Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
- Mahatma Ghandi

Welcome to LIFE of Florida!

Our secular and inclusive Florida-wide Informal Education support group acts as a resource center and clearinghouse for homeschoolers, informal learners and alternative educators interested in enriching their learning environments and maximizing their learning opportunities, as well as an advocacy center for Curiosity Driven Learning.

There is no cost to be part of LIFE of Florida -- just join in at our email discussion and announcement list, Florida LIFE, where you can download your membership card -- good for educational discounts throughout FL -- and stay informed and updated on events, issues and resources, and connect with other informal learners throughout the state.

If you're just getting started in homeschooling, be sure to check out our LIFE of Florida Quick Links, our list of Useful Docs, and our enormous collection of resources in the side columns, and visit our Inclusive Homeschool Support Groups page to find a group near you.

If you'd like your regional inclusive support group to be networked with LIFE of Florida, drop us a line with a group description, contact and other relevant information and we'll add you, free of charge, to our directory. All your group members will be automatically considered members of LIFE of Florida, and are entitled to membership cards and all the benefits we offer. Virtual school families are also welcome to enjoy our resources, support and camaraderie.

We're all inclusive and free of charge, and we're here for you!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Calling all Tampa Bay area Mentors! (That's YOU!)

Learning is for Everyone is compiling a Tampa Bay area Mentor directory – a MentorMatch, if you will, initially to support area homeschooled youth, but with the potential to help any child in Tampa simply wanting to know about something.

Our local homeschool groups are well stocked with a variety of experts, hobbyists, and professionals across a wide array of interests, abilities and fields. And while we're no doubt serving our own children well with our personal expertise, if we pooled our collective intelligences together, our kids could potentially have access to some powerful learning resources we can't achieve alone.

I'm not talking about a cooperative – although cooperatives necessarily include community expertise – but something more like a Mentoring collaborative; opportunities for apprenticeship and the tapping of insights and ideas from willing adults who have experience in areas in which our kids are interested.

I’m throwing my own name in the hat first. I’m a professional writer with more than 25 years of experience. I’m a freelance journalist for several newspapers; I’m a book author (The Food Allergy Field Guide: A Lifestyle Manual for Families); I’ve been a magazine writer (trade journals, Home Education Magazine, Life Learning and others); and as an editor (member of the editorial board of the Journal of School Choice).

Rather than running a class, which I've contemplated doing off and on (and have done in the past), I've concluded that it's not a "class" kids need when they have a particular interest, but the opportunity to spend *time* with someone who shares their interest.

Spending time with an expert mentor – once a week, once a month, for an occasional lunch out, or for a day with someone where he or she works – can:

1) Help guide interested kids in their learning and practice choices,
2) Connect them at the community level with respect to their interests,
3) Give them adult perspectives different from those in their own
4) And gives them a realistic, hands-on look at careers and interests.

Mentoring is also a more realistic way for experts to help – it's certainly less time consuming than teaching a class, it's more personal, and certainly potentially more meaningful and enduring. Just the fact that you're not working with a group, but more one on one makes it easier for kids to ask questions, and for experts to give more contextual replies and guidance.

So where am I going with all of this? I'm going to YOU.

What do you do? Whatever it is, you can rest assured that some child, somewhere in our homeschool community, is interested. If you're willing to act as a mentor to youth in our homeschool community – and you determine completely what that means with respect to your time and energy -- drop me a line with a short overview of your expertise and how you think you can help a child with your shared interest.

And think about people you know – tap them for their willingness to mentor youth. For teens, that might include a day with the mentor, or regular visits at work, or possibly apprenticeships. For younger children, you'd probably want to accompany them, or have the mentor over to your home.

We build the MentorMatch directory. You decide all the comfort levels and parameters.

And ask your kids what they'd really like to learn about, what they're interested in. You might think you know. You might not! Then post your “seeking mentor” request here.

And then we can take the whole thing even further with the online school I created recently:

Anyone can be a "faculty" member of the University of LIFE. "Courses" can be long or short – a resource list; a couple pages of instructional material about something; a paper; a how-to. You name it, and we can do it. It's extraordinarily easy to use Myicourse, and
it's completely free. I've got a rudimentary Earth Science course up there right now that you can look at . It's only the first unit, but it gives you an idea of what a course can look like.

The thing is, we can do so much more than we're doing, and we can much better utilize the human capital we've got in great abundance here.

So let me know what you think. Tell me what you do and how you can share it. Let's create a real learning *community* and set some real examples of home based learning success.

I'll take the first step: I write, and I'm happy to talk to your child about writing.

What about you?


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