为什么我选择让我的孩子去中文学校当我是另类教育的倡导者时

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我可能是你所期望看到的把孩子送到中国大陆的正规学校的最后一个人。 以其刚性和高度加压的环境而闻名,这与我想要的孩子们的理想教育完全相反。 我很乐意把他们送到一个进步的民主甚至一个华尔道夫学校,但我们住的地方都不存在这些选择。 我喜欢家庭教学,但条件是,当有一个家庭教育学校,非学历或世界各地的学生的社区,他们可以与他们定期互动和活动。 我喜欢家庭教学,只要我可以聘请导师教导学术部分,并有一些非学术科目选择。 在马尼拉,家庭教育学生可以与其他家庭教育同学一起学习戏剧,嘻哈舞,烹饪,演讲,足球等课程。

我坚信,教育应该在社区内发生。 不仅仅是父母应该是主要的老师,也不应该只是学校老师。 儿童应尽可能多地接触到积极的人 – 导师,教练,鼓舞人心的领导者。

我们住在一个只有中国公立学校这种唯一选择的城镇。 我在这里的一所大学里教英语,我的学生告诉我有关学校的恐怖故事,以及越来越糟糕的高中情况然后一直到高考。 我绝对不希望我的孩子在中国上高中,我不希望他们参加高考,但我仍然认为,公立学校的前两三年级是有用和可以接受的,以获得学习汉字的基础。 不过,二年级或三年级以后,我想让我的孩子转到马尼拉的一所进修学校。

这是我的意见。可悲的是,这个方法遭到了另一方父母的反对意见。 所以这就是为什么有一个尴尬的僵局,也许只能通过时间来修补,也许不能。 无论如何,学校今天开始了。 我们会看看它是怎么回事。

有一些家庭教育学生自己学习阅读的情况,但这是英文。 我不知道中文可不可能,因为它是一个更复杂的语言。 你必须知道数以千计的汉字才能阅读,所以必须有一个方法,而不是随随便便的,这可能发生在学习英语。 有报道过有些儿童在没有任何指导的情况下学会如何阅读英文。 彼得·格雷博士在这篇文章中发表的: 孩子自学阅读 。 如果在中文学习有类似的情况倒是挺有趣的,很难以想象因为没有中文字母表。

我去拜访过一些中国家庭教学的家庭,他们的书架上堆满了材料,似乎他们必须回应学校的教学,但在更短的时间内,因为学生与教师的比例要少得多。 但是,中国的家庭教育仍然需要在父母方面承担过多的努力。 只能通过很多的承诺和纪律来做到这一点。

我的朋友苏珊和我想在这个城镇开一个图书馆。 我们一年前离开大港油田之前就谈过了。 我以为她能够在家里开始一些事情,但事实证明,她的丈夫想要利用额外的空间,而不能分配给图书馆的梦想。 苏珊最近组织了一个户外活动,让孩子们在水库里收集昆虫,这就是我们再次开始谈论梦想。

中国的学校或小镇没有图书馆。 只有大城市有公共图书馆。 这就是为什么我不想在中国上学的另一个原因。 像图书馆这样的资源是至关重要的。 此外,事实上,有这么少的家庭教师,孩子们不会有任何人在白天与所有其他孩子在学校互动。 在菲律宾,美国和其他国家,现有广泛的家庭教育网络可以深入人心。 中国也没有在我们即将在的小城镇。 (这里的 中国家庭学校网站 。)

哦,我忘了,我选择把我的孩子送到中国学校的最重要的原因:约书亚和吉米真的很喜欢和别的孩子在一起。 他们茁壮成长,他们喜欢,我认为他们会在与其他孩子在一起的环境中学习更多。 我不知道老师是否会在稍后再来一次,可能是阻止他们的因素,但正如我所说,我们需要等待着看。

过去一年,我丈夫两个儿子从天津到大理到马尼拉到西双版纳去巴厘到西双版纳到马尼拉到旧金山,到加拿大去中转,然后回到马尼拉和天津。 在美国的头几个星期之后,我已经想到,除非有工作或学习有关,否则我不认为我可以长途旅行。 在我们的背包和袋子上生活之后,我也感觉到我的孩子们已经准备好安顿下来,我一直在向他们保证,我们会得到一个房子,把他们放在学校里,并得到一只狗。 我们准备好一些更加稳定的旅程,而旅行时总是可以在假期期间完成。

我的一个亲密的朋友说,我不应该太担心把我的孩子放在中国的正规学校,因为两个非常非常规的,开箱即用的父母,他们将能够平衡所有出来的严格的中国制度相对毫发无损。 他们仍然会以世界的广阔视野结束。

另一位朋友告诉我,我不应该担心中国教育带来的压力,因为如果父母不给孩子增加压力,那么对孩子来说就更轻松了。 我的朋友经历了同样的中国学校制度,父母没有压力,所以她长大了,从小学到大学都很开心,放松。

一切都在进行中。 我们不应该害怕尝试不同的方法来实现为我们的孩子提供最好的目标。

 

Why I Choose to Let My Children Go to Chinese School When I am an Advocate of Alternative Education

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I would probably be the last person you’d expect to send her children to regular school in mainland China.  Known for its rigidity and highly-pressurized environment, it is the exact opposite of the ideal education I want for my kids. I would love to send them to a progressive or democratic or even a Waldorf school, but none of those options exist where we live.  I would love to homeschool but I am ONLY for homeschooling when there is a community of homeschoolers, unschoolers or worldschoolers with whom they could have regular interaction and activities.  I would love to homeschool but ONLY if I can hire tutors for the academic portions and there are a number of non-academic options to pick.  In Manila, homeschoolers can study theater, hip hop dance, cooking, speech, football and other courses with fellow homeschoolers.

I believe strongly that education should happen within a community.  It is not ONLY the parents who should be the main teachers and it should not even be just the school teachers.  Children should be exposed to as many positive people — mentors, coaches, inspiring leaders — as possible.

We live in a town where the only option is the Chinese public school.   I taught English in a university here and my students told me horror stories about school and how it got worse and worse leading up to the gaokao in high school.  I definitely do not want my children to attend high school in China and I do not want them to take the gaokao, but I still believe that the first two or three grades in public school is useful and tolerable to get the basics of learning Chinese characters.  However, after the second or third grade, I would like my kids to switch to a progressive school in Manila.

That is my opinion.  Sadly, it goes against the opinion of the other parent in this equation.  So that is why there is an awkward stalemate that can only be mended perhaps through time or not.  In any case, school starts today.  We shall see how it goes.

There are cases of homeschoolers learning to read on their own, but that’s in English.  I wonder if that’s possible in Chinese because it is a more complicated language.  You have to know hundreds and thousands of characters to be able to read so there has to be a methodical way, not random or casual which can happen in studying English.  There are reported cases of children who learn how to read in English without any instruction.  Dr. Peter Gray wrote about it in this article: Children Teach Themselves to Read.  It would be interesting to see if there are any cases of this in the Chinese language which is quite hard to imagine since there is no Chinese alphabet.

I went to visit some Chinese homeschoolers’ houses and they had bookshelves bursting with materials that it seemed that they must be echoing what the schools teach but in less time because the student-teacher ratio is much less.  Still, homeschooling in China must take an inordinate amount of effort on the part of the parents.  It can only be done through a lot of commitment and discipline.

My friend, Susan and I want to start a library in this town.  We talked about it before we left Dagang Youtian one year ago.  I thought she would be able to start something in her house but it turned out her husband wanted to make use of the extra room and it couldn’t be allocated to the library dream.  Susan recently organized an outdoor activity for kids collecting insects in the reservoir and that’s how we started talking again about the dream.

There is no library in schools or small towns here in China.  Only the big cities have public libraries. That’s another reason why I wouldn’t want to homeschool in China. Resources like libraries are paramount.  Plus, the fact that there are so few homeschoolers, the kids won’t have anyone to interact with during the daytime when all the other kids are in school.   In the Philippines, America and other countries, there are existing wide networks of homeschoolers that one can tap into.  China also has but not in the small towns where we happen to be.  (Here’s the China Homeschooling website.)

Oh, and I forgot, the most important reason why I choose to send my kids to Chinese school:  Joshua and Jimmy both really, really love to be with other kids.  They thrive, they enjoy and I think they would learn more in an environment where they are with other children.  I don’t know if the teacher would be a clincher later on and could be a factor to discourage them eventually but as I said, we need to wait and see.

This past year, my husband, two sons and I have traveled from Tianjin to Dali to Manila to Xishuangbanna to Bali to Xishuangbanna to Manila to San Francisco driving to New York with stopovers in Canada and then back to Manila and Tianjin.  After the first few weeks in America, I already thought, I don’t think I can do long-term traveling unless it’s something work or study related.  After living off our backpacks and bags, I also sensed my children were ready to settle down and I kept promising them that we would get a house, put them in school and get a dog.  We were ready for something more stable while traveling can always be done during the holidays.

One of my close friends said that I shouldn’t worry too much about putting my kids in regular school in China because with two very unconventional, out-of-the-box parents, they would be able to balance it all out and come out of the strict Chinese system relatively unscathed.  They would still end up with an expansive view of the world.

Another friend told me I shouldn’t worry about the pressure that comes with Chinese education because if the parents don’t put added pressure on the children, then it’s more relaxed for the child.  My friend went through the same Chinese school system and her parents didn’t pressure her so she grew up very happy and relaxed from elementary all the way up to university.

Everything is a work in progress.   We should not be afraid to try different ways to achieve the goal of providing the best that we can for our children.

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This is the activity my friend, Susan organized for kids to explore and enjoy the outdoors:

 

 

 

Thing 1 and Thing 2

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Wrath

So this is the wrath that I feared all along.  This rage that made me cower, made me hide, made me silent, made me dumb.  This is the anger that I wanted to avoid by making excuses and a dozen rationalizations that kept me from growing out of an under-sized shell.  And when I peeked out, stood with wobbly legs, raised my arms in defiance and faced indignation in all its glorious but undignified, irrational fury, it was nothing but a fart, a farce, a remnant of Neanderthal thinking.  I laugh at its face neither feeling pity or apology.  I let it wash over me like devil’s vomit but my body is protected ten times over with grace.

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Lost Cause

I can see both sides.  I can see his pain.  I can see her pain.  I can see nobody wants to give in because both think they have given enough to share the burden.  I can see his dreams drop and shatter into a million pieces.  I can see her dreams have never mattered because he thought they had the same ones.  But their dreams couldn’t be more different than day is from night.  Two dreams intersected in points they both can’t see now because of blindness masked by too weak and too strong wills.  He can’t understand why her mind shifts like tectonic plates destabilizing everything they had built together.  She can’t understand why he can’t adjust to circumstance or review a range of options.  He is sick of her immaturity.  She is sick of his inflexibility.  He is tired of her flakiness.  She is tired of pretending.  They have lost faith in each other.  They have both lost patience.  They have both lost.

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Clearing a Misconception

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It seems there is a misconception about the research work I am doing about education. My research is not just about homeschooling; it is about alternative education which includes homeschooling, unschooling, worldschooling, progressive schooling, democratic education, Waldorf, Charlotte Mason and many other streams of non-traditional education.  My personal preference for my own children is a progressive or a democratic school but there is no option of that kind in China.  There are progressive schools in the Philippines and in other countries like America.  There are Waldorf schools in China and the Philippines which I have also considered.

For me, the important thing is that education takes place within a community, not in a vacuum, not in isolation.  Having a community of like-minded families whether in a formal, informal, institutionalized or non-institutionalized setting is okay and ideal for me.

What is not okay is homeschooling that is narrow, that is closed-minded, that does not allow the children to enjoy learning and instead have to suffer through being called “stupid,” being hit on the head, making them afraid of making mistakes, criticizing them all the time during study and meal times.  It’s the same as putting them through the horrors of the worst case of traditional schools, having nightmare teachers who instill a phobia of learning.  Now, if the parents are responsible, patient, by no means perfect — because no parent is perfect — but with a kind and patient heart, then I am all for homeschooling.  If the parents are fighting all the time in front of the kids, that is also not good for homeschooling.  If the relationship of the mother and father is not good, that is not also a healthy environment for homeschooling.

What is also not okay in homeschooling is if one parent believes a tutor would be more helpful but the other parent does not agree.  What if the tutor has a better method that is more effective and not abusive?  Homeschooling is a decision that both parents should be united in making.  If they are not united, the conflict affects the whole family.   It is better to send the kids to a progressive or alternative school.  What if the country does not have those kinds of school?  What then?

Gridlock.

The children suffer.  The parents suffer.  Nobody wants to compromise.

What is also not okay in homeschooling is that if BOTH parents do not work.  I think this is fine if both parents choose to retire early after having worked and earned what they both agree is enough.  But what if one parent wants to work and another doesn’t and again there is stalemate.

Stalemate.

The children suffer.  The parents suffer.  Nobody wants to compromise.

There are progressive schools in my country as well as a huge homeschooling community with many activities to choose from and the children have a lot of opportunities to learn with other kids.  I myself am involved with the Gopala Learning Haven, a center for homeschoolers in a farm setting which is like one of the centers we visited in America called Macomber.

We all want what’s best for our children but it is difficult when there is a conflict in the manner by which this goal is achieved.  There is no ONE right way.  There are MANY ways.   There is the mind that is open and the mind that is closed to accept other ways different from the one seemingly set in stone.

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This is a picture from the Gopala Learning Haven taken when Laksmi and her family recently visited a beach in Calatagan.  Read about Laksmi’s beautiful description of the beach which she says is a piece of paradise.

Read my articles about researching education, homeschooling, worldschooling and self-directed education.  I will continue to promote the ideals of alternative education even if I agree for my children to experience a traditional way of schooling, only because I am in China and the options are limited.  Homeschooling is not an ideal option here because as I mentioned, if it is not done within a community, it will be more disadvantageous.  Read this article written by Dr. Peter Gray on why children need community.

From an evolutionary perspective, it makes perfect sense that children would want to form close relationships with many different people, not just their parents . . . . . the goal of childhood, in our culture as well as in hunter-gatherer cultures, is to become an independent being who can form relationships with lots of different people—relationships that are essential for survival and reproduction.  You don’t learn to do that by paying attention just to your mother and father. You learn it by paying attention to lots of different people, who have different personalities and needs and different things to offer.  Another goal of childhood is to educate yourself, that is, to acquire the ideas, lore, knowledge, skills, and values of the culture in which you are growing.  If you were to try to do this by attending just to your parents, you would learn only a narrow slice of all that is out there and you would not prepare yourself well for the world.

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She Finally Gets It

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What an empowering realization that she has given power away to a gaslighting, stonewalling asshole.  What an empowering thought to finally view the source of fear revealed for what it is nothing more than a trickle that’s run its course because she knows better than to give power away, the fear of anger defined and seen from above as an insect buzz buzz buzzing around her ear having convinced her she’s in prison but she has always been and will always be free and somebody’s anger is but a miniscule mosquito to be swat and let bleed.  If it comes back to life, put it in its place, get a jar, close the lid tight, watch it hit itself against glass, scream in her face while the ugly, screeching sound is muffled through glass.  She sees the mouth move, meaningless words coming out cannot pierce anymore her freed soul, a soul that sings louder, braver and with respect, allows others to sing just as loud, dance just as crazy, each in glass jars held in her hand, put on the shelf, collection on proud display.  This is the jerk who cut her off.  That is the scumbug she had given the weapon to doubt herself.  This is the numbskull who destroyed her for a time.  That is the dope who made her feel inferior. This is the idiot who could absolutely do no wrong while everyone else is an infinite wellspring of incorrect ideas and actions.  That is the one who launched the trap (which she allowed) and gave her morsels she gulped down like it was buffet.  This is the one she permitted to steal her rights but for a limited time till she woke to fire alarm bells that have been ringing, rending her deaf.  When the modus operandi was unveiled, the mobsters’ heyday was over.  They can have machine gun bullets tear through her body and she survives the torrent.

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Three Cheers for Chinese Camp!

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Chinese summer camp is over.  On the seventh day, parents picked up their kids in Jixian and were treated to a performance we were so proud and happy to witness.

Every day this past week, seventeen children studied Chinese calligraphy, two types of Chinese flute called taodi (for the boys) and xun (for the girls), two types of Chinese checkers called weiqi and wuzeqi and a type of martial arts called taichi.  They also had sessions on robotics, training in first-aid as well as a life coach.  They wrote a diary everyday and discussed about their dreams and what they want in the future.  They had five full-time and three part-time teachers.

The camp is surrounded by mountains so they trekked up and did their taichi against breathtaking backdrops.  They fixed their beds, did their laundry and ate meals prepared by a really good cook.  The parents had lunch on the day we brought them and picked them up so we know and trust they had good food plus a lot of watermelon.  The parents were updated daily with loads of pictures coming in through our WeChat Group so we felt “fangxin” knowing the kids were relishing the experience.

At night, teachers came in to check that the kids were asleep but one of the monitors recounted the time when a group of kids woke up at 4 in the morning to play weiqi.  The TV remote controls were collected at night to make sure they don’t watch but Joshua told me one of the kids had a cellphone that could control the TV so they were able to sneak in time to do the forbidden which is classic summer camp fare.

Aside from the growth and maturity I notice in Joshua, the other wonderful take-aways from this camp are these beautiful souvenirs that he can enjoy for always.

This is the calligraphy work Joshua produced during the camp:

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Jimmy wasn’t able to join the camp because he’s still too young, but when he’s 8 years old, we’d let him attend.  The day before we picked up Joshua, Jimmy drew this:

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Read more about the camp in Chinese: Shan Shui You Dao

You can watch the video here: Shan Shui You Dao Video

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still Quoting Mark Because

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Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be like a child, “yield to the current of life,” “go with the flow,” “unencumbered by baggage?”  To travel light as lightest you possibly could?  But life, through time, bogs us down or we bog ourselves down with unnecessary things that look necessary to us. We fight, we struggle, we insist on what we want.  We kill each other over who’s right and who’s wrong.  We don’t have the answers and we ask the wrong questions.

It’s tiring to carry all that.  Let me stop and unload, read as much as I can to get garbage out and please stop the garbage in.  We wait, we surrender and find the karaoke song that keeps us calm and sane.  We look for signs not realizing it’s been inside us all along because we keep looking outward, distracted by the stormy dramas regurgitated by our minds, spat out as catastrophes when they are infinitesimal, except for those that do justify our attention.  How do you choose the battles to win the war?

Because the situation is quite unbloggable, let me quote liberally from Mark Harrison’s articles, again.

From a A New Way of Thinking about Your Relationships:

Developing excellent relationships is often about understanding why people behave the way they do, not from our perspective, but from theirs, and helping them to find a more productive behavior by giving them new resources. Everyone is doing the best they can, given what they have.

If a relationship is going badly, the best approach is always to think about your own behavior and how to change it. At a position of ‘cause,’ you have the ability to improve things – by seeking to understand the other person’s perspective, by listening to them, using their terms of reference and communicating on their level.

Never label people based on their behavior. This is not helpful in developing good relationships. Behavior changes all the time as we learn and grow. Bad, unproductive and ‘stuck’ relationships can be turned around when we take responsibility and learn to be proactive.

From How to Change the World:

I had a problem with noisy neighbors. They live in the apartment above me; they bang about, drag furniture and sing loudly. I don’t understand why they behave this way: I have explained to them several times that I am disturbed by their behavior, and yet, a year after they moved in, there was no change. I don’t see why they can’t try to be a bit quieter but, despite my best efforts, the situation did not improve.

The only thing I have any power to change is my own approach. So I decided to try to become more accepting and to simply observe the situation without comment, as far as possible.

They are still noisy. But since observing the situation, I actually notice the noise less. This seems odd, but I think it is because I am noticing several features of the noise that were not apparent when I was focused on being bothered by it. First, it is clear that the noise is located within a surround of silence, as if the noises are islands in a sea of silence. Secondly, the noise ebbs and flows – it goes on for a while, but then it fades away. Like everything, it changes – its intensity, its quality, its volume – they all change continually.

Through a simple process of awareness, I have changed the way I am seeing the situation. It has taken on a different quality since I stopped labeling the noise as ‘bad’ and started to focus simply on observing it. And so, in a sense, the situation has itself changed. My outer reality has come to reflect my inner perspective.

When we submit to the natural flow of things, observing and allowing life to carry us, rather than trying to use force to change things around us, the world seems to become a more peaceful and supportive place. Indeed, submission is the only sensible option. Of course, we tend to think of submission as a weakness -‘giving up’ is synonymous with failure. But, when we ‘give up’ our tendency to label, to explain, to control, things start to work.

When we stop trying to force change, we become free.

From Awareness by Anthony de Mello:

Don’t change: Desire to change is the enemy of love.
Don’t change yourselves: Love yourselves as you are.
Don’t change others: Love all others as they are.
Don’t change the world: It is in God’s hands and he knows.
And if you do that change will occur
Marvelously in its own way and in its own time
Yield to the current of life unencumbered by baggage.

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Free, Awake

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If one’s freedom impinges on another’s freedom, what kind of freedom is it?  If one’s freedom is labeled irresponsibility by others, if one feels imprisoned by somebody who thinks wrongly is promoting your freedom, if one feels trapped in a lie of freedom, if one controls others in the desire for his own freedom, if one is under illusions of . . . . wait, what’s the point?  There is no point, just questions and more questions and nowadays, what do you do when a question does not leave your head?  You go to the Oracle of Google and google, “If one’s freedom impinges on another’s freedom, what kind of freedom is it?”  Yes, you can put sentences as long as you want in the search box.

The Google goodie loot bag came up with this, a paragraph from an article by Mark Harrison called, The Limits of Freedom:

“The point is that we are free. And so is everyone else. That means we cannot impinge on the freedom of others. This is not some moral statement. I’m not saying we should not interfere with other people’s freedom – it is simply impossible to do so. You cannot make another person do anything. Even putting a gun to someone’s head cannot make them do anything. If someone is threatened to the extent that they fear for their life, they are likely to comply with whatever is being demanded of them, but this compliance is not a result of the threat – it is still a choice they make. If you doubt it, think about the people who have been threatened and not complied – think about people who have died for what they believe in rather than comply with an external demand.”

So now you want me to die?  Perhaps that’s what I do everyday.

So am I under the illusion that certain freedoms have been taken away but freedom can never be taken away?  Am I belaboring a fact that cannot be taken away?  What if I feel my freedom is impinged upon?  I am choosing not to have it impinged upon but conflict ensues.  And it cannot be impinged upon, he said.

Mark Harrison continues:

“In every situation, there is a choice. Accept that we cannot control other people or try to force, coerce, manipulate and bully to get our own way. The latter course of action damages relationships and, in the end, leads to pain and dysfunction. Or, we can accept people as they are, accept they are utterly free agents, accept that we cannot force them, and concentrate instead on building relationships with them and on building the inner world which echoes back to us as our experience. When we have good relationships, things work. Perhaps not in the way we might have expected, or even in the way we would have preferred, but things will work. The world is not ours to control, so let it go, and let it work in its own miraculous way. This is the effortlessness to which Lao Tzu alluded when he wrote, ‘The world is a mysterious instrument, not meant to be handled. Those who act on it never, I notice, succeed.’

“We are responsible for ourselves. We make our choices and then we must live with them, not blaming others or circumstances, and not cowardly abdicating responsibility to some external forces. We are not victims! We are in control.

“By the same token, we are not responsible for other people. Their fear, their anger, their pain, their misery – it’s all a choice they make, as freely as we make ours, and they need to shoulder the consequences of these choices – they are not our crosses to bear. Their happiness, their success, their joy – it’s all their doing, not ours.

“So here lies our freedom – it is inside us every moment and we can recognize it and live our lives according to the truth of this freedom, or we can continue to behave in the way we have been conditioned by society and try to force our way through life, pushing and coercing others into doing our will. One way is peace and happiness, the other way is pain and madness.”

So I may be choosing the way of pain and madness, struggling against this situation I think I cannot change but I can change the way I view it and react to it.  I need to let go but what if your concept of freedom and responsibility conflicts with another?  Mark just said you are responsible for your own state, not others.

Excuse me while I go on having an imaginary conversation with Mark.  I am grappling with how to apply this.  This is from another of his article, The Wisdom of the Serenity Prayer.

“While much cannot be changed, there are certainly things which can yield to our influence. Lasting change, however, is rarely brought about by direct action. Any sense of direct control we might have over the world around us is almost all illusion, and we would be better to think of effecting change in terms of influence.

“The world we experience is, essentially, a kind of echo of our inner landscape. We make mental models which enable us to navigate through the world, and we interpret the outside world in terms of this framework. Keeping a positive mindset, then, tends to draw positive experiences towards us. From this place, we are able to act in ways which will bring about change, often in indirect and surprising ways.

“Keeping a positive mindset can be difficult, especially if we are used to playing negative scripts in our head. We need to be courageous. Courage is not aggression, violence or force. It is seeing the world at its best, and it is proper action, executed in the right way and at the right time.

“Lao Tzu, reputedly the founder of Taoism, wrote, ‘A leader is most effective when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, his troops will feel they did it themselves.’ Action is best kept to a minimum and best kept in the background.

“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond winning.” – Lao Tzu

“Sometimes, we rush in and act when we should not have done so. At other times, we hold back when, perhaps, we should have acted.

“And yet perhaps it is not so difficult, after all. It seems to me that the key is being detached. When we observe in a detached way, we are more likely to make the right calls. Even when taking action, we should not be emotionally blinded by our own involvement. What matters most is the way you see the world. Anthony de Mello, a great modern mystic, called it ‘being awake.’ He wrote, ‘It’s not your actions, it’s your being that counts. Then you might swing into action. You might or might not. You can’t decide that until you’re awake.’

“Being awake – being aware and unattached – can make a huge difference to the way we interact with the world. When we have the ability to know when to act, how to act, and to be sufficiently detached as we act, our influence can be enormous.”

I have been trying too hard, struggling too much and I am tired.  Sleepless and tired. Helplessly trying to cut attachments, feign detachment.

How do I know I’m awake?  (I just said I was sleepless.)  Again, I consult the all-knowing Almighty Oracle of Google and find this, the Seven Qualities of Awakened People:

1. When our identification with a form ceases, a new space is generated between us and the form, and we are able to recognize that we are not identical to that form.

2. We virtually step out of the psychological time frame, we stop mulling over injuries of the past, and do not build our identity for the future.

3. Ego disappears, telling personal history stops, and the line of our accustomed identity is broken.

4. We are awake, only the present moment exists for us. Our soul is permeated by the quiet of the Miracle that is the consciousness and the joy of the existence.

5. We are free and independent of the forms and shapes, and of the necessity of choosing from them. All our suffering and problems have vanished, we are surrounded by peace and tranquility.

6. There is only the pure existence, we are eyewitnesses, contemplating the dance of forms and shapes around us. We do not identify with anything, we are a consciousness free of the obligation to make choices.

7. We accept life as it is, and it is not done under pressure, since that acceptance is the result of our complete freedom.

Based on this, I seem to be asleep most of the time.  I think I’m getting five hours of sleep at night but I’m getting more during the day eyes wide open!  Not funny.

Okay, so what do I take away from this?  No direct action, Mark said.  No direct action. Yes, I got that trying to be Lao Tzu.

“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond winning.” – Lao Tzu

990

 

Off to Chinese Summer Camp

Joshua has tried summer camp in the Philippines; now he’s getting a taste of one in China.  Ran and organized by my brother-in-law, Jiang Yong in the mountains of Jixian an hour and a half hour away from Tianjin city, the camp trains children in Chinese calligraphy, martial arts, musical instruments and seeks to impart the cultural heritage of this proud nation.

At first, Joshua was not too eager to join but once he saw other kids his age, he forgot about his mom and dad, ran off to play with new-found friends, all wearing their smart, light blue, Mandarin-collared costumes.   During lunch, some of the parents expressed their apprehension since they had never been separated from their child.  I look forward to meeting them after a week when we pick up Joshua and wonder how the parents endure the separation.  In most cases, I think, the separation is harder for the adults.  For my kids and I, because we’ve been shuttling between China and the Philippines at times together and at times not, we’ve had a lot of practice.

Jason and I found our bit of heaven staying a couple of nights in Jixian, enjoying the cooler weather and walking up and down the mountain slopes right outside our doorsteps. Dream come true for mountain-lovers!

Check out information about the summer camp here, but it’s in Chinese:

Shan Shui You Dao Summer Camp

A Synthesis: Alternative Schools Visited on Our Road Trip

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Having lived in China for more than eight years, I was introduced to the problems and deficiencies of the educational system from horror stories told by students in the university where I taught for two years.  After seeing the worrying effects on students’ lives and attitudes, I feared my own children languishing in the system and didn’t want the light in their eyes to go out.  My anxiety about the rigidity of schooling transformed into an eager and passionate curiosity to research non-traditional forms of education such as Waldorf, democratic schools, homeschooling, unschooling and Finland’s much-admired model.  As a mother of two, I wanted to understand best practices for my children hoping to expose them to broader and liberating opportunities.

My husband and I decided to embark on our dream to drive around the world which, in its earliest planning stage was a continuous loop that soon evolved into segmented portions.  Last year, we drove from the north to south of China as well as visited the Green School in Bali, Indonesia.  To launch my research, my Chinese friend, Donna and I attended the first Asia Pacific Democratic Education Conference (APDEC) held in Taiwan.

This year, for a little over three months and over 10,000 miles, my husband, two sons and I drove from San Francisco to New York, using and eventually selling the pick-up truck we purchased at the starting line.  Aside from staying with friends, fellow worldschoolers and camping at National Parks, we visited various alternative schools along the way.

To get a handle on the range of schools visited, some of which are not technically schools, the diagram below locates each one within the spectrum from traditional to progressive to self-directed.  This spectrum is also echoed in homeschooling which runs the gamut from following a strict and formal curriculum to having none at all, the curriculum being the child himself or herself.

Slide1Slide2

My interest in the examples between traditional and progressive and between progressive and self-directed lie in the possibilities of bridging traditional and self-directed paths.  For parents who may not be comfortable in going all the way to the extreme end of unschooling or fully self-directed education, the progressive alternatives do offer a degree of self-direction, albeit limited and provide innovations that could be applied in traditional and public schools.  For instance, laboratory schools like the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute in Toronto, deliver a platform to test, implement and disseminate education tools and methods that could lessen the negative impacts of traditional schools.  The Metropolitan School may look like a regular public school on the outside but it has more features shared with the Northstar model for SDE than with regular high schools.  The students can take community college courses and work more days a week than they actually “attend” school.

As a parent, I personally fall into this group needing a bridge between two polar opposites.  A product of Catholic education from gradeschool to high school to university, I carry old habits and attitudes that may take some time to change even though I admire those who practice SDE.

Choosing the schools to visit came from hours of googling, watching TED Talks and networking at the APDEC.  I was so excited to visit the Tinkering School after watching Gever Tully’s TED Talk.  Even if I didn’t get to visit the original in San Francisco, I was grateful that the Brooklyn Apple Academy had one that Tully himself was involved with.

Self-Directed Schools and Centers

For this article, I shall focus on the self-directed schools and centers which we visited in the United States and which I shall group in these five main categories:

  1. Free School – Albany Free School
  2. Center for Homeschoolers – Macomber Center, Brooklyn Apple Academy
  3. Agile Learning Center – ALC New York
  4. Self-Directed Center for High Schoolers – North Star for Self Directed Learning for Teens, Princeton Learning Cooperative
  5. Sudbury School

What unites these schools is that the teachers, founders and staff experienced disillusionment with the status quo and have made the transition from a traditional school to their present work where they feel more joy and fulfillment as educator-mentor-facilitator.  Ken Danford’s bold and courageous move from public school to establishing an SDE model for teens that has existed for more than two decades is to a certain extent, mirrored by the teachers at the Albany Free School who are happier in an environment where students don’t feel coerced.

The teachers or staff could have also made the switch from one alternative (e.g. Sudbury or Free School) to another (e.g. center for homeschoolers or ALC) where they followed their hearts which sought something more attuned to their personal philosophies.

ALC is gaining traction deserving its own category as it opens up more branches within and outside America.  It may be a kind of “Sudbury” growing its own brand, inspired by the high tech IT industry.

Although I wasn’t able to visit a Sudbury school, I was still able to get to the office of the original one in Framingham.  Some people who worked at a Sudbury school shared some points they did not agree with such as discouraging parental involvement and how “democratic” meetings can be abused.

ALC in tune with being agile, keeps meetings to a minimum and they don’t vote on issues but instead go with the spirit of the discussion.  Although, some students still think of it as a way of voting, in terms of length and content, there’s still a big difference between the meetings that take place in a Sudbury and an ALC school.

Just as the teachers found an oasis for their practice of SDE, the students are also grateful for the alternative with some feeling “rescued” from the prison of four-walled classrooms.  There are also students who have never been exposed to anything but SDE, with their parents believing firmly in this form of learning from the get-go.  The parents who talked to me were excited about the empowering quality of SDE.  One father wanted to start his own homeschooling center for their area.

There are two big categories of SDE’s that I found on this trip:

  1. A school that is a kind of “unschool” – Democratic, Free, Sudbury, ALC
  2. A center or resource center for homeschoolers and unschoolers – Macomber, North Star, Princeton Learning Cooperative

In the “school” type, the kids go to school five times a week and there are still the requisite documentation for the education board.  For instance, ALC still has to fit the things that they do within state regulations.  The second type emphasizes that they are not a school but they provide resources and opportunities for socialization and self-development, but for the kids, these are simply places where they can be themselves without pressure and expectation.

What do they do the whole day?

Most people including me could not imagine what goes on in this type of school or center.  “How can you possibly let loose young children?” somebody asked me adding “Maybe high school age kids but not six-year olds.”  The best way to understand would be to visit one yourself.  If you are contemplating to send your child to one, they usually have a one week trial period to let the child decide if it is a good fit.

What do they do the whole day?  They could be playing minecraft, practicing on an instrument, building with Lego, attending a class being offered that day or offered weekly, hanging out, lounging around, reading a book, talking with other kids, teaching others how to code, playing football, baking cookies or bread, planting in the garden, going on a field trip, going to the park, asking questions, meeting with a mentor, organizing a class they want, and before you know it, the day is done and it’s time to go home and they don’t know where the time went.  What they are NOT doing is getting stuck in a classroom staring at the clock on the wall waiting for the school bell to ring dismissal time.

How do they learn to read and write?  At their own pace using their own way, by themselves or with the help of others.  What about math?  They pick it up naturally or they can opt to attend basic math classes offered like in the Albany Free School.

The Brooklyn Apple Academy and the Macomber Center both serve homeschooled kids but one is in tight quarters at the second floor of a building in the midst of Brooklyn while the other is on a sprawling piece of rolling land where kids have so much green space to run around and play ball.

The centers for high school age students like North Star and Princeton Learning Cooperative (PLC) both have a one-on-one, very personalized quality to the education.  Each student has a counselor with whom he or she meets once a week.  You know how some schools claim they tailor fit education to the student but actually, they still use the cookie-cutter, factory method with a euphemistic label?  In North Star and PLC, you can really see how it is personalized.  One-on-one tutorials are arranged as requested or agreed upon.  I was fortunate to attend a forum at the PLC where a panel of four teenagers shared their stories of creating their own paths without formal schooling.

 The Affordability of Alternatives

Sometimes, the alternatives are not within the reach of people with ordinary incomes.  Think of Elon Musk’s Ad Astra, the AltSchools in Silicon Valley and international schools like the United World College and Green School.  It is truly admirable how progressive schools like the High Tech High and Metropolitan schools are able to provide radical options within the public school system.

Expanding on this, is it possible to stretch public financing to democratic schools and homeschooling centers?  The democratic schools in Israel have achieved this, but democratic schools in America tend to think that freedom would be compromised if they accept government funding.  A worldschooler in Canada informed me that they could deduct homeschooling expenses from their taxes.

Private democratic schools are usually smaller and tuition fees vary.  They are usually less expensive than the typical private school.  ALC has a scaled tuition fee according to income.  Depending on their personal preference and economic means, homeschooling families can choose how many times a week they send their children to centers like Macomber or Brooklyn Apple Academy.  North Star prides itself as never having turned down anyone who has knocked on their doors.  To enable them to continue this type of service to the community, they do a lot of creative fundraising.  North Star and ALC also help others set up their own SDE center while Sudbury Valley School sells a start-up kit.

Visiting all these alternative schools and centers in the U.S.A. has made me more curioius about alternatives in third world countries especially those that are within easy reach of common people.  Except for Raya School, the progressive schools in Manila tend to be more expensive than regular private schools and there are no democratic or SDE schools at all.  However, there is the Gopala Learning Haven which is a center for homeschoolers located in a farm setting.

In China and the Philippines, there are people who believe in progressive education with Waldorf and Montessori as viable options but SDE still falls under the radar or seems too revolutionary.  People can’t believe there are schools where students don’t have to go to class unless they want to.  The structure and curriculum offered by progressive schools still serve as the security blanket that an SDE would not have and the bigger, unknown variables may scare people off.  No grades?  No tests?  What is your measure of a good education?

When asked about testing and assessment at the APDEC 2016 round table discussion, Peter Gray said that he would evaluate an educational system based on two questions: 1) Are the students happy? and 2) Do they live satisfying lives and are productive in society?  None of these can be measured by tests but can only be seen in the long run.

In the future, I’d like to research about the affordability and accessibility of SDE centers in other countries.  I’d like to fill up a world-wide map with pins of more schools and centers visited.  The road trip through America showed me the abundant variety of options available that sadly are not as accessible in countries like China or the Philippines.  Through the growing networks of self-directed learning advocates, that reality will hopefully change soon.

Web Links:

Albany Free School https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/2017/05/05/the-free-school-in-albany/
Macomber Center https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/2017/05/07/dream-of-macomber/
North Star Self-Directed Learning for Teens https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/2017/05/08/helping-teens-thrive-without-school/
Brooklyn Apple Academy https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/2017/05/19/tinkering-at-last/
Agile Learning Center https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/2017/06/06/infinite-agility/
Princeton Learning Cooperative https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/tigers-humans-and-sde/

https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/2017/07/06/thanks-carl/

Green School https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/2016/12/12/we-made-it-to-the-green-school/
United World College South East Asia https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/rave-rave-about-the-light/
High Tech High School https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/2017/03/23/baby-stepping-forward/
Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Laboratory School https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/2017/05/04/whats-possible-in-education/
Metropolitan School https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/2017/05/13/power-unicorns-and-keegan-creatures/
Classical Conversation Homeschoolers https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/three-bonuses-plus/
Alternative Education Resource Organization https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/2017/05/26/aeros-hero/
Asia Pacific Democratic Education Conference https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/2016/07/28/more-apdec-photos/

https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/2016/07/21/magic-groove/

https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/2016/07/26/please-mom-can-i-go-to-summerhill-please-please-pretty-please-with-sugar-sprinkles-on-top/

https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/2016/07/28/opening-up/

https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/2016/07/28/at-the-roundtable/

Democratic Schools around the world https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/2016/12/27/democratic-education-around-the-world/
Gopala Learning Haven https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/tag/gopala-learning-haven/

https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/2017/02/17/go-gopala-go-go-gopala/

Following is the list of schools and centers that I have toured including those in my home country, the Philippines.

Between Traditional and Progressive
Chinese Immersion Program, Madison Elementary School St. Cloud, Minnesota, USA
Classical Conversation Homeschooler St. Cloud, Minnesota, USA
Incubator School Los Angeles, USA
Urban Homeschoolers Los Angeles, USA
Manila Waldorf School San Mateo, Rizal, Philippines
Acacia Waldorf School Sta. Rosa, Cavite, Philippines
Green School Bali, Indonesia
United World College South East Asia Singapore
Temple Hill International School (Montessori) Quezon City, Philippines
Progressive
High Tech High School San Diego, USA
Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Laboratory School Toronto, Canada
Between Progressive and Self-Directed
Metropolitan School Providence, Rhode Island, USA
Self-Directed
Albany Free School Albany, New York, USA
Macomber Center Framingham, Massachusetts, USA
North Star Self-Directed Learning for Teens Sunderland, Massachusetts, USA
Brooklyn Apple Academy Brooklyn, New York, USA
Agile Learning Center New York, New York, USA
Princeton Learning Cooperative Princeton, New Jersey
Holistic Education School Miaoli, Taiwan
Gopala Learning Haven (Interest-Led Learning) Silang, Cavite, Philippines
Other Resources
826 Valencia (a resource center for young writers) San Francisco, USA
Alternative Education Resource Organization Rocklin, New York, USA
Asia Pacific Democratic Education Conference (2016) Miaoli, Taiwan
Got Only till the Front Door
Sudbury Valley School (Self-Directed) Framingham, Massachusetts, USA
Tinkering School at Brightworks School San Francisco, USA
Keys School (Progressive) Mandaluyong, Philippines
Raya School (Progressive) Quezon City, Philippines
Beacon School (Progressive) Taguig, Philippines