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FOREWORD MAGAZINE'S - FOREPLAY: RESA STEINDEL BROWN
An educator since 1970, Resa Steindel Brown is the author of The Call to Brilliance (978-0-9778369-0-1), a memoir in which she asserts that all children are born brilliant. She home schooled her own three children from kindergarten into college. The Call to Brilliance is endorsed by John Gatto, author of The Underground History of Education, Jack Canfield, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Parent’s Soul, Tobin Hart, author of The Secret Spiritual World of Children, and Victoria Kindl-Hodson, co-author of Respectful Parents, Respectful Kids.
Why you know the name: Author of The Call to Brilliance. Her work as an educator has been featured on CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times.
In her free time: I haven’t had any free time since 1978, when our first child was born. But when I do have free time, I write. And when I work, I write. And when I rest, I write. And when I daydream about having free time, I write. But in the summer, I kayak.
In her former life: I was a duck.
What book are you reading, and where is your favorite place to read?
The Biology of Transcendence: in bed, in the living room, in the kitchen, on the couch, at the beach, in my office, in someone else’s office, at the train station, at the bus station, at the subway station, at the airport, in line at the market, in line at the post office, in line at the DMV, at the counter of the DMV, at the counter of the dry cleaners, at the check out-line at the library and in the car waiting for my kids. My next book will be on time management.
What qualities do you value most professionally?
Honesty, punctuality and short emails.
What are you still determined to learn to do?
Parler le Francais and understand French phone operators. My youngest son went to school in Monaco for a while. I lived there with him and spoke what I thought was ‘not-too-horrific’ French. I did notice that every time I started a conversation in French, the locals switched to English. I won my daughter’s admiration when I actually understood the bus directions to the college. The phone operators, however, left me in the dust. I never understood whether I was supposed to leave a message or put another Euro in at the sound of the bong.
If you were a member of a tribe, what would be your special role in it, and why?
I would be a Shaman, because a Shaman is an elder, a survivor, and a healer. Shamans work with the elements, archaic symbols and the ancient feelings and primitive subconscious of humankind. Also, people bring them food.
What is your favorite hometown library and/or bookstore?
I love the Thousand Oaks Public Library, the Newport Beach Public Library, and Martha’s Bookstore on Balboa Island. Both libraries are flooded with light and filled with friendly, helpful staff and happy people. But Martha’s Bookstore has my heart. The converted seaport cottage is on the one main street of the island. It greets visitors through a white wrought iron trellis blooming with pink bougainvilleas, a brick front patio and an Adirondack or two for sitting. Browse as long as you want, or spend the morning chatting. The store’s owners Kathy and Stephanie will offer you their latest snack, herbal iced tea or champagne. They named the store after their mother, Martha, who loved to read.
What kind of music do you enjoy while you are reading?
Baroque and the sound of someone else cooking dinner.
What would you save from your home if it were burning?
Our four dogs, our horse and our daughter’s paintings. When our daughter turned seventeen, it became her BIG year for paintings…nothing less than 4 feet by 6 feet, the biggest canvas we could buy and transport home in the van. It was also her ‘Joan of Arc’ period. We live in southern California. Lots of glass to bring in the sunshine…little walls. SO…Joan of Arc hangs in the hallway, in the dining room and from the rafters of the living room. Our resident artist is now away at college. She took the horse with her, but left the dogs and the paintings. We have fire season once a year, as the surrounding mountains flame in the heat and we once again pack to evacuate. Recently our family van died, 12 years and 350,000 miles after its birth. In a panic, I thought we’d have to spend $30,000 to buy a new van just to save those paintings. “Take them off the frames, roll them and don’t let the dogs sit on them,” she explained dryly on the phone, chewing on a fruit roll-up. Never occurred to me. Maybe I should go back to college.
What question has never been answered for you?
“Why?” The question of “why” has ultimately never been answered. Why is there suffering? Why is there cruelty? Why is there war, famine, poverty or disease? Why? Why? Why? Why?
What would surprise most people to learn about you?
I have a sense of humor.
If you could have any five people over for dinner, who would they be?
The Pope, Madonna, Osama Bin Laden, Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore. Although I think the seating arrangement might be problematic.
What book has impacted you the most and why?
Schools Without Failure, by William Glasser, M.D. It reinforced what I already suspected, that all children can find their strengths given the right situation and enough time and energy.
What is your prediction for independent publishing in 2007?
I think independent publishing will blossom. More people will find their voices, realize they have interesting things to say and find ways of getting their messages out. I think it will be more about passion than profit, but I think profit might do very well as a by-product. BACK TO TOP
AUTHOR BEGININGS - BLOG VIEW: RESA STEINDEL BROWN
What inspired you to write the book?
My children inspire me. They have shown me who we are at birth and how we can bring that miraculous divinely inspired being into adult life. They encouraged me to document our experiences so that others may benefit from our journey.
What is your favorite chapter in the book – and why?
“Stephen, Just Stephen” I enjoy reading about Stephen as an adult. It shows how the ‘chaos’ he was so good at creating as a child has facilitated him as an international entrepreneur with a big heart. It shows how what might appear to be our worst challenges can become our greatest strengths.
Do you have other books you have written? If yes, what are they?
I am currently working on a manual that well help others put their own journey into process.
Is there a particular event that stands out to you that helped you become an author?
I would have been a writer, but not a published author, had it not been for the faith, dedication, and vision of my youngest son, Matthew. Had he not taken the document, published it, promoted it and passionately believed in the message it brings into the world, it would never have become a book. It would still have been a document sitting in hundreds of files buried in my computer, and I would still be someone who writes, but not an author.
Was there a person in your life that believed in you even more than you believed in yourself? If so – who was that person?
When editing this book (20 years of writing) seemed like an impossible job, my husband just wouldn’t let me give up. Every night I went to bed feeling overly tired and overwhelmed. Every morning, sitting on my nightstand, was a gift…a love note and a new round of edits.
What advice would you give to writers wishing to have their works published?
Who is your favorite author?
I don’t have just one favorite. I read different books for different reasons. I really respect William Glasser, M.D., Joseph Chilton Pearce, Thomas Moore, Parker Palmer and a number of others who focus on the issues I think are vital to the way we see life and raise our young.
What is your favorite quote?
“Follow your bliss.” - Joseph Campbell.
Thank you Resa for the blogview - Your book really touched my life and the way that I view my children and their personal inner brilliance. My favorite quote from the book - "Every story is a love story regardless of the content because it teaches us about us." BACK TO TOP
Finding brilliance in all children is possible
By Stephanie Bertholdo firstname.lastname@example.org
Resa Brown Is it possible to discover the brilliance within each child in a public school setting where conformity takes precedence over passion, where young minds are shaped according to an agenda rather than nurtured and personal fervor takes a back seat to rote memorization?
Educator Resa Steindel Brown, author of the newly released book, "The Call To Brilliance," believes every child is born with a wealth of passion and surprising talents. As a mother, she should know. Brown's family tale turns public education's conventions on their head and could double as a blueprint for change.
Brown heads the Las Virgenes Unified School District's home independent study program, commonly known as homeschooling. She has been a teacher for 36 years and is credentialed in all grade levels from kindergarten through 12th grade as well as college.
"The Call To Brilliance" weaves Brown's personal triumph over a cookie cutter education in 1960s Los Angeles with the incredible story of her three homeschooled children. All are now thriving adults whose individualism might have been improperly labeled a disorder by today's No Child Left Behind standards.
The No Child Left Behind Act leaves more children behind than ever, according to Brown. Children can't move forward, she said, when teachers are tied to the text and the text is tied to state standards. "It's too easy for some, too hard for others," Brown said. "We want children to learn on their own."
"I decided to use my background as a vehicle to explain how we evolved in the education system in the last 50 years," she said. She believes the system is based on an 1850s industrial age model when it was important to ready the children of farmers for work in factories.
Brown attended school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. She remembers the hope and passion she had on her first day of kindergarten, only to have such passion zapped away by third grade when her teacher publicly ridiculed an art project after Brown made the mistake of not matching certain colors.
Brown's juxtaposition of her educational journey with her children's vastly different experience is shocking. When Brown's first child, Stephen, didn't quite fit the public kindergarten mold 23 years ago, Brown opted to teach him at home.
Stephen was different from the children in his play group, she said, describing him as "pure kinetic motion" in her book. Stephen didn't read until he was 9, yet entered college at 12. Now 28, he holds a master's degree from UCLA in computer electronics. Erin, 25, is now finishing her doctorate in applied mathematics.
Brown's youngest son, Matthew, didn't read until he was 11, but within a year he was attending college. He graduated from UCLA with a bachelor's degree in science in mathematics/applied science management and accounting, with a specialization in computing. He has just published his first book.
Brown said she homeschooled all of her children and let their talents rise naturally from their interests and passions. They learned through play, laughter and life.
Brown believes Stephen and Matthew would have been labeled with a variety of learning disabilities had they been in public school, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia and dysgraphia, a writing difficulty, had they been placed in public school.
"Had they been sorted, tested and labeled when they were little, they would not have had the confidence to excel," Brown writes in her book. "Their behaviors would have been molded to defeat, their minds forced to follow the format and their bodies pinned behind their desks. Their failures would have been reinforced in report card after report card. They would have lost touch with their true identities- the particular genius each child has at birth."
Matthew was dyslexic and even spoke in his own language. His sister understood him, but few others could decipher his odd chatter. He was given speech lessons, but the speech pathologist predicted Matthew would never properly read.
Reading readiness is a neurological milestone, Brown said. In public education, all children are expected to read at approximately the same time, and controlling the behavior of children may be more pernicious than forcing reading upon children before their brains are ready. Brown called social conditioning "a form of testing and conditioning that is reinforced daily- a form that will dispense their self-concepts and frame their sense of self worth."
Brown said she hopes her book will inspire change in the Las Virgenes district. Multiage classrooms would top her list of adjustments to more kidfriendly classrooms. "Kids are all at different levels anyway," Brown said. "No one feels badly wherever they are. If we could create these kinds of schools inside our school system- and we can- all we have to do is restructure. We would find children's passion and talents, and we would have brilliance everywhere."
Brown will be signing her book from noon to 2 p.m. Sat., Feb. 10 at the Thousand Oaks postal annex, 1336 Moorpark Road, and at 7 p.m. Mon., Feb. 12 at Barnes & Noble in the Westlake Promenade. BACK TO TOP
Mother Gives Son a Chance; Son Returns Favor
Matt Brown was diagnosed ADHD, Dyslexic, Dysgraphic, speech-delayed and did not read until age ten. Despite those challenges, he entered college at 11, started his first company with seven fulltime employees at 15 and graduated UCLA in Math with specializations in Management, Accounting and Computing.
Matt says he owes his success to the love and expertise of his mother, award-winning educator Resa Steindel Brown and author of The Call to Brilliance.
“My mother empowers all her students and finds their gifts,” Matt says. “As a result, they are passionate about what they do. Each finds their particular form of brilliance despite prior learning disabilities, boredom or frustration. Without her expert guidance, I would have been morally and socially beaten. This happens to too many children. My mother has a solution, and I know firsthand that it works.”
Matt is responsible for pushing his mother's book, a 20-year project in the making. His mother continues to work full-time running the Las Virgenes School District’s Independent Study Program, not willing to leave the trenches and abandon her 60-plus kids to pursue a career in writing. Thanks to her son, she does not have to.
In his efforts to promote his mother’s book, Matt has secured endorsements from noted authors and public speakers William Glasser M.D., Joseph Chilton Pearce, Jack Canfield and Jon Taylor Gatto, among others. Matt has booked radio interviews, book signings and conferences for his mother across the United States and Canada.
Matt even shamelessly touts a T-shirt stating “I Love My Mother and Her Book” at conferences, book fairs and the grocery store. “When I wear the shirt, I am amazed to find so many other mothers jealous.” Matt says. “They say ‘I wish my son would do that for me.’ Or even ‘Okay, what did you do wrong that you have to do this for your Mom?’”
“In this society, it’s rare to find someone my age so happy and willing to promote his mother’s work. Many kids view it as a weakness – and that’s a shame!” Matt says mothers have taken pictures of him wearing the shirt to show their sons that a cool guy can be publicly proud of his mother’s work. “I know what my mother can do, has done, and continues to do for her 60-plus kids and I think it is important to spread her genius to as many people as possible,” Matt says.
Matt will design and produce more “Mother Boasting” shirts, including “Have you seen my mother's book?” and wear them often.
The book promotes strong family relationships. Matt’s devotion and passion for his mother’s message is proof of its power. BACK TO TOP
Tad Cronn, Los Angeles Daily News columnist
Resa Steindel Brown's The Call to Brilliance is a rare life-changing work.
As much a personal story about an amazing family as it is philosophical treatise about modern education, this book reveals what has gone so wrong in our schools and takes you on a journey that reveals how to uncover the light of brilliance that is inside our children. A practitioner and advocate of homeschooling, Brown points out that public schools were designed for an industrial society to produce conforming drones who don't mind endless tedium. She suggests that an entirely new model is needed in order to unleash children's native creativity and curiosity and help them become truly functioning adults.
For parents, this is a must read.
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Wilmette Life Author offers student success tips by KAREN BERKOWITZ
Educator-turned-author Resa Steindel Brown can relate when a worried parent laments that a child who was eager to learn in kindergarten is now shrugging off school.
Steindel Brown spent 20 years trying to inspire youngsters whose gifts were being overlooked before writing "The Call to Brilliance," a road map for tapping the passion in each child that schools often seem to suppress.
Steindel Brown shared her theories and experiences with a North Shore audience recently at the Kenilworth Union Church. The two-day workshop was offered free through the Alison Tobey Smart Memorial Fund.
Speaking after the workshop, Steindel Brown said the public-school push to meet standards is demanding that ...
Read more here: http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1N1-1267743F1A8B4DA8.html
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The Tennessean: By Bonna de la CRUZ
It’s midday on a Friday, and 9-year-old Miyana flips through a book about dragons before her attention turns to making Valentine’s Day cards at the kitchen table.
Her sister, Aeyah, 7, across the table, expertly threads a needle and sews a tiny cape for a clothespin superhero.
While other children their age are quietly sitting in a classroom, the Fisher-Miller children have the freedom to pass the time without order and doing as they please in their pursuit of knowledge.
Younger brother Ocea, almost 2, drops marbles into the bell of a trumpet. “He’s using it as a funnel,” says their mother, Suzanne Fisher-Miller. Brother Khai, 5, plays noisily with two friends, the back door slamming shut as they run in and out.
What may look like bedlam is a radical style of home schooling that the Fisher-Miller parents think is best for their children: unschooling. It’s child-directed or child-led learning. Some call it relaxed home schooling. Topics aren’t learned until a child expresses curiosity, and they’re dropped as soon as the child is ready to move on.
Their curriculum is whatever interests them in life. There are no textbooks in their East Nashville home, nor lesson plans, schedules or tests.
Their parents say this unconventional style of learning shows respect for their children as full human beings who can learn lessons from everyday life.
Children, they feel, don’t need to master reading or multiplication tables until they’re ready. These families reject the structure of formal schooling that, they say, crushes creativity and curiosity.
But some education experts — and even fellow home schoolers — feel this free-form style could lead to gaps in learning. They are afraid children do nothing all day or develop strengths but ignore their weaknesses.
‘Trusting your children’
When Miyana asked her mom where carrots came from, the family took a field trip to a farm. Learning often emerges in their childish games, like the time Miyana created play people from orange peels and started figuring out how many of them would have to share if she only had three forks.
Her mother, however, did not turn that moment into a structured math lesson about division. Rather, she let it unfold at Miyana’s pace.
Twenty-five Nashville-area families are on an unschooling list-serve group, but many more families in the area unschool, perhaps as many as 300, said Fisher-Miller, who established a Nashville unschoolers group last year.
“It’s trusting your children to learn for themselves,” the 33-year-old mother said.
“Learning comes from the inside. You cannot make a child want to learn,” she said. “In today’s school system, it’s not a love of learning but it’s ‘Let’s push facts down your throat and have you regurgitate it.’ The best thing I can give my child is to love to learn.”
Author Resa Steindel Brown, an educator and national expert on child-directed learning, said now, more than ever, parents should explore alternative education styles to match the fast-paced world. Youngsters are children of the Information Age, a time of technology and fast media, she said.
“The way our children take in information is much faster and involves more of their sensory perception — think TV, the Internet and Podcasts,” Brown said. “The way they pursue information is different from sitting in a classroom with a book reading it from front to back.”
Is it best for children?
Some educators expressed concern that this free-form style of education isn’t good for children.
“If unschooling is curiosity-led, not all children are question-askers,” said Cindy Benefield, who oversees home schooling for the state Education Department. “If they’re focused on one area, the child may know everything about gardening but won’t know multiplication tables.”
“It’s risky to put all the eggs in the child’s basket,” said Mary Jane Moran, an assistant professor of child and family studies at the University of Tennessee, where she instructs future teachers of pre-kindergarten to third-graders. She has not studied unschooling.
“If children are the only lead horses, then there is no educational map through which they are led in a purposeful way,” she said. “It’s random starts and stops. Therefore, there is less opportunity for deep learning.”
It may be better to have a negotiated partner ship between a child and and a parent who knows the child’s needs and abilities, Moran said.
“You can make curriculum come alive and make it more relevant and tie it in to real-world experiences without throwing out structure,” said Terry Weeks, 55, a professor of educational leadership at Middle Tennessee State University and the national teacher of the year in 1988 when he was at Central Middle School in Murfreesboro.
Retired Metro schoolteacher Clata Miller is a grandmother of unschoolers and feels torn over the learning philosophy.
“I would be doing things differently, but I can’t say what they’re doing is not going to be successful,” said Miller, the grandmother of Miyana, Aeyah, Ocea and Khai.
The Franklin woman would prefer a more planned and thought-out learning environment for her grandchildren but respects the hands-on approach their mother takes to tap into the children’s interests.
“But as an educator, I feel you have to use your knowledge and experience as an adult to bring to them the things they need,” Miller said.
What about gaps in learning, worries Tina Bean, a former Metro schoolteacher who home-schools her 7-, 9- and 11-year-olds.
“It’s fine to cater to their interests somewhat, but sometimes you have to say, ‘Sorry, you have to do this, too,’ ” said Bean, 39, who lives in Antioch. “My 11-year-old, given his druthers, would never do spelling and always do math.”
The leader of a Montessori school, which also follows a child-centered philosophy but with some structure and limits, explains society’s reluctance to accept unschooling this way:
“I think that’s because people ultimately do not value children or trust them,” said Sherry Knott, executive director of Abintra Montessori School in West Meade and an admirer of unschooling.
“They do not think children are capable, when in reality they are,” Knott said.
School systems rejected
Families often turn to unschooling in rejection of what they see as a one-size-fits-all school system they say crushes curiosity and creativity. Advanced children get bored waiting for classmates to catch up, while slower learners can fall between the cracks.
They also shun traditional home schooling because it follows the same mold of telling children what they need to be taught and how to learn it.
“The object of school is to make everyone come out the same. That whole concept offends me,” said Chelsea Gary of Franklin, who is unschooling an 18-year-old stepson, Chris, and her other two children, ages 3 and 5. There’s nothing a school system could do to persuade her to enroll them, she said.
Chris, nestled in an oversized red beanbag in his bedroom, said he hated reading until his parents pulled him out of school in California in December 2005 so he could direct his own education at home.
“I’ve learned more in the last year than I ever did in public school,” said Chris, who spent the first few months “deschooling,” getting used to his educational freedom.
A giant TV, shelves of CDs and a nearby computer loaded with video games are easy distractions in the typical teen-age bedroom. But Chris said he’s not tempted because he’s more interested in what he’s reading, Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things.
“Topics I don’t like, I skim it,” he said. “It’s kind of a cool idea. I focus on things I want to use in life.”
Life, he hopes, will mean either being a rock star or chef — that’s why he spends the afternoons working at a Panera Bread cafe or rehearsing in a heavy metal band. He’s not sure if he’ll go to college.
“I want my children to grow up retaining all their creativity and interests they were born with,” his stepmother said. ” I can’t imagine someone crushing that out of them.”
It’s not a new idea
Unschooling, while still an underground movement, has been around as long as modern-day home-school education — and some say as long as humans.
Each family has its own approach. For the Fisher-Millers, there’s an emphasis on nutrition and money management.
“Honestly, what do children really need to know when they graduate from high school — to balance their checkbook, change the oil in the car and check the tire pressure, real-life things,” said Suzanne Fisher-Miller. “I think those things are just as important as history, math and reading.”
Today’s unschooling parents tend to have college educations. Fisher-Miller has a high-school diploma and started a math degree.
They are often two-parent households in which one parent stays home.
“I thought I would never be a stay-at-home mom. I’d been a photographer and artist,” Fisher-Miller said.
Her husband, Brian Miller, too, put his photography career — and its long hours — on hold and took a pay cut to work at a Wild Oats Marketplace so he could be home with the family by 3:30 p.m.
At home, they practice “strewing,” leaving books, games and other interesting items in their children’s path for them to discover.
That’s not to say there is no parental involvement.
Rather, these parents said, they must be totally aware of the needs of their children and able to find resources to seek out information, whether that’s the local librarian, an entomologist at a nearby college or the grocer who can explain an exotic fruit.
To critics who say their children are missing out on socialization, they say there’s plenty of time to make friends outside the home, whether it’s visits to museums and the zoo with other home-schoolers, weekly gatherings of home-schoolers at a park or tae kwon do lessons, they said.
“Instead of being shoved into a class with people the same age, they can choose to be around all kinds of different people,” Gary said.
Unschooling parents talk about respect for their children, who in the outside world are often treated, wrongly they believe, as “lesser humans” without much say in things.
They trust their children to gain the knowledge they need within their own time frame.
“Elijah hates writing, coloring, and painting,” unschooling mother Amanda Slater, 30, of Hermitage said about her 5-year-old.
“It’s never a thing he chooses to do. I assume at some point, he’ll want to. I don’t like children being forced into something they’re not ready for,” she said.
“Elijah’s not writing now, and that would get him in trouble in school,” Slater said. “School wouldn’t wait for him to read or write until 8 or 9 or let him do multiplication and division in kindergarten, when he’s ready for it.”
Likes books, doesn’t read
Miyana loves books. The pile in the living room. The stacks they check out of the library. The hundreds of shelves full at the bookstore.
However, the 9½-year-old doesn’t read yet.
In an unschooling household, that’s no reason to sweat.
“What’s important to us is that she learn at her own pace,” her mother said. “We feel that the joy of reading is just as important as learning to read, and we don’t want to force anything.”
That kind of pace would not be tolerated in formal schooling, she said.
The brown-haired girl has an extensive vocabulary and can read some words but other times turns certain letters around — like “b” and “d” — because of dyslexia, her mother said.
“When she does start reading, she’ll be reading way above her grade level,” Fisher-Miller said. That’s been the case with other unschoolers who were delayed readers, she said.
Take the now-adult children of author Brown, a home-school program director in California who raised her children to learn at their pace at home.
Her oldest son did not start reading until he was 9, and by the time he was 11 he was taking electronics courses at a local college, Brown said. By 14, he was a computer system administrator for Warner Bros.
“The age of normalcy to read is between 3 and 9,” said Abintra Montessori Executive Director Sherry Knott. You’ll find 9-year-olds in public and private schools who aren’t reading yet either, she said.
But assistant professor Moran said a 9- or 10-year-old who is not reading yet could be at risk.
“There are sensitive periods of development when children are open to new kinds of information,” Moran said. “If a child is going on 12 and finally comes around to reading and everyone else has been reading for four or five years, she’s disadvantaged academically and socially.”
By the time the Fisher-Miller children reach high school age, their parents believe they’ll be learning completely on their own.
“A lot of parents would get nervous. ‘Are they learning enough or getting enough?’ I don’t have that anxiety,” Fisher-Miller said. “I really believe in my kids.” BACK TO TOP