The Parents' Guide to Alternatives in Education

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SHAMBHALA PUB Incorporated, 1997 - Education - 244 pages
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The Parents' Guide to Alternatives in Education is the first book to describe the full range of current alternatives in education. It highlights some of the current trends in education and then deals in detail with twenty-three different education alternatives. For each it gives the history, philosophy, practice, a description of a representative school, and a resource section including sources of more information and suggestions for further reading.

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The parents' guide to alternatives in education

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This book is meant to be a consumer's guide to 22 forms of alternative education available to children whose parents choose not to send them to public schools. It also offers an historical perspective ... Read full review

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Before this, I had only been familiar with a few of these alternatives. I knew a lot about homeschooling. I briefly read about free schools and the idea intrigued me. I knew about Montessori schools as my sister went to one years ago, but I couldn’t tell you much about them.
On page 6, the author insightfully observes: “While the public school system is still for the most part bureaucratic, hierarchic, authoritarian, and conservative, a great deal of experimentation, reform, and restructuring has gone on and continues to go on within it”. That is very accurate. I work in the public school system and find the statement to be a fair description of what just I see.
I found his discussion of the “Responsive Classroom”, part of what he calls “the Social Curriculum” to be interesting because the school I work for has used the Responsive Classroom model starting this year. I have not been all that impressed with it. It has some good ideas, but nothing ground breaking. Many people act as if new models like this are so cutting edge, when they aren’t that much to me at all. The author categorized “The Social Curriculum” as one reform trends. It did not occur to me that the Responsive Classroom would even be worthy of the title “reform”. It doesn’t seem to all that much better.
He discusses the proposal of at least arranging classes by how talented and advanced the kids are rather than just their age. This sounds good to me.
The author discusses something called “developmental education” which contends that kids should not be taught anything or in any way contrary to their designated “developmental” ability. Critics of the school system say it limits children. Something like this developmental education would seem to limit most of all, so it really should be questioned.
The author is a backer of Waldorf education personally, but he did not appear to allow his bias to be reflected in the writing. He seemed to treat the subjects very fairly including his own Waldorf model.
In the end is call to start one’s own school. I applaud the pioneer spirit. I love to use it myself. It is so awesome to found something. It is a wonderful idea. Hopefully one day I can do it as well. That would really be part of my political plan.
Of all the types of schooling presented here, “free schools” (almost no structure) sound most appealing to me. In fact, one Autonomy Party position paper calls for public schools to be made into free schools with just the minimal authority to maintain the peace. Progressive education sounds good as well. Essential schools sound nice too. I would like to learn even more about these models. Homeschooling sounds good too but I already am pretty familiar with that.


HumanisticProgressive Tradition
Part II
Whole Language

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About the author (1997)

Ronald E. Koetzsch has a B.A. from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in History of Religions from Harvard University. He has taught at the secondary school and college levels and has been a senior instructor at the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School for over twenty years. For many years he was senior writer at the East West Journal (now Natural Health magazine). He is founding and current editor of Renewal: A Journal for Waldorf Education and is a teacher at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, California.

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