Sunday, April 02, 2006

MHEA Conference

This Saturday, I spoke on two panels at the MHEA Conference, Maryland's state-wide homeschool conference. Probably the best part was connecting with other unschoolers and seeing some old friends from Southern Maryland.

Attendance this year was down, probably due to the keynote speaker. Last year was John Taylor Gatto, obviously a huge draw in the homeschool community. The year before that was Daniel Pink, author of Free Agent Nation that drew some really interesting and encouraging conclusions about homeschooling in the new economy. The year previous to that was Susan Wise Bauer, co-author of The Well-Trained Mind, not my cup of tea but a viable homeschooling speaker, nonetheless.

This year, it was a relatively unknown private tutor turned academy head from California who insisted upon referring to herself as a "homeschooler" because she schooled other people's children in her own home under California's homeschooling law. Just not the same. Moreover, her "hierarchy of knowledge" method was downright offensive from my perspective in it's claim that children should not be allowed access to information or opinions without the appropriate historical building blocks. That, of course, doesn't even get into the western cultural bias of her approach that was hugely ignorant of the world at large. Well, maybe the approach itself was not hugely ignorant, but it apparently insists that children remain ignorant of the larger world until they have mastered all of Western history, literature, etc. in order. Only then, perhaps, would students be able to understand contextually and hierarchically speaking the world and all its complexity.

Argh! Enough tirade.

The unschooling panels went well, I thought, and those who attended seemed genuinely interested in exploring unschooling. Parents, especially, seemed glad to have the chance to talk with grown unschoolers on the second panel about their reflections on unschooling and the doors it opened or closed in life after home. The three unschoolers on the panel made some really great points while honestly and objectively reflecting on their experiences. I was able to offer some of my observations teaching literature and writing at Penn State, and suggested parents check out Wes Beach's website, Beach High School--Freedom for Self-Direction for some really great information on a creative approach to highschool transcripts, college and the use of a high school education.

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