December 19, 2014


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School’s out, this time forever

NAOMI ARNOLD

KNOWLEDGE WAVE: Takaka mother Charlotte Squire and her son, Kahu Marsh.KNOWLEDGE WAVE: Takaka mother Charlotte Squire and her son, Kahu Marsh.

For a while, Takaka writer and mother Charlotte Squire thought unschooling children meant “doing sweet FA about their education”. That was until she tried it.

It happened after her 5-year-old son Kahu Marsh came home from school one day and announced: “Mum, I figured out how to make the teacher happy. I just have to shut up.”

“That wasn’t what I wanted for him,” Squire says.

So she brought him home and let him discover what he wanted to learn. For Kahu, that included such mysteries as skateboarding, Frisbee, and Auckland. Adults around him knew what he was interested in and helped him out with each – Kahu would do things like finding out about Frisbee aerodynamics and write about how he had played with it that day.

Squire says her son’s emotional development has particularly benefited from their experiment, something that was as important to her as his academic success.

“It’s really nice how confident he is in himself, how sure of himself he is, and how eager he is to learn, because I didn’t force him to learn stuff he found boring,” she says.

“I’m happy about who I see emerging from that style of education.”

She’s especially glad that Kahu came to reading at his own pace – after a slow start, he’s now an avid bookworm.

In pockets all over the country, parents are keeping their children at home and letting them find out about the world themselves, a process they say is the best way to ensure a lifelong love of learning.

The late American educator John Holt came up with the term unschooling based on a philosophy that children are natural sponges and will enjoy learning more if they can follow what they’re curious about, on their own timetable. Other names for essentially the same concept are are experience-based learning, independent learning, hackschooling, project-based child-led learning, or natural learning.

Most of these philosophies agree that the child’s entire life makes up their education, seamlessly, 24 hours a day.

Although the continuum of home-based alternative education varies widely from a Correspondence School curriculum at one end to completely free-range kids at the other, unschooling is different from regular homeschooling in that it generally involves kids directing what, when, and how they learn, with their parents there to facilitate it.

Because they learn at their own pace, there is no course work, timetables, or need for exams to compare them with others. With their love of learning left intact, and the ability to focus and work independently established early, unschooling’s proponents say that children are equipped to learn whatever they need to for the rest of their lives, and credit it in particular with developing an entrepreneurial spirit.

The Ministry of Education doesn’t keep figures on unschoolers, though homeschoolers make up 0.7 per cent of the total school population at last count, a figure that has stayed stable since 1998. Parents wanting to unschool their children must get the usual homeschooling exemption from the ministry, proving they have a plan and evidence that their children are receiving an education. Home-schooled children are able to attend university without NCEA qualifications, but have to complete either a bridging course or diploma to gain university entrance.

Ministry of Education head of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey says the ministry is reviewing homeschooling, and will communicate with the sector about its findings in February.

She says parents gaining an exemption certificate must satisfy the ministry that their child will be taught “at least as regularly and as well as at a registered school”.

“The exemption is from school, not from receiving an education,” she says. “Homeschoolers, including ones who defined themselves as ‘unschoolers’, need to provide evidence of a commitment to certain routines appropriate to the maturity level and abilities of the child.”

EXPLOSIVE DEVELOPMENT: Toby Hill of Foxton makes his own firecrackers to sell at a local market.

SIMON NEALE/Fairfax NZ

EXPLOSIVE DEVELOPMENT: Toby Hill of Foxton makes his own firecrackers to sell at a local market.

That might include a specific timetable for a typical week, and parents intending to home-school also need to communicate what their proposed curriculum is for teaching, learning and assessment, and how it will cover different subject areas.

“We do have a number of homeschoolers who say they are ‘unschoolers’ who successfully meet our criteria for a structured education. We don’t have figures on how many homeschoolers fall into this category,” Casey says.

After approval, parents have to visit a JP every six months to confirm they are still homeschooling their child, although children taught at home aren’t required to take part in national standards or NCEA.

UNSCHOOL PROJECT: Toby at home with mother Alice Kleinsman, father Duncan Hill and sister Ina.

SIMON NEALE/Fairfax NZ

UNSCHOOL PROJECT: Toby at home with mother Alice Kleinsman, father Duncan Hill and sister Ina.

One of the strongest areas for unschooling in the country is Kapiti-Horowhenua-Manawatu, where Hearthland Educators has about 30 families practising the idea. Foxton father Duncan Hill, however, prefers the term “natural learning”. Hill and his partner Alice Kleinsman are both trained teachers, and from their experience in the education system have decided on a more holistic approach for their three children – Toby, 10, Ina, 16, and Ben, 19.

They wanted to give them the freedom to learn what they were inspired to, when they wanted to, based on a plan and goals outlined at the beginning of the year, following their interests: rivers, camping, iPads, swimming, mountains, family, tools, robots, Spanish. “We see ourselves as setting up the environment for those things to happen as much as they can,” Hill says. They do not mind what their children learn: “They call the shots as to the direction of their lives.”

Kerikeri’s Nitya Nixon juggles running her business, Nature Body, with taking care of daughter Sarai, nearly 6. She has just filled out the Ministry of Education application for the homeschooling exemption, though says their unschooling process has been happening since Sarai’s birth. She’s confident it’s the right choice for her daughter, who she says “is not a conformist”.

“There’s no ‘should’ in unschooling, which is amazing for us,” Nixon says. “As she grew up we saw her interests and how she liked to learn, and her education came naturally from knowing her. She doesn’t like sitting at a desk for too long, and we didn’t think traditional school would suit her.

“In school so many teachers are fantastic and try so hard and some kids love it and do really well. But other kids have such a different learning style and it doesn’t fit them.”

For her, unschooling is about following Sarai’s patterns, including what she is fascinated by at the time – currently dancing, the outdoors, chickens, eggs, and chicks – while providing further opportunities and resources, including play with Kerikeri Homeschoolers and Far North Homeschoolers.

“We get to be here while she’s figuring out all this cool stuff in life without any coercion or tests or worrying about comparisons to anybody else,” Nixon says. “The learning just happens when they’re interested in it. It’s really exciting for me to sit back and watch it.”

Read the rest of the article here: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/64094400/Schools-out-this-time-forever

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Updated 1 October 2014:  Three years on (Craig Smith’s Health) page 7 click here

*****

Needing help for your home schooling journey:

http://hef.org.nz/2011/needing-help-for-your-home-schooling-journey-2/

And

Here are a couple of links to get you started home schooling:

Information on getting startedhttp://hef.org.nz/getting-started-2/

and

Information on getting an exemptionhttp://hef.org.nz/exemptions/

This link is motivational: http://hef.org.nz/2012/home-schooling-what-is-it-all-about/

Exemption Form online: http://hef.org.nz/2012/home-schooling-exemption-form-now-online/

Coming Events: http://hef.org.nz/2013/some-coming-events-for-home-education-during-2013-2/

Beneficiaries: http://hef.org.nz/2013/where-to-for-beneficiary-families-now-that-the-social-security-benefit-categories-and-work-focus-amendment-bill-has-passed-its-third-reading

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Keep the joy in your child’s passions

From another home educating mother in New Zealand:

We put our 15 yr old in the local school to do his NCEAs as he wanted to be a pilot and knew he needed qualifications.

Before he went his passions, other than flying, were history and writing his own mini novels. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of several periods of history and had participated in medieval re-enactments at one point. His history teacher said my son knew more about history than the teacher did and his English teacher said he had a lot of writing talent and a great imagination.

After a term or so, these two subjects had been ruined for my son. He was totally bored and couldn’t work out why. School took all the joy out of those subjects. I don’t know how they manage it!

Luckily he didn’t completely lose his interest in writing at home and still does it. At school he excelled in the other subjects he needed for flying, and got good results in the end, but it still amazes me that the school managed to turn him off subjects he had been fascinated with for years so quickly.

My son, now 19, left school with NCEA Level 3 and UE having done Maths with Calculus, Maths with Stats, Physics Chemistry and Biology. He hated the last year and it was a struggle to keep up his motivation, even though he got on well with his teachers. Luckily his flying and other interests kept him going.

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From the Smiths:

http://hef.org.nz/2011/craig-smith-26-january-1951-to-30-september-2011/

Updated 2 February 2013:  One year on (Craig Smith’s Health) page 7 click here

*****

Needing help for your home schooling journey:

http://hef.org.nz/2011/needing-help-for-your-home-schooling-journey-2/

And

Here are a couple of links to get you started home schooling:

Information on getting started: http://hef.org.nz/getting-started-2/

and

Information on getting an exemption: http://hef.org.nz/exemptions/

This link is motivational: http://hef.org.nz/2012/home-schooling-what-is-it-all-about/

Exemption Form online: http://hef.org.nz/2012/home-schooling-exemption-form-now-online/

Coming Events: http://hef.org.nz/2013/some-coming-events-for-home-education-during-2013-2/

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Sacrificing passion for qualifications

A letter from a New Zealand home educating mother:
Lately there have been a few posts by people wanting certain courses of study more typically taught in the school system or considering school as an option in case their homeschooled child is missing out on something by being homeschooled. I therefore thought I’d share a story that might give you another perspective to consider…

Two years ago one of my children who was 14 at the time expressed an interest in going to school. He had decided he wanted to pursue a career as a graphic designer and felt that by going to school he would be able to study graphics and art under specialized teachers which would help him get where he wanted to go. He had always loved drawing and spent a lot of his free time doodling & sketching. Although we were a little apprehensive, having never really desired to have any of our children in school. However, with regards to our son’s goals we too thought that having specialized professional teachers in these subjects would be the best way to help him achieve his goals believing at the time that I lacked the experience, qualifications & skills to  cater for his needs in these subjects at home.

The first year went ok. He enjoyed his studies and felt that he would still be able to achieve his goals. However, we noticed he was spending less and less time drawing for pleasure and was not overly enthusiastic about his classes. He opted to continue with art and graphics in year 11 but as that year went on he became less and less enthusiastic and started to complain about the boring classes/teaching, negative teachers, seemingly pointless content and the list goes on…. He had by this time stopped drawing for pleasure altogether and had also stopped completing homework assignments and was only doing the barest minimum of class work as well. He was constantly complaining of how boring his classes were and how unenthusiastic & un-motivating his teachers were and they in return were becoming concerned about his lack of effort, lack of motivation & lack of focus and participation in their classes. To put it bluntly he was bored and uninspired and to make matters worse he had lost all confidence in his abilities and no longer felt he had the skills or ability to achieve his original goals. One comment he made was “My art teacher wouldn’t even know my name, let alone anything else about me.” Sure enough at the parent teacher interviews that teacher went through the list on her desk of all the students until she came to my sons name and what work they had completed or not completed as the case was with my son. No comment was made about the quality or work, their personal skills, etc it was just a matter of ticking or not ticking off the boxes of the so called required components.The result of that year of study was that he failed both Graphics and Art because he did not complete enough of the required course work to earn the necessary credits to pass. Oddly enough the quality of his work was considered at the very least passable if you go by the grade he earned for his external Art Portfolio assessment which was moderated outside of the school. Sadly though the internal largely theory based assessments were not completed so he did not earn the required credits for a pass.

Fast forward to this year….. He has dropped both Art and Graphics and has decided to pursue other goals which he feels are more achievable and more suited to him. He has picked up new subjects and is once again hoping that they will provide him with the knowledge, experience and skills to pursue his new career plans. Sadly once again I am starting to see aspects of course content which are boring and uninspiring to him but I am praying he can push through these and stay motivated enough to achieve well.

BUT…

I am sad for him. I don’t mind what he does for his future career and I will support him and encourage him to pursue whatever it is he wants to do, but I am sad that he lost his passion, his motivation, his confidence and his ambition as a result of his experiences under the teaching and guidance of these specialist professional teachers. Not only this but he lost his simple enjoyment of a hobby that was a huge part of his life before he went to school as he no longer ever draws simply for pleasure.

Unfortunately my son is still convinced that school is his best option for achieving his goals and I am sure sport, friends and lunchtime play a huge part in this view but any passion he had for learning has gone and he is now just working to check off the required course content and earn his credits so that he can achieve the entry criteria to enter the degree of his choosing.
So my point is, don’t feel your child needs a specialist or professional teacher or a formal curriculum for them to pursue their passions and ambitions because the professionals may well kill your child’s passion in the drudgery that is often the case with following and conforming to a content based formal curriculum, even under specialist teachers.

Better that they hold onto their inspiration, their passion and dreams than to become a drone to the school curriculum for the sole purpose of achieving a recognized qualification.

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From the Smiths:

http://hef.org.nz/2011/craig-smith-26-january-1951-to-30-september-2011/

Updated 2 February 2013:  One year on (Craig Smith’s Health) page 7 click here

*****

Needing help for your home schooling journey:

http://hef.org.nz/2011/needing-help-for-your-home-schooling-journey-2/

And

Here are a couple of links to get you started home schooling:

Information on getting started: http://hef.org.nz/getting-started-2/

and

Information on getting an exemption: http://hef.org.nz/exemptions/

This link is motivational: http://hef.org.nz/2012/home-schooling-what-is-it-all-about/

Exemption Form online: http://hef.org.nz/2012/home-schooling-exemption-form-now-online/

Coming Events: http://hef.org.nz/2013/some-coming-events-for-home-education-during-2013-2/

 

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Wells brothers go for history as mum watches

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All three of the Wells brothers are competing at the Winter Olympics this year.

Jossi Wells

Getty Images

HOPEFUL: Jossi Wells is one of three Wanaka brothers in Sochi for the Winter Olympics.

If Jossi or Beau-James Wells manage to create Kiwi Olympic history tonight, it will be with their mum watching on from the stands for the first time ever.

Stacey Wells, mother of the extraordinary Wells freeskiing quartet, has made the trip to Sochi to watch her sons compete both the Olympic slopestyle and halfpipe events at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park over the next week.

It is the first time she has travelled internationally to watch her sons compete – firstly with Jossi and Beau-James tonight, before Byron joins the duo in the freeski halfpipe next week.

The Wells boys were homeschooled by their mother in Wanaka, meaning they could concentrate on their skiing alongside their education growing up.

Jossi Wells, who is seen as New Zealand’s best hope for a medal in Sochi, told Fairfax Media that having mum in the crowd will be a special event for the three brothers.

“She’s never been overseas to watch any competitions before – she’s always been busy back home with work,” the 23-year-old told Fairfax Media.

“For her to get the time off and watch us over here, it’s going to be pretty amazing.

“We’ll have dad at the top with us before we drop, and we’ll have mum at the bottom in the crowd. We’ve got it locked down.”

Beau-James said that having mum watching him ski will provide him with extra motivation while competing tonight, and next week.

“If your mum is watching, you’ve got to go a bit better,” the 18-year-old said.

“I can’t wait. She never really gets to watch any of our events overseas.

“It’s going to be really cool to see her in the crowd over here for the Olympics.

The only member of the Wells family not in Sochi is youngster brother Jackson, who is currently in training in Colorado.

Men’s freeski slopestyle qualifying begins at 7.10pm tonight, while the final will take place at 10.30pm

– © Fairfax NZ News

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From the Smiths:

http://hef.org.nz/2011/craig-smith-26-january-1951-to-30-september-2011/

Updated 2 February 2013:  One year on (Craig Smith’s Health) page 7 click here

*****

Needing help for your home schooling journey:

http://hef.org.nz/2011/needing-help-for-your-home-schooling-journey-2/

And

Here are a couple of links to get you started home schooling:

Information on getting started: http://hef.org.nz/getting-started-2/

and

Information on getting an exemption: http://hef.org.nz/exemptions/

This link is motivational: http://hef.org.nz/2012/home-schooling-what-is-it-all-about/

Exemption Form online: http://hef.org.nz/2012/home-schooling-exemption-form-now-online/

Coming Events: http://hef.org.nz/2013/some-coming-events-for-home-education-during-2013-2/

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Country Calendar: Tim and Raewyn Shand and family of Port Ligar

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

From the Smiths:

http://hef.org.nz/2011/craig-smith-26-january-1951-to-30-september-2011/

Updated 2 February 2013:  One year on (Craig Smith’s Health) page 7 click here

*****

Needing help for your home schooling journey:

http://hef.org.nz/2011/needing-help-for-your-home-schooling-journey-2/

And

Here are a couple of links to get you started home schooling:

http://hef.org.nz/getting-started-2/

and

http://hef.org.nz/exemptions/

This link is motivational: http://hef.org.nz/2012/home-schooling-what-is-it-all-about/

Exemption Form online: http://hef.org.nz/2012/home-schooling-exemption-form-now-online/

Coming Events: http://hef.org.nz/2013/some-coming-events-for-home-education-during-2013-2/

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