Nice quote

"The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can." Neil Gaimon

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Article by Alfie Kohn to do with principles, assessments and intrinsic motivation

Cara Barlow shared this article on the Unschooling NH facebook page.  

Here are some of my favorite parts of the article. 
Regarding example 1 which was to do with math: 

 Some were taught the underlying principle ("The goal of a problem like this is to find ..."), while others were given step-by-step instructions 

...the principle-based approach was much better at helping them transfer their knowledge to a slightly different kind of problem

Direct instruction of a technique for getting the right answer produced shallow learning.

But why not do both? What if students were taught the procedure and the principle? 

Regardless of the order in which these two kinds of instruction were presented, students who were taught both ways didn't do any better on the transfer problems than did those who were taught only the procedure—which means they did far worse than students who were taught only the principle. Teaching for understanding didn't offset the destructive effects of telling them how to get the answer. Any step-by-step instruction in how to solve such problems put learners at a disadvantage; the absence of such instruction was required for them to understand.

Here are the things that stood out to me in example 2 which was to do with how assessments (grades vs narrative comments or both):

....students were subsequently less successful at the tasks, and also reported less interest in those tasks, if they received a grade rather than narrative feedback.

Grades almost always have a detrimental effect on how well students learn and how interested they are in the topic they're learning.

....the negative effects of grading, on both performance and interest, were not mitigated by the addition of a comment. 

....the students' performance was highest with comments, lower with grades, and lowest of all with both.

....the more traditional practice not only didn't help, but actually wiped out the positive effects of the alternative strategy.

And this also stood out - 

"Our original goals were to control student behavior and build community, but along the way we learned that these are conflicting goals." Only when the "doing to" is gone can the "working with" really begin to make some headway.

This section below I found especially worthy. Why? Because it can be difficult for some parents to trust that their child will read if and when they are interested and motivated and when they have their own intrinsic reasons for doing so. 

It seems prevalent in our culture for parents to sign their kids up for some kind of reward program to earn points, a bike, pizza, or or ice cream. 

There are even programs that encourage kid to read to dogs. The animals may like the attention. And maybe kids without pets might like reading to one. However, there are other authentic ways of helping one's child to enjoy the experience of being around dogs rather than pretending that it is somehow worthy or beneficial to read to someone else's pet. 

Kids are smart enough to realize that pets don't understand the plot and it is simply a ploy to get them to read. Tricking kids into reading seems condescending, disrespectful and untrusting.When kids realize that their parents, teachers and other adults believe incentives and/or rewards are required for a person to read, they may think that reading must be drudgery. Plus, if their parents, teachers and other adults don't trust them to read for the sake of reading itself, how can they trust themselves? 

In addition, a lack of trust in one area can undermine the confidence one has in other areas, especially where learning is involved.  For example, if a person feels they must have specific instruction or do specific things in order to learn something, they may believe that they must follow a certain order to learn in other areas too. If they believe they must be bribed to read, then they might believe they must be bribed to calculate, help others, write, take books out of the library, participate in physical activities, create art, etc.  

It is SO much better to help kids do what they are interested in, help them explore what they'd like and introduce them to things you think they would enjoy (respect it if they aren't interested!) and trust that they are continuing to build on what they already know just like they will be doing for the rest of their lives. People WANT to learn. Humans like to learn what they are interested in. If we are bribed, then we think whatever we are being bribed about must suck. 

Don't take away a young person's possible love of reading by bribing them! Some people will love to read and some will learn in other ways. We all learn differently and each of us have individual ways that we learn best. Don't spoil a child's love of reading by making it seem like it stinks! Because it is so wonderful for many people in oh-so-many ways!!!

Or consider a teacher who does all the right things to help kids love reading: surrounds them with good books and offers plenty of time to read them; gives kids choices about what to read and how to respond to what they've read; teaches them to read from the beginning through rich stories and other authentic material, with a focus on meaning rather than just on decoding skills. Sometimes, however, those ingredients of literacy are soured by the simultaneous use of reading incentives—either home-grown schemes or slick prefabricated programs (bought with precious book-acquisition funds)—that lead children to regard reading as a tedious prerequisite to receiving points and prizes. It's hard to treat kids like budding bibliophiles when they're also being treated like pets.

One of psychology's most robust findings is that extrinsic motivation (doing something in order to receive a reward or avoid a punishment) is completely different from—and often inversely related to—intrinsic motivation (doing something for its own sake). The more we offer rewards to "motivate" people, the more they tend to lose interest in whatever they had to do to get the reward.

Some behaviorists have tried to challenge the growing evidence supporting that contention, but the latest major research review—see Psychological Bulletin, vol. 125 (1999): 627-68—dispels any lingering doubt about a finding that has by now held up across genders, ages, cultures, settings, and tasks: Two kinds of motivation simply are not better than one. Rather, one (extrinsic) is corrosive of the other (intrinsic)—and intrinsic is the one that counts. To make a difference, therefore, we have to subtract grades, not just add a narrative report. We have to eliminate incentives, not just promote literacy. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

"An apple seed will never grow into an oak tree."

Sharing this with permission from Karen James who writes oh so eloquently! (Because understanding this is so integral to unschooling!)- Laurie

"An apple seed will never grown into an oak tree." Sandra Dodd said this yesterday in one of her talks at the Always Learning symposium in Maine.

It's a line that stood out for me because my son suggested something similar to me one night several years ago when he and I were reading stories and chatting in bed. I think Ethan was five. At the time he was very interested in rocks and minerals and the table of elements. I was telling him that he could be a geologist or a chemist when he grew up. He listened. He'd heard this kind of grand predictive thinking from me before. I was fond of telling him who he could be when he grew up, based on the interests he had at the time. After a pause, he said to me "But what if I don't want to be anything big?"I gave myself some time to let what Ethan said to me sink in before I realized what I was doing. I was not looking at and encouraging who Ethan was in the moment. Rather, I was looking off into the unknown future trying to fit Ethan to a model I was forming in my head. My predictions were making him feel uncomfortable and unsure. He was asking me to be with him in the present, to share his excitement for his interests now, and to leave the future to the future because my version of it might not be where he was meant to go.

An apple seed will never grow into an oak tree. An acorn will never grow into a tree that bears fruit. Knowing that, the most prudent thing we can do as parents is to do our very best to nurture the seed we have at every stage of growth it sees. Like Sandra said, we can stunt it's growth, break it, or damage it beyond repair by trying to make it into something it's not or failing to protect what it is at all the stages along the path of it's growth. Or we can choose to encourage and safeguard the beautiful seed we have been given from seed to seedling to full grown tree, offering it everything it needs to grow into the best version of itself it can be. - Karen James (fall 2014)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Ronnie Maier's post about whether unschooling works and how it leads to great relationships

Katherine Kate Anderson shared Ronnie Sundance Maier's status update.
September 6 at 2:00pm

Ronnie Sundance Maier
Bear with me while I attempt to articulate something intangible. People ask sometimes whether unschooling "works." They want to know if it it provides an education equivalent to public school. The answer ranges from "of course" to "hell no, and that's why we do it" to "beats the hell outta me" (because most of us who do it simply don't care as long as our kids are happy and successful by their own definition of the word). But what is perfectly clear now that my unschoolers are grown is that it builds excellent relationships, not only between parent and child but between parents and all the people our children bring into our lives. Eventually even the friends who have been schooled and traditionally (or wretchedly) parented--the ones who interact with us at first with great caution and restraint--come to realize that we are more interested in *them* than in their ability to "measure up" or conform or achieve in any way beyond what they choose for themselves. They begin to trust in our interest and our (relative) lack of judgment. We become contemporaries instead of adversaries, and we have FUN. And then they know they can come to us if/when they need help. I don't say this to sound smug or special: What we do for these *people* is not particularly difficult and doesn't stem from any particular talent. It shouldn't *seem* particularly special. But, yes, it WORKS. We have friends of all ages, and our kids have friends of all ages, and we can count on each other for fun, and to listen. It works. ‪#‎unschoolingmoments‬ ‪#‎100unschooldays‬

Monday, July 7, 2014

ALLive in Maine

Always Learning Live Symposium September 26th and 27th 

If you've ever wanted to meet Sandra Dodd in person, here's your chance!  In September (the weekend after the Common Ground Fair), Sandra Dodd, her husband Keith Dodd, Robert Prieto (Colleen Prieto's husband) and I will be speaking an Always Learning Live symposium in midcoast Maine.  

There will be a couple of other meetings before the conference weekend in Maine and NH where you can also hear her speak. Check the calendar page on the ALLive in Maine site for those events.  

If you will need overnight accommodations, make your reservations asap as fall is a very busy season in the mid-coast area!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Teen or Young Adult Looking for a traveling adventure?

If your teen or young adult is considering traveling, here are some links to explore:

Blake Boles Unschool Adventures website:
Unschool Adventures

Blake Boles Unschool Adventures Facebook Group:
Unschool Adventures

Unschool Adventures
We run life-changing trips for self-directed young adults.
Preview by Yahoo

Blake Boles' fundraising book: Blake Boles' fundraising book: Unschool-Adventures-Online-Travel-Fundraising

Hila Shooter's fundraising book. Hila Shooter's fundraising book: Ticket To Ride

Here is the group Hila went on an adventure with.

Ava Burgos went on a trip to Maui where she had tent housing with beds, wifi and food provided, worked a few hours a day, and then had time to travel and explore the island.  I had the pleasure of meeting her last week and hearing about her experience (which was extra interesting since Jim and I lived on Maui in 1996-1997).  

Have you Heard of a Gap Year?
Here's one experience of self-directed learning, from a friend of Open Doors in Warwick, NY: *** Warwick residents Ava Burgos, 19, and Calvin Linn, 21, are settling...
Preview by Yahoo

This is the site Ava Burgos used to find the Huelo Lookout Fruit Stand on Maui:

Link to the Huelo Lookout Fruit Stand on the Help Exchange site:

Note: Ava wrote that it costs fifteen dollars for a two year "premium membership" which allows you to add photos to your profile and look at the full job profiles including reviews from other helpers who have visited the properties.

WWOOF | Work exchange on organic and sustainable properties
Work exchange on organic and sustainable properties. Volunteer exchange on sustainable and organic farms and properties. Association of WWOOF International Limited
Preview by Yahoo

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pam Laricchia's third book, "Life Through the Lens of Unschooling: A Living Joyfully Companion"

My third book, Life Through the Lens of Unschooling: A Living
Joyfully Companion, is now out with a special launch price of
$2.99US for the ebook and $11.99US for the print edition
(those are my list prices, though Amazon sometimes plays 
with them a bit from there). At the end of this week
they will go to their regular list prices of $4.99US
and $13.99US, respectively.

Here's the book description:

As more and more parents challenge the assumptions of the school
system, their curiosity about unschooling grows, and often one of
their burning questions is:

What does day-to-day life look like for an unschooling family?

Pam Laricchia has been unschooling her three children for over a
decade. Life Through the Lens of Unschooling, like day-to-day
life, meanders here and there, covering a wide array of topics.
You'll find essays tackling everything from learning to read to
visiting relatives, all organized around nine key words that have
been woven into the fabric of their unschooling lives: 
deschooling, learning, days, parenting, relationships, family,
lifestyle, unconventional, and perspective. The theme is life;
the lens--unschooling.

Drawn from her popular blog at, imagine this
book accompanying you, a joyful companion on your unschooling
journey, as you dig deeper into your understanding of unschooling
and what it might look like day-to-day in your family.


If you're interested, here's where you can grab the book:

Amazon US:

Amazon UK:

Amazon Canada:
(still waiting for the print edition to appear)

FYI ... it's enrolled in Amazon's MatchBook program, so
if you buy the paperback, you can get the ebook for

It should also show up on Kobo in the next couple of days
(they made a booboo but are fixing it asap).


And if you want more info, here's the introduction:

When I first started blogging regularly about unschooling in the
fall of 2012, it was a place for me to have some fun. I had one
book published at that point, Free to Learn: Five Ideas for a
Joyful Unschooling Life, which I had written with an eye to being
concise, accessible, and as helpful as possible for people trying
to understand the principles behind unschooling. The blog was,
and is, a place I could share more about the day-to-day
antics of living with unschooling. Share some personal
experiences. What does life look like for an unschooling
family? And I could ask myself questions and play with the
answers in short bursts, without the need to form a larger

Now we're in early 2014 and the Living Joyfully with Unschooling
blog has over sixty posts of varying length, covering a wide
array of topics that look at life through the lens of
unschooling. Yet the chronological nature of an online blog
means that, for the reader, it's easy to find the most
recent posts, but even with categorizing and tagging,
digging through the inventory to find the particular posts
that would be most helpful to them at this particular
moment of their unschooling journey is challenging.

I began to think about the value of bringing together all this
writing in a more manageable format. Yet I also didn't want to
just create a "blog in a book form." The chronological nature of
the writing is now irrelevant. And the posts are already 
categorized by monthly topic on the blog, so that's taken care
of. How might I bring this project together so that it has
greater value for the reader?

So I created a swirling pot of all the posts. I stirred and
peeked and stirred some more. I played with numerous ways
to organize and group them, looking for ways that might
bring additional clarity beyond the posts themselves.
Eventually I hit upon the single words you see in the table
of contents. These are words that, since we began
unschooling in 2002, have been woven into the fabric of my
understanding of unschooling. And as I sorted and re-sorted
my blog posts into these threads, some wonderful synergies

You may find some content overlap, yet each time it's within a
different context. I specifically chose to keep that because I
don't know which context will make sense for which readers.
That's how learning works—different connections for
different people.

Gathering my blog writing into book form also gave me the perfect
excuse to work with my lovely editor again! Typos were caught,
thoughts clarified, grammar tightened. All very good things.

Why call it a companion?

I've chosen to call it a companion book because it's not meant to
explain the ABCs of unschooling. It doesn't march from beginning
to end, illuminating different aspects of a single theme. It
meanders here and there, diving into the thoughts and questions I
have pondered on the blog up to this point in time. The theme is
life; the lens—unschooling. I imagine it accompanying you,
a joyful companion on your unschooling journey, as you dig
deeper into your understanding of unschooling and what it
might look like day-to-day in your family.

Speaking of which, it needn't be read in order. If you're 
wondering about something in particular, skim through the table
of contents. Which word seems most closely related? Which
post seems like it might stretch your thinking, or spark
new insights?

Thank you for inviting me along on your unschooling journey!


Have a great day!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Help for a Maine Mom with leukemia

I'm sharing this because it affects a caring and loving homeschooling Maine mom.  - Laurie
I have been diagnosed with leukemia for the second time in three years;
this time I require a bone marrow transplant. This treatment is incredibly
disruptive and time-consuming; in addition to the two rounds of in patient
chemotherapy I have already had, I will be in Boston for about a month and
then on immune-suppressive drugs for a year. During the recovery, I am not
supposed to go out without a mask and gloves, as I will be highly
susceptible to illness and will not have a fully functioning immune system.

Some friends have set up a fundraiser for us to help defray the costs of
care and lost wages-my husband has already missed more than two months of
work this year. If you are interested in contributing or just sharing the
link, we would be very grateful.

Thank you,


Monday, January 13, 2014

Oppose LD 1530 (Bill that is trying to make compulsory schooling begin at age 5 instead of 7)

Recently I reposted Trisha White's email on a couple of local yahoo group homeschooling lists.  Because a couple people wanted to know if that would affect homeschoolers and have a little bit further of an explanation of the bill, I thought I'd post more information here.    

So first I'll copy and paste the post.  Then I'll copy and paste a little more information about the bill and my thoughts as to how it affects Mainers and why it matters to me as a person and homeschooler living in Maine.  

This is what I posted on the yahoo groups

Copying and pasting Trisha White's post in case others might like to write to oppose LD 1530 (which would require 5 and 6 year olds to go to school) or attend the session on the bill on 1/23/14 at 1pm.  

PLEASE NOTE, they are up to the shenanigans again, the date has been 
changed to Thursday the 23rd at 1 pm! Please pass this along.

I will be going down and can take several people with me if you would 
like to ride along. I am in the Guilford Dover area and can stop at 
Walmart in Newport if you can meet there. You will not be called on to 
testify but you will be able to voice your opposition by being 
physically present and if you desire, wearing a sticker we provide 
stating your opposition to LD 1530. Remember numbers speak volumes and a 
large visual presence is very effective.


Help Needed Immediately to Prevent Compulsory Schooling for 5- and 
Homeschooling in Maine
Help protect parental rights.

Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff answers questions and assists members with 
legal issues in Maine. He and his wife homeschooled their children.

Dear HSLDA Members and Friends:

Your ability to decide for yourself how or whether to provide schooling 
for your 5- or 6-year old child is in danger.

A bill in the Maine Legislature, LD 1530, would make all children 
subject to government-mandated education requirements as soon as they 
reach age 5. This would destroy your freedom as a parent to be in charge 
of how to rear your 5- and 6-year-old.

We need your help right away! A committee will hold a session on the 
bill on Wednesday, January 15, at 9 a.m. The committee members need to 
see you and hear from you.
Action Requested

(1) Please send an email to the two committee chairs, Senator Millet and 
Representative MacDonald, asking them to oppose LD 1530. Say it in your 
own words, and make it personal---don&# 39;t "copy and paste" from this 
email. Some basic reasons to oppose the bill are listed under 
"background&qu ot; below.

(2) Also, send an email to your own senator or representative if he or 
she is on the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. Use our 
Legislative Toolbox to find the name of your Maine state senator and 

(3) Come and attend the work session. Although you will not be allowed 
to speak, we need a big crowd to send a message. The work session will 
be in Room 202, Cross State Office Building, 111 Sewall St, Augusta.

It is not necessary to identify yourself as a homeschooler since this 
would affect every Maine parent.
Contact Information

Members of the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs:

Senator Rebecca J. Millett (D-Cumberland) , Chair
SenRebecca.Millett@ legislature.

Senator Christopher K. Johnson (D-Lincoln)
SenChris.Johnson@ legislature.

Senator Brian D. Langley (R-Hancock)
SenBrian.Langley@ legislature.

Representative W. Bruce MacDonald (D-Boothbay) , Chair
RepBruce.MacDonald@ legislature.

Representative Mary Pennell Nelson (D-Falmouth)
RepMary.Nelson@ legislature.

Representative Helen Rankin (D-Hiram)
RepHelen.Rankin@ legislature.

Representative Matthea Elisabeth Larsen Daughtry (D-Brunswick)
RepMattie.Daughtry@ legislature.

Representative Brian L. Hubbell (D-Bar Harbor)
RepBrian.Hubbell@ legislature.

Representative Victoria P. Kornfield (D-Bangor)
RepTori.Kornfield@ legislature.</p>

Representative Peter B. Johnson (R-Greenville)
RepPete.Johnson@ legislature.

Representative Joyce A. Maker (R-Calais)
RepJoyce.Maker@ legislature.

Representative Michael D. McClellan (R-Raymond)
RepMichael.McClella n@legislature.

Representative Matthew G. Pouliot (R-Augusta)
mpouliot57@gmail. com

Representative Madonna M. Soctomah (Passamaquoddy Tribe)
RepMadonna.Soctomah @legislature.

Across the nation, when homeschoolers work together, they have had 
remarkable success in protecting freedom by stopping the expansion of 
compulsory age brackets. The crucial recipe for victory includes a 
simple ingredient: the willingness of ordinary homeschool moms and dads 
to spend 15 minutes to make a phone call or send an email!

History shows that lawmakers respond when they get a large volume of 
calls and emails. God blesses it when ordinary moms and dads put forth 
effort to protect freedom so they can hand it down to their children.

Requiring children to attend school at age 5 is a very bad idea for the 
following reasons:

1. LD 1530 forces children into school too soon. There are no long-term 
replicable studies proving that mandating attendance at age 5 rather 
than 7 is better for the educational development of the child. Much 
research indicates that early childhood education does not improve the 
child's potential for being a better student in the future, because 
early gains disappear in a few years. This is especially significant for 
boys, because their cognitive and verbal skill development generally 
lags behind that of girls at this age.

2. LD 1530 decreases beneficial parental contact with their children. 
Two extra years of development outside of school can be critical for a 
child at this early age. Parents should continue to have the authority 
to decide what is best for their children.

3. LD 1530 would have an adverse financial impact on all Maine families. 
The rising kindergarten population will increase the financial burden on 
the state. This will result in the need to increase state education 
revenues from either taxes or shifting the burden to future generations 
through borrowing.

4. This reduction in the starting age for compulsory attendance would 
definitely apply to homeschool families despite some slightly confusing 
language in the bill.

5. LD 1530 creates an unfunded mandate. It obligates school districts to 
provide expanded services without providing any funding. Unfunded 
mandates are strongly disfavored.

Thank you for standing with us for freedom!


Scott A. Woodruff,
Senior Counsel, HSLDA

These are my further thoughts on the bill and why it matters to me to oppose it.

Other than needing to do reviews for our 5 and 6 year olds, it won't affect us as homeschoolers as far as I can tell from what I've read and heard.  Though let me add "for now" - because the more freedoms/rights that are taken away, the easier it will be to take additional freedoms/rights away.  

At first I felt like "No big deal, we'll just send in reviews for our younger kids too."  But after I thought more about it, I felt like I did want to do something to preserve the rights all of us have now.  Because why should our 5 and 6 year olds lives suddenly be under the state's jurisdiction?  That means more paperwork for us and if that bill passes, then what is next?  It will be easier for the state to take something else seemingly simple away.  

The state won't easily be able to jump from what laws we have now to much more restrictive laws, but if they do it slowly over time, it can happen. Especially if people just let it happen without protest.  

I guess I don't mind so much about the paperwork, but it is the idea that it will be easier for the state to make further restrictions on homeschooling or education or parental rights that makes me uneasy and motivated to take action to keep what rights we have now.  

In addition, I do believe that children and parents should not be separated at such a young age because it is a benefit for parent and child to be connected and continue their close relationship.  Making children go to school at age 5 will begin to erode their bond and cause some disconnect in their relationship.  Why should 5 year olds be forced into school instead of be able to be with their parents?  And connected families are happier and more peaceful families which make a positive affect on the community.  

Also, we already know that children's learning can flourish outside of an educational institution.  

So I find that law to hinder children's and parent's best interests.   The way it is now, parents can decide what is best for their particular child up to age 7.  Let's keep that way at least.  

Check this out - I just read this a few days ago in a delancyplace email - it is an excerpt from "Dumbing Us Down" by John Taylor Gatto - It bothered me to think about those little kids being sent by force to school (by guards) and that the parents had no choice.  I think it bothered me more since this bill is in my mind.  Yes, we have the freedom to homeschool now, but what if it was ever taken away or restricted further? : "Our form of compulsory schooling is an invention of the State of Massachusetts around 1850. It was resisted -- sometimes with guns -- by an estimated eighty percent of the Massachusetts population, the last outpost in Barnstable on Cape Cod not surrendering its children until the 1880s, when the area was seized by militia and children marched to school under guard."  

And I like choices.  At least now parents have the choice to keep their very young kids home....whether or not they wish to send their kids to school later.  

Maybe some who keep their 5 and 6 year olds home now do decide to keep their kids out after continuing to be close with their kids and noticing all the learning taking place.  And even if they do eventually send their kids to school, I bet they are more connected.

Laurie :)

Here's the letter I wrote - I didn't go into the financial impact, just this.  Maybe I should have written more, but I kept it short.:

Dear XXX -

I am writing because I would like you to oppose LD 1530.  

I appreciate that our 5 and 6 year old Maine children have the opportunity to continue to grow and learn outside of the school system. I hope that this continues to be the case.  

It is beneficial to children to have more connection and contact with their parents, especially when they are very young.  In addition, it should continue to be up to the parents to decide what is best for their child.


Laurie Wolfrum
26 Good Wind Lane
Camden, ME 04843
207-236-4275 home
207-975-2953 cell