Geek Dad Spreads Parental Intelligence

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Parental Intelligence Newsletter,
Bob Collier

Once a month, every month, I look forward to learning some fresh parenting wisdom thanks to Bob Collier. This Australian father of two sends along the latest links about breastfeeding, digital learning, family togetherness, anger management, alternative schooling, and much more in an online publication titled Parental Intelligence.

Collier’s newsletter was inspired, in part, by the wide differences in his own children’s educational experiences. His daughter thrived in a tiny village school when they lived in England. He describes it as “a shared adventure with a bunch of children who had known each other since they were babies.” Collier and his wife never had a reason to consider schooling alternatives.

Collier’s son is 10 years younger than his sister and didn’t start school until the family moved to Australia. The boy quickly went from an unenthusiastic to chronically unhappy student. As Collier explains, “I ultimately realized…that classroom education had become irritatingly slow… My son was literally being bored stupid. Figuratively speaking, it was taking his teacher an hour to teach him what he could learn for himself from the Internet in five minutes. If he chose to learn it – that was the other thing: he had a very strong objection to being told what to be interested in and what to not be interested in. So we took him out of school…” Collier says it’s been fascinating to watch his son immerse himself in learning at “the speed of thought.”

When Collier starts talking about digital learning he likes to refer to Judy Breck, who coined the term handschooling. Collier explains in an article for an Australian education magazine,

“Handschooling” means learning by connecting to the Internet and all its capabilities through a portable device that doesn’t require connectors or cables – in other words, a mobile wireless device, such as an iPhone, iPad or laptop.

And it means more than that. It means opportunities for individualised learning. It means opportunities to access the sum total of human knowledge. It means students on opposite sides of the globe learning from the same webpage. It means many things that are very exciting to contemplate.

As Judy writes:

“Handschooling can happen in classrooms, on school buses, at home, in a village with no school, in a slum with no school, for children schooled at home, for girls not allowed to go to school — and in any other situation where a youngster’s curiosity motivates him or her to connect to the Internet to learn something.

Handschooling is not just for children and teenagers. It can be for learning very simple subjects or anything more complicated, including knowledge on the cutting edge in the most complex fields of knowledge.”

…Whether we choose to call this “handschooling” or something else or nothing at all – mobile online learning transcends the issue of whether a child should be educated in a school classroom or otherwise. Handschooling means learning in any setting. This opens the door, probably for the first time in human history, to the possibility that every child can have exactly the education that is to their greatest advantage. And it could take the form of anything from conventional schooling to radical unschooling or something in between at any time according to the child’s circumstances, interests, aptitudes and so on. Absolutely anything.

This could be the education revolution the world has been waiting for.”

Collier is interested in much more than the future of learning. He’s a musician, a gardener, a baseball fan, a beer drinker, and a student of personal development. I’ve come to know him as a “connector,” one of the people Malcolm Gladwell describes in The Tipping Point. That’s because Collier is an effective link between people from many overlapping fields. Recently Collier added a new Parental Intelligence feature. The right side of his site displays recommended book titles, each clickable to show information about the authors and their work. I’m thrilled to be in that line-up.

Collier  doesn’t seem to mind that he doesn’t make money from the newsletter. As he says, the newsletter exists to “explore the psychology of happy and successful parenting, connect with bright minds, discover new ideas and sail outside the mainstream for a while without running aground.”

In addition to monthly links, Collier offers an archive, a free downloadable book, plus his “20 Top Tips for New Parents” including:

7.  Always look for a balance between guiding your child and allowing them to discover their own path. If you overbalance, overbalance on the side of discovery – sometimes, doing nothing except just watching your child grow is the best parenting there is.

8.  Learn something from every successful parent you can find. In fact, you can learn something from every parent. Even those who struggle generally may do some specific things better than you do.

19.  Accept that, no matter how successful you feel you are in your parenting, somebody somewhere will think you’re a ‘bad’ parent. Who cares? Please yourself and your child.

Thanks to Parental Intelligence I’ve been introduced to books such as The Wildest Colts Make the Best Horses and Parenting for a Peaceful World. I’ve learned about concepts such as intertwingularity. I’ve become acquainted with the views of passionate writers and opinion-makers. Even when I don’t agree I come away with ideas worth mulling over, all thanks to this Geek Dad.








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3 thoughts on “Geek Dad Spreads Parental Intelligence

  1. Hi! Bob’s newsletter looks very exciting, spanning topics pertinent to my parenting style. A couple of things came to mind when you mentioned ‘handschooling’. Firstly, the dangers of constant exposure to EMR by having wireless technology on hand at all times. Secondy, I’m getting really annoyed by the ‘dumbing down’ of information on the ‘net. A lot of it is becoming very homogenised. I wonder if it’s just because of my average search skills, or if information is really finding it’s own sort of entropy. Am I too cynical?
    Thanks geekmom!

    1. I believe that Bob is particularly invigorated by the possibilities of handschooling, but that doesn’t imply a constant use of wireless technology.

      At least in my family, what we learn (online or elsewhere) drives us to find out more—hands on, through books, and out in the community. We especially get a lot out of spending time with people who are passionate about what they do (from chemists to artists) because they transmit a vital spark of enthusiasm for pursuing expertise and new avenues of learning. And this approach leads us away from spending too much time relying on info found online (because I’m a bit cynical about this too).

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