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Review: Don't Go Back to School by Kio Stark

A Handbook for Learning Anything

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Don't Go Back to School by Kio Stark
kiostark.com

Anyone with a kid about to finish the high school years right now has got to be nervous. The future is changing so fast, it's hard to tell what kind of preparation will serve our children best as they move on to college and the real world.

Add in the enormous cost of college today and the burden of loans it can put on new graduates, and the idea of finding an alternative to college looks more and more appealing.

Kio Stark's new book Don't Go Back to School: A Handbook for Learning Anything is aimed primarily at young adults thinking about grad school, but it is full of interesting ideas about self-education that homeschoolers may find useful too.

Discover the Power of Self-Directed Learning

Kio Stark teaches at NYU's graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program. Which is ironic, considering that she is a grad school dropout. For Stark, finding out that she could learn more on her own than in a classroom was a major revelation.

In the course of doing research for the dissertation she never finished, Stark learned to find her own resources, read carefully, and create a process for organizing, analyzing, and retaining what she learned.

When she went on to talk nearly a hundred other independent learners, Stark found that many used similar methods to gain the knowledge and skills they needed. Two of the most effective ways to do this were:

  • learning by doing,
  • building a support community of peers and mentors.

These themes come up repeatedly in the stories that fill the book.

Who Thrives Today Without College?

The chances of talking your way into a job in medicine or law are a lot slimmer than in the media or the arts. That's shown by the fields Stark's interviewees are grouped in:

  • journalism
  • film
  • arts
  • entrepreneurship
  • technology
  • sciences.

The voices in the book include YA author Cory Doctorow, sculptor Christopher Bathgate, actor Ken Baumann, and Brad Edmondson, founder of the news site ePodunk.com.

True, Stark's interviewees are outliers. Not everyone has the right combination of drive, focus, and luck to make the alternative route to success work for them.

And some fields are more open to alternative credentials than others. Still, some of Stark's interviewees managed to teach in public schools without a license, or do graduate-level work in biology at a university without being admitted to the program (or even having an undergraduate degree). The stories of people who made it well into their areas of interest without traditional credentials are inspiring.

What Don't Go Back to School Has to Say to Homeschoolers

To experienced homeschoolers, of course, the idea that you can learn on your own just as well -- if not better -- than in a traditional classroom setting is nothing new. But it's interesting to see Stark break down the process of independent learning for herself.

But Stark's last two sections -- "How to Be an Independent Learner" and her list of resources -- will be helpful to any homeschooler. She describes different styles of learning, and how to nurture each one. And she shares the websites for all kinds of independent learning aides, quite a few of which were new to me.

The Bottom Line

Don't Go Back to School is a helpful guide to Self-Directed Learner for homeschooling parents as well as teens and young adults, in school or out.

Disclosure: A copy was provided for review. For more information, please see the About.com Ethics Policy.

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