Secular Homeschool
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18-11-2014, 05:16 AM
Secular Homeschool
Hi Everyone,

I've been listening to the podcast for years, but this is my first time posting here. My wife and I are looking for secular homeschool options now that our oldest is getting close to that age. Can anyone suggest good options? We are in south-central PA.
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18-11-2014, 06:05 AM
RE: Secular Homeschool
(18-11-2014 05:16 AM)Osprey1984 Wrote:  Hi Everyone,

I've been listening to the podcast for years, but this is my first time posting here. My wife and I are looking for secular homeschool options now that our oldest is getting close to that age. Can anyone suggest good options? We are in south-central PA.

I am curious as to why you want to home school.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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18-11-2014, 07:47 AM (This post was last modified: 18-11-2014 07:55 AM by Bows and Arrows.)
RE: Secular Homeschool
I am not certain, but I think PA has a cyberschool option. So you get the basics and as parents you can add more in. Also there are a variety of other online options, including online private schools that children who are athletes or travel extensively use (Laurel Springs)

There are also pre packaged curriculums you can buy, or you can build each piece on your own. (math u can see)

I have known quite a few homeschoolers, some secular, some religious. After hearing of their experiences, I think its important to take an annual standardized test that is scored to a national norm. You need some objective feedback, to not do it, is a diservice to your child. IOWA, ERB, etc.

You can also use your local public school for the clubs and sometimes the related arts classes like music, PE, etc because while you are homeschooling, your tax dollars are still funding the program.

And I am also curious why you are choosing homeschool?


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18-11-2014, 08:49 AM
RE: Secular Homeschool
PA does indeed have a cyberschool option. Your school district is obligated to pay for your child's attendance, should you select this option. Some districts will allow your child to participate in the regular school's extracurricular activities, some may not.

Be aware that not all cyberschools are created equal, however. A bit of homework on your part now will ensure you make an informed decision.

We have enough youth. How about looking for the Fountain of Smart?
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18-11-2014, 12:09 PM
RE: Secular Homeschool
An important part of school is social interaction, friendships and getting to know a diverse range of people with their ethnic, cultural and religious differences.
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18-11-2014, 03:56 PM
Re: Secular Homeschool
In some areas, there are social groups for homeschoolers. Around here, they often meet up so that the students still have some interactions. Check for that, too, since the others are right about that.
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18-11-2014, 04:42 PM
RE: Secular Homeschool
Thanks for the replies. We are researching homeschooling after my wife's experiences accompanying clients to schools (she is a nurse). We have been appalled by the time wasted on discipline and concerned about how difficult it can be for one teacher to meet the needs of each student in a diverse classroom.

We are definitely going to make social interactions with kids his age a top priority, no matter which path we choose to take with our sons' education.
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19-11-2014, 03:13 PM (This post was last modified: 19-11-2014 03:19 PM by therealJim.)
RE: Secular Homeschool
(18-11-2014 07:47 AM)Bows and Arrows Wrote:  There are also pre packaged curriculums you can buy, or you can build each piece on your own. (math u can see)

I have known quite a few homeschoolers, some secular, some religious. After hearing of their experiences, I think its important to take an annual standardized test that is scored to a national norm. You need some objective feedback, to not do it, is a diservice to your child. (emphasis added by this user) IOWA, ERB, etc.

You can also use your local public school for the clubs and sometimes the related arts classes like music, PE, etc because while you are homeschooling, your tax dollars are still funding the program.

I think Bows made some very important points, especially the one about feedback.
I do not have children nor do I have knowledge on or exprience with homeschooling, so please apply critical thinking to the following ideas.


As far as homeschooling goes, besides teaching your child the essentials that they absolutely need to learn, you also have the opportunity
to teach your child a few things that might help it to become a happy and successful adult that I have thus far not seen well covered in the
average highschool curriculum:
a) Self-discipline (I am talking about an actual skillset, not a "virtue" in the way the religious frame it.)
b) How to be a happy person
c) How to learn effectively
d) Thinking like a scientist

Please note: The material I cover takes years to learn really well. I strongly advise against trying to teach them all at once.
Rather I suggest to take these alltogether as a class in life skills, like say english is a class, to be taught and absorbed over a number of years.


I will provide a rationale and a few sources for each of the topics in the order mentioned:
a) Self-discipline a.k.a. willpower is arguably more important for a fulfilling life than intelligence (Baumeister).
To be clear willpower is not a virtue, but an actual biological ressource (Baumeister; Kahneman).
And unlike intelligence it possible to use this ressource strategically to better attain ones goals. That is where the skill-part comes in.
Basically one learns to
- get more willpower and
- use it to structure the environment in a way that supports ones efforts to achieve a given goal.

For understanding the background to this I recommend the following books:
Willpower by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney
Thinking fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman, chapters 1 - 3
For background and concrete contents of the skill I recommend:
Willpower by Roy Baumeister
Influencer by Kerry Patterson and others
and
The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal in particular

b) I think this one needs no explanation.
As a matter of prudence take a look at the following two videos first:
June Gruber on the dark side of Happiness I
June Gruber on the dark side of Happiness II
For ressources the best how-to guides are probably the books:
The How of Happiness
The Myths of Happiness and
Positively Happy: Routes to Sustainable Happiness
by Sonja Lyubomirsky

Other notable scholars in this area are:
Martin Seligman
Ed Diener
Barbara Frederickson
Dacher Keltner
Also edX has an 8 week course for free on the matter, that will certainly contain the most important points.
It starts on December 1st (although I am sure it will be archived afterwards), and is taught by Dacher Keltner, with guest visits by Sonja Lyubomirsky and others.
It can be found here.

c) Again speaks for itself. Notice that I am not knowledgeable about learning motor skills.
The following works are about learning and applying written material.

For a general understanding, the classic is almost certainly:
Your Memory, How it works and how to improve it by Kenneth Higbee
This one also teaches basic study skills and include a full-blown introduction to mnemonics, a very powerful way of learning facts.

Another good one for understanding the basics is:
Improving Memory and Study Skills by Douglas Herrmann and others

Also a useful model to think about the effectiveness of a particular learning is Michelene Chi's ICAP-Model.
Details on it and a great tool to understand something better, effective self-explanations consult the following papers, available for free here:
For the ICAP-Model:
Menekse, Stump & Chi (2013) - Differentiated Overt Learning Activities for Effective Instruction in Engineering Classrooms
For how self-explanations work:
Roy, M. & Chi, M.T.H. (2005). Self-explanation in a multi-media context, pages 5-17
Fonseca, B. & Chi, M.T.H. (2011). The self-explanation effect: A constructive learning activity

d) The point here is obviously to learn how to reason more effectively and to avoid errors in thinking.
So that one is able to better identify errors in one thinking and correct them.
A good starter with a lot of references to other good sources is this one
Skepticism 101 by Michael Shermer
I can provide free access for up to 30 days to it in about one month from now.

Also a look at the edX course
The Science of Everyday Thinking is probably well worth a look.

For a nice read (for grown-ups in this case) on real-world examples of scientific research, some very successful, some barely, try
The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver

"Newton's third law: The only way humans have ever figured out of getting somewhere is to leave something behind." - TARS, Interstellar
"Newtons drittes Gesetz: Der einzige Weg wie Menschen irgendwo hin kommen, ist der dass sie etwas zur├╝cklassen." - TARS, Interstellar
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