Is Homeschooling the new black?

Learning Gypsies. Week 5 (August 1–7) Lima, Peru.

As we approached our last weeks in Lima, we took time to get to know more people exploring at the edge of school innovation. Also, we spent many and I mean many hours with our family. As the week came to an end we hosted an Andean Ceremony to give thanks to “pachamama” (mother earth) for everything it has provided to us on this journey. Because we celebrated our anniversary on that same day, we decided to do a “Union Andina” (Andean wedding) while we were at it. Yep, just like that, we renewed our love for each other and celebrated life. We pull it together in 2 hours, fastest wedding planning ever!

Unfortunately on the last hour of the week, Alani (our oldest and gypsy video editor) had an anaphylaxis attack due to dairy contamination which took us to the ER. Fortunately, the service at La Clinica Tezza (my clinic growing up) was outstanding. Even though we were very scared, we were able to learn a few things when reflecting back:
Having family around is and becomes more important every time we are close to them. 
Doctors in Latin America are much more relaxed than in the U.S. We aren’t sure if this is a good or a bad thing, what we do know is that no one made us feel this was the end of the world, but on the contrary that we had followed the emergency plan and that everything would be just fine.

The week’s video diary will be late because of this event. Just keep an eye on our Youtube channel for it. Pictures of the week, from La Tarumba (a circus beyond a circus) to our spiritually charged Andean ceremony, can be found here.

We met some great people with really powerful points of view on the need to radically reimagine the way kids learn. Strongly supporting the benefits behind taking the time to teach our kids at home and to not leave their learning experience in the hands of the system. Here is our learning report.

Paola Portocarrero. Homeschool Mom and Lead of the movement in Peru.

Jesus from Fundación Telefónica introduced us to Paola who is leading the homeschool wave in Peru due to a need her children had — they are gifted. Paola welcomed us to her home in La Molina in Lima. She has 3 kids, 2 of which are gifted and simply wouldn’t fit into the traditional system. This forced Paola to unlearn everything she had learned and learn a completely different way of facilitating her kids’ own learning journey.

Paola has adopted the Montessori methodology as the one that helps her kids learn freely and willingly. She, and the tutor who supports her daily, go to the U.S. to get certified in Montessori tools and methods twice per year. They have set up a learning space that is conducive of creativity, exploration, and most importantly autonomous learning. Paola homeschools her 2 daughters plus her niece and nephew. We were lucky to be invited to one of Montessori’s “great lessons” workshop where the kids learned about building communities and carrying for them.

There are recurring themes coming up during our research. And one we hear, independently of who we talk to, is the idea that kids are “learning machines”, capable of learning on their own. “They (Kids) are going to learn alone, they don’t need our permission, just our facilitation.”

Paola sees many benefits to homeschooling, but one of the strongest ones is the fact that there isn’t a disconnect between the home world and the learning world (school). She thinks that both serve each other. Life at home influences all aspects of the kid’s development, and many times, those two worlds are different, disconnected and in conflict.

Homeschooling integrates them both seamlessly.

But no system is perfect and the integration of these kids into the larger schooling system is a concern for Paola. “They (Her kids) will probably end up working in alternative careers where they get to use their creativity and problem solving skills often”

She also shared with us lots of valuable tips about homeschooling, as we are set to start on September 9th with our kids.

“Being there, witnessing that moment when they discover something for the first time is the most gratifying.”

Leon Trahtemberg. Education Leader.

Our soon-to-be sister in law’s mom connected us to Leon as soon as she heard about our project. Leon, who is synonym for alternative education, has founded 3 years ago a school called Aleph. He and her partner, Fiorella de Ferrari. (we met Fiorella this week, and our interview with her has really inspired us to explore new methods with our kids.)

3 minutes into our meeting with Leon, he had set and defined the biggest challenge facing innovation in education: “It’s really hard to become independent from economist driven models.” In that context, “only those countries who don’t have to pay tribute to the past are free to explore innovative models in education.” Countries like Finland and South Korea.

To innovate, schools need to be brave. Brave with the Department of Education, with parents, with teachers and with the status quo. Mostly because education traditionally has been a vertical relationship.

But when you create a horizontal system, where everybody answers this question: What can we all do together for the kid’s development?

If parents and teachers are not in sync, progress is not possible.

As we are listening to Leon’s thoughts and arguments, we’re thinking: it makes sense; Parents, educators and learner should all be integrated in the learning process. It also makes sense that more traditional systems, developed a long time ago are outdated and new realities demand new solutions.

So, we wonder, why aren’t these models being applied everywhere?

Leon thinks that most schools are really slow at applying change, even if they know that those changes are good for the kids, the parents and the school.

Schools are an artificial creation.” he said, “learning can happen in any context. And unless a school creates the ideal space where kids enjoy being, and enjoy learning, there is no need for a school.”

Talking with Leon about schooling and education was a really gratifying experience for us. He is passionate about creating new experiences in education in Lima and Perú, but he knows that this new and alternative ways are not for everybody, specially in a traditional society like Peru is.

We enjoyed seeing how a woman like Paola, following her dream of providing a good learning experience for her kids and one of the most brilliant voices in Education in Perú can agree a 100% about the role adult’s play in the kid’s process of learning: My job is to facilitate the kid’s learning.

“Knowledge happens because you want to learn, because we are curious” And under this condition, “the teacher’s role is to create the circumstances under which a kid feels stimulated to want to learn something.”

A Tertulia about education in Perú.

Our friend Armando shares our passion for education, and he organized a Tertulia (informal meeting of people to talk about current affairs, arts, or education.) at Cafe de Lima, one of our favorite coffee shops in Lima.

The group was made of seasoned Education professionals with years of experience in TIC (Las tecnologías de la información y la comunicación): Coco Copello, Roberto Bustamante, Sandro Marcone, and Armando de la Flor.

What we liked about this format was having together such an interesting group of professionals sharing a variety of opinions that made the discussion more interesting and rich.

The conversation revolved around Technology in the classroom, and the efforts made by the government to make Perú one of the EduTech leaders in the world. “The problem is that bringing a computer to the world is not the same as giving students access to technology.” A few teachers were able to understand the role of tech in the classroom, to domesticate technology as Sandro put it. But most teachers decided to play a role of tech guardians, when in fact “there shouldn’t be intermediaries between tech and kids.”

The challenge is not to have access to technology, the real problem is to take advantage of that technology to create engaging and innovative learning experiences in the classroom.

All of them had had a large experience with public education and in their opinion, the problem with public education is a logistic challenge, not a methodology problem. (We’ve seen a consensus around the best learning methodologies available: Waldorf, Montessori, Reggio Emilia and democratic school)

Even ideas with the potential to disrupt a traditional educational system like Escuelas de Alto Rendimiento, where the most talented students from all over the country are sent to special centers and receive the “best education”, run the risk of becoming another reflection of a country with dramatic differences between the haves and the have nots.

Teachers became the main topic of our discussion: Parents today didn’t learn to be teachers, neither they learned to learn. Which creates a gap of talent and passion in our generation. The profession of the educator needs a new breed of talent, who understands their role beyond the keeper of knowledge (internet) and more focus on the facilitation curiosity. A younger and better prepared professional with the skills to match those of the kids being born today; technology savvy leaders who thrive building communities around passions.

And even though these challenges are not restricted to Perú, each community is going to have the model that serves its culture best. Education is contextual, and the solutions of one city, no matter how good, might not work in a different context.

“The Education model of any country responds to the idea of the country they want to become”

Lucia Garcia Head of Cultural Projects and Jesus Morate, Education Program at Fundación Telefonica Perú.

Fundación Telefonica was one of the first institutions we met when we first arrived to Perú. On that meeting Lillian Moore introduced me to Lucia and Jesus, but we couldn’t coordinate to talk until now, almost at the end of our 6 week stay in Lima, which I see as a perfect opportunity to book-end the journey.

When Lucia and Jesus speak about what they do, you can tell they both love their job. Truth be told, it is a really cool job. They partner with schools and artists, to spread the use and understanding of new technologies and their impact in Education. (Espacio Fundación Telefonica)

Jesus believes that art should be a fundamental pillar of the education process. Because it teaches you how to think, visually and analytically, it nurtures the kids natural curiosity.

Idea Lab is one of the most notorious projects done by the Fundación’s Espacio. A lab where educators can expose their kids to new technologies (3D printers) through project driven experiences. (On a side note, Paola brought her homeschooled children to Idea lab the day after our meeting)

It’s interesting that the ones being benefited during these visits to the lab are the teachers, who find new ways to teach by using technology in new ways.

I realized how disconnected schooling is from the real world when we talk about the latest Fundación exhibition: Big Data. Through the work we do with Hyper Island training professionals all around the world, we know how important understanding and managing data has become for corporations today; still, Data as a subject is not included in any primary or secondary curriculum.

Lucia believes that education is like the placenta, that feeds you until you no longer need it, so you can start your own journey. (loooove this metaphor)

They gave us lots of references and potential contacts in Brazil, and even a book about one of the exhibitions they did about the tribes of the Amazon, where education is done through stories and legends. (leyendas), as an example of how contextual education is.

We’ve heard a lot about improving the quality of teaching as one of the key actions to improve education. That’s why the project “Escuela de Educación Disruptiva” is so interesting and relevant. The global initiative (Spain and Mexico, Lima) is a 7-week program aim at educators and teachers, where traditional education is deconstructed to look for new ways for kids to learn.

Exactly what our journey is all about!!!

Thanks for reading our report,

The Learning Gypsies.