Tagged self-directed

FAQ Question 1: How Will My Child Learn To Read?

In the upcoming weeks, I’ll be posting on this blog answers to frequently asked questions I receive from parents interested in having their child attend ALC Mosaic. I’m inviting feedback to help make the responses to these questions clear & concise, yet also thorough enough to feel adequately answered. If you have additional links or information that you think would be valuable to include in the response, I welcome your replies so I can make this FAQ page awesome!

The intent of the FAQ page is to send to parents before they attend a Parent Interest Night at our school so we spend less time discussing these answers in person and more time answering questions about Agile Learning Centers and ALC Mosaic specifically.

So here goes the first question I tackled:

How Will My Child Learn to Read?

For most children, they will learn to read just as they learned to walk and talk – through living around people who walk and talk. Most normally developing children are extremely motivated to walk because they see adults getting places faster than they are. They are also very motivated to learn language skills because it helps them get what they want and need more effectively.

In our school, a child who reads is much more independent than a child who does not read. The same goes for the world, and our school likes to model what is currently important in today’s world – literacy being one of those things.

What we observe with the children at Mosaic is that they all want to read because it increases their ability to do things on their own. If they can read the schedule board on their own, they are able to figure out what’s going on, and when and where the activity is taking place, without getting someone to help them. They will able to play many more complex games because they are able to read.

We have not encountered one child yet that simply does not want to read here. We do encounter children who simply teach themselves to read in a way that works for them. This can look like a child suddenly showing up and just reading one day all at once, or like a child really interested in reading and sounding out words for months, dropping it for few months, and then coming back to intensely until they are fluent. You can think back to how your child learned to speak – first sounds, playing with sounds, repeating sounds, saying the few words they know over and over again. It looks like that, but with the words they can read and write. They write the words they know repeatedly and acquire more and more.

If they want extra support to speed up the reading process, we provide it. Otherwise, we see them teach themselves. Humans are incredibly intelligent – especially when they are motivated they pay very close attention to what it is that they want to learn. A child learning to read will be carefully studying letters as someone read to them aloud.

Through his research, Peter Gray, Ph.D., Professor of Research Science at Boston College created these principles of how children learn to read without schooling:

Seven Principles of Learning to Read Without Schooling

1) For non-schooled children there is no critical period or best age for learning to read.
2) Motivated children can go from apparent non-reading to fluent reading very quickly.
3) Attempts to push reading can backfire.
4) Children learn to read when reading becomes, to them, a means to some valued end or ends.
5) Reading, like many other skills, is learned socially through shared participation.
6) Some children become interested in writing before reading, and they learn to read as they learn to write.
7) There is no predictable “course” through which children learn to read.

In this article, Gray expands on these principles in much detail and also describes how they came from a study of Sudbury students – students who were never told to learn to read or forced to go to any class or course. From this study he also writes, “What they found defied every attempt at generalization. Students began their first real reading at a remarkably wide range of ages–from as young as age 4 to as old as age 14. Some students learned very quickly, going from apparently complete non-reading to fluent reading in a matter of weeks; others learned much more slowly. A few learned in a conscious manner, systematically working on phonics and asking for help along the way. Others just “picked it up.” They realized, one day, that they could read, but they had no idea how they had learned to do so. There was no systematic relationship between the age at which students had first learned to read and their involvement with reading at the time of the interview. Some of the most voracious readers had learned early and others had learned late.”

 

Extra Reading on Reading

 

Rudolf Steiner, who created the Waldorf educational model, felt it was an injustice to a child’s imagination to teach them to read before the age of 7.  Schools in Finland (these schools have gotten US press for their excellent school systems, read about that here and here) do not have children start school until 7. In addition, one can really begin to learn to read at any age. There is also a need for ones eye muscles to build during normal play as a child before they are ready to read, and this development can widely vary.

The point is that a child’s time to be ready to read will occur at many different ages, and it’s ridiculous to try to make all children be on a particular level at one age. Still, all traditional schools are expecting every child to begin some type of literacy instruction by Kindergarten or 1st grade. Many children are not ready at this time and then develop anxieties over why they are not good enough, smart enough, etc. This becomes a labored pattern that, for many, keeps them in the low reading group or self-identifying as a non-reader. We don’t believe in doing that to children here.

John Taylor Gatto has done extensive research on the effectiveness of public schools throughout his 30 year career as a teacher. He is also a public speaker and author on the topic. In this interview (as well as in many of his other essays and books) he debunks the myth that children need school to learn to read:

“By 1940, literacy as a national number stood at 96 percent for whites and 80 percent for blacks. Four of five blacks were literate in spite of all disadvantages. Yet, six decades later, the Adult Literacy Survey and National Assessment of Educational Progress reported a 40 percent illiteracy rate for blacks – doubling the earlier deficiency – and a 17 percent rate for whites, more than quadrupling it. Yet, the money spent on schooling in real terms had grown 350 percent.”

 

If you would like to read more on this topic, Lisa Nielson compiles a very comprehensive list of links here to help you learn more about how children learn to read without teachers.

Re-visiting My Roots

I remember thinking that there would be no book that would affect me like A.S. Neill‘s Summerhill when I read it. I read Summerhill during the AERO school starter course led by Jerry Mintz four months before I opened The Mosaic School, LLC in January of 2013. After reading Neill’s book I felt empowered and inspired to take action to create a school grounded in principles that I believed in. Neil showed me that an education centered around the needs of individuals – who they are, their passions, their interests – was possible.

democratic education     Summerhill book image2

Then I read Democratic Education by Yaacov Hecht in August of 2013, weeks before Mosaic officially launched as a full blown school. Hecht’s writing and story are incredible and I found myself blown away as I was when reading Summerhill. Even more remarkable, as I was reading his book during IDEC in Boulder, CO that August, Hecht ended up walking over and joining me and my friend @Alex for lunch. If that’s not divine universal intervention, I don’t know what is!

With Hecht (far right) after meeting him at IDEC 2013

Hecht founded the Democratic School in Hadera, Israel, the first school in the world to call itself democratic. His model was so appreciated by parents and students that when his waiting list grew to the hundreds, he ended up starting another school. He has since been called the “Father of Democratic Education” in Israel, establishing a network of schools serving over 7,000 students in his country. I highly encourage that educators and parents read his book, as he provides a very easy-to-read account of his journey, from how he grew up to starting his first school, how he expanded on his ideas, vignettes about students in a free school setting, detailed learning theories, as well as his current and future projects.

Before I met @Tomis at the Agile Learning Center in NYC, I had read Hecht’s book and knew that I wanted to be a part of a network of schools united in supporting each other. I had previously taught at a small school start up in Charlotte, called The Friends School of Charlotte, where I was one of 2 teachers. I knew how isolating and challenging it felt to try to create something so different than the social norm. I didn’t want Mosaic to only be one school. I wanted to have other schools and educators that I could learn, play and grow with. Reading about what Hecht had created inspired me to keep hold of a vision where I wouldn’t feel like I was creating alone. I knew I would one day be able to connect with other educators that wanted to create schools aligned with a similar philosophy.

What I am feeling extremely grateful for right now is how the reading of both of these books directly contributed to my next steps in the creation of Mosaic. I read Summerhill (by Neill who started and ran one school for his lifetime), and shortly thereafter, I was starting a school. I read Democratic Education (by Hecht who started a network of schools), and again, within months, I was joining forces with the team at ALC NYC to create a network of schools. I do believe that we all have the power to manifest what we want to see created in our own lives. Sometimes a little inspiration from the work of those preceding us helps us remember what is possible.

Recently, I’ve felt challenged to re-visit the reasons I started this school and ALC movement. This is a good and healthy challenge, one that I enjoy diving into so I can stay connected to the heart of what I do rather than live in my head and the stories I can tell myself. From time to time, I need to create space where I can get quiet with myself and remember why I do what I do.

Over the course of our ALF Intensive last summer, we identified the roots of ALC’s, which are what grounds & unites all of our ALC’s together. Each one may look different, but we have fundamental agreements that:

  1. Learning is natural. It’s happening all the time.
  2. When people make their own decisions, they learn better. (And children are people!)
  3. People develop their strengths through cycles of intention, creation, and reflection.
  4. People learn more from the culture and environment they are immersed in than from the material they are taught.
  5. The 21st century world demands the creation of visible, shareable value as evidence of learning.

The first four are roots that I really wanted to re-visit, and to do so, I’ve taken a journey back to Hecht’s writing that inspired me so deeply to action over a year ago. I remembered how Hecht so diligently described what he calls “pluralistic learning” that is able to happen in an environment where students make their own choices about what they are doing and learning. I have been re-reading Chapter 3 of this book and as I read his words and stories, I am reminded of what I see happening at ALC Mosaic in connection to Hecht’s words and our Agile Roots. I’ll attempt to share what I mean through my synthesis of this chapter of Democratic Education below.

 

What is Pluralistic Learning?

Hecht chose the name “pluralistic learning,” describing it as “a learning process that recognizes the diversity among learners – learning based on the equal right of every individual to express his or her uniqueness.” He continues on in this description to explain how every individual has a “unique learning profile” and that “Human diversity means that the learning framework must acknowledge the fact that [every human is] different and unique.” (pg. 94)

Furthermore, in Hecht’s opinion (which I share), we are faced today with a new challenge for what human beings need for their education. According to Hecht, “The only man who is educated is the man who has learned how to learn; the man who has learned to adapt to change; the man who has realized that no knowledge is secure, that only the process of seeking knowledge gives a basis for security.” (pg. 98)

 

Areas of Strength & Growth

Our traditional education systems are set up in a way where there is a limited box of knowledge and skills of what administration & teachers want children to learn and be skilled at doing.

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Image from page 96 of Hecht’s Democratic Education

In the image above, Hecht represents what schools decided students need to learn with the little square, and the larger shape represents the world of knowledge available. This little box is what most education systems deem time “well-spent” for children. For those people who aren’t naturally good learning or doing what is in that little box, school is quite a frustrating experience. Hecht points out that many times, when children are doing things in school or in life that are not related to learning what is in that little box, adults consider it time wasted.

According to Hecht, “The purpose of democratic education is to provide students with the conditions that will encourage them to step outside ‘the square,’ to begin a process of searching for areas of strength where they can enhance their belief in their own abilities.” (page 104)

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Hecht speaking about pluralistic learning at IDEC 2013

It is when we venture outside of this box to find our areas of strength that we also find our area of growth, which is “the field which fascinates the learner, at the present time, more than any other area…characterized by intense emotions, such as enthusiasm, excitement, challenge and an acute desire to return to that area of interest again and again.” (page 105)

Hecht accompanies this explanation with descriptions of how children learn, first describing how when a toddler learns to walk the try so again and again even though they keep falling. They are so fascinated by how they have just figured out a new way to be mobile – of course they will want to try out and refine this skill at all costs, perhaps frustrating to parents wanting them to sit still at the dinner table! The same goes for babies when they learn to babble and then talk. Hecht also describes a child in his school who was obsessed with practicing handstands and cartwheels for a considerable amount of time. While to other educators this might be viewed as time wasted, Hecht understands that “When children (or adults, for that matter) are allowed to remain in their area of growth without being disturbed or forced to leave it, they acquire considerable emotional and cognitive skills.” (pg 107)

What does Hecht recognize from the child doing handstands over and over again? “The child who did the handstands succeeded, thanks to a belief in his own persistence; he learned about overcoming difficulties and about courage; he drew conclusions from his falls, and his learning ability grew. The next time he wishes to enter the learning process, he will be able to use the tools he gained from doing handstands. The ability to draw conclusions from failing, and understanding of the importance of persistence and patience – all these will serve him well when he tries to contend in other areas of learning.” (pg. 107)

The really important reminder that Hecht has given me as I re-read this chapter is that the content of what we are learning is never more important than how the process of learning occurs. We can have children learn content that we think is important for them to learn, but if that learning process occurs by telling them “This is important for you to learn because we deem it so. Even if this does not contextually make sense for your understanding of life and meaning, don’t think about that. Just learn it and show us you know this content by doing ‘X’ so we can prove to others you know it,” the student actually learns that learning occurs when you get information from others – and that others decide what information is important to know. They are learning a lesson that they are not to be trusted to determine what skills or knowledge is important for them to gain. To me, this increases the chance that the child will grow up to be disempowered to create change or meaning for their own life – they will think that other people who have authority are the ones smart enough to make change and decisions. They might learn that complaining about how things are is the only way to cope through life.

What Hecht describes taking place in democratic schools is the ability for pluristic learning to occur where the learning is not about “what is done, but rather how processes occur….What is important and meaningful is the growth of inner strengths that enrich and enhance the repertoire of learning tools.” (pg 107) Students who are able to spend time learning in their area of growth are spending time practicing all the skills they need in order to learn any other type of content or skill. They are developing the connections in their brain for learning how to learn, rather than how to conform. Just like working out, what muscles we work out are the ones that end up being developed. I think parents and educators need to examine closely what “muscles” we are having our children practice in school settings.

 

Connecting Hecht’s Pluralistic Learning & My Observations at Mosaic

When I began re-reading this chapter, the vignette about the child doing handstands immediately had me thinking about two of our students learning to skateboard this year.

These two went out almost every day this fall to skateboard. Again and again they would ride down a gently sloping hill on our campus on their bottoms. It was only a couple weeks ago that the girls excitedly called for me and @Charlotte to see them finally standing up on their skateboards! Were they wasting their time at school this fall? Certainly this is not in the little box of knowledge that many educators deem important for children to learn.

I, and I believe Hecht would agree, observe that these children learned how to persevere. They learned how to commit to learning a skill. They learned how to be brave enough finally stand up on the skateboard. They gained so many skills that will help them learn how to accomplish many more things they commit to learning in their lives.

Re-reading this chapter inspired me to take a journey through our school’s Facebook photos, with a thoughtful perspective of all the amazing things the children are able to learn and practice in this free setting.

It’s all about perception – one might choose to perceive that some children have an unhealthy obsession with Pokemon. There is also a choice to perceive this game differently. You can take a look at @Charlotte’s lessons learned from Pokemon, including the skill of organization, equitable trade, planning, creation, and even the academic discipline: math. What I value most from Pokemon is how the children create their own value systems based on what they find important. Some value the cuteness of a character, some value the HP. Each create a meaning for why they covet a particular card higher than another. What muscle are they practicing here? Perhaps when they grow up these children will have a strong ability to discern for themselves what values are important to them politically. They won’t need to just take on the beliefs of those they deem smarter than them (i.e., repeat political agendas of their parents or a teacher they come across in school). They will have had the practice of learning to discern for themselves what values are important to them.

My last blog post was about the game Werewolves and observations I made about the perseverance and determination I saw demonstrated as the kids tried again and again to play this complex game. The kids gained experience in how to organize themselves, children of all ages, to listen to each other. I don’t think I need to explain how valuable this skill might prove to be for humans to gain…learning how to support different individuals to listen and respect one another. This is the “muscle” we practice the most at our school, one that I wish more human beings (including myself) had practice in growing up in schools. Perhaps if the privileged children in the United States learned how to support and listen to individuals coming from different perspectives than their own, global change might happen in how humans perceive and treat one another.

Why do I share this? Why blog these details? 

I want more parents and educators to rally to support educational reformation. The stories of children learning how to learn need to explained in detail, and I am committed to sharing these stories over and over again. I am committed to helping others draw the connection to the importance of play and autonomy in the lives of children to how those can create a future generation that is capable of creating positive social impact for all human beings.

This is the a part of the reason why I stated in the beginning of this post that re-visiting my roots is a good and healthy challenge for me. When I speak to people unfamiliar with alternative education, the questions I constantly face are, “Well how will they learn math? Don’t you think learning (insert academic subject here) is important?”

Sure, but learning how to learn is even more important. Learning how to commit, persevere, be courageous, make decisions, collaborate, share, create meaning and purpose, create your own life…all those things I find more important. Re-reading Hecht’s journey alongside my walk down Facebook photo lane has me feeling energized and excited about the adventure I have embarked on.

Visiting Endor Initiative: Self-Directed Learning for Teens & Budding ALC!

After a whirlwind weekend making it to two weddings in Virginia and Maryland, I arrived back to my home in Charlotte 9pm Sunday night to meet @Alonalearning. She was spending the night because we were waking up at 6:45am to head to Endor Initiative with @Gabe.

Liam Nilson is running this self-directed learning initiative for young people ages 14-22 out of a dance studio in Asheville, NC. Last year they met in various places around the city, but this year they have a set place to be together for 3 days a week. Liam came to visit Mosaic a few weeks ago and has begun using some Agile tools and practices at Endor. I’m so excited for this new collaboration with educators in North Carolina!

Our plan was to see what a self-directed learning program for teens looked like so we could brainstorm ideas for what a teen program could be here at ALC Mosaic. Alona and Gabe are our two oldest students, both 11, and our only middle schoolers. I left Monday morning with Alona and Gabe feeling immensely grateful for the opportunity to see Liam’s program.

OUR DAY AT ENDOR

We arrived just a few minutes late, but made it to the morning intention setting. This was a big group, and we had new faces to also get to know! With so many other versions of “school” out there, it felt so safe and comfortable to go to Endor and to easily understand and know how to start the day. Alona, Gabe and I are used to the practice of setting intentions for the day, even if our intentions are to just watch and observe – or to have no intentions.

Morning circle at Endor
Morning circle at Endor

Next up was their Monday morning Change Up meeting, something else our Mosaic group knows about and is comfortable with. I had the pleasure of being asked to lead the Change Up meeting, which I did happily!

I wish I was writing this blog post the day of my visit instead of two days later – I can’t remember every detail, but I remember Alona chiming in at one point and that’s when I realized what a benefit it is to have similar tools and practices present in our network of schools. Every ALC is different, but we can move easily to and from each ALC with students and know that some fundamentals are the same. It’s not that every ALC needs a Change Up meeting, but knowing that each community makes agreements together and works on evolving those together helps newcomers understand where the community is and how they can engage in it to be supportive rather than disruptive.

Endor's Community Mastery Board for Change Up Meeting
Endor’s Community Mastery Board for Change Up Meeting

We also saw all the different activities that have happened or could happen at Endor – this board looks similar to the walls of stickies we have up in Mosaic’s big room!

Stickies of possibilities!
Stickies of possibilities!

When I spied @Charlotte’s “Seeds to Bloom” board at Endor, my heart skipped a beat! Here is a concrete example of how educators united across a network can support each other – we can visit a different ALC and try out different tools that are used to support the community and try them out at our own ALC.

Charlotte noticed the kids at Mosaic constantly coming up with ideas for trips, projects, or activities they wanted at school, but then not knowing how to move those ideas to fruition. She created our Seeds to Bloom board to support them. When they come up with an idea, they plant it as a seed by placing the sticky in the Seed section. They plant the seed by setting up a meeting time with other people that want to make the idea happen. The seed is growing after this first meeting if steps and an action plan has been created. Then when the idea comes to fruition, the whole school celebrates that the seed is finally in bloom!

We love empowering self-directed learners to take their ideas and make them into reality.

 

Endor's Seeds to Bloom board - appropriate for teens!
Endor’s Seeds to Bloom board – appropriate for teens!

 

Mosaic's Seeds to Bloom board - more suited for young children!
Mosaic’s Seeds to Bloom board – more suited for young children!

 

One of Liam’s intentions for the day was to make the schedule board clearer, something that came out of the Change-up meeting. The Mosaic kids opted to keep up Language Club as we normally do from 10-11am each morning, and then to have some open time after, then go to the tea house for Ethics, followed by the clay workshop at 1pm. It was a full day!

Liam’s new schedule board @ Endor Initiative

10am: Language Club

Alona and Gabe practiced on Duolingo and I finished translating a chapter of my Spanish reader for @Sassygirl26 to check.

Rochelle, who is working with Liam at Endor (and will hopefully be more present at Mosaic this year!), also speaks German and she and Alona compared silly Duolingo phrases that they’ve encountered. Rochelle had never seen Duolingo on a computer (she always uses the phone app), so Alona showed her how the computer offers more options – like timed practice.

Gabe also shared some silly Spanish phrases taught through Duolingo and worked from his phone app since he didn’t have his computer with him.

11am: Group discussion about self-directed learning

This was a discussion that organically happened and ended up including almost all of Endor along with the visitors – Mosaic & fellow Agile SOLE board member Steve Cooperman along with Robyn who is planning to open a center for young children in Asheville.

Steve, Rochelle & Robyn had questions about how Mosaic started, including financial and structural questions. This flowed into an engaging discussion of how to support all types of kids in a space – those who are self starters along with those who sometimes need a nudge to try things out. Around this time, the Endor kids popped their heads into the room and asked to join us. Hearing from them about what works well for them and what they want for their own education was exciting to me. I listened to a teen girl talk about the struggle of balance. She recognized that sometimes she wants to be pushed to try something new out, but that if she’s pushed too much she will resist. However, that line is not always clear about when the push is needed or when there is too much push. This was a teen who also spoke up in the Change Up Meeting about how she wanted 5 minute check-in’s each week with a facilitator. Her point was that even if things are going well, knowing that there will always be a check in would bring her comfort in case a time came up where things weren’t going well.

For me, this reaffirmed that it’s the relationship between a facilitator and a student in a self-directed learning environment that is the most important thing to establish. A conversation I feel like I am constantly having with other educators and parents are about boundaries and structure and how much to have when large groups of students are together. This is ever changing because the needs of the kids are constantly changing! Facilitators need to first know each child and recognize when a child needs a loving push, a little more structure, or when to back off.

12pm: Ethics Discussion at Dobra Tea Room

At Dobra Tea Room for Ethics discussion
At Dobra Tea Room for Ethics discussion

What a treat! Literally! @Alonalearning and I were so excited to see that EVERY baked good was gluten free! We split a hummus plate with gluten free pita bread & veggies and then each picked a cookie to have.

Dobra has a quiet and intimate setting, perfect to grab a snack, cup of tea, and to then debate ethical dilemmas. We took off our shoes and then sat with small tables, cozied up in a circle. One of the teens seemed to flow into a natural role as facilitator and we all went around the circle – we could either present an ethical dilemma to discuss or pass. The topics discussed were:

  • One teen read an article recently about an artist who copied famous works and gave them to museums for free. Is this ethical since they are not selling copied works?
  • One teen had a grammatical dilemma with a friend that they wanted to talk about with the group. This turned into an interesting topic of whether or not a person who hasn’t learned grammar rules should reproduce.
  • The last topic was about whether or not a doctor should conduct CPR on a person who has the Ebola virus. Should the doctor put their life in danger? If they contract the virus and spread it, is that causing more harm?

What I most admired was the level of respect the teens gave each other. They listened to each other, were able to jump into the conversation without the need for a strong facilitator and were engaged in each topic of discussion. Being a part of this group made me feel a lot of excitement for what is possible with a teen program.

1pm Clay!

Alona and Gabe partcipated in the clay workshop with a local artist. During this time I got to dive in more deeply with conversations with Steve, Rochelle & Liam about how we can collaborate more in the future.

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Working with the clay artist @ Endor

2pm: Wrap up and Reflection

Here is another practice our kids are used to – sharing a reflection at the end of the day. We shared a “delta and a plus,” something good and something that could have been better.

Gabe, Alona and I had to share quickly and then jump in the car to head home! On our way home, we talked even more about our day and what we wanted to see for a teen program at Mosaic. Both Alona and Gabe shared that they liked how it seemed like focused conversations could happen with older students. They felt like teens listened more than younger students and they liked that. We discussed the possibility of renting a room on the 3rd floor at our current location if we enrolled more middle schoolers and could afford to do so. Then there could be space for older kids to go if they felt like they needed to be separate from younger kids.

I had an incredible time visiting Endor. I was so appreciative of how easy-going Alona and Gabe were, they never complained about the long car ride and they simply joined into what the older teens were doing at Endor with ease. I loved collaborating with other educators that support self-directed learning, and I loved seeing Agile tools supporting the community to create a space where teens can self-organize and self-direct their learning. I hope to continue nurturing a collaborative relationship with our Asheville friends!

 

 

August 28, 2014 – “Alone, Together”

This week I had one kiddo in my small group announce that he wanted to be a leader. When our small group discussed what that meant to him, at first the idea was to tell people when to do things. For example, when to eat lunch, when to read books, when to come to our end of day meeting, etc. I let his description sit with the other kids and refrained from chiming in, “Uh…that sounds kinda bossy.”

After a small bit of silence, one of our group members (our group is called the Fire Falcons, by the way), chimed in, “Well, I’m okay with those ideas, but I really don’t want to be told when to eat my lunch.” We then talked about leadership for just a little bit, and about gentle leadership.

Our conclusion came to this: the budding new leader in our school would initiate a time to read books in the library with other kids the next day, as well as start inviting kids to our end of day meeting by saying, “Come on, Fire Falcons, it’s time for our meeting!”

The next day (today), my intention was to support this child in having this reading time. Hearing his desire to tell others in the school to do things made me think that what he really wanted was a set time where other kids would do something with him that he wanted to do: read. This told me that it was hard for him to motivate himself to read quietly on his own without peers. I decided to find him peers that would read with him at any cost! I hunted down kids that I felt I had a strong relationship with and asked them, “When ____ comes to ask you to read, will you please go in the library and support him?” I got 5 girls together, and Book Reading Together (BRT) time was a go!

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Interestingly, during this first BRT, (while I got read myself), I ended up reading chapter 13 of Blake Boles’ new book, “The Art of Self-Directed Learning.” The title of this chapter is “Alone, Together.” I’ll include a little excerpt from this chapter:

“Self-directed learners often find themselves facing solitary challenges, simply because they’re not doing the same thing as everyone else. Then they give themselves a hard time for not feeling motivated.

But self-directed learning isn’t about doing everything by yourself. Putting yourself in the right atmosphere, with people who share your interests, and with the right amount of structure, can make all the difference.”

As I read this, I looked up at this student who initiated the BRT and realized that he was craving time to be “Alone, Together.” In a school where the kids are not made to do everything at the same time, he was craving a little more of a school-like feel. Perhaps he missed those times in traditional school where kids just sat still and did something all together at the same time.

And guess what? We can actually give this type of experience to kids who want that in our Agile Learning setting. This is the role of the facilitators. See the children. Know them. Support them. And ask kids to support each other.

Next I looked over at another student who joined our school last spring, a lifelong unschooler that joined us because she wanted friends to learn with. She’s an avid writer and the chapter I just read was about a writing camp where teens go to write together. I stopped and read the chapter to her and proposed an idea to her.

The idea was born yesterday in a brainstorm session between me and the only teen we have our school. We decided we would promote and offer a class for homeschooled teens for FREE in Charlotte. This would help get more older kids in here to interact with our only teen.

My idea after reading this chapter is to offer a free “Writing Together” time for homeschooled teens (and maybe pre-teens) to come here in our library and just have time to write together each week. It can be anything, but the point is to have space with others write.

I’m imagining some social time too, they are kids, lol!

We could run the time in an Agile way – have the kids come, announce their intentions for their writing time, do a solid 45 minutes of independent writing, then we could go outside and talk, hangout, and potentially share our writing with one another.

I think it’s worth a try!