now to this side, now to that. They look for things to step over or walk along or around. They climb on anything that can be climbed. I never want to be where I cannot see it.

All that energy and foolishness, all that curiosity, questions, talk, all the fierce passions and inconsolable sorrows, immoderate joys, seem to many to be a nuisance to be endured if not a disease to be cured. To me, they are a national asset, a treasure beyond price, more necessary to our health and our very survival than any oil or uranium or name-what-you-will.

One day in the public garden I see on a small patch of grass under some trees a father and a two-year-old girl. the father is lying down. The little girl runs everywhere. What joy to run! Suddenly she stops, looks intently at the ground, bends down, picks something up. A twig? A pebble? She stands up; runs again. She sees a pigeon and chases it. Suddenly she stops and looks up into the sunlit trees. What does she see? Perhaps a squirrel; perhaps a bird; perhaps the shapes and colors of the leaves in the sun. Then she bends down, finds something else, picks it up, examines it. Another miracle!

Gears! leaves! twigs! Little children love the world. That is why they are so good at learning about it. For it is love, not tricks and techniques, that lies at the heart of all true learning. Can we bring ourselves to let children learn and grow through that love?

Please Don’t Homeschool Your Children – Part 11

Teaching information is the priority of public schools.

And, when information is priority, The Test becomes the sovereign to which all must bow.

We think of childhood as beginning in infancy and stretching into the dim future. There is so much time…

This is not true. What public education does is to take the largest chunk of childhood and use it up in the teaching of information. This deprives the child of the time necessary for him or her to become proficient in the very thing the child has been created to do in life.

Today I substitute in an 11th grade math class. I hand out worksheets their teacher has left for them to do while she is out. I watch many of the students struggle to remember how to graph algebraic equations on the axes x and y. A girl realizes she will have to skip her dance class tonight (the only time she feels truly alive) because she must study for tomorrow’s math test, instead. A boy was planning to help his father fix the family car after school. This won’t happen, either, for the same reason. Both girl and boy long ago concluded they were dumb and will tell me so, a complete stranger.

What is complicated is that some of the information school requires is necessary. Parents have long ago abdicated their personal privilege of determining what is, and is not, necessary for each of their children. Because The Test has taken on such a place of authority in our culture, today’s parents assume someone other than themselves knows what, and how much, information their children must learn.

Last week, USA Today ran a cover story about The Test and how common is has become for public school teachers and administrators to cheat (or help their students cheat) on The Test. The article stated, “Many teachers interviewed by [the investigating team] justified cheating…as a way of getting back at a low-paying system rigged by impossible standards and unrealistic goals. Other teachers resented that their entire reputation could hinge on a child’s performance on a single day.”

The teacher’s reputation! What about the child? Regardless of where I substitute, students cheat every time they get a chance. When I challenge them, they tell me they cannot afford to do poorly on The Test and only a handful of the recognized “geniuses” can be expected to remember the glut of details they are being required to learn.

When I was in school, I never cheated. But, then, I always thought of myself as dumb and would have told you so, a complete stranger.

When will we stop this informational overload and when will we stop making The Test the sovereign to which we all bow?

You, the homeschoolers of the world, have the opportunity to change all this. Will you?

The Dream Poster

I have just received an email from a mom who has been following this blog. After stating that she has been helped by what I’ve been sharing, she said, “…at what age do you think children begin to understand what their passions are? My 9 year old son (my oldest) has never really been enthusiastic about anything, and apart from his wonderful, kind and compassionate soul, no apparent giftings have yet been discovered. I’ve prayed and prayed for God to show me what his gifts are that I can nurture them and help him live a passionate life.”

I responded to her, saying that she might be helped by giving her son the opportunity to create a Dream Poster.

What is this? Here is some background along with the details…

Several years ago I was asked to speak to a conference of homeschoolers and I was offered accommodations at the home of one of the coordinating families. Most speakers like to stay in motels where an event is taking place. I usually allow my hosts to make this decision, but I very much enjoy staying with, and meeting, local families.

As I recall, this family had six delightful children. During my first evening in their home, each child asked if I would visit his or her room so they could each show me something they had created. What they showed me became a staple activity in my seminars whenever time allowed.

One of my favorite things is to ask children what they want to do or be when they grow up. Very young children are usually the ones most able to come up with something and, as they tell me, their eyes light up with the excitement that someone is actually interested in knowing what is meaningful to them.

“I’m going to be an astronaut,” one will say. Another: “I’m going to be President of the United States.” The whimsical, impractical notions of childhood! But if we think of what’s being said here, we have to admit that someone has to grow up to become an astronaut or President of the United States. Why not one of these little guys?

Try this on a teenager. Usually, by the time children become teenagers, they have difficulty locating within themselves any passions they might have had early on. I ascribe this to the fact that, by the time we become teens, we have experienced years of adult input, telling us what is and isn’t important for us to pay attention to. As we get older (here I purposefully avoid saying “more mature”), what we were born to do sinks deeper and deeper into the recesses of our hearts until it finds a safe place to hide from total annihilation.

We grow up doing what is practical, accepting the reality that everything that could be thought of to do has already been thought of. We simply choose something to do from what already is.

But, every now and then we think we hear a little voice calling to us from deep within our souls, “You are living someone else’s life”. But, of course, that can’t be. We are adults who are doing what adults should be doing: making money and continually improving our standard of living. We are good at what we do and, besides, we owe too much money to change horses in the “mid stream” of our lives.

Back to my story of the host family.

One by one, I was led by the hand into these children’s rooms where each child proudly pointed to their Dream Poster displayed on the most prominent wall. There each child pointed to a science-project-sized poster board containing pictures cut from magazines and pasted in seemly random order.

Each child acted as if he or she had invited me into the Holy of Holies of their life and were allowing me the privilege of knowing their deepest secrets and most profound dreams.

The drama wasn’t lost on me. I instinctively knew they were honoring me with something only their family members knew existed.

What, then, is a Dream Poster?

In creating their posters, the children had been given a large number of magazines of all kinds, containing pictures of every imaginable activity. They were told to slowly page through each magazine and cut out any picture that made them say, “Here is something I would love to do!”

When the children had found all the pictures they wanted, they were then instructed to place the pictures on their poster board. As this was explained to me, I realized the pictures had not been randomly placed at all. The children were to put the one, most important, picture in the very center of the poster and arrange the rest of the pictures radiating out from the center (most important) picture with those going toward the edge still important, but not as important as the ones closer to the middle. This took quite some time as each child gave serious consideration to where to place each picture in order of priority to them.

Then it came time to paste the pictures on the board. This was done with double-sided removable tape (the kind of tape that is similar to a Post-it Note). The purpose of using removable tape is so pictures can be moved around (or discarded altogether and replaced with others) as the child gave more consideration to his or her poster.

The idea stuck with me and I have been using it ever since.

I once led a group of about two hundred children in this activity using the floor of a high school gym. Each family had to bring a dozen or so magazines and place them in a huge pile in the middle of the room. The children sat on the gym floor and worked feverishly. I didn’t allow the parents to sit with their children because I didn’t want any child to filter his choice of pictures through the fear that a certain picture might displease his parents. If a child sees a parent looking disapprovingly at a picture the child has chosen, he may discard it.

The parents sat around the perimeter of the gym floor with instructions to do one of two things while they waited. First they could choose one of their children and create a Dream Poster for that child, one they thought that child might create for him or herself. When the child was finished, the two Posters could be set side-by-side for the parent to see how well they knew their child.

The second option was for the parent to create his or her own Dream Poster (which I advise every adult to do, anyway).

A family who had been in one of my conferences earlier that year was also attending this conference. When I announced that we would be making Dream Posters later that day, the mother spoke up and said to the group, “We did this activity earlier this year and my children haven’t done anything with their posters since.” One of her teenage girls heard her mother say this and the girl blurted out, “Mom, that’s because you haven’t been paying attention. I am changing my Dream Poster all the time!” The mother turned to her daughter and said, “Oh, dear, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know it was that important to you.”

At another time, I was speaking at a conference in Perth, Australia and I happened to share the Dream Poster idea with the conference coordinator. She immediately insisted that we go to the local office supply where she could purchase all the materials to do Dream Posters for all the children of the conference attendees.

Next day, children filled the floor of a large, empty Sunday School room working diligently, cutting out pictures from a stack of magazines. They looked like a hive of bees and took their work seriously.

When everyone was finished and pictures were pasted on poster boards, I assembled all the people in the sanctuary with the children in the front three rows and parents seated behind.

This time I noticed something I had never seen anywhere else where I had done this activity: Every child held his or her poster tightly against their chest, with the back of the posters facing out. This way, I could not see any of the pictures. Imagine what that looked like with every child holding his or her poster the same way. I wondered what was going on. When it was explained to me later, I understood.

Australians often speak of what they term the “tall poppy syndrome” which all Australians understand from the time they are children. The Australian psyche says it is dangerous to stand out. It is the “tall poppy” that gets cut down because it is the one that sticks up above the rest. “Never raise you head above the crowd or it might get whacked off!” Australians tend to be people who don’t try to “stick out”.

Because I didn’t know what the children were doing, and since I was used to working with American and Canadian children, I asked, “OK, who wants to be the first to show everyone their Poster?” Every other time I had asked this question, all the children in the room raised their hands and jumped up and down as if to say, “Choose me!” They couldn’t wait to show what they had created. This time no one moved nor spoke out. No one volunteered.

After a few minutes of coaxing and with parents asking their children if they could see the posters, one boy, about eleven years old, agreed to come up front and show what he had done. When he turned his poster around for everyone to see, his poster was filled all over, but with only one kind of picture. This young man had cut out all the pictures he could find of skyscrapers, huge building projects, large hotels, shopping centers filling acres and acres and massive buildings of every kind.

I turned to the assembled adults and asked, “As parents, what do you think could be done for a young man who has represented himself in this way”

Often what cannot be articulated has to be seen.

Have you ever seen someone give all their effort to climb the ladder of success only to arrive at the top and discover they had put their ladder against the wrong wall? What a waste of years of a person’s life! We should never fear being a failure, but rather fear being successful at something God has not called us to do.

Maybe a Dream Poster will help display your child’s giftings and callings. Consider giving it a try…

Some advice, please

I am writing to ask some advice from my friends around the world. But, before I tell you what advice I need, I should first explain something of what I am doing and why I am asking for this advice:

Recently, I have agreed to represent a program newly formed by Ono Academic College in Kiryat Ono, Israel. The program is being called The Israel Goodwill Ambassador Academy. Here is a little about the Academy:

As I am sure you know, Jews, historically, have not had many reasons to feel very positive toward Christianity. The religion of Christianity is all many Jews have ever known.

But, in the past few years, God, Himself, has moved on the hearts of many believers to bless Israel and the Jewish people and this is something many in Israel have begun to realize.

Because Israel has so few friends in the world, and because Evangelical Christians seem to be some of the few real friends Israel has, even the most cynical of Israelis see the wisdom in beginning to establisih relationships with Evangelical Christians, at least those focused on blessing Israel as opposed to those focused on evangelizing them.

Ono Academic College has assumed the responsibility of creating a program, in English, specifically for Evangelical Christian Colleges & Universities, for a few select churches, and (at my recommendation) for the homeschooling community. The Academy will be led by Dr. Gabriela Shalev, one of Israel’s leading academics and legal experts and the former Israel Ambassador to the United Nations.

The Israel Ambassador’s Academy will combine English language courses, seminars, and travel with Israel’s governmental, academic, legal and military leaders. Those who attend the Academy will be officially recognized as an Israel Goodwill Ambassador, a designation never before offered a non-Jew.

My task, as I have agreed to represent the Academy, is to choose the specific colleges, universities, churches,  homeschoolers, and other interested individuals who would like more information about the Academy. I have already met with some colleges and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

This summer, a select group of academic, church and homeschool leaders/parents (and a handfull of students) will be invited to attend the initial 15-day course. At graduation, they will be honored as Israel Goodwill Ambassadors.

Now, to my request for advice:

I am asking you to recommend any Christian college and/or university who you think might be interested in receiving information about establishing a potential relationship with The Israel Goodwill Ambassador Academy. I would also like to know if you are aware of any homeschoolers who would like more information about study in Israel through the Academy.

Ono Academic College has given me a letter of introduction, along with a small brochure on the Academy which I can send to the college, university, church, or homeschool family. All I need is a name and address of those you think might be interested in this information and I will send it right away.

Thanks, and I look forward to your input.

Chris Davis