Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Casting a Wider Net: Why Colleges are Recruiting Homeschoolers

By Dori Staehle on February 15, 2012

What do Harvard, Yale, MIT, Stanford, and Duke all have in common? In addition to being top-tier schools, they are just some of the colleges that actively recruit homeschoolers – and offer them scholarships.

What these colleges have discovered is that homeschoolers represent a very attractive talent pool: These students tend to be exceptionally bright, motivated, and mature. Far from being sheltered and shy (the typical stereotypes), homeschoolers’ applications reflect students who have traveled, taken risks, and studied some pretty intense topics. In addition, they tend to have impressive reading lists and letters of recommendation. Most have volunteered, participated in sports, the arts, and activities too numerous to mention. They are more than likely to have been dual-enrolled in both their homeschool and a community college and have numerous advanced placement (AP) and/or honors classes. Consequently, their GPA’s and SAT or ACT scores tend to be well above average (Note to naysayers: If a student has stellar SAT or ACT scores and a community college GPA of 3.0-4.0, this proves that the parents did not fudge the student’s transcript!)....

Monday, February 13, 2012

The problem with studies on school kids

Pam Sorooshian is an unschooling mom of three young adults, and also teaches college-level economics. Here is something she's written about a new study on video games. The commentary on methodology and controls, and the fact that they're looking at schooled kids, applies to many studies.

Not all "wisdom" and research applies to unschoolers (because of their relationships with their parents) or to homeschoolers (if they don't have the strict schedule school kids do).

A new study - once again the big caveat is that this study is NOT done on
unschoolers. It is presented as a negative - the big point seems to be that
for about 10 percent of players playing videogames in some way leads to,
"...some serious problems -- including depression, anxiety, social phobias
and lower school performance -- seemed to be outcomes of their pathological

However, it is interesting that they aren't claiming that it is a lot of
play time that is the problem, it is something about those kids...that's
about as far as they go in the article, I don't know if the actual study
looks more careful at the characteristics of the kids who develop problems.

They seem to be making the claim that it is definitely the videogame
playing that is the cause of the problems for about 1 out of 10 players,
but I don't see how they can tell that from the study unless they have
controlled for things like the kind of relationship they have with their
parents, how accessible and supportive are the parents, the kind of home
life they have, and so on.

Unschoolers are close enough to our kids so that we will know if a kid is
happily playing a lot of videogames because they LOVE playing videogames
versus a kid who is depressed, withdrawn, anxious, or socially phobic. The
same applies to a kid who watches a lot of television.

I think what they are probably finding is that a kid who is dealing with
family, school, peer, or identity issues that seem overwhelming to him,
might withdraw from parent and peer relationships and that withdrawal might
mean he plays a lot of videogames. The withdrawal from relationships might
mean he isn't getting the help and support he needs and problems get worse
and worse. I don't think the research can legitimately conclude that there
is anything about the games, themselves, that cause the problems, or else
they are going to have to explain why 90 percent of the players are not

They use a lot of strong language about videogame playing and it is wrapped
up in scientific justification (pathological, addiction). I doubt it is the
games that are the problem for these kids any more than razors or knives
are the problem for kids who cut themselves.


After some discussion on studies and problems, at the Always Learning yahoogroup, Pam wrote:

Jo Isaac had written:
These researchers almost certainly set out with the mindset that pathological videogaming was a real phenomena.

Right - because that they even thought they could do the study at all
assumes that there is something identifiable to study. So they had to
define it in a way that made it identifiable. Which means they sort of made
it up first, then went out to prove it existed.

Still - I don't think it was necessarily that bad a study. I think it is
possible that 1 out of 10 kids playing videogames a whole lot are in some
sort of pain or having family or school or identify crises. Kids in schools
deal with a lot. Videogames offer a way to live for a while in a different
world where they can have power and control and just forget for a time
about their problems. Makes sense to me.

I didn't read the study, just the news report about the study. From the
news report, it seemed they concluded that the videogames caused 10 percent
of players to have serious problems. That, I doubt very much. I don't see
the logic...correlation is not causation and they really would have to have
a good explanation for exactly how the videogame playing hurt some kids so
much and others not at all.

They seemed to say that there was something susceptible in those kids -
they made it sound kind of random like you would never know if your kid
might be one of that 10 percent until it was too late. That could be used
as a justification to limit all kids just in case they were one of the weak
ones who would succumb to the pathological addiction.

So - the research itself might be useful - I'm doubting that they can
conclude what they did from it. I have nothing to point to - this is just
my personal guess...but I think videogames are just really super good at
helping a kid forget his real-world problems and so kids with extensive
real-world problems are drawn to playing a lot. (Along with a lot of other
people who also love playing even though they aren't avoiding problems,
just having a load of fun.)

The researchers probably tried to control for differences between the kids
- using measurable control variables. They'd likely use grades in school
for example. But they couldn't have measured whether a kid was gay and
agonizing over coming out. They couldn't measure whether a kid's parents
were belittling and dismissive. They couldn't measure whether a kid is
developmentally not ready for whatever is going in school and feeling
stupid about it, they couldn't measure whether the child's father is cold
and distant or the mother harsh or rigid in her demands. They couldn't
measure if the child is being abused by a parent or relative or older
student or teacher. And on and on. They couldn't measure if the kid feels
pushed around and stressed and not good enough and fearful and hurt and
dumb and frustrated and angry. And there is no way they could tell if any
of these things that they couldn't measure were what was leading to the
problems the child was having - and the reason why the child liked to spend
a lot of time playing videogames.


Sunday, February 05, 2012

Playwright who wants to tear up the curriculum

I'm including the full text because as that's the announcement of a particular performance, it might not be kept on the site.

Terry Deary is the author of the phenomenally successful Horrible Histories books and a hero to any teacher who has ever struggled to get an understanding of the past into a child's head.

His 60 titles in the series have notched up 25 million sales in 40 countries by turning children on to history.

They are as far removed from textbooks as Charles I was from his head. This is history with the boring bits cut and the nasty parts pored over.

So when his Horrible Histories stage tour returns to Plymouth from Thursday to Saturday next week, schools will empty to pack out the Pavilions' daytime performances.

Naturally, Deary is delighted – at the schools emptying bit.

"I am campaigning to have all schools shut down and children set free," he says.

But if you're waiting for him to laugh, you're in for the long haul. Deary is deadly serious.

"More schools are failing every week," he continues. "Literacy rates are falling.

"The politicians say, 'we must pour more money in and rescue these schools'.

"What is the point? Why pay teachers to childmind for 12 years, teaching them very little that is useful?

"Teachers are very low-grade people."

But surely he's cashing in if schools pack out his shows?

"The trips are an excuse for teachers to put their feet up," he says. "I am doing myself a disservice by saying that, but it's true."

There is a lot more deeply felt comment on that theme from Deary. He loathes the national curriculum, which he says has promoted the concept of children as empty buckets into which teachers should pour information.

"It's awful. Children get a mark in the exam if they put the date 1066 down [for the Norman Conquest] and nothing if they put 1096.

"But what matters is what happened and why, not the exact date.

"We should be teaching understanding and preparing them for life," he concludes.

Whether you subscribe to that view or not, there is no argument about the reach of Deary's Horrible Histories as books, the stage shows, which he writes, and the award-winning BBC TV series.

The secret, he says, is: "I am not interested in history, I am interested in human nature and the lives of ordinary people in history, not just the kings and queens.

"There is not enough history about ordinary people's lives, especially women and children."

For the record, Deary, now 65, did not enjoy his own time in school. He says he was bullied and beaten by abusive teachers.

The Sunderland-born author worked in his father's butcher shop – a good place to develop a taste for gore, perhaps – and went on to become a professional actor, with theatre companies in Wales.

"For a third of the year we toured to schools," he says. "We ran out of plays for children so I started writing them.

"We always needed new work and I didn't want to ditch the characters so I thought I'd write a children's book."

The rest, it has to be said, is history – except that he suffered 24 rejections from publishers before getting into print.

Much of the established work has dried up – Deary hasn't much faith in publishers, either, at least not in their ability to plan ahead in the face of competition from e-books. Instead he is busy with other writing, including stage work.

The two Pavilions shows, Terrible Tudors and Vile Victorians, include ground-breaking 3D work – Deary is no Luddite – and he eagerly awaits the impact of his latest, Barmy Britain, which opens in the West End this month.

"It will play to children and families during the day, leaving the theatre free for [the musical] Chicago in the evening," he says.

"A summary of 2,000 years of British history in one hour in a two-man show," he promises. That's quite an education.

For tickets, contact the Pavilions on 0845 146 1460 or go to

Horrible Histories author Terry Deary, above, and Protestants versus Roman Catholics in his stage show The Terrible Tudors, top

Friday, February 03, 2012

Colorado Springs: "What is Unschooling?"

What is unschooling?
by Aly Myles
Colorado Connection (TV station's website, Colorado Springs)

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. -- Just like choosing between public or private, chartered or unchartered schools, there's many decisions that go along with deciding to home school children.

"I think if you asked a home schooling family how they do it, it'd be different for each of their children because all children are different," Yvonne Padilla, director of Mountain Vista Home School Academy, said....