February Activities!

It’s a new month with a new schedule!

With the new month and the resignation of our greatly loved facilitator, Marie, the school is moving to a Tuesday through Thursday(10-4) schedule. On Thursdays we will be at the Temple at 2300 McKinney st. Houston TX., 77003 from 10 am to 4 pm. We have many creative events planned for this month and hope to see many new people. As for what we are doing this month, here’s some details:

 Music Classes

These classes are filled with a variety of instruments and a variety of people. Our musical teacher plans to teach how to read music, and currently we’re working on the song Khusidlekh. We plan to learn many more songs over the course of the month.  These classes take place at 2300 McKinney st. Houston TX., 77003 on Thursdays from 12:30 to 1:30. So come on over to learn music or just to jam with us!

Cooking for Food Not Bombs Houston

This month we are joining a local group that serves home cooked meals to hungry people downtown 4 days a week. We want to practice cooking healthy meals and to support others in our community. We will be cooking every other Wednesday at 2:00 pm, and food serving occurs downtown at 521 Lamar St. at 8:00pmIf you want to join us or donate dry goods or vegetables, please get in touch! More information on FNB here:  http://houstonfoodnotbombs.org/fnb-gallery/

Art Workshops

We let our inner artists come out in this new workshop focusing on trying out different kinds of art. We want to accomplish all of our artistic goals in this workshop on Wednesdays from 11:30 to 1:30. So join us in these workshops and make some wonderful art with us!

Game Night Fundraiser!!

This monthly event will be happening on Saturday February 22 from 6-10 pm. Everyone is encouraged to come and bring their favorite games, whether table top, card games or video games. More specific information can be found out by calling our school phone. All ages, small donation($5-10) requested, and there is always some great food available as well as coffee, tea, water, and sometimes soda. You are also welcome to bring your own snacks and drinks! It is always a fun time filled with lots of laughter and different types of games! Donations help us maintain our building and do more fun activities!

All Ages Karaoke

Join us on alternating Fridays for some laid back Youtube Karaoke! You can perform any song you want and we have all the equipment needed! Snacks and beverages welcome! Small donations encouraged! This will be happening on February 14th and 28th from 7-10pm.

Writer’s Group

Evening writer’s group will continue at 6-8:00 PM every other Thursday! We hope you will join us and give a small donation on Thursday Feb. 13 and 27. It is a fun, accepting, and relaxed group!! Invite your friends, too! This is an all ages meet-up!

Minecraft Meet-Up

On February 25, Tuesday, from 12-3:30pm  we will be having a Minecraft meet-up at the ACT building!  We hope you will join us and give a small donation. This event will be filled with Minecraft fans and we will all play Minecraft together and share our expertise. This is an all ages and all levels of skill meet-up and we hope to see you there!

Please check our calendar or contact us by phone if you are looking for more events! Our building is also available to host events for a small fee. We can be contacted at 713-523-0066. All events that take place at our building will be at: 2805 Wichita St. Houston, TX 77004. We can also be reached by email at: unschool@therealschoolhouston.org
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S30A0126S30A0075Pictures from  a visit to the skate park in Denver Harbor and Geocaching!  

Upcoming Events-January!

Hello and Happy 2014! 

We have several events on our calendar page and we plan to add more as the month goes on. We are currently trying to schedule regular Music and Drawing classes, but we need a little help from the community!! If you are interested in playing/teaching music or in teaching Drawing to a small group of young people, please get in touch! As for things we have scheduled, here are some details:

Writer’s Group:

Evening writer’s group will continue with a slightly adjusted time of 6-8:00 PM every other Thursday! We hope you will join us and give a small donation on Thursday Jan. 16th and 30th. It is a fun, accepting, and relaxed group!! Invite your friends, too! This is an all ages meet-up!

Game Night Fundraiser!!

This monthly event will be happening on Saturday January 25th from 6-10 PM. Everyone is encouraged to come and bring their favorite games, whether table top, card games or video games. More specific information can be found out by calling our school phone. All ages, small donation($5-10) requested, and there is always some great food available as well as coffee, tea, water, and sometimes soda. You are also welcome to bring your own snacks and drinks! It is always a fun time filled with lots of laughter and different types of games! Donations help us maintain our building and do more fun activities!

Book Club

We have been reading a lot the last few months!! We are currently working on The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros and plan to discuss the book on Weds. the 15th. After that we will start on a new book and continue discussions every week on Weds. at 12:00pm. We are open to reading suggestions and welcome people who want to join us! Please call ahead if you plan to come! 

Cooking for Food Not Bombs Houston

This month we are joining a local group that serves home cooked meals to hungry people downtown 4 days a week. We want to practice cooking healthy meals and to support others in our community. We will be cooking every other Wednesday at 2:00 pm, and food serving occurs downtown at 521 Lamar St. at 8:00pm. If you want to join us or donate dry goods or vegetables, please get in touch! More information on FNB here:  http://houstonfoodnotbombs.org/fnb-gallery/

All Ages Karaoke:

Join us on alternating Fridays for some laid back Youtube Karaoke! You can perform any song you want and we have all the equipment needed! Snacks and beverages welcome! Small donations encouraged!

This will happen on Friday Jan 17th and 31st, 7-10pm

Field trips:

We regularly take Park Trips on Thursday from 2-4pm to meet up with other homeschoolers in the Heights.

We also take trips from 12-3 on Fridays and people are welcome to join us wherever we go! Recently we have gone to the library, ice skating, free zoo days, museums, and roller skating! Contact us for more information if you want to meet us somewhere!

Please check our calendar or contact us by phone if you are looking for more events! Our building is also available to host events for a small fee. We can be contacted at 713-523-0066. All events that take place at our building will be at: 2805 Wichita St. Houston, TX 77004. We can also be reached by email at: unschool@therealschoolhouston.org

Fieldtrips iceskating iceskating2 redpanda

September Events! Added workshops, Crafts, Yoga, Karaoke and more!!!

For the last month we have been actively adding events to our calendar including: more language groups, Yoga, Knitting/Crochet, gender studies and fun events like Karaoke and delicious experiments in baking and ice cream making.  Our writing and math groups continue this month and we will also be hosting our monthly Game Night and Potluck, and working on our mural and a Zine (booklet) including work from our participants! The ACT building hosts various community events this month as well which are not directly related to us but are part of our growing community project; contact us if you are interested in hosting an event at our building. All events hosted by the Real School are open to people of all ages unless otherwise stated and are donation based. Please help us sustain our cooperative with a generous donation when possible!

Check out events on the ACT(home to TRS) building calendar here:

This Month’s Open Dialogue is on: The De-schooling Process

This month we will discuss the transition from schooling to Unschooling and how to support our young participants and others during this transition. The process of De-schooling often includes a lot of questions, uncertainty and lack of direction which can cause parents a lot of concern. It is clear to those of us that have made it through this period that there is a time of confusion, when we are no longer being constantly directed and controlled, in which it takes personal growth and reflection to move forward into self directed action and freedom. We will be discussing what this period looks like and in what ways we can support transitioning into Unschooling and a freedom based educational and lifestyle approach.

Saturday September 21st from 1-4 PM.  Donations to our cooperative encouraged. 

FUNdraiser Game Night on Saturday the 14th from 6-10 PM

join us for another month of fun and food! Bring your favorite games!! $5-10 Suggested Donation.

Community Potluck for Unschoolers and Allies of Community Education

on Wednesday the 25th at 6PM!!

Vegetarian friendly and open to everyone!!! Bring a friend!

Yoga Beginner’s classes:

Every Thursday at 4pm.

Our friend Dan Panzone will be volunteering to work with people of all ages and help us with some basic Yoga skills. $5-10 suggested donation.  Wear stretchy clothes and bring your own mat if you have one!

Knitting and Crochet group:

Facilitated by our friend Abbie every Wednesday@ 11am.  Abbie will share skills on Knitting and Crochet for beginners and anyone who knits or crochets is welcome to join us and build friendships! Small donation suggested and we are still looking for donations of yarn and hooks/needles. All ages welcome!

Grand Ripley Day

To Celebrate The Real Schools Furry Security Guard Feel Free To bring Dog food And a $5-10 donation All Day Thursday the 12th. – Lou

Lt. Ellen Ripley the security dog

ICE CREAM Making TUESDAY THE 10TH At 12 noon

With Your Choice Of Different Flavors. Bring A donation For Materials, $5-10 Recommended. Bring Your Own Plastic Bag If Possible.

Gender and Sexuality Studies Discussion

Wednesday the 18th at 12pm. 

An Unschooler and staff members are hosting a discussion on gender and sexuality for Unschoolers and young people. We will be addressing questions about how we perceive gender, gender expression and sexuality and any other related discussion topics in the field. There will be a presentation of resources on gender and sexuality and we will plan what kind of studying and discussions we may like to see take place in the future. This will be a safe space for young people to ask questions and discuss with other young people and supportive adults. Parents are asked not to attend to maintain an area for free expression.

More information:

We have various workshops that have been ongoing the past few months including writing and math. For details on those please see recent blog posts or contact us directly.

Phone: 713 523 0066 email: unschool@therealschoolhouston.org

All events will be at the ACT building unless otherwise specified: 2805 Wichita St. Houston TX 77004

This month’s blog post was brought to you by: Marie and Lou

What is Unschooling?

What is Unschooling?
by Earl Stevens

It is very satisfying for parents to see their children in pursuit of knowledge. It is natural and healthy for the children, and in the first few years of life, the pursuit goes on during every waking hour. But after a few short years, most kids go to school. The schools also want to see children in pursuit of knowledge, but the schools want them to pursue mainly the school’s knowledge and devote twelve years of life to doing so.

In his acceptance speech for the New York City Teacher of the Year award (1990), John Gatto said, “Schools were designed by Horace Mann … and others to be instruments of the scientific management of a mass population.” In the interests of managing each generation of children, the public school curriculum has become a hopelessly flawed attempt to define education and to find a way of delivering that definition to vast numbers of children.

“What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge, not knowledge in pursuit of the child.”  – George Bernard Shaw

The traditional curriculum is based on the assumption that children must be pursued by knowledge because they will never pursue it themselves. It was no doubt noticed that, when given a choice, most children prefer not to do school work. Since, in a school, knowledge is defined as schoolwork, it is easy for educators to conclude that children don’t like to acquire knowledge. Thus schooling came to be a method of controlling children and forcing them to do whatever educators decided was beneficial for them. Most children don’t like textbooks, workbooks, quizzes, rote memorization, subject schedules, and lengthy periods of physical inactivity. One can discover this – even with polite and cooperative children – by asking them if they would like to add more time to their daily schedule. I feel certain that most will decline the offer.

The work of a schoolteacher is not the same as that of a homeschooling parent. In most schools, a teacher is hired to deliver a ready-made, standardized, year-long curriculum to 25 or more age-segregated children who are confined in a building all day. The teacher must use a standard curriculum – not because it is the best approach for encouraging an individual child to learn the things that need to be known – but because it is a convenient way to handle and track large numbers of children. The school curriculum is understandable only in the context of bringing administrative order out of daily chaos, of giving direction to frustrated children and unpredictable teachers. It is a system that staggers ever onward but never upward, and every morning we read about the results in our newspapers. Children pursue life, and in doing so, pursue knowledge.

But despite the differences between the school environment and the home, many parents begin homeschooling under the impression that it can be pursued only by following some variation of the traditional public school curriculum in the home. Preoccupied with the idea of “equivalent education”, state and local education officials assume that we must share their educational goals and that we homeschool simply because we don’t want our children to be inside their buildings. Textbook and curriculum publishing companies go to great lengths to assure us that we must buy their products if we expect our children to be properly educated. As if this were not enough, there are national, state, and local support organizations that have practically adopted the use of the traditional curriculum and the school-in-the-home image of homeschooling as a de facto membership requirement. In the midst of all this, it can be difficult for a new homeschooling family to think that an alternative approach is possible.

One alternative approach is “unschooling”, also known as “natural learning”, “experience-based learning”, or “independent learning”. Several weeks ago, when our homeschooling support group announced a gathering to discuss unschooling, we thought a dozen or so people might attend, but more than 100 adults and children showed up. For three hours, parents and some of the children took turns talking about their homeschooling experiences and about unschooling. Many people said afterward that they left the meeting feeling reinforced and exhilarated – not because anybody told them what to do or gave them a magic formula – but because they grew more secure in making these decisions for themselves. Sharing ideas about this topic left them feeling empowered.

Before I talk about what I think unschooling is, I must talk about what it isn’t. Unschooling isn’t a recipe, and therefore it can’t be explained in recipe terms. It is impossible to give unschooling directions for people to follow so that it can be tried for a week or so to see if it works. Unschooling isn’t a method, it is a way of looking at children and at life. It is based on trust that parents and children will find the paths that work best for them – without depending on educational institutions, publishing companies, or experts to tell them what to do.

Unschooling does not mean that parents can never teach anything to their children, or that children should learn about life entirely on their own without the help and guidance of their parents. Unschooling does not mean that parents give up active participation in the education and development of their children and simply hope that something good will happen. Finally, since many unschooling families have definite plans for college, unschooling does not even mean that children will never take a course in any kind of a school.

Then what is unschooling? I can’t speak for every person who uses the term, but I can talk about my own experiences. Our son has never had an academic lesson, has never been told to read or to learn mathematics, science, or history. Nobody has told him about phonics. He has never taken a test or been asked to study or memorize anything. When people ask, “What do you do?” My answer is that we follow our interests – and our interests inevitably lead to science, literature, history, mathematics, music – all the things that have interested people before anybody thought of them as “subjects”.

A large component of unschooling is grounded in doing real things, not because we hope they will be good for us, but because they are intrinsically fascinating. There is an energy that comes from this that you can’t buy with a curriculum. Children do real things all day long, and in a trusting and supportive home environment, “doing real things” invariably brings about healthy mental development and valuable knowledge. It is natural for children to read, write, play with numbers, learn about society, find out about the past, think, wonder and do all those things that society so unsuccessfully attempts to force upon them in the context of schooling.

While few of us get out of bed in the morning in the mood for a “learning experience”, I hope that all of us get up feeling in the mood for life. Children always do so – unless they are ill or life has been made overly stressful or confusing for them. Sometimes the problem for the parent is that it can be difficult to determine if anything important is actually going on. It is a little like watching a garden grow. No matter how closely we examine the garden, it is difficult to verify that anything is happening at that particular moment. But as the season progresses, we can see that much has happened, quietly and naturally. Children pursue life, and in doing so, pursue knowledge. They need adults to trust in the inevitability of this very natural process, and to offer what assistance they can.

Parents come to our unschooling discussions with many questions about fulfilling state requirements. They ask: “How do unschoolers explain themselves to the state when they fill out the paperwork every year?”, “If you don’t use a curriculum, what do you say?” and “What about required record-keeping?” To my knowledge, unschoolers have had no problems with our state department of education over matters of this kind. This is a time when even many public school educators are moving away from the traditional curriculum, and are seeking alternatives to fragmented learning and drudgery.

When I fill out the paperwork required for homeschooling in our state, I briefly describe, in the space provided, what we are currently doing, and the general intent of what we plan to do for the coming year. I don’t include long lists of books or describe any of the step-by-step skills associated with a curriculum. For example, under English/Language Arts, I mentioned that our son’s favorite “subject” is the English language. I said a few words about our family library. I mentioned that our son reads a great deal and uses our computer for whatever writing he happens to do. I concluded that, “Since he already does so well on his own, we have decided not to introduce language skills as a subject to be studied. It seems to make more sense for us to leave him to his own continuing success.”

Unschooling is a unique opportunity for each family to do whatever makes sense for the growth and development of their children. If we have a reason for using a curriculum and traditional school materials, we are free to use them. They are not a universally necessary or required component of unschooling, either educationally or legally.

Allowing curriculums, textbooks, and tests to be the defining, driving force behind the education of a child is a hindrance in the home as much as in the school – not only because it interferes with learning, but because it interferes with trust. As I have mentioned, even educators are beginning to question the pre-planned, year-long curriculum as an out-dated, 19th century educational system. There is no reason that families should be less flexible and innovative than schools.

Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s mentor and friend, said:

I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built upon the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think. Whereas if the child is left to himself, he will think more and better, if less “showily”. Let him come and go freely, let him touch real things and combine his impressions for himself… Teaching fills the mind with artificial associations that must be got rid of before the child can develop independent ideas out of actual experiences.

Unschooling provides a unique opportunity to step away from systems and methods, and to develop independent ideas out of actual experiences, where the child is truly in pursuit of knowledge, not the other way around.