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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.
As homeschoolers, we all understand the importance of not just teaching the core subjects of English, Math, Science, Social Studies, and PE, but also Art, Music, Theater, Sewing, Cooking, Engineering, Programming, and more. We make concerted efforts to make sure that our children get a well-rounded education, but I feel that, amidst all the other great things, many of us forget to focus on EQ, promoting emotional intelligence and mental health.
I often wonder if everyone understands the importance of emotional intelligence and what some call the “soft skills” like good communication and conflict resolution in relationships, leadership skills, teamwork, networking, and so forth. I see a lot of that not going too well for many kids, in traditional as well as alternative education settings.
If one googles what ‘soft skills’ people need, a ton of articles come up such as this one from Monster.com, the big online recruiting agency, listing skills that people need in today’s business world. I would argue they have always been needed and sorely lacking at times, but, finally, businesses are actually saying out loud what skills they’re looking for that no degree will give you. All of these require high EQ.
According to the Dictionary of Psychology from Oxford University, “Emotional intelligence (EI), also known as Emotional quotient (EQ) and Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EIQ), is the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s).”
One of my favorite Ted Talk videos is this one on Hackschooling. Logan explains how he told someone once that he wanted to be happy when he grew up and they didn’t think it was a good answer to the question of what he wanted to be when he grew up, but that it is actually really important. As homeschoolers we care a ton about our children being happy, but I think sometimes all the wonderful classes and activities they can be part of, is still lacking in helping them attain true happiness. We schedule the kids for multiple exciting activities and classes that they are interested in and always want to make sure they are having fun, but do we really check on their emotional health in all areas? Sometimes parents even need help with that, because we did not grow up in an era where it was encouraged or even discussed. I know I’ve had a long journey of studying this topic and continue to do so.
I feel that EQ is at least as important as IQ if we want to talk about numbers and that emotional and mental health is at least as important as academic subjects, if not more. I think that classes such as Communication and Conflict Resolution, Teen Leadership Skills, TED Talks discussions, or Psychology are crucial to helping our children really extend themselves beyond their own world and meet their world with empathy and the tools to connect with others in meaningful ways to advance whatever field of study they engage in. I absolutely love this Ted Talk on Listening which demonstrates just some of the types of skills that are discussed in these types of classes. There are a ton of other wonderful Ted Talks on communication, conflict resolution, and other related topics to explore.
I’m so excited that Learn Beyond The Book offers an array of EQ classes, including classes covering the topics I mentioned above. We also have some teen and tween support groups as well as a support group for parents. We plan to just keep expanding this very important list of classes, because we truly believe that learning the skills taught in these classes are essential to life and happiness and we hope that parents will join us in making it a priority.
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).
A few months ago, I found out that a new documentary about homeschooling would be released soon and I was very excited. I bought my ticket online and drove down to North Hollywood last night to see it in the Laemmle Theater. I entered the theater with great anticipation and the hope that this will be a documentary that I can recommend to secular and religious people alike when they consider homeschooling as an option or are new to it. Up to this point, I haven’t had much luck locating a documentary like it anywhere. All I’ve had to recommend were Sir Ken Robinson’s awesome TED Talks and the great talk about Hackschooling. I must admit that I was concerned and a bit nervous too, since I had invited a lot of fellow homeschoolers to go watch it with me. What if this was just another biased documentary with an agenda to push one way of homeschooling as the only right way?
The theater was clearly filled with enthusiastic homeschoolers as was evident from the loud cheers at regular intervals during the screening. As the movie minutes rolled along, I got more and more excited about Class Dismissed. It really portrayed all different kinds of options available to homeschoolers as it followed a family along their homeschool journey, struggles and all. What I really loved about it was that several different options were given. Viewers got to see different approaches to homeschooling and other options like hybrid schooling with the help of learning centers as well as an experience with a charter school. They made the point throughout that one thing would or wouldn’t work for their family, which is the way it should be seen, especially as homeschoolers. There is no right way for each family and not even for each student!
I felt the movie did a wonderful job of being real. It had a real family, real-life issues, real questions and concerns, real solutions, without being unnecessarily dramatized. I am convinced that the homeschool world needs a movie like this so badly, because everyone has their own struggles and especially when you are new to it, parents so often feel so alone and think that they’re the only ones with struggles and that they are just not equipped to pull it off! I’ve found countless times that as soon as I’m honest about our family’s struggles on the journey, others open up and share theirs as well and it is amazing how similar these struggles are. The film did an excellent job of portraying homeschooling as it truly is: a journey and not an event.
I appreciated the homeschool experts who spoke during the movie, with all their years of wisdom. They all had such good points to add and really contributed to making this a great and balanced film. I loved how none of them pushed just one way of homeshooling as the only or superior way. Blake Boles even commented how homeschooling isn’t for everyone and that it really is about the choice that parents should have between all different kinds of schooling, which is not currently the case. I believe that movies like this will do a lot to promote change in that direction, which is very exciting.
The drive down to North Hollywood was made even more worth it since we got to meet the family who is the main part of the film, as well as the 2 producers, Jeremy Stuart and Dustin Woodard. What an amazing production! The cinematography and editing were excellent as well. I found it very easy to watch and interesting to follow the life of the family. It was engaging and not repetitive footage as is often the case with documentaries.
I want to show this film to everyone because of all the great reasons above and so we will have small screenings at Learn Beyond The Book in November and the months beyond, depending on demand. I am convinced that this movie could be the start for many families of creating an environment where everyone can be happy, fulfilled individuals all throughout their lives. I hope you will be able to join us for one of the screenings. If you have a day and time preference, please leave it in the comment section.
Many people consider homeschooling and they start researching it, but it all just seems so overwhelming and they don’t even know where to start. I’ve encountered so many people like that recently. I have been doing homeschool information meetings at Barnes & Noble and will have another on Aug.10th at 4-5:30pm to help with it, but in the meantime, I thought to write an article to help people know how where to start.
Here are some easy to follow steps, although it will still take some more research on your part, so I will link it to my articles about it to make your life a little easier.
1. Decide what your goal is for homeschooling. Do you have a specific vision? Would you like to let your children have more academics or less? Is your decision mostly social in nature, e.g. not wanting certain influences, certain attitudes or character development needed? This would make a difference to what you do next. If it’s not totally clear to you, don’t worry about it, but just keep it in the back of your mind to think about. This will likely change over the years of you homeschooling as well.
2. Decide if you want to homeschool on your own, keep your own records and take care of your own transcripts, diplomas etc. If your child is in elementary school, this might not be that big of an issue yet and you can always change it later, so whatever you decide is never irrevocable. If you do want to have all the freedom possible, the best option would be filing your own private school affidavit, keep an attendance record and some work samples as well as your own report cards (easily created on your own computer).
If you would like more direction, you could pick to either go with a private PSP who will do the above for you and provide some guidance, but you will have to pay a little for it. If you want more direction, but have no funds, you might want to consider public homeschool charter schools. These are free and give you some funds for materials and classes from approved vendors. There are several options for these charters. All of them have waitlists, but get on the waitlist anyway, because you can always just not join once you get in if you change your mind or got into another one.
3. Once you picked which way you will legally homeschool, you have to do some research on all the homeschool philosophies. Here are some of the main ones:
– Traditional worksheets/textbooks
– Charlotte Mason
– Thomas Jefferson
– Classical Education
– Project-based unit studies
– Hybrid Schooling (some classes and some curriculum at home)
– Eclectic (a little of everything, my favorite)
4. After you’ve determined all this, it would be helpful to observe your child and how they learn best before you will be ready to pick which curriculum you might want to get.
5. There are so many options available for curriculum, but I would suggest checkingused curriculum sales first for curriculum at a fraction of the regular cost. The internet also provides tons of free resources. If you need to purchase something, you can check out all the articles and links I have listed. Rainbow Resource and Amazon.com are usually the most affordable options for most curriculum needs.
6. I strongly recommend getting together with other homeschool moms, getting on some yahoogroups, facebook groups and meetup groups for Santa Clarita homeschooling and visiting a local parkday to get input from more experienced moms. There is a parkday every Friday around noon till about 4 at Valencia Glen Park on Via Gavola. You can come and go as you are able. If you live elsewhere, search for some local groups.
7. Know that homeschooling is a journey and you will probably change and adjust your course several times as you find what works best for each child since they’re all so different.
Good luck and I hope to see you at one of our parkdays very soon!