Zach Braff: Wish I Was Here


Greg Forster is funding a Hollywood movie, Zach Braff’s partially Kickstart-funded Wish I Was Here. The Scrubs star plays a struggling actor, father and husband, who at 35 who still fantasizes about “being the great futuristic Space-Knight he’d always dreamed he’d be as a little kid.”

When his ailing father can no longer afford to pay for private school for his two kids (ages 5 and 12) and the only available public school is on its last legs, Aidan reluctantly agrees to attempt to home-school them.

. . . Aidan decides to scrap the traditional academic curriculum and come up with his own.

The movie will be released on July 18.

Homeschooling family won’t be deported

A family who fled Germany to homeschool their children won’t be deported, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear their asylum appeal, reports Reason‘s Hit & Run blog. learnin about america

A Homeland Security official told the Romeikes’ attorneys they’d been granted “indefinite deferred status,” according to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.

Germany bans homeschooling under a Nazi-era law. Parents are threatened with huge fines and loss of custody of their children. The Romeikes, who are devout Christians, fled to the U.S. and received asylum in 2010. Then the Department of Justice got the asylum ruling reversed, arguing that the German ban doesn’t constitute religious persecution.

By first opposing asylum and then granting “indefinite deferral,” the Obama administration has enforced  “the idea that, in immigration as in other policy domains, the rule of men trumps the rule of law,” writes Ed Krayewski.

Hackschooling makes me happy

Logan LaPlante, 13, delivered a TedX talk on homeschooling — “hackschooling” — at the University of Nevada.

Ron Paul: Abandon public schools

Ron Paul doesn’t call for reforming schools in his new book, The School Revolution. He wants parents to abandon state-run schools and teach their children at home — with the help of low-cost online courses. (His own courses cost $50.)

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“Teach” means “have your child read a lot of books and watch YouTube videos on his or her own,” writes Kevin Carey, who directs the education policy program at the New America Foundation, in the New Republic.

A fan of self-reliance, Paul believes students should learn on their own, starting in fourth to sixth grade, writes Carey. “If they need help, it’s best to ask other students. No teachers are required.”

“The parent who demands that his child be given special attention by a high school teacher is making a big mistake,” writes Paul.

Paul’s plan creates an “isolated learning experience focused exclusively on reading, writing, and debate, with no exposure to heterodox views,” writes Carey. “His program will shield students from the evils of liberalism and, worse, Keynesianism, and train them to argue their cause with facility and zeal.”

Fix schools by not fixing schools

Fix Schools by Not Fixing Schools advises Jay P. Greene. Instead of trying to reform traditional public schools, go around them.

We can expand access to other educational options, including charter schools, voucher schools, tax-credit schools. ESAs, digital schooling, home-schooling, and hybrid schools.  We can also expand access to enriching non-school activities, like museums, theaters, historical sites, summer camps, and after-school programs.  Reformers should concentrate their energy on all of these non-traditional-school efforts and stop trying so hard to fix traditional public schools.

Traditional public schools don’t want to be fixed, writes Greene.

The people who make their living off of those schools have reasons for wanting schools to be as they are and have enormous political resources to fend off efforts to fundamentally change things.  Trying to impose reforms like merit pay, centralized systems of teacher evaluation, new standards, new curriculum, new pedagogy, etc… on unwilling schools is largely a futile exercise.  They have the political resources to block, dilute, or co-opt these efforts in most instances.

“Second, attempting to impose reforms on traditional public schools requires a significant increase in centralized political control,” Greene writes.  When traditionalists subvert “most reforms through poor implementation,” the centralization remains.

 Centralized reforms that can be adopted and implemented have to be watered-down enough to gain broad support for passage and implementation, rendering them mostly impotent.

. . . even if by some miracle an effective and appropriate centralized reform with bite is adopted and properly implemented, there is no natural political constituency to preserve the integrity of that reform over time.

Traditional public schools don’t resist the creation of alternatives “with the same ferocity that they oppose reforms that directly effect their daily working life,” Greene writes. Creating alternatives doesn’t require centralization or pleasing everyone. Successful alternatives build their own constituency.

 

School is bad for kids

School is a prison that’s damaging our kids, argues Peter Gray on Salon. A psychology professor at Boston College, Gray is the author of Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self Reliant, and Better Prepared for Life.

“Children learn most deeply and fully, and with greatest enthusiasm, in conditions that are almost opposite to those of school,” Gray writes.

The top-down, teach-and-test method, in which learning is motivated by a system of rewards and punishments rather than by curiosity or by any real, felt desire to know, is well designed for indoctrination and obedience training but not much else.

Most students “lose their zest for learning” — especially in math and science — by middle or high school, he writes.

. . . people of all ages learn best when they are self-motivated, pursuing questions that are their own real questions, and goals that are their own real-life goals. In such conditions, learning is usually joyful.

Children’s “amazing drive and capacity to learn” is turned off by coercive schooling, Gray argues. Our schools teach children “that learning is work, to be avoided when possible.”

When children direct their own learning, their “natural curiosity and zest for learning persist all the way through childhood and adolescence, and into adulthood,” he writes.

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More homeschooling families are encouraging self-directed learning, he writes. Others are turning to “democratic” schools where children educate themselves, while having opportunities to socialize. For example, the Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Mass. lets students, who range in age from 4 to about 18, do what they wish all day, as long as they don’t break school rules designed to keep peace and order.

Sippican Cottage agrees: Public schools are “reeducation camps for people that weren’t educated in the first place, maybe, or little prisons, or pleasure domes for creepy teachers, or places where tubby women work out their neuroses about eating on helpless children at lunchtime — but there’s not much schooling going on in school.”

When a California principal told students to drop to one knee before being dismissed, parents protested and the policy was abandoned. What some called “taking a knee,” others saw as kneeling before the principal.

Elite colleges ask more of homeschoolers

Are Elite Colleges and Universities Discriminating Against Homeschoolers? asks Paula Bolyard, a recently “retired” homeschooler, on PJ Lifestyle.
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Homeschooled student “enter college with significantly higher test scores than their public (and even private) school peers,” she writes. “They graduate from college at a higher rate­—66.7 percent compared to 57.5 percent—and earn higher grade point averages while in school, according to one study.”

Princeton seems to get it, she writes. Applicants who can’t supply a traditional transcript can submit an outline of the homeschool curriculum.

Yale wants to make sure homeschooled kids are not socially awkward:

We look for evidence of social maturity from all our applicants and especially from home-schooled students. Your personal statement, interests and activities, and letters of recommendation should speak to your ability to integrate well with other students and tell us about your non-academic interests.

But elsewhere Yale says “academic strength” is the “first consideration” with “motivation, curiosity, energy, leadership ability, and distinctive talents” in second place.

“We’re going to want to know what the reason for homeschooling is,” a Dartmouth admissions official told Lindsay Cross at the Mommyish blog.

“Was the student busy with another demanding pursuit, like playing music? Were they traveling with their family? Was there a lack of resources in their area? Somewhere in the application, they’re going to need to explain.”

Private school students aren’t asked to explain why they didn’t attend public school, Bolyard points out.

Some elite colleges ask homeschooled students to submit additional SAT II test scores. That strikes me as reasonable. A straight-A student who’s been graded by Mom will need objective evidence of achievement.

But what about a teacher’s recommendation when Mom is the teacher?

In addition to a “not-so-subtle interrogation about the family’s choice to opt out of public education,” Brown also asks for “letters of recommendation from instructors who have taught you in a traditional classroom setting and who can speak to your abilities and potential in an objective way.”

Brown “would prefer not to receive letters of recommendation from your parents, immediate relatives, or from academic tutors in the paid employ of your family,” unless the applicant has no classroom instructors to ask.

Common Core standards? What’s that?

Sixty-two percent of Americans haven’t heard of the new Common Core standards adopted in 45 states and the District of Columbia, according to the new Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll. Of those who recognized the term, “most had major misconceptions about the standards and believed that they will have no effect or will make American students less competitive with their peers across the world,” reports the Washington Post.

As in previous polls, most gave the nation’s public schools a C grade,while rating their local school as an A or B.

Nearly 70 percent of Americans favor charter schools, up from less than 40 percent 11 years ago. However, support for vouchers hit an all-time low.

People were sharply split on closing underenrolled neighborhood schools to save money, a strategy that has made headlines recently in cities including Washington, Chicago and Philadelphia. Half of all respondents opposed such a policy; opposition was higher among those who were not white.

As lawmakers struggle to reach a compromise on comprehensive immigration reform, more than half of the poll’s respondents — 55 percent — said they opposed providing free public education to children of people who are in the country illegally.

The majority of those polled believe that testing hasn’t improved public school performance; nearly 60 percent opposed using test scores to evaluate teachers.

That contradicts a new poll for the Joyce Foundation by Associated Press and NORC, which found that 60 percent of parents support using standardized test scores to evaluate teachers. The AP-NORC poll also found that most parents think standardized tests are an effective measure of their children’s performance and school quality, reports the Post.

Support for homeschooling is strong: Most say homeschooled students should be allowed to attend public school part-time and participate in athletics.

Cheating is a valuable workplace skill

Homeschool your kids so they learn to cheat, writes Penelope Trunk on her homeschooling blog. What schools call cheating — getting the right answer from others — is “effective workplace behavior” and a valuable skill, she argues.

Some 85 percent of students admit to cheating, Trunk writes.

. . . Stuyvesant, a New York City magnet school that’s harder to get into than Harvard, had an incredibly organized cheating system that rivals best practices for productivity types in Fortune 500 organizations.

. . . What made Stuyvesant’s cheating system so effective was that everybody had a certain topic that they would be expert on, and everyone else knew how to get the answers from that person.

That’s a great workplace skill, and you do kids a disservice by training them to think that it’s improper behavior.

Compared to their elders, Generation Y is “incredibly productive because they’re great collaborators.”

In the age of information, sharing information rules the day, and there’s no longer a place for a Lone Ranger at the office who works independently of everyone else. Today’s business world is too complicated and too networked for people to work so independently as to not be getting information from other people.

Teachers have been pushing collaborative work on projects and peer tutoring for many years now. Collaborative work on tests is another matter.

Does Trunk have a point?

Homeschoolers send 6 kids to college by 12

Homeschooling has worked well for Mona Lisa and Kip Harding. Six of their 10 children in the Alabama family started college by the age of 12;  the youngest four, all under 10, also plan to start college early.

“We’re just average folks,” says the mother, who trained as a nurse. Husband Kip, a helicopter pilot, didn’t complete college till he was 25 and serving in the military.

“We find out what their passions are, what they really like to study, and we accelerate them gradually,” she says.

Seth, 12, is studying medieval history at Faulkner University. Brother Keith, 14, is completing a music degree. Heath started at age 11. Now 17, he’s finishing his master’s in computer science. Sister Serennah, 22, will complete medical school in a few weeks and serve as a Navy doctor. Hannah is a spacecraft designer with master’s degrees in math and mechanical engineering. Rosannah became an architect at 18.

The family has an e-book on how to accelerate learning on their College by 12 site.