Village Home Education Resource Center: Revolutionizing Education

Students at Village Home working together on a project
Students at Village Home working together on a project

Originally published in Eliot News July 2017.

Summer is here, and people are taking vacations, the kids are off to summer activities, or just plain ole’ hangin’ out. At some point, the grim reality will begin to slowly creep back in and manifest itself to parents that school is right around the corner. Many parents who are looking for better ways and places to educate their children for the upcoming school year may want to consider something completely different. More and more people are growing very dissatisfied with the current educational system. The truth is that many people see the  “dumbing down” of our children, overcrowded classrooms, medical diagnoses as an excuse to dope our children, labeling children insomuch as to create a record or history of severe mental problems, and criminalizing children as young as second and third grade. In addition, there seems to be the lack of civil rights protections for students and parents against these conspiracies, hostile environments, bullying, harassment, retaliation, racism, and a whole host of other civil violations.  Obviously, these trends are not in the best interest of our children.

I, for one, have grown tired of the craziness, the barriers, and the dangerous and horrific experiences that my child and I have suffered at some of these public institutions under the guise of education. What a joke! With all of that being said, I was left with no other choice, but to figure out something else, and start on our journey as a homeschooling family. Believe it or not, there are many unique ways for children to learn and to receive an education outside of the public school system, even if the parents do not have a clue about what to do or where to begin. Many people assume that homeschooling costs a lot of money or requires expertise in teaching. There are programs that are affordable and easy to use, and online tools that help you create your own curriculum, where you, the parent, have control or the power of choice. The best part is that homeschooling is not a solo endeavor. There is a vibrant community of families pursuing DIY education. In particular, I have found Village Home Education Resource Center to be a great resource for supporting a DIY approach to schooling. I want to thank the Village Home Community for your energy and helping to provide input and information.

Lori Walker
Lori Walker, Founder and Executive Director of Village Home

Village Home has been around for 15 years delivering choice-based education to hundreds of students in mixed-age, grade-free classrooms. Lori Walker is the founder of Village Home Education Resource Center, and I had the pleasure of conversing with her about this amazing learning community.

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Shireen: What made you start Village Home Education Resource Center?

Lori:  I wanted my kids to have benefits of homeschooling without giving up learning in a diverse environment with others. And, I wanted them to belong to something bigger than themselves and our family. Village Home makes it possible for kids to experience group learning opportunities like performing on stage, or competing with a team, as well as learning “core” subjects like math and language arts from inspiring teachers. The bottom line is that I wanted homeschool, but I did not want to isolate my kids from the world.

S: What types of classes, and activities do you offer at Village Home?

L: Village Home offers classes and activities from pre-kindergarten through high school in all subject areas. A lot of our classes are interdisciplinary and do not fit neatly into  traditional academics (i.e. Math, Art, Science).

S: How do you select your faculty, and what are the backgrounds of the instructors here at Village Home?

L: Teachers apply by proposing a class that they are passionate about – we believe that if the teacher is not genuinely excited about their class, how can the students be? A team of parents, faculty, and staff interview the candidates, survey the community to see what they like, then select teachers that will meet the needs of Village Home. Of course, all of our faculty members are also background checked. In contrast, traditional approaches to building a school curriculum starts with “requirements”.  We are more interested in offering what kids are interested in learning and what teachers are interested in teaching because starting there makes the learning process enjoyable and engaging.

S: How do parents support the daily operations of Village Home?

L: Volunteer parents give hundreds of hours of time and talent to Village Home doing everything from assisting in a class to event planning.

S: In contrast, how would you compare Village Home to the public school system?

L: First and foremost, we let kids choose their classes. Research indicates that supporting student autonomy results in more openness to learning. I also believe that the grade-free environment supports student’s intrinsic motivation to learn, and builds a collegial environment that fosters a focus on learning for the sake of learning.

S: Do you see Village Home as a way of revolutionizing learning? Why or Why not?

L: Yes, this approach to learning that we have been doing for 15 years is starting to gain more attention because students at Village Home understand what it means to “own their learning”, which sets them up to be effective life-long learners. We recognize that we need a society of people who can continue to learn, instead of learning for the sake of a grade or to avoid punishment. Fostering the innate drive to learn is what will make them life-long learners.

S: Do you have plans to expand Village Home? If so, what are some of your ideas?

L: We are trying to figure that out right now.  Since featured in the documentary called “Class Dismissed”, people from around the country have contacted Village Home to find out how to have Village Home in their town.

S: What types of fundraising events allow you to raise funds for Village Home organization, and what should someone do if they want to donate or support Village Home?

L: We have fundraising events, and ongoing campaigns. If people want to make contributions they are welcome to go to http://www.villagehome.org/give. We rely on contributions to provide financial aid for families and to continue to develop our cutting-edge, engaging learning experiences for kids.

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In conversing with the instructors at Village Home (VH), whether teacher, parent, or grandma they described what it is like teaching at Village Home, the students’ attitudes about their learning environment, being part of a team highly inclusive of parents, and their comments and perceptions of the contrast between Public School and Village Home.  I found that a lot of the information and comments were similar. Here is what a few of them had to say:

“Students and parents really do actively run the school.  What they say matters.  You can try out a class without commitments. There is no cookie cutter world at VH, everyone figures out what works for them. Parents do evaluations of teachers; everyone is treated with respect; teachers get feedback to make changes when necessary.”

“It is inspiring to see the development of another human, to be part of what learning is, to see what learning may become in this country, and what one may aspire to be.”

“VH provides community – a lot of liked minded learners – they love the campus. There are lots of parents, friends, people of diversity, unschooled, and faith-based learners.  It is good to see a wide range, a spectrum, not set one way. Parents share successes. Everyone is very respectful and tolerant of each other in spite of educational differences. It’s a village. We help out each other.”

“At VH kids eat when they want, drink when they are thirsty, and sleep if they are sleepy. It is a compassionate environment. Compassion has been removed from the Public Schools. Kids can’t work like that!”

“The kids are here to learn, feel responsible, and feel in control.  They are not told what to do, how to sit, or how to hold a pencil.  There is no stigma in doing something wrong and no negative stigma if a student does not like a class.”

When I conversed with the parents they talked about their involvement in their children’s education. They described their opinions, perceptions, observations or comments about what it is like to be a part of VH community, their contributions to VH, and their contrasting thoughts about Public School and VH. Here is what a couple of parents had to say:

“I love being involved with my son’s education, I am relearning some information myself, being taught in meaningful ways.  VH is creating a learner who loves to learn, and we enjoy learning together. I love being with my son – watching and being around kids as they grow up, especially if the family is on board.  It creates stronger family relationships. You can have influence over what they learn, how they learn, and avoid things that may not work because each child is different. I can take my time with what I’m teaching to support kid’s interest, and move on if invaluable.”

“Parents like the community aspect and teacher/child ratio.  They like VH in addition to home curriculum; they can customize their children’s education. Parents/students can choose how many classes, and kids are not all grouped by age. They like the mixed ages and children interacting with and helping each other. The big kids are role models. Parents also enjoy being able to sit in on class, help in class, connect with children, and be an active participant in education.”

Learning together at Village Home
Learning together at Village Home

In conversing with the kids they say what they enjoy most about VH, how they feel about having their parents involved in their education, and their perceptions between Public School and VH. Here is what they had to say:

“In Public School you don’t get to vote on what you do in class; at VH you have your own opinion, and it is interactive.”

“The Druidawn class – it is a fantasy game – is a different world. We write stories to go to levels fighting in a mythical land – many adventures. We have to create it in our minds to advance in the game.”

“I think that it is important for parents to educate – be there for you, and the teachers are really good!”

“When I was younger, I did not remember what the environment was like at VH, because we were not able to stay very long. Now I remember that Village Home is enjoyable, and it is like no other school environment that I have ever experienced. The teachers and staff are friendly and do not treat me bad or differently from the other kids, because of my race. They treat me the same as the other kids and I don’t get singled out anymore like I did in Public School. The kids are nice. I’m glad you took me back there.”

Some high school students are attending community colleges in addition to Village Home and some are participating in dual credit programs to earn credit for college. Some have completed high school and have gone on to college or universities to continue their education.

There you have it – straight from the students, parents and teachers of Village Home. Clearly some serious changes in education are essential if we plan to evolve and survive as a species.  Village Home hopes to help that process of change.

For more information:

Village Home Education Resource Center
Portland campus
5310 NE 42nd Ave
503-548-6364

Lori is the founder and Executive Director of Village Home, where learners actually enjoy learning.  Village Home is a learning community that is built on choice and autonomy for learners. Learners are all unique, with unique interests and learning styles. The Village Home model allows learners to pursue their interests as an individual while also participating in a family-friendly, community learning environment.

Prior to founding Village Home in 2002, Lori was the Director of Training and Curriculum at Learning Forum, based in California, where she designed academic and life skills curriculum, trained teachers, and facilitated programs for teens.  She also served as a facilitator herself at programs in the United States and abroad.

Lori has over 12 years of experience teaching and training adults and children in a variety of subjects, from psychology to accounting for REITs. Lori is an engaging instructor who presents material in a way that is accessible and entertaining.

She earned BA degrees, graduating summa cum laude with distinction and honors, from SMU in Business Management and Psychology, with an emphasis in child development.

Lori’s two daughters provided the initial inspiration for Village Home, and her job as mom is the best job she will ever have.  She lives in Beaverton with her daughters, husband, and assortment of four-legged animals. Her oldest daughter attends University of Oregon on a Presidential Scholarship.

Lori.walker@villagehome.org
503-597-9100

By Shireen Hasan

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