On Cool Tools – The Teenage Liberation Handbook

The purpose of this book is to encourage the teen to make their education their own responsibility. They can remain at school, or as a homeschool take only some classes, or find apprenticeships, volunteer, or even skip directly to college. In short they are designing their own self-education, where ever it may happen. Along the way they develop a better idea of themselves and many more life skills then they would in formal school.

via Cool Tools – The Teenage Liberation Handbook.

I have not read this book but, based on the review alone it is the book I wished someone had given me at the start of high school. Perhaps it will save a few others who are there or have children there.

I was a terrible student by the time I got to high school. It was not because I found the subject matter difficult. Quite the opposite. I was bored to tears.

You see, as a child I was a voracious reader. From the earliest time I could read, you almost never saw me not reading something. If I was ever idle the first thing I would was to grab the nearest thing I could read. I was reading at a college level by age eight. And, most of what I read was non-fiction reference material. For instance, my Grandmother got me a set of encyclopedias yearly — World Book, Britannica, Childrens, etc. — and I read as many of these from cover-to-cover as I could. My Mom would get me a Time Life Book Series collection on Christmas for several years. Each one had a theme like Space or The West (with real saddle leather covers). I would read these over and over again too. Of course, it was not all serious. There were plenty of comics, Mad Magazines, fantasy classics, and the occasional novel.

Therefore, by the time I reached high school, school seemed very forced. Not only did I know a lot of the material but I would have rather been given a book and told to come back and prove that I knew it by writing an essay on the subject matter (standardized testing being too uncreative for me). And, in some particular areas of my interest, I often knew more than my teachers could have taught me (English and History to be specific). In order to combat and rebel, I started skipping classes or making up wild and elaborate stories about myself. I would pay no attention in class or mark multiple choice tests into a one time pad cypher that, if decrypted, would have revealed my feeling on the very act of taking it (“This is Stooopid”).

I likely would have flunked out if not for the intervention of three teachers who, separately, reached out to me and got to the root of the issue. All were perplexed that this “seemingly bright” kid was doing so poorly. They cut through my bullshit and discovered that I knew the material, was bored out of my skull, and could prove it to them as long as it did not involve a standardized test (you should have heard the three hour debate my History teacher and I had about the The War Between The States). I passed all the classes that allowed me such flexibility in my own education with high marks.

All of this is to say that I believe our education system is broken. The one size fits all model it is based on is for producing a different kind of human than is required in this modern age. It needs to be redesigned from the ground up to give our kids the flexibility to truly learn (and, more importantly, to develop a love of learning). Since that is not in the best interest of anyone currently in control of such things, the time is ripe for kids to take education into their own hands as I ultimately did.

And, I would be remiss if I did not say how much I fear for my daughter as she enters Kindergarden next year. We are not quite sure yet what type of learner she is. My wife had great success in the traditional, college-prep private school, she attended. She succeeded in the traditional system as many do. Beatrix has attended a very “by Maria’s book” Montessori pre-school for the past two years with a strong belief in fostering the self-motivated child. Therefore, between all of these factors, Beatrix could go either way or somewhere down the middle when it comes time to enter a more traditional system.

We chose the school we are sending her to largely based on it’s reputation. It is not only the top-rated public elementary school in Saint Paul but there is a strong emphasis on reading. I’m hoping this mix of traditional and self-directed translates to a good learning experience for her. But, you can be rest assured, that the moment it stops working I will advocate for change and do whatever is on my power to ensure that she has the framework to design her own education. And, if the institutions of learning are not there to support it, if I have anything to do with it she can and will opt-out.

In the end, I hope all of this information helps start similar conversations and reflection about education in your home. Because we owe it to our kids and the future of our societies to ensure that we are raising strong, smart, active learners.

I’m a writer. Writing is how I make this world better, friendlier, stronger place. If these words improved your day, please let me know by contributing here.

Items Of Interest — #2

I’ve been increasingly interested in the research that shows how valuable taking a break from out overly busy days can be. For instance, according to The Willpower Instinct, Kelly McGonigal Ph.D. urges meditation and taking a walk outside as key strategies for increased focus and drive. For this reason, next up on my to-read list is Autopilot: The Art & Science Of Doing Nothing by Andrew Smart. From what I’ve heard, it dives even deeper into the science behind making the time to do nothing.

While we are on the subject of books, the one I’m currently reading is Manage Your Day-to-Day by Jocelyn K. Glei and Scott Belsky. I love simple, practical, actionable advice for creatives like myself and this has hit the mark so far. I love the idea that it leads with — putting your priorities first. Far too often, we start our day in reaction mode — responding to emails, checking voice mails, reacting to task lists. The book argues that this puts other peoples priorities first and give your creativity and back seat. I know I need to be much better at this.

I was recently surprised and delighted to find myself mentioned amongst others I enjoy in this Fast Company post on the benefits of hand writing on pen and paper. I do a fair (and increasing) bit of first drafting on paper. This post started out that way as have many others.

If you are in the market for a good (but not too good) notebook to capture your thoughts, Field Notes are always a good choice. I always have one in my back pocket to capture meeting notes and ideas for the current books I’m working on. The most recent special edition, The Night Sky, is a real stunner.

I know that privacy and security are of increasing concern given recent events here in the cradle of democracy. Therefore, I find this neat little Onion Pi project of interest. Get yourself a Raspberry Pi, a USB wifi adapter, power, and ethernet. And now you have a little secure hotspot that routes all traffic through the anonymizing Tor Network. Of course, one will need more than this to be truly anonymous and secure but, hey, it’s a good place to start (and nerdy fun too).

I generally do not like most of the conferences I have attended. Mainly because I’m an introvert and find they take more energy than the value they often provide. Therefore, I have pondered starting a conference myself before, and still might actually do so in the future. One that provides all of, and only, the parts of the things I like about conferences. That said, if I were to make a list and spell out what those things were, it would look very much like this guide to running a good conference or event. In fact, it pretty much covers it.

Speaking of events, I’ll be hosting a meet-up event for members of App.net on June 20th (This Thursday) at 6:30p at the Chatterbox Cafe in Saint Paul, MN. I would love it if you are around and joined us. Not an App.net member? Have no idea what it is? Well…

App.net is the social networking service that has largely replaced Twitter for me. It is everything Twitter used to be and should have become. App.net is normally a paid service (Which is one of the things I love about it — you are the customer!) but, the kind and generous folks there have given me some free invites to give away. Just click that link and you’ll be in like flint. I have not idea how many there are so first come first serve and they are gone when they are gone.

I’m a full-time independent writer who works hard to bring you quality reading and ideas here daily. If you enjoy what you read here, please consider a free will donation of any amount.

Books I’ve Read So Far This Year

I keep a list of books I read each year. After I finish each one, I put it on the list with a short review. Though I’m way behind where I was last year at this time, I’m still hopeful I will meet last year’s total number. Here is what I’ve read so far.

home/ journal/ books/ dash/plus/ archives/ rss