Growing Without Schooling 1

Page 1




Issue No.1 Th{s is the first issue of a newsletter, about ways in which people, young or old, can learn and do things, acquire skills, and find interesting and useful work, without having to go through the process of schooling. In part, it will be about people who, dur­ ing some of their own growing up, did not go to school, what they did instead, and how they made a place for themselves in the world. Mostly, it will be abo ut people who want to t ake or keep their chil dren out of school, and about what they might do instead, what problems come up, and how they cope with the se. We hope, also, that children who are, right nO\~, grow ing without schooling will let us know how they feel about this. If they do, we will not identify them as chi l dren , except as they do in their own writin.q. GRO~IAG WITHOUT SCH60LING, or GWs---a5We" ~Iill call it from now ~wi ll be in part an exchange. Much of what is in it, we hope, wi 11 come from its readers. In its pages people can talk about cer­ tain common ideas, needs, con­ cerns, plans, and experiences. In time it may lead to many informal and perso nal networks of mutual help and support. GWS will come out whenever we have-enough material to m~ke an interesting issue. This may at first be only three or four times a year. Later, as more people read it and send in material, it may co me out as of ten as six times a year. GWS will not be much concerned wit~chools, even alternative or free schools, except as they may enable people to keep their chil­ dren out of school by 1) Calling their own home a school, or 2) enrolling their children, as some have already, in schools near or far which then approve a home study program. We wi 11, hO~I('ver, be looking for ways in which peo­ ple who want or need them can get school tickets - credits, certif­ icates, degrees, diplomas, etc. ­ without having to spend time in schoo l . And we will be very inter­ ested, as the schools and school~ of education do not seem to be, in the act and art of teaching, that is, all the ways in which people, of al l ages, in or out of sChool, can more effectively share infor­ mation, ideas, and skills.


as possible at the lowest possible cost. But we think it best that those who use a ser­ vice should pay the cost of it. We also want those who work on GWS to be pa id a decent wage, if onlYfor th~ sake of stayi"ng po·wer. Peopl e who work for nothing or for token ~Iages soon grow ti red of thi sand quit. We want this newsletter to come out as long as people feel a need for it. This can only happen if those who put it out do not have to do so at great personal sacrifi ce. . This first issue is four pages. All following issues will be eight pages, perhaps in time more than that. Subscriptions are $10 for six issues. A Times Two or 2X sub­ scription (we mail two copies of each issue) will be $12 for six issues; a 3X subscription will be $14 for six issues, and so on, $2 more for each additional copy per issue. Thus, two or more people or families can take out multiple subscrip~ions and split the cost. In this way, two people can get GWS for $6 a year each; four for $4"a year each; ei ght, for $3 a year each, and so on. Or, people, or bookstores, can take out mul­ tiple subscriptions and resell in­ dividual subscripti ons or copies. Also, people may buy in quantity copies of any issue. All subscriptions to GWS will begin with Issue #1 unlessyou tell us othe~l i se , i.e., please begin my s ubscription with Issue #2, or #3, or whatever. Someday, i f \~e get enough s ub­ scribers, we may be able to lower the subscription price. Thi s will not be for a whil e; even at its present price, GWS wil l probab l y not be self-supporting until we have around 2,000 subscribers . An d as we said, we think GWS must be self- supporting. Charity is fiCk­ le, and we mean to be around for a while.


In starting this newsletter, we are putting into practice a nickel and dime theory about social change, which is, that important and lastin g social change always ,comes slowly, and only when people change their live s, not just their pol itical bel iefs or parties. It is a process, that take s place over a period of time. At one mo­ ment in history, with respect to a certain matter, 99%of a society thi nk and act one way; 1% thi nk and act very differently. Some time later, that 1% minority be­ comes 2%, then 5%, then 10, 20, 30, until someday it becomes the dominant majority, and the social change has taken place. Some may ask, "When did this social change take place?" or "When did it begin?" There is no answer to these questions, except perhaps to say that any given soc i al change begins the first time one person thinks of it. I have come to understand, fi­ nally, and even t o accept, that in almost everything I believe and SU BSCRIPTIONS care about I am a member of a min ­ GWS will be supported entirely ority in my own country, in most ~subscri ptions, not by adverti­ cases a very small minority. This sing, foundations, universities, is certainly true of all my ideas or government grants, all of which about children and education. We are unreliable. We will do our who do not believe in compulsory schooling, who believe that child­ best to print as much useful ~a -

'ren want to learn about tile world, ,are good at 'it, and can oe'trusted to do it, without much adult coer­ cion or interference, are surely not more than 1% of the popul ation and perhaps much less than that. And we are not likely to become the effective majority for many years, probably not in my life­ ti me , perhaps not in the lifeti me of any readers of GWS. This doesn't trouble me any more, as long as those minori ties of which I am a member go on grow­ ing. My work is to help them grow. If we can describe the effective majo rity of our society, with re­ spect to children or schools or any other question, as movi ng in direction X, and ourselves, the small minority, as moving in di­ rection Y, what I want to do is to find ways to help people, who want to move in direction Y, to move in that direction, rather than run after the great X-bound army shoutin g at them, "Hey you guys, stop, turn around, you ought to be heading in direction Y!" In areas they feel are important, people don't change their ideas, much less their lives, because someo ne comes along with a bunch of arguments to show that they are mistaken, and even wicked, to think or do as they do. Once in a while, we may have to argue with the X-bound majority, to try to stop them from doing a great and immediate wrong. But most of the time , as a way of making real and deep changes in society, this kind of shoutin g and argui ng seems to me a waste pf time. WHY KEEP THEM OUT?

thrown together in schools and

develop these means, as prisoners

develop means of passing dull

time and tormenting authorities

to cope wi th an oppressive situ ­

ation. The richer the families

children come from, the worse

these traits seem to be. Two years

of school' and Topher would prob­

ably have regressed two years in

emotional development. I am not

sure of that, of course, and it

was not because of that fear that

we pulled himout, but we saw

enough of what happened to him in

a school situation not to regret

pull ing him out.

I have snatched this paragraph out of the middle of Jud's letter because it seems to me to answer so perfectly a question many ask me \~hen they first th ink of taking their kids out of school: "But won 't they miss the social life?" To this I say that if I had no other reason for wanti ng to keep kids out of school (and I have many), the social life would be reason enough. In all the schoo ls I have taught in, visited, or know any thin g about, the social-life of the children is mean -spirited, competitive , exclusi ve, status­ seeking, full of talk about who went to who's birthday party and who got wha t Chri s tmas presents and who got how many Valentine cards and who is talking to so -and -s o and who is not. Even in the first grade, classes soun di­ vide up into leaders , energetic, and (often deservedly) popular kids, thei r bands of followers, and other outsiders ~Iho are point­ edly excluded from these groups . And I remember my sister saying of one of her children, then five, that she never knew her to do any ­ thing really mean or s ill y until she went away to schoo l - a nice schoo l, by the way, in a nice sma 11 town.

Jud Jerome (Downh ill. Farm, Han ­ cock, t~D 21750) has wri tten us a long l etter, which \~e will print in this and the next issue. (I hope many other readers will fol­ low his good example.) His young­ est child, Topher, after a year of kindergarten, did not go to school again until he was 10. Then he USEFUL RESOURCES wen t for a few months to a sma ll "free School" on another commune. N.A.L.S.A.S. (National Associat­ After a while, his parents took ion for the Legal Support of Al­ him out. Of this, Jud writes: ternative Schools, P.O . Box 2823, Santa Fe, NM 87501). This small ... In regard to Topher, though, organization, under the leadership I should add that though we were of Ed Nagel, has done much import­ glad he was happy and enjoying him­ ant research into compul sory at­ self [in schoo lJ, we were also sad tendance laws, the right of people as we watched him deteriorate from to start and run their own school, a person into a kid under peer in­ , and the right of people to enroll fl uence in schoo l. It was much their children in distant alterna-' tive schoo ls which then approve like what we saw happening when and supervise'a home study pro­ he was in kindergarten. There are gram . People from at least tvlO certain kinds of childishness which it seems most people accept other states have enrolled their children in the Santa Fe Commu­ as being natural, somethi ng chil­ dren have to go through, somethi ng nity School (where Ed Nagel teach­ es) in this way, and in at l east which it is, indeed, a shame to deny them. Silliness, self­ one case, and I think more, local indulgence, random rebelliousness, courts have upheld their right to secretiveness, cruelty to other do this. N.A.L.S.A.S. needs and children, clubbishness, add iction deserves support. to toys, possessions, junk, spend­ ing money, purchased entertain­ THE LAST? RESORT, newsletter ment, exploitation of adul ts to of the Committee to End Violence pay attention, take them places, Against the Next Generation (or amuse them, do things with them -­ EVAN-G), 977 Keeler Ave., Berkeley, a11 these thi ngs seem to be qui te ·CA 94708. Members of the Committee unnecessary, not "normal" at all ($lO/yr) receive the newsletter, [note: except in the sense of a very complete survey of court being common J, and just as disgus­ cases, newspaper stories and edit­ ting in children as th ey are in oria l s, and other events in this adults. And while they develop as field. Newsletter is scary read­ ing; large numbers of children a result of peer i nfl uence, I believe this i s only and spe ­ are sti ll being brutally beaten, cifica ll y because children are often for the most tri vial offen­

ses or no offenses atall'. One boy, "!ho had sprained his ankle, and had a note from a doctor say­ ing that he shourd not exercise on it, was, severely paddled and in fa<;t injured by. a coach (the coaches and Physical Education teachers seem to be among th€ worst offenders) who told him to high jump during a Phys. Ed. class. The school sadists are in most cases upheld by the courts, most recently by the Su­ ,preme Court. Most Americans lik.e ~e idea of beating up on kids, and are ready to seize on almos t anything as an excuse to do so. SEE' (Selective Educational Equipment, Inc., 3 Bridge St . , Newton MA 02195). These folks produce and/or distribute some very good school materials, many of whi ch coul d be used at home . I will comment later in detail about some of the materials available. For the time being I urge you to get their catalogue. They have very good stuff for measuring things.

facilities for a child in order to satisfy the require­ ments of the law" it being sufficient that a systematic course of study be under ­ taken at home and that the parent render qual i fied quality instruction. This suggests that the Adven­ tists have had a good deal of ex­ perience in bucking compulsory attendance laws, and (judgino from the size of their catalog) that considerable numbers of children are us i ng thei r courses ins tead of attending schools. In short, these folks may already know a great 'deal that we need to find out. We at GWS will look further into this andtell you ' what Ive fin'd out.

SCHOOL VIOLENCE ArID VANDALISM ­ a report of the Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile belinquency (Sen. Birch Bayh, Chmn.) of the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate. For sale by Supt. of Documents, U.S.Govt. Printing Office, Wash. D.C. 20402; $4.95. This is a two-volume report, the first stating the problem, the OUTLOOK, a quarterly ($6/yr., $10/ 2 yrs.) pub. by Mountain View second proposing ways (most of them rather foolish) for dealing Ce'n ter for Envi ronmen ta 1 Educa t­ ion, Univ. of Colorado, 1511 with it. You may be able to get Vol.l free from Sen. Bayh's Qf­ Uni versi ty Ave., Boul der, Colo. fice; if not, it i~ worth $4.95 80309. The only serious (but not stuffy) publication about teaching as an official statement of what life in most schools is 'r eally (as opposed to classroom manage­ 1ike. ment, tricks to keep the kids busy, etc.) that I know of in this CHILDREN'S RIGHTS REPORT, pub­ country. Since the editor, Tony by the Juvenile Rights Pro­ Kallet, is a musician, it is like­ lished ject of the American Civil Liber­ ly to have very good stuff about ties Union Foundation. 11 issues, music. $15/yr. Vol.l, No.8, May 1977, discusses the Supreme Court ruling HOME STUDY INSTITUTE, Takoma on corporal punishment in the Park, Washington, D.C. 20012. This schools. Well worth readinn. w~ll established, respectable, and very extensive correspondence school seems to be run by, or ACCESS TO THE WORLD somehow connected to, the Seventh Day Adven'tists. They offer accred­ The follmving is part of an ited elementary, high school, and article that came out in the New other programs. At first glance, ?chools Exchange Newsletter, and these seem to be very convention­ later, in the magazine Green Rev­ --­ al, use standard school texts, etc. olution. This has this qdvantage, that most schools will accept the credits or [in this alternative school] certificates of the Institute as there is more than a 1ittl e being as good as their own. talk about the curriculum, so Their course of study for all carefully planned, guided, and elementary and secondary grades enriched. So here in free and includes some kind of bible or alternative schools we are religious study each year, presu­ still doino what conventional mably from the Seventh Day Adven­ schools have always done. We tist point of view. Whether peo­ take chi l dren out of and away ple of other religious faiths, or from the great richness and va­ none at all, can waiv~ this par­ riety of the world, and in its ticular requirement, I have yet place Ive give them school sub­ to find 'o ut. jects, the curriculum. Perhaps we may jazz it up with chicken o O~ page 15 of their catalog is bones, Cuisenaire rods, and all this interesting statement: sorts of goodies from EDC. But the fact remains that instead School attendance lil\lls, vary of giving them access to more from state to state. Parents and'more people, places, tools, are advised to counsel with and experiences, we are cutting the Educational Secretary of the world up into little bits the local Seventh-Day Adven­ and giving it to the children tist conference regarding according to this or that the­ compulsory attendance laws ory about what they need or can and teacher qualification stand. I say instead that what requirements in the area they need is access to more and where they live. We will be more of the rea.,-;:;orld; plenty glad to give assistance if of time and space to think over the need ari ses. In New York, in the case of Foster, 330 their experiences, and to use N.Y.s 2d8, Family Court of fantasy and play to make mean­ Ci ty of New York, Kings Coun­ ing out of them; advice, road ty, Feb.16, 1972, the Court maps, guide books, to make it stated: "It is settled law easier for them to get where they want to go (not where we that a parent need not avail himsel f of formal educationa l think they ought to go), and

to find out what they want to fi nd out. Fi nding ways to do all this is not a small mat­ ter. The modern world is dan­ gerous:. confusing, not meant for children, not generally kind or welcoming to them . We have a great deal to learn about how to make the world more accessible to them, and how to gi ve them more freedom and competence in exploring it. It is not a small subject. But it is a very di fferent thi ng indeed from designing nice lit~ tle curricula. A small footnote . To peop'-e who are thinking of starting new schools, perhaps because there seems no other Ivay tha t the law will let them teach their own children, my strong advice is, keep th at school as small as possible, the absolute minimum that the law will allow and s till call it a schoo 1. The problems of schools, the diffi­ culties of running them, the troubles they get into with the authori ties, seem to increase, roughly, with the square or maybe the cube of the size of the student body. Four or five kids can go anYVlhere with an adult; a dozen gets to be a problem; two dozen is a big problem; and for forty or fif­ ty you have to get a permit from Ci ty Hall. Keep it small, keep it cheap; there's no other way to go. MORE FROM JUD JEROME

"The next daughter down the line was twelve when we moved to the commune. She finished that year of school on "independent study," living at the farm, turn­ ing in work to teachers back at the city. But Ivhen Fall came she did not want to enroll. To avoid the law ~Ie enrolled her in a "free" school in Spokane, Wash., run by a friend, who carried her on the rolls, though she has not yet, to date, seen that city or that school. She spent most of the first year here at the farm, pitching in as an adult, learning from experience as we were all learning . While she was still thirteen ,we went to help another commune, in northern Vermont, with sugaring, and she loved that place - which was very primitive and used horse-drawn equipment ­ so asked to stay. This was an agreeable arrangement on all sides - and she has lived there now for over five years, except for one, when she was sixteen. That year she and her mate (ten years her senior) went to Iceland (Vermont was not rugged enough for them) to winter, working in a fish cannery. The next Spring they traveled, camping, to Scandinavia, 'h i ked the Alps, then fl ew home ­ coming back with $3000 more than they left with after a year abroad. Last year, she wanted to apply for a government vocational program, for which she needed a high school diploma, so went to an adult education class for a few months, and took the test, passing in the top percentile (and being offered scholarships to var­ ious colleges). She "graduated" earlier than her classmates who s taye'd in school. I thi nk her case

iilustrates especially dramatica,l­ ly the waste of time in schools. She is by no means a studious type, would never think of herself as an intellectual, has always been more interes,te,d in milking cows and hoeing vegetables and dr1ving teams of horses than in books, and .i n her years between thi rteen and eighteen moved comfortably into womanhood and acquired a vast num­ ber of skills, had a vast range of experiences in the adult world, yet managed to qualify exception­ ally by academic standards. By comparison, her classmates who stayed in school are in many cases stunted in mind, emotionally dis­ turbed, without significant goals or directions or sound values in their lives - in large part (in my judgment) specifically because of their schooling." THE OTHER WORLD

The house magazine of a leading

hotel chain contained the follow­

ing advertisement, for itself:

When you stay at ------- ---­ you're in among them .... a never-ending parade of famous faces. The pace-setters work and play at ------. The peo­ ple who shape events and pla­ ces. The elevator door opens and she's there beside you, the fabled face knm'!n in mil­ 1ions of homes throughout the world. Or suddenly the mood tenses, people rush forward to see or touch him as he pauses briefly, surrounded by his entourage, and then he' s gone. What he did here today, while l'Q.l!. were staying at the , reported (sic) in

the worl d press toni ght.

ON COUNTING r~any yea rs ago I knew a chil d of about four whose older brothers and sisters were "teaching her to count." One day I heard her say, "One, two, three, four, fi ve, seven, six, eight .... " at which point the older kids said indig­ nantly, "No! No! Seven comes after six.!" ~mes after." It seemed to me that from such words children coul d get a very strange idea of numbers, that they were a proces­ sion of little creatures, like dwarves, the first named One, the second named Two, the third named Three, and so on. Later on these dwarves would seem to do mysteri­ ous and meaningless dances, about which people would say things like "Two and two make four," etc. It seemed likely that any child with such an idea of numbers would soon get into trouble, and this did in­ deed happen with this four-year­ old. Later, I asked some adults who had always been hopeless at arithmetic wnat they thought of this idea of mine, and many of them laughed and said this was in­ deed how they had always felt about numbers, and why they could never make any sense of them.

It seems to me most important that a child not be taught to count number names in the absence of real objects. The Sesame Street approach (like many other things on tha t program) is dead wrong. When little children first meet

and "ordinal ." If we simpl y do our numbers they should always meet them as adjectives, not nourrs . Not counting in a way that reflects the nature of these ideas, the "three" or "s even" all by itsel f, child will soon intuit the differ­ but "three spoons" or "seven mat­ ence. Later, when he fully grasps ches" or "five pennies" or what ­ ever. Time enough later, probab~y the idea that one set of number names refers to the quanti ty 01 much later, for children to intu­ it slowly that the noun "five " is size of something, while another set refers to the pl ace of some ­ that qual ity which all groups of thing, he may be interested in five objects have in common. Nor is it a good idea for child­ hearing the words "cardina l " and ren always to meet numbers in the "o rdinal. " If not, no mat.ter. counting order. We might at one When we count a group of small moment" show a chil d two of some objects, we do not always have to object, but the next thing we show count by ones, and can just as might be five of some other ob­ well count by twos or threes. The ject, or eight, or whatever . Nu~­ child will see from this that bers exist in nature in quite ran­ there are many ways of counting dom ways, and a child should be and that he can pick the one that ready to accept numbers where he seems most handy. He will also get fi nds them. a running start on learning some It would also be helpful to simple products . ha ve chi 1d ren see, and . in .ti me A few chi 1dren, of course, 1earn to recognize all tTJe nu~bers grasp these notions of cardinal smaller than ten by the kinds of and ordinal in spite of our very patterns they make . Thus, a child confused and confusing ways of being shown three small objects presenting them. But most do not, might at one time see them in a and I suspect many children would row, at another, in a triangle. move more confidently into the Four objects could be shown in a world of numbers if we introduced square, or in a row of three with them as I have suggested here. the extra one on top. The patterns ·f or five could be a regular penta­ A SCHOOL STORY ' gon, or a square wi th a' fi fth dot In his wonderful book HOW TO on top, or perhaps a square with SURVIVE IN YOUR NATIVE LAND (Ban­ the extra dot in the center. And tam paperback available from GWS) so on. Such patterns could be put James Herndon wri tes : on cards, perhaps with the number symbol or digit on the other side. In September of 1967 I I'm not at all suggesting that looked through the cumula ­ children shoul d be forced or even t i ve fo 1de rs we we re go i ng a s ked to memo ri ze these ca rds . But to have in our cl ass for the if children had such cards to look coming year, that is to say, at and play with - they all love the next Monday. I read what regular playing cards - they might I already knew - the fi rs t inti me come to know all these grader with testab l e high IQ, patterns, and would thus have ways the remarked bright student, other than counting to identify leader, reads at third - grade­ sma 11 numbers. In thi s connecti on 1eve 1 , headed for the bi g a set of dominoes might ' be a use­ time; and the fourth grader ful toy, and many young children with low-average capability, would enjoy playing ~ith them, IQ 89, 1azy ki d, mus t -be­ even if they were doing no more pushed-to-achieve, reads-at­ than matching patterns. second-grade-level, disci­ pl ine problem, parents coop­ It al so seems to me important, erative. when we adults count things for The first grader and the children, that we not do what most, fourth grader are the same of us now do, that15, move from kid. one object to the next saying as I~e go, "One, two, three ...... " I read this once to a group of The child sees us touching , these objects, which otherwise look the school administrators. I asked same, and saying a different word them if they had kids l i ke that , for each one, and may wel l deci de and if so how many, i n their school s or school systems. None of that "one, two, three, .... . . '! them knew. I asked if any of them are the names of the objects, had ever checked through their dwarf style. We would do beiter, f j 1es to see whether they had some as we count each item, to move it to the side , saying 'as ~/e move kids like that. None of them had. the first, " No~1 I'le have one over here, " then as we move the second, WE NEED TO KNOW "Now we have blo over here," and We would like to pri nt, in l a­ then in turn, "Now we ha ve three," ter issues from time to time, or '''now we have four, II I'now we have perhaps someday in a separate di ­ five, and so on. Thus at each rectory, the names and addresses point the child can see cl early of our subscribers, so that people tha t the number name refers not may get in touch with each other to a particular object but to the direct ly, or perhaps arra nge to size of the group of objects meet if they happen to go through which we have set to one s i de. each others' home towns . Please l et us know whether we may put In'tinie we coul d introduce the idea of ordinal numbers, which your name and address in such a show the place of an item i n an .directory. Also, if you write us array, rather than the size of a something, please let us know if group of items. Thus, given a we may print your name, or name row of sma l l objects, we might and address, with your letter . We also need to know, for as touch them in turn, saying as we go someth i ng like, "This is the many states as poss i ble, what the first one, this is the second one, laws about compul sory school at ­ tendance, about acc~ptab l e al ter ­ this i s the third one, and the fourth one, arid' the fi fth, 'and the natives to it, such as tutor i ng sixth .. . etc." No need to tal k at and home study, and about people f i rs t about the words "ca rdi na 1 " starting the i r own schools, act­

ually ~. One gro up of people who i n the schools, they may give me a somewhat biased version of the probably know are the Seventh-Day laws. Adventists (see in this issue un­ I would also like to know any­

der USEFUL RESOURCES). I woul d also suggest writing to your state thing you may be able to tellJre

representative and/or senator, not about court decisions in this

state interpreting these laws.

your state department of educa­ Thank you very much in advance

tion. The department of education for your attention and help.

is itself a part of the school bu­ reaucracy, and is very likely to give you a version of the laws Please don't use this as a form which is tilted in favor of the letter. I offer it only to suggest schoo l s, or to conceal from you an approach that would be likely any parts of the law that might to appeal to most legislators, of help you escape the schools. Your whatever party or beliefs. legislator has no such interest. Pl ease 1et us know, if you send He is probably not a radical cri ­ tic of the schools, but he is also any such letter, what response you get, and if you ge t any. almost certainly concerned that they spend so much money and are always asking for more, and also, 'WHAT TO SAY TO NEIGHBORS One mother, l'/ho was keeping that for what they spend, they her child out of school, said to don't seem to get much results. me one day that people - neigh­ More on this in the next section. bors, relatives, people she kne\; ­ We also need to know (see again kept asking where her child was in school, and that she didn't know USEFUL RESOURCES) any decisions \;ha t to say to them. I sugges ted that the courts may have ma de in 'your state to interpret school and that it wasn't their business and schoo l attendance laws. These will that she didn't have to tell them anything. Later she said that she vary from place to place . ~lany .people write or tell me about this had tried that, but that it had not done any good - they kept in­ or that court decision which told Sisting that she tell them. Thi s some parents that they could not seems to be one of those things teach their children at home, but that people feel they have to know, almost no one knows of court de­ about other people. cisions which went the other way After thinking about it a while We also need to buiid up a list I suggested that when people asked of people with teacher's certifi­ where her child was going to cates who can and will act as tu­ school, she ~ay some thin g 1 ike tors (real or paper) for children this, "Wel l, he's in a spec i al who are learning at home. Peopl e program." If people then asked have wr i tten me that the schools what kind of program, she could in their area will not let them say, "It's very new, and somewhat tutor their own children at home experi men ta 1 , and they don't wan t because they don't have certifi­ cates ,for that state . (By the way, 'me to talk about it."

All of \;hich, by the way , is

I think it very unlikely that the perfectly true.

law contains any such specific re­ She tried it out on a few peo­ quirement; this is I'1Ore likely to ple and said it worked fine. May­ be the schools' interpretation of be i t ~Ii 11 work for others. the l aw . ) I have suggested that they try to find someone with such a certificate who would be willin g SI X HOURS A DAY ? When they first think of takin g to say that they were the child's their child out of school, people tuto r. How much tutoring they often say to me, "How am I goi ng would actually do, they and the to teach him six hours a day?" parent, coul d deci de . I say, "Who's teachi n9 b.2.!!l. 02. All thlS information we will ~ day?" have to get frol'l you, the readers . hours As a ki d, I went to the "bes t" schools, some public, most pri­ LETTER TO A LEGISLATOR vate. I was a good student, the kind that teachers like to talk Dear Legislator: to. And it was a rare day in my schooling when I got fifteen min­ I am a parent of school age utes of teaching, tha~-C>f-COn­ chi l dren, and am seriously think ­ cerned and thoughtful adult talk ing about teaching them at home. about something that I found inte­ I fear, with good reason (here resting, puzzling, or- important . you might cite the Bayh report ­ see USEFUL RESOURCES), that in the Over the whole of my schooling, the average was probably closer schools they will be exposed to and tempted by all ki nds of drugs , to fi fteen mi nutes a I;eek. For sex, and violence, and many kinds llXlSt kids in most schools, it is 'of peculiar ideas. I also fear a lot less than that. Many poor, that they may not learn anything, non -white, or unusua l kids, in may i ndeed pick up from their peer their entire schoo l ing, never get group a contempt for 1earni ng, and any teaching at all. When teach­ in any case, that because of the ers speak to them, it is only to l arge classes, they will not be command, correct, warn, threaten, able to get the kind of indiv ­ or bl ame. idual attent i on and he l p that I Anyway, your kids don't need, can give them at home. don't want, and couldn't stand I woul d therefore 1 i ke to have six hours of your~c~ng-a-day, the full text of all the laws in even if you wanted to do that this state re l atinq to school at ­ much. To help them find out about the world doesn't take that much tendance, to alternative possibil­ ities such as tutoring at home, adult input. Mos t of what they need, you have been giving them and to the possib il ity of parents s in ce they were born . As I have mak in g their own home a school . I have written to you instead of the said, they need access. They need a chance, sometimes, for honest, State Department of Education be­ seri ous, unhurried ta l k; or some­ cause I fear tha t, since thei r i nteres t is in keeping my child times, for joking, play, and

foolishness; or so met imes, for tenderness, sympathy, and comfort. They need., much of the time, to share your life, or at least, not to feel shut out of it, in short, to go some of the places you go, see and do some of the things that interest you , get to know some of your friends, find out what you did when you were little and be­ fore they were born . . They need to have their questions answered, or at l east heard and at tended to ­ if you don't know, say "I don't know." They need to ge t to know more and more ad ul ts whose ma in work in life is not taking care of kids. They need some friends their own age, but not dozens of them; two or three, at most half a dozen, is as many real fri ends as any chi ld can have at one time. Perhaps above all, they need a lot of privacy, so litude, ca l m, times when there's nothing to do. Schoois do not provi de any of these, and no ma tter how or how much we cha nged them, never co uld provide most of them. But the average parent, family, circle of friends , neighborhood , and commu­ nity can and do provide all of these things, perhaps not as well as they once did or might again, but well enou gh. Peop le do not need a Ph.D. or some kind of Cer­ ti fi ca te to he 1p thei r chil dren find their way into the world. A SCHOOL STORY

The foll owing are excerpts fro m a news story in The Real Paper (Boston, Mass.) ,Of 37T7/ 76, headed "Dop in g Springfield Sc hool Ch ildren. " Dr. Leo Sulli van of Boston prescribed 15 milligrams of Ri­ tal in daily to another ten-year ol d boy. On a certi fic ate filed with the Department of Public Health he listed this diagno­ sis: "immaturity." Under tests admi ni stered he wrote "none" and under alternat ive treat­ ment he wrote "none." Over 60 percent of all the children certi f ied la s t year apparently never rece ived al­ ternat i ve therapy before drugs were admins tered and an equal number never received anything more than a physica l exam for diagnostic purposes. Desp ite a ni ne -mo nth inves­ tigation by the attorney gen­ eral ' s office, and another by the Department of Public Health, no abuses were officiall y found in the Springfi eld schools. Ne ither investigative agency di d more than make a few phone cal is. DPH din n ~th ing at all except. send the Springf iel d press a release saying that no abuses were evident. During the pas t week, how­ ever , The Real ~~ ha s ob­ tained sworn affid av its descri­ bi ng numerous cases of abuse. In one instance, the mother of.a first grade child reports that her son was one of five children placed on drugs by Dr. Pl oof after a teacher referral. When the teacher found little behaviora l change with Dexe­ drine, Dr. Pl oof prescribed Ri­ talin. A pharmacist refused to fill the prescri pti on because

of the chil d's age·, and the mo ­ ther got worried . She refused to place her child on any more drugs . She was told that if the child were not kept on drugs he wo uld not be allowed in school Accordi ng to the affi davit, the mother agreed to pl ace her child back on drugs, but secret­ ly substituted one-a-day vita­ mins for Ritalin. During a pub­ lic hearing on the c011troversy, the teacher defended drug ther­ apy, saying this child had im­ proved considerably s ince tak­ ing drugs. The teacher was shocked when the mother announ­ ced her trick. In another affidavit, the mother of an ei ght-yea r-o 1d girl says that her daughter was pl ace d on Ritalin by Dr. Ploof after a teacher referral and a 20-minute evaluation by the doctor. The drug had little effect, so without any reeval­ uation Dr. Ploof rai sed the do­ sage two times over the phone. Th at child eventually left the Springfield school system and did very well in a private school. In the most disturbing s tory of them all, Dr. Ploof prescri­ bed Ritalin for an epileptic first-grade boy. Ritalin is dangerous to epil epti cs. Had it not been for a rediagnosis by a second physician, the child mi ght have suffered ef­ fects rangi ng fro m convul s ions to death. The father is consid ­ ering a suit against both Dr. Ploof and the school system. I said this story was typical, and it i s, as Schrag-Divoky's THE MYTH OF THE HYPERACTIVE CHILD makes plain. Thi s kind of thing goes on in school systems allover the country. Everywhere I go to lecture to education students, they tell me th at in the schools where they do thei r practi ce tea­ ching many children are on school­ ordered drugs, and they describe many of these drugged children as being "like vegetables ." There are Dr. Ploof's every­ where. They are never brought to acco unt. It would seem wise to be extremely skeptical of any kind of psychological or neurological diagnosis made by any doctor, psy­ chologist, or other expert or pro­ fessional connected in any way with the schools, and to have any s uch diagnoses checked by outside and independent person s (if you

Growing Without School ing HOLT ASSOCIATES, INC. 308 Boylston Street Boston MA 02116

can find such;. It is instructive to read what the Physician's Desk Reference has to say about Ritalin . And it may be worth noting that in Sweden (so I have been told) Ritalin is felt to be so powerful, dangerous, and 1ittle understood that doctors may not even prescribe it. This matter, and many others equally sinister and important, including the keeping of secret, detailed, misleading, and damag­ ing reports on schoolchildren, are dealt with carefully and at length in THE MYTH OF THE HYPER­ ACTIVE CHILD (Dell paperb ac k available from GWS). I s trongly recomme nd it. THE SElF · RESPECTING CHILD

Thi s is the title of a book by Alison Stallibrass, published in Engl and by Thame s & Hud so n, Ltd., Lo ndon. It is th e bes t book I ha ve seen abo'ut the ways in which very yo ung children explore the \vorld and use, test, and devel op their powers. Since no American publish­ er was willing to print an Amer­ ican edition, GWS is selling the Briti sh edi ti on. One of the interesting and sur­ prising things Ms. Stallibrass says is that, even for four and five year olds, bicycles are much safer th an tricycles . She has found that children th at yo un g are perfectly able to ride real bikes, which have thi s great advantage over trikes, that they can 't run away with the ch ild on a hill. There are ma ny delightful pho­ tos.One, which perfectly ~xpres­ ses the spirit of the book, i s of a sixteenth-month-old child, s tanding at the top of a jungle gym, to which s he has climbed by herself, holding on with one hand and with the other waving away an anxious adul t who has c·ome run­ ning up to "hel p. " A wonderful book.

find alternative schools; either they could find none , or could not afford them, or fel t they were not really different from or better than the public schools. All of them said to me, early in our talk or correspondence, "I just don't know what to do, I feel so help­ less." I say, "Take them out of school altogether." They say, "The 1aw won't 1et me." I say, "There are ways. " They say, "I don't know how to teach my own children." I say, "Yes, you do, or at least, yo u know as much as anyone else ." Someti mes they do take thei r chil dren out of school, sometimes not. But eve n if they don't, it changes everythi ng to know that if they want to, they can. They say, "I don't feel so helpless anymore." GWS is to help people to feel 1esshel pl ess. A STUDYING TRICK

Here's a good ·trick for people who have to learn a li st of di s ­ connected facts - names and dates in History, formulas in Chemistry, PhYSics , or Math, capital cities, etc. Get some 3 x 5 cards. On one side of each card put half of yo ur piece of informati on, on the other side put the other . Thus, on one 5 ide, "Columbus di scovered lI.meri­ ca," on the other, "1492." Or, on one side, "Sa lt," on the other, "Sodium Chloride " or NaC1 2 . Then use the cards to test yourself. Shuffle them up, put as ide tho se you know, work on those you don't. You'll find that just decidin g what to put on the card in the fir st place will do most of the work of meinOrizing it.


A number of parents, in di ffer­ ent parts of the country, have sued the schools because after spending years in them their kids had not learned anything. A judge HElPLESS on the West Coast re cent ly threw In the l as t year or so, a number out one such sui t, say ing in his ruling, in plain black and white of people have talked or written for the world to see, that the to me about their children. They tell a familiar story. The child, schools had no legal obligation to teach anyone anything. who had always been alert, cur­ ious , bright, eager, was now fe ar­ I foolishly mislaid the news ful, bored, withdrawn, etc. All clipping about this. If anyone can these people had tried to get the send us the details of thi s case school s to make changes, without results. Many of them had tried to and,ruling, I will be grateful.