Monthly Archive: November 2008

Nothing Gold Can Stay

I’m still in Mississippi, returning to California on Wednesday morning. I’ll post in the next few days with an update on my stay in the south and details on upcoming plans for college and the springtime. In the meantime, I wanted to say thank you to my newest donors. The list on my home page is quickly growing!

I also want to start writing brief posts in addition to the longer ones. Most bloggers base short entries around a single thought or photo, whereas I usually write more developed, magazine-style pieces. I hope that I’ll be able to share more of my experiences with you if I don’t need every post to have a crafted introduction, body, and conclusion like those five-paragraph essays we all know and love.


How to Support Reschool Yourself This Holiday Season

This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for the opportunity to do this project and for all of you who have helped make it happen. Thank you for reading and donating; it has meant more to me than you know. Here are is an update on fundraising and how you can keep the project going.

Fundraising Update and Thank-You to Sponsors

A big thank-you to my sponsors, whose names can be found on the right sidebar of my homepage. Due to your generous support, I met my goal to raise $5,000 for start-up expenses for the first three months of Reschool Yourself. Your contributions funded all the tools I need to document my reschooling, including a computer, camera, and digital camcorder. You also funded the basic living expenses that have allowed me to focus on spending time at the schools, writing about that experience, and spreading ideas about lifelong learning. Thank you for making this project possible!

Ways to Support Reschool Yourself

This fall, spending time at the schools and documenting it has taken my full-time attention, so I’ve been largely relying on your donations to cover basic technology, education, and living expenses. Freelance writing, small grants, and donations will sustain the project through next June, and here’s how you can help:

1. Visit Amazon through the Reschool Yourself site

I support buying local above all (especially books from a local bookseller or through the website of Sonoma’s independent Readers’ Books, where I used to work.) However, if you plan to shop through Amazon anyway, please consider using my site to get there. Four percent of whatever you buy — not just the items I feature on my site — will be donated to Reschool Yourself.

Click on one of the books I recommend on the home page, which will take you to the Amazon site, and shop as usual within that browser window. Or you can click the link below and do the same:

Five Ways to Reschool on the Interweb

As much as I curse the Information Age for gluing me to a computer screen all day, every day, I must also praise it for democratizing learning. Never before has information been so accessible to those of us lucky enough to live in countries with Internet access. Even those without Internet at home can use it at the local library free of charge and reschool themselves in just about anything. For example, I’ve learned how to play basic guitar largely from Googling guitar chords and pop songs, and I’ve figured out how to build many of the features on my website by searching technology forums. Here are five types of online resources to educate you from the comfort of your couch.

1. How-To and Do-It-Yourself Sites

Instructables shows you how to do just about anything that you can imagine, step by step. Darren, a man’s man who used to plan all his meals around meat, has taught himself to make yogurt and pasta from scratch using Instructables tutorials. Other topics include everything from “How to Pack a Suitcase” to “How to Make a Beanbag Chair.”

Videojug is like the video version of Instructables, with how-to videos on topics like makeup, sports, and even relationships (Check out the helpful “How to Ask a Woman On a Date” and “How to Avoid Trapped Arm Whilst Cuddling in Bed” narrated in a lovely British lilt.) Video has similar tutorials on everything, like “How to Do the Heimlich Maneuver.”


Stepping Up to the Mic on JFP Radio

This morning, as usual, Darren and I rolled out to a coffee shop and had our official morning meeting (“Darren?” “Present.” “Melia?” “Present.”). We got to work on our laptops, and around 11:15 a.m., Darren pulled out his phone to read a text message.

Darren: Hey, want to talk about Reschool Yourself on the radio?

Melia: Umm…sure! When?

Darren: Today at noon.

Melia: That’s in 45 minutes. (Pales. Long pause.) OK, I’m in.

The radio show in question was JFP Radio, the Friday afternoon broadcast of the Jackson Free Press, the city’s alternative news weekly (similar to the San Francisco Bay Guardian). Darren recently left his job as Art Director of the JFP and stays closely connected with the staff, an artsy and talented crew. Staff members Sage Carter-Hooey and Kimberly Griffin host the one-hour talk show that features local music and guests from the community. Sage and Kimberly thought Reschool Yourself would fit well with this week’s “The Good Issue,” which encourages readers to get involved with social causes and organizations.


Trying Screen Printing on for Size

Today Darren introduced me to a whole new world: the business of screen printing, otherwise known as silk screening. He learned the craft as a Graphic Design major in college and has designed and printed hundreds of his own t-shirts by hand. During my last visit in August, he designed a shirt for my grandpa’s birthday (see photos below) and demystified the process for me. Now when I see just about any t-shirt, I think, “I could make that!” I’ve never done crafty things like making jewelry or knitting, so I feel empowered knowing how to produce something useful.

I’d known that Darren had made a neat profit selling t-shirts at local festivals and a design shop he ran for about a year, but I hadn’t experienced it firsthand until now. Last night we stayed up late printing a few dozen shirts, mostly with his new “Buy Local” design, in advance of tonight’s Fondren Unwrapped event (see photo #53). At this annual festival in Jackson’s Fondren neighborhood, locals tour small businesses, sample food and wine, and buy arts and crafts. We set up an outdoor table and arranged our t-shirts and tote bags, as well as buttons and postcards made by Darren’s friends.


Remember This? #29 The Baby Project

If you do, leave a comment!

Remember The Baby Project? In my Christian Lifestyles class senior year, there were more girls than boys, so I partnered up with my best friend Katie to parent a flour baby. Most of the pairs in the class gave their babies trendy names like “Taylor Jean” or “Skylar Marie.” We named ours “Bossu Manon-Jean DiGuire.” Katie had just watched two French movies about a hunchback (bossu in French) named Jean (soft French pronunciation) and his lady love, Manon. We combined Katie’s last name, McGuire, with Dicker to form the fashionable “DiGuire.” Our classmates thought that naming our child “Hunchback” was cruel, but we preferred to see it as original. Katie grew up with such a common name that she wanted to make sure little Bossu stood out among her peers.

I’m not sure how much responsibility we learned from the project. I remember a couple of instances where Katie left our flour baby in our locker, or out on senior patio where anyone could have snatched her and baked her into cookies.

Aren’t the headless babies above a little creepy, especially the one that looks like it’s on a butcher block? (It’s actually an art table.)

Op/Education #1: Blue School, Manhattan

This week’s TIME Magazine features an article called “At the Blue Man Group’s School, Kids Rule.” The founders of the quirky Blue Man Group, the popular performance art team, started a school in New York City for 61 kids in kindergarten and younger. The school will add a grade each year, eventually enrolling kindergarten through fifth graders. Tuition is a jaw-dropping $27,300 per year, comparable with other elementary schools in Manhattan.

Chris Wink, one of the founders, says that the school is “sort of a support group for people whose creativity had been all but squeezed out of them by education.” He says, “At one point, we asked, What if there was a school you didn’t have to recover from, that didn’t make you question the idea of being creative?” The physical environment of the school is set up for exploring, climbing, and expanding the imagination: for example, the Wonder Room features a climbing wall and a floor programmed with games that lights up. Kids choose their own activities, and teachers emphasize inquiry over instruction. Read the brief feature here and watch the TIME’s Blue School video here.

Thanks to Kathleen Doise and Jill Hisaw for forwarding the TIME article.


Your Two Cents: Leave a Comment!

– If you went to this school, what would you enjoy about it? What would you find challenging?

– What questions does this school raise for you?

New RSY Series: Op/Education

I’m starting a new series on the RSY site called Op/Education. It’s a way for all of us to find out about noteworthy schools, educational trends, and programs, and to exchange our thoughts about them. Some will inspire, others may horrify, but I hope that all give us a better sense of our own educational ideals. Featured projects can be American or foreign, new or old, for youth or adults, but they will all have characteristics that set them apart from mainstream schooling.

The purpose of Op/Education is to raise awareness about the variety of school options that exist for people of all ages. I wish more than anything that I’d been aware of educational options while I was a student, so I could have chosen the one that best suited me. For people raising kids now and in the future, understanding their options and values can make a big impact on their children’s development. For those of us adults seeking ways to educate and develop ourselves as adults, knowing about graduate programs, community or online classes, books, and other resources could give us needed guidance.

I’m excited to share the programs I’ve visited over the years, and to hear your opinions on them. I’d also like for you to introduce the alternative programs you know about. If this interests you, email me so I can either write about the programs myself or feature you as a guest blogger. I look forward to swapping knowledge with y’all.

Reschooling Tool #8: Tackle Intimidating Challenges One Step at a Time

After a quick trip to the Midwest for a board meeting and a visit with friends, I’m spending the next few weeks in the south. I’ll be catching up on writing about my K-12 reschooling experience before completing the school phase with a few days in college in early December.

I’m not sure if it’s jet-lag, or lack of sleep, or feeling bulldozed by my three intense months of reschooling so far, but my head has felt foggy for the last couple of days. These are the big challenges dragging down my energy, and the little steps I’m taking to cope:

1. Some days, the Information Age sucks my soul.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t keep up with all my emails, or the news. I feel constantly bombarded by information: interesting articles from my news junkie friends; holiday plans; details for my sister’s bachelorette party; research on one website that leads me to another….and another…until I forget what I had been searching for in the first place. No wonder my brain feels full all the time, without space for anything new to enter.

What I’m doing about it:

  • Clearing off my computer desktop and closing browser windows at least once per week.
  • Setting up Gmail filters and tags, and moving mail from my Inbox to the Archives where at least I don’t have to look at it.
  • Finishing one task without getting distracted by another.


What’s to Come for RSY

Today I concluded my official reschooling at St. Vincent High School, even though I wish I could spend more time there. In particular, the conversations about education, many of them informal and impromptu, that I’ve had with my old teachers and the current students have been so rich that I want to have more. However, travel plans call. In fact, I have to catch an aiporter at the inhumane hour of 3:55 a.m, in four hours.

Here’s the plan for the next few weeks:

  • Through 11/16: Public Allies board meeting in Milwaukee, and the weekend in Chicago with friends.
  • 11/16 – 12/3: In Jackson visiting Darren. I’ll be processing the K-12 journey and writing about many of the experiences I’ve been dying to share but haven’t had time. Expect flashbacks all the way to the start of my reschooling in kindergarten, and handouts galore.
  • 12/3 – 12/6: Santa Clara University. I get to stay in the dorms and visit classes. I’ll also be making a presentation to a UC Berkeley Education class about Reschool Yourself.
  • 12/6 – 12/24: School follow-ups and educational autobiography. As I draft the book proposal, I’ll pop back into my old classrooms to snap photos and ask follow-up questions. I’ll also go through old photos and keepsakes from each grade to piece together an “educational autobiography” that traces my evolution through school. I think everyone could benefit from doing this, and I’ll share my own process.
  • Spring – I promise to write an update in the next few days about what the spring will hold.

Stay tuned. I’m looking forward to sharing amusing anecdotes and my conclusions thus far, as well as hearing about your school experiences. Thanks to those of you who are sharing — I’ve always intended for the site to be a forum for people to reflect on their education and story-swap. To those of you who are reading but don’t comment….PLEASE COMMENT! It would be nice to know that you’re out there.