Camp Creek Blog

New resources on the site — enjoy!

Published by Lori Pickert on June 1, 2014 at 12:14 PM

We have some new resources here on the site:

Resource section — We’ve started to build out a huge collection of PBH and general learning-related resources for you to browse here. I will be updating this (LOTS more to add) so check back once in awhile. 

Journal Gallery — PBHers have shared photos of all kinds of PBH journals to help you think about the system that would work best for you. Check it out. (I’ll be adding to this one, too — some digital PBH journals are next!)

Workspace Gallery — Browse this collection of different PBH studios and workspaces from all kinds of homes. We even have some PBH group spaces. Inspiring!

Passion and Meaningful Work — We are continually adding to this collection of quotes that show deep interests DO matter when it comes to finding and doing your meaningful work.

Don’t forget these existing resources:

How to Start a PBH Group — Are you interested in starting a homeschool family project group, co-op class, summer camp, or just moving an existing group in a more project-oriented direction? Check out our free guide to starting a PBH group.

The Introvert’s Guide to Building Community — It’s not just for introverts. To make sure you start out on the right foot, read this solid advice for beta-testing and launching a new community.

What to Look for in a DIY/Maker/Hacker/Tinkering Group for Kids — This checklist will help you identify the best groups for self-directed learners — and avoid the people who aren’t walking the talk.

Ten Steps to Getting Started with Project-Based Homeschooling — If you have friends or family who are interested in learning more about PBH or self-directed learning, this is where you can point them.

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Summer PBH Master Class and Seminar enrolling NOW!

Published by Lori Pickert on May 28, 2014 at 08:13 AM

We are now enrolling the Summer Session of the PBH Master Class. It runs from June 23 through August 2 (six weeks) and costs $120. Please go here to read the class description and testimonials from former students. You may enroll here.

We’ve already done early-bird enrollment so space is limited!

If the timing isn’t right for you, you can join the early-bird announcement list for the next class. (No dates have yet been set.)

We are also enrolling the first Summer Seminar on Mentoring PBH Groups. It will be two weeks long and will run from August 4 through 16. It costs $75.

Please note you must have already taken the master class to take this seminar! You can dual enroll as long as space is available.

For more information and to enroll, please go here. If you would like to get on the early-bird list for next year’s class, you may do that here. If we repeat this seminar it won’t be until next summer!

Questions about anything? E-mail me!

Thank you as always for your support!

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It’s my birthday and I have presents for you

Published by Lori Pickert on May 16, 2014 at 09:08 AM

A birthday banner made of original comic strips!

• • •

It’s my birthday and I want to give you a present!

This summer I’m going to teach a series of free one-week classes — and today you can sign up!

Free Summer Classes 2014

#1: Journaling Boot & Reboot — June 15-21

Whether you want to journal about PBH, your own meaningful work, start a gratitude habit, or gain insight into your values and goals, you can use this free one-week class to jumpstart a great practice for this summer and beyond. This class is for you but we’ll also talk about how to inspire kids to journal and the best way to support and encourage them while letting them own the process and do it their own way. Sign up here!

Stay tuned for announcements of more classes as summer goes on! (To make sure you don’t miss anything, join our e-mail list!)

I give because I love. <3_<3
 
(If you want to give ME a present, please consider reviewing my book on Amazon! Other than a hug and a really big cake, that’s all I want. And I already have the cake.)
 
Read more about the free classes here — and keep checking back as we update!

Small Wins Wednesday: Becoming specialists

Published by Lori Pickert on May 13, 2014 at 08:05 PM

Visiting the bird specialist at the Field Museum. The tail on the Sap-Sucker is stiff to stablize it when going up and down trees.

• • •

Every Wednesday we share a small win from the forumTwitter, the Facebook page, or (with the writer’s permission) from the mail bag.

This week’s small win is from akari:

Today my boys 5 and 7 visited the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago as guest visitors, providing the museum with a dead yellow-bellied sapsucker (found after a window accident) as a specimen. The boys were given a tour of the bird division behind the scene by the bird head there and even met the only artist in residence of the museum!

(Older son commented later on, “Oh, I wish I could paint like her…” I found a book that she wrote on how to paint and I now have ordered for it to be on hold at the public library.)

My older son developed a strong interest in birds that seemed to have been triggered by encouraging naturalist grandmas, their most recent Christmas gifts, and seeing their birder lifestyles. The interest seems to have evolved from the boys’ original strong interest in dinosaurs. We used to call the herds of Canada geese various grazing dinosaur names. Also there was an opportunity at my older son’s Saturday Japanese school to make “product drawings” for their chosen stores in February. T made 23 drawings of birds in 3 days for that project and continued to draw continuously for some time.

A great artist neighbor also around the time commissioned my boys to design postcards to send to a daughter in NY to help celebrate her 30th year. I showed T how to scan drawings, clean them up, combine and edit on photoshop. The feedback and the little notes our neighbor sent our boys after each delivery were very encouraging. We will be delivering more postcards.

Towards the end of winter we started to feed birds (started from sunflower heads we grew last year) in our backyard (metra train embankment), and now we have a squirrel-buster feeder, a handmade thistle feeder for goldfinches, a suet feeder, and a hummingbird feeder that we have gradually added. We have counted over 15 different species of birds that now come to our feeders and they have developed interest in photography through it. T has submitted a number of his bird photos to the Ranger Rick photo contest and is eager to observe new migrating birds that visit us. We learned about a website called e-bird, from our new ornithologist friend, that would now allow the boys to report their bird sightings. We might set up a birdbath, nesting boxes, and even plant more flowers that would attract hummingbirds. We have a gardening day scheduled for our apartment community, and the boys and I are discussing the possibility of setting up a bird photo gallery (of visitors to our feeders) in the hallway to share with neighbors during snack time.

This win feels big because of how expansive this project is getting to be. They are becoming specialists! Also, my reasons for taking part in the PBH master class was to learn how to help integrate community input and stimulation to their work. I had always been shy about showing other people what my boys do but I think I am getting over that a bit for their own benefit. I feel that I am finally able to put to practice what I have always believed. My kids belong to the world and not just to our small family.

I am most grateful for the PBH community, a supportive husband, and the timing of this strong interest momentum, as I will soon be more busy with the arrival of a new baby. I am encouraged that the growing independence in our boys is gently making the necessary room for me to build a new relationship with a new baby. :)

After I asked akari if I could share her small win here, she added this addendum:

I wanted to add just one more comment. Especially if you might share my report with more people.

This moment of celebration and inspiration to report back to the PBH community as the mother/observer/helper came to me at this particular moment it seems also because I had been feeling rather discouraged about many other things that had been going on in my family. Not to bore you with details but to illustrate what I mean…

My husband’s health is not particularly good and we are currently having trouble straightening out the most basics of health insurance dealings with BCBS. If my husband cannot work any more, I will have to be out working which will put a fast stop to our homeschooling endeavors. We are renovating a new apartment unit where my mother is scheduled to stay prior to and when the baby arrives. The schedule is quite delayed and people are not living up to their promises. My feet swell now and they hurt. I only have a month left where the baby is in a neat little bundle within me. I have a beloved kitty dying with a kidney disease. He had always been with me laboring through every home birth…

When I read positive and happy comment that people make, I tend to get a fixed image of that person “yay”-ing and smiling all the time. But if I stop and think about it I know that is probably not the case. I know that just like all the challenges that I am facing, everyone else has their own challenges. Living is tough sometimes and for that we want to and need to celebrate all that we can say “Yay!!” about. So for the time being and for this particular project I’ve been working on with my kids, “Yay!”

• • •

Yay! Thank you so much for sharing your small win — real people doing real work are more inspiring than anything. 

Why do we share small wins? Because we put on our attention on what we want to grow. We support each other, celebrate each other’s successes, and we make more of the good stuff!

Have you had a small win this week? Whether it’s related to PBH or not, please share in the comments!

More birds he recognized. And they got to touch them!

Filling the bird feeders.

T making a thistle seed bird feeder, after we saw a goldfinch.

T drew 26 birds in three days.

Custom postcard made in Photoshop.

 

Small Wins Wednesday: The power of documenting

Published by Lori Pickert on May 6, 2014 at 12:16 PM

Lining up the Europa life forms, facing them towards the camera for a picture.

• • •

Every Wednesday we share a small win from the forumTwitter, the Facebook page, or (with the writer’s permission) from the mail bag.

This week’s small win is from Erin (mckittre in the forum):

Documentation is one of my weak points.

This morning, after some read-aloud from his Space Encyclopedia, my son started telling a story about a rover discovering life on Europa.

He built a lego rover, then told me that it discovered 13 kinds of life and he was going to build them out of legos. So I grabbed my notebook, turned a page, numbered it 1-13, and asked him to tell me about them.

Later, his dad came in and noticed the line of lego creations, so my son excitedly grabbed the notebook and asked dad to read about them. Then grandma came in and he did the same. (I should have used neater handwriting.)

I think my documentation encouraged him to actually finish all 13, and gave him a way to share that jogged his memory about what he’d created, and gave it some more weight and importance.

• • •

Erin blogs at Ground Truth Trekking and also tweets. Thank you so much for sharing your small win!

See these PBH posts about journaling and documenting:

Project Journal — Parent’s

Inside My Project Journal

Why do we share small wins? Because we put on our attention on what we want to grow. We support each other, celebrate each other’s successes, and we make more of the good stuff!

Have you had a small win this week? Whether it’s related to PBH or not, please share in the comments!

Jupiter moon rover, nicknamed “Speed Rover,” with drill to drill through Europa’s ice.

 

Little sister also wants to play. She made a plane with guns.

 

Europa’s life displayed — in the order they evolved in.

 

My ugly notebook page with the names and characteristics of all the critters. Next time I need more room to write about who eats who.

 

New lego rover explores extra-solar planet with a similar composition to Neptune — checking the reference.

 

The solar system inspires a drawing in a non-drawing kid.

What I’ve been reading: The ROI of meaningful work

Published by Lori Pickert on May 2, 2014 at 08:47 AM

Last week we talked about passion, hope, and Good Work. Let’s contrast that with the following.

It’s all about the money, honey:

Everybody graduates from college with a major. So I wanted to know not just which college grads get richest but which college majors are the tickets to richness?

…[I]t's important to not conflate “highest ROI” [return on investment] with “best” or “smartest.” At Columbia University, an arts major has a 20-year expected return of $477,000, but an economics major at the school earns an extra $900,000 and a computer science major gets $1.6 million. Perhaps another study can prove that Columbia’s economics majors are twice as smart as its art majors. But the more reasonable explanation is that economics majors actually want to maximize their earnings after graduation. So they tailor their education to set them up for maximizing post-graduate income. — Which College — And Which Major — Will Make You Richest?

Before you choose your major, kid, read articles like these (here’s another one and another one). Then major in computer science — that’s where the money is! (Because a college education is a job placement program, not a foundation for a lifetime of learning, duh — get with the program!)

One, if every single person enrolls in computer science, then who’s going to be getting the available jobs when there are a glut of software engineers? The people who don’t really like coding and are just in it for the money? Or the people who really love it?

Two, even if you can get a job, if you don’t really like coding (and as a result you probably aren’t great at it), is your paycheck going to make up for the fact that you don’t enjoy your work?

The thinly veiled suggestion that you should pressure Junior to major in CS violates at least two of the three tests for Good Work that we discussed last week: Does it fit your values? Possibly, if your values are about making the most money possible. Is it excellent work — are you highly competent at what you do? Not if it’s not what you really enjoy. Does it bring joy? I’m going to say no — you don’t really enjoy, so there goes your joy, and I’m guessing you aren’t going to produce work that makes anyone else feel joy, either.

When I read these articles I get the sense that the underlying message is that work sucks so if you have to work, you may as well make as much money as possible. This is a very common mindset among adults.

The young people who follow this advice will probably end up spending their big salary trying to make themselves feel better about a life that makes them miserable, a life they chose because they wanted a big salary.

Alan Watts, save us!

[I]t’s absolutely stupid to spend your time doing things you don’t like in order to go on spending time doing things you don’t like and to teach your children to follow in the same track. — How to Do What You Love

Some people love computer science and they get to do what they enjoy and make big bucks — good for them. (The fact that we pay 20-something software engineers more than experienced teachers is a whole other subject.) But a good test for Junior would be: Would you do this job even if it paid much less? If the answer is no, maybe you should think hard about that.

Going to college seems to be the most talked-about subject among people with kids around the same age as ours. And by now we’ve heard plenty of stories feeding fears that your child will be left behind, will miss out on the best education and, therefore, will see his life ruined before it even begins.

…[M]y son and I found ourselves sitting in the well-appointed office of a man asking what my son wanted to do with his life. “I have no idea,” my son sighed, in the same tone I used when I was that age to answer annoying aunts. How could anyone know? Albert Einstein had no idea he would one day become Albert Einstein.

“Well, what are your interests?” the counselor asked.

His interests range from learning more about the stars to studying card tricks, from a fascination with the idea of infinity to playing Xbox. Afterward, the consultant said: “Your son has to learn to focus more. He is just drifting through life.” — April madness: The problem with American college admissions

Drifting through life! The irony is that the teen years could be so rich for exploring interests and talents (and doing real, meaningful work) but we stuff them with so many hours of school, homework, and extracurricular activities (all the better for your college application!) that kids don’t know who they are or what they want to do. Then we complain that kids aren’t applying themselves. Not only are you supposed to be busy 24/7, stressed and exhausted, but you’re also supposed to figure out which STEM career you want.

By the time they reach an age to think about what they’d like to do, most kids have been thoroughly misled about the idea of loving one's work. School has trained them to regard work as an unpleasant duty.

If you take a boring job to give your family a high standard of living, as so many people do, you risk infecting your kids with the idea that work is boring. Maybe it would be better for kids in this one case if parents were not so unselfish. A parent who set an example of loving their work might help their kids more than an expensive house.

The test of whether people love what they do is whether they’d do it even if they weren’t paid for it — even if they had to work at another job to make a living. How many corporate lawyers would do their current work if they had to do it for free, in their spare time, and take day jobs as waiters to support themselves?…

With such powerful forces leading us astray, it’s not surprising we find it so hard to discover what we like to work on.

Most people are doomed in childhood by accepting the axiom that work = pain. Those who escape this are nearly all lured onto the rocks by prestige or money. How many even discover something they love to work on? A few hundred thousand, perhaps, out of billions.

It’s hard to find work you love; it must be, if so few do. …

[T]he way to do great work is to find something you like so much that you don’t have to force yourself to do it — finding work you love does usually require discipline. …

Finding work you love is very difficult. Most people fail. Even if you succeed, it’s rare to be free to work on what you want till your thirties or forties. But if you have the destination in sight you’ll be more likely to arrive at it.

If you know you can love work, you’re in the home stretch, and if you know what work you love, you’re practically there. — Paul Graham, How to Do What You Love

I’ve shared this ancient editorial before (read it all here):

I see many teens of means with few interests and little idea how to pursue those mild passions they do have. Ironically, many are successful academically. Rarely, however, is their success driven by a quest for knowledge. Rather, they tie academic achievement to eventual financial success. — “The Dangers of Privilege and College Admission,” by college consultant William Caskey

The purpose of education — apparently it’s all about income. Shouldn’t it be to help people connect with their purpose?

Last week we talked about the fourth-grade slump and how by third grade (we’re accelerating that slump) kids are starting to disengage and lose their self-motivation.

Recently I went to hear a concert played by the orchestra at our local high school. It was beautifully done, Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony, at a near-professional level. But it was strangely joyless.

It wasn’t until I attended my daughter’s middle school band concert, with all its toots and missed notes — amid raucous laughter from the musicians — that I knew what was missing.

The American education system in general, and the college admissions process in particular, seem intent on creating cautious, careerist adults-in-training. — April madness: The problem with American college admissions

Cautious and careerist. Oh yay.

When I compare last week’s post with this week’s, it takes me about a nanosecond to choose Good Work as what I want for my sons over “which college and which major makes you the richest.” I want more for them than a big paycheck; I want them to have a Good Life. We already know what that entails. We already know what matters, we just don’t choose it.

In a study led by Derek Isaacowitz, we found that the capacity to love and be loved was the single strength most clearly associated with subjective well-being at age eighty. — Martin Seligman, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being

In an interview in the March 2008 newsletter to the Grant Study subjects, Vaillant was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.” — Is There a Formula for a Good Life?

What’s a really terrible idea when planning your future?

You know those nightmares where you are shouting a warning but no sound comes out? Well, that’s the intensity with which the experts wanted to tell younger people that spending years in a job you dislike is a recipe for regret and a tragic mistake. There was no issue about which the experts were more adamant and forceful. Over and over they prefaced their comments with, “If there’s one thing I want your readers to know it’s…” From the vantage point of looking back over long experience, wasting around two thousand hours of irretrievable lifetime each year is pure idiocy. — 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans

What makes for a rich life, in every sense of the word? Relationships. When do you start that particular education? At birth.

[A] loving childhood is one of the best predictors of mid and late-life riches: “We found that contentment in the late seventies was not even suggestively associated with parental social class or even the man’s own income. What it was significantly associated with was warmth of childhood environment…” — What makes for a good life?

When you think about the advice you will give your children about their future — should you advise them to invest in the biggest salary they can get, or should you advise them to invest in their interests and signature strengths?

From The Top Five Regrets of the Dying:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

If you end up at 18 with absolutely no clue about what you care about, who you are, or what you do well, perhaps it’s not surprising that you get in line for the job with the highest income.

If, as an adult, you think work is a necessary evil — if you’ve never found your own meaningful work — then perhaps it’s not surprising if you advise your children to get in that line.

Many people are caught in this cycle, choosing money over meaning, then advising their children to do the same. And what a self-perpetuating cycle it is:

[O]ur studies suggest that children from the most affluent families find it more difficult to be in flow — compared with less well-to-do teenagers, they tend to be more bored, less involved, less enthusiastic, less excited.

Our research suggests, for instance, that more affluent teenagers experience flow less often because, although they dispose of more material possessions, they spend less time with their parents, and they do fewer interesting things with them. — Prerequisites for Happiness

What’s the return on investment for deep interests, meaningful work, and making a real contribution to your community? It might not be the biggest paycheck. But I do think it’s the path to a more satisfying life.

Small Wins Wednesday: Mentoring a mentor

Published by Lori Pickert on April 30, 2014 at 07:41 AM

• • •

Every Wednesday we share a small win from the forumTwitter, the Facebook page, or (with the writer’s permission) from the mail bag.

This week’s small win is from Kerry:

My 6 year old had been playing birthday party for each of her stuffed animals and dolls for weeks. She would cut up decorations, write invitations and wrap “presents” for the guest of honor. She’d make a cake in her play kitchen and we’d sing “Happy Birthday.”
 
One day she decided she wanted to plan a real party, with balloons, and a piñata full of candy, and guests, and everything. She’d never made a piñata before, so we watched some videos on You-tube, made a list, and headed to the store for supplies.
 
Just as she started making the paper-maché paste, back at home, her big sister stepped in to help. As I sat back, happy to not be assisting any longer, snapping pictures to document, I noticed that big sister was slowly taking over the project. She had opinions on everything from which paste recipe to use, to how to close up the piñata after filling it. All decisions the 6-year-old had already made. I tried suggesting she start her own paper-maché project, but she wasn’t interested. And really, the 6yo did need help covering the huge balloon with all the little strips of paper and, with her sister’s help, they were able to quickly whip up more paste when they unexpectedly ran out. She needed her help, and they were having a lot of fun.
 
I didn’t want to discourage either of them, but I didn’t want my youngest daughter to lose ownership of the project either. So, I went to Lori and the forum for help.
 
Lori had some great ideas, of course, and I have spent some time talking with my daughter about helping me mentor her younger siblings. I’ve told her what a great example she is setting while she works on her own projects. And I have tried to make my own learning visible, talking about what I’m working on to improve myself, so that she becomes more aware of her own actions and how they might be improved.
 
Last week, the 13-year-old, along with the help of her cousin and sister, organized a camp for her younger siblings and cousins. They cleared a space in the bit of woods edging our yard, set up the tent, hung a tire swing, built a pallet table for meals, shopped for groceries, collected field guides, made a hilarious welcome/rules of camp video to show to the campers before heading out, and planned activities and games. I was so impressed with her ability to keep everyone doing what they needed to be doing, and delegating work, without dictating or being overly “bossy.” Everyone had a great time and, while they were cleaning up the site at the end of camp, my 6-year-old came to me, with a sad face, and said she didn’t want camp to be over. Planning has already begun for the next camp and the campers all signed up right away.
 
As I wrote in the forum last week, I have loved watching my daughter’s “bossiness” develop into thoughtful, trusted leadership.
 
It’s amazing when I think back to the little girl at 3 ordering her cousins and little sister around, getting angry and frustrated at their reactions. I can still see the red face and foot stomp at the bottom of the slide as she yelled that they were doing it (the obstacle course) wrong. And, to now see them come to her with their ideas looking for someone willing to put it all together, to do the planning and organizing. Or to see her present her plans to an attentive group, to see her get them excited about her plans, and to see her welcome, or at least consider, others’ ideas and input.
 
It’s not always roses, of course, but she really is becoming a brilliant leader, and as someone who prefers to do my own thing, and not mess with trying to lead others, in general, I find it awe inspiring.

• • •

Kerry blogs at 6 Berries and also tweets. Thank you so much for sharing your small win!

Why do we share small wins? Because we put on our attention on what we want to grow. We support each other, celebrate each other’s successes, and we make more of the good stuff!

Have you had a small win this week? Whether it’s related to PBH or not, please share in the comments!

 

As you may know, I have a bone to pick with anyone who says that passion doesn’t matter.

To discard passion (or authentic interest) is to drain the life force from the learner and therefore from the work. Am I going to bring my best efforts to something that holds no interest for me? Am I going to achieve flow? Am I going to strive to challenge myself? — Why Skills Don’t Trump Passion

Newport’s book has some good advice for 18-25-year-olds who have been pushed toward achievement their whole lives and who have a non-reality-based, pipe-dreamy idea of what they’d really like to do, which they call their “passion.”

It’s advice for people whose interests have never been connected with their work in any meaningful way.

This advice doesn’t work for kids who are experienced at coupling their interests with real-world experience, knowledge, and skills. These kids have already deeply explored their interests. They already know what it means to get beyond the honeymoon period to the place where real, challenging work is required. They have experienced the deep pleasure of having real skills and doing meaningful work.

These kids have shared what they know with others. They’ve connected with their community. Their experiences have firmly planted them in reality. Their interests aren’t pipe dreams and fantasies — they are gateways to the nexus of “what I like to do,” “what I have to give,” and “what people will pay for.”

Most career advice is for kids who came up through the regular system. It won’t help kids who were educated via an alternate path.  — Why Skills Don’t Trump Passion

(I’ve been putting together a collection of quotes that I run across that address passion as it relates to learning and doing meaningful work. Check it out here: Passion and Meaningful Work.)

This past week I’ve been reading Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined (subtitle: The Truth About Talent, Practice, Creativity, and the Many Paths to Greatness) and it contains some interesting material related to passion:

“Go to virtually any preschool or elementary classroom, and you’ll witness something rare: excitement. Whether it’s engagement in painting, make-believe games, or learning why the moon disappears, there appear to be very few young children with deficits in motivation. Children love learning. They want to figure out what this new, shiny world of theirs is all about.

Contrast this with a typical middle school or high school classroom. They can’t wait to get done with school and go on to ‘after-school’ activities. You ask them what they think of school, and many will say it’s dull, boring, and dry. Systematic studies show that intrinsic motivation decreases steadily starting from about third grade.” — Ungifted

We’ve talked about the fourth-grade slump before. And I’ve heard plenty of other theories about why it occurs just then — kids stop drawing every day, kids stop having art classes, kids have a lot less time to play and they become detached from the work at school because they have more homework and no autonomy. This slump is happening earlier and earlier, because school is becoming academic and monotonous earlier and earlier. (Here are some forum discussions about fourth-grade slump.)

I’m reminded of this quote I shared on Facebook:

[C]hildren have been taught from a very young age that their ‘grades’ matter more than the actual purpose of the assignment — just like ‘subjects’ trump true learning.

“[My son] loves math and science in nursery school — it's just that no one calls it ‘math’ or ‘science.’

In nursery school, math is called cooking, building, or drawing.

Science is called gardening, exploring, or playing in the yard (finding bugs and figuring out what they do is a specialty). 

What happened between nursery school and first grade that made us forget this? Why is it so critical for a first grader to learn ‘math’ as a stand-alone subject? What happened to building?” — Does Spelling Count?

Short version: Kids start out excited about learning and then we ruin it.

So how can we back up a step and put the excitement back into learning? We must — no surprise — making it more meaningful and more self-directed:

“[Vallerand and his colleagues] proposed a new theory [about passion], grounded in self-determination theory. They argued that everyone has a preference for some activity, but the reason an activity is preferable and enjoyable is because it satisfies the basic human needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Over time these activities can eventually become a central part of a person’s identity. For instance, while intrinsic motivation involves feeling joy from playing basketball, passion involves *being* a basketball player.

Vallerand and colleagues defined passion as ‘a strong inclination toward an activity that people like, that they find important, and in which they invest time and energy.’” — Ungifted

Note: intrinsic motivation (motivation that comes from within) decreases steadily starting around third grade. This is self-motivation: the stuff that spurs you to do things you want to do. Without it, you slide into becoming the typical passive student, just waiting to get this “learning” over with so you can get back to stuff you really want to do. (You’ve unfortunately learned to separate “learning” and “things you like to do” because — hello — you’ve seen them combined so infrequently.)

Back to that quote: Self-determination theory

“…identifies three innate needs that, if satisfied, allow optimal function and growth:

  1. Competence
  2. Relatedness
  3. Autonomy

These needs are seen as universal necessities that are innate, not learned, and seen in humanity across time, gender and culture.” — Wikipedia

In other words, for optimal growth, we all need these three things: to feel capable, to feel connected, and to feel in control of our own actions.

“A number of studies show that tasks that satisfy all three of these basic strivings lead to the highest levels of intrinsic motivation.

Consider a series of studies conducted by Maarten Vansteenkiste and colleagues on the importance of autonomy among a diverse sample of preschool teachers in training, college students majoring in marketing, and high school students. They found that students tended to show better learning outcomes when the material was framed in terms of intrinsic goals (such as personal growth, health, or community contribution) rather than extrinsic goals (such as money, an attractive image). What’s more, they found an increase in learning outcomes when students were made to feel as though they had choice over their actions (for instance, using phrases such as ‘you can’ and ‘if you choose’ in the instructions) rather than being made to feel as though they were being controlled (using phrases such as ‘you must’ and ‘you have to’ in instructions). Importantly, there was an interaction: intrinsic goals and autonomy worked synergistically to produce … more deep processing, greater persistence, and higher levels of performance.” — Ungifted

All of these things work together: self-motivation, persistence (or grit), deeper thinking and learning, and good, meaningful work. If you take a person’s autonomy and self-motivation away, you decrease their ability to learn and succeed.

You can see how this relates to PBH. To mentor self-directed learners, we must help them tap into their self-motivation, explore their deepest interests, connect with collaborators and mentors, contribute to the community — we must help them work independently and interdependently.

“[H]armonious passion was positively correlated with positive emotions, flow, concentration while engaging in the activity, and continued positive emotions … after engagement. … Barbara Frederickson and her colleagues have conducted an impressive amount of research showing that positive emotions lead to an ‘upward spiral’ of adaptive behaviors and better psychological adjustment. … This is why it’s so important that we foster a climate of harmonious passion in all students.” — Ungifted

“[P]assion isn’t an automatic consequence of performing well on an IQ test or getting good grades in school. Passion is activated by a clear set of conditions, and these rules apply to everyone; no one is immune.” — Ungifted

Help kids find their passion early and they can develop their signature strengths — they can figure out what they’re good at and who needs those skills and abilities. They can explore what interests them deeply and widely so that their career choices happen from a place of real knowledge and understanding.

The author goes on to say that passion — engaging kids with something they really care about — is essential, but passion must be paired with a growth mindset. Here’s Carol Dweck making that same connection:

Robert Sternberg, the present-day guru of intelligence, writes that the major factor in whether people achieve expertise “is not some fixed prior ability, but purposeful engagement.” Or, as his forerunner Binet recognized, it’s not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest. — Carol Dweck, Mindset

Passion, engagement, and a growth mindset — and … hope?

“According to [positive psychologist Charles Snyder and colleagues’ ‘hope theory’], hope consists of agency and pathways. The person who has hope has the will and determination to achieve goals and a set of various strategies at their disposal to reach their goals. Put simply: Hope involves the will to get there and different ways to get there.

Both are important. Life is difficult. There are inevitable obstacles. Having goals is not enough. One has to keep getting closer to those goals amid all the inevitable twists and turns of life. Hope allows people to approach problems with a mindset and strategy set suitable to success, thereby increasing the chances they will actually accomplish their goals.

“[H]ope, as defined by Snyder and colleagues, is not just a feel-good emotion, but a dynamic cognitive motivational system. According to hope theory, emotions follow cognitions, not the other way around.”

“…Snyder and his colleagues proposed that a person’s level of hope leads him or her to choose learning or performance goals. … [T]hose lacking hope typically adopt performance goals and choose easy tasks that don’t offer a chlalenge or opportunity for growth. When they fail, they quit. They act helpless and feel a lack of control over their environment. They don’t believe in their capacity to obtain the kind of future they want. In other words, they have no hope.”

“‘The Hope Scale’ … includes items relating to agency (such as ‘I energetically pursue my goals’) and pathways (such as ‘There are lots of ways around any problem’). … Hope also predicted semester GPAs, overall GPAs, and overall self-worth … as well as self-esteem, confidence, and mood.”

“It seems that performance can be enhanced in the short term by reminding people that they have the motivation and the means to pursue a goal.”  — Ungifted

Hope is so important, it “actually predicts law school GPA better than the LSAT” (How You Can Use the Science Behind Hope to Be Your Best).

How do you help your child be more hopeful? Perhaps by practicing hope yourself? Energetically pursue your goals — remind yourself of your motivation — and acknowledge that there are many different ways to solve the inevitable problems you’ll run across.

Hopefulness, Kaufman points out, correlates with divergent thinking: the ability to come up with a lot of different ideas. And as Linus Pauling said, “The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.”

These individual studies interest me, but even more, I’m fascinated by how they fit together — how passion and mindset are both essential, how hope is slightly different from optimism and self-efficacy and all three are necessary. And what seems to tie it all together? Our innate human desire to control our own destiny — in our own way.

Finally, I found this lovely conversation between Daniel Goleman (author of Emotional Intelligence, Social Intelligence, and Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence) and Howard Gardner (known for his research into multiple intelligences, authentic understanding, and more):

“Goleman: When you talk about Good Work, you propose three tests that anyone can apply to their own work to ask the question, ‘Is the work I’m doing in this category?’ One is, it fits your values. The second is that it’s excellent work — you’re highly competent at what you do; you’re effective. The third is, it brings joy.

Gardner: …[W]e found, particularly in people who were working in very challenging professions or in very challenging milieus, that it was simply too difficult to be technically excellent and constantly reflecting about whether you are responsible and ethical. It was too difficult to do unless what you were doing was terribly important to yourself and you really felt it was your mission in life. You felt that you weren’t whole unless you were doing this kind of thing.” — Good Work: Aligning Skills and Values

In other words, values first, then goals and actions

“I…thought of a study that was done decades ago at MIT, of breakdowns that occurred at the age of 40, of people who had gone to MIT, had been very good students, had become middle or upper level executives at big engineering firms or professors, and that at age 40 they said, ‘Why am I doing this? What the hell for?’ They’d been on a treadmill where they had never been able to step back and say, ‘Is this important to me; is it meaningful?’ So, would that excellence and ethics and engagement and empathy have a natural connection, but they don’t. It has to be forged.” — Good Work: Aligning Skills and Values

“Goleman: What would you advise someone starting out in their career today; what would you advise someone, Howard, who wanted to have a career that was Good Work?…

Gardner: …Let me begin by saying that one has to decide what you really like to do and what you really would like to spend your life doing. And that’s much more important than deciding what particular job to hold… [Y]ou have to say ‘Where could I carry that out?’ and be very, very flexible about the venue and the milieu, but not flexible about what you really get a kick out of and think you can be good at. …

What we try to do in our courses in Good Work is, we say, we don’t care what kind of work you want to do, that’s your choice. But we want you to think about the kind of worker you want to be, before it’s too late.” — Good Work: Aligning Skills and Values

Deep interests — passions — do matter. If you want to do great work, you must start there, with the work you want and need to do.

And of course, that final sentence is, to me, a parallel of PBH. We don’t care what our child’s project topic is (her self-chosen work); we only care about helping her become a better learner — so she can move forward in life to do whatever it is she wants to do.

Small Wins Wednesday: Great kid mentors

Published by Lori Pickert on April 23, 2014 at 07:58 AM

Turning the play kitchen into a workbench with Grandpa Dave

• • •

Every Wednesday we share a small win from the forumTwitter, the Facebook page, or (with the writer’s permission) from the mail bag.

Carrie shared a great win on her blog about her young son’s experience being treated seriously and respectfully at the hardware store:

“I’n a go get my TOOLS!” And he was off at a run again, this time back up the street.

Ryan grinned when he saw Hawk. “You’re back.” He placed the screwdriver and hammer on the counter. “You still want these?”

“Yup.” Hawk handed over the coins. “I bring-ed my money.”

“Tell you what, Hawk.” Ryan rang up the purchase. “I’m going to give you the young builder’s discount. When I was a kid, I wanted real tools too. And I saved up for them too. I bet you’re going to go on and build great things.”  He handed the tools to Hawk. “Really great things.”

“Thanks.” Hawk tucked his new tools into his shopping bag. “I’m a worker.”

“You are,” Ryan said.  ”No doubt.”

Read the whole inspirational post, with more examples of greating mentoring, here: Young Builder’s Discount.

• • •

Why do we share small wins? Because we put on our attention on what we want to grow. We support each other, celebrate each other’s successes, and we make more of the good stuff!

Have you had a small win this week? Whether it’s related to PBH or not, please share in the comments!

 

One of the most important things we do for our children is to present them with a version of adult life that is appealing and worth striving for.” — Madeline Levine, Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More than Grades, Trophies, or “Fat Envelopes”

 

Reading and loving Madeline Levine’s book quoted above. It certainly resonates with PBH:

“[C]hildren must have the time and energy to become truly engaged in learning, explore and develop their interests, beef up their coping skills, and craft a sense of self that feels real, enthusiastic, and capable.”

While we all hope our children will do well in school, we hope with even greater fervor that they will do well in life. Our job is to help them to know and appreciate themselves deeply; to approach the world with zest; to find work that is exciting and satisfying, friends and spouses who are loving and loyal; and to hold a deep belief that they have something meaningful to contribute to society. This is what it means to teach our children well.”

"No child is better off in front of a computer or practicing times tables. Childhood is precious. It is not preparation for high school or college, but a brief and irreplaceable period of time when children are entitled to the privilege of being children."

“[M]y professional career [is] encouraging parents to be present with the child right in front of them rather than being overly focused on the future."

“We delude ourselves when we think that our parenting is the singular engine behind our child’s development. Your children come hardwired with interests, abilities, capacities and temperament. They will grow, more or less into the person they are meant to be whether they have one tutor or two, go to math camp or computer camp, work out twice a week or daily. I'm not saying that the opportunities we provide our children our meaningless. On the contrary, I’m asking you to consider the types of opportunities you are providing, what is motivating you, and how well these opportunities fit with your child’s particular nature." — Teach Your Children Well

Keeping these thoughts in mind…

The new trendy phrase in education is “deeper learning”:

Simply defined, “deeper learning” is the “process of learning for transfer,” meaning it allows a student to take what’s learned in one situation and apply it to another, explained James Pellegrino, one of the authors of the [Deeper Learning Report]. “You can use knowledge in ways that make it useful in new situations. … You have procedural knowledge of how, why, and when to apply it to answer questions and solve problems.” — How Do We Define and Measure ‘Deeper Learning’?

So, hmm … let me see if I’ve got this right. Deeper learning is … learning that you can actually use. Ah.

Why do we even need terms like “authentic learning” and “deeper learning”? Because, as you know, all learning experiences are not equal. All learning is not equally effective or lasting or useful or relevant. We call everything that happens in school “learning,” but how much of that do you remember? Use? How much of it do you carry into the future and how much of it do you discard like a flyer pressed into your hand on the street by a guy dressed like a giant hot dog?

Howard Gardner has been writing about authentic understanding and authentic learning for some time:

[W]e’ve got to do a lot fewer things in school. The greatest enemy of understanding is coverage. As long as you are determined to cover everything, you actually ensure that most kids are not going to understand. You’ve got to take enough time to get kids deeply involved in something so they can think about it in lots of different ways and apply it — not just at school but at home and on the street and so on.

Now, this is the most revolutionary idea in American education — because most people can’t abide the notion that we might leave out one decade of American history or one formula in math or one biological system. But that's crazy, because we now know that kids don’t understand those things anyway. They forget them as soon as the test is over — because it hasn’t been built into their brain, engraved in it. So since we know unambiguously that the way we do it now isn’t working, we have to try something else. — On Teaching for Understanding

This conversation, depressingly, occurred in 1993. And I quote: “We know unambiguously that the way we do it now isn’t working” — “we have to try something else.” And yet … we don’t.

Would you say that most students don’t really understand most of what they’ve been taught?

I’m afraid they don’t. All the evidence I can find suggests that’s the case. Most schools have fallen into a pattern of giving kids exercises and drills that result in their getting answers on tests that look like understanding. It’s what I call the “correct answer compromise”: students read a text, they take a test, and everybody agrees that if they say a certain thing it’ll be counted as understanding.

But the findings of cognitive research over the past 20–30 years are really quite compelling: students do not understand, in the most basic sense of that term. That is, they lack the capacity to take knowledge learned in one setting and apply it appropriately in a different setting. Study after study has found that, by and large, even the best students in the best schools can’t do that. — On Teaching for Understanding

Ooh, “the compromise” — so reminiscent of “the bargain”:

“Mostly what I see in my visits to middle and upper grades classrooms are examples of what of Michael Sedlack, et al. (1986), long-ago characterized as ‘the bargain’ — ‘you give me order and attendance, I’ll give you passing grades and [minimal] homework.’ - What I’ve Been Reading 3.14.14

On both counts, that’s quite a compromise — kids don’t have to learn anything as long as they go through the motions. Thanks, education!

Of course, there are many, many educators who hate this and want to change it. But haven’t there always been? And are things changing?

And where are the parents? Do they care about the bargain that bargains their child out of actually learning? The big compromise that means their kids get good grades and a diploma but they didn’t really learn anything? Madeline Levine again:

“When apples were sprayed with a chemical at my local supermarket, middle-aged moms turned out, picket signs and all, to protest the possible risk to their children’s health. Yet I’ve seen no similar demonstrations about an educational system that has far more research documenting its toxicity.” — The Problems with Parenting the Future Elite

It seems that as long as the system gets our kids where we want them to go, as a society we’re willing to ignore the underlying learning part of education. It’s not really about that, is it? It’s about jobs. And income. And status.

And are our kids even getting a fair shake in that compromise?

Why, Levine asks, do we continue to tolerate an education system that not only puts our children under intense pressure, but one that doesn’t even accomplish what it purports to be doing? After all, most children don’t make it to the most selective tier of colleges, study after study shows that excessive homework is useless at best and counterproductive at worst, and, finally, even business leaders are claiming that even the best of the American education system leaves graduates bereft of the skills one actually needs to make it in the 21st century. — The Problems with Parenting the Future Elite

With 45% of college graduates living back at home with their parents, can we seriously say that the education system is meeting its first priority, which seems to be job placement?

When I was a high school student my first real job was bagging groceries at Winn-Dixie. This wasn’t an unusual experience. I remember as a kid that many adults would tell me with no apparent embarrassment that their first job had been at McDonald’s. Holding a job like this was just part of the cycle of life

Two events changed this in the 1980s. The first was the recession, which shattered the illusion of American industrial dominance forever. The whole idea of a good job for life on the assembly line was now seen to be dangerously naive. This is the era when “you absolutely must go to college to succeed in life” meme took hold.…

The second was the closing of the bootstrap frontier. By this I mean the severe curtailing of the ability of people to work their way up from the bottom in business. …

With formerly entry level jobs increasingly ones with … a limited career path and low pay and benefits, and the only way to career success seen as being through college, a new concept of work started to emerge. In 1986 it was given a name, the “McJob.”

The phrase “McJob” was designed to label a real and important effect, and presciently so as we see today. Namely the bifurcation of the economy. Nevertheless, it went beyond a critique of economic conditions to something more fundamental; it said these were jobs not worth doing and unworthy of human dignity to hold. It eroded the idea of work itself as honorable.

Today I’m amazed how many teenagers and college students don’t work at all, especially not at old school grocery bagging or burger flipping jobs. It seems that you’re better off getting in more extra-curricular activities or doing volunteer work to burnish your resume than actually working, which says something profound.The Decline of Work

I find this fascinating to think about. The jobs I had as I worked my way through college profoundly affected who I became and what I chose to do with my life — far more than the classes I took. At the time, I was unhappy about how working drained my energy and took time away from, say, my essay on the Transcendentalists. But in the end, it was the work that taught me about myself, what I could do, what I wanted, and how to make a living. I graduated and immediately started my own business. I went back to reading for pleasure and learning for pleasure, and I continued to learn from actually doing real work.

Jobs, including low-level jobs, can be incredibly educational — about how to work with people, how to stand up for yourself, how to balance your own goals with the goals of your employer, and on and on and on.

If kids don’t have time to do real work while they are young, they are pushing all of these knowledge- and skill-building experiences off until after their education — until they are in their “real” jobs! (Pardon me, careers.) It seems we don’t have time for kids to do a lot of things during their education years:

- actually learn,

- explore their personal interests and talents,

- experience real work,

and much more, but that’s depressing enough. We have created a system where kids have to choose their future blindfolded. When they finally get the opportunity to really learn, they’re already heavily invested in a path they chose when they didn’t have all the facts they needed to make an informed decision.

You could say, oh, but you’re homeschooling so you can still do these things, and that is true! But here’s the thing: A lot of homeschooling parents not only follow the exact same high-pressure path that school kids take, but they double-down on it and use homeschooling as a way to increase their children’s academics and extracurricular activities. So homeschooling doesn’t really have anything to do with it. It comes down to parents and schools and communities: What do we want for kids? And are you willing to buck the trend to make it happen? Are you willing to break away from what everyone else is doing?

One thing we might do is simply throw out the weird, arbitrary calendar that’s imposed by the school system and our culture. Kids have to be doing X at Y age, period, and it starts in preschool and doesn’t let up until you’re married with a morgage and a child. Lets up, mind you — it never stops. How’s your retirement plan going?

That imposed calendar creates pressure within our kids and ourselves to get them moving along that conveyor belt at a brisk clip, checking off boxes along the way. When you think of the number of 20-somethings living with their parents after graduation, why not go ahead and take the extra time to really learn during those learning years?

[O]ur children are increasingly deprived of many of the protective factors that have traditionally accompanied childhood — limited performance pressure, unstructured play, encouragement to explore, and time to reflect.

“[W]e must embrace a healthier and radically different way of thinking about success. We need to harness our fears about our children’s futures and understand that the extraordinary focus on metrics — high grades, trophies, and selective school accpetances from preschools to graduate schools — is a partial and frequently deceptive definition. At its best, it encourages academic success for a small group of students but gives short shrift to the known factors that are necessary for success in life.”

“We know far too much about promoting healthy child development to continue to tolerate the myth that success is a straight and narrow path, with childhood sacrificed in the process. The truth is that most successful people have followed winding paths, have had false starts, and have enjoyed multiple careers.” — Teach Your Children Well

So here’s the question we must ponder: Are we willing to give our children the gift of the winding path?

 

“I woke up thinking a very pleasant thought. There is lots left in the world to read.” — Nicholson Baker

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