Words : HomeLearners
April 20, 2004 6:10pm
April edition of Homelearners’ Network News
Issue No. 3 for 2003-2004: April 2004
Wondertree Foundation for Natural Learning
Homelearners’ Network News
Issue No. 3 for 2003-2004: April 2004
Wondertree Foundation for Natural Learning
Homelearners’ Network Contacts:
For general info., registration, and homelearning counselling, please contact
Pam Martin at (604) 523-2795 or <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
For communication regarding Resource Allowance reimbursements or the
newsletter (including letters to the editor and submission of articles),
Suzanne Gregory at (250) 754-1227 or <email@example.com>.
Those homelearners who are computer-free can congratulate yourselves
on not needing to worry, but others may have noticed an increase in computer
virus and worm activity in recent weeks.
Some of these critters masquerade as people or entities that do not
exist. For example, if you should receive a message from “firstname.lastname@example.org,”
do not open it. It is not from us. Also, for the foreseeable future we will
not knowingly send out attachments, due to the problems associated with them.
are endeavouring to set our Wondertree hours at certain times on certain days.
This should make us more predictable if you prefer to reach us by phone, and
it will allow us to keep our other commitments and family time intact. Pam’s
Wondertree day is Monday; Suzanne’s is Wednesday. You may get our voice mail,
but we will try to return your call promptly.
WONDERTREE CENTRE OPEN HOUSE
If you have a child who wants to be in a classroom, but if you are
looking for a creative learning environment, the
Wondertree Learning Centre
may be for you!
The Centre is having an
on Sunday, May 2 from 1 - 4 pm. For more information, contact
The Centre’s address is 4196 West 4th Ave., Vancouver, in the
Jericho Hill Centre.
GETTING A BETTER EDUCATION . . .
It’s the end of the university year again, and my friend who teaches
English can once again be heard moaning about the low quality of the education
students’ papers. “They can’t tell ‘illicit’ from ‘elicit’ or ‘prospective’
from ‘perspective,’” she groans, “And they’re going to be teachers next year!”
Marking a bad paper takes twice as long as marking a good one, leaving her
worn out by a large mediocre batch.
Geography and nature studies don’t fare much better: I have seen
classroom teachers put penguins in the same picture as polar bears (and the
students probably had to believe that they lived together in order to get the
“right answer” on the test). I’ve seen a nature walk leader explain frog
metamorphosis to a school group via drawings and song, then fail to identify
the species of an actual frog on the trail. One otherwise excellent Canadian
history text implies that broom is a native plant in BC.
Do these things matter? You bet they do, if we expect to understand
what is happening to local and planetary systems, to find the right science to
solve the problems, and to write about it in a credible way. Having the
correct information - and a sound interpretation of that information - may
eventually determine whether or not we have clean air, adequate clean water,
and reliable sources of healthful food.
We may not embark on our homelearning journey in a better state of
preparation than the teachers, but we have some advantages. We are not locked
into imparting dumbed-down information to legions of students who won’t
remember anyway because they are preoccupied with the bully in the next desk.
We don’t have to save face in front of the class by silencing the kid who
questions our pronouncements - or the text book’s.
We can come up with individualized ways of getting things to make
sense. We can take the pressure off our learners and give them time to figure
it out for themselves: there is no test next week. We can find memorable,
hands-on ways to explore things so that the learning has life, and so that it
connects to reality and has meaning.
We can send our learners off to research the facts wherever they think
they can find them, and we can be open to unexpected answers, or to the
realization that, in some cases, nobody knows the “right” answer yet. We can
research further if something sounds questionable, and we don’t have to drop
it when the bell rings or when the school year ends. Even the really good
classroom teachers are faced with that last difficulty.
So, next time somebody questions your “teaching” competence, it might
be worth embarking on a conversation about the nature of learning and the role
of the learning facilitator. We are not just allowing learning to be a
happier experience; we can point out our enhanced potential for nurturing
having their children registered at Wondertree, one family was able to open an
account at our credit union. There is no telling what advantages homelearning
The Vancouver International Children’s Festival will run May
17-24, with a big array of performing groups featured.
Badenya les Frères Coulibaly from Burkina Faso and H’Sao
from Chad might spark curiosity along several lines: Is Africa a country or a
continent? Do tigers live in Africa? How many languages and cultures can be
found there? Is it true that African babies rarely cry? If not, why not?
More locally, Sarah Ellis and Jean Little will bring you
Dear Canada, and Vancouver stilt dancers Mortal Coil have
a show about dinosaurs - among many other offerings in this year’s festival.
If you are fifteen years of age or older and would like to volunteer
(a great way to enjoy the fun for free!), call the Volunteer Coordinator at
604 708-5655 Ext 305.
For more info on the festival, see
There will be an earlier chance to see H’Sao and Mortal Coil:
They’ll be in Nanaimo at the Vancouver Island Children’s Festival,
which runs from May 12-15. This year’s workshops include magic, tap
dance, music, mosaics - you may even try on stilts!
This Festival has a tradition of welcoming homelearners as volunteers.
For info., see
www.childrensfestival.com or phone (250) 754-FEST (3378).
COHOUSING AND HOMELEARNING
Cohousing is a relatively recent idea, geared to the creation of
community. Shared tools and resources, a “common house” for shared meals and
activities, and increased pedestrian activity, are typical features of a
Existing communities in BC include WindSong in Langley, Cranberry
Commons in Burnaby, Quayside Village in North Vancouver, Middle Road in
Nelson, and Cardiff Place in Victoria. A number of others are in progress
around the province - in Kelowna, Nanaimo, Tofino, Bowen Island, Roberts
Creek, and the Upper Fraser Valley. For more information on all of them, see
phone (877) 980-2700. On the Lower Mainland, call the 24 hour information line
at (604) 878-3311.
Homelearners are often interested in cohousing and vice versa, so here
is a networking possibility for anyone who may like to follow up on it:
Zev Paiss and Neshama Abraham are cohousing consultants in the US who
are currently helping to start a cohousing community in Aurora, Illinois.
They write: We know that a cohousing community is a great place to
consider home schooling, and we would love to hear from those of you who are
out there doing it so we can pass along encouragement and information to
prospective cohousing members in Aurora.
In particular we'd love to know how you have organized things. Is the
home school a cohousing community function? Do other residents help with it?
Are there any elders or other non-parent mentors? Are there kids from outside
the cohousing community who join in? Any info you can share with us would be
Zev Paiss and Neshama Abraham <Zpaiss@Comcast.net>
(Perhaps they would also be willing to share their findings with
you, should you be looking into cohousing - and in return you can send info.
on homelearning in general.)
“MAKING THE POOR DANGEROUS?”
Earl Shorris looks quite safe to be around. He's a rather diminutive,
greybearded scholarly sort, and he spoke delightfully in a talk at our local
college. So, what does he mean by making the poor dangerous, and why would he
want to? Aren't the poor dangerous enough already, according to the
stereotypes about drugs, gangs, and violent crime - especially in the New York
area, where Mr. Shorris began his work?
Education is empowerment, and Mr. Shorris has subtitled his talk, "I
Found My Job through the Apology of Plato."
Er - okay . . .
It began with a contemplation of force vs. power. People living in
multigenerational poverty live in a surround of negativity: poor-bashing by
media and politicians; condescension by teachers who expect low academic
performance; punitive welfare laws or wages too low to live on; predation by
drug dealers; disproportionately high incarceration rates; slumlords who would
rather serve an eviction notice than repair the plumbing. It is hardly
surprising that the atmosphere can be one of constant stress and low self
esteem, where people turn on each other.
In his talk, Mr. Shorris explains the origin and nature of the
Clemente course. Basically, it's a rigorous examination of philosophy,
mathematical logic, literature, history, and art history. Marginalized people
are invited to take it for free (the instructors are paid), and the exams at
the end are tough. Socrates figures prominently, but the course has also been
adapted for indigenous communities wishing to revitalize their own cultures.
What happens? Participants learn that they have rights. They learn
critical thinking. They develop awareness as citizens. They begin to reflect
and negotiate, rather than react, when stressful things happen.
In Mexico, the course prompted one young woman to buy the first book
she had ever owned. What kind of book? It was the Constitution of Mexico.
There's the “danger”: course graduates are empowered to notice when
governments drift away from their stated ideals. They can mobilize to
challenge the negative surround.
In 1998, UBC began offering Humanities 101 along the lines of the
Clemente model. Now, the UBC Learning Exchange in the Downtown East Side
offers several free courses to low-income community members. The courses are
taught by volunteer faculty and graduate students from various departments and
faculties at UBC.
Many in the middle class are losing secure employment. If we slip
below the poverty line, do our voices stop counting, and do the negative,
poor-bashing stereotypes now apply to us as well? If so, perhaps we can
homelearn our own Clemente-type course.
For more on the Clemente course and on Earl Shorris, see his books, Riches
for the Poor: The Clemente Course in the Humanities [W.W. Norton 2000]
and New American Blues: A Journey Through Poverty to Democracy
[W.W. Norton 1997].
Honour Thyself and Thy Children
Self Taught is what we all are. It's just that most of us won't admit
it... For, then we would have to Accept the fact (an often sorry one...) that
we made Choices. That the Responsibility is ours. There is no one left to
'Take the Best. And Leave the Rest' is one of my own Favourite mottos
I espouse wherever I go. There are no compromises or sacrifices in my Life.
Ideals and Integrity are Integral. I am creating my World. And, what a
wondrous Creation it Forever Be!
People are always asking me, "You home school? That must be hard
work!" Not at all. Being a healthy and happy role model is simply the most
natural thing for me. All I had to do was 'let go' of 'those' and 'that' which
no longer (if ever...) mattered. Continually adding 'essential ingredients' to
my Luscious Life; my own recipe for unmitigated Personal Success!
"A Child learns by example" is something we've all heard. Thus, to be
the Best that we can Be is all we must Do. Done!
When we open ourselves to Love - we teach the vast and varied
multitudes around us to come from a Higher place of Compassion and
Understanding. Thereby, elevating the Consciousness of the masses.
You can read a thousand books and still Live a Lie. You can teach
algebraic equations and never know how to add up the truth. You can have the
prettiest set of encyclopaedias practically memorized, to one day realize
you've never seen a Llama eye to unblinking eye. You can pass all the 'stats'
as one more sun sets without you...
Our Children are the Leaders of a new and Braver Future. This means
our only 'work' is to be the Winners of the Now! To wean ourselves of
addictions, fixations, and unconscious compulsions. Enjoy and fully appreciate
the Moment, for this is the only Real and Valuable Gift we may leave. From
whence we came - Love - is All that Matters...
Katherine A. Marion
[Katherine is an HLN mom. See more of her writing, as well as photography
and info. on her other work at
QUOTE FROM GORDON NEUFELD
The prevailing assumption is that the greatest drawback to
homeschooling is the loss of social interaction with peers. . . . Because of
escalating peer orientation, it is now the school that has become risky
business. . . . Contrary to prevailing concerns, home-schooled children are
showing evidence of being more mature psychologically, more socially adept and
more academically prepared for university.
There is an excellent article on homelearning at
Click on “Trek” Magazine near the bottom of the page, then follow the links to
Winter 2003 and “Learning at Home.” (This is more reliable than going
directly to the full URL.)
Thanks to Pam for the heads up.
Another interesting article appeared in the Globe and Mail
on Friday, March 12, 2004 - Page A3. It’s called “When home is the
school, there's time for extras: Study by advocacy group says activities
in community keep children connected, countering the myth of isolation” By Caroline
Alphonso, Education Reporter
The Young Naturalists’ Club of British Columbia has activities in 19
locations around BC. There is a special homelearners’ program in the Lower
Mainland. A Family Membership is $15. See
Marty Layne brings you Brighten the Day - songs to celebrate the
- "A happy, joyful recording" Helen Hegener, Home Education Magazine
http://members.shaw.ca/seachangepublications or phone
On Video or DVD...
The Basic Cozy Grammar Course®
“Grammar does not make you creative; it is a technique that
enhances your creativity. If you can't speak well and write well your windows
of opportunity are closed."
- Marie Rackham
This is a course for ages 9 - adult. It was designed in BC (Campbell
River) for homelearners and others seeking an alternative to dull, boring
textbooks. The web site gives you a chance to view a clip. You can also test
your expertise to see if the course is too basic for you. There are
also courses in spelling, punctuation, and essay writing.
See www.splashesfromtheriver.com or phone 1-800-201-2280
The public libraries have many videos that can be borrowed for free,
and they are beginning to have DVDs as well. Here are two from the Vancouver
Island Regional Library system that were recommended by an HLN mom:
Keepers of the Fire: Short Canadian video focusing on
aboriginal women's power in social movements, including Oka and protests
against logging Lyell Island.
Bullies: A Canadian film for K-5 elementary school age
children. It proposes that bullying is a "learned violent lifestyle that can
be habit-forming" - into adulthood. The film emphasizes strongly that bullies
thrive when "observers" do nothing
Copyright 2003 by