LearningCommunties as the Foundation of a Cooperative Commonwealth (2003)

The heart of the continuing project to promote non school learning is the Internet. The Coalition’s own web page is only a piece of the growing interest in using the Internet for learning. Brain research has shown that learning is not only different for each individual but also it is a continual non-linear process. That is, that we do not learn and store one set of facts or a discipline in one part of the brain. But that new knowledge if being taken in all the time and being harmonized within the existing single holistic neural network of each person’s brain. This individualized non-linear learning cannot be efficiently forced on a group of students at the same time in the same place by the same technique. Learning is a unique experience for each person.

The Internet provides a radically different mode of learning. One can transfer quickly among areas of knowledge as needed and desired by the individual. To emphasize non-linear learning the Coalition’s web page is designed as a mandala. That is, its cover page presents a number of options for the reader, not a linear index. A reader may start with the philosophy, practical examples, resources, general discussion, or other entry points. Internal links will lead the reader to other areas inside the Coalition’s web site or to other websites without a break in continuity. Claudia L’Amoreux and Ib Bang are coordinating the efforts to make the web site a model of what the Internet may become in providing learning experiences.

Communal Learning

But we recognize that the Internet can not be a substitute for parents, family, friends, teachers, community or other means of learning and of social intercourse. So a strong emphasis of the web site is on collaborative learning and the development of local learning communities. A special section is devoted to “New Chapters” that provide how to guidance to self-learners and their families. Subsections will be on How to form local communities, How to organize cooperatives, How to become a Self-Learner, Social Transformation, Learning Libraries, and other topics required for collaborative learning programs. Merrill Tew, a PhD student in education, and Laddie Lushin, a lawyer with 25 years experience with food cooperatives have provided “New Chapters” and are leading the development of these concepts.

From Teachers to Mentors

Equally important, we feel, is the role of mentors, learning coaches, counselors, and learning guides. “Morphing ‘school teachers’ into ‘community mentors'” is a topic of particular interest we are discussing on the listserv We plan to develop “New Chapters” on the future learning profession for the web site. As the efficiency of self-learning or child-centered-learning becomes better recognized a new profession for teachers may emerge. Mentors will be called on to help individuals of all ages to plan their own learning programs. This will require not only a professional understanding of how an individual learns, but also an understanding of how to provide learning opportunities within the community. Libraries and museums will play an increasingly important role in future learning. But so will factories, farms, businesses, the streets, and nature.

The future community learning professionals cannot remain isolated in schools any more than the future citizens can be so isolated. As learning become more lifelong and centered in the individual and experienced in the community the learning professionals will have an increasingly important role to play in the life of the community. Libraries may be a better model for future learning centers than are today’s schools. Member, Charles Willets, editor of Counterpoise, is facilitating cooperation between this Coalition and progressive librarians.

Cultural Transition

Community, not education, is the central interest of many members of this Coalition. We see the global and local social problems facing humanity as inherent in the social structure, and in the educational system that forms the citizen of the future. The diminishing concern for family values and community solidarity leaves citizens old and young with no sense of belonging. “Belonging” is a most, if not the most, fundamental need of humans. If healthy outlets for this need are not provided by the family, neighborhood, and community, individuals will satisfy that need by joining cults, gangs, secret societies and other forms of antisocial organizations. Violence, such as that at Columbine, as well as the general alienation of youth is a clear indication that schools do not meet that social need.

Many members of ‘A Coalition for Self-Learning’ see the strengthening of communities as the the Coalition’s purpose for being. One of our core members, Bill Wetzel, on graduation from high school two years ago took a year off to bike the country visiting other schools to talk to other young people. He found that like himself youth was generally bored and alienated by schools. He has now organized “Power to Youth” to help highschool students and others young people to organize and to take control of their own learning.

Another member of the Coalition, Rick Smyre, consultant and President of CCOF (Center of Communities of the Future) recognizes the crucial impact that the education system has in community development. His programs to develop the capacity of local citizens to prepare for the future emphasizes the need to involve young people throughout their lives in community activities and community governance.

The sense of community and belonging is also the topic by Michael Cohen in his “New Chapter” in the online book, “Educating and Counseling with Nature: A Natural Systems Thinking Process produces ecopsychology courses and degrees that enable students to increase academic skills, resiliency and responsible relationships.” Cohen has been leading non-school wilderness learning sessions for a number of decades. His Natural Systems Thinking Process is based on developing a practical understanding of the critical place cooperation has in nature. Nothing can exist without a extensive system of others to maintian it. Communities are a crucial part of the life support systems required by humanity.

This same theme is echoed by the theoretical studies of Kathia and Alexander Laszlo in the field of The Theory of General Evolution. Their Evolutionary Learning Centers (ELCs) are based on ideas similar of Paulo Friere’s that learning should be a preparation and participation in the continuality of change. The new theories of chaos, complexity and gaia show the interconnectedness of all life. They imply that learning communities must become the basis for a sustainable future. Kathia and Alexander are now leading a task force to coordinate an internet conference, with other leaders of community development, on the internet and plan for a broader future international conference on creating learning communities.

Collaborative Homeschooling

The proof that schools are unnecessary is perhaps best witnessed by the success of homeschooling. Average SAT scores, the success of homeschoolers in the best of our universities, the long history of leaders like Margaret Mead, Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln and other self-learners, as well as the learning systems of many other cultures is proof being touted in a growing number of publications. Many homeschool advocates including Ann Lahrson Fisher, Patrick Farenga, Jerry Mintz, Katharine Houk, Linda Dobson, Mary Leue, and others are active participants in the Coalition. Long before the Coalition formed they were recognizing the emergence of “homeschool support groups” and other forms of collaborative learning.

The concern that the abandonment of schools by homeschoolers will be a detriment to public education is a legitimate concern of many educators. Others critics have suggested that homeschooling is an element of the “bowling alone” trend of individuals abandoning community in their own individual self-interest. Some see the charter school movement as a solution to providing more popular input and flexibility to the current educational system.

All of these concerns and happenings are being taken into account in the Coalition’s programs. We recognize that not all parents are capable, willing or want to homeschool. We see homeschooling as a most successful experiment on the way toward a more open, progressive, flexible. life long learning system. Our experiments aim at using the best of these practices, and overcoming the worst of the faults of the current system. Our goal is to move beyond schooling and beyond homeschooling to a learning system and a society that values the individual, the community, society, and nature in new ways.

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Table of Content

© Copyright 2000. William N. Ellis – All Rights Reserved.
[email protected]

Back-To-Homeschool – How to Plan Healthy After-School Snacks

You have your curriculum chosen and prepared, you have gathered together all the materials you need. You have books and notebooks and art paper. The music lessons scheduled, the afternoon homeschool football games arranged.

But remember how you said that this year, you were going to be more organized and figure out a way to make the whole day run more smoothly?

Snack Time

What about the after-homeschool snacks? You have sworn to upgrade your family’s eating habits from getting-by to super-healthy but you have not yet put a plan in place.

Here is how it will go. You will have a full day of homeschooling under your belt and finally, you will be ready to tackle the other things on your schedule. You will taste a sense of freedom because there are hours left before dinner time. And then, one or more of your children will ask for a snack.

You are going to need something easy and quick so that you can get back to what you were about to do, but filling enough to hold them until dinner.

The Simple, No-Cook Snack Solution

Now, when I say no-cook, I do not mean that you will not have to heat anything up. But I am advocating that there be no mixing, chopping, slicing or dicing during your homeschool day. If you do want or need to slice or dice, do it during the weekend and store or freeze it.

Sandwich Wraps

Buy square wraps, spread cream cheese on them and then, pile on a few slices of ham, turkey, tuna or roast beef. If you want to add bell peppers or onions or celery or grated cheese, go right ahead. Heat it up for a few minutes in the oven and you have one snack ready to go.

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

This one is a no-brainer, obviously, but I suggest adding interest with apples, bacon, celery or some other surprise ingredient that you already know your child likes. Melt the cheese with a make-your-own-grill assortment of frying pan and spatula, and voila, you have another quick and easy snack.

Afternoon Tea

Add a touch of whimsy, elegance and fun by taking a brief break to snack with them. Prepare a cup of tea for yourself and each of them and offer cucumber sandwiches with cream cheese. Slice them ahead of time and leave them in the fridge in a Ziploc bag. For the occasional snack treat, you could make cinnamon apple muffins or homemade bread or cookies to go with them.

The Pros and Cons of Homeschooling

In order to get an unbiased assessment about homeschooling, it is best to fairly weigh the benefits and advantages of homeschooling, as well the disadvantages and limitations of the said educational program.

Homeschool happens when the parent/s or guardian/s decided to pull the children out of their regular school environment and decided to become the children’s educator. The motivations of each parent or guardian may or may not be different from one another but all are aiming to give a more quality education to their children as they see fit.

Not different from any other issues, homeschool have its gains and losses. Below are the advantages of homeschooling:

a. It reestablishes the role of the family as the core of educational basis of each child;
b. The family becomes the central figure in the child’s life as the parents mold their children influencing them with their social, moral and educational growth.
c. Homeschool has community-based socialization as opposed to the school’s classroom-based one. This will help the children to interact with people of different ages and stature; not limiting their exposure to the issues and life of their same-aged classmates

It is also said that home school provide a more realistic view of what the world really is unlike being confined to a room with kids of the same age and behavior. It has been argued that the best way to mold a child is by the beauty of example.

d. Homeschool advocates are insistent that academic excellence is more achievable with homeschool than with the unfocused learning done in regular / public schools.
e. The parents also understand that each child has a pace, making the lessons learned appropriately without the need to hurry or delay the schedule because of the student’s different levels of comprehension
f. The curriculum is also designed to work with the child’s pace and learning style.
g. Homeschool also gives a chance for the family to bond together longer. It is a common sentiment that American families nowadays are drifting apart because of unshared interests and beliefs.

Now, the ones given are only a part of the many advantages of homeschooling. These are the ones that fulfill the four different aspects of parent’s motivation: religion, academics, socialization, and family.

On the other hand, with every advantage comes a disadvantage. No educational program is perfect, and imperfection means disadvantages. Below are some of the most commonly raised ones about homeschool:

a. One disadvantage is the lack or insufficient interaction of homeschoolers with the kids of their own age. It should be accepted that the kids need to know how a normal kid of his age react as to know how the social norms will assess him.
b. Another is the limited resources of homeschooling as compared to the state budgeted schools. Limited resources means limited educational materials that will greatly help the children achieve academic excellence.
c. And the third one is the parental limitations that in turn also limit the child’s learning potential.

All in all, a parent must properly weigh all the considerations before deciding for the next phase. Always keep in mind that in your hands is the future of your child.