A2Z Homeschool – Ann's Blog

Homeschooling From Ann's Perspective

Aaron Swartz, Unschooler, is Vindicated

Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz

Journal Storage, JSTOR, the data base that Unschooler and Internet Activist had hacked into and “liberated” their whole library of scholarly journal articles, on Wednesday, January 13, 2013, announced that it would open its archives of 1,200 journals for the public to read for free.

But Aaron Swartz did not live to see this happen. He had committed suicide, depressed over his pending prosecution for taking the scholarly journal articles, and liberating them for the public to read. He was just 26 years old when he hung himself on January 11th this year.

While Aaron’s name may not be familiar to you, the products he worked on are very familiar. He is the creator of “RSS,” the news feed that brings you data as it is created from the sources that set it up so you can do this. You can, for example, use RSS to always receive articles in this blog as they are posted.

Aaron also co-founded Reddit, a discussion board where topics and best answers are voted on by its members, the best winding up at the top.

As an unschooler, Aaron was self-taught. He imagined a world where people could teach themselves from the very best information to be had. But that was the problem: while the internet is jam packed with opinions, most are not backed with research, including this one, scholarly papers were walled behind memberships and fees so high that only the richest could afford to get access. 10 cents a page may not sound like much, but we’re not talking indefinitely long website pages, more like typed, double-spaced paper pages, research that might be called small books. Much of this research is paid for by public grants.

Now, I’ve been asked many times to help out some student researching homeschooling, and early on I was glad to do so. I would ask to have a copy when the paper was done, but most never sent me a copy. I now ask students to first do their homework and read my site and its links first to get their answers. If I haven’t already answered their questions, then I would be glad to clarify. My reaction is not unique among homeschoolers. We’d like to see the research results, and not have them hidden buried deep in some exclusive database. Oh, and while you are at it, let’s free all research so that others who need to learn can read up, too… on any topic!

Our family, too, had a young, depressed young man kill himself back in 2010, when he was threatened with jail time. His parents pleaded to try to get help for his mental problems, but the law didn’t give a damn for the mentally depressed 21 year old. Instead the police bullied and tormented him, and not seeing any way out, he chose suicide. For both these young men, the crimes they committed were not death penalty crimes, not even life sentences, but the result was as if they were.

Here are some of the resources that provide background on this article. I may extend it later on. All I have time for today.

Internet Activist, a Creator of RSS, Is Dead at 26, Apparently a Suicide – By John Schwartz, January 12, 2013  – At 14, Mr. Swartz helped create RSS, the nearly ubiquitous tool that allows users to subscribe to online information.

Petition to remove prosecutor in Aaron Swartz case up for White House response – Published: 14 February, 2013 – A petition to the White House requesting the removal of Aaron Swartz’s prosecutor before his death has surpassed 25,000 signatures – which means the Obama administration must reply. It comes one month after the internet activist committed suicide.

Aaron Swartz’ Weblog – Aaron Swartz is the founder of Demand Progress, which launched the campaign against the Internet censorship bills (SOPA/PIPA) and now has over a million members. He is also a Contributing Editor to The Baffler and on the Council of Advisors to The Rules.

Why Aaron Mattered – By Lauren Wales, 02/01/2013  – As I listen to the news reports about Aaron’s life, so many of them seem to miss something key to his work: the unschooler understanding that knowledge is free, yes, but it means nothing if it is not implemented and shared.

Unschooler Aaron Swartz Dies at Age 26 – By Peter Kowalke, 01/12/2013 – Aaron and I briefly collaborated in 1999 on a learning exchange that we intended to turn into a college for unschoolers. But Aaron was too young, still with a squeaky voice, and I ended up making the Grown Without Schooling documentary instead.

Anonymous Hijacks Federal Website Over Aaron Swartz Suicide – By Matthew Larotonda | ABC News Blogs – Sat, Jan 26, 2013 – The lengthy essay largely mirrors previous demands from Anonymous, but this time the group also cited the recent suicide of Reddit co-founder and activist Aaron Swartz as has having “crossed a line” for their organization. Swartz was facing up to 35 years in prison on computer fraud charges.

Aaron Swartz’s Girlfriend Explains ‘Why Aaron Died’ – By Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, Feb 05, 2013 – “I believe that Aaron’s death was caused by a criminal justice system that prioritizes power over mercy, vengeance over justice; a system that punishes innocent people for trying to prove their innocence instead of accepting plea deals that mark them as criminals in perpetuity; a system where incentives and power structures align for prosecutors to destroy the life of an innovator like Aaron in the pursuit of their own ambitions.”

by posted under Gifted, News | tagged under , , , , ,  |  Comments Off on Aaron Swartz, Unschooler, is Vindicated

National Geographic Education Launches New Site


–Educators and Families Invited to Share Feedback–
–Tools Include Multimedia, Educational Activities and Customizable Maps

WASHINGTON (April 14, 2011)—National Geographic Education today announces the beta phase of its newly redesigned website, NatGeoEd.org, inviting user feedback from all interested K-12 teachers, informal educators and families.

NatGeoEd.org delivers an expanded and updated library of the National Geographic Society’s popular education content, combining National Geographic’s iconic media and expert resources with materials specifically developed to align with national education standards. The site includes a wide range of free educational resources to bring geography, science and social studies to life for educators, students and their families. The redesign was guided by extensive research conducted in collaboration with the Education Development Center and designed and developed with the expertise of Blenderbox, a New York Web design firm. Research on the design of the site will continue throughout the beta phase, and users have the opportunity to provide feedback through easy-to-use tools that are available on every page.

The site is designed to meet the specific needs of different audiences, including K-12 classroom teachers, educators in informal settings, families and students. Audience views cater to the needs of specific users — including teachers, families, students and kids — and an enhanced search tool allows users to find content tailored to their needs. Features include multimedia activities and a growing reference library — with a glossary, encyclopedia and downloadable media — to support student research and homework. Connections to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube support community interaction among educators and learners.

Many resources are designed to foster real-world learning — on topics ranging from citizen science to current events to careers — to help reinforce concepts in and out of the classroom. In addition, media and other educational materials are presented in quick, easy-to-view multimedia carousels that can be viewed in full-screen mode for easy use on projectors and interactive whiteboards. They also include preview and pop-out modes for easy planning. A new interactive map will introduce students to mapping and GIS concepts through thematic data layers and will enable users to create their own maps. Users can now customize the highly popular printable black-and-white outline maps with drawing and labeling tools.

“For more than 120 years, the National Geographic Society has been pursuing its mission of inspiring people to care about the planet,” said Danny Edelson, National Geographic’s vice president for Education. “Capitalizing on the Society’s unparalleled editorial resources, this new website reflects our commitment to provide engaging digital content to our education audiences. We are excited to be able to offer this cutting-edge platform for 21st-century learning and look forward to learning from our users during this beta phase.”
The development of the National Geographic Education website and its content has been supported in part by funding from the Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon. National Geographic is one of 11 national content partners in Verizon’s Thinkfinity.org, a comprehensive website that provides thousands of free educational resources for use in and out of the classroom. Each partner creates free, high-quality, standards-based educational resources in their disciplines. Thinkfinity.org also includes the Thinkfinity Community, www.thinkfinity.org/community, an online spot for teachers, administrators and parents to share ideas and discuss education, collaborate with colleagues or ask questions of education leaders.

About National Geographic Education
National Geographic Education is the educational outreach arm of the National Geographic Society. National Geographic Education brings the rich resources of the Society to its audience of educators and learners as part of its mission to prepare young people to care for the planet. National Geographic Education creates educational materials for young people and the adults who teach them, conducts educational programs for educators and advocates for improved geographic education. Under the auspices of the National Geographic Education Foundation, it has awarded more than $80 million in grants to support efforts to improve geography education in the United States and Canada. For more information, visit NatGeoEd.org.

About the Verizon Foundation
The Verizon Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Verizon, uses its technology, financial resources and partnerships to address critical social issues, with a focus on education and domestic violence prevention. In 2010, the foundation awarded nearly $67 million to nonprofit agencies in the U.S. and abroad. Through Verizon Volunteers, one of the nation’s largest employee volunteer programs, Verizon employees and retirees have volunteered nearly 6 million hours of community service since 2000. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizonfoundation.org.

by posted under Social Sciences | Comments Off on National Geographic Education Launches New Site

Crazy Sock Day


Welcome to Day 3 of the first EVER International Homeschool Spirit Week! A to Z Homeschool’s Cool is proud to be the official host of Wednesday, September 26th: Crazy Sock Day!

International Homeschool Spirit Week, September 24-28, 2012

How awesome is it that Homeschoolers don’t have to wear shoes all day if they don’t want to? Today, we’re going to celebrate that fact with Crazy Sock Day! So, take off those shoes (if you’re wearing them) and show off those crazy socks. Have some white tube socks and some fabric markers? Make your own! Or, just find the craziest socks you can and roll up those pant with pride. Still wearing shorts? Who cares? Pull those crazy socks up to your knees and show your crazy sock spirit!

Don’t forget to download your FREE spirit week resource from Geography Matters by visiting CurrClick.com, the official host of International Homeschool Spirit Week.

We encourage you to share your crazy sock fun with other homeschoolers in the following ways:

• Tell your co-op and your homeschooling friends what you are doing and get them involved.

• Hit the message boards and tell everybody about the fun you are having participating in International Homeschool Spirit Week.

• YouTube a video of your family schooling, comfy cozy style! Be sure and use the keywords, tag A to Z Homeschool’s Cool, Geography Matters and Homeschool Spirit Week when uploading.

• Take a picture and Instagram your fun to Facebook! Be sure and tag A to Z Homeschool’s Cool, Geography Matters and CurrClick.com‘s Facebook pages so we can take a look at your pictures.

• Tweet about what you are doing, using hashtag: #homeschoolspiritweek

by posted under Events | tagged under , , ,  |  Comments Off on Crazy Sock Day

Newseum, Washington DC


Discover unique learning opportunities at the Newseum, an interactive museum of history in Washington, D.C.

  • Learning Center classes on journalism, history and the First Amendment.
  • Free online teacher resources such as lesson plans and self-guided tours through the museum.
  • Educator-led gallery tours.
  • Professional development for teachers.
  • Unique learning plans created just for you and your group.
    Visit Newseum.org/education to learn more.Homeschools receive the school group discount when they visit the Newseum.

    Students on a teacher-lead organized field trip from public, private and homeschools grades 1 through university in the DC metro area receive free, general admission through the generous support of The Washington Post and WTOP. More information on the free admission program.

    For schools outside of the area, the school rate is $10 per student. One chaperone for every 10 students will receive free admission. Additional chaperones over the required 1:10 chaperone ratio will be charged $15 each.

    If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact Maggie Crawford, Education Coordinator, at (202) 292-6663 or email mcrawford@newseum.org

    The Newseum is located at
    555 Pennsylvania Avenue
    Washington, DC 20001

    More Washington DC Field Trips

by posted under Field Trips | tagged under ,  |  Comments Off on Newseum, Washington DC

The Importance of Free Time


Free time was once the hallmark of childhood. But these days, many parents feel it’s their duty to keep their children busy. This mindset can be found in parents who both work outside the home and need somewhere for the kids to go during off-school hours, parents who compete with other parents regarding whose child is the most “well-rounded,” parents who want to give their children every so-called “advantage,” and parents who believe their children will fall behind or get into trouble unless their schedules include every activity that can be crammed into each day.

The result is a generation of children who are so accustomed to organized activities that they don’t know how to entertain themselves (unless there’s a television or video game nearby). They’re the total opposite of the kind of workers needed to grow our economy in the future. America needs creative innovators, not passive participants or couch potatoes. So if you want to encourage your children’s natural creativity, reduce the amount of time they spend in scheduled activities, and give them more free time instead.

What is free time? It’s unstructured. It’s not directed by adults. It requires that children move through boredom in order to arrive at the place where the innate creativity of the child kicks in and comes up with something to do. But many parents dread the thought of free time for their children, because they know it will be a matter of moments before the “I’m Bored!” chorus begins.

If you have children whose time has always been planned out for them, they won’t know what to do with a lot of free time—at first. But if you stick to your guns and require them to entertain themselves on a daily basis, they will (perhaps out of desperation) figure it out. See “Boredom” (Appendix A) for more about this.

So what will they do with all their free time? They can make things and work with their hands. They can use their imaginations to come up with games, structures, even toys. In the absence of planned activities and formal schedules, children are incredibly good at learning from their play. They just need enough time to do so.

Children also need time to be alone so they can think. In this frantically scheduled world we live in, even adults find they don’t have time to just sit and think. But quiet introspection is important for everyone, young and old. It’s particularly important for those who create things. Much solitary thought is required for pursuits such as writing, painting, inventing, etc.

Free time isn’t only a necessity for small children; older children and teens need plenty of it, too. Many extremely creative people are late-bloomers (as Edison was). They need ample time alone as they grow older and discover what their gifts are, and how they want to use them. Unfortunately, parents and schools tend to increase the outside activities of teens just when they really need their personal time.

Tightly scheduled lives are detrimental to creativity. In 1996, Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile, an expert on creativity and business innovation, led a research project to study creativity in the workplace. Amabile and her team pored over almost 12,000 journal entries from over 200 people working on creative projects in a variety of different companies. One of their most important conclusions was that time pressure actually decreases creativity. While many people (myself included) feel that working against a deadline makes them more productive, it may not make them more creative. It takes time for creative ideas to grow and develop in our minds. The Amabile study found repeatedly that creative people on a tight time schedule found their creative abilities hampered not only up until their deadlines, but even for a few days afterward.

What this means for our children is that they need regular free time in order to feed the creativity and spirit of innovation they were born with. It takes time to get deeply involved in a creative pursuit; as parents, it’s up to us to make sure our children get that time.


Copyright 2012 Barbara Frank/ Cardamom Publishers



Excerpted from Thriving in the 21st Century: Preparing Our Children for the New Economic Reality, (Cardamom Publishers, 2011). Barbara Frank homeschooled her four children for 25 years. You’ll find her on the web at www.barbarafrankonline.com and www.thrivinginthe21stcentury.com

by posted under Learning Theory | tagged under , , , ,  |  Comments Off on The Importance of Free Time
« Older EntriesNewer Entries »