got this from another European list.

BWs Elaine

Computer tutor
Career & Education
Sunday, December 11, 2005

THE most important educational influence in my son's life was the
computer. When he was born I was using a typewriter for my writing,
and he
grew up during the development from manual to electric, then to

I started using the original pre-Windows DOS computer with black
and green letters at about the time he learned to read. This meant
the combination of my lap as his favourite seat, and his eagerness
to show
that he could read, enabled him to perform simple tasks on the
like open file, print, save, etc.

Even though I soon acquired a computer with the first Windows 3.0
programme, he has never forgotten the basic DOS operations that are
foundation of computer use, and this knowledge/education formed his
development as a technology 'whiz kid'.

When he was four years old, I moved to Kingston and began a PR job
SPECS-SHANG Records manager Babsy Grange, who allowed me to bring my
to the office. Taking advantage of this enlightened opportunity, he
himself useful.

He was not bored by learning and helping to do such office tasks as
printing documents from the computer, sending faxes and even
answering the
phone. His ability to read facilitated all these activities, and even
though he sometimes was a handful as children can be, he soon
learned how
to behave by imitating the adults around him.

His education was further enhanced and assisted by the Ramocan
family, who
operated an educational book distribution office next door and gave
many of the excellent Merrill school books which he read quietly in
corner that became his 'office'.

Seeing his great interest in the computer, I read about and sent to
USA for a fascinating 'toy' named Socrates, a device that plugged
into the
TV and connected by infra-red rays to a computer-like keyboard in the
user's lap.

Socrates had game-like lessons in English grammar, spelling, maths,
general knowledge and even a place to make music. Socrates was as
wise as
its namesake, and taught my son not only knowledge, but fulfilled his
eagerness to use computers for learning and fun.

Free to explore wherever he chose, he soon made Socrates, then later
computer, his personal assistant and tutor. You know the rest of the
story, how he was appointed Youth Technology Consultant to the
Minister of
Commerce & Technology in 1998 at the age of 13. It all started with
homeschool - giving him the freedom to learn what he was most
in knowing.

But "homeschooling" is not the correct term to describe the methods
I used
to educate my son. The large majority of homeschooling parents run a
minature version of 'school' in their homes, acquiring books and
plans of the regular curriculum, purchasing curriculum packages or
the Internet to access teaching websites.

There is a fixed daily schedule of 'lessons', and the ultimate goal
is to
create a child that is 'brighter' at a younger age and passes high
or university exams at a scholarship-winning level. Often this path
to home-school 'burnout', where both parents and children buckle
this pressure and go back to traditional 'school.'

Rather, "un-schooling" is the term more commonly used for the way I
it. Un-schooling means allowing the child to learn what he wants,
when he
wants, in the way he wants, where he wants, for his own reasons. The
method is learned-directed, and instead of a 'teacher', the parent
acts as
a facilitator and resource person for the student.

"Sounds impossible, doesn't it? The idea that children - even quite
children - should be in charge of their own education, choose what
learn and how they learn it, and even choose whether they should
anything at all sounds ludicrous," writes Mary Griffith in her
book, The Un-schooling Handbook - How To Use The Whole World As Your
Child's Classroom.

Griffith reminds us that the advent of what we know as 'school' only
developed in the 1850s, and that formal education often lasted only
to five years, the time it took to learn the basics of reading,
arithmetic and a smattering of history and literature. The rest of
knowledge needed to become competent adults was acquired by working
alongside adults, either family or as apprentices.

By the 20th century, schools developed into the formal institutions
know and became regarded as a necessary instrument to teach children
curriculum and discipline for future employment in the modern

Few children acquired their education outside schools, but there were
notable exceptions. Margaret Mead, the famous American
anthropologist and
heroine who was unschooled, said: "My grandmother wanted me to have
education, so she kept me out of school."

In the 1970s, parents began to question the value of 'school' as an
instrument of educational development. Led by the counter-culture
of that era, many parents opted to give their children an alternative
upbringing and an education that fitted their concept of the global
village. Homeschooling also found favour with parents who felt their
religious values were not being transmitted to their children within
school system.

Some families come upon un-schooling while their children are still
infants and deliberately set out to create circumstances under which
un-schooling can thrive.

Others, like myself, develop similar ideas and practices accidentally
while searching for a form of education that they feel will give
child maximum intellectual possibilities. No two un-schooling
families are
alike. However, they all have characteristics in common.

What is crucial in un-schooling philosophy, says Griffith, is to
know that
the child has the desire to learn.

The above article is excerpted from Mrs Blake Hannah's book Home -
First School, soon to be published by Jamaica Media Productions. Send
comments and questions to: jamediapro@....