Super Natural Woman

Words : HomeLearners Network News

April 20, 2004 6:10pm


April edition of Homelearners� Network News
Issue No. 3 for 2003-2004: April 2004

Wondertree Foundation for Natural Learning


Homelearners� Network News
Issue No. 3 for 2003-2004:  April 2004

Wondertree Foundation for Natural Learning

Homelearners� Network Contacts:  
For general info., registration, and homelearning counselling, please contact
Pam Martin at (604) 523-2795 or <>.
For communication regarding Resource Allowance reimbursements or the newsletter (including letters to the editor and submission of articles), please contact
Suzanne Gregory at (250) 754-1227 or <>.

        Those homelearners who are computer-free can congratulate yourselves on not needing to worry, but others may have noticed an increase in computer virus and worm activity in recent weeks.
        Some of these critters masquerade as people or entities that do not exist.  For example, if you should receive a message from �,� do not open it.  It is not from us.  Also, for the foreseeable future we will not knowingly send out attachments, due to the problems associated with them.

        We are endeavouring to set our Wondertree hours at certain times on certain days.  This should make us more predictable if you prefer to reach us by phone, and it will allow us to keep our other commitments and family time intact.  Pam�s Wondertree day is Monday; Suzanne�s is Wednesday.  You may get our voice mail, but we will try to return your call promptly.

        If you have a child who wants to be in a classroom, but if you are looking for a creative learning environment, the Wondertree Learning Centre may be for you!
        The Centre is having an
Open House on Sunday, May 2 from 1 - 4 pm.  For more information, contact 604-224-3663 or
        The Centre�s address is 4196 West 4th Ave., Vancouver, in the Jericho Hill Centre.


        It�s the end of the university year again, and my friend who teaches English can once again be heard moaning about the low quality of the education students� papers.  �They can�t tell �illicit� from �elicit� or �prospective� from �perspective,�� she groans, �And they�re going to be teachers next year!�  Marking a bad paper takes twice as long as marking a good one, leaving her worn out by a large mediocre batch.

        Geography and nature studies don�t fare much better:  I have seen classroom teachers put penguins in the same picture as polar bears (and the students probably had to believe that they lived together in order to get the �right answer� on the test).  I�ve seen a nature walk leader explain frog metamorphosis to a school group via drawings and song, then fail to identify the species of an actual frog on the trail.  One otherwise excellent Canadian history text implies that broom is a native plant in BC.

        Do these things matter?  You bet they do, if we expect to understand what is happening to local and planetary systems, to find the right science to solve the problems, and to write about it in a credible way.  Having the correct information - and a sound interpretation of that information - may eventually determine whether or not we have clean air, adequate clean water, and reliable sources of healthful food.

        We may not embark on our homelearning journey in a better state of preparation than the teachers, but we have some advantages.  We are not locked into imparting dumbed-down information to legions of students who won�t remember anyway because they are preoccupied with the bully in the next desk.  We don�t have to save face in front of the class by silencing the kid who questions our pronouncements - or the text book�s.    

        We can come up with individualized ways of getting things to make sense.  We can take the pressure off our learners and give them time to figure it out for themselves:  there is no test next week.  We can find memorable, hands-on ways to explore things so that the learning has life, and so that it connects to reality and has meaning.

        We can send our learners off to research the facts wherever they think they can find them, and we can be open to unexpected answers, or to the realization that, in some cases, nobody knows the �right� answer yet.  We can research further if something sounds questionable, and we don�t have to drop it when the bell rings or when the school year ends.  Even the really good classroom teachers are faced with that last difficulty.

        So, next time somebody questions your �teaching� competence, it might be worth embarking on a conversation about the nature of learning and the role of the learning facilitator.  We are not just allowing learning to be a happier experience; we can point out our enhanced potential for nurturing excellence, too.

Thanks to having their children registered at Wondertree, one family was able to open an account at our credit union.  There is no telling what advantages homelearning may bring!

        The Vancouver International Children�s Festival will run May 17-24, with a big array of performing groups featured.
        Badenya les Fr�res Coulibaly from Burkina Faso and H�Sao from Chad might spark curiosity along several lines:  Is Africa a country or a continent?  Do tigers live in Africa?  How many languages and cultures can be found there?  Is it true that African babies rarely cry?  If not, why not?
        More locally, Sarah Ellis and Jean Little will bring you Dear Canada, and Vancouver stilt dancers Mortal Coil have a show about dinosaurs - among many other offerings in this year�s festival.

        If you are fifteen years of age or older and would like to volunteer (a great way to enjoy the fun for free!), call the Volunteer Coordinator at 604 708-5655 Ext 305.  
        For more info on the festival, see

        There will be an earlier chance to see H�Sao and Mortal Coil:  They�ll be in Nanaimo at the Vancouver Island Children�s Festival, which runs from May 12-15. This year�s workshops include magic, tap dance, music, mosaics - you may even try on stilts!
        This Festival has a tradition of welcoming homelearners as volunteers.
        For info., see or phone (250) 754-FEST (3378).

        Cohousing is a relatively recent idea, geared to the creation of community.  Shared tools and resources, a �common house� for shared meals and activities, and increased pedestrian activity, are typical features of a cohousing community.
        Existing communities in BC include WindSong in Langley, Cranberry Commons in Burnaby, Quayside Village in North Vancouver, Middle Road in Nelson, and Cardiff Place in Victoria.  A number of others are in progress around the province - in Kelowna, Nanaimo, Tofino, Bowen Island, Roberts Creek, and the Upper Fraser Valley.  For more information on all of them, see or phone (877) 980-2700. On the Lower Mainland, call the 24 hour information line at (604) 878-3311.

        Homelearners are often interested in cohousing and vice versa, so here is a networking possibility for anyone who may like to follow up on it:
        Zev Paiss and Neshama Abraham are cohousing consultants in the US who are currently helping to start a cohousing community in Aurora, Illinois.
        They write:   We know that a cohousing community is a great place to consider home schooling, and we would love to hear from those of you who are out there doing it so we can pass along encouragement and information to prospective cohousing members in Aurora.
        In particular we'd love to know how you have organized things. Is the home school a cohousing community function? Do other residents help with it?  Are there any elders or other non-parent mentors? Are there kids from outside the cohousing community who join in? Any info you can share with us would be greatly appreciated!
        Zev Paiss and Neshama Abraham    <>

        (Perhaps they would also be willing to share their findings with you, should you be looking into cohousing - and in return you can send info. on homelearning in general.)


        Earl Shorris looks quite safe to be around. He's a rather diminutive, greybearded scholarly sort, and he spoke delightfully in a talk at our local college. So, what does he mean by making the poor dangerous, and why would he want to? Aren't the poor dangerous enough already, according to the stereotypes about drugs, gangs, and violent crime - especially in the New York area, where Mr. Shorris began his work?

        Education is empowerment, and Mr. Shorris has subtitled his talk, "I Found My Job through the Apology of Plato."

        Er - okay . . .

        It began with a contemplation of force vs. power. People living in multigenerational poverty live in a surround of negativity: poor-bashing by media and politicians; condescension by teachers who expect low academic performance; punitive welfare laws or wages too low to live on; predation by drug dealers; disproportionately high incarceration rates; slumlords who would rather serve an eviction notice than repair the plumbing.  It is hardly surprising that the atmosphere can be one of constant stress and low self esteem, where people turn on each other.

        In his talk, Mr. Shorris explains the origin and nature of the Clemente course. Basically, it's a rigorous examination of philosophy, mathematical logic, literature, history, and art history. Marginalized people are invited to take it for free (the instructors are paid), and the exams at the end are tough. Socrates figures prominently, but the course has also been adapted for indigenous communities wishing to revitalize their own cultures.

        What happens? Participants learn that they have rights. They learn critical thinking. They develop awareness as citizens. They begin to reflect and negotiate, rather than react, when stressful things happen.

        In Mexico, the course prompted one young woman to buy the first book she had ever owned. What kind of book? It was the Constitution of Mexico.  There's the �danger�: course graduates are empowered to notice when governments drift away from their stated ideals. They can mobilize to challenge the negative surround.

        In 1998, UBC began offering Humanities 101 along the lines of the Clemente model.  Now, the UBC Learning Exchange in the Downtown East Side offers several free courses to low-income community members. The courses are taught by volunteer faculty and graduate students from various departments and faculties at UBC.

        Many in the middle class are losing secure employment. If we slip below the poverty line, do our voices stop counting, and do the negative, poor-bashing stereotypes now apply to us as well? If so, perhaps we can homelearn our own Clemente-type course.

        For more on the Clemente course and on Earl Shorris, see his books,  Riches for the Poor: The Clemente Course in the Humanities [W.W. Norton 2000] and New American Blues: A Journey Through Poverty to Democracy [W.W. Norton 1997].   

Honour Thyself and Thy Children

        Self Taught is what we all are. It's just that most of us won't admit it... For, then we would have to Accept the fact (an often sorry one...) that we made Choices. That the Responsibility is ours. There is no one left to 'blame'...

        'Take the Best. And Leave the Rest' is one of my own Favourite mottos I espouse wherever I go. There are no compromises or sacrifices in my Life. Ideals and Integrity are Integral. I am creating my World. And, what a wondrous Creation it Forever Be!

        People are always asking me, "You home school? That must be hard work!" Not at all. Being a healthy and happy role model is simply the most natural thing for me. All I had to do was 'let go' of 'those' and 'that' which no longer (if ever...) mattered. Continually adding 'essential ingredients' to my Luscious Life; my own recipe for unmitigated Personal Success!

        "A Child learns by example" is something we've all heard. Thus, to be the Best that we can Be is all we must Do. Done!

        When we open ourselves to Love - we teach the vast and varied multitudes around us to come from a Higher place of Compassion and Understanding. Thereby, elevating the Consciousness of the masses.

        You can read a thousand books and still Live a Lie. You can teach algebraic equations and never know how to add up the truth. You can have the prettiest set of encyclopaedias practically memorized, to one day realize you've never seen a Llama eye to unblinking eye. You can pass all the 'stats' as one more sun sets without you...

        Our Children are the Leaders of a new and Braver Future. This means our only 'work' is to be the Winners of the Now! To wean ourselves of addictions, fixations, and unconscious compulsions. Enjoy and fully appreciate the Moment, for this is the only Real and Valuable Gift we may leave. From whence we came - Love - is All that Matters...

Katherine A. Marion

[Katherine is an HLN mom.  See more of her writing, as well as photography and info. on her other work at]

        The prevailing assumption is that the greatest drawback to homeschooling is the loss of social interaction with peers.  . . . Because of escalating peer orientation, it is now the school that has become risky business. . . . Contrary to prevailing concerns, home-schooled children are showing evidence of being more mature psychologically, more socially adept and more academically prepared for university.

        For more, see


        There is an excellent article on homelearning at
Click on �Trek� Magazine near the bottom of the page, then follow the links to Winter 2003 and �Learning at Home.�  (This is more reliable than going directly to the full URL.)  
Thanks to Pam for the heads up.

        Another interesting article appeared in the Globe and Mail on Friday, March 12, 2004 - Page A3.  It�s called �When home is the school, there's time for extras:  Study by advocacy group says activities in community keep children connected, countering the myth of isolation�  By Caroline Alphonso, Education Reporter

        The Young Naturalists� Club of British Columbia has activities in 19 locations around BC.  There is a special homelearners� program in the Lower Mainland.  A Family Membership is $15.  See  

        Marty Layne brings you Brighten the Day - songs to celebrate the seasons  (CD)
- "A happy, joyful recording" Helen Hegener, Home Education Magazine
See or phone
(250) 477-0173.
On Video or DVD...
The Basic Cozy Grammar Course�
        �Grammar does not make you creative; it is a technique that enhances your creativity. If you can't speak well and write well your windows of opportunity are closed."
Marie Rackham
        This is a course for ages 9 - adult.  It was designed in BC (Campbell River) for homelearners and others seeking an alternative to dull, boring textbooks.  The web site gives you a chance to view a clip.  You can also test your expertise to see if the course is too basic for you.  There are also courses in spelling, punctuation, and essay writing.
See or phone 1-800-201-2280

Recommended Videos...
        The public libraries have many videos that can be borrowed for free, and they are beginning to have DVDs as well.  Here are two from the Vancouver Island Regional Library system that were recommended by an HLN mom:

        Keepers of the Fire:  Short Canadian video focusing on aboriginal women's power in social movements, including Oka and protests against logging Lyell Island.
        Bullies:  A Canadian film for K-5 elementary school age children.  It proposes that bullying is a "learned violent lifestyle that can be habit-forming" - into adulthood.  The film emphasizes strongly that bullies thrive when "observers" do nothing



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