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As adults, we won’t put up with what we, as a society, expect children to be happy with! If, as adults (and this does often occur at a job or even with traffic school after a traffic ticket), we have to sit through trainings that are irrelevant to what we are interested in, there would be the person here or there who would dutifully sit through the trainings and pass whatever test is at the end. Those are the people who probably did well in school. Everyone else will probably try to find the fastest and least painful way to get through the training and if there is any chance of skipping it or just reading a paragraph about it to sum it up, most would take that route. Why? Are they just being lazy? No, I think not at all, in fact, they are intelligently choosing to do something better with their limited amount of time. We all are curious and learn all the time whether we want to or not, even as adults, but we are only curious about certain topics and we also only learn in particular ways that differ from our neighbors’. As a general rule, we need to have an interest in what we are supposed to be studying or it is just not an enjoyable activity! Maybe some other incentive will get us to do it (like a paycheck) but definitely not for our own enrichment and fulfillment.
In addition, compared to children in typical schools, adults take lots of breaks. At work, adults can usually get up and go to the bathroom or go get a drink or check in with a colleague (unless in the middle of a meeting, of course) and they are getting paid to do all this. For children, we expect them to sit still for far too many hours, in many schools they’re not even allowed to go to the bathroom whenever they need it without a special pass, and they definitely can’t just get up and go chat with a friend or eat a snack. For that there will for sure be unpleasant consequences. They are even more scheduled than adults plus they don’t get paid to do so! They’re young and need lots of active movement and aren’t made for environments more strict than offices!
How are we surprised that they start to hate learning?! Why do we wonder what happens to the creativity of children especially as they grow older or why there is such a lack of critical thinking? How are we shocked that they don’t do a great job all the time or try to rush off the homework so they can go play or hang out with friends? That’s what they’re made to do at that age according to their developmental stages! Of course, as with adults, there are always some things here and there that we all just need to do like the dishes and the laundry. I haven’t met many people who love doing those, but that doesn’t take up the majority of our lives! For school-aged children, as we do it, school and homework form the main part of their day. Most of their productive hours are forcibly consumed in this way. No wonder they’re so happy when it’s summer break or any sort of holiday. I believe not keeping kids actively involved in their own education is a futile attempt to fill up their brains with some irrelevant information and not giving them the tools they need for their future!
In contrast, children attending the classes at Learn Beyond The Book and other like-minded organizations, don’t want the school year to end and are sad when it’s the last day of classes. Of course, they also look forward to summer vacation trips, but they aren’t counting the days for “school to be over”. Our philosophy at Learn Beyond The Book is that students choose what classes they would like to be part of. Even if those classes end up being the main core subjects, once registered and in the class, the instructors follow an interactive, Socratic method of discussion and active involvement of students to make sure topics are studied that interest the students and in ways that support their learning styles. Since the class sizes are small (less than 12 students), it is possible to individualize a lot of learning.
We also believe that students and instructors learn from each other and we try to stay in a growth mindset where we are open to continually learn, question, reflect, discuss, and form new insights. We are interested and eager to hear student and parent feedback and invite everyone to be part of our learning community. We also ensure that the community is filled with adults who really enjoy being with children, have empathy, and are kind. We encourage an environment of collaboration, rather than competition, and a non-judgmental space where mistakes are learning opportunities. Students are reminded to be kind and empathetic as well as encouraging to their friends. At Learn Beyond The Book, we believe wholeheartedly that true learning does not take place when there is not an authentic, caring relationship between the teacher and the student as well as between fellow students, so our goal is to foster a sense of caring community in all that we do, creating a safe space to grow. The results are amazing!
If our goal is for students to learn, we need to change the narrative of education and make it more in line with this quote by Benjamin Franklin –
“Tell me and I forget,
Teach me and I remember,
Involve me and I learn.”
A great video on this topic is this one by Blake Boles about consent in education. I can’t agree with him more!
If you have a learning community and need help to change the environment, reach out and let’s see how we can help. If our learning community sounds like yours, we would love to connect and say hi; we love to know of others like us across the country and globe.
What better way to learn about engineering and building than from an engineer? Just one more way that Learn Beyond The Book brings learning and real-life together. Michael Marchesan was trained as a civil engineer who discovered that he really enjoyed teaching and tutoring, so for the past few years, Michael has been teaching Math, Engineering & other subjects at Learn Beyond The Book. We’ve had some fun watching the kids design and build bridges, housing structures complete with drainage systems, and other projects!
Why would anyone want to learn these skills? Not only does it come in handy for students who want to pursue a career in a STEM field, but the classes encourage critical thinking, problem solving, and designing of solutions. Then, students have the hands-on experience of building what they’ve designed. They get to use real tools and are encouraged to be creative within the parameters of the projects! In our changing world, these skills are becoming more and more invaluable by the day!
For early elementary students, we offer Lego Robotics & Engineering to introduce these skills.
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.
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).