Sunday, September 25, 2011

Unschooler's Comments on Going to School in Japan

Caleb, an American living in Japan, comments on his new experience attending high school. Here is what he observes:

"Most of my entire life I've been taught through my mother's and father’s experience and unschooling methods--that I am so thankful for. In fact I like it beyond belief, so much so that small words alone cannot express my gratitude towards my parents for not putting me in the underworld of public schooling. Up to age sixteen, home schooling and unschool learning has been my life. If I found something interesting, my parents would enable me to explore it further--like judo, book writing, drawing, cooking, computer programming, dirt bike riding and other varied experiences. At the beginning of my homeschooling, my mother tried different learning techniques, such as textbooks and doing homework on a schedule. When I was young, math always seemed to pose a problem for me and I remember quite vividly complaining that I would not be able to understand it. That was sixteen years ago. When I hit seventeen, just like my mother had predicted, something clicked and suddenly math made sense. So now I would propose that everyone learn at their own pace. Public schooling seems to make you lose two of the most important aspects of learning: the urge to learn and the passion for reading. 
"I can attest to this because in Nihon (Japan) I just went through an American public school for the first time in my entire life. When I first started I had to adapt to being a high school student while most of the other kids had been public school students for their entire life. Even though everything was new, the responsibility and education I had through unschooling and real life lessons gave me an ability to jump right in. Needless to say, I was a 3.5 G.P.A. student, burning though some classes while taking others more slowing, such as my Nihongo (Japanese) class. I am speechless when it comes to public school; in fact it can be a complete waste of time unless you are going there for specific items of learning. Mostly it consisted of me doing nothing for about seven hours of the day, sitting in a chair that was way too small and contemplating imaginary ways to escape the building, which of course I did not really try because I do wish to make my parents happy. Whew! Okay, outburst over. Now for my reason to attend a public school, quite simply I wanted to know if I would do well, being homeschooled my entire life and jumping feet first into public schooling with no idea how things would turn out; but my experience proved to me that I could do well even in unfamiliar territory."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

US Marines Require Extra Testing for Homeschoolers

Here's what one future US Marine had to deal with as a homeschooler. Is this really happening in 2011? Here's what his mother, Kathy, writes:

Hi Peggy!

We received the diploma and the transcript, and the Marines got their transcript, too.  Thanks for sending those out!  Jacob took his diploma in hand the day after it came and gave it to the recruiter to get the ball rolling in joining the Marines. Just yesterday, he passed the ASVAB test with high marks, allowing him to have his pick of jobs within the Marine Corps. They actually require homeschoolers to score 20 points higher than other students to be accepted!  Doesn't seem right, but he beat that score, too!  Tomorrow he must take another test exclusive to homeschoolers, to see if he is "socially awkward" or not.  Wow. Really?  Feels like discrimination to me.  Jacob just laughs it off and is practicing his awkwardness for fun! But really, he'll behave and our homeschooling friends are dying to get the details of what the military deems awkward.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Erica Learns More About Herself at a Human Brain Exhibit

Erica, a 2011 graduate from Westport, CT USA, wrote her final report about a learning experience that related directly to her own experience. Her entire educational biography was posted just before this one. It was titled "Special Education Student Triumphs and Graduates."
Dear Peggy,
    As I begin to write my latest and final monthly report, I want to say that even though my education got off to a bumpy start, I am happy to say that all of my high school years have been positive, and filled with wonderful experiences and opportunities. I realize that I most likely would have never had these experiences, had I not been homeschooled.
    One of the recent opportunities that I have been very fortunate to experience was an exhibit on the human brain at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. The exhibit was so informative and enjoyable, and I would love to share with you a few of the things I learned from this exhibit.
   Amazingly, the average human brain has 100,000,000,000 (100 billion) specialized nerve cells, called neurons. These cells swarm inside our brain every time we do something, even if it’s just breathing. Neurons make up the central nervous system, and send signals and messages from the brain out to the rest of the body, and vice-versa. They also send messages to the muscles from the brain, and even distribute signals from one area of the brain to another. Just a single neuron can channel hundreds of these signals per second, so it’s no wonder we can think of and change topics at speeds that make high speed internet seem slow.
   Two main areas of the human brain are the Basal Ganglia and the Cerebellum. While these two areas have numerous roles, the Basal Ganglia plays a major role in motivation, while the Cerebellum is responsible for motor control and movement, like walking or riding a bike. When there is damage to the Basal Ganglia, this can contribute to a lack of self-motivation, and when the Cerebellum is damaged, this can cause issues with movement, equilibrium, posture, and motor learning. This was of particular interest to me since I know someone who not only profoundly lacks self-motivation and interest, but also shows movement issues. Even though I haven’t been told that these areas are indeed the regions that are affected in this person, I always had a feeling that it was due to possible brain damage. By learning the exact brain regions that control these functions of self-motivation, interest & movement, I could understand what parts of this person’s particular brain were quite possibly damaged, and in turn, understand the reason these profound issues are present.
   Learning about the ramifications of Cerebellum damage also caused me to have a major “ah-ha” moment, yet this time, the revelation was about myself. I realized that my Cerebellum was probably one of the areas affected by the Grand-Mal seizures I have suffered. The reason a light bulb went off inside my head, was because I realized that I most likely have a mildly damaged Cerebellum, and that’s probably one reason why I have issues with motor learning, motor planning, regulating my equilibrium, movement and posture. This newfound knowledge helps me have a much better understanding of my disabilities, and myself, in turn making it much easier for me to “be good to myself” (as my physical therapist Mike often advises me). 
   Another fact that was of great interest to me was the relationship of the brain and fat. I never realized that the brain is 60% fat, with DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), a type of Omega-3 fatty acid, being the main fat. Hearing this statistic, one might come to the erroneous conclusion that they need to put their brain on a strict diet to reduce the amount of fat. And yet, while it is important to not have excessive fats in our diets, it is also important to keep healthy amounts of fat (especially DHA) in ones’ diet. There are various health reasons for this, but in this particular case, it is so that the brain can remain healthy and function properly. A lack of fat in the brain can lead to neurological disorders, as well as cognitive decline. On the other end of the spectrum, too much fat and being overweight also affects the brain. Research has shown that when compared to people who are at a healthy weight, overweight people had 4% less brain tissue, while those who were obese had 8% less brain tissue.
   Until this exhibit, I never realized the neurological effects of a well-balanced diet and keeping ones’ body at a healthy weight. Not only was the brain exhibit extremely informative, but it also helped to give me a better appreciation of how my own body works, as well as those of others I know. It helped me to more fully understand the intricate workings of my neurological system, and to have an even greater desire to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. It also sparked my interest to continue learning about the relationship of the brain and cognitive, emotional and social disabilities, as well as medical advances to help those who suffer from these particular disabilities. I truly believe that my interest in helping those with these kinds of disabilities is fueled by the fact that I know firsthand what it is like to have a disability. I also know God has plans to use me in ministering to others with special needs. I know that the brain exhibit was just one piece of the puzzle in my quest to do just that.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"Special Education" Student Triumphs and Graduates

I am posting this educational biography in its entirety. It is long, but it is so beautifully written by a 2011 graduate who faced a lot of challenges and triumphed. Stay with it and you'll be glad you did!

Dear Peggy,
     I am so happy to have this opportunity to share part of my Educational Biography with you, so that you may get to know me and some of the experiences that have shaped me into the person I am at this point of my life.
     My educational journey began on a really bumpy and broken highway. After a fun experience at preschool at the Congregational church in my town, which left me with  many fond memories, I began kindergarten at one of the local elementary schools. Because I lived between two of the elementary schools at that time, my mom was able to choose which school to send me to. She chose Coleytown because that school housed the Special Education offices. I needed the services of Special Education due to my processing delay, learning differences, sensory integration disorder, as well as the effects from treatment for epilepsy, which I was diagnosed with at the age of 10 months. Even though I was in special education, because my disabilities weren’t highly complex, the staff made the decision to include me in a regular classroom, otherwise known as inclusion. Inclusion is public school speak for placing a special education student into a mainstreamed classroom, and then taking the student out of that class for certain therapies, classes, or extra services.
     While I loved my kindergarten teacher, Miss Bell, as well as my personal aide, Mrs. Dubee, I hated school. When we’d have circle time, and Miss Bell would talk to us all about a certain subject or topic, it would take me longer to raise my hand to ask a question because my processing delay took me longer to process the information that was given to me in the first place. By the time I would ask the question, they had already started talking about a new subject or topic. After I would raise my hand and ask my question, my teacher would always answer by saying “Erica, that doesn’t have to do with what we’re talking about now.” That really frustrated me, since my question did have to do with the previous topic. However, because it took me longer to process the information, it took me twice as long as my classmates to figure out the question I wanted or needed to ask. Even the rare times when I did raise my hand when we were still on that particular subject, I was either the last one called on, or Miss Bell would move on before calling on me and listening to my question.
     Learning to read was something that wasn’t really a struggle for me, since my comprehension and vocabulary has always been above my grade level. I actually enjoyed reading with Miss Bell and a few other classmates. We’d read books like Henry and Mudge, as well as other books appropriate for kindergarteners.
     Even though my comprehension was (and still is) excellent for my age, writing was a different story. I struggled with writing due to not being able to write fast and for a long period of time. I would have constant trouble spelling words. My aide would always have to stand over my shoulder and help me with spelling. If she was not there for some reason, I would just simply scribble instead of sounding the word out.
     While I had all those negative experiences in kindergarten, it was also filled with its’ share of fun times. For example, I loved art, music, and going for story time at the school’s library.
     By the end of half-day kindergarten, I was exhausted, emotionally drained and completely over stimulated. That exhaustion often left me too tired to go to ballet class after school, even though I was in ballet with my best friend, Haley.
Although kindergarten was very difficult for me in many ways, first grade was even worse.
     The struggles I had in kindergarten with writing, I struggled with even more due to not being able to write fast and for a long time. I continued to have constant trouble spelling words (the “sound it out” and “spell it like it sounds” approach never worked for me and often caused havoc with my spelling).  I had constant trouble with visual-spatial relationships and spatial awareness, like spacing between words, how much room was needed for a particular word, judging the space left until the page ended and trouble tracking lines. Because of my constant struggle with visual-spatial relationships I would often forget to leave a space between words. Once this was brought to my attention by my aide, I would separate the two words with a cursor-like line, which would often be mistaken by my teacher and family members as a capital “I”. That misinterpretation would make people tell me that I misspelled the words, leading to more frustration for me. Like most children of that age group, my penmanship was on the bigger side. However, even though my writing was large, it was still readable for the most part.
     Math was the absolute worst subject for me. While I understood addition & subtraction for the most part, I could barely grasp multiplication tables.  Division was a living nightmare for me, since I couldn’t understand it at all. When I would be solving a problem, because it was often overwhelming for me to figure out the steps needed to do the problem, my default answer for equations like 7x7 was “a lot”, even if I understood the concept. It didn’t matter if it was subtraction, multiplication, division or even more complex addition, that was the default answer I would give if I didn’t know the answer or was simply too overwhelmed to be able to figure it out.
     The other thing that was frustrating for me, was the special education services the school provided for me, both in kindergarten and in first grade. As I mentioned earlier, my kindergarten aide really helped me. The superintendent at that time allowed her to come in just for me, since she was my aide in pre-K as well and I already knew her. However, before the start of my first grade year, the superintendent changed and the new one would not allow Mrs. Dubee to continue being my aide. They insisted on having Karina, one of their existing paraprofessionals be my aide for first grade. Unfortunately, I did not find her helpful at all.
     One of the other ways the special education at Coleytown failed me was when I got pulled out of my mainstream first grade classroom. I would sit down at a long table, where I was given a pencil and piece of paper with those extra thick lines that had a raised dashed line in between the lines (the dashed lines were to aid in the correct way to print upper case & lower case letters). The special education teacher would instruct me to write about what I was going to do after school that day. Each time that direction was given, I would write a description of my after school activities. I described how I was going to go home, have a snack and then play with my favorite dollhouse in my room with my mom. The special education teacher (or Karina, at times) would say to me, “Erica, you wrote that yesterday. Write something else.” That bothered me deeply, since my after school routine was the same every day, being that I thrive on predictability and routine. What they didn’t realize is that by telling me what not to write, it would throw me for such a loop and I would basically just shut down. Karina would end up telling me what to write, which of course, wasn’t even close to what I was thinking of writing. 
     All of this took its toll on me, especially emotionally.  Just about every day, upon returning home, I would cry and download my frustrations to my mom.  My descriptions of daily frustrations at school helped my mom realize the havoc that public school was wreaking on me. My mom soon realized that the school’s approach was not addressing either my emotional needs or my educational challenges. These factors made my parents decide to pull me out of public school. I finished first grade at Coleytown and left for summer vacation, very happy that I would not be returning for second grade in the fall.
     My mom decided to homeschool me for second grade, since the private school she thought would be good for me, Eagle Hill Southport, did not have room for me to attend until the next year. That year was pretty stress free for both my mom and me, as far as education was concerned. My mom did join a few homeschooling groups and we did a few field trip activities with them, some of which my mother organized. Early on in the homeschooling process, after trying the method of following the similar structure as public school, my mom figured out that that particular style was not at all the way I learned best. She tried the unschooling method with me, and that was the biggest success. My mom went at my pace, taking her teaching cues from me, and I began blossoming and learning things that I hadn’t been able to master in public school.
     During second grade, I began therapeutic riding sessions with Pegasus Therapeutic Riding. I was very anxious about riding, but my mom promised me that if I got on the horse and didn’t like it, I could get right off.  That reassured me.  A few weeks later, I mounted one of the therapy horses for my first session, and with the help of others walking along side me, rode the horse around the ring, wearing the biggest smile.
     I fell in love with horses and riding, or as the saying in the horse world goes, “I caught horse fever!” My therapeutic riding sessions with Pegasus continued weekly and I went from needing three people walking with me, to only one person leading the horse and one person on my side, and finally, down to only needing someone leading the horse.
     Later that summer, the summer before I was to start Eagle Hill, the school thought it would be good for me to attend summer school there. Summer school wasn’t too bad, except for the fact that my math teacher wasn’t helpful at all. Besides that, who wants to spend their summer at school?
     Shortly before school started in the fall, I went to meet with the headmaster one afternoon. I remember asking him, “Will I get to have show and tell?”, since “show and tell” was my favorite thing from first grade. He didn’t answer my question at all, but rather gave me a “run around” type of answer. I had so much anxiety afterwards because all I wanted was a straight answer from the headmaster about “show and tell”.
     I started Eagle Hill that September, when I was 8, and right from the beginning, I had struggles during each school day. For instance, when the bell rang, the loud sound of the bell would scare and bother me so badly, that I would have a panic attack trying to get my trapper, homework, etc. off the desk, so I could go onto my next class. If the students came into the classroom I was trying to leave, all chaos would break out in my mind. By the time I’d eventually get to my class, I’d not only still be in a flustered state, I was also late.  This made most of the teachers get on my case for being tardy. There was also one instance where one of the older boys walked over to the desk I was gathering my things off of, and in this really mean and rough voice, barked, “Leave!” at me.  That was so startling and scared me so deeply, that I was even later and more emotional going into my next class than normal. The kid scared me to tears, yet the teacher whose class I was exiting, did nothing! I thought that was such a horrible way for him to handle that situation.
     For my first year, I was assigned to Miss Hontz her for Tutorial class. We were doing our “contracts” which were more like reports, on US states. I was drawing a picture of the state I was doing mine on for the front page of my contract. I raised my hand and asked Miss Hontz what color that particular state was.  Since I had noticed that most classroom maps of the 50 states have each state a different color, I thought this was a very logical question.  She replied to my question by asking, “What do you think?” in a voice that implied, ‘How could you be so stupid to think that states are a certain color?’  Upon returning home that afternoon, I was completely fried and upset. I was up in my room with my mom and we were playing with my favorite dollhouse. I was so upset from what Miss Hontz said and how she made me feel, that I had the biggest meltdown and I told my mom that I didn’t want to be in her class anymore. My mom saw my distress and called my advisor’s office and left a message on her machine, explaining the situation. She also said in the message that she would greatly appreciate it if I could be switched to a different class with another teacher. I was indeed switched to a different class, but first my advisor had to interrogate me about why I needed to switch out of that class, making me feel even worse than I did when Miss Hontz said that to me. To make matters worse, for each of the next two years, I was assigned to Miss Hontz’s class and my mom would once again, have to call my advisor, and get me switched.
     Each student at that school was assigned to a particular advisor for all the years the student attended the school. I was assigned Mrs. Grant and she was my advisor for all three years I was there. The role of the advisors was to help students with anxieties, issues they might have in a school day, etc. As a child, and especially during the three years I was at Eagle Hill, I had a lot of anxiety, trouble with time management skills, and lots of fears, (especially a fear of being kidnapped, which probably stems from my seizures and frequent hospitalizations at an early age). Mrs. Grant, while being a very nice person, wasn’t helpful to me with anything, no matter what the problem.  Rather than helping me solve some of the issues I faced, I always felt as if she was blowing me off and discounting me.
    It was hard for me to learn at Eagle Hill, mainly because none of the teachers, my advisor, nor anyone else for that matter, succeeded at educating me as a whole child; not just mentally, but physically and emotionally as well. Even though there were one or two teachers at Eagle Hill that I did like, it is unfortunate to say that they too, failed to educate me as a whole child, body, mind and spirit.  They didn’t seem to understand the impact of noise, environment, schedule deadlines, peer group challenges and positive reinforcement on my success or failure in learning.
     Speaking of educating the whole child, the physical education program at Eagle Hill, a school for kids with learning disabilities, left much to be desired.  Their so-called “adapted” physical education, in my opinion, was beyond awful. I felt it was awful because they didn’t know how to adapt physical education to each student’s individual needs.  Even when my parents and my physical therapist complained that they needed to adapt it more for me, they gave my parents lip service.  For instance, it had taken me years of working with various therapists to help me even be able to perform some of the most basic physical maneuvers.  Every day, for as long as I could remember, I did numerous exercises, with therapists, with my mom, as well as alone, to begin to be able to move my limbs across the midline of my body, or to balance on one foot, or move my eyes without moving my entire head or body.  And yet, despite Eagle Hill being aware that I had these, and other problems and gross-motor challenges, they forced me to play soccer on their travel team.
     Even though a few of my friends were on the team with me, practice was torture for me for numerous reasons. First of all, to warm up, the coaches made us do jumping jacks. I would always freeze inside because I wasn’t coordinated enough to motor plan how to do one jumping jack, never mind 10 in a row. Secondly, we had to run around the baseball diamond that was in the other corner of the field.  At that point of my life, I couldn’t run far at all because I had such low muscle tone.  So after taking just a few steps, I would feel as though I was going to collapse.  Trying to motor plan running, as well as attempting to get my body to work rhythmically, seemed impossible to me.  I was always lagging far behind all the others, and was physically drained to boot.  Thirdly, and as silly as this may sound, there was a convalescent home next to the area of the field where we would have to run. I didn’t know it was a nursing home, and therefore I was convinced it was a psychiatric hospital and that one of the patients would hop the fence and kidnap me, and that no one would rescue me. This fear made the task of running before practice even worse.
     Once we actually started practicing, things only got much, much harder for me. Not only was it difficult enough for me to run, but the combination of having to kick the ball, judge the amount of force needed, figure out where I wanted to kick it, along with the overwhelming noise of my teammates screaming “kick it to me” while the coaches were telling me to kick it somewhere else, was practically impossible for me. Rather than being able to perform what was being required of me, even at some basic level, I would just shut down, because I was so overwhelmed and over stimulated.
     Making things worse, was the constant yelling by my coaches, all too often because they had to correct and “discipline” one of the boys on my team. As if all of this wasn’t taxing enough for me, the soccer field was on a busy road, which meant that cars, trucks and motorcycles were whizzing by all afternoon long.  Since I have always struggled with auditory processing, and have acute hearing (I’m not called ‘Bugs Bunny’ for nothing!), this added traffic noise just further complicated my ability to perform physically. All of these factors not only made practice extremely hard for me, but games as well. Since my eyes could not track objects as they came towards me, at that point in my life, seeing 20 players running towards me was a lesson in confusion, panic and turmoil.  Not only would I lose track of them, but I could not predict where they would go and what they would do, nor did I have the skills to react and adjust myself accordingly.
     In an attempt to continue to have me participate and be a part of the team, my mom asked the school to simply let me be the water girl or scorekeeper.  Yet they refused, taking the stance that I needed to keep playing on the chance that someday I might be a true soccer player!  That position seemed totally ridiculous to my parents, my therapists, and me as well, even at the young age of 8! It finally got to the point, after weeks of struggling, where I would constantly ask my mom to fill in the permission slip saying that I didn’t have to go to the games.
     On rainy days, or during the winter months, we would all have indoor gym in the local YMCA. It is hard to believe it would be possible, but I actually hated gym more than soccer. Because of the physical struggles I previously mentioned, along with other physical challenges, it was torture.  I could not follow the dance and yoga steps, do the required push-ups, or not always get hit in the face while playing dodgeball.
     As my 5th grade year (my third year at Eagle Hill) started to end, I was at the end of my rope and needed to leave. Of course, it was a build up of the day-to-day struggles, but the two things that were the “straws that broke the camel’s back” were the ways they handled soccer and having to read Harry Potter.  For me, a child who had always struggled with anxiety and fear, who had always been scared of the dark, who had visions of people coming through the windows to steal me, the last thing I felt comfortable reading was a book about wizards, magic, and evil.  I had spent a good deal of energy trying to overcome the many fears I had.  Reading a fantasy book filled with fearful beings and events would not have been something I could have emotionally or mentally handled at that point in my life. The school completely disagreed, taking the position that it was part of life and I would need to learn to deal with it at some point, so it might as well be then. While I now understand their position, I was not in a place at that time to be able to handle that challenge.  Finally, one day, I came home from school and told my mom that I wanted to leave Eagle Hill. After talking about it for a bit, both my parents and I agreed that homeschooling would be best.
     The decision to leave was not without mixed feelings, because my friend Shannon started there at the beginning of that year, and we had become best friends. Even though it was difficult to leave my new best friend, in my heart, I knew that leaving would be best, especially in the long run. I informed my adviser that this would be my final year at Eagle Hill, and told her that I’d be homeschooled next year. She frowned upon the fact that I would be homeschooled. At the school’s end of the year ceremony, they handed me my engraved nameplate that served as the ID on my locker, a folder with a “diploma”, and a fabric “E” letter patch (the kind for varsity jackets). I was extremely happy to be out of Eagle Hill. No longer did I have panic attacks on Sunday nights or on the last day of Christmas break. I became much happier and less stressed every day. Just as in second grade, my mom and I did the unschooling approach, which once again worked wonders. I continued to see Mike, my physical therapist, who is actually a Certified Adapted Physical Educator. My sessions with him were twice a week for an hour. I also continued to ride with Pegasus Therapeutic Riding on Thursdays, which I loved as well. The highlights of my week were going riding and seeing Mike.
     In the 11 years since I’ve been unschooling, I have seen a transformation in my learning and myself. Most of, if not all of the things that I couldn’t get in public and private school, due to a lack of individualized education and instruction, I have been able to learn. I would have never been able to understand these things, had I not been unschooled by my mother. She has helped me to see that I can learn and overcome challenges and get to the next level. I’ve been able to learn without being forced or threatened, but by taking myself exactly where I am and making incremental steps to each new level.  She has helped me to better understand myself, and to be kind and accepting of myself, just as I am today.  She has taught me that, at times, I am just not ready to take a new step.  She has given me the courage to be okay with that, and the wisdom to understand if that is so in the particular circumstance.  She has helped me to not be ashamed to stand up for myself, and taught me how to better advocate for who I am and what I need.  Without the gift of homeschooling, I would never have had the time to spend with my mom, who has believed in me more than anyone else I know.  I would also never have had the time and space I needed to get to know myself and how I learn and function best.
     As well as making academic and emotional progress in multiple “subjects”, I have made tremendous gains physically. I still work with Mike twice each week (I’ve been his student for 13 years and counting). If I were to list all the things he has taught me, my bio would be about 40 pages long, so I’ll condense the list slightly. He taught me to ride a bike (at age 13 ½), and we often go on bike rides together in the summer months to work on these skills even more. Mike also was able to teach me how to do things on the trampoline, like sit drops and knee drops, as well as how to do what we call a “combo”; which is a knee drop, then right into a sit drop, or vice-versa. He also taught me a few “games” that he thought up himself. My favorite game, which I will request by name, is “the clock”, in which Mike stands by the edge of the trampoline at “12:00”.  I then begin jumping in the center and he calls out a number on the clock, and then I face 12:00, do a sit drop, pivot and spin to the number he called out, bounce up from the seat drop and continue jumping until he calls out another number. Thanks to Mike and his patient teaching style I am now able to throw and catch a ball, both with a baseball glove, as well as with two hands, sans the glove. My absolute favorite activity that Mike and I do is play catch. I was very young when Mike first taught me to throw and catch, and all my memories of playing catch with him are 100% positive, so it is a very enjoyable activity for me. Knowing how much I love catch, Mike will often suggest playing a game when I become upset, in order to turn my mood around. This “strategy” of his works without fail! On the days when inclement weather or cold temperatures force us to have our sessions indoors, we work in my basement, where I have various pieces of therapy equipment (therapy balls, a platform swing, balance board, “wobbler”, as well as other activities and small games).
     Even though Mike is my Adapted Physical Educator/Physical Therapist, he has taught me many things not directly related to physical education. He has taught and helped me to become a better listener. He has helped me become more patient and compassionate towards others. Mike has made my social skills stronger and helped me become a better friend to others. He is my personal “Dr. Phil” and “Mr. Fix-It”. Mike is the one I often turn to when I need to vent or need advice. He has made my confidence soar, given my dreams wings and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Mike has been there for me through everything and I thank God for him and for all the things I’ve learned from and with him.
     The other area that I have made remarkable progress in is horseback riding. Soon after starting unschooling, I “graduated” from therapeutic riding, and moved on to regular, “able-bodied” horseback riding. It wasn’t long before I began cantering and jumping, not only with an instructor who had a background in teaching riders with disabilities, but with the strength and help of a Quarter Horse mare named Stevie. Stevie was very patient with me, and helped me build my confidence, not only as a rider, but as a person as well. During those years, my then instructor Carol moved to Maine, and I continued riding my beloved horse Stevie under the tutelage of Barb, another riding instructor that had worked with Carol for years. Under Barb’s patient and kind instruction, I won a few blue ribbons with Stevie, but we mostly won each other’s trust and hearts. Altogether, I had Stevie as my “partner” for 3 to 4 weekly rides over the course of 3 wonderful years.  Shortly after my sixteenth birthday, Stevie, who was in her late twenties (which is almost 90 in horse years), retired and moved to upstate Connecticut. I was beyond devastated.  I felt as though a piece of my heart had been torn out of me, and I was convinced that I would never again be able to find another horse with whom I would share such a special bond of friendship and trust. After trying a few other horses that I didn’t match well with, Barb, who is very aware of my disabilities and understanding of me, told me that she wanted to put me on Casey and see how Casey and I meshed together. I went up to the barn on May 9, 2006, and tacked up (put the saddle and bridle on) Casey, a beautiful 15.1 ½ hand (5’1½”) Appaloosa/Quarter Horse gelding.  I mounted Casey for my lesson, and immediately felt comfortable with him. It was as if I was on Stevie again. Of course, Barb noticed how comfortable I felt with Casey, both mounted and dismounted. I fell “head over heels” in love with him. Ever since that day, I have been riding Casey and we have a bond and a chemistry that is so incredibly deep. Casey entered my life at a time when I needed him most, and he has truly saved my life. If it wasn’t for Casey, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable advancing my riding, and in turn, it would’ve made it difficult for Barb to teach me more advanced things.
     Aside from the tremendous joy and the skills and techniques that I learn in my weekly lessons, horseback riding has taught me many things like self-reliance, patience, time management, and has enriched my social skills (which has resulted in numerous friendships with others at the barn), just to name a few. Some of these “life skills”, such as self-reliance, patience, and social skills, I already had, but they weren’t concrete and I would sometimes fall behind in them. Other skills, like time management, I didn’t have at all, nor did I have a basic foundation to build on.  Riding has also taught me what’s most important in life, meaning that while it’s always nice to be the best or do well in a competition, life isn’t about winning or being the best. Once I realized and accepted that “winning isn’t everything”, I became a happier person. The TV cartoon character SpongeBob Squarepants put it so well…he said, “It’s not about winning, it’s about fun.”  Oh so true!
     Because of homeschooling/unschooling, my mom and I have been able to do various forms of arts and craft projects, enriching and developing my creative skills and love for art. I am a self-taught jewelry designer, and I create pieces using Swarovski® crystal and glass beads, accented with Sterling Silver components. One of my creations is a beaded Swarovski® bracelet, with two “lobster claw” closures, that attaches to the ends of a Medic Alert® bracelet medallion. My inspiration came from wearing a medical bracelet for as long as I can remember, and wanting it to look prettier than a plain, flat link-style chain.
      I also love drawing, and I will spend hours doodling in my sketchbook with a pencil. Horses are my subject of choice, but I’ve drawn tropical scenes, flowers, models, etc. Some of my drawings get transferred onto canvas and painted, or simply outlined using a fine tipped Sharpie® and then colored in. When my parents and I go on long car trips, I listen to my iPod, get out my sketchbook and pencil and sketch away.
     I love graphic design and have developed a wonderful eye for digital designs. Over the years, I have been tutored in two graphic design programs, Photoshop and Illustrator, by two graphic artists. I have incorporated these two forms of art to design logos for family and friends, for digital scrap-booking, invitations and announcements, stationery, gifts for friends, etc. My mom taught a class at our church and I used my graphic design skills to put together the stationery for the class handouts and notebooks.
     I also write poetry, both for fun, and to help express myself. I write my poems in a college-ruled notebook, then type the poem using Microsoft Word. I will often add a header, using my graphic design skills. I frame the typed copies of poems that I’ve written about important people in my life, and give them as heartfelt gifts. Mike, among others, has received many of them and the recipients tell me how much my poetry touches them. That’s because it’s not just a bunch of words that I magically make rhyme; rather, my poems are gifts from my heart to their heart.
      Another favorite art form of mine is ceramics. I frequent the paint-your-own pottery shop near my house and have made lots of pieces, both for myself and as unique, heartfelt, personalized gifts for family members and friends. I paint a lot of mugs for myself and others, being that they are very useful. I combine my love and talents in sketching, drawing and graphic design when creating my piece, whether for myself or for a gift.
     While there are many other details I would love to share, I am so glad to have had this opportunity to share this brief overview of my educational biography with you.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have found pleasure in composing it, and I trust that it will serve as a colorful introduction to who I am and what makes me tick.  I look forward to sharing with you my monthly reports, and giving you a glimpse of some of the newer growth and learning that is taking place in my life at the present time.


Friday, July 15, 2011

2011 Graduate Delivers Valedictorian Speech to All Homeschoolers

I have had the pleasure of traveling to the home of a WRA family that has been with us for 12 years. Daisy graduated this year and her final report was a speech to fellow homeschool graduates. Here it is:                                          

Dear Fellow Homeschooled Graduates,
   I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of you, not to an assembly of parents and friends waiting to watch you take your diploma and throw your cap, but to your future. This graduation day is different for those of us who have been schooled at home. Our commencement is not full of ceremony; no long speeches, endless formalities, or grumpy old principles to hand us our diploma. Instead we have our family, our parents or guardians, to give us the piece of paper that marks the end of our high school years. We have our closest friends to pat us on the back and tell us how proud they are. We have our own confidence to let us know that we are ready for the steps we are taking into our lives as adults.
   Speaking of adults, I would like to take a moment to recognize the real masterminds behind my wonderful education, my parents. They were the ones who chose to homeschool me, and they are the ones who have had to put up with me every day since making that decision. They have been with me every step of the way and if it weren’t for them I would not be the person I have become. We must remember that we are not the only ones graduating today. Our parents, guardians, aunts, uncles, grandparents, or whichever loving adult that has been there for you during your education, are joining us on this journey, as they have joined us on all of the others we have taken. They too are graduating, not from being high school students, but from being high school teachers. Their journey has been just as hard as ours has, but in different ways. They have had to be our support, our shoulder to cry on and our friend to confide in. They have had to sit and watch us struggle and fail, excel and succeed. They have been by our sides since the beginning and they are still with us at the end. Thank you teachers, for supporting us through our lives and through our education. I hope that we make you as proud as you have made us. Congratulations on your final graduation.     
   There is something very special about graduating as a homeschooler. Whether you have been homeschooled for just this last year, or for your whole life, whether you have been unschooled or strictly regimented in you curriculum, you understand the difference. We are all here because we worked for it and because we want to be. Due to the nature of homeschooling, most us have been educating ourselves since the beginning of our high school years. We have learned how to push our selves, how to see a goal and reach it. The institution did not outline our curriculum; we got to choose what we wanted to study and how we wanted to study it. We were able to learn at our own pace and because of it we got to choose when, where, and how we would graduate. Because of this difference I believe that we are an exceptional group of graduates. We are all well equipped to step into the world and take hold of our lives. We have life skills that are priceless and an education that is unique and advanced. I know that it might sound cheesy to say, but we are the future. We are going to go on to build our world, and because of our alternative education we will be able to create things that have never been thought of before. The future that we plan to build is bright, and thanks to the journey that we have had to complete to reach our graduation, I believe that we are ready to start. 
  Each of our journeys to this great right of passage in our lives has been unique, but there is one aspect that is the same for all of us; we all worked for this. We all put our blood sweat and tears into achieving our diploma. All of us have different reason and goals for wanting to graduate, and even though we do not know each other, we are all united in the same place, turning in our final papers and awaiting our graduation. We did not get here by sitting back for the ride. Each and every one of us stepped up and grabbed our education by the reins. We are the ones that got us to this place of achievement, and even though many people aided us, our hard work is what we have to thank for reaching this place in our lives. So, I would like to congratulate you all on your hard work. Congratulation for everything you have achieved, congratulations for successfully graduating, and congratulations for pulling through it all as a part of the homeschooling community. I hope that all of you go on to be the amazing people you were raised to become. Whatever you choose to do with your life, do it well and do not ever forget the lessons that you learned as a homeschooled graduate.
 I hope you all have successful and fulfilling lives. Congratulations on your achievements; past present and future. 
Daisy Lee Willis, Keaau, HI USA   

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Student Admits Value of Required Writing Assignment

Daniel, from Diamond Springs, CA USA just finished his last monthly report for our High School Diploma Program. I never know how students respond to the writing assignment unless they tell me. And it's always gratifying to hear from students who report that they enjoyed the program and found it valuable. Here is Daniel's last paragraph of his report:

"There's no point in beating around the bush...this is my last report and it was fun.  I enjoyed reading my creations and I also enjoyed reading your responses.  I think I really learned something about myself.  Before your program, I didn’t like to write much and avoided it whenever I could.  After writing the reports, I’ve learned that writing isn’t so bad and I actually like to write.  I can’t believe that I’m graduating high school!  I know that this is just the beginning and not the end and I look forward to seeing where my life takes me.  And now I know if it involves writing, I can handle it."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Lifelong Unschooler's Reflections on her Journey

Chelsea is a 2011 graduate from Plymouth, MA USA. She unschooled her whole life and shares her perspective. I think you'll find her essay helpful in understanding the value of unschooling to the student.

"At first glance one might not even see home schooling (un-schooling) as learning at all; that is, if you are viewing it through the traditional education vantage point. People are fascinated when I tell them I home school. I've gotten a lot of practice finding ways to explain "what do you do?". My answer is a variation of the following: I explore, draw, laugh, play, create, search, talk, listen, swim, work out, participate, ask, help, daydream, connect, work, take classes, hike, camp, travel and help family.

"Through unschooling I have learned to follow my passion without restraint. The freedom of this type of education has given me time to explore interests and form concrete ideas about what I want to achieve. I've learned to create opportunities for myself and pursued knowledge just for the sake of it. I haven't been "practicing" for the real world, I've been living it. In my mind, if I'm living I'm learning. I understand for most people education is a separate part of life and that's really ingrained in how they see it, but for me learning is really nothing more or less than living my life as fully as I can. The rest falls into place. Life and learning don't have to be separate things. Unschooling is not unlearning as there's lots of learning happening everyday. I like that I have the freedom to question what society says is right and normal. I ask questions and seek my own answers. I have the freedom to discuss anything and that's just part of the beauty of "life" teaching you. The answers often change and that's ok. Change is totally cool with my family and actually being able to change is half the lesson. I love that life as an unschooler isn't rigid. There is time to sit and have slow deep thoughts. That's something our culture avoids; everyone is in such a rush. Sitting and thinking is never a waste of time. I think many people have forgotten that learning from life is how humans learned for most of our existence. Every person in my life is a learning opportunity just waiting to happen. I think one of my strengths is my ability to listen and ask questions,  thus creating opportunities for myself. How does one fit this sort of learning into a neat little box so it can be labeled?

"I have always found it amazing that home schooling has been falsely connected to lack of socialization. I'm highly social, as are many of my home school friends. Of course that's how I want it and I'm equally aware that some people prefer small groups of very close friends. Through the years, my family and I have taken part in both group and solitary activities. I've done hundreds of sleep-overs and my mom puts on parties, pot luck dinners, art activities, and lots of other events. The adults all join in and it makes the events interesting. I think this has helped me develop good communication as well as planning/organizational skills. I feel really comfortable with people of all ages. One thing I've learned is that unschooling makes really motivated and independent people. I think that's because If we don't do it no one else will do it for us. I've been empowered by directing my own learning and this motivates me to be creative in my problem solving. This has proven to be a life skill that helps me time and time again.

"I've never felt forced into activities and I like that I was part of the decision-making along the way. This isn't to say my Mom didn't make suggestions, but at the end of the day I was part of the process and that felt right. My family and I have done a lot of life exploring together. That said, when you spend 24/7 with your family things can sometimes get heated. In my mind arguing and learning to battle is a lesson as valuable as any other. One needs to understand how to resolve conflict and with all my practice, I'm a pro at it! I'm planning to pursue a career in nursing and I believe my conflict resolution skills will make me a good nursing student as well as an asset to my employer one day.

"I've had more fascinating conversations through the years than I can recall. In our family, conversations start one place and flow endlessly into other places. I love when this happens, as we laugh so hard at ourselves! My Nana is a big talker and we all follow her lead. Speaking of my Nana, I should tell you some about our relationship as she has been a huge influence in my life. I feel fortunate to have been able to spend a huge amount of time with her.  When my Mom and Dad were divorcing, we spent several winters living with her. This was a difficult time for my family and having my Nana there made us all feel better. She is full of stories and loves sharing them with us. She is an amazing woman. I've learned a lot about her life and I respect her devotion to other people. She is so independent yet giving of her time and loving. Having emotionally invested role models is a great gift of security. I never worry about "what if?". I watched the adults in my life resolve important issues and in some cases I took part in the solution.

"One of the best things about unschooling is no two journeys are the same. It's individual and based around your own interests. My interests have changed through the years. I've outgrown many of my interests and adopted new ones. I've enjoyed sewing, knitting, painting, learning guitar, pottery, drawing, acting, hiking, kayaking, camping, languages, building things and breaking things! As a home schooled child, I could take advantage of the vastness of the world around me. When you realize that learning is a choice, so many things become interesting and you realize you really can pursue anything you want. I have had control over what I do with my time and I have control over my life, too. This type of journey is really empowering and empowered people do well in life because they have a strong self-esteem. I hear they are beginning to teach self esteem classes in schools; I can't help but wonder how they do this.

"Our family spent a lot of time camping. Each year we would pack up and head to Vermont for two weeks and Maine for two weeks. We escaped modern day electronics (cell phones didn't work) and this forced us to find other ways to entertain ourselves. We would go hiking, swimming, play cards, ride bikes, catch crayfish and have great camp fires in the evening. Some times another family joined us and that was always really fun. We were always sad to leave when the two weeks passed. I still have a passion for camping and my friends and I went alone for a few days last summer. We planned the entire trip. The trip was a success other than the rain every day!

"I feel confident about the person I've become. I've learned that not knowing something isn't the end of the world. Learning doesn't stop at age 18; it's forever. I'm happy I've learned there isn't a magical body of knowledge that all people must know in order to gain success. The government doesn't know what I need; I know what I need. I haven't spent my life learning to benefit the system; I've spent my life learning about myself and what I can do to benefit myself and others in my community. That process built my self-esteem. If I don't have a certain skill (and if I need it), I know how to find people who posses the knowledge I lack. There is a huge amount of information out there and it is unrealistic to think we should know everything. I'd rather know how to tap into others as a resource for help and knowledge. It's great knowing I'm surrounded by people who willingly share their lives with me.

"Having been raised outside the educational norm does put some uneasy thoughts in one's head. Its not that I believe those thoughts, but they are in the background whispering to me sometimes. It's the doubt other people impose when they ask all the typical questions about home schooling. I started taking college classes a few years ago to prepare for my future and it's been a blend of experiences. At first I felt a bit insecure and anxious because of the doubts. My learning style was very different; thus, I had to make adjustments. It didn't take long for me to get into the swing and comfort soon followed. I discovered I really like psychology and I dislike mathematics. I love the arts and dislike writing, but haven't taken creative writing yet so that could be interesting. I'm look forward to that. Nutrition is an interest of mine and I'll begin checking out classes my college offers. I have learned I can be hard on myself and I need to keep that in check. Sometimes it works for me and other times it works against me. Finding the balance will be key to my success. When reflecting on my college experiences, I find a few things that stand out immediately. The first is the attitude difference between my peers and me. I see formal education as a privilege and something to be taken seriously and they are busy texting, showing up late or not showing up at all. Formal education is seen as a right or given for people who attend college directly out of high school. I had to earn my formal education and understand I can also lose it. Learning is life and life is learning; why would I not take my life seriously? It all seems like common sense to me. Through the years I've learned to respect and enjoy my teachers (people) and the school folks seem to see teachers as just doing a job, thus not requiring respect. Our points of view are very different.

" When I think back to home schooling when we were very young, my mind gets flooded with great memories! My siblings and I built forts, created our own games, buried treasures and spent much of our time outside. We started a nature net program with other families and that was just great. We spent time every month in Boston visiting museums and exploring. My mom and Nana drove with us from Maine to Florida. We stopped at cool places along our way. It was a great trip. I don't remember all the museums (I've seen pictures) but I do remember the sea turtles, eagles, alligators, swamps, and caverns. I also remember feeling very happy and satisfied. Traveling remains a passion and I love long road trips! I feel confident in my ability to get from one place to another no matter the distance and I don't need a Garmin.

"My family has helped many people through the years. My mom is a crisis networking type and we all learned how to organize help for others in need. We would focus on the pleasure of helping people we cared for through difficult times. If we cooked dinner for Silke, we would often run into others helping her. The conversations were fun and often led to other events. I believe I'm a compassionate person who makes a difference in the lives of others. These experiences taught me so much about life and my place in it as an adult. I watched adults organize, express sadness, deal with great stress and even loss. I was home to witness the adults in my life get through difficult times as better people. We are a strong, loving bunch and I'm lucky to be part of this!

"When I was 14 we began staying more local as my Dad's mom became ill and he needed help caring for her. My siblings and I took turns watching her days and some evenings as we got older. We did this for four years and it was a huge responsibility. We all had to give up a lot, but I wouldn't change a thing. My grandmother was finally placed into a nursing home last July. This turn of events was very sad, but her needs required professional help. Taking care of another person can be a challenge and I feel proud that we accomplished our goal of keeping her home as long as possible. We knew she appreciated it, too. I think this life experience helped me with my decision to go into nursing. Caring for my grandmother was rewarding and I think it would be a nice career.

"Being home gave me time to learn how to care for myself physically as well. As far back as I can recall, I cooked real meals and my mom taught us about good nutrition. We wrote grocery lists and did the shopping together. One of my jobs was to clean and organize the fridge when we got home with all the fresh foods. We all had our jobs and it was nice to know I was needed (not that I always like it!). Being aware of nutrition and good health naturally flowed into understanding the need for physical activity. I have been going to the gym for years now and I just love it. My friends and I plan all sorts of physical activities from tag football to ice skating.

"When I look toward my future, I don't see a path carved in stone but rather an opening into a vast forest. There are a lot of unknowns. I want to explore and learn more from people I meet along my way. I'm excited about beginning a career that I believe I'll enjoy. My strong communication and conflict resolution skills should be helpful in the high-stress environment of nursing. Nurses are often the calm in an emotional as well as physical storm. When my Dad was recently hospitalized, I enjoyed helping him relax and the nurses helped us feel comfortable. We were so scared and It was nice to see the workers calm and focused on my dad's health. I look forward to being part of the health care system.

"I'm looking forward to living on my own and spending extended periods away from my family. I'm looking forward to having my own place and making new friends. It's going to be great and I'm ready for the change. As I said earlier, when one home schools, life is all about learning with family. Having my own space will be a refreshing change. I'm not worried about moving forward as I feel I have good knowledge and skills to make the transition smooth. Moving into a different place in life is so exciting!  

"At the end of the day I'm happy I was unschooled. I'm a well-rounded, interesting, happy person who has good values. I have a family who really knows me and accepts me for who I am. I feel loved and encouraged. My support system is immense and my good friends many. I've been respected and valued; thus I respect and value others. I'm a good person who works hard to contribute to society and my family. I define this as true success. I understand I'm a good learner and now I understand I'm a good student in the more traditional sense of the word. I feel I will do well in life."

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Horse Treat Business is Born

Erica, a 2011 graduate from Westport, Connecticut USA, loves horses and baking. She combined her loves and a business was born. Read on!

     "One day, shortly before Valentine’s Day, my mom and I stopped into Earth Animal, a boutique that sells all natural pet food and supplies, because I wanted to buy some of the frosted Valentine’s Day themed shaped cookies for my horse, Casey. As I was paying for the cookies, I struck up a conversation with the manager, telling him that my horse absolutely loves the frosted cookies, and that’s why I buy them for him. The manager explained to me that he has often turned away other horse owners that came in looking for actual horse treats, because they didn’t sell them. I told him that I bake treats for my horse, using all natural ingredients. Upon hearing that I made homemade horse treats, the manager told me that if I baked a few of my horse treats, he would possibly sell them for me.
    "I returned home, overjoyed. I decided on the recipes I was going to bake and made a shopping list for the ingredients needed, then went shopping at the grocery store. Two days later, I had all 5 horse treat recipes baked. After allowing the treats to “cure” overnight, I packaged them up in glass mason jars with bright red lids. I attached a cute red and white label tag and tied it to the jars with red and white dotted ribbon. I then arranged the jars in a white wire basket, lined with a red and white checked cloth. I typed a short product description, printed it and displayed it in the basket along with the jars.
    "When I walked into the store carrying the basket of nicely displayed treats, the manager took one look at it and fell in love with it.  I brought my basket of goodies over to the counter and he was so impressed, not only with the quality of the treats, but also with the packaging and display. He readily agreed to sell them in the store for me. He then went on to ask me many questions, such as how much it cost me to make them, and how much profit I needed to make. He also asked me how I was going to keep the treats fresh and from getting moldy in the packaging, and suggested those silica gel packets to remove excess moisture, due to the fact that my treats contain apples, molasses, and other foods that are moist in nature.
All of his questions made me realize that while I’m a great baker, I had not considered turning that hobby into a business before he suggested selling my horse treats. I now realize that I need to research and consider many new factors. I realize that I need to begin to talk with other business people who have experience and expertise in the areas of marketing, production and distribution, profit margins and other business factors that I know nothing about and have rarely considered. And so, while this is a very exciting proposition, I also realize that I have a very big learning curve ahead of me as I travel down this new path. Where it will ultimately lead, I cannot say at this point. However, I am beyond excited at the prospect of possibly turning a hobby of mine into a profitable business endeavor.
    "The Chinese philosopher Confucius said “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” I am hoping that this will be a reality in my life, whatever job I choose. Who knows, perhaps it will be a horse treat business!"

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

From Argentina to Texas and Beyond!

Laura moved from Argentina to Houston, Texas as a young girl. After years of unhappy school experiences, she searched for an escape and came across unschooling. Now, a happy 2011 graduate, she writes in her last monthly report:

"These past four years have been the highlight of my teenage years.  I’ll never forget this experience. These four years were the reward for those days I thought would never end. This saved my life. I’d never felt more confident, determined or focused before. The last time I felt like this was right after I left school. I wanted to prove everyone wrong. After beginning this four-year adventure, I realized it wasn’t about them; it wasn’t about proving anything. This was about me and finding out who I am. Thanking you for making this possible will never truly show how thankful I really am for changing my life. Finding your school was the most essential part of the beginning of my new life. I sincerely believe that this was meant to be. From the problems at school, to that afternoon when I was skipping class in that library and grabbed that book where I found out about unschooling… it was all meant to happen. At one point I believed I was the one who had to change, that the way I’d been raised wasn’t correct. I had the most wonderful four years, going from a person who was at her lowest, at times even wishing not to live, to someone who can’t wait to start school and be successful in life.

"Everyone sees the change; the sparkle is back. The educational biography has to be the most important assignment I’ve ever had. I read part of it when I was at work earlier today and I had to stop because I got teary-eyed. Your academy changed my life. Thank you so much, I’ll never forget that your school was the only one that gave me a chance when no one else would."

Friday, March 11, 2011

Wisdom from Canadian Graduate's Mother

Here is what a wise mom says about her daughter's graduation in 2011:

"My daughter may have completed the 12th grade but that knowledge is not the same as the knowledge she will encounter in the outside world. I remember oftentimes telling her about what my husband’s professor told his entire classroom upon graduating from the 5th year of university. He asked the whole class what the diploma means. Before anyone could give their opinion he proclaimed: “This piece of paper gives you the right to forget absolutely everything you’ve learned here.” In some ways he was right. I remember that once I started work after graduating from college, the academic knowledge that I received wasn’t the same as what was expected of me on the job. I’m not saying that the academics were not necessary in order to perform the tasks, but the manner in which they were executed were not at all the same as what was taught. I changed four companies during my employment and all of them had a different method according to what worked best for that company, and part of my job was to be able to adapt to that. In the end, theoretical knowledge is mainly there in order for the individual to figure out what it is they are interested in and which career path they want to pursue in life. The real test of knowledge comes once that person steps out into the world and is faced with the choices , responsibilities, and tasks that come with life."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Young Actress Succeeds with WRA

The mom of a young actress in Hollywood writes about her daughter's experience homeschooling while acting:

Katy is doing amazingly well with homeschooling!  It has genuinely been the best thing we have ever done and I so wish we would have started it years ago!  We purchased the Monarch on-line school system and she is in the 9th grade unit for all subjects except for math in which she is in 11th grade.  They have a way to test them to see which program would be best and that is where she fell and I am happy to report that she is getting all A's and 1 B.

I can't express how much we appreciate the flexibility of working with West River Academy and it is just perfect for her learning style.  She can do school when it is best for her and if she takes a few weeks off she can easily catch up at her own pace.  So far she is ahead on every subject except for French and should be done by April but we let her work at her own pace.  I'll send you a copy of her transcripts when she finishes.  I talk with several other parents out here about school and the other programs seem very restrictive and more focused on scheduled teacher meetings rather than the kids themselves and what is in their best interest so I highly recommend you guys to everyone!  There is a new mom moving to California and I think she will register with West River Academy this summer!