Sunday, March 4, 2012

Differentiated Learning: Homeschool Atheist

If you haven't read this blog post entitled I Am No Longer Willing to Let Traditional Schooling Hurt Our Children by a public school board member, Lisa Cooley, you might want to take a moment to do so.  Her blog post is long and interesting.  It is cross posted here.  I might summarize her thoughts in this quote from the piece:

School is harming our children. We're going from bad to worse..
 We can’t continue to ignore the drive to learn that exists inside every child. We can’t keep making them chase after carrots, as though they had real value. We can’t do this because sooner or later they will find out that the world that waits for them has no use for carrots, and would prefer employees who innovate, make connections, ask good questions, think independently and work well with others. 

I am heartened by the honesty with which Lisa C. faces her beloved schools and the methods they currently use with students. I'm thrilled with this blog called The Innovative Educator because I haven't found many people out there in the public schooling sector who honestly acknowledge the major problems with the system and who call for major change. Lisa Nielson is brilliant and hopeful and courageous and she cross posts blog pieces that fit into her world view. In this case, Lisa Cooley's piece has grabbed my attention enough to bring it here! 

I've BEEN in the public school system and I know many kids who are in it now. While I wouldn't denounce it completely, I see such a different way of thinking about "learning" and what it means to be truly "educated" that a true comparison between HS and PS would be almost impossible. The goals and methods are simply too different, in general.

Lisa Cooley doesn't get defensive because she knows how broken the system is and defensiveness does not lead to solutions. Instead, she calls for an all-out chucking of anything resembling the current system. 
In her own words: 

 ...the pursuit of knowledge and skills through student’s passions and strengths increases the possibility that they will come to a more solid understanding of the real world than if coercion continues to rule over those who have absolutely no power or voice or control over what happens to them.

I am certain that nearly every homeschooling parent would agree with these words and might even suggest that this goal is one of the main tenets behind their homeschooling decisions and practices. I like hearing this blogger, Lisa Cooley, share her passions and her beliefs in the ability of students and of all kids to create and master their own way through life.

Further, Lisa Cooley goes on to call for a complete overhaul of the typical schooling system in favor of a more child-led system, one in which the students themselves could own the decisions about goals and methods themselves. I like that. I had a very forward-thinking teacher in the 4-5th grades, probably a fairly forward-thinking school at the time. That teacher, Mrs. Joanne Rompel sought to encourage students to meet certain goal in their own ways. 

Looking back at that experiment, I remember most of us feeling fairly confused about what we were "supposed" to do and few of us, of any, knew exactly how to individualize our own learning experience.. Now, though, I can see that they were trying to establish a new way for each student to create goals and to meet those goals in ways that fit them individually.  I believe this is called differentiated instruction.
I wonder how our school administrators and our teachers back in 1975 felt the experiment went...?

Lisa Nielson, in her blog, suggests that differentiated instruction be changed to differentiated learning. A truly HOMESCHOOLY thing! Nielson's awareness that students/KIDS learn in their own way, at their own speed, and in spite of all of our silly efforts makes me think: If I were to list the people who I wanted on my side, Lisa Nielson and Lisa Cooley would be firmly on the list! 

I appreciate Lisa N's strenuous support of homeschooling and her efforts to understand homeschooling practices to the best of her ability. I admire her ability to stand up for an unpopular opinion on her blog. 

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