where trouble was needed

August 30, 2009

Pick Books You Like

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 8:16 pm

A New Assignment: Pick Books You Like

After reading comments and the author’s replies to the readers, I posted this to the author, Motoko Rich,
Perhaps the opening para containing the line "Instead she turned over all the decisions about which books to read to the students …" was meant as an argument-starter but I am a little sad to see you step back from that bold approach so readily in response to readers’ objections. I agree that most teachers would opt for the best of both worlds and have some assigned readings and leave some space for the students to choose. Were I a school teacher I might do that myself. But not because it is necessarily a better approach to meet the goals of both learning to read more challenging work as well as enjoying reading. It may be neither, but it may be more practical for me to use within the constraints of the school system. What I remember from elementary school (Klondike, an open-concept school in W. Lafayette, Indiana) is that we had a regular period called USSR (yep!) – Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading. TO the best of my recollection we were allowed to select our own books for this and I dont think we had to report on them either. It was truly free reading. We also had assigned reading. I also spent hours at home reading for pleasure.

What I remember as I climbed the ladder through middle and on to high school was that not only did I have less time to read for pleasure but it started happening that I wouldn’t always finish the assigned reading either. This was shocking at first, yet soon became habitual. In college I frequently got lost in the stacks of the library irresistibly drawn towards books in myriad subjects while leaving my own required reading unread. I can’t count the number of course materials that I finally understood only after the semester ended.

What might happen if we could change the culture of assignments and grades, and allow freedom in learning in a more comprehensive way, even extending it to math and science as some have asked incredulously? Whether it is practical to do it right here and right now, we can learn much from thinking about this. There is a growing movement towards making this kind of freedom in learning possible, or at least overcoming a basic level of distrust in children’s ability to learn and willingness, indeed craving to challenge themselves, that makes people like Diane Ravitch (former assistant education secretary) ask, "“What child is going to pick up ‘Moby-Dick’?”


August 18, 2009

Whirled Peas for all

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 3:02 pm

Hmmm … the Onion reports that


Following the logic set forth in this memo: http://www.whirledbank.org/ourwords/summers.html

Esp the part about how things "should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages."
Followed by: " I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that."

I guess we would similarly face up to this fact:

"I think the economic logic behind transferring the work of childbearing and childrearing to the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that."

Whether we face up to it or not, it seems already to be happening.

August 15, 2009

Organic mangoes 99cents each …. but at what price?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 2:09 pm

Yesterday as Amy Goodman was reporting the call for Boycott of Whole Foods, the camera was pointing to a pile of mangoes with a sign above them “Organic Mangoes 99 cents each.”   What a sale!

Why the boycott?  Because CEO John Mackey has come out strongly against government-funded health care, starting his Wall Street Journal Article with a quote from OF ALL PEOPLE Mrs. Thatcher, ridiculing socialism.

So in short, No right to health, says Whole Foods CEO: “Health care is a service that we all need, but just like food and shelter it is best provided through voluntary and mutually beneficial market exchanges. A careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter. That’s because there isn’t any. This “right” has never existed in America.” – John Mackey, Wall Street Journal, 11 Aug 2009
The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare



Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 1:59 pm

For me the terms homeschooling and unschooling are just shortcut words that other people understand. As such, homeschooling is a more effective shortcut, since more people understand it – what they understand is that a child who does not go to school is homeschooling. Unless they are neglected, exploited or both*.

One who is homeschooling is generally imagined by the non-homeschooling majority, to be covering the same or similar syllabus at home. Hence unschooling is a term to describe homeschooling without the syllabus.

Personally I don’t mind being called a homeschooler or an unschooler, but I don’t use the terms for myself. I am not doing any kind of schooling. And neither is my daughter, (though she has grown comfortable answering people who ask “in which school are you studying?” that she “goes to homeschool.”) We are just doing what we are doing, cooking, eating, playing, exploring, sleeping … and don’t forget there are plenty of books that purport to help you “teach” or “train” your kids to eat, sleep or even go to the bathroom.

If I had to give a name to what we do, I would call it nothing. Since you can’t really say that without a lot of explanation, I could settle for a term like free learning.

Though I will answer if so called, I don’t myself think I am “unschooling.” Nor do I think that unschooling is something A does to B. Sometimes when I realize that I am out of place with the structured homeschoolers, I consider joining a discussion group for unschoolers. Soon I find myself out of place there too – there are SO MANY rules about how to unschool and so many who are unschoolier than thou, ready to pounce on you for the least thought or act that violates those rules.

Often I find that it’s the like-minded peole that are the hardest to get along with. Every day we go to the playground in our neighborhood. 10 kids and a handful of parents show up and we chat about any number of things. They complain about school and I listen sympathetically. (No, am not smug. Not at all – how would I get to hear all their complaints if I were ;-). We share no views in common regarding birth, breastfeeding, parenting or education. It doesn’t matter.

* Is presence in school, in itself protection from abuse, neglect and exploitation? When the abuse is physical, we may read about it in the newspapers, as if this were a rare case and therefore made news. Unfortunately it is all too regular, even seen as normal. It is in fact, what the schools teach, to dominate and exploit those weaker than yourself. When the abuse affects the mind, the intellect, few notice.

Meditating on “I am not ….” can be truly liberating. Unschooling is a liberating term in that you are not doing anything that fits within a label

August 7, 2009

Don’t cross Cheerios …

Filed under: Uncategorized — Aravinda @ 2:48 pm

When the news went out that the FDA said that Cheerios would be reclassified as a drug because it claims to lower risk of heart disease, FDA looked a little ridiculous.  Now seeing them taking it back, kind of turns the tables.
Look at that first sentence though – much depends on the comma.

Q. Does FDA’s warning letter mean that Cheerios® is not eligible to claim that it may lower the risk of coronary heart disease when eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol?

A. No, Cheerios® can make this claim.

As for me, Michael Pollan (who applauded the FDA move) reminds me how pathetic it is to eat Cheerios rather than oatmeal.   Just as I was thinking of buying Heritage Os in bulk, he gave me pause.

See The Nation and especially: Michael Pollan: Food, Ads, and Revolution

Blog at WordPress.com.

Ask Amma

Peace, Justice and Sustainability on the Home Front


Reflections on Education

Exert, exhale

Please subscribe for useful updates on Homeschooling and life in general


Ideas, Thoughts and many more..