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Mid-March 2003


In this Issue:

The Mind at Work
Current Events
Unschoolers of Memphis
HEM Recipes!
Ideas Come First
Web Snacks
Unschool Friendly Conferences


The Mind at Work

I would be against trying to cram knowledge into the heads of children
even if we could agree on what knowledge to cram and could be sure that,
once crammed in, it would stay in. Even then, I would trust the child to
direct his own learning. For it seems to me a fact that, in our struggle to
make sense out of life, the things we most need to learn are the things
we most want to learn. To put this another way, curiosity is hardly ever
idle. What we want to know, we want to know for a reason. The reason is
that there is a hole, a gap, an empty space in our understanding of
things, our mental model of the world. We feel that gap like a hole in a
tooth and want to fill it up. It makes us ask How? When? Why? While the
gap is there, we are in tension, in suspense. Listen to the anxiety in a
person's voice when he says, "This doesn't make sense!" When the gap in
our understanding is filled, we feel pleasure, satisfaction, relief. Things
make sense again - or at any rate, they make more sense than they did.

When we learn this way, for these reasons, we learn both rapidly and
permanently. The person who really needs to know something does not
need to be told many times, drilled, tested. Once is enough. The new piece
of knowledge fits into the gap ready for it, like a missing piece in a jigsaw
puzzle. Once in place, it is held in, it can't fall out. We don't forget the
things that make the world a more reasonable or interesting place for us,
that make our mental model more complete and accurate. Now, if it were
possible for us to look into the minds of children and see what gaps in
their mental models most needed filling, a good case could be made for
giving them the information needed to fill them. But this is not possible.
We cannot find out what children's mental models are like, where they are
distorted, where incomplete. We cannot make direct contact with a
child's understanding of the world. Why not? First, because to a very
considerable extent he is unaware of much of his own understanding.
Secondly, because he hasn't the skill to put his understanding into words,
least of all words that he could be sure would mean to us what they
meant to him. Thirdly, because we haven't time. Words are not only a
clumsy and ambiguous means of communication, they are extraordinarily
slow. To describe only a very small part of his understanding of the world,
a man will write a book that takes days to read.

John Holt
from How Children Learn
Delta 1967, 1983


Current Events

A small collection of web resources that may be helpful when questions
about the war come up in your home.

The HowStuffWorks Technology of War page is a collection of articles on
the high-tech weapons and defenses that could play a prominent role in this

Chinaberry Books has suggestions and books for these unsettled times

Many, many, many maps of Iraq

History Links from the BBC


Unschoolers of Memphis

On a sunny Tuesday afternoon in April, 14 children and five mothers wind
their way down stone steps and around budding trees, blue woodland phlox
and yellow wood poppies to the cedar gazebo at Lichterman Nature
Center in Memphis, Tennessee. They meet here monthly on the third
Tuesday — a free admission day — to listen to stories told by alternating
moms and to observe the changing seasons. The outing is planned for
young children but today includes two teens.

Two-year-old Zoe squeals her delight at riding on the shoulders of one of
them, Loren, 14. From the gazebo, a few of the bigger boys wander off
to explore trails while the others settle noisily on the wood floor. Then all
listen intently as Lynn Carroll-Rivera, mother of three of the children,
leads songs about spring, teaches a finger game and then tells a story
about a caterpillar-turned-butterfly who searches for friends. Ravi, age
five, claps his approval for everything. Next it’s snack time, and as the
families share the food they’ve brought before hiking to the lake, Carroll-
Rivera nurses her youngest, 19-month-old Evan.

In many ways today’s outing is school as usual – or "unschool" as usual —
for these Tennessee families. They’re using free local resources, learning
from nature, sharing their talents, linking age groups, providing loosely
structured activities and giving children choices. They are members of
the Unschoolers of Memphis, a support group that welcomes home
schoolers of any religion, race, ethnic background or sexual orientation.
They and about 20 other families come together in large and small
groups, sometimes several times a week, to learn together.

Read the rest of the article Open House from Teaching Tolerance
Magazine Number 23 Spring 2003 at:


HEM Recipes!

The editors of Home Education Magazine have created a new list: HEM Recipes!

To join the list visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HEM-Recipes

Or send a blank email message to: mailto:HEM-Recipes-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

This list is designed to be an archive and storehouse of the best

recipes from homeschooling families and friends of homeschooling!

This is meant to be a wide-ranging resource list, a place to not only

post your favorite family foods and Kids in the Kitchen ideas for

learning, but for craft recipes (silly putty, goop, gak, bubblestuff,

playdough, fingerpaints, etc.), science experiments (baking soda

volcanoes and food color rainbows), recipes for learning and living,

and classics such as this old favorite, which isn't really a "recipe"

per se, but indicates the wide range of resources we'll be featuring:

Children Learn What They Live

By Dorothy Law Nolte

If children live with criticism,

They learn to condemn.

If children live with hostility,

They learn to fight.

If children live with ridicule,

They learn to be shy.

If children live with shame,

They learn to feel guilty.

If children live with encouragement,

They learn confidence.

If children live with tolerance,

They learn to be patient.

If children live with praise,

They learn to appreciate.

If children live with acceptance,

They learn to love.

If children live with approval,

They learn to like themselves.

If children live with honesty,

They learn truthfulness.

If children live with security,

They learn to have faith in themselves and others.

If children live with friendliness,

They learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Copyright © 1972/1975 by Dorothy Law Nolte

Please pass this post on to support group lists and others who may be



Ideas Come First

Last week I was reading to Eric (who is almost 8) from Bedknob and
Broomstick. I usually quit at the end of a chapter but decided to end on
page 124. He said I should put in a bookmark. I said I would remember the
page number, page 124.

He was quiet for a few minutes - we were in his bed and I thought he was
falling asleep. Then he said, "Did you notice something funny about that
number, 124? The 2 is two times the 1 and the 4 is two times the 2." He
though a bit more and said, "The next number would be 8, then 16, then
32, then 64, then (a slight hesitation) 128."

I thought this was the end of it but he added 256 and 512. We have never
done any math curriculum with him, just everyday math and fun with
numbers stuff, mostly out loud, because I like that kind of thing and he
has a natural ability.

Another example is from Simon, age 3.5. He was saying words out loud
and said some that rhymed. He didn't know the word "rhyme" but was
getting the concept. He said, "Cat and bat, they're the same. No, they
have the same letter." So I said, the word you want is rhyme. Cat and bat
rhyme. So now all week he has been finding words that rhyme.

I really like the way they figure things out first, or are introduced to the
thing first, then find or are given names for it. It seemed so often in
school we were given names for things ("Class, today we are going to
start Fractions") and then were taught them, more or less.

Donna Andrea in Nova Scotia
From a post on the Unschooling-dotcom email list
To read more, join the list by sending a blank email to:
Or subscribe by visiting the yahoogroups site at



In recent years, scientists have noticed a disturbing trend among frog
and toad populations. Throughout the world, amphibians are disappearing
at an alarming rate. Because frogs have porous skin, they are especially
sensitive to changes in their environment. They are among the first to
suffer the consequences of human-caused threats, such as pollution, non-
native species introduction, impacts from agricultural and development
projects and increased ultraviolet radiation. As an indicator of greater
ecosystem health, amphibian population decline raises many concerns
about the long-term health of our environment.

You can help scientists learn more about trends in U.S. amphibian
populations by participating in Frogwatch USA. Anyone can participate;
all you need is an interest in frogs and toads. Volunteers learn about the
life cycles and calls of local frogs, monitor frogs and toads in local
wetland areas and submit frog data via the Frogwatch USA website.

To find out how you can get involved in Frogwatch, visit


Web Snacks

Neuroscience for Kids. Really!

The Mummy Maker Game

Figure This! Math Challenges for Families


Unschool Friendly Conferences

Feeling like a fish out of water after attending a large curriculum oriented
homeschool convention? The following conferences have unschooling presenters
and participants, including many regular posters at the unschooling.com
website and email discussion list.

Free to Learn!
Keynote speakers - Patrick Farenga, Dr. Thomas Armstrong
August 15-17, 2003
Radisson Hotel Sacramento, CA

Live and Learn Unschooling Conference
August 22-24, 2003
Columbia, SC

If you have information on other unschooling friendly conferences please
email the editor at newsletter@unschooling.com







The Last Word

When one learns to trust, to quit fearing the future, fearing that children
may fail or what others think, it opens the door to a deeper peace and
joy. When joy is the motivation for behavior, unschooling becomes second

Ren Allen - Unschooling and the Art of Running
Home Education Magazine March/April 2003


Thanks for reading the Unschooling.com newsletter! Feel free to
forward this newsletter to all your friends, your local support
group, and your mother-in-law!

old address and then subscribe with your new one.

See you in April!

Deborah A Cunefare, Newsletter Editor


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