Performance improvement mindset and taking it for granted

by Lilia Efimova on 9 February 2016

I tend to take for granted how much my thinking about learning has been influenced by a performance improvement mindset (which comes, between other things, from doing a master program after using learning as a mean to address various ‘performance gaps’ in practice and then going for HRD specialisation within that program).

Reading Charles Jennings discussing relationships between learning and work (see also Jane Hart) reminded me of a discussion with a friend where I tried to explain my approach to education articulating relationships between learning and work cultural practice in a similar way.

‘Taking it for granted’ doesn’t help, because the idea that work is learning and learning is the work is not so obvious. And I guess the gap to bridge is a way bigger in education, where ‘performance’ is a long-term goal rather then a pressing business, evaluation rarely goes beyond level 2 of Kirkpatrick’s model and there is legacy of learning being bound to an institution.

So, two things to think about:

  • build more on the parallels between workplace learning and education
  • articulate relationships between integration of learning into practice and the models for facilitating learning and organisational forms behind


Homeschooling in the Netherlands: how to start networking

by Lilia Efimova on 31 January 2016

The text below is what I wish I knew when we started our homeschooling journey several years ago and my Dutch was way worse than today. It have been inspired by Phil Agre’s Networking on the Network, which I loved for learning how to navigate in the academic world.

To learn about homeschooling from the first-hand experiences and to make sure your kids have contact with other homeschooled kids, you need to network first. How to you go about it if you don’t know any homeschooling families in person?

0. Orientation 

If you know nothing about homeschooling in the Netherlands and don’t speak Dutch start here (and make sure you read part of the text on the educational law). This story gives a pretty realistic personal perspective.

For searching online it is handy to know that homeschooling (home education) is thuisonderwijs in Dutch and that it is often abbreviated as TO. Don’t be frustrated if you don’t find a lot of information about practices of homeschooling in the open. Home education community in the Netherlands is small and a lot of knowledge sharing happens via personal contact or in relatively closed groups, both online and offline. Also, since there are kids involved, homeschooling events and local groups are not often advertised in public.

1. Big groups online

To make first contacts mailing lists and big Facebook groups are a good place to start (many are on this list). If you are on Facebook anyway, I’d suggest to start there – recently those groups are more active than mailing lists.

  • Some of the groups are location-based, others are focused on a specific issue. It is essential to introduce yourself and to make clear why you are interested in homeschooling and what specific questions bring you to the group.
  • Be prepared to do your homework (see Orientation) – choosing for educating your kids outside the system requires taking initiative in your own hands, so don’t expect that others would eagerly answer questions that could be answered with a quick online search.
  • Also, because of sensitivity of the topic, asking legal questions in general groups doesn’t make much sense. If you need to discuss how to apply for an exemption letter, especially in a complicated case, make sure to do so in specific groups.

There are a few of lists/groups in English, but they often lack a critical mass of members to share knowledge and to network efficiently. They are good as a starting point to get initial contacts and information about home education in the Netherlands while not worrying about the language, but in the longer term the best thing you can do is to learn reading Dutch and join Dutch-language groups. While writing in English in those groups definitely feels a bit awkward, it is usually accepted (this is how I started before getting confident enough to write in Dutch).

2. Big homeschooling events are perfect opportunities to ask questions, to meet new people or to maintain a connection with those you might know online. Those include Not Back To School Parties (NBTSP), thematic outings (uitjes) or camping events. Dutch homeschooling association NVvTO also organises workshops and thuisonderwijs cafes where you can ask questions and meet others. In general, to benefit from more structured events (workshops or thematic excursions) you will need a good level of Dutch, while parties and kids-oriented events provide enough opportunities for talking in English.

If you don’t live in or around big cities be prepared to travel for more than an hour. It’s not easy, but often worth it. What I call now ‘my local homeschooling network’ have started at NBTSP-oost in Nijmegen, 1,5 hours away from where we live.

When you come for an event make sure you have contact numbers of organisers. They are usually available somewhere in the announcement, but if not don’t hesitate asking directly. You don’t want to run around in a park or museum trying to guess which people might be homeschoolers, as I did once after missing everyone at the huge territory of Open Air Museum in Arnhem.

While camping with other homeschooling families at TO camp is definitely a good way to get to know Dutch homeschooling scene, you can also come for a day without sleeping at the campsite. There are more opportunities to go camping with other homeschoolers in the Netherlands, but you are not likely to hear about them until your local network is established.

3. Local groups
There are many local homeschooling groups which are focused on regular activities that kids do together. Those are exactly what you need for your daily practice of home education: a group of peers for your kids to build relations with and a group of parents with whom you can go deeper than an introductory talk. Once there is enough trust, you can talk about fears and challenges, discuss things specific to your kids with people who have seen them over time, share tips and tricks, and just have a lot of fun together.

Exactly because those groups are build on trust and regular participation they are often not advertised in public, do not have online presence or are private or even secret on Facebook. To find them you will need to ask around in the bigger groups and during the events: once you are known to be trusted you will hear about them.

And if there is no regular homeschooling group where you live it makes a lot of sense to put effort in creating one. It is definitely pays back.


Three learning and teaching trends in 2016 and the essence of homeshooling

January 27, 2016

Those three themes capture the essence of homeschooling for me at this point. Student-driven personalised learning as a main driving force, experimenting with learning models and environments as a mean to get something that works and looking for alternative models for learning assessment as a way to improve and as a mean to judge where we are in relation to the formal educational system.

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Wat is het doel van onderwijs? and networked learning

January 24, 2016

  An interview-based documentary about the purpose of education, a good one to watch. It’s still very much school-centric view on education, as if it is unthinkable to question the institution itself. It also doesn’t touch on the thorny question “who controls learning?”. All of which is not bad, because “compatibility with current practices” is […]

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In search for reflection formats that fit

January 14, 2016

When I stopped working, one of the things I wanted was about doing more non-digital, observable things. In other words – living a life that could be more easily shared with children, because they can observe and participate. Today, I suddenly realised that I’m starting to miss ‘the other side’. In a contrast with the […]

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More blogging, less Facebook

January 5, 2016

In the last hours of 2015 the story on how Social networks are turning the internet into television by Hossein Derakhshan came to me, via Facebook, of course. He writes about striking contrast between internet as a web with its hyperlinked currency before and the television model that it’s becoming now: Even before I went to jail, though, the power […]

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From 2015 to 2016

January 3, 2016

Those three days were a lot of fun. Improv, playing on stage and on the floor, making fire, old and new songs, Turner in Rijksmuseum Twente, skating, walking, laughing, cooking, sharing thoughts and food with friends, big and small. And knipertjes that came as an unexpected gift, just in time to celebrate the year about to […]

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Unschooling structures: shape and focus

December 16, 2015

One of the things that is on my thinking radar now is what I call ‘unschooling structure’ – the things that help to shape and focus learning. In particularly I’m wondering about providing kids with an exposure to and participation in practices of the society (thinking in terms of Lave&Wenger here). For me those have […]

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On (failure to write) well-thought posts

December 16, 2015

While my writing was derailed by Anna’s finger getting trapped in a door (almost healed by now) and the busyness of the holiday season (and here Christmas is nothing compared to the suspense of Sinterklaas), the thinking continues. Ideally, I’d like to write a well-research posts full of references to relevant material, but every time […]

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What unschooling and unconferences have in common?

November 11, 2015

It’s a challenge to explain to others what unschooling is about. I often use parallels with unconferences to explain how it works, but I still lack a language to talk about the details. So I start to explore the challenges and develop the language :)

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Right brain to do list

November 9, 2015

In a long and winding way I’ve got to reading stuff on ‘right brain’. A lot of it is still fussy and I’m stuck with sources in three languages this time, but I need a placeholder for the things to dig further: visual-spatial learning – links and how-to visual and spatial as two different things […]

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It comes back

November 7, 2015

A few days ago we talked about polar night and day, and watched videos on relationships between changing seasons, length of the day and position of the Earth in relation to the Sun. Today Anna played with animation software on iPad and came up with a little winter movie. When she came to show it […]

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One game with three kids

October 28, 2015

Playing a 6+ board game with 8, 5 and 3 years old kids is a patience-testing endeavour. We managed for quite a while, but now they have to spend their energy outside of the house (and very conveniently there enough leaves to be cleaned in front of it). This is what I wrote on Facebook. […]

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A learning party and what’s next

October 13, 2015

Just a few days ago I celebrated 40, with a nice mix of guests at something that I called a learning party. A learning party is something a bit more than just a party and a bit less than an unconference birthday (thanks, Ton and Elmine for the inspiration!). It’s a party with fun, food […]

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