Thursday, April 26, 2007

Oversight lacking in Kansas for virtual schools

Legislative audit finds reports missing and required on-site visits aren’t made by state.

The Kansas City Star
April 25, 2007

I have no direct experience with any of the virtual schools in Kansas, but this article highlights, for me, the need to maintain separate identities for virtual school attendees and home schoolers. I find it unfortunate that many virtual schools seem to market themselves as "homeschool alternatives" rather than the public school alternatives that they truly are.

I am entirely supportive of more options and choice within the public school system, but I also want it to remain clear that those of us who are homeschooling are accepting/taking full responsibility for our children's education while those enrolled in virtual school programs are accountable to the public school system. I am making no judgements here, just clarifying that virtual schools and homeschools are not one and the same.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Unschooling Revisited

From The Story ~ America Public Media
A second interview with Valerie Fitzenreiter.

In February, Dick talked with Valerie Fitzenreiter about educating her daughter, Laurie Chancey, at home. Valerie allowed Laurie to study whatever and whenever she wanted. Laurie is now pursuing a PhD in sociology.

That program generated a lot of response from listeners, one of whom was Kate Walsh.

Kate is a retired teacher, who was less than enthusiastic about the idea of unschooling: "How charming, for people who don't need, or dismiss the aspect of, general education."

I find this interview interesting because Kate's arguments really mirror my initial concerns when my husband started talking about wanting to homeschool before our first child was even born.

I'm sure I will write more on this, but I wanted to share the link with everyone.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Mothers! We need your Show & Tell Items for May!!!!

Coming in May... In honor of Mother's Day, will host a special Show & Tell installment featuring contributions by our homeschooling moms! Send us photos of your own craft projects, tell us how your garden grows, share a memory, draw us a doodle, tell us about your job, show us how you spend your free time... Anything goes. Let's make this the biggest Show & Tell yet!

Rethinking Education Conference NEWS

Just passing along news about the Rethinking Education Conference to be held near Dallas this year.

Rethinking Education Conference NEWS
Labor Day Weekend, Aug. 30 - Sept. 3
In today's UPDATE: Monday, April 21
:: 2007 Highlights: Brenda Morgan
:: Other 2007 Conference Speakers
:: Register Today for BIG SAVINGS!
:: Consensual Living for Unschool Families
:: What To Do NOW
:: MORE 2007 Highlights: JANEEN NICHOLAS

The 11th national conference on Rethinking Education is Labor Day Weekend: Thursday, August 30 - Monday, September 3, 2007 at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Irving, Texas , just minutes from Dallas and the DFW Airport. A complimentary shuttle runs to and from the hotel - airport 24 hours a day.

Our website contains up to date information on our program, registration, and all details! Out-of-the-box, fun and provoking sessions for adults, teens, tweens and kids of all ages, all weekend... 5 days!

REGISTER by April 28 and receive a $50 discount per person! EARLY REGISTRATION ENDS IN ONE WEEK


VOLUNTEER to further reduce your cost. Check out the volunteer jobs available on our conference website.

We still have SO MUCH to tell you in our updates. Complete information and is available on our website, and we will be adding to the program throughout the summer.

2007 Highlights: Brenda Morgan

"The good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -Lao Tzu

Brenda hosts:
Re-Inventing the American Dream: Learning to Live with Less
Brenda will inspire/assist those willing in de-cluttering their lives of excessive material possessions, reconnecting with the dream we wish we were living, reforming our attitudes towards wilderness and wildlife, aligning our spiritual beliefs with the manner in which we walk in the world, and focusing on personal action that will lead to a healthier planet and unencumbered, debt free lives.


Join hundreds of unschooling families from around the globe as we rethink the meanings of education, learning and parenting. Rethinking Education supports attachment parenting, unconditional love, support for each person's unique journey of life experience, freedom with responsibility, unschooling and you. YOU are the vital ingredient at this conference, as we come together and revel in the magic and mystery of kindred spirits and each other's rich diversity, as we challenge ourselves to trust the extraordinary process of living and learning, the wondrous ability to improve the ways we communicate, discovering new ways of listening to one another, giving full support to our dreams, no matter how wild or ordinary, large or small.

Unschooling is vital to the profoundly intelligent development of our children. And yes, as adults we can even unschool ourselves... as you will discover.

Sign up for Email Updates

Let us put our minds together and see what we will make for our children. ~Chief Sitting Bull

Other 2007 Conference Speakers
These are just some of the OUTSTANDING speakers we've lined up for the Rethinking Education Conference 2007:

John Taylor Gatto
Michael Mendizza
Ren Allen
Peter Kowalke

And oh so many more!

Register Today for BIG SAVINGS!
REGISTER by April 28 and receive a $50 discount per person! HURRY! EARLY REGISTRATION ENDS IN ONE WEEK!

Consensual Living for Unschool Families

For those of you wishing to effect revolutionary, egalitarian change within your families, you will want to sign up for the special seminar series conducted during the conference weekend by Tracy Liebman. Tracy is an unschool mom and consensual living therapist. For an additional fee of $100 per family, you will be guided, nurtured and privately counseled to implement consensual methods to your family's communication and decision-making. Rest assured, Tracy's style is very loving and supportive, open and heartfelt... and you will still have plenty of time to attend a huge number of the weekend's other sessions! See the conference website for full details on the Consensual Living program. Sign up on your Registration Form. Open to 8 families only, and there are only a few spots that remain.

What To Do NOW
Register... You must attend!

The Early Bird Registration discount ends on April 28 - that's just 1 week away!

There are many ways to register!

CALL Barb at 817.540.6423


DOWNLOAD a Registration Form & MAIL or FAX it.

Fax to: 817.545.3599

MAIL to: 3013 Hickory Hill, Colleyville, Texas... 76034

Janeen Nicholas is a former career woman with two M.A. degrees in her past life, and is now a happy unschooling mom to one lively kindergartener, and life-long learner herself. After one career in education (teaching and being the special education director for a public school system), and another career in software design, and a third in six sigma consulting, I have come full-circle, educating my own child at home. She lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area with her husband, daughter, dog, and fish. Active in my local homeschooling community, and currently the coordinator of Spirit Play programming in my UU (Unitarian Universalist) church, she regularly leads Spirit Play classes for young children. Janeen bakes all her own bread with wheat that she grinds herself, loves plays and roller coasters, and enjoys being able to travel to wonderful places as a family while the rest of the world is in school.

Janeen will host:
Child-Centered Spirituality: When Kids Ask the Big Questions
Explore how to become the facilitator in the process your child goes through in thinking about their own unique spiritual path, as differentiated from the traditional model of telling children what they should believe. Janeen will focus on introducing children to many different spiritual ideologies geared just for their young ages, and then prompt them to wonder about those ideas and continue a thoughtful inquiry. This session is particularly suited to parents and their children aged 3-8, but all ages are welcome. Janeen's guidance is directed toward parents, and one or more stories will be told to the children as examples. Stories will be drawn from the Unitarian Universalist Spirit Play Stories from the following list: The Wise People and the Elephant (Traditional Buddhist Parable) Hide and Seek with God by Mary Ann Moore (Many Paths/UU) Small Fry by Ruthilde Kronberg & Patricia C. McKissack Secular Humanist) Day of the Dead by Tony Johnston (Mexican traditional celebration) The Empty Pot by Demi (Chinese folk tale) The Mountains of Tibet by Mordicai Gerstein (Hindu)Child-Centered Spiritual Journeys Throughout the weekend in short, 15 minute periods, Janeen will invite children to listen to thought-provoking stories of a spiritual nature and to explore them in their own ways. Stories are presented in the style shown in the Child Centered Spirituality session, in which children are encouraged to explore their own spiritual uniqueness, as differentiated from the more traditional model of telling children what to believe. The stories will be drawn from a variety of faiths, including Theist, Buddhist, Hindu, and Humanist, each with many possible interpretations. Each short session will include the presentation of one story, followed by encouragement of the children to process the ideas presented and to draw their own conclusions. Geared for ages 3-8, but all ages are welcome.

Our conference is provoking, outrageous, inspiring and mind-blowing. .. for the whole family. Grandparents attend free! Speakers include:
John Taylor Gatto, Ren Allen, Peter Kowalke, Tracy Liebmann, Michael Mendizza, Cindy Gaddis, Eli Gerzon, Debbie Shapiro ... so many more!

Our wildly popular kid and teen activities include:
Kid Village, Teen & Tween Village, non-stop, out-of-the-box art, unprom, yoga, dance, gobs of extraordinary sessions....

Wait! There's more....
Talent Show, Recycled Resource Fair, Family Vendor Fair, Silent Auction, Grateful Space, Monster Pickup Sticks... we're even building a Yurt!

Call or email Barb Lundgren with questions or to register! Rethinking Education
email: barb@rethinkingeduc
phone: 817.540.6423
web: http://www.rethinki ngeducation. com

Register by April 28 for HUGE SAVINGS!!! REGISTER by April 28 and receive a $50 discount per person . . .that's just $75 for 5 incredible, action-packed, life changing days... and Grandparents are free!

Check it out now...

Monday, April 09, 2007

What you Need to Know about Homeschooling in Kansas

by Shelley Ryan

Complying with Kansas laws is simple

Kansas law requires that all “non-accredited private schools,” i.e., homeschools, register once with the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE). You do not have to give the names of your children. Registration can be done online and takes less than five minutes: (Kansas State Department of Education) You will not receive a response from the KSDE as its only role is to keep a record of homeschool registrations. The KSDE does not “approve” homeschools.

Kansas law requires you to “hold classes for a period of time which is substantially equivalent to the time public schools are in session.” This means you must provide 1,116 hours per year of instructional time. You do not need to follow the public school calendar. You can take vacations when you want; you can “hold class” in the evenings, on the weekends, or during the summer. You are not required to keep a record of your instructional hours. You decide what counts as “instructional time.”

Kansas law requires that all classes be taught by a “competent instructor.” It does not specify what constitutes competency. You do not need a teaching degree. You do not need a college degree. If you have a desire to help your child learn and a willingness to learn right along with them, you are probably “competent.”

You do not need anyone's permission to start homeschooling

You do not need the permission of your child's teacher, the school principal, the superintendent, or the State Department of Education. If you've decided to homeschool your child, no one can stand in your way.

You can start homeschooling today!

If you have decided you want to homeschool your child, you need not wait until the end of the semester or the school year to withdraw your child from school. Register your homeschool with the state, then write a short letter to your child's principal stating that you are withdrawing your child from school and enrolling them in your homeschool. That's it! You can begin!

You don't have to use traditional materials or methods to homeschool your kids.

Some homeschoolers do re-create school around their kitchen tables, with textbooks, worksheets, tests, and grades. Others find that this approach doesn't work for them. Children learn in a variety of ways and from a variety of materials. Your children might learn just as much -- if not more -- from museum trips, hikes, videos, online courses, family reading time, library trips, or travel. You are free to use any of these resources, and more.

Homeschooling doesn't have to be expensive

You don't need to purchase expensive prepared curricula in order to homeschool. Many families homeschool with little more than a library card! Free online resources are abundant and garage sales are a good source of used books. For those who do want to use a prepared curriculum, used copies are readily available from a variety of sources. But take your time evaluating materials so you spend your money wisely. While you evaluate your options, rely on the public library and on non-traditional methods and materials for your children's learning.

Don't worry about socialization

Homeschool groups are active in most parts of the state. If you join one, your child will have ample opportunities to socialize with other homeschoolers. Scouts, 4-H, Campfire, Parks and Rec activities, town sports leagues and neighborhood children will provide other opportunities for socializing. Some homeschooling parents say their children are so busy with social activities that there is little time left for school! Nearly all homeschooling parents are glad they are nearby to help their children develop appropriate social skills rather than leaving them to fend for themselves on the school playground.

You can homeschool all the way through high school

Many resources are available to help you homeschool your high schooler. Some parents purchase high school textbooks and work through them with their high schooler. Others use online courses or enroll their children in a nearby community college. Still others use real life experiences -- paid or volunteer work, travel, community service projects, e.g., -- as a way to help their children learn those things they can't learn from books. Most children who have been homeschooled will be skilled independent learners by the time they reach their teens; your high schooler may need little direct instruction from you. When you're done, you issue a diploma.

Your child can get into college

All Kansas regents institutions welcome homeschoolers. Those schools automatically admit Kansas homeschoolers who have passed the GED or who have earned a "C" average in 24 hours of community college coursework. Admissions committees at the regents schools also admit a limited number of additional students after an individualized review of their credentials. Admission to community colleges is open to any student who has passed the GED or who the admissions committee has determined will be able to benefit from the courses in which the person wishes to enroll. Most private and out-of-state public schools -- including the most elite schools in the country -- have procedures in place for evaluating the applications of homeschoolers. Admissions committees nationwide know that homeschooled kids are curious, self-motivated, and focused on their goals. Being a homeschooled kid likely will be an asset, not a liability, in college admissions.

Legal disclaimer: The content herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should seek the services of a licensed attorney.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Unschooling Voices

Unschooling Voices #8

There were two (always optional) questions for this edition.

(#1) Use the letters U-N-S-C-H-O-O-L to write about unschooling. Use what ever method you want, for example you can use each letter like "U is for...N is for.."or you can have each letter start a new sentence or paragraph or try writing an acronym.

(#2) A topic that comes up on the unschooling e-mail groups a lot is TV/computer/video games and how hard it is for parents to let go of control in those areas. What has been your experience?

Unschooling Voices is a collection of blog entries, usually centered on a certain theme each month. I usually find a lot of great reading there and thought I'd share the link.

The question for next month's edition is "How has unschooling changed YOU? Yes, it’s about the kids, but is it ONLY about the kids? I sometimes think unschooling has changed me more than them. What are your thoughts?"

Friday, April 06, 2007

YEA ~ Young Explorers' Academy

Interview with Stephanie Stagner

I’ve been reading Stephanie’s blog for ages and have long been intrigued by the Young Explorer’s Academy, a co-op she started that has been growing by leaps and bounds. I asked Stephanie to share with us about starting YEA and perhaps provide some lessons and inspiration for others who are considering similar projects.

Tracy/ Tell us why you started YEA. What was your goal?

Stephanie: Last Summer, I was sitting at the computer browsing homeschooling websites. More and more, I found myself reading about co-ops and enrichment classes. I’m in a local homeschooling group, but they only offer park play days. That just didn’t feel like enough for my kids. They had been asking me for some time if they could take classes so I started looking into local co-ops. I was very disappointed in what I found. All of them were affiliated with churches and most required a signed "statement of faith" to participate. The lists of rules and regulations were endless and the classes were expensive. This wasn’t what I was envisioning. I wanted something open and free – more in sync with an unschooling lifestyle.

I began to think, "Why can’t I do this?" I could have a few families come to my house each week and we could play games and do "learning center" type activities. That night I posted to my local homeschool group and proposed the idea. I volunteered to set up and organize any endeavor (famous last words). When I woke up the next morning and checked my inbox, I was very surprised to have over 50 emails in support of my little idea.

I quickly realized that this was a bigger project than I could handle myself. There was no way I could host that many people at my house. I shared the problem with the group, and one of them offered the use of his church free of charge. It wasn’t a huge building, but it was fine for what we needed.

After several days of emailing and discussion, I set a date for a facilitator meeting and then crossed my fingers that I would have a good turn-out. Ten mothers showed up that first day. (They are still with us and I consider them crucial in the development and growth of YEA.) I opened up the meeting by telling everyone MY vision for the co-op. I clearly knew what I wanted; I just needed help putting it all together.

T: What did you want? How did you envision your co-op working?

S: The number one thing is that I didn’t want it to be like school. I wanted to offer educational and fun classes for the kids, but no child would be forced to sit in a class if they became bored or needed mom. I also really wanted to keep it affordable. All the classes were to be free, or nearly so. All the mothers needed to be involved as class facilitators or by helping out with the little ones. If you fulfilled that requirement, your kids could take as many classes as they wanted to. Crazy idea, right?

Apparently not. Everyone was very positive. We bounced around ideas, got a schedule put together, and discussed money issues. We decided to meet once a week, from 10:30-1:00 with a 30 minute lunch break.

T: Tell us how that time is structured.

S: We have either four 30-minute or two 60-minute class sessions. (We still use this schedule, but are probably going to change it a bit next year to better meet our needs.) We also scheduled a couple of parties. I posted to my local group again asking for facilitator volunteers. We ended up with 16 committed families (and gained a few more before the session was up).

Scheduling everyone’s classes was a nightmare the first year. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, and I didn’t ask for help. This year, one of our moms offered to develop a website for us. We use that for scheduling now. It’s much easier.

T: So once you got started, did it all work out exactly as you had hoped?

S: The first few weeks of YEA were spent working out the bugs. Things come up that you never plan for. We quickly realized that we needed to delegate cleaning responsibilities. We also needed a few rules, like no running inside and no going outside without an adult. One of the moms made STOP signs that we hang on doors that kids aren’t supposed to open. By the end, though, all was working well.

We took a month off at Christmas to reevaluate and take a much needed break. One thing we realized was that we were quickly outgrowing our location and we needed to address that detail right away. Luckily, another member offered up her church. It is much larger and better set up to accommodate us. They didn’t ask for any money, but we decided to charge every family a $5 fee which we donated to the church.

Over the break, I went back to local group and solicited members again. The response was huge. I had to turn people away. We really want to keep our membership at around 30 families. That helps foster a sense of community and family. Plus, it’s all our facility can comfortably hold. We had such a huge response that we have now branched off from our original local group. We had to start our own Yahoo group along with the web page. We got a lot of fresh new class ideas and we have a field trip or party every month. I felt pretty confident starting up again after the break, but it’s inevitable that when you are working this closely with a large group of people, problems will arise.

T: Such as?

S: A few of our current members are unhappy with the lack of "serious" classes. Academics were never intended to be our main focus, but next year we are going to restructure our schedule to allow for more ongoing classes, themes, and we are adding preschool centers.

Another thing we have learned is that complete democracy, unfortunately, doesn’t work. Many issues turn into arguments fairly quickly. Because I got tired of always being the bad guy, we decided to form a committee. I’m on it as well as five others who share similar visions for the co-op. Everyone is welcome to state their ideas and opinions, but the committee has the final say. This is very necessary when you have such a diverse group of people. We aren’t just an unschooling co-op, everyone is welcome. And this means that we try to accommodate families with a wide range of values.

T: How about expense? Have you been able to maintain free classes in exchange for participation?

S: We are having some money issues. Mainly because the nature of many classes means supplies are sometimes needed. We were never clear when we started who was going to be responsible for buying specific supplies. This is going to be solved by charging everyone a small supply fee next year.

T: Give us an example of some classes YEA has offered.

S: There are so many, I don't know where to start! At the beginning of the session we have a brainstorm session where all of the moms offer class ideas. Then we poll the kids to see what they would like to take. We have some sort of a cooking class every week, many arts and crafts classes, and music and movement for the younger kids. We have also offered Spanish and are hoping to offer French next year. This session we have had a science experiment class each week, and some beginning DNA classes. As you can see it's very eclectic.

T: What has been most popular with the kids? Is there anything they ask for again?

S: The cooking classes are by far the most popular. The smaller kids also like playdough studio and any painting classes.

T: Tell us what happens when a child really has no interest in being involved in the classes. I’m thinking, in particular, of situations with siblings where one child might really enjoy the activities being offered, but a second child is less of a joiner. Have you had this experience and how do you accommodate the whole family?

S: A child is never required to participate. We have a "breakroom" area filled with art supplies, toys, and games. It's supervised at all times by at least two moms. That's where the kids go if they don't want to participate or if they decide halfway through a class that it isn't what they want to do. It's also where a child goes if his mom is facilitating a class and he has nothing scheduled. Many of the smaller kids spend their whole day in there.

T: Will you break for the summer?

S: This summer, instead of regular classes, we’re going to have “The Summer of Field Trip Fun.” Basically, each family that wants to participate is going to be responsible for planning a field trip for the group. I think we’re going to have a group camp out as well.

T: Looking back now at all the time and energy you have spent in getting YEA started, has it been worth it? Is it filling the need?

S: It is so worth it! This is the best thing I have done for my kids since I started homeschooling. They look forward to going to class each week so they can see their friends.

I would have to say that YEA is still evolving. We’ve got a ways to go before we get it just right, if we ever do. I (as well as several members) have big plans for the future of our little co-op. We’d really like to buy our own building, but that’s way in the future. For now we are happy to be giving our kids this opportunity to learn and play together.

T: I know there are many mothers in situations like ours who have considered starting something like this on their own. Any words of wisdom or encouragement?

S: Just do it!! It's a lot of work, but it is so fulfilling. On that note, don't try and do everything yourself. Find several other moms who share the same vision as you and work as a team. And on co-op day, put dinner in the crockpot because you will be too tired to cook when you get home..ha ha..

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Help Pick the Eight Wonders of Kansas!

Eight Wonders? Yes! Maybe everyone else is choosing the Seven Wonders of their region but we're doing eight in Kansas! Help us decide the top Eight Wonders of Kansas! Will the Cathedral of the Plains in Victoria, the Davis Memorial in Hiawatha, the Garden of Eden in Lucas, the Chalk Pyramids in Gove County, or the murals in the state capitol be on your list? See below for criteria and then e-mail your input to!

Visit the Kansas Sampler Foundation for more information.

A 1980 Interview with John Holt

From Mother Earth News

Why did a man who was at one time a conservative, traditional schoolteacher come to advocate keeping one's children out of school?

The World Needs More Rebels Like Einstein

How nonconformity, not rote learning, unlocked his genius. by Walter Isaacson

Albert Einstein, as every kid knows, was a smart guy. But as we discover when we get older, smart gets you only so far. It's worth remembering, especially now, that what made Einstein special was his impertinence, his nonconformity, and his distaste for dogma.

I really enjoyed this article and thought others might enjoy it, as well.

Kansas Authors Club Sponsors Youth Writing Contest

For all Kansas Students, Grades 1-12

Write poems and stories on any subject. No entry fee. Submission dates for 2007 are April 2, 2007 through June 15, 2007.

There is a contest for adults, as well. Contest opens April 1, 2007 & closes June 18, 2007, postmarked.

Rethinking Education Conference

11th International Conference on Rethinking Education

Thursday, August 30 - Monday, September 3, 2007

Irving, Texas

Join hundreds of unschooling families from around the globe as we rethink the meanings of education, learning and parenting. Rethinking Education supports attachment parenting, unconditional love, support for each person's unique journey of life experience, freedom with responsibility, unschooling and you. YOU are the vital ingredient at this conference, as we come together and revel in the magic and mystery of kindred spirits and each other's rich diversity, as we challenge ourselves to trust the extraordinary process of living and learning, the wondrous ability to improve the ways we communicate, discovering new ways of listening to one another, giving full support to our dreams, no matter how wild or ordinary, large or small.