David Albert and the “Inner School”

Hi everyone!

Okay, BoyWonder is asleep and the girls are in bed, but giggling. Hoping they can simmer down soon. It’s been a fun, long day. I thought I’d jot down some of my thoughts from the first day of the homeschool conference while they’re still fairly fresh. Please forgive me if I get a little disjointed.

I love conferences of all kinds for a couple of reasons. One, they make you feel like there are SOOO many people who are in the same boat as you. And two, they really do help give you some fresh perspectives and new ideas for how to navigate whatever boat you’re in.

Today I went to three workshops, two of them by David Albert. He’s a rather well-known (in the homeschool world) author of several books and articles (which you can see at his website). He says,I hold degrees from Williams College, Oxford University, and the University of Chicago, but the best education I ever received I got from my kids.” I just love that. I’ve seen him speak once or twice before, and I always enjoy his jolly manner, bushy grey mustache, and New York (think NPR’s “Car Talk”) accent. He’s brilliant.

His first workshop was called “Dismantling the Inner School.” The basic premise was that we, as products of the school system ourselves, have all kinds of thoughts, ideas, assumptions, beliefs, rules, etc. about what learning is and how it takes place. And many, if not most, of these beliefs are subconscious. His assertion is that we, as educators, must not only identify and question these ideas, but try to dismantle them brick by brick as we approach our students.

Over the past ten years, I’ve done a pretty good job of dumping many of my own “inner school” ideas, but there are still a few I grapple with. And I see many of these beliefs clearly in the kinds of questions people ask me about homeschooling: Do you homeschool from 9:00 to 3:00? Do you have certain times when you “sit down” and “do school?” How do you know what to teach? Do you take summers off? What about socialization? 

All of these questions seem perfectly legit at first glance, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with them. There are, however, assumptions and beliefs about education behind them. Sometimes I struggle to answer these seemingly simple questions because to fully understand my answers would require a completely different view of education in general. It’s sort of like someone using questions about the rules of golf to ask how you play baseball. From a golf standpoint, the questions are totally legitimate, but from a baseball standpoint, they don’t really make sense.

That’s kind of how it is with traditional schooling and homeschooling. Two different ball games. Only there aren’t any set “rules” for homeschooling (in my opinion, that’s one of the most beautiful things about it). Although technically, there aren’t any set rules for education in general, and that’s really what this workshop was addressing. We’ve set up “rules” for learning that don’t necessarily make sense under close scrutiny.

Here’s a partial list of some of these “inner school” beliefs David Albert brought up:

  • Learning starts on the first day of school.
  • You are going to miss something important (and ruin your kids for life!).
  • There are “special” places for learning, “special” equipment, and “special” times.
  • There is someone who is more expert when it comes to your children than you are.
  • If you don’t learn things on time and on a schedule, it doesn’t count (or worse – you FAIL).
  • There are such creatures as average children.
  • “Socialization” only happens in a group of age-restricted peers.
  • What you teach is what they learn.
  • You can only enjoy things you are good at.
  • You should only pursue things you are good at.
  • Learning happens by moving data.
  • Learning is for the kids.
  • Learning is all about the individual (trumping community intelligence).
  • There is a permanent record that will follow you forever.
  • Your life outcomes will be determined by how well (or poorly) you do in school.
  • School can fix everything, and if things aren’t going well, the solution is more of it.
Some interesting stuff to chew on.
He also talked about how diversity is nature’s way of protecting the species. All kids (and adults) have their own unique gifts, talents, skills, and interests to bring to the table. He referenced a Native American spiritual leader his daughter had worked with in Washington State who said, Don’t teach all kids the same thing in the same way, or they will come to believe that they don’t need each other, and the whole world will fall apart. I thought that was lovely. Community requires everyone to contribute something unique to the whole.
His other talk was called “The Curriculum of Beauty.” I didn’t take notes during that one – I crocheted and just enjoyed listening.
A few other tidbits from his talks:
  • True education takes LOVE, LISTENING, and TIME.
  • A curriculum of love can go a long way.
  • Have lots of good conversations with your kids.
  • Trust children more.
  • Have fun, learn stuff, grow (that’s the name of one of his books).
  • One of the best things you can do for your kids’ educations is to learn something new yourself, and let them see you go through the ups and downs of the learning process.
  • We learn better when we follow our passions.
Wow, I think the girls are finally asleep. Time for me to join them. More tomorrow.
🙂 Annie
P.S. I hate sleeping in hotel beds. I wish I’d brought my own pillow. 
P.P.S. The toilet in our room has a weak flusher. Not good.
P.P.P.S. I like to complain when I get tired.
P.P.P.P.S. It’s a pretty good life when the biggest things you have to complain about are the warm bed and indoor plumbing at the resort you’re staying in. 
P.P.P.P.P.S. I just made you say pee-pee-pee-pee. Tee hee. 🙂
Good night.

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

Comments 2

  1. Kami, this is the only homeschool conference we’ve been to (this is our third year) but I think it’s so worth it! I feel much more invigorated and excited about our homeschooling adventure now. That alone was worth the cost. 🙂

  2. Thank you for taking time to share your impressions of the conference. I have never been able to go to a homeschooling conference, hoping to go to one this year, now that I live in an area where they are more accessible. Look forward to hearing more!

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