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hi! Any Floridians in this community? Does anyone know any good unschooling/free-school resources in FL? We're trying to start a free-school in Miami and need some guidance. Anyone have any experiences they'd like to share?
2005-05-04 18:11 (UTC)
I'm trying to get something going in Montreal.
The problem with most freeschools is that they're more of a supplement to the educational system, than an alternative to it. The courses they offer tend to focus on radical politics, while neglecting practical skills.
Radical alternatives to the liberal arts and the social sciences are necessary, but they aren't the only thing these schools should focus on.
If they do limit themselves to this, they're only going to appeal to people who already agree with their politics.
I do have some experiences to share.
Years ago, the director of Project Renaissance sent me a prospectus for an alternative university that was then being planned. I immediately saw a real problem with that prospectus; it was way too detailed. The campus, the curriculum, the administrative structure. They had all of this planned out without knowing how many people would actually want to attend their school. They put the cart before the horse by imposing their ideal on to reality, and as a result, they never got around to dealing with reality. Despite the efforts of some very fine minds(including several Ph.Ds), their school is still just a pipe dream.
My advice then, is to start small. Have a vision, but don't let it choke you. Make sure that the school is operated from the ground up; you don't want one group of individuals to be indispensable to the school, because if they leave, then the school dies. The school needs to be self-sustaining. Create an environment that encourages students to teach, teachers to learn, and that's open and interesting enough
so that non-radicals will be interested in taking part.
I hope to get my own Montreal freeschool project off and running by the end of the summer. I'm going to model it after peer-to-peer networks. I think that's the future of education; schools that operate like Gnutella. No central authority, just a bunch of different people connected to a bunch of different servers trading a bunch of different skills.
Best of luck with your group! Can I add you to my friendslist? I'm interested in knowing how things work out for you.
2005-05-04 18:56 (UTC)
Our initial idea was to start small. I live in a co-op house with 4 other people and we have a guest-house that we're turning into an infoshop. It's sorta small, but it'll do. We were thinking we might run the school outta there, at least initially; it's free space and will be a comfortable environment with all sorts of books and learning tools.
Our idea was that we wanted to start off with informal tutoring-type lessons and occasional skillshares, nothing too structured, just a
to regular school, and mostly so my friends and I can get a little more teaching experience (we're all between 18 and 25 and don't have much experience with it.) Then we'd turn it more into an
We'd offer 2 options: teaching in such a way that it prepares students to take standardized tests and pass to the next grade (run-of-the-mill homeschooling); or unschooling.
We wanted to offer some radical perspectives in our teaching (and, depending on the ages of the students we get, maybe some classes on radical politics), but definitely basic stuff like reading and math. A lot of the children in my community are from low-income families who probably wouldn't want them sitting around learning about liberal arts related stuff all day while acquiring no practical skills that could get them a job.
Some of the classes we want are math, reading, writing, music, science... some more practical everyday stuff like home ec and bike-repair and craft-making would be awesome too :) We want everything to be fun, engaging, hands-on (i.e. taking field trips to the forest for science class instead of having to learn about nature from a textbook.) We want the structure to be as non-heirarchical as possible, the curriculum to not be rigid, an informal atmosphere where kids can learn at their own pace and not be indoctrinated by the State and can be creative and aren't told to "shut up" every 5 minutes.
Heh, we have a lotta hopes for this free school...
2005-05-10 08:22 (UTC)
Sounds promising :)
If you create an environment that's impossible to control, you'll have no reason to fear hierarchies. You and your friends form one group of skillsharers operating around one infoshop. Rather than absorb an ever increasing number of skillsharers into your group, have a program in place that'll give interested skillsharers the tools necessary to create infoshops of their own.
The chance that a centralized infoshop will degenerate into a hierarchy is almost guaranteed. It won't necessarily be an explicit hierarchy, but it'll be a hierarchy none the less. I've seen this happen quite a few times. One way of avoiding this is to decentralize. Make it so everyone can teach whatever they want to teach however they want to teach whenever they want to teach, without having to depend on any specific group or place.
But then, the above isn't necessary if you're working on a small scale ;) You'll probably want to do it if your infoshop ever becomes a full fledged
to school, though.
I recommend taking a good hard look at what it is you want to achieve. Most free schools don't know why they exist. It sounds like you've already got a good idea of where your going, but that's usually not the case.
If you look at the course loads offered by some of the freeschools i've linked to, you'll see that there's nearly nothing which ties their classes together. For the love Eris, don't follow their example! Foster groups of skillsharers who have common goals. It's fine to offer stand alone classes, but encourage people to get together and plan their courses so that they overlap.
An example would be fostering a network of skillsharers interested in fighting the copyright system. Different skillsharers could offer different courses on copyright issues - one on open source software, another on the legal aspects of copyrights, another on how copyrights affect the third world. The idea is to help people master a field. You could do this with science, with mechanics, with writing, with craft making. Whatever.
Freeschool Santa Cruz