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Happiness in Education

Happiness…. What is it?  Most of us will probably define it as something that we all strive for, something that is even listed as one of our “unalienable rights” in the Declaration of Independence – the right to the pursuit of happiness.  The Webster’s Dictionary calls it

a :    a state of well-being and contentment : joy

b :  a pleasurable or satisfying experience

Amidst all the talk about happiness, including countless seminars and books, it appears to me that we don’t always put a high enough premium on it when it comes to the world of education.   It seems we have forgotten that happiness is also an unalienable right of children and not just adults.  So often we see kids dragging themselves to school, experiencing little joy from the process of learning, even though education is one of the most wondrous of life’s experiences!

This saddens me, and makes me very determined to work for a change!  The incorporation of happiness and joy into the process of learning is grossly undervalued in most of our educational systems today.  Our lives are so short; this is a reality I have just recently experienced again with the death of my father.  Why would we spend extended periods of time in self-imposed misery when we don’t have to?  Sadly, most kids don’t have any say in this whole process of imposed joylessness.  They get dragged to school with no choice and the frustration that creates can spill out in the form of a variety of undesirable behaviors.

There are many enjoyable and engaging ways to learn.  The industrialized method that we’ve been using for the past century is, increasingly, not one of those.  Wouldn’t it be more engaging for students to learn through experiences, projects, apprenticeships, and from people with a passion for the subject than to spend an inordinate amount of time practicing for a test?  If an adult wants to learn something, they find someone who knows the subject, spend time with them and learn in a hands-on, experiential way–why is it not the same for kids?  When teachers are saddled with increasingly large class sizes, required to spend many days testing and many more preparing for these tests, and required to cover all subjects, it is virtually impossible to engage every child in the most inspiring way. Putting aside the fact that it takes all the joy out of teaching, there are other problems with that model as well.  If that teacher really is not a fan of Math, do you think it will not come through in her teaching?  If she freaks out when she sees a bug, do you think her Science class will take a hands-on approach, or be the best these kids have ever had?  Of course not!  Everyone has their limitations, and someone who does not enjoy a subject isn’t the best choice to be teaching it.

At Learn Beyond The Book, we have taken many of the problems we’ve seen in traditional schools and created solutions.  Not only are all our classes taught by individuals who are highly passionate and knowledgeable about their subject, but also by kind, compassionate individuals who think of the children as whole human beings, engaging them as individuals and encouraging them as a group.  We see children as resourceful, and value their input as part of the educational process. We create classes where they feel embraced and respected as they actively participate in their own learning, where they more easily remember what they’ve learned, because they were engaged in the learning process, not passive bystanders!

Learn Beyond The Book maintains small class sizes to create an intimate and safe environment where kids can try things, fail, learn from their mistakes, succeed, and celebrate each other’s successes.  What is the result of all this?  Happy kids who can’t wait to come to class!  It’s a win-win for students, teachers, and parents.  All the kids attending are either homeschooled or hybrid schooled, which combines independent learning with several of our classes.  We provide support to homeschooling families and high quality class options to families who enroll in home-study charter schools.  Homeschooling parents love this system because it provides them with some free time and a break from the feeling that they have to become an expert in every subject, especially the ones they do not enjoy themselves.  Many times we’ve even seen parents become more interested in learning about a topic that they previously didn’t find interesting, because their kid has been so inspired by a class and shared their excitement with a parent.  Our teachers enjoy teaching because they have freedom to teach the kids in the way that they best learn, considering all the different personalities and learning styles in their class, and without being bound by stringent testing and grading standards.   Our students have a great time learning and doing it all surrounded by good friends and a supportive, less competitive atmosphere.  It is all so exciting to observe!

In my experience, happy teachers teach more effectively, and happy students are more efficient learners.  Many of our families have remarked about the change they see in their kids when they are learning in our more happiness-inducing atmosphere.  Imagine how your child might blossom in such an environment.

If you are interested in a different kind of learning environment for your children, feel free to check out our website and all of our Fall classes.

 

 

Why I love homeschooling and hybrid schooling as much as I do

As this calendar year draws to a close, my appreciation for homeschooling and hybrid schooling (a mix of school at home and outsourced classes)  keeps growing.  As new students attend classes at Learn Beyond The Book, I feel so grateful for the opportunities we have, especially where we live.  An individualized education for each kid is possible!  It takes work, but so do most things that is worth anything in life.

Here are some things I love most about homeschooling/hybrid schooling:

  1. Kids can learn at their own pace and in their own style!

Everyone is so different!  As adults, we all know it, accept it, and even appreciate that about each other, but in schools there is so much pressure to conform to a certain standard and all at the same age.  When you homeschool or do hybrid schooling, you can truly customize education!  Then it’s not a one-size-fits-all education, but a have-it-your-way education!   It’s the way of the future!

If you, for example, feel that your child is advanced in Math, you can put them in the skill level class that you feel they need to be in by either getting the curriculum for that level or attending a skills-based Math class at Learn Beyond The Book or signing up for some sessions with a great tutor.  If you feel they’re a little behind in Reading, there is a class for every level.  If they’re really interested in Science, there is a class for that as well!  Homeschooled kids are so used to kids of all ages that they don’t even bat an eye if an older or younger child is in their class or on their level.  We always stress in all our classes at Learn Beyond The Book that you can only know something if you’ve learned it, so we make sure no-one ever has any comments like “You don’t know that?!”  That way every class remains a safe learning environment for everyone to be in, on an emotional level as well as academically.

On the other hand, if your child is extremely interested in Technology, why not build their education around their interest? Why not sign them up for a Minecraft Science Modules class if they are a Minecraft fan, or help them learn how to program their own Video Games?  If they love History, focus most of their learning around their interest and see their love for learning blossom!!  We love to provide all these different kinds of classes to homeschooled kids so that they can excel in their areas of interest.

 

  1. Homeschooled kids, especially as they get older, have more time to themselves  – no unnecessary busy work and homework that leads nowhere. Teens tend to know themselves better, because they have more time to focus on what drives them and what they like to do when no-one is telling them what to do.  This leads them to discover what their passion in life is or just what they enjoy doing and it could lead to a future career.  When some of my children were in high school, they took a lot of community college courses and even with a pretty full load they still had hours more per week to themselves than their public school peers.

What did they do with their time?  The one spent hours a day practicing singing in the band he was in, then moved on to spending hours on a flight simulator and starting to read airplane manuals, watching countless documentaries, reading books about people he admired, which all lead him to his desire to study Aerospace Engineering.  The other spent hours a day playing video games and hanging out on Skype with his friends after learning some special effects video editing, with which he has earned some money and he developed his art.   Then he dabbled in Filmmaking classes, learned all about lighting, editing, Photoshop, multimedia art, and more at the local community colleges. Now he studies concept design for the entertainment industry and uses, as he told me the other day, every single thing he ever delved into, even the map building software that was linked to a videogame he loved as a teen.  The focus was not on getting him to stop playing video games, because that would’ve been futile, but to make sure that he doesn’t just play but use it in some creative way, which I asked him to do every day at some point and he usually happily did that, because it was still linked to his big love of games.  He has now learned within days a complicated game development software and started building his own game while using his own concept design art for it, using all the skills he acquired in that time when many might have thought he was just wasting his time on games.  One interest leads to another and as long as we are helping to guide things to a healthy place, eventually they find who they really are.  If they are told constantly what to do and when, they barely know who they are, end up with years in college for a degree they aren’t that interested in and thousands of dollars in debt later, they end up in a career that they don’t love and when midlife hits, there is a crisis.

 

  1. The fact that homeschooled students have more free time than kids in traditional schools usually also allows them more time to spend with family and friends and as a result they develop really deep and meaningful relationships that often last a lifetime. Bonds between siblings are very close if nurtured properly by the parents, because they spend a lot of time together.  They are also often a little less influenced by what their typical teen peers and society would think is “cool” and enjoy simple wonderful things in life.  Because they are used to being around their parents and other adults, they appreciate parents more than most school kids who are gone from their parents for almost all productive hours of the day.  As they grow, it often becomes more important for them to have a little more independent time with friends, which is when nurturing classes and group social events come in handy (like the ones at Learn Beyond The Book), because they have healthy interactions with friends with the guidance of a compassionate facilitator.  All this make for kids who are socially very well adjusted because they are so used to interacting with all different ages from adults to younger kids with the mixed ages of families, classes, parkdays and social events.  They aren’t just used to interacting with their exact age peers.  As the excellent movie, ‘Class Dismissed’ put it, there is no need to group kids “by date of manufacture”.  I love that term!

In our classes at Learn Beyond The Book, all students are treated with the same respect we would give an adult, so all their opinions are treated as valuable and it makes such a big difference in how they perceive themselves and their fellow students, no matter what the age.

I can keep talking for much longer, but these are my top three reasons for loving homeschooling and hybrid schooling as much as I do!  More in my next blog, thanks for reading!

New hybrid school program for Santa Clarita starting Fall 2015!

inspirelogoThe great news about charter schools just keep coming this week!!

As you know, Learn Beyond The Book already partners with 10 great charter schools offering classes and social groups, fieldtrips, and more to their students and will continue to do so (Golden Valley, Sky Mountain, Gorman, SCVi, iLead Lancaster, iLead Exploration, Sage Oak, Albert Einstein Academy, Excel Academy, and Mission View Charter Schools).

I’m very excited to let you know that Inspire Charter School has partnered with Learn Beyond The Book, to provide a true hybrid program for homeschoolers/hybrid schoolers in a new Specialty Program, starting Fall 2015.  There are many benefits for you as a result of our partnership.  Most families will love the ability to choose up to any six of the available Beyond The Book classes each semester.  These classes are available tuition free for all enrolled Inspire Charter School students.  If students want to take more than the six classes, parents are free to pay the rest out of pocket.

The whole goal of Inspire is to simplify things in order to give students the best individualized education program possible.  Inspire provides special education services and the teacher assigned to your student will be available for assisting parents in getting any questions answered that you might have about the program or homeschooling in general.

A credentialed teacher, assigned to the students at Learn Beyond The Book (one of our own local teachers), will be on site at Learn Beyond The Book at regular predetermined times and they will be collecting the monthly work samples, most of which will be created during Learn Beyond The Book class times from students/parents, as well as an attendance calendar, which has to be initialed by the students and signed by parents for all days attended in the month.   Since the teacher will know the students from being on site, they wouldn’t have to meet with them and the parents for an hour each month.  Parents also won’t have to fill out any specific learning logs.  We are excited to have Kelli Mejia, a homeschool mom herself, be our first teacher!

If your student chooses to use the online courses available to them, the funding for those will not reduce your tuition-free classes.  For K-8 students, K12 or Odysseyware is available and A-G approved APEX for high school students.  Students in high school could replace APEX courses with community college classes and/or test out of certain courses.   High School Science courses with labs done through APEX will have labs completed by attending 2 Saturdays per semester of lab time.  Electives taken at Learn Beyond The Book can count for credit under certain circumstances, so please see this article for more details.  High school credentialed teachers are available all week for students’ questions via phone and online and classes taught by our own credentialed teachers will be able to count for high school credit.

When testing time rolls around, all Inspire state testing will also be conducted at Learn Beyond The Book’s facility and proctored by the assigned teacher(s).   Inspire doesn’t believe in teaching to the test so students will not feel pressure about that.

If students want to use funding at other vendors as well, they can enroll in a different program of Inspire with an annual budget of $1,000 for enrichment with the core subjects being done through one of the online platforms (K12, Odysseyware and APEX).  In this program, students have to use the online curriculum.

There are limited spots available for the Fall, so don’t delay your enrollment if this sounds like a great fit for your family.  Then also register on our site for the classes you want and put Inspire down as your school.

A free information meeting to provide you with more details about Inspire’s partnership with Learn Beyond The Book was held on July 16, 2015 and here is a partial recording of the meeting (forgot to push record right away, but what you missed is in this article).