Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

Posts tagged ‘learning’

Blaming Parents

My parents did not give me everything I needed.

But they gave me everything they had … which was more than they had been given. All they had earned, all they had learned, all they had built was fought for. Hard won. Generously shared.

They gave me the tools to get what I need: belief in the power of creativity … and a passionate love of learning.

When you can learn, nothing is closed to you.


Thoughts on Being Wrong

What does it mean to be wrong?

Essentially, at its heart, when you’re wrong about something, it means that what you know about that things doesn’t line up with the actual facts about the thing.

So when you learn the truth, you realise you were wrong, and you make the appropriate changes.

In other words, wrongness can be seen as nothing more or less than ignorance. Which is hardly “wrong” at all, is it? … If that really were wrong – a baby could be said to be wrong inasmuch as he is ignorant of the basics of how to walk, talk, or feed himself.

I hope you can see how lunatic that proposition is. The truth is that the baby is not wrong. Really, he can hardly even be said to be ignorant.

What he is, is unlearned.

The same is true of us. The mistakes we make are the result of lack of experience. And – in an amazing twist of balance – those same mistakes are often also the very experience we need to make us wise. And that wisdom shows us the best way – the “right” way.

And then we cease being wrong, naive, uneducated. We become right. Until we learn the next thing.

Everything is learning.

right and wrong

Parenting the Gifted Child

When I was eleven my parents were told the good news. I was gifted. I got a letter inviting me to a “Special School” that would develop my talents. I remember the day very clearly. My dad and I had just had a huge fight, because I got a B average on my school report and he was convinced I’d never amount to anything. (He was wrong, and he knows that now ;)).

No one was surprised, and when my sister got her letter, we just assumed it was in the genes. A bit like a free pass to Hogwarts, but without the cool stuff.

Being me, I paid close attention to every aspect of “being gifted”, so that when my gifted children arrived (as they undoubtedly would), I ‘d be ready.

When they did arrive, I was ready. What I didn’t know, was that gifted has many faces. And the girls’ version of it looks very little like mine. (In fact, now that I know them I rather suspect someone bribed the guy who marked my assessment).

Here are my tips for parenting a gifted learner:

  1. Take it slow

    Just because your son or daughter has a superior capacity for learning than the so-called average learner, that doesn’t mean they’ll use it. In fact, the pressure might be too much and they could just give up under the weight of expectations. In fact, the more pressure you apply to a sensitive, gifted learner, the worse it could be. Take it slow, and let them unfold.

  2. Giftedness often manifests in very specific focuses

    For many gifted individuals, being gifted manifests in an intense interest in a very specific field. Your gifted child might be an expert on World War II, but know (and care) not at all about rugby (or vice versa). Just because the potential for taking data on board is massive, don’t assume a gifted child will want to take it all on board.

  3. Giftedness is not the same as common sense

    Just because a child is really bright, don’t expect them to remember that the stove being on means a potential for being burnt. Or to remember what it was they got up to do. Sometimes, it just doesn’t go that way. (I rather suspect that we all get the same amount of smart. If all of yours is used up in IQ, there’s not much left for, you know, brushing your hair).
    same amount of smart

  4. Gifted doesn’t always mean smart

    This may seem illogical, or it may seem like I’m repeating the above. It’s neither. Being smart is about EQ: your emotional quotient. It’s about navigating the social minefield we call life. Some people, especially the severely gifted, simply don’t have that.

  5. No two gifted children are alike

    My sister and I received the same assessment: gifted. Yet we’re really n very much alike. Our brother, who is also (supposedly) gifted, may as well be from a different planet, I sometimes think. He truly is unique. My parents got it right when they parented us: they knew hat worked for one would not necessarily work for all. That’s not being unfair. That’s being wise. And it’s vital to your family’s success. You need to identify each child’s unique temperament and needs, bearing in mind that these WILL change with time. It’s not as hard as it sounds, and it will make you all a lot happier. Just be transparent about the process, and be very careful not to turn a character trait into a crutch – an excuse to justify poor behaviour.

  6. Patience is the key

    When we see the potential in our gifted learners, we tend to expect a lot. Often, they will exceed our expectations and astound us with their wisdom, logic and insights. To be fair, they fuel our expectations by their sheer brilliance. But these expectations set us up for disappointment. It’s much healthier, and infinitely more exciting, to allow them to unfold, to live in a state of expectancy. Just wait and see.

  7. Boundaries – you need them

    Just because your child is a genius, that doesn’t give them license to do whatever they want, or get whatever they desire. These boundaries are as important for your child as they are for you, since clear, strong structures create a sense of security – perfect for the learning requirements of your gifted child.

Have you got a gifted child? What are your experiences like? Do you agree with what I’ve said, or do you have a different perspective? I’d love to hear it.

School vs Learning

While there are records of educational institutions dating back to at least 2000 AD, the modern school system and the “norm” of sending kids to be taught while we all go off to earn is relatively new. In fact, for centuries, millennia even, most people worked in and around the home (or farm), and everything was done as a family.

Based on that, we might be tempted to think no learning occurred until we built schools and sardined all our kids into them while all the grown ups sold their souls for school fees.

History shows us, however, that this is patently untrue. The fact is that people have learnt stuff since the dawn of time. We’ve learnt to speak and to dress ourselves. We’ve learned to eat and to feed ourselves. We’ve learnt to walk and talk and socialise and cook and clean and work and even read and write. And for centuries, we’ve learnt all of this without the intervention of a single qualified teacher.

In other words, school is not necessarily the same thing as learning.

As schools evolve, many of them* seem to actively discourage learning altogether. When we took the girls out of main stream schooling, we found them so overwrought at the thought of “school” that the very word left them a quivering mess of tears. It took us months to begin to open them up to the possibility that learning could be fun.

I don’t know if this is large number of children in a class, the massive admin burden facing so many teachers, the lack of fascinating subjects for learning-challenged learners to sink their teeth into, or some diabolical combination of the above.  Whatever it may be, school certainly wasn’t conducive to learning in my children. We pretty much had to start from scratch.

Since taking them out of main stream school, so many people have challenged us about how much they learn – how much they could possibly learn – under these circumstances. They wonder how we could possibly know enough to teach our children (we did pass high school, after all. And plus: Google). They wonder how we could make our children learn.

But in truth, they’re learning every day. They learn when we make breakfast together. They learn when we discuss current affairs. They learn when they hear us run our business, and they learn as we disciple others in Church. They learn from us as we live our lives, and they learn from us as we actively invest time in their education. They learn when they help me design logos or capture cash slips. They learn when we go to the zoo or the beach or the museum or Granny’s House. Sometimes, we hardly touch an academic subject for days, but that doesn’t mean they’re not learning all the time.

They certainly haven’t stopped learning. If anything, they’ve only just begun.

What they no longer do is fear it.

*(Certainly not all – many are amazing institutions of learning where great strides are made in thought and human development)

Why the “core values approach” to home education really works for us

Yesterday I discussed our philosophy and some of our methods when it comes to home education. It occurred to me after I’d posted it that I utterly neglected to mention the weekly baking we do, how much the girls help with shopping (especially at the Farmers’ market), and all the fun, crafty things we do. Ah well, now you know. We bake, we shop, we craft. 🙂

There are so many reasons that this approach is effective, that I would suggest that every person who is home schooling their children, or who is considering doing so, should first make a list of everything they hope to give their children from home education. That list will probably be a long one, and it should be refined and distilled until it’s a simple and clear (and achievable!) as possible. Once that’s out of the way, make a decision about curricula and methodologies is so much easier. You’ll be able to spot what you want – and what you don’t – at a glance!

For us, this really works for three reasons:

  1. I am sure that my children are learning what I believe is essential to becoming well-rounded adults.
    Because I have identified what I believe is most important, I can focus on those things. This process was done in consultation with many others, mentors, parents, pastors, home schoolers and (of course) Papa Bear. It was also the result of deep personal reflection and hours of research. I believe that our approach will deliver capable, resilient, well-rounded adults, ready and able to take on the world, and equipped with all the tools they need to face an ever-changing future.
  2. I know that I am not missing anything, since the net is fairly wide and covers the most essential bases.
    Most of what we learn in formal schooling is a series of facts. Why? When everything is available to us at the click of a mouse, why does it matter whether or not you know when the battle of Hastings was fought, or the scientific name for the Cape Swallow? I propose that it doesn’t matter. Of far more worth is a sense of the sequence of events (in History) and the ability to find things out for yourself. Spoon-feeding and regurgitating facts is a recipe for the learnt helplessness we see so prevalent in young people today, who seem unable to think for themselves, or take care of themselves, or make a valuable contribution to society. I am training young adults who will be able to make a positive impact.
  3. This approach supports my children’s learning styles (and my teaching style and need to work).
    My kids are unique. No one who has spent more than five minutes with them has ever doubted this. In fact, many of them have announced it to me within moments of meeting the girls, just in case I myself hadn’t noticed! Thanks, but we already knew. Between ADD and Tourette’s and what looks a whole lot like Asperger’s Syndrome, not to mention high IQs and sparkling wit, these two do not fit into any conventional boxes. Now, they don’t have to. And as a result, they have become so much more confident and self-assured. They’re ready and willing to interact with a wide range of people of all ages and races, and they no longer worry that, without their preassigned pigeonholes, they don’t have a place in their community. We also no longer have to battle feelings of failure and worthlessness because they don’t happen to be part of the eight percent of children who think and learn in the way that schools teach. We learn their way.

And of course, a key factor for us is the simple fact that we can afford it! Cost was one of the motivators for switching to home school, and since most of the material we use is either online (for free), at the library (for free), or in the head of a loving, engaged and doting grown up (for free!), we spend very little on education.

We may pay for outings, books or DVDs, or we might buy equipment for inventions and experiments, but I feel that these things are a much better investment than sending the girls to a school where the main thing they learn is to hate and fear learning. Now, let’s be really clear: I do not mean that all schools squash the love of learning in young minds. I do not mean that all teachers ignore the uniqueness of their learners. I know many, many children who love going to school, and who thrive there. And every teacher I know personally is a dedicated, passionate, involved individual who gives everything she has to elicit the best from her pupils. All I mean is that school doesn’t work for us. 


In praise of arguments

Learning to argue well can be a recipe for personal growth

Learning to argue well can be a recipe for personal growth

My early Bible school training was built on the Socratic discussion model. We were taught to argue. And argue, and argue and argue. We had to be able to understand and prove our case, and defend it logically and comprehensively from every angle. It was stimulating, challenging and a recipe for personal, social, spiritual, mental and philosophical growth. I loved it, and I miss it.

This TED talk reminded me of that time. It encourages me to believe that people have the capacity to learn how to present different sides of a thought proposition, and that we can all grow as a result of learning how to argue coherently. Let me know what you think.

Parenting the tactile-kinaesthetic learner

Involve me and I learnWe’ve recently evaluated our family’s learning styles. While there is a fairly balance between visual, auditory and tactile, I have not a tactile/kinaesthetic bone in my body, being strongly verbal-linguistic, and slightly visual. Goldilocks, on the other hand, is highly tactile, with very little verbal-auditory processing. Moreover, I am slightly tactile-defensive, meaning that I neither like to be touched, nor enjoy touching certain types of things (anything dirty or germ-ridden, for instance).

For Goldilocks especially, and slightly less so for Papa Bear and Red Riding Hood, that is how the learn and interact with the world.

Mom-de-Plume (DeeDee and Dexter’s Topical Writer Mom) is a lot like me, while her kids are a lot like mine, so we’re working on a curriculum for teaching gifted tactile-kinaesthetes. Well, I say we, but I mean her. I am an avid cheerleader at this stage! I may perhaps get involved in the design side in days to come. I’ll keep you posted.

In the mean time, this quote from Benjamin Franklin is becoming my mantra as I try to navigate new and uncharted territory:

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

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