Monthly Archives: May 2014

Times They Are A-Changin’

A recent Facebook post got my writing fingers rattling today. So rather than post a response there where it might seem aimed directly at the person who posted it, which it is not, I thought I would share my thoughts here. Just my .02 which really amounts to more like a grain of sand.

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Climate change might be true but the predictions and how to “fix” it aren’t facts. They are educated guesses at best. 

Trouble is mankind has a bad predictive track record, and as a result, people stop listening. Just one example: I did an extensive, award-winning paper on water conservation when I was a senior in high school (too many moons ago!); much of the scientific research I found and cited was adamant that unless drastic measures were taken to conserve water we would run out of drinkable water by 2010. Neither the conservation methods touted, nor the end of drinking water happened. 

So while I might agree that weather seems to be handing us one over-the-top disaster after another, I can at the same time understand why people are skeptical about just how bad it is and/or what will solve the problem(s). They aren’t all just being stupid or greedy. 

Plus you do need people’s opinion on a fact. Or at least differing opinions on how to solve a problematic fact. Differing ideas open the way for new discoveries and clearer vision. Only by looking at the facts in a new way can we learn. The man who first suggested that bats “see with their ears” was so laughed out of town by the “experts” of his day that his facts were shelved for about 100 years. People think religion stifles scientific thinking. Often science stifles itself.

The one sure fact is that mankind proves all too often to be short-sighted and ignorant. A discovery of something tomorrow that we didn’t know last week could change the entire way we look at this issue and reveal that our efforts to fix it are doing more damage than good, or aren’t even addressing the true culprit. Sort of like the whole high cholesterol=heart disease myth unfolding now.

While one does not have to agree with the opinions of others, it pays to be respectful. Crow tastes better with salt and one never knows when one might have a healthy serving handed over. 

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The only solution I can trust: Revelation 11:18; Isaiah 35:1-10; and for that crow thing: Colossians 4:6

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Go Thunder!

My writing got neglected tonight.

Some nights you just can’t be a fan AND a blogger. ūüôā

A Squeaker! Goodness. Not good for blood pressure….

 

Lifelong Learners

What is the goal of education?

Ultimately, isn’t it to turn children into productive and happy adults? ¬†“Productive” not necessarily meaning one who, as a slave to the system, crams as much as possible into a day simply to contribute to the GDP, but instead one who is contributing to the overall good of a community rather than expecting someone else to provide.

Life stays interesting when we’re learning. Yet too many are trapped in the idea that learning takes place¬†at a desk while listening¬†to a person with a degree of some sort who is paid to teach. ¬†Given that mindset, learning stops when we leave a school building and interact with the people outside it. ¬†Worse yet, it stops when we finish school.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

It is outside that school building, in among the people “in the trenches” that a person is free to learn what s/he wants, when s/he wants and from experience rather than books. ¬†Such learning can happen anywhere, at any time and at any age–far beyond the years required for a diploma or a degree. ¬†It is a thrilling, engaging form of learning that has no limits.

Helping your children to become lifelong learners is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Schools will not teach it to them.  Some excellent teachers will try to instill it, but if you want to be sure your children are fully engaged for their entire lives, then make it a priority to help them down that path.

How?  From experience, I can offer these tips:

  • Don’t be in a hurry to answer all their questions. ¬†Even if you know the answer, why not look it up? ¬†Or try an easy experiment that demonstrates the answer. Help them develop research and experimentation skills from an early age.
  • Help them think and reason. ¬†Use questions such as what do you think? or¬†what would happen if? Why? How?¬†Encourage an inquisitive nature.
  • Help them learn without a desk. ¬†Garden with them. Take them to the park. When you take them grocery shopping, give them jobs to do. ¬†By the time my sons were about¬†10, I could give them half my grocery list and send them to the other end of the store to work toward the middle. They compared prices and used coupons. ¬†Not sure I could do that now–stores are too big and the world is too dangerous to have little ones¬†that far away. ¬†That doesn’t mean you can’t work toward each other from opposite ends of an aisle.
  • Show them that not all good teachers are certified. ¬†Do you have someone in your family who is a natural “expert”? Maybe a carpenter, or a mechanic, or a beekeeper. Does someone raise cattle? ¬†Work as a bat removal specialist? (We have a friend who is!). ¬†Let them learn a foreign language from a native. ¬†Or learn about another culture by immersion.

  • Spend time with them in libraries, museums, at the zoo, the farmers’ market, at plays, concerts, movies (including documentaries!). Yes, schools will take them to some of these places¬†on field trips, but again–it’s a structured activity with time restrictions. ¬†Take them when there is time for them to explore the things that really interest them.
  • Talk with them. ¬†Encourage honest and open communication. ¬†They will carry it outside the family circle and know how to interact with others who are not necessarily their agemates. ¬†Their world expands and their understand of it deepens.
  • Read to them. ¬†Too many parents stop reading aloud¬†when the children begin learning to read. ¬†This is such a mistake! ¬†It will not make them lazy; it will not hinder their progress as independent readers. ¬†It helps them develop vocabulary that is currently beyond their level. ¬†It introduces them to subjects they might not think they have an interest in. ¬†It develops listening skills. ¬†When they are fluent readers, why not have a family read-aloud night and take turns reading to one another? ¬†It is a cheap, calm and lovely way to spend a family night.

  • Set the example. ¬†Stay curious. ¬†Ask questions. ¬†Look for opportunities to explore. ¬†Don’t let new words slide past simply guessing at the meaning by context clues. ¬†Look them up; it’s so easy with the electronic dictionaries! If something makes you curious, take the time to research¬†it. Try new recipes. Learn new hobbies. Develop new interests. Your children watch you. ¬†Show them how to spend a lifetime learning.

 

 

What He Said

It’s time for some art that teaches. And a speech that is more interesting than anything I could write.

The talk is by Sir Ken Robinson and is only about 12 minutes long. Enjoy!

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Changing Education Paradigms

 

Involved Parents Make the Difference

Continued from:
Part 1 What Has Happened to Education and
Part 2¬†Or…Why Has the System Not Been Fixed Yet?

Part 3

sillhoutteman

His Father

The boy’s father was a large, restless man. ¬†He was known for his quick temper and had changed trades many times because he had found it hard to settle down. ¬†By the time his youngest son was born, however, he had established a lumberyard and a shingle mill, which had allowed him to build a brick home for his family on the hilltop overlooking the town, complete with white shutters and a white picket fence.

The first thing he had noticed after his last son was born was the tremendous size of the child’s head, and he worried whether or not the boy would “grow into it.”

When the child’s questions started, and never relented, his dad found himself frustrated and worn out by the nature and the constancy of them. ¬†Once the mischief started, his father was convinced the only thing that would stop the misbehaviour was firm and frequent spankings. He even administered such discipline in public after the barn burning incident.

He worried about his son’s single-mindedness, even paying him at times to leave the books or experiments, in which the boy was totally immersed, to try something new. ¬†When the child failed miserably in school, dad was convinced that his fears were well-founded. ¬†His son was strangely different. ¬†Perhaps even stupid.

Familiar?

Does this sound like a modern-day family to you? ¬†Do you know, or perhaps have, a child who is bright and talented but who doesn’t seem to be able to comform to what is considered “normal”, especially in school?

Then you can sympathize with Samuel and Nancy Edison as they struggled to find the best path for their son, Thomas Alva Edison.

Clearly, these problems are not new ones.  The encouraging part is that Edison survived his childhood, obviously, and went on to achieve things that changed the way the entire world lived.  Even better, his parents survived to witness his success.

What can we learn from the Edison story?

  • When we understand divergent thinking, we can tap into the potential of all those non-conforming, adventurous, unconventional, inventive and highly original children who can’t sit still and who ask endless questions. ¬†It is an uphill battle for these kids to concentrate on only one idea at a time (convergent thinking). Instead one idea becomes an explosion of other ideas, much like a tree branching out from a trunk into a million little twigs (divergent thinking).
  • Asking these children to¬†give up divergent thinking is asking the impossible and it simply is not fair to deny or try to destroy their nature. ¬†How frustrating would it be to be born and raised in the United States and then move to live in France, where it would be essential that you learn to speak French, if upon arrival you were never, ever allowed to speak English again. ¬†Ever. ¬†Chances are you might¬†always think in English. ¬†Children need to be free to think in their “mother style” which should not be discouraged or punished.
  • Once we understand and nurture their natural method of learning, we can help them develop convergent thinking skills, which they need to interact with the convergent thinkers they will work with in their lifetime. ¬†Edison’s mother allowed him to pursue learning in his own style, but did instill in him the discipline of study, so that he could harness diverse thoughts to produce amazing results.
  • These divergent thinkers thrive when they have someone who is accepting and supportive of them, even in the worst of times. Edison often said of his mother, “She was the making of me.”
  • While Samuel Edison might have been more comfortable if he could have disciplined Thomas into “normalcy”, he never withdrew emotionally from the son he found difficult. ¬†He stayed involved in the boy’s life and the overwhelming message was: I love you. ¬†I care about you. ¬†This is evidenced by the fact that Thomas Edison said he harbored no resentment nor anger toward his father.
  • Historical records show that Nancy Edison would climb an observation tower where her son liked to spend time and talk with him there for hours. Parents need to make that kind of effort to connect with our children on their turf. It would be nice if all teachers had the time and opportunity to know and nurture students on an individual basis. Currently that is next to impossible, which is why it is so important for parents and teachers to form a team. Parents can tell teachers things the teachers don’t know. ¬†Teachers can observe things parents sometimes can’t see. Still it is essential to know the child.¬†Because Nancy Edison took the time necessary to know her son well, she was able to help him enhance his strengths rather than just fault him for his weaknesses.

Parenting children with traits like Thomas Edison’s is not an easy task. ¬†Neither is teaching them. ¬†However, they are gifts to us, and our job as parents is to help them flourish. ¬†The sign Edison kept in his office bears a message parents and teachers¬†should strive to put into practice when nurturing divergent thinkers:

There is a better way to do it; find it.

 

 

 

 

Or…Why Has the System Not Been Fixed Yet?

Part 1 – Yesterday’s post introduced a boy who left school when he overheard his teacher say that something was wrong with his mind and he was not able to learn.

Part 2:

silhouettewoman

His Mother

The boy’s mother was even more upset than her son when she heard what had happened at school. ¬†She had been the one who patiently answered her son’s questions, even encouraging them, so that he would learn. Though known for her sweet nature and gentleness, she set out to make the teacher apologize for his unkind statement because she knew her son had a strong and capable mind.

When she informed the instructor that her son was brighter than most boys his age, he told her that mother love was blinding her to the facts. She argued that perhaps it was the teaching method that was faulty rather than her son. Because the teacher would not change his opinion of her child, she withdrew the boy from the school and took charge of his education herself.

She proceeded to instill in her son a great love of learning as well as the belief that it was more important to reason than to memorize. She believed that anything that caught his heart and imagination was something that he could master. To that end she began opening the world to him by reading aloud, not children’s books, but adult history books, classical literature and plays. Her husband joined her in this.

Just a short time later, by the age of nine, her son was reading these advanced texts on his own.  When she introduced him to science, he was completely enthralled.  Happy to see him following his natural path, she encouraged him to set up a lab in their basement where he would experiment for hours, sometimes even forgetting to eat.

His Father

We’ll meet him tomorrow.

What Has Happened to Education?

I read more and more articles and posts by professionals and parents (who are the top professionals when it comes to their own children) about how something important is being stolen from our young ones:  their childhood.

On top of removing the critical freedom to develop through unstructured play, we thrust too many kids into learning environments that kill their curiousity and creativity.

Photo by Mike P

Photo by Mike P

When are we going to learn that the standard classroom learning environment is failing too many children?

The problem is not a new one.  I am married to a man who struggled through standard schooling, even “back then” before everything was about testing rather than learning. According to his mother, “He was the only kid I knew who finished the test before everyone else, had doodles all over the margins, obviously trying to stay busy, and ended up talking to someone else who finally finished, and then spent the last half of the class period out in the hall because of it.  Oh, and he aced the test.”  He himself says the thing he remembers most about kindergarten was the hours he spent shut in a dark closet with a piano.

So much for education. The prime reason I decided to homeschool my boys was to keep them away from that kind of damage.

My niece is another example.  She dropped out of school, largely to escape bullying, when she was a sophomore.  When she finally got her act together and wanted to be a nurse, she was told the hoops she had to jump through to get there.  NO ONE in the education system believed she had a shot.  She had one of the higher scores in the state on her entrance exam.

Kristen Lamb’s blog post today, Common Core and Vegan Zombies–Confessions of an ADD Mother made me laugh and cry.  I feel for her and her lovely son and rail against this new age that thinks children have to be adults before they’ve had a chance to play.

We have to stop insisting on cookie-cutter children.  When allowed to be individuals, learning at their own pace and in whatever way is best suited to their nature, they become amazing human beings with talents that can benefit the world in ways we probably can’t even imagine.

Along these lines, over the next few days I’d like to share a story with you.  I wrote this several years ago, and Kristen’s blog post made me dig it out of my archives.

Do You Recognize This Family 
First Published on the Women & Family forum at MSN Women Online, 1998

I’d like to introduce three people to you:  the youngest son of four surviving children, the boy’s mother and his father.  See if they remind you of someone you know.

The Son

With blonde hair and blue eyes, the boy was the image of his mother who adored him.  He was a very happy baby, gurgling and laughing, and rarely crying.  Even as an infant he seemed to be very single-minded.  If something caught his attention, he was wholly devoted to it, until he either captured it, figured out how it worked, or made it work the way he wanted it to.

For this little boy the sole purpose behind learning to talk was to ask questions. He never stopped asking them. Because the three infants that had been closest to him in age had died shortly after birth, all his siblings were much older than he. Therefore, he spent most of his time with his mother or by himself.

Yet his time alone was never wasted. He loved to play in the yard under the kitchen window of their house on the hill.  This served his mother, who could watch him from the kitchen while she worked there, and it served him well, for he was fascinated by the bustling town below, watching the people go about their daily business.

As he grew older, he would go down to the town to explore and ask more question. He enjoyed playing with scrap wood at his father’s lumberyard, building toy towns, and making sketches of the sights he saw around him. He learned much about his world by looking, watching, asking questions and experimenting.

His curiousity burned so intensely that it often led to trouble. Once he fell into the chaff at a grain elevator and nearly suffocated. Another time the locals had to fish him out of the canal. At six years old, he wanted to see what fire would do and ended up burning down his father’s barn and putting the entire town in danger of going up in flames.  Despite the fact that he never intended to misbehave–only to experiment and discover–he became known as a problem child.

His entry into school did not help.  He had been held out due to sickness and started well after he turned seven.  For a child used to learning on his own as he moved through his day in exploration, sitting still at school was sheer misery. His teacher believed in education through rote memorization.  This was particularly difficult for the boy because there was no room for him to ask his burning questions.  Within months he had dropped to the bottom of his class.

Then he overheard his teacher say that something was wrong with his mind and he was not able to learn.  In a fit of anger he left the school, vowing never to return.

His Mother

We’ll get to her tomorrow.