TED Conversations

Juliette LaMontagne

Founder & Managing Director, Breaker


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What are the advantages/disadvantages of learning models that exist outside of traditional educational institutions?

With the growing number of alternative learning pathways and opportunities to better serve the needs of individual students, what's working best? And what can we learn from the failures and tensions? Where and how have the models in the margins effectively disrupted the status quo?

I'll add to the conversation my current initiative, Breaker - driving alternative learning and social innovation by mobilizing interdisciplinary teams of young creative collaborators to design product solutions to global challenges.

This Live Conversation will start on Feb. 15, 2012, 1:00pm EST/ 10:00am PST


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  • Feb 15 2012: I see, it's an online chat! I am a homeschooling mom with a 4th grader and a 1st grader. Definitely what I have learned is that I can tailor what we are learning to my kids' strengths and weaknesses. I was appalled at the (limited) amount of math my son was doing when he was in 1st grade in the public schools--it helped me see why the U.S. lags behind other nations in this area (and this was in a very strong public school district!)
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      Feb 15 2012: How will you attempt to teach your son those things that you're not an expert on? (i.e. Chemistry, Physics, Biology... maybe you are an expert in all of these subjects though!)
      • Feb 15 2012: I've found that encouraging the child to read anything and everything can be one approach, and finding friends with expertise in other fields is another method. I'd also like to say, though, that not every subject has to be "taught" or has to be taught at an early age. Many of these subjects can be picked up during the high school age, or in college, with no detriment to the student.
      • Feb 15 2012: I dont think one needs lot of knowledge to teach a 1st grader through 5-6 grade...
        • Feb 15 2012: What a great opportunity to learn with them!
      • Feb 15 2012: If you have a public library nearby, you certainly have access to more than enough information. Plus, if the child learns how to find information themselves, the parent not only does not need to know every fact themselves, but can actually learn from the child and learn with the child! For instance, librarians, encyclopediae and dictionaries, reference books, the children's non-fiction section, etc.
      • Feb 15 2012: The Basics of chemistry (for example) can be taught through cooking, Physics by dropping a ball, etc. To live a healthy life you wouldn't need to know more then that unless it's relevant to you're interests/work.
        As it stands now, most school systems burden the students to learn skills that
        a) they have no interest in
        b) will never use

        while many specialized subjects will b required over time, finding the experts to teach them will be more effective because at that point the student will desire to learn more, rather then having something irrelevant (to their life and planned projection) shoved down their throat.

        maybe someone knows the real number, but I understand somewhere >50% of graduates work in a field completely unrelated to their field of study. this is a waste to time and resources, no to mention the mockery of the system it suggests.
      • Feb 15 2012: You can listen to an interview with Barb Lundgren (bottom right), who speaks on homeschooling/unschooling her three children. Might answer your questions a bit: http://www.rethinkingeverything.net/#!__about-barb
      • Feb 15 2012: I'm just taking it a year at a time, and I'm not assuming that homeschooling is the best solution for all my kids--we'll just see how it goes! But my friends who do homeschool through high school have found effective alternatives in subject matters such as the sciences--community or local colleges that welcome homeschoolers, etc. There are definitely ways to do it if you are committed for the long haul. I also love that we can spend time focusing on areas of special interest, such as my fiction-writing son who churns out thousands of words every day. I don't think he would have the freedom or time to dabble in these interests as a public school student. There are inherent strengths and weaknesses of all these educational models and every child is different; I think the key is not to just assume that public school is the best for everyone, all the time.
      • Feb 15 2012: There are experts that can be called upon to help a parent educate their own child. There are also charter schools that provide such expert help. While the parent is responsible for the core education of the child, the school is there as a back-up resource. A parent can teach their child if they are committed enough.
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      Feb 15 2012: We have been home schooling for a few years as well. We also love being able to tailor our children's education to focus on their strengths and passions, while recognizing weakness in certain areas and individual learning preferences. Instead of wasting hours on busy work, we are able to maximize the use of our time the children spend. We can keep them engaged and challenged and push them in areas we feel they need it. We can control the pace - accelerating or pausing as needed.

      As far as teaching them advanced subjects, there are many options out there available to the home school community. Private tutors or home school hybrid programs are just two options. The latter becoming more and more popular every year. Also, some private schools allow home school students to attend classes in the higher grades.

      All that said, home school isn't the right solution for everyone. However, it has been most advantageous for our family. We take it very seriously. We aren't a family that sets school on cruise control and call running errands a "class".
    • Feb 15 2012: Post-secondary education (aka taking college classes while still a highschooler) is a great option for some - and the classes count toward college later, too.

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