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thinksmall

writings and shit.. about stuff.

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Oh hey guys, its your dawgie ts. I just thought I'd share various writings and shit I've collected and stuff. It'd be cool if you guys shared and stuff too. vagina.

 

 

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Stephanie Hunter, of Culpeper, Virginia, is the single mother of a now nine-year-old boy named Stephen. Stephanie has taught kindergarten for five years in a public school, where Stephen also attended school for his kindergarten through second-grade years. This is her story of their journey through those years.

 

"When I think back on that time, I am still filled with a certain anguish for my son," writes Stephanie. "I know that I always did the best I could for him with the understanding I possessed at the time, and as my understanding grew, along with it came the absolute certainty that Stephen's happiness, peace of mind, and confidence in his own beautiful and unique abilities mattered more to me than anything else, certainly more than his so-called lack of progress within the public school system. But there were many hard days to come before I knew in my gut that the wrongness of what was happening to him as the special individual he is within that system was something I had the power to do something about.

 

First of all, Stephen didn't enjoy kindergarten, his first year of school, as much as I had hoped he would, especially toward the end as the pressure mounted regarding beginning reading skills and readiness for first grade. The curriculum included, at that point, writing in the computer lab everyday and even some standardized testing to assess early reading skills, as well as a home reading program. At the end of the year, his teacher gently suggested a lack of maturity and recommended that he be in a special program in the first grade. In Culpeper, this program is presently called the Multi-Year Program, and it is used to bolster the academic abilities of children considered at risk for not being able to attain, or maintain, predetermined grade-level reading skills in an average first-grade classroom. Class size is limited, two teachers are present, summer school is available and highly suggested, and the children stay with the same teacher through the second-grade year as well -- hence the title.

 

In Stephen's case, in a nutshell, the program simply didn't work according to theory. By the middle of his first-grade year his teacher had suggested I take him to the pediatrician for an evaluation for possible attention deficit disorder (ADD). Not knowing any better and not understanding yet that the apparent deficit was in large part defined by its context and not necessarily present in the child, and in spite of my misgivings, I followed through on her suggestion. I longed for my son to feel positive about himself as a learner, and I accepted the opinions of those with many more years of experience than I, in the hope that an answer lay ahead. Stephen was diagnosed with ADD and Ritalin was prescribed.

 

How does one explain to a young (seven-year-old) boy, already convinced that he lacked in intelligence, why this medicine is necessary without making him feel even less successful? I ached for Stephen. Homework times were no less stressful, and in fact the effect of 'coming down' off the Ritalin was nothing short of horrifying for both of us. After two weeks of startling late-afternoon episodes of what I'd have to call total blow-ups/breakdowns on Stephen's part, all triggered by the frustration of having an overload of homework, I notified the pediatrician that we were through with Ritalin, no matter what. Citing possible dips in serotonin levels in the brain and other medical jargon that I didn't understand, she suggested and then prescribed a new medication, Adderall.

 

While his teacher then reported that to her great relief Stephen was indeed more attentive, he was not happier about school or any more self-motivated than before. (He had never had a behavior problem, and he continued to be well liked by his peers during this time.) Homework time continued to be stressful for Stephen.

 

Over the summer between his first- and second-grade years, Stephen was able to stop taking his medication, but as soon as school started he began taking it again. However, during Christmas vacation I consistently observed what appeared to be the symptoms of depression occurring late morning -- not long before his second dose. When I reported this to his doctor, she prescribed a second medication, Wellbutrin, an antidepressant, to alleviate the effects of the first. Mind you, short of an occasional aspirin, I rarely take any sort of medication myself, so you can imagine the bells going off in my head over all the medication my son was on. However, I felt some relief for him when his mood equilibrium seemed largely restored as a result of taking his new medication.

 

In the spring of his second-grade year, Stephen was tested for a learning disability within the school system. The tests were inconclusive. Still stuck in the assumption that someone smarter than me must be able to ascertain why Stephen was having problems learning to read, I eventually to him to the Kluge Children's Rehabilitation Center at the University of Virginia (where diagnostic testing for learning disabilities is available) for a long day of rigorous testing. There were still no conclusive results.

 

I began to listen more closely to an inner voice, and a shift took place inside me. I let go of my blind acceptance of what the experts all around were saying to me. I began to look for alternatives for Stephen's education, based on a growing conviction that the problem had never been my son's, although, as a teacher, I'd been subliminally taught that it certainly couldn't be the school system's either. Then a friend told me about parent-governed cooperative school that could offer us a partial scholarship. I paid them a few visits to talk with teachers and parents and to observe the students in action. Finally, one day I took Stephen out of school early, and he and I met with the woman who would be his teacher, if we chose to go there. She spent some time with him, working and drawing, and chatting; very informally. Very quietly and simply, after a moment of thought she said, 'I think he just needs some time.' I sat and thought -- time to grow, time to play, time to be a child and to learn as children will learn. And I simply wept. It was the first time a teacher had spoken about Stephen with compassion for him as a child first and foremost, not with cold test results and clinical comments on his failure to meet standardized expectations. This teacher, who only recently had met Stephen, understood intuitively and trusted that he would develop as he was ready, and she honored that. It confirmed my deepest sense of my son as a sensitive, bright, loving, and vivacious person.

 

Today Stephen is off all medications and attends the school we visited. He is still reluctant to read, although the basic ability to do so is in him. Part of that is simply who he is, and part of that may also be the lingering effect of having it indirectly suggested to him for so long that he wasn't up to par, that he was behind, that he scored low and fell short. He knew how his teacher perceived him, and he suffered for it.

 

It wasn't a matter of courage, taking Stephen out of that situation. It was a matter of learning to stop all the outside voices, including the voice of my own fear, and truly listen to my son. It was a matter of discarding pat answers and simply doing what was best for the most important person in my life. If I could say anything to parents in similar straits, I would say this: Listen to your heart about what is best for your children, even when the loudest voices around you are not in harmony with yours. Follow your heart, always. You are the best and most important advocate your child has, and no teacher, no doctor, no system, no expert anywhere understands your child like you do. Trust that. I did, and our lives were changed."

 

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Excerpt from Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School by Grace Llewellyn and Amy Silver.

 

The book is really good and enjoyable btw. It reminded me of a bunch of things I wanted to do as a kid but never got to do. I also didn't put it down until I finished, it was like 2 hours or some shit.

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http://www.cantrip.org/gatto.html

 

The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher

by John Taylor Gatto, New York State Teacher of the Year, 1991

 

Call me Mr. Gatto, please. Twenty-six years ago, having nothing better to do, I tried my hand at schoolteaching. My license certifies me as an instructor of English language and literature, but that isn't what I do at all. What I teach is school, and I win awards doing it.

 

Teaching means many different things, but six lessons are common to schoolteaching from Harlem to Hollywood. You pay for these lessons in more ways than you can imagine, so you might as well know what they are:

 

continue on the link..

 

[Whoa. So infowars has interview Gatto a whole lot of times. Heh infowars is a lot cooler than i thought...]

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Through our 12-year-old son, we have had some direct experience in growing without schooling. It has been quite an eye opener for me, and I'd like to share some perceptions.

 

Like many parents, we had some ambivalence about sending Ian to school. Our local schools are fairly good, and we certainly wanted him to get a good education, but we couldn't help noticing the stress he was under and the way that during the school year he made relatively poor use of his after school time. During the first few years, we didn't see any alternative, and we just figured that what he was going through was a normal part of the growing up process. Then when he was in the 4th grade, we moved temporarily to another town. His school situation there was worse, and that gave us enough of a shove to explore teaching him at home with the help of a correspondence course. We were able to make the appropriate arrangements, and he finished out the 4th grade using the Calvert home study course.

 

We chose to use a correspondence course for a number of reasons, but especially because we wanted to make sure that he "kept up" with his peers and we wanted help in making sure that all the basics were covered. The course material was of high quality, but it was very definitely "school work." We spent about 2 hours a day on it. While it went fairly well, as parents we found ourselves in the position of having to enforce somebody else's curriculum, often against our own best judgment. If we wanted credit for the work, we had to play the game the way Calvert expected.

 

Having Ian home definitely reduced his stress level, and now that he had more control over his time, he made more creative use of it. Yet the rigidity of the correspondence course continued as a sore point. We looked for other options, and in the process came across Holt's Teach Your Own. By the time Ian had finished the 4th grade material, we were ready to try free-form unschooling, although not without lots of nagging questions about "how can we be sure he's keeping up?"

 

The rhythm we worked out was based on a trip each week to the major library near us, but Ian was free to focus his learning attention wherever he wanted. He spent the first half year or so of this time "decompressing" - withdrawing into himself and spending a lot of time on things that didn't seem very educationally significant, like reading Marvel comics. It was a hard time for us as parents, but we stuck with it.

 

Gradually, he began to develop more focused interests. The Marvel comics led to a book called, "How To Draw The Marvel Way," which turned out to be an excellent guide, and helped him get more deeply into drawing. He began to spend more (and more) time programming our home computer. There was more variety in the books he would bring home. He also spent growing amounts of time with his new baby sister.

 

To our delight, we found that having him home under these conditions was actually less demanding than having him in school. No longer did the school bus run the schedule of our lives, nor did we have to deal with the after-school wind-down. The correspondence course had been a fairly even trade- off in terms of time and emotional energy, but unschooling was a clear plus, quite in opposition to what everyone assumes. Being more at peace with himself, Ian was also more helpful within the family.

 

During this time, his social life continued at much the same level as it had been in school. Most of his friends were either children of our friends or neighbors, and he would frequently spend the late afternoon with the kids next door.

 

After about 2 1/2 years of this, he decided he wanted to go back to school. He was never completely clear about just why, but it seemed he wanted to see what was going on, and he was also getting tired of always being a "self-starter." We enrolled him in the 7th grade (his age level) with no problems (in part, I'm sure, because we have a good relationship with the local schools). But we all got it straight that this was his choice, and if he wanted to go, he had to take responsibility for getting up and to the bus, making his lunch, etc. He had matured enough during the past few years to understand what that meant, and he ran his own show just beautifully.

 

When he got back in, he found he had to catch up on his multiplication tables and long division (which he did in a week or so), but other than that he was not behind. Indeed, he was genuinely surprised at how little the other kids knew and how turned off they were to learning. During the first quarter, he was an ideal student. He was interested in the subjects and studied conscientiously. His teachers remarked on how mature he seemed to be. Socially, he fit right in although he didn't add any close friends beyond those he already had. Not surprisingly, he did quite well at report card time.

 

During the second quarter, his motivation began to slide a little. He realized that he was putting out more effort than he had to, so he began to explore how little he had to do and still keep up the good grades. School became easy, but it also lost its interest. By the end of the second quarter, it was clear that he had proved he could handle school and he was now feeling that he was wasting his time. Once the decision was made, it didn't take us long to make arrangements so that he could go back to growing without schooling.

 

While this is only one case, it has so much in common with the experiences of others that I sense some general principles are at work. I was surprised to find how deeply ingrained my own belief in "courses of study" was. How could you learn unless you were following some organized program, if not in school at least through some kind of independent study course? I also found that as a parent, I wanted verification that my child was indeed progressing. It took me a while to perceive the progress made in the subtler areas of emotional maturity and general learning skills. Part of me wanted him to be "preparing to be an adult" rather than letting him be a child. All of these feelings were intensified and brought to the surface during those crucial months of "decompression."

 

Now, of course, I'm very grateful that we allowed him as much freedom as we did. The growth that took place during these past few years was often not easy to track, but it seems to have been broad, deep, and in retrospect, remarkably fast.

 

Perhaps kids are much more capable of being competent self-directed learners than we give them credit for.

 

- Robert Gilman

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