Thursday, September 27, 2007

Quote of the Week and Photos

"We are faced with the paradoxical fact that education has become one of the chief obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought."
- Bertrand Russell

Brother Kenya came to share music as part of the Jena 6 day of resistance.

Kim explaining what has happened to the Jena 6.

Harley flashing the peace sign.

Sean molding his cornstarch dough.

Evan and Ellie making miniature cornstarch dough creations.

For more pictures please follow this link.

- Ellie, Staff Member

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Quote of the Week and Photos

"My grandmother wanted me to have an education so she kept me out of school."

- Margaret Mead

Diego, Evan, William, and Steven make a big mess with cornstarch dough and a cornstarch and water suspension.

Caleb paddles through the school.

Stephanie and Charlie show Seth their constructions.

Troy playing the drums.

Caleb gets to know Fred.

Abba, Troy, Melissa, and Evan explore the Children's Museum.

For more pictures please follow this link.

- Ellie, Staff Member

Bubble, Bubble Toil and Trouble

Sometimes if the kids bring money we walk to the store down the street to buy something. Today I took a few of the little ones and they pooled together their dollars to buy a package of those plastic bubble/balloons. Once we raced back to the school (taking the "shortcut" as is always requested) everyone got a chance to blow some long-lasting bubbles, teach each other how to use it, stick them together to form shapes, and experiment with combining colors.






Abba and Troy

To see more pictures from the school click on this link.

- Ellie, Staff Member

If games had come before books...

If games had come before books...

“Reading books chronically understimulates the senses. Unlike the long-standing tradition of game playing—which engages the child in a vivid, three-dimensional world filled with moving images and musical soundscapes, navigated and controlled with complex muscular movements—books are simply a barren string of words on the page.

“Books are also tragically isolating. While games have for many years engaged the young in complex social relationships with their peers, building and exploring worlds together, books force the child to sequester him- or herself in a quiet space, shut off from interaction with other children. These new ‘libraries’ that have arisen in recent years to facilitate reading activities are a frightening sight: dozens of young children, normally so vivacious and socially interactive, sitting alone in cubicles, reading silently, oblivious to their peers.

“But perhaps the most dangerous property of these books is the fact that they follow a fixed linear path. You can’t control their narratives in any fashion—you simply sit back and have the story dictated to you. This risks instilling a general passivity in our children, making them feel as though they’re powerless to change their circumstances. Reading is not an active, participatory process; it’s a submissive one. The book readers of the younger generation are learning to ‘follow the plot’ instead of learning to lead.”

Taken from Ode Magazine, which in turn excerpted it from Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Popular Culture Is Making Us Smarter (Allen Lane, 2005)

- Ellie, Staff Member

Monday, September 17, 2007

Young Children as Research Scientists

This is a photo of William and Diego painting with watercolors. Later Amanda glanced over at William's painting and exclaimed, "Oh! You made a wheel but it is flat because there is a hole letting the air out!" William beamed at this correct interpretation and I stood there gaping. Sure, I had presumed he was painting a wheel - my adult eyes saw the circle with lines crossing to represent spokes. But my narrowed understanding attributed the trail of paint coming from one point of the circle as totally meaningless, if not just an accident. I was astounded at how these kids have this amazing ability which I unfortunately have lost. They are constantly searching for meaning in their environment and analyzing the world around them. It reminds me of how John Holt describes young children as research scientists in his book, "Learning All the Time":

Children are born passionately eager to make as much sense as they can of things around them. The process by which children turn experience into knowledge is exactly the same, point for point, as the process by which those whom we call scientists make scientific knowledge. Children observe, they wonder, they speculate, and they ask themselves questions. They think up possible answers, they make theories, they hypothesize, and then they test theories by asking questions or by further observations or experiments or reading. Then they modify the theories as needed, or reject them, and the process continues. This is what in “grown-up” life is called the–capital S, capital M–Scientific Method. It is precisely what these little guys start doing as soon as they are born.
If we attempt to control, manipulate, or divert this process, we disturb it. If we continue this long enough, the process stops. The independent scientist in the child disappears.

- Ellie, Staff Member

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Quote of the Week and Photos

Quote of the Week: "I remember spending the greater part of my childhood wondering about adults. Were they ever children? From their behavior towards children it seemed to me quite clearly that they could never have possibly been children." - Ashley Montagu

Diego running with a sword, Isaac showing off the moves he learned in his martial arts class, and Evan preparing the stuffed animals to watch the movie.

Evan and Amanda requested I take a picture of them with the puppies.

The kids always arrange the most comfortable, lazy position to use the computer. Here Justin is sitting in the armchair that managed to find a semi-permanent home in front of the computer desk, but currently as I type the kids have shoved the entire couch by the desk.

Caleb told me that he would play with the "fancy ones" and "" were for me to play with.

For more pictures please follow this link.

- Ellie, Staff Member

Alternative Education Reading Group

Please send this invitation to anyone you think might be interested:

The Real School AKA Dragon Valley invites you to join us for the first meeting of our alternative education reading group. Each month we will have a different short reading, available online or by email, to review beforehand and then a meeting to discuss our thoughts and opinions on alternative educational theory and how it relates to our lives.

The first meeting will be on Sunday, October 14th at 3 PM at The Real School AKA Dragon Valley, located at 5020 Dickson, Houston, Texas 77007 (near Shepherd and Memorial). We will be discussing John Taylor Gatto's speech, "Nine Assumptions of Modern Schooling - and Twenty-One Facts the Institution Would Rather Not Discuss".

You can read this speech at:

You can find out more about the school at:

You can read the school's blog at:

You can read more about John Taylor Gatto at:

To contact the school please call (832) 767-0404 or email us at

- Ellie, Staff Member

Monday, September 10, 2007


We at The Real School AKA Dragon Valley decided it would be a nice idea to have a blog because we wanted to share what we are doing with the rest of the world. What is it that we are doing? Nothing that should be considered too extraordinary, but in the society we live in, something pretty much unheard of. We are trusting children to live and learn in the best ways they can. We are offering help and support, but not coercion and control. We are working to create a community where every individual feels empowered to follow the path they choose for themselves while respecting the needs of the community. We are looking to redefine education, take it back from the oppressive, hierarchical structures that seek to impose it on others and honor the truth that learning must come from within.

To learn more about the school, please visit our website. If you are ever in the Houston area, we welcome you to visit us. In the meantime, check back often for stories of our experiences, photos, thoughts on the philosophy of such things as unschooling, free schools, and child-led learning, announcements of events, and links to articles and information we think you might find useful.

-Ellie, Staff Member