The Homeschooler

Decades ago, I become editor of a small periodical called NCHA News, published by the Northern California Homeschool Association. NCHA was growing at the time, and within my first couple of years as editor (and on the NCHA board of directors, too), we became the HomeSchool Association of California, and the NCHA News turned into California Homeschooler.

I’ve not been active in homeschooling for some years now—my own kids are into their mid-to-late 20s—but I consider the years I was involved with HSC a major part of my own education. From HSC and my four years as editor of California Homeschooler, I gained knowledge and skills and experience that I’ve used ever since:

  • writing and editing
  • nonprofit governance and operations (including how to survive & even enjoy 3-day board meetings)
  • dealing with critics (& when not to bother)
  • recruiting and retaining volunteers
  • making work fun (or, to be more accurate, choosing work that will be fun)

Every few years, despite my lack of direct involvement, I check up on HSC, just to see how they’re doing. I’m always happy to see that they’re still thriving, still running what’s long been one of the best homeschooling conferences in the world.

So it was with a great deal of pleasure that I heard yesterday from Pam Sorooshian about HSC’s latest adventure, the transmogrification of California HomeSchooler into The Homeschooler. To quote from their website:

For 25 years, the Homeschool Association of California (HSC) published The California Homeschooler. Every member of the organization received a copy of this publication, showcasing the lives of homeschooling families in the state of California.
. . .
That magazine has been expanded, redesigned, renamed and is now available to subscribers across the United States. Our writers, while many live in California, also come from around the country.

The Homeschooler Magazine does not endorse a particular homeschooling philosophy or approach. All families who are interested in homeschooling their children will feel welcome and inspired by The Homeschooler.

Going national is a huge undertaking. It’s a worthwhile adventure, though—there’s always been a need for a solid, informative, fun homeschooling magazine, and The Homeschooler may well fill that lack. I wish them every success.

That Time of Year Again

It’s time to celebrate reading and the First Amendment and subversive ideas all at once: Banned Books Week (September 24−October 1, 2011) starts tomorrow.

You can find web badges and a lovely brochure listing this year’s banned or challenged titles (many of them mystifying) at the Downloads page of the ALA Banned Books Week site.

Some of my favorite books are perennials on those lists.

Getting Real

From Virginia Heffernan’s column, “Education Needs a Digital-Age Upgrade,” in yesterday’s New York Times, about Cathy N. Davidson’s forthcoming book, Now You See It:

To take an example of just one classroom convention that might be inhibiting today’s students: Teachers and professors regularly ask students to write papers. Semester after semester, year after year, “papers” are styled as the highest form of writing. And semester after semester, teachers and professors are freshly appalled when they turn up terrible.

Ms. Davidson herself was appalled not long ago when her students at Duke, who produced witty and incisive blogs for their peers, turned in disgraceful, unpublishable term papers. But instead of simply carping about students with colleagues in the great faculty-lounge tradition, Ms. Davidson questioned the whole form of the research paper. “What if bad writing is a product of the form of writing required in school — the term paper — and not necessarily intrinsic to a student’s natural writing style or thought process?” She adds: “What if ‘research paper’ is a category that invites, even requires, linguistic and syntactic gobbledygook?”

What if, indeed. After studying the matter, Ms. Davidson concluded, “Online blogs directed at peers exhibit fewer typographical and factual errors, less plagiarism, and generally better, more elegant and persuasive prose than classroom assignments by the same writers.”

Some of this sounds suspiciously similar to ideas unschoolers have been talking about for years. Ms. Heffernan’s persuaded me—I’ve already ordered Ms. Davidson’s book and am looking forward to its release next week.

Repost: I LOVE this map!

(Originally posted on my old blog 11/27/2007. And the map’s still on my wall.)

Back in August, when I spoke at the 2007 HSC Conference in Sacramento, the speakers’ booth, where my books were being sold, was opposite a booth from a company called MapLink, which, naturally, was showing a huge variety of maps.

I kept staring at one of them, not quite able to figure it out from a distance, and finally I went over to get a better look at what turned out to be the“World History Timeline: the rise and fall of nations,” produced by Oxford Cartographers.

I’ve had it on my wall above my desk for the past three months, and I’m still fascinated by it. It shows continents on the vertical axis and time on the horizontal axis, so you can see what was happening when in the world.

That big orange blob is the Roman Empire. The United States is a smallish purple blob down in the lower righthand corner, which looks larger than it should compared to the Roman Empire because as you move right—toward the present—the timeline stretches out, so that more recent times take up more space.

Even so, it rather puts American history in a somewhat larger perspective.