Trust The Children

Saturday, June 17, 2017

UHEA Conference - Class on Problem-based Learning

Had the privilege of presenting PBL at the Utah Home Educators Conference. The session was on Problem-based learning in the home. I had a nice group that began with about 12 and grew to about 20. The presentation went well with lots of really great participation. I will put more here later, but now need to head off to the conference for my session this morning about Project-based learning. That will be fun. The home as a place for education has so many options. Wonderful!

Monday, April 06, 2015

The opportunity home schoolers have

"We learn to think through intellectual engagement and intellectual combat, not through indoctrination. 

Our entire notion of school is wrong. We need to stop “teaching” and we need to start letting kids explore their own interests with adult guidance. There is no need to defend the liberal arts. Make the choices interesting and then give them many choices. By this I do not mean choices of courses to take. Enough with courses and classes. Let them choose experiences to have. It is our job to build potential experiences for them, guide them through the ones they have chosen, and offer alternatives when they change their minds."

This quote from Roger Shank describes those moments when home schooling made the biggest difference in our children. The whole motivation issue associated with formal teaching goes away when kids have fun learning through exploration and we as parent assure them that it counts for real learning

Friday, December 05, 2014

Student Learning instead of teacher teaching?

I understand that there is more to the story about Ben Carson, but this is an example of how home schooling at it simplest makes huge differences. I speaks to trusting our children to learn, even when we distrust our ability to teach. It reminds me of a great book I read called, "Teaching With Your Mouth Shut". I imagine every home schooling parent could keep their mouth shut and still teach... as is the case in this story. Thanks to Elder Canister...

Ben Carson said of himself, “I was the worst student in my whole fifth-grade class.” One day Ben took a math test with 30 problems. The student behind him corrected it and handed it back. The teacher, Mrs. Williamson, started calling each student’s name for the score. Finally, she got to Ben. Out of embarrassment, he mumbled the answer. Mrs. Williamson, thinking he had said “9,” replied that for Ben to score 9 out of 30 was a wonderful improvement. The student behind Ben then yelled out, “Not nine! … He got none … right.” Ben said he wanted to drop through the floor.

"At the same time, Ben’s mother, Sonya, faced obstacles of her own. She was one of 24 children, had only a third-grade education, and could not read. She was married at age 13, was divorced, had two sons, and was raising them in the ghettos of Detroit. Nonetheless, she was fiercely self-reliant and had a firm belief that God would help her and her sons if they did their part.

One day a turning point came in her life and that of her sons. It dawned on her that successful people for whom she cleaned homes had libraries—they read. After work she went home and turned off the television that Ben and his brother were watching. She said in essence: You boys are watching too much television. From now on you can watch three programs a week. In your free time you will go to the library—read two books a week and give me a report.

The boys were shocked. Ben said he had never read a book in his entire life except when required to do so at school. They protested, they complained, they argued, but it was to no avail. Then Ben reflected, “She laid down the law. I didn’t like the rule, but her determination to see us improve changed the course of my life.”

And what a change it made. By the seventh grade he was at the top of his class. He went on to attend Yale University on a scholarship, then Johns Hopkins medical school, where at age 33 he became its chief of pediatric neurosurgery and a world-renowned surgeon. How was that possible? Largely because of a mother who, without many of the advantages of life, magnified her calling as a parent."


Home schooling is not easy. But it's made harder when we don't leverage simple approaches like this and at the same time trust our children to learn. It's a child centered approach instead of a teacher centered approach. Many of us have not been 'conditioned' by our own school experience to think that way. But we can help students learn, without saying much, if we approach it differently.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Improved student engagement follows topics of high personal relevance

Turns out that when educational approaches are personally relevant to the student, it makes a huge difference in creating in them lasting learning. One more reason to support our children as they follow their own interests and curiosities as means to learn the basics at the same time. Read for yourself.

The Homeschooling Opportunity

Even though our philosophies of public education purport to graduating students who are responsible citizens capable of participating thoughtfully in a democracy, our educational practices have a tendency to foster dependence, passivity and a "tell me what to do and think" attitude. 

(Marge Dawe, a teacher at Richard Elementary School in Detroit, Michigan, describes how she works to build personal confidence in the minds of her students. [Audio file, 162k] Excerpted from the video series Schools That Work: The Research Advantage, videoconference #7, Preparing Students for Work in the 21st Century (NCREL, 1992).)

This attitude is almost impossible to overcome when our children find themselves on their own in college, jobs, missions (i.e. LDS missions) where they prosper according to their ability to think on their feet and make choices consistent with their own heart instead of the expectations that they have traditionally learned to respond to. 

Example: We had one son who we home schooled. He had so many questions he was never at a loss to find something to learn each day.  He decided he wanted to go to public school and entered the 6th grade. His teachers loved his bright inquisitive mind as well as his polite and respectful manners. One teacher named her newborn son after him she was so impressed. When he decided later to come back to home schooling, we noticed that he kept waiting each day to be told what to do and learn. It was as if he had lost the innate inquiring mind. It was sad to see. It took him 1 1/2 years before he re-learned to give himself again permission to follow his own interests and curiosity. 

Was that because he had found the "easier" way in public school as is mentioned above by Marge? had public school fostered in him "dependence, passivity and a 'tell me what to do and think' attitude?" Or was it just the mind of a 6th grader maturing as 6th graders do? 

It seems to me, that one opportunity we have as home schoolers, that comes with a price, is to preserve something in our children that once lost is seldom reclaimed. What is that something? Self direction and permission to follow their own heart, their own dreams and set their own learning goals.  We can often do this better at home, if we allow it. Instead of offering parent support at home that mimics necessary public school teaching habits, (i.e. tell them what to do and how to think), home schooling parents can, if they are willing, offer their children freedom and support to pursue individual and personal interests. Our experience has been that for our children as they progressed along their way, they still learned basic skills needed to achieve in higher education. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Julie Dirkson ... "What's the difference between a learning experience that's effective versus one that gets forgotten as soon as the learner is done?"

See the previous post...


I see this so often in Mission prep. Kids waiting to be told. Some, however, are really diving right in with all of them. As a teacher, after 9 years of teaching the same class, you just plain see the difference between learners. 

(sorry for the caps)

I really love this...Radical New Teaching...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Living With Differences

"This "living with differences" is something we as Christians must do." Dallin H. Oaks

Friday, September 09, 2011

What is meant by "Trust the Children" ?

What I have always meant by this, and what we have learned over and over again as parents, is that if for any reason you can't trust yourself in the eduction of your children, there is a way to trust that your children will still learn.

You may not be at your best always; there may be others who can explain better; and there will always be those whose own self doubt turns into promoting self doubt inside you.

In the face of all of this and more, you can trust your children to learn. Focus on creating the environment that fuels their native curiosity. Kids who are not dumbed down by a "telling is learning" anesthetic, can be supercharged learners by following their own natural tendencies and interests in a nurturing, inquisitive and "supportive of curiosity" environment.

When we finally realize that we have been conditioned to believe that "instructionist" education is the only trustable education when other more productive approaches have always been available, then we can make a space in our hearts, to "trust the children" even if we don't trust ourselves always.

It is this unquenchable trust in the souls of young children that allows me to hope, in a world that is increasingly hostile to virtue, innocence and the power of purity.

I trust my children to learn much more than my ability to teach. To learn by their own daily experience as living human beings possessing agency all their own, is how it was meant to be for the most part, mixed in with a little "teaching is telling" for good measure.

The more I learn about learning, I become more convinced of the power of freedom, curiosity and good environment creators.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

What's Wrong With Wanting More From My Education?

I am not sure when I first noticed. Like you, I spent hours in the classroom, being told what I was supposed to learn. I did pass tests for the most part so at least my parents thought I was learning. And I was learning to a certain level. Still, some teachers in school and some coaches in sports and some experiences at home, took learning to a deeper level, a more lasting level, a level that contributed so much more to my own self esteem and vision of self worth.

I didn't know why, but all my life, I felt that "teacher-tell" style of instruction was good, but not enough. When teachers justified this "teacher-transmitted content and teacher-directed learning" (Weimer) method of instruction, by claiming that it was the only way to reach 30 kids in a classroom efficiently, I understood what they were saying, but felt inside, that I didn't really care about the constraints of their job choice. What I cared about was my learning so I could get ahead in my life and do what I wanted to do with my time on earth. I wanted to learn with other students who felt the same way as I did about it. So it wasn't the classroom that bugged me, and it wasn't the teacher. I enjoyed my friends in class and I enjoyed the occasional learning experience with other students who were excited and motivated. What I didn't enjoy is endlessly being "talked to" instead of being given the chance to learn some things on my own. There needed to be more of a balance than I was experiencing.

Now that I have been studying instruction for the last 3 years, still learning, I now know that part of what I was seeking is called, "Learner Centered Instruction." Learner Centered Instruction is allowing others to learn for themselves to distinguish one thing from another. Instead of "told and tested" being the definition of "learning", students experience and use what they learn in practical ways as part of the learning experience. It's ok for a teacher to "tell" and even "test", but the student experience doesn't end there. In a learner centered classroom, the teacher creates an environment where students can work with ideas, applying them, and using them and testing them. The outcomes of this kind of "learner centered" approach are promising, according to Maryellen Weimer, author of the book, "Learner-Centered Teaching":

1. Students will understand more of what they are learning
2. Students will retain what they learn longer
3. Students will learn more than just the content
4. Chances are good students will be changed by what they learn
5. Students will love learning more

She writes, "When students interact with the content, when they speak about it and work with it, they make it their own and it becomes meaningful to them. It makes sense. They see why it's important, why they must know it and how it fits with what they already know and still need to learn."

Interestingly enough, these were the outcomes we felt we could experience in our home schooling environment. It was these outcomes that guided us to a more natural learning model at home. Over time, it formed the basis upon which we could "Trust The Children" to learn through experience and be just fine. We chose to make little use of organized curriculum programs, although I don't think they are necessarily bad. For us, they were too expensive and unnecessary. We had the scriptures, the newspaper, the local library and the internet.

Sam and I were talking about this a few weeks ago. He reminded me, that during one of their home schooling play times, they lined up desks, had Allison, our oldest, stand up at the front talking, and they "played" school. Then after that was boring ,they went back to their normal routine, which was playing and experimenting and building things, which is where the real learning took place in their minds.

A self directed, student centered approach, is uncomfortable for some. There are personality types, who need everything to be outlined, sequential, step by step. Sometimes, these folks are often unconcerned with personal agency as part of the learning process. "I know better so shut up and listen to me tell you". And of course some of that is completely necessary. However, life also respects than we should be engaged in doing many things of our own free will and encourage personal learning in this way as well.

Of course for the students who have been spoon fed in the teacher centered environment, having to do little or no work in order complete the requirements of the class, asking them to do more than sit there and veg out, can be problematic. Often, their "personal choosing" muscle has been weakened by over protecting environments at home and at school. Many students have been on the public school "dole system" for years and having to work to learn is a new experience. We found with one child who decided to "experience" public school, that after he returned home it took about 1 1/2 years to get him to believe that it was OK not to be told what to learn, but rather much better to follow his own curiosity and trust that that was plenty. Nine Masters and baccalaureate degrees later and counting, it turned out to be enough.

The purpose of this article is to pique your interest in a style of teaching and learning, that you may not have experienced in your own public school experience, but might have experienced a great deal of in your own life. I hope you will consider trusting the idea of Student Centered Learning to the point of experimenting with it in your homes. Google is your friend so just type in "Student Centered Learning" and you are off on your own learning adventure. A student centered one!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Losing Curiosity - Result of Traditional Education?

Even when children are high achievers and facile with new technology, many seem gradually to lose their sense of wonder and curiosity, notes John Seely Brown. Traditional educational methods may be smothering their innate drive to explore the world.

I also read his book "The Social Life Of Information" which helps us see that traditional education, "Teachers talk, students listen and get tested" may not be the only way, or even the best way to learn.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What a GREAT post about student being "behind" !

This writer nails it. So many parents are scared that their children might be "behind" in their studies. We had several bouts of this virus in our homeschooling home as a couple of our children were slow to develop reading skills. Both are voracious readers today, and both have excelled in their college studies. But Cyndy was freaked out at the time. This is where her training as a public school teacher really did not help.

So read this link. It really says it better than I could.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Book Club

I am thrilled to recommend a great book for home schooling parents, Mom's especially. If you haven't read it please give it some serious consideration. The title is "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brene´Brown.

First you might want to listen to her 20 minute TED talk by clicking here. (

As a home schooler, and as a husband and dad, it was clear to me, that my wife would need a great deal of strength to consistently home school our 11 children. I was the bread winner and she was the primary framer, shaper and "source" for our children.

This talk and this book, help us access the strength we need. Founded on true principles, over time, all of us can get stronger and see things clearer.

I would be interested to know if you feel the same way?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Another link on Personal Learning Environments

I just read an article this morning about how personal learning environments can augment the learning of our children. The idea of a personal learning environment is really a wonderful and advanced approach for high school aged students, who are home schooling. I suggest you read it.

Click here

Let me know if this link doesn't work.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

How You Think Children Learn Can Define How You Decide To Teach

This is a strange title for a blog post, simply because it seems to imply that home schooling is about a lot of "teaching". Teaching meaning the didactic, lecture, assume student's heads are empty home schooling mom's role is to fill it, mentality. That is not to say that all lecture is bad, it isn't. However if your goal is to develop in your children, through your educational choices, greater ability to make good choices when faced with a decisions, lecture might not be your best teaching choice. Imagine choosing to teach in a way, where good judgment abilities in your children are promoted and developed?

With that preamble, I would like to share a few quotes. Formal teaching in the home, can and does occur in homeschooling environments. I just feel that too often, formal teaching may be too frequently used, and used too soon in the life of a child.

I can envision smaller amounts of formal teaching from birth to age 10-12. So here are the quotes. Please read them before turning off to the idea.

How does learning actually take place in the heads of our children, or even adults?

MARIA ROUSSOU, (2004): "Current thinking about how learning takes place emphasizes the constructivist approach, which argues that learners must actively “construct” knowledge by drawing it out of experiences that have meaning and importance to them [Dewey 1966]. Participants in an activity construct their own knowledge by testing ideas and concepts based on prior knowledge and experience, applying them to a new situation, and integrating the new knowledge with pre-existing intellectual constructs; a process familiar to us from real- world situations. The individual continually constructs hypotheses, and thereby attempts to generate knowledge that must ultimately be pieced together." p. 4

Now add to this idea of constructivism the following idea by Piaget:

"Piaget's constructivism is rooted in stimulating interest, initiative, experimentation, discovery, play, and imagination as fundamental to the development of a child's capacity to learn [Piaget 1973]. Play, in particular, can unite imagination and intellect in more than one way, and help children discover things at their own pace and in their own way." p. 4-5

Then Dewey:

"Dewey argued that education depends on action [Dewey 1966]. Piaget, known for his theory on the psychological development of children, believed in the role of action in development and the notion that children develop cognitive structure through action and spontaneous activity [Piaget 1973; DeVries and Kohlberg 1987].

The point of these quotes is to emphasize once again, that in the early years, home schooling parents are not required nor bound in any way, to "instruct" their kids after the manner of the didactic tell down approach found in the traditional school environment we all grew up in. Smart people who have access to lots of research and testing, have suggested that the early years can be a much looser instructional approach, and that kids still turn out ok. In fact, as we look forward to a future we cannot predict, but one our children will surely live in, developing a new set of skills by virtue of our educational choices, may not only be more fun, but also necessary.

It's hard for some, to imagine using an educational approach in the home, that may be different than the one we have been exposed to while we grew up. I am not suggesting that the approach we learned in our school experience is of no use. I am suggesting that in the early years, taking a too formal "teacher centered" approach, is not only more work for the home schooling parent, but in addition, might not be in the best interest of the student, your child.

Go back and re-read the quotes cited above, and let your imagination run a bit. Notice the bolded words in the Piaget quote. What would it take to create activities each day for young children, that met the standard of daily activities that promote "interest, initiative, experimentation, discovery, play, and imagination as fundamental to the development of a child's capacity to learn [Piaget 1973]

Maybe it's just as easy as saying, "Go outside and play". Sound irresponsible? It may not be.

You can find most of these articles by searching for the titles in Google or Yahoo.

DEVRIES, R. AND KOHLBERG, L. 1987. Programs of Early Education: The Constructivist View. Longman, New York.
DEWEY, J. 1966. Democracy and Education. Free Press, New York.
PAPERT, S. 1980. Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas. Basic Books, New York.
PIAGET, J. 1973. To Understand is to Invent: The Future of Education. Grossman, New York.
ROUSSOU, M. 2004 Learning by Doing and Learning Through Play: An Exploration of Interactivity in Virtual Environments for Children, ACM Computers in Entertainment, Volume 2, Number 1, January 2004, Article 1.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Please, Please, Please Watch This

Please Click Here and View the Video


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Homeschoolers using Social Media

The world is my educational Oyster!

The traditional view of education is one where students "go there" to get "it". They leave home and go to the school much like an employee going to his place of employment. Each day, at school (the learning place), education happens. Once out of school the rest of life, happens. While at school, teachers are there who have been given a curriculum, i.e. gathered material in behalf of the student, filtered it and prepared it and present it, so that students are one step removed from the actual material they need to learn. School is an interpreted environment. Rather than the student engaging with material of their interest where motivation to learn is natural, often much of the "school experience", (not all) could be defined as teachers engaging, interpreting and telling the students what the material means and what they need to know.

We might think of the teacher as a aggregator. This is a new term for many, but it means simply a person who gathers or aggregates material, synthesizes it and then shares the shorter version with others. In today's world of technology, even computers have algorithms, (forumlas) that "read" information and aggregate it, and then pass on the summary the computer produces to us. For us older folks, its kind of like "Cliffnotes", the short and to the point version of a much larger information set.

It is not uncommon for each of us to rely on and use people around us as aggregators. Whether we know it or not. We attend Sunday School, and someone is aggregating or interpreting information for us, and passing it on. We read a blog on the internet or even read the newspaper and in all of these places, information is being summarized and shared for our consumption.

Social media, like Facebook and Twitter, in a very small sense, and the world of blogs, in a much larger sense, serve the purpose of aggregation. A parent or a child, can search the internet and find blogs or topics in Facebook or even people in twitter, who have a natural interest in a topic. Once found, we can study it, and even share our views on that topic if we want, entering into a useful dialog or discussion, which we can learn from.

All of us, parents and children, can, as students, use the work of these people and their sharing on the internet for our own custom educational purposes. Over time, if we find these resources, and the people who share them, trustworthy, we can leverage their natural interests to augment and inform our own. Some people call this a Personal Learning System. I took the time to draw out this example.

This is a more adult example, but still you get the idea. It's all free and it doesn't take 6 hours a day. And it is like school, in that you are depending on others to aggregate information for you. It is like school in that you interact with others, albeit online instead of face to face. It is different than school in that you as the student learn from "teachers" or aggregators of your choice, instead of those chosen for you by the school system.

And if you like, you can create a facebook group or join one already there, and share information with others in areas of your interest. In other words, "teach one another out of the best books". You can find "discussion" places on the internet, on about any topic, by just entering these words in Google, "Blog Sailing" or "Blog Quilting" or whatever your interest is. Once you find these places bookmark them in your internet browser, or better yet, have someone help you create a topic folder named "PLS" (Personal Learning System) right in your browser, and under that topic, put the links to the stuff you want to follow and are interested in. Then in one place you have your own "School" of sorts, easy to find and use.

Your homeschool kids can do the same thing. Of course you might want to have a Parental Control Filter there and create custom permissions for the right stuff for your children, and block them from the bad stuff. (On Apple computers this is a standard feature). The world is your oyster when it comes to learning these days. It's free, it's easy, it's convenient and only requires an internet connection and your desire to read and think. You say, you don't have time ? Well, that too is your problem to solve. If you study one topic for one hour a day for a year, possibly two years, you can become the world expert on that topic according to some experts in education (Who read about education for one hour a day for a couple of years). All it takes is the vision and the will to become the educated person you want to become. And help your children do the same.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Jon's Idea

Jon's idea was to point a website to It creates a wordle image showing the words use on the site. The frequency of a word determines how large a word is displayed. I need to process this a bit. It's interesting to see what is and isn't emphasized over the last 4 years of blogging.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Just reading an article about narrative centered learning environments. This is where your lesson is a story line, and you insert the students into that story line as one of the characters. The example was an island where biological research is going on. A group of students get to visit the island as part of a field trip. While there, the biologists begin to get sick and must be quarantined. As the plague continues, the visiting science students have to take over and figure out where the sickness comes from and how to stop it. They can talk to "people" on the island. They can read the notes of the now sick scientists, and the can run experiments.

What is interesting about this was a measurement in this study of the kids attitudes (boredom, flow, confusion, frustration, delight, and surprise) while they did this lesson and how their attitudes changed or didn't change in the process of this learning experience. In this experiment, for many of the kids, there was evidence of all kinds of movement from one state of attitude to another. Some began bored, and then got into it and became delighted, etc. All except one condition. Can you guess which one? Frustration. Frustrated learners, remained frustrated learners. You just couldn't get them to transition away from frustration.

What then, creates a frustrated learner? This seems to me to be an important question to answer for home schoolers. If this study has any merit, it suggests that once a student is frustrated, it's pretty tough to get them off that stump.

Your thoughts?

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Stream of Consciousness re: Education

Transfer, getting something from a class experience outside of the classroom and into students lives outside of that classroom, is a messy business.

The scriptures are full of declarative statements. i.e. the answers. it is our job to help our students identify and/or discover all the possible questions that led to the answer. When a student finds and expresses questions associated with the answers given there, pay attention! There is a lot about the student to learn from their questions. Also, Question -> Reflection -> Divine Inspiration!

Sometimes you have to dejunk to make room for more current needs. Giving knowledge away, even valuable knowledge, is one way of making space for God to give you more. Share your ideas freely. Even the great ones.

On my mind? Home, is the place where information can be put into practice, which allows us to make sense of it, through the use of it. Paraphrasing JSB, home, different from many other places, is where knowledge can travel person to person with remarkable ease.

One more. Ryle's argument... "know that" doesn't produce "know how." Bruner's argument..."learning about" doesn't, on it's own, allow you to "learn to be". Information, on it's own, is not enough to produce actionable knowledge. Practice too is required. For practice, it's best to look to a community of practitioners. JSB

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Put an end to summer - Obama

President Obama proposes the end of summer for our kids?

Probably a political move to "help" the teachers union and get votes he desparately needs after ignoring the public and spending us and our kids into oblivion. Most teachers I know, count the summer off as a huge part of why they stick with the profession. Our President is proposing today, that kids spend more time in school. I suppose this supports single parents, and parents who both work outside of the home, but at what cost to our future?

However, this proposal by our President prompted me to reflect and share the following from an article I read for one of my classes. My son David, blogged about it too. The same quote.

I have felt for a long long time, that there was something inside of me, regarding instruction of our children, that was trying to get out. This blog, over the years, is an attempt to verbalize those inner ideas that I haven't quite put a total handle on yet. When I read this article, these ideas seemed to encapsulate a large chunk of my feelings in a logical and informative way. While I am only sharing the first part of this article, the rest of it goes on to describe the author's instructional solutions for the dilemma we expose children to, when we send them to public school. The author, Keith Sawyer shares:

By the twentieth century, all major industrialized countries offered formal schooling to all of their children. When these schools took shape in the ninetieth and twentieth centuries, scientist didn't know very much about how people learn. Even by the 1920s, when schools began to become the large bureaucratic institutions that we know today, there still was not sustained study of how people learn. As a result, the schools we have today were designed around commonsense assumptions that had never been tested scientifically.

Sawyer goes on to outline these problematic "commonsense assumptions" as follows:

  • Knowledge is a collection of facts about the world and procedures for how to solve problems. Facts are statements like "The earth is titled on its axis by 23.45 degrees" and procedures are step-by-step instructions like how to do multidigit addition by carrying to the next column.
  • The goal of schooling is to get these facts and procedures into the student's head. People are considered to be educated when they possess a large collection of these facts and procedures.
  • Teachers know these facts and procedures, and their job is to transmit them to students.
  • Simpler facts and procedures should be learned first, followed by progressively more complex facts and procedures. The definitions of "simplicity" and "complexity" and the proper sequencing of material were determined either by teachers, by textbook authors, or by asking expert adults like mathematicians, scientists, or historians - not by studying how children actually learn.
  • The way to determine the success of schooling is to test students to see how many of these facts and procedures they have acquired.

This traditional vision of schooling is known as instructionism (Papert, 1993). Instructionism prepared students for the industrialized economy of the early twentieth century. But the world today is much more technologically complex and economically competitive, and instructionism is increasingly failing to educate our students to participate in this new kind of society. Economists and organizational theorists have reached a consensus that today we are living in a knowledge economy, an economy that is built on knowledge work (Bereiter, 2002; Drucker, 1993). In the knowledge economy, memorization of facts and procedures is not enough for success. Educated graduates need a deep conceptual understanding of complex concepts, and the ability to work with them creatively to generate new ideas, new theories, new products, and new knowledge. They need to be able to critically evaluate what they read, to be able to express themselves clearly both verbally and in writing, and to be able to understand scientific and mathematical thinking. They need to learn integrated and usable knowledge, rather than the sets of compartmentalized and de-contextualized facts emphasized by instructionism. They need to be able to take responsibility for their own continuing, lifelong learning. These abilities are important to the economy, to the continued success of participatory democracy, and to living a fulfilling, meaningful life. Instructionism is particularly ill-suited to the education of creative professionals who can develop new knowledge and continually further their own understanding; instructionism is an anachronism in the modern innovation economy. (R.K. Sawyer, The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences, Cambridge University Press, 2006.)

Do any of these ideas resonate with you too?

I am thinking that I ought to begin sharing ideas that parents can use, that make instruction and learning at home more interesting. Practical, simple ideas that have been tested scientifically. Ideas, that show that teaching, while partly an art form, is not ALL an art form. Good teaching need not be limited to the degree baring college trained among us. Teaching anything, at home, work, church or the community can be engaging, interesting, effective and memorable. In fact, maybe in some ways, more so than what the professionals offer. And why shouldn't our children we teach at home have the benefit of interesting teaching too?

Maybe it's time to put the overwhelming and scary part of "teaching" anything, in its place and begin focusing on the simple things that can make learning fun and enjoyable for our precious students.

I'll have to think about this some more.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Why is Instruction Ineffective?


"Often students need to learn facts or even skills, for the purpose of finishing a set of home work problems or in order to pass a test. [Most often] there is nothing about their new knowledge that helps them achieve a goal that is both relevant and meaningful to them." Roger Shank

In some ways, this is another way of describing the ADD or ADHD child. It is true, that brain scans show a difference between an ADD and non-ADD child. But so often, the kids are just bored. They need to move. They are hunting for answers to "Why am I doing this at all?"

Much instruction does not answer the question, "Therefore, what?"

I have pictures of scales on my wall. Elements that oppose one another sometimes.

Learn "that" vs Learn "how to".
Know "that" vs " Know "why".
Content coverage vs. Critical/engaged thinking
Transmissive education vs Interactive education
Mastery of content vs Mastery of the process of learning.
Content vs skills

Kids feel instruction has impact when it contains "meaningful imagery, surprise, amazement, and when it contains practice that makes them better at something." (Michael Allen) As a grandparent with grandkids living with me for a few weeks, nothing brings a smile to me and my grandchildren more, than when they come running up to me and say, "Grandpa, Grandpa look what I can do!" (Merrill) The total opposite of a bored, unengaged learner. They love learning when they can do stuff better. More how to instead of about. (Google David Merrill- First Principles of Instruction. It's really not that hard to read.)

So what makes instruction ineffective? Here are a few ideas... add your own.
Why is instruction ineffective?

1. It does not lead to results or actual transfer from the learning environment to the real world.

2. It doesn't lead to the personal life success of the students, but makes the teacher's ego feel good... "I really taught them alright!"

3. It lacks contextual structure. The right approach for the right intent of the class. (Michael Allen) they hear all about biology and not why it makes a hill of beans in their lives, except the state requirements are achieved. Liberal Arts education should be about going broad to FIND something. And when you find it. Stop and take it deep. Go deep and learn to love it. But no, the bell rings and we need to suppress any enthusiasm we might have for the topic and move on.

4. The relationship between the student and the teacher isn't a reciprocal one. Most often the teacher sees the student as empty and it's her job to fill them up. Teachers ask questions of students. Yet, if students were asking questions of teachers, they would be mastering the very art that leads to reflection, inspiration and innovation... question asking. Without reciprocity in the classroom, the experience is largely one way, and discovery is discouraged. Result? Bored kids. Its so much about convincing instead of communicating.

Good teaching is hard, and most teachers just don't have time for it. A few days ago, a colleague dropped by and I showed him a new instructional model meant to enhance the chance that a student would actually take something out of the classroom and use it. He became very excited and then his face turned down to a frown as he said, "This would take a long time to prepare."

Yep, it does. So what's the option? Go back to talking down to students where learning doesn't happen? Unfortunately, that is usually the case. Not meaning to give someone a guilt trip. Teaching can be a wonderful adventure, until it isn't any more.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Why is Instruction Boring, whether at home or in the system?

It's been quite a while since I posted something here. It's not because I don't type a lot, or write a lot, its' because, you don't grade me and this blog isn't a strategic part of my degree. And that is terrible. So I need to repent and change. I am older now, slower and have more to do than I ever thought I would. I am long since out of familiar patterns of accomplishment, and in what Vygotsky calls, "The zone of proximal development", which is basically anything that is NOT the comfort zone.

I have these major authors who I have come to respect, because, at least over the last 2 years, their ideas have stuck. They have not gone away. I use their ideas all the time, and our online instruction is a cut above others out there because of these ideas.

So I asked my self the question: Why is instruction boring? I ask this question all the time, because frankly, I don't want to create boring instruction if I can avoid it. And in a book that you might not think had much to do with the topic, I found some answers. The book is titled, "Death by Meeting" and the author is Patrick Lencioni.

Anyway, I made this list of answers to that question, from his book and a few other sources. I thought I might share as part of my penance So here goes:

Instruction is boring because:

1) Most often it lacks drama or conflict.
2) It doesn't answer the question, "What is at stake?" or in other words, "if you don't know this what is going to go haywire in your life?" What is at stake if you don't get this.
3) Teachers don't mine for conflict. I don't mean encouraging "contention" I mean encouraging different points of view and negotiated them against a common family value.
4) Teachers don't reinforce engagement. Teachers reinforce finding the right answer, instead of rewarding students for finding, expressing and possessing different "questions". Like Cheri Toledo said, "If we can teach them to ask questions, and give permission for their questioning, we set the stage for critical thinking to occur." We need not be afraid of critical thinking, because if we don't have the answers as parents, we get to study something else of interest WITH our kids.
5) It lacks real world context. This is simply helping our kids see how one thing relates to another thing. That biology is related to math and related to history too.
6) It lacks personal relevant challenge. A 13 year old worries about acne and might be interested to know that Napoleon did too. But we all have to get over it. And that is a challenge. Besides it's cool learning about math so you can build a workshop on your property and build an airplane with your dad.
7) Teachers too often teach about the topic instead of the persons relationship to the topic. "How does this topic mean a hill of beans to me" is what kids want to know. The great teachers can answer that question.
8) Because it lacks, imagery, surprise, amazement, and meaningful practice so that kids get better at something and know it.
9) When it is not set in the context of the kid's lives. They don't live in school really, no matter how much the government wants to have that control. They also live at home, at church, at work, with their friends, parents and cousins, in their hobby life, sports, clubs and just in the neighborhood. If you want instruction in your "classroom" to stay in your classroom and go nowhere else, then don't teach it framed in these other places kids live. But if you want your instruction to be used outside of your classroom, frame it in these other places as you teach it.

I need to go, but my next post will be some ideas about Why instruction is ineffective? or at least a few possible reasons that lead to that.

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Out of the mouth of babes...

If you haven't read this, it is wonderful (except for the implied generlized corporate corruption)

The text is better than the video.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Instructional Moment To Consider:

If you want more than an outside chance of people using your instruction outside of the classroom, the instruction needs to somehow possess elements of, be a picture of, the place you want them to use it. Otherwise what was taught in Las Vegas, ends up staying in Las Vegas. Most "teachers" when they think of it, want what they teach to be used in life, not just meant to take up class time.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What Does This Mean, Really?

Our son Sam, just returned from two years in Brazil. He was under the gun to earn some money and get registered at USU to begin his college experience. He took the advanced placement math test and did well. With prayer and persistent effort, he made it all happen and aeronautical engineering, here we come.

He attended his first math class. As the teacher began explaining things on the board, what should have been pretty easy, seemed more complicated than he expected. After class, he read the book though, it was was crystal clear to him. He thought about it and after a while realized that in all the years he had studied math, he had never had a teacher. Using Saxon Math, he had taught himself math from grade school, all the way through high school. Imagine that, taught himself. Learning this subject from a teacher was for him, the exception, not the rule.

So is this good or bad? He will certainly encounter college classes where he will need to learn from a teacher. But how cool is it that he has habits of self direction that allow him to be an independent learner? In a subject like math?

As we consider the benefits, goals and hopes for a home schooling life, what balance of self taught and teacher taught do you want to see in your child?

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Teaching Kids a Problem Solving Process

One of the major complaints I have with a lot of education is it's focus on content. A teacher shares knowledge about some topic, and tests for recall of that knowledge. Traditional instruction calls this process learning. Even formulae in math are often applied without a background understanding of how they came to be in the first place. The problem with this idea for me is that you can never learn enough content to solve all the problems you are facing. Let's say you get taught biology and then call yourself "educated". You mastered the content, passed the tests and call it good.

Well you go out into the world, and encounter a novel problem. Low and behold, the problem is an anthropology problem. So you are hosed. You go back to school, master anthropology and figure you are finally "educated". However when you go back out into the real world, you encounter an unexpected problem and the problem is related to history, of which you have little or no content in your brain. So you go back to school and learn history, only to go out into the real world, only to find a psychology problem. And so it goes. You can never learn enough content, you can never put enough content into your head to solve all the varied problems life is going to present to you.

Actually it's even worse than that. What could be worse? You can't go to public gatherings and discuss things half way intelligently, because someone is always talking about something you didn't study. So no polite discussion, you become a social outcast, and spend the rest of your life as a hermit or hermitess.

What is missing is that content is NOT king. It is important, but without a process, or a framework or a method of attacking problems for which you don't already have the answer for in your brain, you are in trouble.

There are many processes or problem solving frameworks that help our kids get to a solution, when at first they don't have content knowledge. When I give models for problem solving to my children in addition to content, I teach them HOW to fish instead of giving them a fish. I encourage them to feel the success of learning on their own, and becoming independent of me.

So here is the problem solving process in this article mentioned in the previous post: (this article is about Problem Based Learning in a Medical School Environment)

The Educational Goals for the Learners

The facilitator’s (home school parent's) overall educational goals for the students were for them to be able to
(1) explain disease processes responsible for a patient’s symptoms and signs and describe what interventions can be undertaken,
(2) employ an effective reasoning process,
(3) be aware of knowledge limitations,
(4) meet knowledge needs through self-directed learning and social knowledge construction, and 5) evaluate their learning and performance.

So if these are the goals for the learners, what were the goals that the "teacher/parent" needed to keep in mind for their performance?

The facilitator’s (parent's) performance goals were to
(1) keep all students active in the learning process,
(2) keep the learning process on track,
(3) make the students’ thoughts and their depth of understanding apparent, and
(4) encourage students to become self-reliant for direction and information.

Isn't this cool? It is to me.

To paraphrase, for my kids at home:

1) Help them identify the real problem
2) Help them think through what steps the need to take to get to the solution
3) What do they already know about the problem?
4) Where do they need to go to get more information?
5) Review with them after they have come up with their best solution the process they went though and the results it led them too, in order to reinforce the success they just had.

Doing this, enables our children to carry this sign on their chest... CAPABLE.

Late Night Reading

I am reading, tonight, yet another journal article for one of my graduate classes. I do a fair amount of this kind of reading. I don't understand everything I read the first time, but usually on the second pass, I begin to catch more of the meaning. Overall, I am getting better at it after a year working on a Masters Degree than at the beginning.

This article is about Problem Based Learning. But as I read, I feel I am reading a story about the model home schooling environment contrasted with the traditional public school approach. While not all public classrooms operate in a "teacher-tell" manner, many still do. Teachers sadly, end up often teaching as they were taught, if not in every respect, at least in most fundamental ways. I felt to share two excerpts to demonstrate what I mean...

Excerpt One

The goals and beliefs that teachers hold help frame the strategies that they implement. Schoenfeld (1998), through detailed analyses of expert and novice teachers, examined how teachers’ knowledge, goals, and beliefs lead them to implement action plans. In his study, the novice teacher used a teacher-centered approach, (1) asking known-answer questions, (2) listening to students’ responses, and then (3) evaluating the responses. For example, when teaching a lesson on exponents, this teacher (1a) asked for the answer to a problem, (2a) the student responded correctly that he subtracted, and the teacher (3a) answered “OK,” an evaluation of the response. The teacher asked the student what he subtracted and then elaborated on the student’s correct response. All this proceeded according to the teacher’s plan. This teacher believed that the students’ responses provided springboards for teacher explanations. When students’ responses diverged (as in the student didn't have the correct answer), [the teacher's] limited pedagogical content knowledge prevented him from adapting his plan. Later, on a more difficult problem, students’ responses were not what the teacher expected, and the teacher had to generate an alternative example. TThe students did not understand the connection between the new example and the original problem, and they did not produce an answer that the teacher could use to build an explanation as in the earlier example. he teacher did not have an understanding of how incorrect student responses could be a window into their understanding and how these understandings could be used to focus discussions.

Excerpt Two

In contrast, Schoenfeld (1998) found very different results in the analyses of expert teachers (Jim Minstrell and Deborah Ball). Minstrell viewed learning as a sense-making activity and used questioning in productive ways. The lesson studied focused on issues of measurement in everyday contexts. Rather than being driven by a topic from the text, as with the novice teacher, the lesson was driven by problem-centered discussions. The teacher used questioning to guide student thinking. In particular, he used a technique called the reflective toss. (otherwise known as rephrasing) In the reflective toss, the teacher takes the meaning of a student statement and throws responsibility for elaboration back to the student. (ie. "Can you share your thoughts using other words?) He used these statements to help students clarify meaning, consider a variety of views, and monitor their own thinking. For example, as students were discussing how one might decide what number might be a best value from a list of measurements, a student noted that one number in a list was repeated several times. Minstrell asked the student for clarification (using the rephrasing technique) and if there were any other repeated numbers. Another student proposed what was essentially a formula for a weighted average. This was unexpected. As Minstrell asked the students for further explanation, they developed a formula for calculating the weighted average. Ball’s classroom was more student-centered; her goal was to develop a particular type of intellectual community in which the pursuit of mathematical ideas was highly valued. She juggled competing goals as the students and teachers co-constructed the agenda. She started her elementary mathematics class by asking students for comments on the previous days’ lessons. They then discussed issues related to their understanding.

What are the characteristics of a model PBL, or home schooling teacher? (Substitute PBL Teacher or PBL Facilitator with Homeschooling parent)

The PBL method requires students to become responsible for their own learning. The PBL teacher is a facilitator of student learning, and his/her interventions diminish as students progressively take on responsibility for their own learning processes. This method is characteristically carried out in small, facilitated groups and takes advantage of the social aspect of learning through discussion, problem solving, and study with peers (Hmelo-Silver, 2004). The facilitator guides students in the learning process, pushing them to think deeply, and models the kinds of questions that students need to be asking themselves, thus forming a cognitive apprenticeship (Collins et al., 1989). As a cognitive apprenticeship, PBL situates learning in complex problems (Hmelo-Silver, 2004). Facilitators make key aspects of expertise visible through questions that scaffold student learning through modeling, coaching, and eventually fading back some of their support. In PBL the facilitator is an expert learner, able to model good strategies for learning and thinking, rather than providing expertise in specific content. This role is critical, as the facilitator must continually monitor the discussion, selecting and implementing appropriate strategies as needed. As students become more experienced with PBL, facilitators can fade their scaffolding until finally the learners adopt much of their questioning role. Student learning occurs as students collaboratively engage in constructive processing. (A subtle sales pitch for larger families ;-).

(The article is entitled "Goals and Strategies of a Problem-based Learning Facilitator, by
Cindy E. Hmelo-Silver and Howard S. Barrows,

The article begins with a simple example of a gradeschool classroom and moves to a medical school, where Problem Based Learning is used in much the same way to prepare medical students over a two year period for their NBDE-1 exam.

My point is sharing this, is to reinforce how simple teaching and learning at home can be. As I have asked my children about their home schooling experience, it was the projects, and major work projects like adding on to the house, and remodeling, and building of go karts and hover crafts, that presented meaningful problems and validating solutions as they figured it out.

Maybe this isn't for everyone. I am so thankful it was for our kids and family though.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

How Hard Do You Want Him To Try To Help You?

Got this from my son David who heard it in a talk by President Clark at BYUI. I think I have this right. Which quadrant are you in vis-a-vis your children? Which quadrant are the best parents in? Which quadrant is God in as it relates to us as His children?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Creating Converts...

Again from Barrows.

Is Problem-Based Learning Worth the Trouble? (subheading in the article)

Interestingly, this question is usually raised by people who are asked to consider the possibility of a problem based curriculum without having ever been involved in, or observing problem based learning. Once anyone is involved as a PBL tutor and has the opportunity of seeing what students can do when given permission to think and learn on their own, he or she usually becomes a convert. Faculty members can see how students think, what they know and how they are learning. This allows teachers to intervene early with students having trouble before it becomes a more difficult issue. Faculty members work with alert, motivated, turned-on minds in a collegial manner that has no equal. This is quite different from lecturing to a passive and often bored array of students whose understanding of the subject the teacher can only deduce indirectly from their answers to test questions."


I Bet This Sounds Weird...

Do you want your children to be dependent learners? I mean dependent on a teacher to learn?

In some readings I am doing, Barrows shares some teaching approaches that make students dependent on teachers in medical learning situations.

Making Students Dependent on Teachers

1. Directive Teachers, 2. Providing teacher driven learning expectations, 3. By pairing reading assignments with problems, 4. Telling students what they should know, 5. Faculty generated multiple choice questions to assess.

Imagine being treated by a doctor who did really well on multiple choice questions but still needs to turn to the teacher when presented with your health problem?

Maybe that is how Obama is going to come up with Doctors to serve his ficticious 50 Million people who he says don't have insurance?

Call your teacher during the operation because you came up against something you hadn't seen before?

Medical knowledge on demand for surgeons. Of course this won't work. The point is that medical institutions have changed the way they teach medicine to encourage students to inquire themselves, free inquiry actually, and learn what models, frameworks and patterns of diagnosing work as they gather, sift through and conclude from information surrounding a patients presenting problems, as their learning model.

Why do we think our kids deserve any less for their lives. Do we want them to be less capable than the best doctor? Less capable at all? Yet we often continue using the same dependance creating methods with our own children.

It worked for me, right?

Monday, June 15, 2009


One of the great influencers of education in the first half of the 20th century was John Dewey. A controversial figure, he stirred the pot by asking questions about how children learn. This in contrast to how must something be taught? It seems funny that a teacher would look at a subject, decide how to teach it, and give little or no thought to the audience and how they might best receive the information so as to put it to good use. Yet, as we all know, that happens all the time. It is a very hard thing, I am finding out, to ask first, "what makes instruction interesting to my student audience?"

I made this chart from some writings of Dewey as found in Malcolm Knowles book, "The Adult Learner." Never mind that a Dewey quote about adult learning may apply to children. It seems it does, quite nicely.

Here is the chart:

Sorry it is so small. How do these ideas apply to educating children at home? Go ahead and give it some thought?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Cornerstones Are Very Hard

In the old days of constructing a building, a major milestone after digging down for the foundation, was the setting of the cornerstone. Once the cornerstone was in place, all other measurements for the foundation were made from it. The other stones in the corners were placed as well. Then the distance wide, the distance long and then the distance diagonally from all corners could be measured and confirmed so that you knew the foundation was the right size and that it was square. From there, the rest of the foundation stones were put in place. On top of those stones, the rest of the building could be built and if true to the foundation, it also would be square, and strong. It all began with the cornerstone.

What I am going to share may not be the cornerstone, but I do believe that it is one of the stones in the corners. It was a statement I read in the book by Malcolm Knowles "The Adult Learner". I shared it with several professional educators, and universally, they agreed to it, but also said, they had never thought of "teaching" that way. It is a short statement, which I think contributed to the power of it. He said, "... the learning theory subscribed to by a teacher will influence his or her teaching theory." (Knowles, p. 73) What does this mean? It struck me that what we believe about how a student learns, causes us to make decisions about the methods we choose to teach with. It is often, but not always, a cause and effect relationship.

So what assumptions do most teachers make about who their students are and how they learn?

What assumptions to the "teachers" of our children make and what teaching methods, then do they use?

How do these assumptions made by teachers or parents about how students/children learn, impact the generations of future adults?

Answering these questions, I believe goes right to the heart of why we chose to home school.

If Cyndy and I make the same assumptions about how children learn and choose the same methods that the public environment employ, the only difference is that we are a smaller group and hopefully a warmer environment. But we still pass on to our kids, the same traditions as the public school environment, because we may have made largely, the same assumptions.

However, if we send our children to the public school, especially, in the younger, formative years, we have no chance to change the assumptions made by others about how our children learn and therefore the assumptions about how our children should be taught.

At least at home, the opportunity exists that we as parents can adopt new assumptions about how children learn. Outside the home, those choices and their consequences are made for us and passed on to yet another generation, who in turn will most likely make the same assumptions about learning and teaching when they begin families of their own.

Much like my professional educator friends, our children as future parents, will most likely not question these assumptions, just as we have not, of how their children learn and therefore the assumptions underlying how they are taught. Our children will mostly likely, as so many parents do, pass on the traditions of the fathers. Whether the assumptions are correct or beneficial it will not matter. Even if there is a stunting effect on the use of agency by children in learning as a result of these choices it will not matter, because the assumptions are not questioned.

And even if someone suggests that the very purpose of life is that we as students are to "learn by our own experience" i.e. use of agency or freedom of choice, to distinguish right from wrong, good from evil, or how to spell correctly, we risk quietly dismissing even the thought.

However, I need to point out, adopting the assumption that children are primarily empty vessels that must be filled and "teachers" are just the people to do the filling, is a much easier to do, than to create an environment where children learn for themselves what they need to learn, by being confronted with choices and learning from the results of their choices.

I am confident, though, that if we ask ourselves the question, "How can I help them learn for themselves what the need to learn?" and persist in asking ourselves this question, the answers will eventually come. We may not like the timing of the learning, but we can be comforted that they will have learned for themselves because we adopted a method that mirrors sound, even heavenly, patterns. This stone contributes to the foundation being correctly laid and the building fitly framed.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It's All About You! #2

I want to recommend a book for parents of home schoolers to read. This book isn't about home schooling. It's about parents who want to be an example of life long learning. In the last post, I brought up Covey's pyramid of influence. It says that the base of the pyramid is example. So if a parent wants more influence with a child, you at least know where to begin. We begin with example, how we live, what we value, what our actions teach our children day in and day out even when we don't say a word.

The book title is, "The Meaning of Adult Education" by Eduard C. Lindeman.

Here are a few quotes from the first chapter:

"Youth educated in terms of adult ideas and taught to think of learning as a process which ends when real life begins will make no better use of intelligence than the elders who prescribe the sysem." p. 3

"From many quarters comes the call to a new kind of education with its initial assumption affirming the education is life - not a mere preparation for an unknown kind of future living." p. 4

"Every adult person finds himself in specific situations with respect to his work, his recreation, his family-life, his community-life, et cetera- situations which call for adjustments. Adult education begins at this point. Subject matter is brought into the situation, is put to work, when needed. Texts and teachers play a new and secondary role in this type of education; they must give way to the primary importance of the learner." p. 6

"...the resource of highest value in adult education is the learner's experience... Psychology is teaching us, however, that we learn what we do, and that therefore all genuine education will keep doing and thinking together. Life becomes rational, meaningful, as we learn to be intelligent about things we do and the things that happen to us." p. 7

"...we should find cumulative joys in searching out the reasonable meaning of the events in which we play parts... Experience is the adult learner's living textbook." p. 7

For each of these quotes, I have something personal in mind. But instead of sharing that at this point, if you have a moment in your busy life, I ask you simply to read each of these quotes and ask yourself, "Why is Mark so excited about this one that he would share it?"

I will say, that one of Cyndy's most endearing qualities, is her excitement for learning things, researching things and reading about all kinds of things. For instance, for mothers' day, I knew I had a winner of a gift, when we went to listen to David McCollough, the author of 1776 and John Adams. Here is a guy who is an adult learner. When he finds something he is curious about, he finds out about it.

I think of so many friends we know, who I have observed, in the middle of a situation in their lives, and reach out to figure it out. That is when they have been the happiest. I love their energy. I think of one guy, who coaches youth sports and can't get enough about all kinds of techniques, methods, and strategies for coaching this sport well. Want to build a raft? Then read up on it and do it. Learning and doing are meant to go together.

As adults, one way we can "live for our kids" is by doing a little living for ourselves from time to time, apart from them. Our own interests, our own learning, our own curiosities, etc. What is wrong with getting excited about finally reading AND understanding "King Lear" by Shakespeare? Finding someone who can help us understand the tougher lines, and the enjoying it all the more?

One thing I have learned here at school, is this:

I can think of some people, a lot of people, for whom my life experience may not mean much. However, it makes a huge difference to me, when I am studying here. Almost everything I am studying here has deeper meaning, much deeper meaning, for me, because I have put 57 years of wear on this body and mind. I am going to finish this degree and get a diplomma. However improving my education didn't require I go here. I have rediscovered that true education is being curious about things I am doing, and doesn't require going to a building or listening to a professor. This is the education we should never stop getting.

This is the adult education that we can be an example of as we attempt to influence our children and their education. It's all about us!

Another link you might enjoy:

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Once Again, You Are The Answer

I have a week before I dive in again. I have been preparing for this summer's classes. I have the syllabi, have ordered the books, and as I receive them I begin to study them so that when we go over them again on course, it sinks in a little better. Such is the life of this 57 year old graduate student. One class I am preparing for has offered again some gems for home schooling parents of all kinds. The ideas are simple and short.

Covey talks about a Pyramid of influence. As home schooling parents we definitely want "influence" with our kids. So this model is of extreme importance.

Our focus as home educators is helping our children learn for themselves the things they need to learn. So using the pyramid of influence, we begin with our personal example. How are we examples of personal learning to our children. What makes up the example we set for them, of personal learning?

First, it helps to recognize that we as adults are no longer children. Our example then will be the example of adult learning. How is adult learning different from the learning of our children? How has the mileage of the years changed us when it comes to learning?

Malcolm Knowles is considered by many to be the father of adult learning. He had an experience I want to share that exemplifies for me, the foundational difference between how kids learn and how adults must learn. This example led Knowles to a lifetime of study about adult learning/adult education. If I have it right, he coined the term "Andragogy" the study of how adults learn and must be taught. If we get this, our feet are firmly set on the path of being an example of personal learning. As an example of personal learning, we have the foundation of influence we need to impact the lives of our children for good in learning.

The Story:

The birth of the modern theory of adult learning, known as andragogy, occurred in 1946 at a Boston YMCA. A young director of adult education organized a course on astronomy and arranged for a local university professor to teach the class. Although initially enthusiastic, the students quickly became bored with the passive lecture experience and attendance dwindled until the course was finally canceled.

Trying again, the YMCA director rescheduled the course and this time invited a member of the amateur astronomers' club to lead the group of students. As soon as the students arrived for their first class, the new teacher escorted them to the roof of the YMCA and asked them to gaze into the night sky. While they looked up, the teacher asked them what it was they noticed most and what they wanted to learn. Their questions formed the basis for the rest of the course and the teacher led discussions with a telescope on hand for ready use. This experiential method of teaching was popular with the students and the class enrollment swelled.

The young YMCA director, named Malcolm Knowles, took note of the different teaching styles and their dramatically different outcomes. The method of teaching to adult learners' interests and actively engaging the students in their own discovery became the structure Knowles would use for all of the YMCA courses. The astronomy class also marked the beginning of Knowles' lifelong exploration towards understanding adult learning. Link

There seem to be several "lists" of the implications of this experience as Knowles worked through them all. Here are a few. I don't get them all yet, because if I did I wouldn't be taking the class and doing the reading right now. So just slug through them and see if this makes sense for you.

The Short List

Knowles' theories of adult learning are complex, but his conclusions can be summarized into four main points:
1. Adults need to know why they are learning something. They should be told how it effects them directly.
2. Adults have a repository of lifetime experiences that should be tapped as a resource for ongoing learning. Similarly, adult learners bring various levels of prior exposure to any topic and that fact should be acknowledged.
3. Adults use a hands-on problem-solving approach to learning. Rote memorization of facts and figures should be avoided.
4. Adults want to apply new knowledge and skills immediately. Retention decreases if the learning is applied only at some future point in time. (The original Article)

(Remember the point of these lists is to help you come to understand yourself as an adult learner, how you are different as a learner from when you were a kid, and how you can become a powerful example of a learner now, (being an adult) so that you set an example of being a learner, in order to increase your influence with your children in their education. Whew!)

The Longer List

Adults should acquire a mature understanding of themselves.
Adults should develop an attitude of acceptance, love, and respect toward others.
Adults should develop a dynamic attitude toward life.
Adults should learn to react to the causes, not the symptoms, of behavior.
Adults should acquire the skills necessary to achieve the potentials of their personalities.
Adults should understand the essential values in the capital of human experience.
Adults should understand their society and should be skillful in directing social change.
Original Article
(Remember the point of these lists is to help you come to understand yourself as an adult learner, how you are different as a learner from when you were a kid, and how you can become a powerful example of a learner now, (being an adult) so that you set an example of being a learner, in order to increase your influence with your children in their education. Whew!)

The Longest of the Lists


1. The ability to develop and be in touch with curiosities. Perhaps another way to describe this skill would be "the ability to engage in divergent thinking."

2. The ability to perceive one's self objectively and accept feedback about one's performance non-defensively

3. The ability to diagnose one's learning needs in the light of models of competencies required for performing life roles.

4.The ability to formulate learning objectives in terms that describe performance outcomes.

5.The ability to identify human, material, and experiential resources for accomplishing various kinds of learning objectives.

6.The ability to design a plan of strategies for making use of appropriate learning resources effectively.

7.The ability to carry out a learning plan systematically and sequentially. This skill is the beginning of the ability to engage in convergent thinking.

8.The ability to collect evidence of the accomplishment of learning objectives and have it validated through performance.

(If you want to read in greater depth, read here.Original Article

(Remember the point of these lists is to help you come to understand yourself as an adult learner, how you are different as a learner from when you were a kid, and how you can become a powerful example of a learner now, (being an adult) so that you set an example of being a learner, in order to increase your influence with your children in their education. Whew!)

I am not anxious to take much credit for how well our kids have done academically. We cover that in posts in the past. Our latest success however was William, who scored as a Junior a 27 on his ACT. Not the best in the family, but I think near the best at his age. He is cherry picking some classes at Logan High, music, science. Doing Math, reading and others at home. However, in one small but important area, Cyndy and I can say we have developed influence. Cyndy is always reading and learning and so am I. Even being here at graduate school, which is a gift from God I still can't believe, is sending a message. Life long curiosity and learning is part of the parents who lead this family. It is the example that forms the foundation of influence. It is true, that I could do a lot better at the relationships part of the pyramid. But to the extent that I am ok there, I then can teach with some authority and have influence with my kids. It does, however, begin with me.

I conclude this post, with another pyramid for you to look at. It is my vacation week, and I need to golf. Look this over and see if it speaks something to you. This is not mine. I can't remember where I got it. And I am way far away from understanding this one. My personal journey is still leading to it though. If you want to find out more, look up the books by Ferris and the Arbinger Institute. Here you go.

Love you all.