Dana at University of Pennsylvania for a week

College coaches have been paying some attention to Dana as a rower.  One of them invited her to attend a skills development camp held at the University of Pennsylvania. It cost $1200 and she raised the money to go through donations.  She is having quite a learning experience there, and I asked her what she thinks of the place. (Of course I’d LOVE it if she studied there) she said “Mom, it is a beautiful campus! It’s got everything anyone could want. But. All around the edges of the beautiful buildings is poverty. Houses in terrible condition, obviously people who have no chance of being students here. How can the university spend all this money on all these beautiful spaces and equipment and not on their neighbors? I wouldn’t be able to stand that. They use a cartoon Quaker as a mascot! What are they thinking?”

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Quaker homeschooling conference?

Now that Learning Monthly Meeting is up and running, I think it’s time to pull together a conference on homeschooling among Friends. What do you think?

PYM glow

An old friend of mine from when we were Young Friends, is working with the current Young Friends group here. His son is here too, just a little older than Berit. It is fun to see the next generation together, and growing in the metaphorical soil that nurtured us. Meanwhile there has been much wrestling with how to manage a budget in which the income is not enough for the usual purposes. Programming for the children & adolescents is easier to cut than some other things. I’m going to resist the urge to rant on the subject for the moment, in favor of enjoying the good and deep conversations, the rising silences, the pleasure of being among Friends. I’ll rant later.

Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, Annual Sessions 2011

The girls and I are here, among Friends and as the program got under way last night, it was a treat to see Berit and Dana with other young Friends. I got to chat with another old young Friend, after too many years apart. This morning the girls are off on a hike with their middle and high school groups. Happy and without a backward look! I’m for the plenary. Knitting bag on my shoulder, I’ll be interested in all the business but keeping an eye out for home school interests. More later!

Meditations on Quaker Education via Howard Brinton

Brinton says: “There is a vast difference between preparing to meet college entrance requirements and preparing for the kingdom of heaven. But there was a time when Quakerism had a definite philosophy of life which resulted in a definite standard of living embodied in a real community of persons. The purpose of education was to provide training for the kind of living which was implicit in the nature of Quakerism.[Quaker education in theory and practice p. 20]”

Can we prepare for living a Quaker life, college, and heaven at the same time? I tend to think that getting the patterns of our living here and now as close to what we imagine, are lead to imagine, heaven to require, ought to be our effort, and that we can raise our children within that effort. If college preparation is a part of what we think important for them, we should be able to do that in the mix. What do you think?

Thoughts about Berit going to music school

First, let it be said that going to formal school for 9th grade and the rest of high school is Berit’s decision.  She is led to play the harp and she feels that her life’s work centers on both playing the instrument professionally and in teaching children to play the harp as well.  She applied to a school with roughly 1200 applicants for 100 spots in the incoming 9th grade class, and was accepted.  She plans going on to study at Curtis Institute of music in Philadelphia after high school.  Its a good plan, and we support her in following her leadings.

It s a public school, and we will have to pay a little tuition because we live outside its district.  The kids spend half the day in academics and the other half in music study.  She will have much longer days than she was used to having at home, and plenty of homework besides what she does during the school day.  I have my worries about that, but Berit feels up to the challenge and she wants to do it so much that I am shelving my concerns.  They center on my belief that stress is not a very healthy thing for kids, but – I am reminded – she is 14 and embarking on this adventure of her own volition.  I’m happy to move into a support role for her, but it is with some trepidation that I do it.

She won’t have a built in quiet time for reflection and worship each day.  She will be outside the guarded education of home.  On to being herself in the world, trying out one of her options for life.  I am so deeply proud of Berit.  I admire her sense of direction, her faith in her ability to do what is necessary to reach her goals.

Berit at Friends Music Camp

Berit in BarnesvilleSuddenly Berit is grown up enough to go away for a month to FMC at Olney Friends School for music and Friendship.  She will be going to a magnate school in the fall for serious music study too.  Over the month at FMC she’s learned to play guitar and have room mates, be on Quaker style committees, cook with a group for a bigger one, and all the interpersonal things that go with a Quaker kids conference.  She’s had the best roots I could figure out to provide, now for the wings part! Sigh

Pondering Quaker education again

How could a curriculum be kept simple without being insufficient?
Recently I was working with a student at Westtown School who was asked to reflect, in essay form, on the testimony on simplicity in Quaker life.  He was to read the queries on the subject from the current Faith and Practice of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, and one of those was “How do I manage my commitments so that over-commitment, worry and stress do not diminish my integrity”
One way this boy could attempt to satisfy the implied injunction would be to steer clear of all social engagements of his own, and use all of his discretionary time to work on his assignments.  That would occasion another query about what time and activities does he maintain in is schedule for the refreshment of his human relationships and his balance of fun with work? It is a difficult problem to solve because, for example, this boy is given homework in each subject that he studies: English, Physics, Geometry, Peace and Justice, Quakerism, and  Latin. The Geometry alone is designed to take an hour. He has two hours each evening for doing homework, and another 45 minutes during each school day.  If he devotes an hour to his math class homework, and if the other assignments are similar in their demands, how can he complete the assigned work for each evening in time? To further complicate the matter, on a recent evening, the same boy was required to attend a dinner for the track team, of which he is a member, and a dance recital.
These occurred during what was to have been his dinner time and the first of his 2 hours of study hall that evening. Although the schedule is not so crammed each evening, the time allotment given each student is the same, and this makes the assumption that each student will need the same amount of time to complete their assignments.
In thinking about how to set up an educational paradigm which would reflect Quaker testimonies on simplicity and the value of the individual, the respect for differences, etc.  I wonder what the solution might be? First, the curriculum and the timetable for its use would have to respond to that of God in each student. I’ll translate that into meeting the strengths of the individual, and providing support for the individual’s weaknesses.  How might that be done if we are educating children in groups with a teacher student ratio of 1 to 20? We might have to shrink that ratio to something like 1 to 5. We might have to open the timetable so that benchmarks could be reached at different times by different students. We might not group children by age as often, and we might want to be more selective about the purposes for which we group them, when we do. For example we might make groups for learning objectives like long division, or level 1 Spanish. We could group for developmental stage – everyone who is on the edge of puberty and needs to know a few things about what’s going on in their bodies; such groups could be further refined by gender.
The bottom line here is to center the instructional plans on the people needing the instruction, rather than on what is most expedient for those in charge of the budget, or similar focus, distant from the person-to-person work of teaching and learning.
That would mean significant change, and it would mean taking on the largely unrecognized substrata of our beliefs about what children are relative to adults.
If we honor the testimony of equality among people, we need to decouple “equality” from “sameness” in a number of ways. First, we have to dispatch the idea that adult authority over children is a necessary part of an educational system.
What would happen if childhood were respected, and cherished in school?

An idea for Quaker Homeschooling

I have an idea for creating a community for homeschooling among Friends and I want to float it here for consideration and constructive critique in the Light.  This is essentially what I proposed to the Meeting we attend years ago with the idea that it would be under the care of that Meeting.  The proposal was not accepted but I wonder now if it could be done outside of any existing Monthly Meeting and perhaps developing as an entity – a Monthly Meeting – of its own.

In Maryland, where we live, homeschoolers have a choice of  being “supervised” by their school district or by a distance/correspondence school or group “operated by a bona fide church organization.”  Whichever is chosen by the family, the organization must review the student’s program of study twice a year to assess whether or not the student is receiving “regular and thorough” instruction in the usual school subjects. “Regular and thorough” can mean a lot of different things from unschooling to a very school-like distance learning program.  The state or district cannot prescribe what approach the family should take.  Many Maryland homeschooling families sign up with an “umbrella” group which vouches to the state and district for the “regular and thorough” instruction of the student and the family then meets with the umbrella group’s representative rather than the person from the public school district.  The most prominent of these is a non-denominational “bona fide church organization” (http://www.tlci.us).  The point here is that the required “supervision” in Maryland can range from the very minimal two brief meetings a year of the parent with the school district representative, to a very much richer and more supportive community relationship. I don’t know how it might mesh with other states’ laws, but I imagine it wouldn’t violate them.

So, the idea I propose is a Monthly Meeting for worship with a concern for homeschooling which would opperate like any other Meeting for Worship with a concern for business, but members might raise issues troubling them or inspiring them, committees might be convened and then report for things like field trips or foreign language, Quaker studies, college planning, or Quaker life at home.  The group might have weekly meetings for worship or members might belong to regular monthly meetings in addition to the home schooling one or they might not.  Students might present individual projects to the group, they might get together for shared concerns or interests, dare I say pot-lucks?  I imagine local monthly groups, which could connect in regional quarterly groups with a session at their yearly meeting or parallel to it, and even connections at a national (international?) level.

What do you think?

Yikes! Lost posts!

I left the computer for a minute while in the manage posts screen and one of my feline friends walked on the keyboard, deleting all the posts from the main page 😦  I will try to repost them but fear that I may not have kept copies of everything.

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