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In Memoriam: Jim Hooson

by Laurie Block Spigel

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Jim Hooson On August 19, 2011, a great educational pioneer who was also my dear friend, Jim Hooson passed away, at his home in Sydney, Australia, in his sleep. At his memorial service, I met countless people who knew him. They each asked me, "How do you know Jim?" and I answered, "He changed my life," and they responded, "Me too!" Jim changed our lives because he understood children. He fought for them and rescued them from dire school situations, from a world where they thought they couldn't learn, a world of struggle and failure. Jim gave them back themselves.

Jim's pioneering work with learning differences led him to develop innovative methods. Children, who couldn't say the alphabet, formed their letters from clay and learned to say it backwards and forwards. Clay was used in myriad ways, in every corner of his office. Sometimes it was through defining the little words, the ones that are never defined, that people were freed to understand written and spoken language. Jim had acquired an endless bag of tricks and techniques that saved not only children, but also their families.

How did he change my life? We met in New York when he was visiting to help a child who had moved here from Sydney. We understood each other immediately. We were both working towards the same goal, the freedom and empowerment of the child, yet we came to it from opposite places, from opposite parts of the globe. From that moment on we stayed in close contact. It was in response to Jim's enthusiasm about my work that I finally wrote my book, Education Uncensored. He championed my work the same way he championed the cause of each and every child he met.

Jim was a proponent of homeschooling. He spoke about it every day, and encouraged families to take the leap of faith and do the right thing by their children: homeschool them! So we were partners in crime, encouraging and helping families to homeschool on both sides of the planet.

I will forever miss Jim's friendly audacity, his irreverent sense of humor, his willingness to fight against the mainstream and take the path less traveled, his commitment to the obvious truth, and his enduring love for children. But I know that all of those qualities will be remembered, and his work will continue to have a magic effect. Those I met whom this great man forever changed, will continue to change others they meet. The amazing work of Jim Hooson, a man who could speak the language of children, will live on in every child whose life he touched.

Memorial for Jim