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Autonomous Education in the UK

Filed under: Daily News — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

by Amy Tjaden News Editor


It really is a small world. I find it interesting to learn about homeschooling from the perspective of other countries. The interesting part is how similar their hurdles are to our own.


This morning I came across this article in The Independent. It is about unschooling, only in the UK they refer to it as autonomous education, autonomous meaning self-directed. The article is an opinion piece in which the author criticizes autonomous learning because, as he puts it, “Autonomous education is based on a simple principle: that children alone are the best judges of what they should learn and when they should learn it. If a child wishes to spend the day slumped in front of a television or games console, this is not a problem, the choice is his.”


Doesn’t this sound familiar? Doesn’t this sound like the criticism unschoolers face from ignorant people who have no idea what they’re talking about? Why is it so difficult to understand that children really are the best judges of what they should learn?


Children want to learn. The idea that they will sit around doing nothing is ridiculous. Sure, there will be days that they simply want to watch a movie or play video games. As adults, don’t we need a break from work? Isn’t that why our employers allow us to put in for days off?


When I first decided to back off on using curriculum and decided to try a more unschooling approach, I was worried. I was convinced the kids would do nothing remotely educational. But right away they were jumping into educational activities all on their own. My then 4-year old devoured all books we had on US geography and early US history. He did word puzzles for fun. He started playing around with the electronic keyboard so much we put him in piano lessons. He has played for almost three years now and has participated in three recitals. We might have missed this had we not let him explore his own interests.


My then 7-year old was the one I was worried about. I was sure he’d never leave his video games in favor of educational exploration. I was shocked to find him setting up his own science experiments, designing his own board games, creating floor plans for his dream house, journaling and most of all reading. He now loves to read and does it more than anything else in his free time.


I think the biggest misconception, which is apparent from Simon Webb’s opinion piece, is that unschoolers, or autonomously schooled children, are ignored by their parents and are completely left to facilitate their own education. This isn’t true. Parents are there to guide their children, answer questions, to provide an environment that promotes educational exploration.


The point in the article that I completely disagree with is Mr. Webb’s idea that, “Our children are most decidedly not the best judges of what is wholesome and good for them.” This is just not true. How sad that we have such little trust in children to make the right choices.


The best part of the article is all the reader comments below it. There you can read from many parents who have used an autonomous approach. Their comments better explain what the approach really means rather than Mr. Webb’s ignorant ideas.


Mr. Webb uses this fictional account of autonomous schooling he has created to explain why so many families in the UK are opposed to recent legislation that allows local authorities to check up on families who homeschool.


His implication is that homeschooling families have something to hide. Isn’t it more likely that families simply want the freedom to educate their children without being vilified?


Copyright 2009

Homeschooling an Issue in Divorce Case

Filed under: Daily News — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

by Amy Tjaden News Editor


Homeschooling has made headlines again in conjunction with a divorce case.


Jeff Naeger and Lisa Payne-Naeger are working through a tumultuous divorce. Homeschooling has become such a hot topic that on Tuesday a crowd gathered outside the St. Charles County Circuit Courthouse in Missouri to show their support for homeschooling.


Many of those who attended the rally do not know the parties involved in this case. I’m all for supporting homeschooling but I feel like this is overstepping boundaries. Divorce should be a private matter and I’m sure there is more to the case than these demonstrators know.


Jeff Naeger claims that his wife homeschools as a means of fulfilling her own needs. He claims she has a controlling nature and this is hurting the children by not allowing them to be independent or learn how to deal with people. Is this true or is this the claim of a bitter man going through a divorce? Who can say?


Lisa Payne-Naeger says that she homeschools because she has found it fulfilling for her children and they get to experience opportunities they wouldn’t if they attended public or private school. Is that her real motivation? Who can say?


We have a mother who wants her children homeschooled and a father who doesn’t. What I find interesting is that people, such as these demonstrators, claim that they are for parental rights and educational choice. How can you claim to be for those things and then ignore the father’s wishes for his children as if his opinion doesn’t matter?


He wants his kids to attend private school. You don’t see a crowd outside the courthouse in support of private school. No one is claiming his parental rights are being violated.


Jeff Naeger is disappointed with his wife’s decision to take their case to the public. She has spoken out to homeschool groups and blogs and has even done speaking engagements. Even her own attorney has questioned her willingness to air this divorce in the open.


I have to wonder too how much concern there is for the kids when little thought is given to how this lack of privacy in such a private matter will affect them.


For more on this case you can check out this article.


Copyright 2009

Homeschool Movie Being Filmed in Tennessee

Filed under: Daily News — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

by Amy Tjaden News Editor


This interesting bit of news comes to us from Tennessee.


Star Breeder Studios is filming a movie about a courtroom drama. The basic premise is that the state of Georgia has outlawed homeschooling and parents are testing the law by continuing to homeschool.


The courtroom scenes are being filmed in the Marshall County Courthouse. Marshall County Sheriff’s Detective Capt. Norman Dalton plays a truant officer who arrests parents who continue to homeschool despite the law.


I wanted to know more about this movie but I cannot find anything in regards to Star Breeder Studios. According to this article, the studio owner and his family are members of the Tennessee Homeschool association.


I’m intrigued by the idea of this movie. What was the inspiration? What are they hoping to accomplish? What kind of release is this movie going to have? When can we see it?


I will continue to search for answers. Meanwhile, if any of our readers know any details, please share them. As always, I can be reached at


Copyright 2009

Online Stores Sell Fun Homeschool Tees

Filed under: Daily News — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

by Amy Tjaden News Editor


I was reading through other homeschooling articles and blogs and came across information on a store that offers homeschool tees and accessories. I was intrigued and thought I’d pass the information on to our readers.


Homeschool Boutique offers cute homeschool tees for all members of the family. They even have maternity items and tees for baby. In addition, they offer backpacks and tote bags. I’m seriously thinking I might get the shirt that says “Homeschool Moms Rock” because, well…we do.


Anyway, as I was browsing this store I got to wondering how many other stores are out there that cater to the homeschool set. It turns out there are a lot. At Great Homeschool T-Shirts, they have a shirt that reads “Beware I’m an unsocialized homeschooler.” 


I was going to compile a list of the various places I found that offer similar products but then I stumbled upon this list. There are about a dozen stores listed. That should be enough to get you started.


As I was looking at all these fun and unique tees a thought occurred to me. Making tees would be a great homeschool project. It would cover both creative writing and art. The kids could come up with a homeschool saying and drawing that we could then transfer to tees. Stores like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby have all the supplies you need to make your own.


You could take the project a step further and turn it into a lesson about business and marketing by using a site like Café Press to sell the final product.


If you know of any great homeschool stores that sell homeschool novelties like tees, please jump on our news discussion forum and share. If you end up making your own tees, please share the experience with us and I promise to do the same.


Copyright 2009

Homeschooling Methods, Unschooling

Filed under: Daily News — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

by Amy Tjaden News Editor


I’m going to wrap up my discussion on homeschooling methods by looking at what appears to be the most misunderstood method, unschooling. I recently discovered that even within homeschooling circles, unschooling is misunderstood and often seen as a bad thing.


For some reason when people hear “unschooling”, they think it means no schooling. I guess we have that pesky prefix to blame. The truth is unschooling does not mean you do nothing. It simply means getting away from institutionalized methods of education.


Unschooling means understanding that children are natural learners.  Unschooling means recognizing that learning is taking place all the time, in nearly every activity. When my boys are working together to set up their large train set, they are learning. They are using teamwork, logic, and problem solving. Just because that activity wasn’t part of some grand lesson plan does not mean it doesn’t count.


My boys once surprised me as we were discussing things that conduct electricity. They already knew all about the topic from watching Pokémon. Am I to discredit that knowledge because they learned it from a cartoon rather than a textbook?


An interesting thing happened as I was researching the various method of homeschooling. I recognized within each method the philosophy behind unschooling. I realized that while the various methods are not identical they all share a common ground.


The Charlotte Mason method stresses living books vs. textbooks. Unschoolers generally avoid textbooks that offer dry facts in favor of stories that speak to a child’s imagination and make the subject come alive.


The classical method works to complement the child’s natural behavior. Children are encouraged to learn by doing what they naturally enjoy doing. How is this different from unschooling where children are encouraged to follow their interests rather than being told what they must learn?


The Montessori Method provides a prepared environment in which children are free to explore at their own pace. Testing and grading is discouraged. Every unschooler I’ve known has shelves full of books, bins full of manipulatives, educational games and all kinds of other learning materials that are accessible at all times. Testing is not necessary, as you simply have to see the child apply his knowledge to every day situations to know that he is learning.


The Waldorf method encourages free thinking, imagination and for kids to work at their own pace. Again, this is no different than the ideas behind unschooling.


Whether you employ the classical method, lean more toward Montessori, are an unschooler, or use any of the other methods, the basic ideas are the same. I think most families follow a rather eclectic approach anyway. Therefore, I cannot understand why anyone would criticize or discriminate based on homeschooling methods.


Copyright 2009

Music Appreciation for Kids

Filed under: Daily News — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

by Amy Tjaden News Editor


I do not enjoy daytime television. Unless there is a good documentary on, we leave the TV on one of the radio channels. We enjoy jazz or classical because it is good background noise while we’re doing school.


I’m sorry to say I know very little about classical or jazz music. I know enough to know I like it. I can spout off names of musicians from both genres but I know little about those musicians.


My oldest son plays guitar. My 6-year-old plays piano. I’m very proud of both of them and happy with their progress. However, I have often thought it would be nice to give them background in both classical and jazz since neither are what you would consider mainstream. Most people can tell you which song is currently #1 on the pop charts but how many can tell you which composer wrote Golliwog’s Cakewalk. (Please note that I wouldn’t know had I not looked it up.)


I was recently thinking about how overwhelming it would be to start teaching history of classical music. Where would I start? Then a friend emailed me a link that has given me a starting point and inspired me to give it a shot. Classics for Kids has a lot of information. You can explore composers by country or musical period. There is even an interactive timeline.


There are games that teach music and rhythm. My 6-year-old loves the game that allows you to compose your own music. You can even explore various instruments. Classics for Kids is also a radio show. You can listen to past shows online. It highlights a different composer each month. There are quizzes and activity sheets as well.


I was so thrilled with the site that I started looking around for something about jazz. I found a fun interactive resource at  PBS KIDS GO! It includes a timeline, brief bios of some jazz greats and games. My kids love it.


If any of you know of fun sites that offer great resources for teaching musical history to kids, I’d like to hear about them. Send an email my way or jump on our news discussion forum.


Copyright 2009

School District to Investigate Homeschooling Families

Filed under: Daily News — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

by Amy Tjaden News Editor


There is a bit of concerning news coming out of Kentucky. The Director of Pupil Personnel for the Marshall County School System has declared that she plans to investigate all homeschool programs within her jurisdiction. This includes making random home visits.


Ledonia Williamson claims she will visit all 121 homeschool families within her district. She also plans to make periodic phone calls to check in on the families. She has also asked the community to keep an eye out and report any child they see outside playing during school hours.


Under Kentucky law, parents have the right to educate their children how they see fit. They also have a right to privacy. Kentucky law requires those parents that homeschool to maintain attendance records and Scholarship reports. According to HSLDA, those records are not required to be submitted unless certain circumstances arise.


There is nothing under Kentucky law stating that parents must open their homes for investigation. However, according to this article in the Marshall County Tribune Courier, Williamson says she does have the right, as all private schools are to be open to inspection.


The article quotes two different homeschool laws. I’m not an expert, far from it. However, I feel that the laws are either being misinterpreted or Williamson is playing with the wording to work it to her agenda.


The article is a follow-up to an earlier article. In this second article, Williamson does a tiny back pedal saying her point was “lost in translation”. She claims she is not on a witch- hunt. I find that I don’t believe her, especially when she is making a connection between homeschoolers and drug use. Apparently, there is fear that some families are using drugs and not actually homeschooling.


There is a big difference between homeschooling and simply not sending your children to school. I guess Williamson cannot differentiate and so all homeschooling families are being scrutinized. I think Williamson needs to understand homeschooling before she starts “investigating” homeschooling families.


A child playing at the park during the middle of the afternoon does not mean the parents aren’t schooling him or that they’re doing drugs. As one parent stated, “We take field trips just like they do in public school,” Carolyn said. “That may look like the kids are just playing to someone else. How would they know?”


If you live in Marshall County Kentucky, be prepared.


Copyright 2009

Homeschooling Methods, Waldorf

Filed under: Daily News — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

by Amy Tjaden News Editor


As I’ve explored the various homeschooling methods, I’ve recognized each one. I did not necessarily know anything about each method but I had at least heard of them. The method I’m going to look at today is one I had never heard of until I stumbled upon it in my research.


The Waldorf Method is based on the educational philosophy of Austrian, Rudolf Steiner. The first Waldorf School opened in 1919. I found the history fascinating and more can be found here.


The basic idea behind the Waldorf method is to encourage free-thinking and imagination. Components of the Waldorf method include, keeping a rhythm. This means building a routine that a child can count on. Another component is staying relaxed. This means teaching in a loving, nurturing environment. In our fast-paced world, children are often pushed into academics before they’re ready. The Waldorf method allows children to work at their own pace.


The Waldorf method implements unit studies. This means integrating all topics into one lesson. The method also uses multisensory techniques. Manipulatives are used. Every activity includes music, art and things like knitting and woodworking.


The main distinction of the Waldorf method is Steiner’s idea that children’s capabilities unfold in seven-year cycles. Each cycle has its own focus and emphasis. Birth to age seven includes the growth of the physical body, the process of imitation, the virtue of goodness, learning with the hands, the physical realm.


Ages 7-14 see the focus shift to the strengthening of once life forces, the process of imagination, the virtue of beauty, learning through the heart, and the feeling realm.


From ages 14-21, the emphasis is on the development of cognitive skills, the process of inspiration, the virtue of truth, learning through the head, and the astral realm.


For more on these cycles check out this link.


If you use the Waldorf Method, I would like to hear about it.


Copyright 2009

Homeschooling Methods, Montessori

Filed under: Daily News — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

by Amy Tjaden News Editor


We’re going to continue exploring the various methods of homeschooling by looking at the Montessori Method.


The Montessori Method is based on the educational theories of Maria Montessori. Founded in 1907, the method is based on Montessori’s observation of children’s learning processes.


The basic idea behind the Montessori Method is to have a prepared environment in which children are free to explore at their own pace. Children learn through discovery and direct their own learning while surrounded by age appropriate materials.


The role of the “teacher” is that of an observer or guide. Tests and grades are discouraged as they are viewed as damaging the “growth” of the child.


Studies done have shown that Montessori students have social and academic skills far above their public schooled peers. This has shown to be especially true in math and science.


This method is popular among many homeschooling families who like the idea of learning as an organic process. However, it can be difficult to stock the home with enough stimulating materials, especially when you must do so for multiple age groups.


If any of you use the Montessori Method, I would love to hear from you about how you implement it.


Copyright 2009

Homeschooling Methods, Classical

Filed under: Daily News — dailynews @ 9:00 pm

by Amy Tjaden News Editor



I have to admit ignorance when it comes to some of these homeschooling methods. I’ve heard of the classical method of homeschooling. By that, I mean I’ve heard people say, “I use the classical method of homeschooling.” I had no idea what that meant.


As I was looking up information so that I could educate myself, and any of my readers who are in the same boat, I found myself becoming more confused. I keep finding the term Classical Christian homeschooling. I was confused by this, as I know of families who claim to use a classical approach but who are not Christian.


I found this site that does a great job of explaining classical education and the idea of the trivium. The trivium is the concept that emphasizes concrete thinking and memorization of facts while children are in grade school, analytical thinking in middle school and abstract thinking and articulation in high school. The site goes on to explain that classical Christian education is characterized by the development of a Biblical worldview.


The classical method was born in ancient Greece and Rome. By the 16th century, it had spread throughout the western world. In 1947, Dorothy Sayers pioneered a return to classical education. The idea is to teach in ways that complement the child’s natural behavior. Children are encouraged to do what they naturally enjoy during particular phases of their life, the idea of phases going back to the trivium.


I was surprised to find a few articles discussing classical education vs. the Charlotte Mason method. This surprised me because in my mind I was seeing a correlation. I thought I must be misunderstanding the methods and then I found this blog. I found it helpful in furthering my understanding of both methods.


If any of my readers implement either the classical or the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling I’d like to hear from you. I think it would help those of us who do not use that method to get a glimpse into a typical day of a homeschooler who does.


Copyright 2009

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