Rave, Rave about the Light

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If money was not a factor, what kind of education would parents choose for their children?  A private, progressive or international school with world-class facilities, a low teacher to student ratio and teachers with sterling qualification, progressive-minded leadership that recognizes and celebrates the uniqueness of each individual and strikes a balance between disciplined and student-directed learning?  While undertaking this research, I came across a few students from International Schools in Singapore, New York and Manila who make me wonder about the students who do thrive, excel and are happy in school with a tuition fee that’s prohibitive to most people.  I wonder about the school’s methods which combine a structured approach with a degree of interest-led learning through the wider-than-normal-range of choices and opportunities they offer.

My friend, Mew Yee’s daughter, Ning goes to the United Nations International School in Manhattan and at age sixteen, she spearheaded a project to teach children how to make props and sets for theater productions. Ning wrote, “. . . . I am a total theater geek.  But, I have never stepped on a stage to perform in my life.  Ever since I was 11, I loved to create, sculpt, paint, polish and design props and sets for shows.  When I thought about doing WIT for a business, I immediately thought about investing in my personal passion for theater.  My business, Set the Scene, aims to do just that – set the scene for 4th and 7th grade elementary school kids to learn backstage theater skills.”

These are the notes Ning makes for her class:

Crazy, huh?   Crazy, fun, free-to-be-me creative.  Every parent wishes that sort of self-discovery and enjoyment when their kids go to school – not dragging their feet through the mud but finding and stretching their wings to fly on their own, deriving pleasure in the exercise.

Ning’s sister, fifteen-year old Hue is very talented as well.  She did this and is into music and sports.

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When I met up with my friend, Sofie in Singapore, she introduced me to a family whose three sons attended the United World College.  I had seen the UWC website before and thought maybe, it’s just their online presence that’s impressive.  After hearing two boys rave about their education (the third one was in football practice) and after visiting the UWC premises itself, I was convinced that it was more than a blurb and that they lived it — “We inspire our students to create a more peaceful and sustainable future through education.”  The students visit third world countries and work on actual projects there to help improve people’s lives.  There are no grades in the early years and there is much individual attention and value placed on the uniqueness of each student.  Of course, the complete sports facilities and well-equipped workshops are quite enviable, too.  The boys showed me lamps they made using laser.

I also personally know two young girls who attend the British School of Manila (BSM) who have never praised their school before they started going to BSM.  They previously attended an ultra-strict Chinese school that burdened them with too much homework.  BSM for them, freed them to have a more balanced academic and non-academic life plus learning has become fun rather than a chore and a bore. They were raving about the activities, projects, field trips, teachers and how learning was exciting.

My visits to schools and talks with parents and students are too brief, perhaps too superficial to even make conclusions but they do lead to even more questions like what is the function of economic prosperity in providing good options in education?   To what extent does incorporating a degree of self-directed learning into traditional modes make it a more responsive and effective system?  Are the students happier in these schools that combine the “best of both worlds” — traditional (with a curriculum) and progressive (more freedom and interest-led)?   What can we gather from schools that incorporate varying degrees of self-directed learning that could possibly bridge gaps?   (my notes for future study)

I initiated this independent research on education as a way of grappling with my own fears and apprehensions of being a mother of two boys.  My husband and I tried homeschooling but I am not as convinced as him that this is the way to go because I personally see our sons as thriving more within a consistent and supportive community larger than the immediate family.  I am also more inclined towards a structured way of learning during the earlier years to establish a firm foundation.  This goes against the tenets of SDE (self-directed education) purists so I raised a question during the PLC (Princeton Learning Cooperative) forum of teens who have been shaping their own education path.  What’s their opinion about having a more structured approach during the elementary years?  The young panelists said that it depends on the individual. Some kids might work well within a structure and some might not.  For them, it was important to be a part of a community and it helps to be motivated around friends.

 

 

 

Tigers, Humans and SDE

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Throughout this three-month, ten-thousand-mile journey, aside from enjoying the adventure, we’ve also managed to insert time for my research work (an adventure in itself!) and visited fourteen schools and centers which offer or promote an alternative form of education.  I’d usually observe or talk to the teachers, students and parents, but number fifteen on the list-of-places-to-visit is quite unique because a forum happened to be scheduled on May 31st, coincidentally three days before our departure.  How in the earth was I going to miss that?  The Princeton Learning Cooperative (PLC) in New Jersey held a panel discussion with teenagers and young adults sharing their non-traditional high school education and how it’s possible to go to college and have a career despite the unusual path.

While waiting for the forum to start, I sat chatting with the person beside me who happened to be a teacher at PLC.  Katy quit teaching in a public school after fifteen years because she refused to be a proctor during state tests.  She is not against all standardized test but she protests the way data is used and how the process is data-driven rather than people-oriented.  For her, education is not a business and tests can’t evaluate what’s most important.  Test results are not a true reflection of students’ capabilities.  She is much happier now at PLC seeing students directing their own education rather than being dictated from above.

When the forum started, Alison introduced the four young people who unfurled their stories: Jacob, Kennedy, Nathaniel and Cameron.

When Jacob’s mom told him about PLC, a school that gave no grades and had Wednesdays off, Jacob was eager to sign up.  He discovered that those perks were not the true advantage of being at PLC.  It was being able to spend time the way he wanted which was immersing himself in music, writing songs, being in two bands and even taking classes at the community college.

Kennedy is also into music and her dad is in the field of education.  Sometimes, it’s odd to be in a radical place like PLC when your own dad is involved in traditional school but the bottomline is that it’s a great fit for Kennedy being at PLC. She plans to get a degree in music and expand her clientele base in music teaching.

When Nathaniel entered PLC, he thought he wanted to be an architect so PLC looked for a volunteer local architect to teach him.  Nathaniel gradually realized, it was not the field for him and discovered something else.  He eventually got a personal training, CPR, first aid and wilderness certificates and plans to study Health and Exercise Science at the Colorado State University.

Cameron had health issues that made her dread going out.  She missed so many classes in school so her parents found PLC but even then, she was reluctant to go.  Only after a while did she start warming up to the PLC community thanks to a persevering mentor.  She took classes in photography, philosophy, emotional intelligence and art and is now training to be a yoga teacher.

Somebody in the forum asked about how they position themselves in college applications.  It is no longer a handicap to be homeschooled nowadays.  Since PLC does not give out grades, the student has to come up with a narrative transcript and write a self-evaluation.  They categorize the classes that they’ve taken in and out of PLC and put them into an acceptable format with the guidance of their mentor.  Students at PLC have taken placement tests and SATs to get into college.

Each PLC member meets weekly with mentors to discuss individual goals, issues, track progress and troubleshoot problems.  It can be more or less an hour depending on the need.

The participation of parents is important in PLC where family meetings are held three times a year for each member.  Among many other things so unlike regular school, the students appreciate that there’s no detention.  Whenever a problem comes up, they have to discuss and resolve it together.  In real life, there is no detention.  The members of PLC respect that every teen wants to be in PLC so abuse of freedom is not common as long as they keep in their hearts the key words painted on the colorful table at the center of their space: encourage, include, contribute, respect and empathize.  It’s simply an inspiring, nurturing and beautiful place to be that allows you to be you. That sounds pie-in-the-sky, too-good-to-be-true.  Is there a downside?

Having free, unstructured time could be a challenge in the beginning and each one grapples with time management and owning choices.  One panelist said that it’s a challenge having to transition from a fully supportive community to having none in the outside world but since they are equipped with tools to handle situations as they come, it’s not a major problem.  There is a feeling of isolation also as they see their other friends in regular schools prepare for graduation so they have to tell themselves that their path is different and unique.

How is graduation done at PLC?  Everyone says something about the graduate, speaking about how they made a difference in their life and you can imagine how that could end up in tears.

Nathaniel used the caterpillar in a cocoon metaphor.  If one cuts the cocoon too early, the butterfly doesn’t develop.  The caterpillar must be allowed to stay in the cocoon and the butterfly will emerge naturally through it’s own bidding.  For me, the cartoon that hits a home run for self-directed education is a Calvin and Hobbes strip stuck to a post in the central common space at PLC.

Calvin:  When a kid grows up, he has to be something.  He can’t just stay the way he is. But a tiger grows up and stays a tiger.  Why is that? 

Hobbes: No room for improvement.

They both pause and contemplate.

Calvin:  Of all the luck, my parents had to be humans.

Hobbes:  Don’t take it too hard.  Humans provide some very important protein.   

Some people have a difficult time grasping this aberrant-looking form of so-called education like the PLC.   We are all expected by society to perform and get good grades in school and “be someone” when we grow up.  There’s not much economic gain to merely “being.”   However, places like PLC show that if you nurture somebody to grow naturally towards the direction that he or she seeks, things fall into place in its own time.

Know more about self-directed education and PLC:

What is self-directed education?

Alliance for Self-Directed Education

Alternatives to School

Stories of How Teens Create Paths for Themselves

Who are the PLC mentors

I was very fortunate that on my visit to PLC that my husband came and shot the video of the forum.  I’ve tried uploading it onto Youtube but the file is too big so I have yet to figure how to cut it up.  But do check out this video on how PLC works.

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Infinite Agility

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In computer games, spawn is the appearance of a player in the game.  At the Agile Learning Center (ALC), mornings start with spawn when students share what they intend to do that day and during the afternoon spawn, they report whether they were able to fulfill those intentions.  That day I visited their Manhattan school, there was an offering in writing, philosophy and a field trip to the South Street Seaport to check out the ship which Chuck, one of the ALC facilitators, helped restore.  The rest of the day, kids played on the computer, watched a movie, hung around and walked to two neighboring deli stores.

The offerings are quirky as the facilitators and students who provide classes to whomever are interested: fermentation, bomb disposal, coding, printmaking, cooking plus the class that’s been offered for the longest span of time – Japanese, courtesy of a parent whose child wanted to study the language.  If anybody is interested in pursuing a subject or developing a skill, all one had to do was ask.  If any of the facilitators or students feel that people could benefit following a topic or if they have a personal passion for something, it can be offered up to the group. A friend from Brooklyn is tapped to give classes in circus acrobatics.  All over whiteboards placed in every room, there are constantly evolving marks, signs, calendars and colored post-it pads which announce ideas and communal decisions.

The ALC takes off or branches off from other alternative forms of education — unschooling, democratic, free school, Sudbury.  ALC is more like unschooling but within a community.  It’s more intentional than free school and Sudbury in that facilitators can make suggestions to guide kids to advance their interests.  How do you know when to actively step in and when to stand back?  It differs from person to person but knowing the person within a close-knit community for some time allows you to gauge each case individually.

ALC also takes its cue and inspiration from agile software practices since its founder, Art Brock is immersed in the IT industry.  There is a sense of modern fluidity and systems flexibility, an aversion to wasteful long meetings and if I don’t seem to be making any sense describing it, you can check out their website and examine the lingo.  They also derive insight from the Quakers who, without resorting to voting, capture the spirit of the meeting to arrive at resolutions.  The emphasis is on agility in creatively solving problems and meetings are not platforms for the perpetuation of power dynamics.

To the students who go to ALC, it simply feels like a home – a school and a home at the same time.  Everyone who comes through its doors tries it out for a week to see if it suits them.  One of the students once struggled and fought over completing homework with his parents when he was going to regular school.  When he joined ALC which his dad discovered, there are a lot less conflict with his parents. Another father is happy to see his daughter thrive in a setting that allows an inordinate amount of freedom.  He is pleasantly surprised when his daughter spews species of trees and types of rocks after playing Minecraft and how she was able to make a skateboard at six years old.  Another student hated school because he was academically ahead of his class and couldn’t go on his own pace which he was then able to do at ALC.

Mel shows a TED Talk video about making sense of string theory and though there are only three other people in the room, there is a thought-provoking discussion afterwards. Every Friday, everyone blogs and reflects on what they did that week.  Towards the end of each day, everyone helps clean up and there is an optional Gratitude Circle where you share what you are thankful for that day.

The facilitators in ALC are able to pursue their own personal interests like baking bread in Mel’s case or the nature of dictatorships in Abby’s case.  Abby lived and studied dictatorships in Eastern Europe so she once offered a class about that in ALC.  She was particularly fascinated by how the educational system differed before, during and after dictatorships which cemented her advocacy to have schools in total service of the children.  Abby also worked on a farm so she once offered classes in bird and plant identification.  Each facilitator has a “superpower” and Ryan’s is being with the kids without having an agenda.  Chuck is into photography and after getting his art degree, went sailing for four years.  At ALC, he is happy that he doesn’t have to put his interest on hold.  Neither do the students.

Check out the ALC website and one of the coolest thing about it, I think, is the sliding scale tuition fee.  One of the parents devised this neat computer trick.  The ALC network is also growing.  If you want to find out more about ALC, check out their FAQ page.  If you want to get into the mind of the ALC founder, check out Art Brock’s blog.   What’s in store for the future of ALC is quite exciting as Art explains:

The next step we’d like our older kids program to be in the same building as a social enterprise incubator (EmergingLeaderLabs.org), and a co-working space (WeWork.com). This provides an easy, practical, natural transition into the kind of entrepreneurial activities that most kids will be moving toward in our evolving economy.  Also the entrepreneurs, freelancers, and innovators could share their passions with our students in workshops, classes, talks, boot camps. Students can apprentice with startups, artists/designers, and nonprofits working in the same building.

I would definitely want to see that happen and would like to visit the space once it’s realized.  Read Art’s whole article co-written with Tomis Parker here.

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AERO’s Hero

Jerry Mintz is one of the icons of the non-traditional education world having founded the Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) in 1989 and having held AERO Conferences for the past twelve years, thus nurturing an international network of passionate change agents.   After visiting fourteen schools and learning centers of varying degrees of progressiveness and radicalism, I felt the pilgrimage to Jerry’s home/AERO office in Roslyn Heights was a fitting culmination, a mini-graduation of sorts even if I still had one last co-op in Princeton to check out.

More than being a fountain of wisdom and experience from being a school principal for seventeen years and running his own catalytic organization, Jerry is simply a guy who loves people.  His home office is abuzz with folks, young and old, and he is more than willing to share his love for table tennis with anyone who cares to try like my son, Joshua.   Two people from mainland China coincidentally came that day we visited and they ended up chatting with Jason and showing off their ping pong prowess.  Jerry has a knack for teaching ping pong and if I could place my kids in his homeschool twice a week together with Auroja, I would knowing what an encouraging and generous guy he is.

Jerry brings out a foldable ping pong table and turns on the robot and Joshua practices with complete glee.   Jerry unfurls a roll of cardboard to cleverly contain the orange balls so they’d be easier to pick up.  Weaving in and out of the rooms, Jimmy plays with five-year old Auroja, a fellow Paw Patrol devotee and monkey bar strongman like him.

 

AERO is a treasure trove for alt-ed pilgrims like me itching to find books.   I thought I’d be able to get some books from the Sudbury Valley School in Framingham but they told me to just purchase online.  Seeing Jerry’s bookshelves was a dream come true for me.  I wish Donna, my partner in “ed crime,” was there to choose books and listen to Jerry share stories about his involvement in various efforts around America and the world.

The serendipity as we connect dots in this trip amazes me.  Donna and I met Adler Yang and watched his film, “If There is a Reason to Study” about the condition of Taiwanese education during the APDEC (Asia Pacific Democratic Education Conference) last year. Jerry tells me that Adler is expected to arrive in New York end of the month and we could probably meet up again in AERO.

A woman from Ukraine calls Jerry up asking about some alternative schools they plan to visit.  They are also doing a cross-country trip like us while researching about education. When I visit the Agile Learning Center (ALC) a few days after, folks at the ALC tell me the Ukrainians were there a few days before.  The visitors wanted to learn about new methodologies to apply to their school.

Jerry talks about his observations about Sudbury Schools and new models like ALC.   I tell him about the opportunity in the Philippines waiting for me to be part of the Gopala Learning Haven, a center for homeschoolers with an idyllic setting amidst nature.  It’s a difficult decision for me to make because although I want to participate in this process I’ve been researching about and dreaming of, life in China still holds its attraction because things are way, way simpler and less problematic there.   Jerry suggests, maybe we can have a trial period in the Philippines and make no long-term commitments first.

Being a part of this movement, this web is quite exciting and to think it all started over a year ago out of discontent with the education system in China.  Many people’s starting point may be that — a bubbling discontent that pushes issues to the surface to be addressed.  The challenge is what do we do about it in concrete terms that deliver, as Ghandi said, “the change we want to see.”

 

Tinkering at Last

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After watching Gever Tully’s TED Talk about the Tinkering School, I wanted Joshua to try it out but we weren’t able to get into the one in San Francisco because enrollment is for a series of sessions and no drop-ins.  So I have been looking forward to the one in New York offered by the Brooklyn Apple Academy because it’s open to homeschoolers and it’s okay to take one class at a time.

Noah Mayer, founder of the Brooklyn Apple did a podcast about wanting to start a microschool and Gever Tully himself got in touch with him and helped him do just that. Now, the Brooklyn Apple is on its fifth year of operation and third year as a homeschool resource center. It started as a one-room schoolhouse with six students.  Noah found that he was not as adept at administrative and bookkeeping matters so he partnered with Cottage Class which is a network for microschools that help them with that side of the equation.

All over the world, teachers are reinventing education by starting independent schools, camps, classes and study groups to meet the needs of the children in their communities.  CottageClass is a community marketplace that connects families with these teacher-founders who are transforming our world.

The goal of CottageClass is to help all children reach their greatest potential through individualized instruction.

An average of eight children drop in the Brooklyn Apple every day.  Aside from four days of Tinkering, they have field trips on Wednesday, Minecraft meet-ups on Fridays and other activities from arts and crafts and stop motion animation and a whole lot of play determined and directed by the kids themselves with teachers there for support and guidance.

The workshop room is a dream come true for tinkerers who can pick up odds and ends and initiate a project, use the drill and other equipment but as Lyman Rhodes reminds, safety is always paramount.  Joshua doesn’t gravitate towards the workroom but ends up making buttons in the crafts room and chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen.  That’s the beauty of self-directed learning.  As his parent, I thought he’d tinker with the machines but instead, he excitedly shows me step by step how he made pins by cut-stamping out a comic book page and producing a button.   Lyman tells me that these cool buttons are sometimes sold by the kids in the bustling, commercial 5th Avenue right outside their building where pedestrians end up supporting the kids’ enterprise.

On the walls of the bathroom, one poster said “Livelyhood without slavery to the money economy.”  The deliberate misspelling points to the sad state of some forms of livelihood that suck the life out of a person, making it all about work for the sake of money rather than for the joy and love of doing the work.  In this age, it puzzles many people when some opt out of the system or refuse to join the rat race but the ones who do that see the world from a different perspective.  The teachers who start and run the microschools also view from an uncommon vantage point so they’d like to offer an alternative to the current education system.  They want to be able to listen better to each child, one child at a time.  They don’t want education to be about grades, test scores and outperforming each other.   They want to give back to childhood what childhood is losing.

Other posts about the Brooklyn Apple:

The Q’s School Tool: Part 4: The Brooklyn Apple Academy

Noah Apple@picbear

A Look at the Brooklyn Apple Academy

And if you just want to know more about microschools:

What’s the Next Big Idea? Microschool Networks

The Return of the One-Room Schoolhouse

The Rise of AltSchool and Other Microschools

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Power Unicorns and Keegan Creatures

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A streamer saying “One of the 13 Most Innovative Schools in the World” greeted us near the entrance to the Metropolitan High School and I hoped they’d let me in even though I didn’t have an appointment.  Priscilla, the receptionist graciously helped me out and eventually, Brian came and introduced me to Rebecca, one of the graduates and Idalys, one of the students.  They toured me around the campus mentioned by President Obama in one of his speeches: “That’s why we’ll follow the example of places like the Met Center (a Big Picture Learning school) in Rhode Island that give students that individual attention, while also preparing them through real-world, hands-on training the possibility of succeeding in a career.”

The school operates like a launch pad to the real world treating students as capable adults who can direct themselves rather than children to be spoon-fed with the state-approved boxed-set of curriculum.  They solve real life problems through projects they choose themselves.  They are involved in community work, give-backs and internships. They have one-on-one advisories instead of a classroom that feels like prison.  They may spend three days a week at the Met and two days outside gaining as much practical experience as they can.  They can shape their own education including being able to take college classes.

In each building, there is a social worker who checks in on the students’ emotional and mental health and sees that they’re educationally on track.  But the heart of the process is the student as the center of learning.

“1) The Advisor works with each individual student in the class to help them discover what interests and motivates them. 2) The Mentor, a lawyer, engineer, small business owner, etc., guides each student’s internship. 3) The Parent is actively enlisted as resource to the Big Picture Learning community.  4) The Student (and fellow students) interact to reinforce each other’s passion for real work in the real world.  The result is a self-teaching community of learners where no one feels left-out, and each helps motivate the other.”

It makes so much sense, you wonder why aren’t more schools switching to this method but there is already a growing number of schools across twenty two states of America which are part of the Big Picture Learning network.  The model has also been adopted in countries like Australia, Canada, Israel and the Netherlands.  The Met in Providence, Rhode Island is the prototype initiated by Elliot Washor and Dennis Littky.

In the schools that Big Picture Learning envisioned, students would be at the center their own education. They would spend considerable time in the community under the tutelage of mentors and they would not be evaluated solely on the basis of standardized tests. Instead, students would be assessed on exhibitions and demonstrations of achievement, on motivation, and on the habits of mind, hand, and heart  – reflecting the real world evaluations and assessments that all of us face in our everyday lives.

Both my tour guides, Rebecca and Idalys are passionate about organizing and managing events. Idalys has raised funds through a walkathon in memory of a Met staff member who pass away.  Rebecca currently works at the Black Box Theater, a venue for cultural and community events.

I wonder if there are students who don’t take too well to the unconventional way things are done and Rebecca says that if they enter the system from a traditional school, it may take adjustment but they soon catch on that they’re responsible for what they learn and get out of Met.  A student one time was caught not doing the internship that he was supposed to do so after that incident, measures were placed to avoid abuse of trust and freedom.

We entered the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship where Nick introduced us to students who started and grew their own businesses.  John produces ice-cream-inspired candles while Keegan creates his own hand-screened printed art on shirts. Even though he is in high school, Keegan is already involved with the Rhode Island School of Design and aiming to be as prolific as he can be as an artist.  Talking to the students, one can see that they do find their own way in and out of the Met campus.  They grow at their own speed and pace.

Curious about our family road trip and research about education, Nick throws me a question about what impressed me most about the schools and learning centers that we visited.  I told him about being struck by the Macomber and North Star which were technically not schools but informal centers for self-directed learning.  However, visiting the Met that day made me realize how the same self-directed ideal can also take place within a more structured school setting.  What’s even more amazing is this is not a private school.  It’s a public school where students enter by way of lottery.  That means that even though they use quite radical, out-of-the-box methods, they still operate within the system, get state funding and comply with requirements.  Within this typically constricted environment, they are able to break out of the box and do the unthinkable, even the unimaginable.  Except for visionaries like Elliot and Dennis, ideas that seem “unthinkable” and “unimaginable” are most certainly not.

Read about Dennis Littky, the co-founder’s story:  Radical’ Educator Pushes Boundaries and Brings Results: Dennis Littky Story

Profile: Dennis Littky

About Elliot Washor

Check out this book by Elliot Washor: Leaving to Learn: How Out-of-School Learning Increases Student Engagement and Reduces Dropout Rates

There are a number of videos, too:

Elliott Washor

Dennis Littky

Ten Minutes about the Littky Method

Personalization and student engagement

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Check out Keegan Creatures on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/keegancreatures/

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Dear Peter

Thank you for helping set me on a path one year ago when I emailed you my PhD proposal and you replied how flattered you were “to be seen as an inspiration along with Thoreau” since my thesis title was “Walden Meets Ken and Gray: Journey as a Search for Knowledge through Nature, Creativity and Play.”  The conceptual framework linked your book, Free to Learn with Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and Ken Robinson’s Learning to Be Creative.

In your first email to me, you mentioned that you will be in Taiwan in July as a speaker at the Asia-Pacific Democratic Education Conference (APDEC).  Because of you sharing that information, my friend, Donna and I ended up attending that event and after hearing and meeting all these inspiring people, we dreamed of one day holding APDEC in China and the Philippines. We formed a small of group of interested people on Chinese social media but at the back of our minds, we want to someday have an alternative kind of school in our countries.   I thought this wouldn’t happen till further in the future when we’ve done more preparatory work on this field or when we’ve gathered more people passionate about self-directed learning.

However, as I told you during my visit to your house last week, I met Laksmi who started the Gopala Learning Haven that in my mind perfectly fit the picture of a Sudbury School set in nature with its forest and stream but it’s operating concept is more like the Macomber Center because it serves primarily homeschoolers.  You suggested that I visit the Macomber Center during my research in America which I did plus I dropped by the North Star Self-Directed Learning for Teens.  Now, I have this idea that Laksmi can be the one with the younger kids and I’d be the one with the teenagers.

It’s tempting for me to go back home to the Philippines to pursue this dream project but as I told you there are too many family and personal issues that hold me back from returning.  Life in China is simpler and more affordable so it’s the easier path for me, but the opportunity of realizing this dream that has been over a year brewing is not as apparent as the one in my own country.  After talking to you last week, it seemed the only thing as usual holding me back is fear.  After talking to you, I felt courage to take the more challenging route but I don’t know if that courage will last when I step on Philippine soil and beyond.

Even if we have met briefly, you have impacted my life in more ways and for this I am very, very grateful.  You knew about this road trip across America from the start and it’s amazing that we would meet up at your house when we are near the finish line of our three-month journey.   Thank you for welcoming me into your home and for the lovely ham and peanut omelette lunch.  Thank you for listening to me blabber about the schools I visited.  I think Donna is the only other person who could listen to me talk so much about those schools and learning centers.

The PhD concept in the beginning is evolving from something academic to immediately applying research to real life which I think is a good development.  However, I still wish I can write a book about all this that will be published in English and Chinese.  It’s funny how Donna and I were so bent on holding a talk on self-directed learning in Manila but we had to cancel because we needed more time to spend on the camp for Chinese students traveling to the Philippines plus there’s the more practical matter of the learning haven.  So it’s not merely talking about self-directed learning but practicing it and seeing it in action, not just a topic of conversation.

These are my blog entries about the schools and learning centers visited throughout this trip.  There are around five more that I still need to go to in Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey.

https://entirelyofpossibility.wordpress.com/category/researching-education/

I’m visiting AERO (Alternative Education Resource Organization) in New York and hope I can contribute some articles.  I was wondering if any of these articles would be useful to the websites you are involved with, Alternatives to School and Alliance for Self-Directed Learning, or if I could edit or re-write any of these articles so that it’s in a more useful format to those sites.  Please tell me as I’d love to be contribute in any way possible to the movement.

Thank you very much.

Always,

Joei : )

phd conceptual framework