Category Archives: Education

Founding Principles of Dropout Learning Center

Notes from meeting on January 21st 2014


Roger Dennis
Cristina Cortes
David Weksler
Jon Mannion

Roger stresses the inclusion of the word dropout
In an effort to shame the mainstream

Cristina comments that yoga, dance and mindfulness can be part of the strategy

The Founding principles can be grouped thus

covering passion based learning, no coercion, listening to individual learners interests. Interest based learning
Solution or project based initiatives

to facilitate remote and blended learning, different resources, collaboration, learner organizations, publicity,

use the resources of the city such as museums, municipal resources, parks, libraries and anytime anywhere learning (aided with technology)

to develop abilities of concentration and focus, develop interests and priorities for study and action

following from Manhattan and Brooklyn Free Schools, learners will be responsible to join in the direction of the school, the setting of policy, the judicial process (student court)

and the social capital of the mentors and “teaching” staff,

re Homeschool Resource Centers/Coops

on imagining the possibilities here in the city:
More detailed and comprehensive version:
I believe that, with very rare exception, our public schools, and most private schools too, are wasting educators’ and students’ time.  As I see it, they are interfering with, instead of helping, our development as individuals – and the healing of our communities, society at large, and ‘Mother Earth’!

There are far too many critical issues – personal, societal, ecological, etc. – that need awareness, understanding, and solutions!  We – humankind – cannot afford to waste meaningful time with the mostly meaningless chores and the ridiculous curriculum that permeate mainstream schools.  We need to be in places where we are growing holistically as learners and as people, and where the same is true for our students!!!

The adults in mainstream schools are NOT going to fix them, so we who care need to open up our own learning programs.  At some point, when enough students have left the mainstream schools, I think the adults in charge will panic at their loss of revenue and will finally decide to make meaningful changes.  If that in fact happens, great!  But if it doesn’t then we just keep on opening up more good programs, and increasing the numbers of students who leave the indoctrination centers and join our centers of true learning and development!
Here are some ways to do homeschool resource centers, or coops.  (Btw, one name that I have been thinking about is Full Potential Centers.)
1-  Here is Kamali, the African-centered homeschool in New Orleans (I think I mentioned this):
(In this homeschool coop several families pitch in and do most of the teaching, and the adults set most of the curriculum. Kamali is mostly for younger kids):
2-  North Star in Hadley, Mass., which has been around for 15 or 18 years, works a bit differently.  Was started by two junior high school teachers who hated what they were doing and what the kids were being put through, and so they decided to start their own program.  Here the students have more freedom, can study what they are interested in; some parents teach occasionally but so do the founders, other community members, college interns, the students themselves; and many kids do internships and apprenticeships.  (North Star is for teens):
3-  Here is a brand new program in Boston where teens meet with an advisor/mentor only once every two or three weeks.  In between they work on projects of their own choosing.  It’s in its first year, and I have no idea how well it’s working, but you can at least get an idea of the concept.  This program doesn’t have a building, and so their meetings are held in places like McDonalds or Starbucks.
*About charters.  I don’t know much about charters, except that different states and areas have different regulations or expectations.  If you can find a place where you can open a charter and run the school with the values that you believe in, then great.  Obviously it’s much better to not have to charge parents anything and to be able to pay staff, have money for supplies, trips, etc.
But my bias is that if the government is involved, they’re usually going to find a way to mess with your program.
*Homeschool Resource Centers – or Coops – can generally be run quite economically.  You might be able to get some funding, but also there are lots of retired educators who would like to make a difference as volunteers; there are good people in the community who will volunteer 3-10 hours a week; students can apprentice in the community, helping out mechanics, photographers, dieticians, etc., and getting real life experience.  (You don’t need licensed teachers; you need people who know their craft or their subject and who will enjoy teaching it to young people who are interested in their particular expertise – and there are lots of these kinds of people around.  In fact, this kind of situation is a Win-Win, because often your potential teachers or mentors are just aching to put some more meaning in their lives, and they may very well become happier and healthier by getting involved with such a positive learning program.)
Sometimes you’ll already have a building. If not, you can often have space donated by churches or community groups, or you can meet in peoples’ living rooms or public spaces.  Even libraries, if you keep your voices down.  Students can take college courses as a non-matriculant in city or state universities at pretty good rates.
A number of students realize that for the kind of ‘work’ they enjoy and are good at they don’t need to go to college, but for those who do want to go they – as unschoolers or homeschoolers – have no trouble being admitted, and in fact often have an advantage over traditionally schooled applicants.  I can tell you more about this if you want.
Additional info or resources:
There has never been a better time to be a Student:
Sir Ken Robinson on creativity and schools:
(check out other Sir Ken videos too – they’re funny and profound)
Some good Facebook groups for non-traditional education:
The Learning Revolution
The innovative Educator
Homeschooling, Unschooling, Uncollege, Opt Out, DIY, Online Learning
Transforming Education
(Some of these are closed groups, but if you ask to be invited you usually can be.  I’m in all of them, and maybe I can help if you have trouble.)