Reading Fellows of the BMNHC are intellectual guests who visit to
read and discuss the books in our large and varied library, or to write
and discuss work of their own. Contact us about arrangements.
Apprentices may be either live-in or off-site. They should understand
and be enthusiastic about our Thirty Years Later project, and
should read and understand "Our experiences with Apprentices" below.
Live-in apprentices and Fellows are expected to take a family part in
the household to help things run smoothly. Everyone also gets
'time-off' too, of course. If you're interested, contact us by phone at
(613)258-3107, or e-mail Aleta at firstname.lastname@example.org or Fred at email@example.com -- revised 30 Aug
OUR EXPERIENCES WITH APPRENTICESHIP
modified from: Karstad, Aleta, and Fred Schueler 1988.
Suggestions for successful arrangements, in Focus: The
apprenticeship model. Growing Without Schooling (63):22-23. This is
somewhat modified to fit here, but retains some of the original
article's tone of 'worst case scenario.'
...An apprenticeship is more like employment than conventional
schooling is, as neither the state nor parents are paying the mentor to
instruct the apprentice. An apprentice pays the mentor by helping
with tasks that are educational for him, but tedious for the
mentor. If the apprentice is living in the mentor's household, he
must also make an adult contribution to the working of the household.
This evidently is often difficult, and requires careful screening of
potential apprentices. Teaching and learning between individuals is
such a fundamental human instinct that there is little to describe about
it, but it may be hard to arrange in a society in which 'learning' and
'living' are often treated as different activities.
We naively replied to our first potential apprentice with: "We are
committed to apprenticeship as the only effective method of education,
and for my part, would be very glad to have you come to stay with us for
as long as you feel that this is worthwhile for you... I hope this does
not sound too forward, but beyond your letter the recommendations of
John Holt and capriculture suffice for us," but we have found that
much more than that is required to ensure a successful apprenticeship.
Our Recognized Responsibilities as Mentors:
1) We try to have plenty of work for an apprentice that
will be both useful to us and instructive to the apprentice, and to see
that the apprentice has free access to the literature of their subject,
and to other workers in the field.
2) We try to provide the apprentice with satisfactory
privacy, food, and other personal requirements - though we're wary
of proceeding with an apprenticeship in which these requirements are too
different from our own - an indication of incompatibility.
3) We try to calmly delegate authority, and to be prepared
to tolerate mistakes, errors, and setbacks, while not assigning an
excess of house-keeping tasks, or becoming sullen when weeks of rain
keep us cooped up in a small tent.
3) We try to be sensitive to signs of concealed
misunderstanding, or defensiveness due to intimidation. A mentor may
be tall and bearded, talk in an off-hand polysyllabic jargon, and carry
a 2 m dipnet and a goatskin bag for reasons entirely unrelated to
intimidation - but still terrify a potential apprentice into silence.
SUGGESTIONS for the POTENTIAL APPRENTICE:
1) Be sure that you are able to live cheerfully and
comfortably with people other than your immediate family, and that
you have verified this by successful month-long visits in the households
of friends or relatives.
2) Be sure that your knowledge of a field is at an
appropriate level; that you have learned all you can on your own.
If you are leaving home solely to live and work with someone, it would
seem appropriate that you have the level of knowledge of the field
imparted by a senior high school or introductory university course in
the subject. Have examples of your work for the mentor to evaluate.
3) Be sure that you are skilled in listening to other
people talk to each other, and that you participate in
decision-making in your family. If your parents decide what to do in
your presence and then must explain it to you, then you are not ready
for apprenticeship - your mentor may explain something to his spouse in
great detail so that you can have the opportunity to learn it without
direct instruction, and after that special effort, they will be irked if
you haven't listened because he wasn't talking directly to you.
4) Be sure that you can understand and accept praise and
critisicm from someone who is much better at what you are doing than you
are, and who is focused on doing the work, rather than on what you've
done: "OK," or "smooth it down a bit over there," or
"Have you checked Wildlife Abstracts?" may be the response for
work that would be showered with praise or A's at home or school. The
highest praise available will often be "That's done about as well as I
could have done it," and assessments will be understated and intermittent.
5) Be sure that you are prepared for the drudgery of your
field, and are not just caught up in the romance of its products.
Fishing may be all bright air, and flashing fins, and
pan-fried fillets, but fisheries are grams of secondary
benthic production per square metre, and ambiguous scale annuli, and
half-digested stomach contents, and mathematical models of population
structure. Original work in any field requires lots of tedious
repetitive tasks that must be done exactly right.
SUGGESTIONS for getting the POTENTIAL APPRENTICE & MENTOR
The best way to begin an apprenticeship would be a gradually
intensifying relationship between people who already know each other in
a community: first bringing an unidentified pet Crocodile into a museum
herpetology collection, hanging around the collection and its curators
for years, and then finally publishing the definitive study of American
Crocodylus. This is rarely possible. Our experience suggests some
ideas for long-distance investigation of compatibility beyond a simple
exchange of letters:
1) Be sure that the apprentice admires and understands the
mentor's work, and that the books that the mentor thinks are good
introductions to the field are exciting to the apprentice.
2) Exchange references, for both apprentice and mentor, of
people who would be able to comment on each participant's suitability
for the apprenticeship.
3) Write a contract that outlines the responsibilities of each
4) Begin the apprenticeship by short visits, if possible, or
be very careful that other conditions above are met if this is not