Camp Creek Blog

Friday picks

Published by Lori Pickert on February 21, 2014 at 12:51 PM

Happy Friday! Here’s what I’ve been reading and thinking about…

Education has to focus on learning how to learn — metacognition.

School will still be important, but not to impart what happened during the Revolutionary War or to teach the quadratic formula.

School … should focus on teaching young people the intangibles, the things that make humans unique: relationships, flexibility, humanity, how to make discriminating decisions, resilience, innovation, adaptability, wisdom, ethics, curiosity, how to ask good questions, synthesizing and integrating information, and of course, creating.” — If Robots Will Run the World, What Should Students Learn?

Learning how to learn is actually meta-learning; metacognition is thinking about thinking. But the point stands — education that only focuses on facts is missing the deeper purpose of teaching: helping learners develop the ability to teach themselves.

When I was running my tiny private school, we created an alternative assessment (alternative to letter grades) that attempted to tell the story of the whole student: their thinking habits, dispositions, strengths, and so on. We had a list of traits similar to the ones listed above.

Question: When you think about how your child is doing — and how they compare to other kids their age — what do you think of? Is it a list like this? Or something else?

[I]nterest can help us think more clearly, understand more deeply, and remember more accurately. Interest has the power to transform struggling performers, and to lift high achievers to a new plane.”

And “if catching people’s interest is about seizing attention and providing stimulation, holding it is about finding deeper meaning and purpose…” — How the Power of Interest Drives Learning

Authentic interest is the irreplaceable first step. Next? Ownership.

Kids are more engaged and enthusiastic if they have some input and control, even if it’s not their own self-chosen work. If you can’t give them autonomy over the whole project, can you involve them in making substantial choices?

Speaking of real choice, just because a program says it’s PBL/inquiry-based/learner-centered doesn’t mean it really is…
[A] lot of supposedly participatory projects had a distinct air of tokenism. Children were being put on display, so to speak, as though they were actively participating, but they were not taken seriously.”
“Most school projects … are conceived and designed by teachers, representing lost opportunities for more engaged and profound learning.”
“A lot of adults are genuinely trying to be helpful … but they don’t maximize a child’s chance to contribute in a way that allows the child to prepare and be confident and give an opinion that is really likely to be listened to. They don’t involve them, because they don’t think the child will contribute anything serious that will really make a difference.”
“People think American children already have a lot of voice. I thought the same thing when I first came here. But having rights implies being listened to, as well as speaking, and being taken seriously. Being listened to is even more important than having the freedom to make a lot of noise.” — Are we taking our students’ work seriously enough?
No matter what a program says it cares about and no matter what type of values they say they’re implementing (and this goes for homeschoolers, too, as well as schools), what matters is what is actually happening in the room. Are your kids REALLY being listened to? Are they sharing decision-making? Are they driving the curriculum with their own questions and ideas? If they’re not, it’s not project-based learning. It’s not learner-centered. It’s the old product in a new wrapper — same ingredients, repackaged with new jargon.
We have to find a way to live our values.
• • •
What I’ve been reading (or rereading) this week:
[T]he view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.
“Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over.”
“[With a growth] mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. … [Y]our basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.
Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience.” — Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
Learning is wider than education; education is only one social institution in which learning occurs, albeit the only one specifically directed toward it. Indeed, the reduction of human learning to the social institution of education is one of the typical features of the modern era. But all the social institutions together cannot contain learning, since learning is fundamental to human being and to life itself. These institutions exist only to facilitate the smooth functioning of the social system, and so they may often constrain learning. — Paradoxes of Learning
“Here’s a Twilight Zone-type premise for you.
 
What if surgeons never got to work on humans, they were instead just endlessly in training, cutting up cadavers? What if the same went for all adults — we only got to practice at simulated versions of our jobs? Lawyers only got to argue mock cases, for years and years. Plumbers only got to fix fake leaks in classrooms. Teachers only got to teach to videocameras, endlessly rehearsing for some far off future. Book writers like me never saw our work put out to the public — our novels sat in drawers. Scientists never got to do original experiments; they only got to recreate scientific experiments of yesteryear. And so on.
 
Rather quickly, all meaning would vanish from our work. Even if we enjoyed the activity of our job, intrinsically, it would rapidly lose depth and relevance. It’d lose purpose. We’d become bored, lethargic, and disengaged.

In other words, we’d turn into teenagers.” — NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children

• • •
 

How to save a child’s love of learning in one easy step

Published by Lori Pickert on February 19, 2014 at 07:51 AM

This is the way that it works — and I ran a school, after-school, and summer learning program for seven years plus I’ve taught numerous homeschool and adult workshops and I have two homeschooled children who have learned this way since they were in preschool and are now in their teens, so this is from life experience, not pie-in-the-sky idealism.

If you give children complete control over SOME PART of their learning, they will not only rise to the occasion and attack their interests with gusto, but they will turn around and approach all of their required learning with a newfound sense of self-confidence and self-determination. They will look for a way to learn that fits their new sense of themselves as people with interests, abilities, and important ideas.

Do you want your children or students to love learning? Don’t say “Here, we know what’s best for you — sit down, be quiet, and listen.” But also don’t just say “Go, do whatever you want.” Do better than that. Support their interests and their self-chosen work fully — with your attention, your time, your space, and your cold hard cash. Invest in their interests. Invest in their talents. Instead of letting them ride in the back seat while you take them on a wonderful adventure, show them how to drive the car. Mentor them to be self-directed learners.

If you do that, they will figure out that learning is how they can do the things they care about — the things they want to do. Once that switch is flipped, they may still be disappointed, frustrated, or disconnected when they’re forced to do dull, meaningless, irrelevant tasks, but at least they won’t call that “learning.”

They may be more demanding, more inquisitive, and they may interrupt more because they have more confidence in their own ideas. But on the whole, wouldn’t you rather have a child whose insistence on being in charge of his own learning disrupts your plan rather than a quiet, bored child who can’t wait to do what’s necessary so he can escape?

Teach children to direct and manage their own learning and they will love learning because they own it, they control it, and they can connect it with everything else they love.

Prioritize this one step and all the others will fall away because they just don’t work anymore.

 

See also: Ten steps to getting started with project-based homeschooling (whether you homeschool or not)

and

“We’re not just making learning less fun, less meaningful, less useful, and less relevant, we’re actually making it less educational.” — Self-directed learning: the neglected subject?

How to destroy a child’s love of learning in 15 easy steps

Published by Lori Pickert on February 17, 2014 at 04:49 PM

Photo credit: Richard Phillip Rücker, Flicker Creative Commons

 

1. Make sure he knows learning isn’t about what he wants to do but what he HAS to do. Even if you’re doing “project-based learning,” it’s your ideas that matter. Inspire kids to design, invent, and make an impact by giving them specific tasks YOU thought up and YOU care about!

 

2. Whenever possible, be patronizing. It’s inspiring to kids. They can dream of the day when they’re in charge and looking down on their own minions. Whatever you do, keep them away from grown-up books, resources, and tools — don’t let them stray from their assigned reading level!

 

3. If your child has a strong interest, use it as seasoning on required work.

Don’t have kids count regular pencil erasers in the math center — have them count dinosaur erasers! Kids love dinosaurs! Nothing brightens rote work like a reminder of something they would much rather be learning about.

 

4. Share his excitement to the point where you flood him with your ideas and take over. After all, your ideas are wayyyy better than his — he’s only seven!

A MacGyver project?! We know everything about MacGyver!

 

5. As early as possible, begin differentiating between “fun” and “work” and make sure he knows learning is “work” — we don’t call it schoolFUN, do we? “Work” isn’t supposed to be fun — if it’s fun, engaging, and/or enjoyable, that means it’s too easy.

 

6. Do the fun stuff yourself — you deserve it! Choosing books and materials, planning field trips, planning parties — when something fun is involved, that’s a treat for YOU!

 

7. When something requires decision, choice, weighing options, and/or allocating funds, do that yourself. That’s grown-up stuff.

 

8. Whenever possible, eliminate choice. The whole process will be much more streamlined if it’s a “tab A” into “slot A” situation. You can’t usher 15 kids through a craft quickly and efficiently if you don’t get that conveyor-belt vibe going.

Bonus: When displaying children’s artwork, scatter them all over the bulletin board turning them this way and that. That really reveals your respect for the effort they put into your cookie-cutter craft.

 

9. Creativity should be limited to which sticker you want to use to decorate the planned craft. Letting kids have input into the design process will take forever. We don’t have time for that.

 

10. Chew their meat for them. Prepare things ahead of time. Lay out the materials. Choose the books. Mark the passages. Find great movies to watch. Look up craft ideas on Pinterest. Cut the construction paper into squares and rectangles. Find the expert. Arrange the field trip. Tell them exactly what they need to know.

 

11. When they do their little bit at the end, shout “BIIIIIIG FINISH!” and give them a gold medal. They’ll treasure it. Nothing says “I honor and appreciate your work” like a certificate printed off the Internet.

Nothing confuses a child like giving them a reward for something they wanted to do — keep them on their toes!

 

12. Remember to rank everyone who participates and make sure everyone knows who did the assignment “right” and “best.” The most important thing you can learn is how to follow directions — and the second most important is where you rank amongst your competitors. Whether you’re a bluebird or a sparrow, it’s better to find out early!

For optimal comparison, have everyone do the exact same “art” project and hang them up in a grid. Nothing inspires kids to work harder than having the worst construction-paper Abe Lincoln.

 

13. Praise kids for being docile followers. Punish kids whenever they take initiative or make suggestions. They’re just trying to gum up the works!

Make sure kids learn early what a “good student” is. That way everyone will want to learn, learn, learn.

 

14. Use stereotypes to show kids what their interests now will get them later in life. Make sure they know that once you choose, that’s it. 

If you like science, you too can wear horn-rimmed glasses and work in a nice white lab that’s even more windowless and sterile than your classroom!

 

15. Stamp out autonomy. Drop the leash and kids will go in directions you cannot predict and plan for. You won’t be able to prepare it all ahead of time if you don’t know what’s going to happen! This is why preplanning is essential. Remember: it’s not about what they want. It’s about how well they do what we want.

 

BONUS IDEAS

Make sure they know that if they don’t understand the material, that’s THEIR fault.

The point of rigor isn’t to help kids work hard at things they want to do, it’s to force them to buckle down at things they find boring and irrelevant.

 

PLEASE CONTRIBUTE!

Do you have some ideas of your own? Share them in the comments!

 

THE ANTIDOTE

Feeling ouchy? This is for you: How to save a child’s love of learning in one easy step

And you might like this as well: Self-directed learning: the neglected subject?

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Friday Picks

Published by Lori Pickert on February 11, 2014 at 03:45 PM

If you read my post about job crafting on Tuesday, you may remember that the Harvard business school class of ’63 had a lot of advice about choosing work that aligns with your passions.

This week I read 30 Lessons for Living (a book of wisdom gathered from 1,000 “life experts” over the age of 65) and found similar advice:

“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.”

“After listening to a thousand of America’s elders give advice about fulfillment at work, nothing makes me cringe more than when I hear a young person describe his or her primary goal in life as ‘making a lot of money.’ … The experts have a real problem with this scenario. The view from the end of the life span is straightforward: time well and enjoyably spent trumps money anytime.”

“[Psychologists] use the word ‘eudaimonia’ (from the Greek) to describe happiness derived from activities that are rewarding in and of themselves. This is contrasted with ‘hedonia’ — as in hedonism. People with hedonic motivations look at work primarily as a way to acquire material possessions. In contrast, eudaimonic individuals who are motivated by goals that emphasize personal growth, contributing to the community, and meaningful relationships are typically much happier at work.”

What is the biggest regret people have at the end of life?

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” — Live without regrets — What are the top five career regrets?

Over and over again I hear adults making dour statements about how kids need to learn to buckle down and do hard and unpleasant things so they can prepare themselves for life and work in the future. What a depressing message: get used to dull, meaningless tasks because your life will be full of them.

If you don’t know that kids will work hard at something they really care about, then please give yourself and your kids the opportunity to discover that it’s true. Help them dig deeply into something they care about. Help them discover meaningful work now so they can keep finding it for the rest of their lives. They need to know what’s possible — and they need to know how to make it happen for themselves.

“Ask people what they want in a job, and meaningfulness looms large. For decades, Americans have ranked purpose as their top priority — above promotions, income, job security, and hours.” — The #1 Feature of a Meaningless Job

Does your child have the opportunity to work on self-directed projects that are meaningful, purposeful, and have a real impact on other people?

• • •

I shared this on Facebook:

A learner is entirely different from someone who is the subject of disciplinary action. They are someone who wants to learn. And the most powerful teachers for our children are [their] parents.

If I’m to set myself up as my child’s teacher, I must first have learned how to be self-disciplined. I must have addressed, and continue to address, my own emotional immaturity. I do this by becoming an authentic person, true to myself. In this way, my child learns from me to also be true to themselves — true to their heart’s deepest desires.

This is fundamentally different from hyper-focusing on our children’s behavior and constantly ‘disciplining’ — controlling — them to get them to conform to our wishes.” — Why Everything We Know About Discipline Is Wrong

How do we raise kids who are self-disciplined? First, by modeling. Then, by mentoring.

• • •

Another share from Facebook — I love this and I absolutely find it to be true in my own life:

“Your sense of time is actually answered by a simple question: how much are you learning?

“Monotony collapses time. Novelty unfolds it.”

[T]here’s the old adage about cherishing time, ‘The days are long, but the years are short,’ but, actually, it seems when you do things right, it’s the opposite: ‘the days are short, but the years are long’.” — How to Slow Down Time

Anecdotally among my friends on Twitter, it seems that when you are immersed in work that really engages you, time flies. And if you make the most of the time you have, you can find at least 10 minutes a day to work on what you care about — and in a year, it really adds up.

• • •

Over at Brain Child Magazine, they asked Should You Let Your Child Quit? I wrote a long comment in response:

“There are a few misconceptions here:

        - You have to do something you don’t want to do to learn how to work hard.

        - You have to do something you don’t want to do to do difficult things.

        - You have to do something you don’t want to do to learn how to persevere.

All of these are false.

It’s when you work on something you really care about — something that genuinely interests you, a goal that you really want to achieve — that you work your hardest. You learn what you are capable of. And children doing this work are most likely to work at their challenge point — the front edge of their abilities.” — read the rest here

You also might want to check out my checklist for good quitting in Perseverance and Grit vs. Knowing When to Quit.

 

 

“If we could be as efficient in supporting a child’s eagerness to learn as we have been in stifling this eagerness, this would revolutionize life as we know it.” — William Coperthwaite, A Handmade Life

Job crafting: Passion matters after all

Published by Lori Pickert on February 8, 2014 at 03:54 PM

I saw Cal Newport on Brainpickings this past week reiterating that following your passion is a big mistake, so I reshared my own take on that subject (and my review of his book):

Career advice tomes like this are not written for project-based homeschoolers — or for other homeschoolers/unschoolers who have already had years to deeply explore their interests.

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.

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

Recently I was reading through If I Knew Then — advice from the graduates of Harvard Business School class of ’63 — and there was a lot of advice about passion:

As my good friend and author, Richard Leider, says, “Heed your life’s calling — that inner urge to give your gifts away.” This requires being clear about your gifts, values, and passions, and using them as a compass to find your career path. It is an “inside-out” process. — RichardI L. Peterson

Try to find your passion — what you love thinking about and doing. If you can find a career doing something you are already passionate about, the finances will flow, along with a better balance in life. — Jim Utaski

To greatly enhance the odds of enjoying a career which is both fulfilling and successful, one must find an endeavor, a subject, métier, process, environment for which one has a passion. — Charles Hale

Choose work you enjoy and that serves as many people as possible. Focus on serving others — not on building wealth. Serve well, and money will follow. — Norman Barnett

Work and pleasure are not synonymous, but they’re not opposites, either. Loving what you’re doing (well) can be infectious and motivating to others. Ultimately, that’s leadership. — Rod Murtaugh

Decide you like what you do, and do it better and smarter than anyone else. If you can’t, change your career. — Joan O. Rothberg

But maybe that’s a case of retroactive memory.

Then I ran across an academic paper about job crafting that seems to support the idea that passion actually does matter — because it makes work more meaningful and more enjoyable.

Job crafting is when individuals actively shape their jobs to inject them with more meaning and purpose and connect them with — you guessed it — their passions.

“[J]ob crafting … may help employees get more enjoyment and meaning out of work, enhance their work identities, cope with adversity, and perform better.” — What is job crafting and why does it matter?

By thinking about where they invest their focus … employees are able to re-craft their jobs to better align with their strengths, passions, and values.” — The building blocks of a year worth living (Psychology Today)

Crafting your job to better align with your values and your deep interests makes your work — and your life — more fulfulling.

Interestingly, not everyone is capable of crafting their job. Those who are able to do it need certain attitudes and abilities — ones that resonate with self-directed, self-managed learning:

“A job crafting perspective implies that the tasks and interpersonal relationships that make up a job are a flexible set of building blocks that can be reorganized, restructured, and reframed to construct a customized job. These building blocks expose employees to a variety of resources — people, technology, raw materials, etc. — that can be utilized when job crafting. The success of a job crafter may depend largely on his or her ability to take advantage of the resources at hand.” — What is job crafting and why does it matter?

In other words, a person has to be able to actively take charge and seek out opportunities — they have to know it’s possible and then they have to take the initiative to do it. Because no one else is going to customize your job for you — it’s something you have to do for yourself. No one else is going to figure out where your personal interests and passions can be connected to your career — that’s up to you.

The secret to high performance and satisfaction — at work, at school, and at home — is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world. — Daniel Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

If you aren’t used to directing and managing your own learning and shaping your own projects, then you may not realize what’s possible. If you haven’t experienced meaningful work, you may not continue to seek it out.

When we give our children the opportunity to direct their own learning, we are giving them the experience they need to know how to be self-determining and we’re giving them the skills they need to live their best lives.

Five ways to find more time for the things that matter

Published by Lori Pickert on January 8, 2014 at 10:04 AM

Starting out the new year full of energy and enthusiasm? Ready for change? Focus? Action?

You already know you have to learn to use the time you have. Here are five ways to recapture some time that’s just going to waste so you can use it for something you really care about.

(Now: Picture a film in reverse where the Kool-Aid is magically pouring back into the pitcher…)

- Don’t waste time solving problems you don’t have.

How many posts have you read this year about “the cult of busy”? How many about moms beating themselves up for being human? How many about parents who are addicted to their iPhones?

Are these major problems of yours? Are you really struggling with these issues? If you are, fine, but if not…

Why do we waste time reading about, talking about, and thinking about problems we don’t really have?

 

Maybe because we crave that elusive sense of accomplishment.

If I apply myself to a “problem” that I already feel pretty confident about (I either don’t have it or I have the mildest case ever recorded), I can add it to my mental to-do list and then check it off before I even put the virtual pen down. #winning

Just reading about those problems we don’t actually have can give us a tiny boost of “Here (at last!) is something we’re pretty good at! Yay us!” We’re using other people’s problems to feel good about ourselves — because at least we don’t have that problem. Or at least we’re not that bad. It’s like the really flattering mirror that makes you look thinner and taller. Who doesn’t want to gaze into that all day?!

Whatever it is that really matters to you, you’ll have more time to work on it if you stop window-shopping all the things that don’t really concern you.

 

That includes interests you don’t really have as well as problems. If you spend a lot of time scanning food pins on Pinterest and you don’t cook…

 

Not genuinely your problem? Then not your priority. Move on. Use that time to move the peanut on something you really care about.

 

- Substitute specific for random.

 

Anxiety rises up when you don’t know exactly what you want or how to get it, like a class-five, full-roaming vapor on Ghostbusters. Couple that with an itch to feel like you’ve actually accomplished something, and you’re ripe for being drafted into someone else’s army.
 
The internet is a magical place where new clubs open every day and the organizers want YOU! YOU! YOU! to join and instantly be a part of something. The siren call of friendship and community can easily lure you off your own path and into someone else’s cove.

 

 

Sometimes the thing that someone else has made is exactly what you need. In that case, it’s a big win to join the community, adopt the mission, and make it your own.

Just be careful that you don’t opt in to someone else’s project because it’s right there, ready to go, and it sounds fun — I mean, at least you’ll be doing something, right?

This is what you want to avoid: Generic activities for generic people.

When you shrink from the anxiety and challenge of building your own thing and just jump into someone else’s thing out of fear/nervousness/avoidance, you’re choosing what’s easy instead of what’s hard. And the path toward your own personal, meaningful work is at some point going to require hard.

Stop and consider: Is this really the thing that connects me with my deepest interests, my nascent talents, and my values?

By taking a pass on some of these easily available pre-made activities and commitments, you can find more time for what really matters to you. The more time you spend on random activities, the less you have for connecting with your meaningful, purpose-filled work.

Prepackaged may mean convenient and time-saving — but make sure it’s not an excuse to put off working on the hard stuff. Specifically your hard stuff.

- Sign up for a class. Quit. Now save that blocked-off time for yourself.

Like a NINJA.

For some reason we’re ultra-focused on meeting commitments we make to other people.

This is true even when we didn’t really choose to get involved in the first place — have you ever gone to the bathroom during a meeting and come back to find out you’re now the chairman of something? Like that.

Or we signed our kids up and blocked off two afternoons a week because all the kids are in soccer or tae kwon do or swim team so we had to pick something.

Yet when it comes to the thing we want to do, we just can’t “find the time.”

We make time for others. Why can’t we make time for what matters most?

Why is it so easy to slip into full commitment mode for other people and so hard to commit to our own goals and protected time?

Maybe we slip into “good girl” mode. “I said I’d do it, so come hell or high water I must be good to my word.” It’s about character. It’s about honor. It’s like a John Wayne movie.

Maybe signing a form or paying a fee triggers a psychological mousetrap. “I paid that swim coach/zumba instructor/piano teacher 80 bucks — I don’t care what happens, we’re getting our money’s worth.”

Adult life is a minefield full of commitment bear traps where one wrong step mires you for weeks if not months doing things that mostly have to do with other people’s needs and other people’s goals.

“Here’s your check — and please enjoy this chunk of my life.”

The fact that we have full FREE access to our own life 24/7 doesn’t seem to light us on fire with possibility. Familiarity breeds contempt?

And if you’re about to say, “But I have no tiiiiiiime,” then where does the time come from that we hand over to others? We make that time. We part the red sea of our schedule and create it. We can do that for ourselves — but we don’t.

Just like prioritizing a savings account, when it comes to prioritizing your personal goals you have to pay yourself first. Take a hard look at the commitments you’re currently juggling and think about which ones you might replace with an open block of time dedicated to what YOU really want to do.

Then protect that time as if it were a puppetry class your third-grader signed up for.

Feel selfish? Remember:

The best way to increase the odds that your child will live a certain way is to live that way yourself. The best way to raise readers is to read. The best way to raise doers is to do.

The best way to raise active, engaged learners is to be an active, engaged learner. — Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners

- Drop something (or someone) that’s making you miserable.

If it’s really making you miserable, then it’s not just killing the time it fills, it’s also killing a lot of the surrounding time:

- The time you spend dreading it/them beforehand.

- The time you spend gnashing teeth/recovering afterward.

- The time you spend lying awake at night staring into the void wondering what you should do about it.

- The time you spend staring blearily into your coffee in the morning because you didn’t get enough sleep.

And so on.

If you’re in a misery spiral then maybe the best thing to do is take a break.

 

Just set it aside. I already hear you saying you can’t set it aside. But I bet you can. I don’t care whether it’s your mother-in-law or your digital scale or your frenemy on Facebook or your floundering Etsy shop. If you’re stuck and you can’t go forward or backward, just take a break and get some much needed space between you and your personal whirlpool of despair.

“Everything I’ve ever taught in terms of self-help boils down to this — I cannot believe people keep paying me to say this — if something feels really good for you, you might want to do it. And if it feels really horrible, you might want to consider not doing it. Thank you, give me my $150.” — Martha Beck

There are things we do because we think we have to, things we do because we think we’re supposed to, and things we do because we’re terrified of the guilt/consequence storm that will roll in if we say no.

There are people who suck the very life force out of us every time we see them. That may not be entirely their fault. Maybe with a little needed distance you can crank the door on your heart shut so they can’t scoop you out like a melon the next time you run into them.

A break doesn’t mean forever. It just means you realize that you’re going to have to set it down for awhile. Give yourself some space, some rest, and something good to focus on and see how you feel about it later. The point is: If what you’re doing isn’t working, why are you still doing it?

This applies to everything, including (stay with me here) the process of quitting itself. If you’re trying in vain to quit something you do compulsively, like overspending or smoking or macramé, try quitting the effort to quit. As therapists like to say, “What we resist, persists,” and this is especially true of bad habits. Imagine trying not to eat one sinfully delicious chocolate truffle. Got it? Okay, now imagine trying to eat 10,000 truffles at one sitting. For most of us, the thought of not-quitting in this enormous way — indulging ourselves beyond desire — actually dampens the appetite. It’s a counterintuitive method, but if the “I will abstain from…” resolutions you make each year are utter, depressing failures, you might quit quitting and see what happens. When my clients stop unsuccessful efforts to quit, they often experience such a sense of relief and empowerment that quitting becomes easier — it’s paradoxical but true. — Knowing When to Quit

- Stop listening to people whose opinions don't matter.

 

Did someone just leap to mind? Yeah, I know.

You know what you want to do. Maybe you’re still struggling a little with owning it. Maybe you’re not feeling completely rock-solid yet. But listen — you already did your due diligence. You figured out what you want. You’ve decided to do the work. You don’t have to explain it to other people, even if you love them.

You don’t have to defend what you love. You don’t have to defend what you need. And you don’t have to defend wanting something more from life. As far as I’m concerned, your purpose here is to find your purpose. The meaning in life is making it meaningful. So I’m on your side.

Who’s working against you? Who’s making you peddle so hard just to stay stay in one place?

Is it a family member who’s “just concerned about you” and “wants what’s best for you”?

Is it a friend who oh-so-gently urges you to give it up and stay where you are (because that’s where they are)?

Is it a frenemy who simultaneously tells you “you can do it!” and then explains in great detail why you can’t, why you shouldn’t, or why you should at least wait a while?

Is it a blog written by someone who seems to subtly rub your nose in the fact that they have something you desperately want?

Is it a blog written by someone who seems to subtly suck you down lower and lower into “Who gives a !*(&*@?! People who care are stupid!”?

Bless ’em. Everyone is fighting a hard battle, apparently. That’s what I hear.

But you need to learn to let some people’s words and opinions roll right off you like water off a “been there, done that” duck.

You don’t have to tell everyone what you’re doing or why or how it’s going. You’re allowed to keep it to yourself.

You don’t have to belly up to the bar for another round of “let us explain to you why your dreams are ridiculous.”

You can just skip it. Just change the subject. Close the tab. Invent an excuse to avoid meeting up for a drink.

If you listen to people whose opinions don’t matter, you are gathering data you will never use. And you are increasing the chances that you will quit.

Trust me: When you reach success, some of these people will suddenly change their tune and start saying they always knew you’d do it. Some of them will just quietly disappear. They’re not always working against you for nefarious reasons. It’s usually more about them than you. But the salient point remains: Their opinions don’t matter. And time spent listening to them is time you could be using on something a lot more productive.

Your opinion matters. No one knows better than you what you want out of life and what you’re willing to do to get it. Absolutely no one knows what you’re capable of, including you — but you’re the only one with the ability to find out.

 

Take back a little of that squandered time. Press it together in your two hands like a snowball and create a chunk of minutes for yourself. Use them. Quick, before they melt. Do what you want to do. Learn. Share. Work on it. I have every faith in you.

Read more PBH for Grown-Ups posts here.

 

Keeping the ho ho ho in holiday

Published by Lori Pickert on December 17, 2013 at 08:52 AM

Who was telling you way back in 2007 to chill out and lower the pressure of the holidays? I was JOMO before it was cool:

Holiday resolutions

and

My holiday wish for you

This year my 17-year-old and I are having a song advent. For the month of December, leading up to Christmas, every day we take turns giving each other a new song. Then, we dance. New tradition: Advent dance party.

This was a spur-of-the-moment thing and it has been so great. New music? Yes! Daily dance party? Yes! And at the end of the month, we’re going to burn our 24 songs onto DVDs and enjoy them all year long.

Every year the younger son and I do the LEGO advent calendar. (Older son bowed out some years ago when he got “too old.” The younger son and I will apparently never be too old.)

I don’t know if you’ve ever done the LEGO advent calendar, but it can be a little … how shall I say this … non-festive. LEGO thinks escaped convicts are normal holiday fare. Also, firemen. Some years you don’t get a Santa at all; other years, you get naked Santa:

Thanks, LEGO. That’s not at all disturbing. Is he wearing a thong? Not an improvement.

This year we decided to make each other our own custom LEGO advent calendar. The boy’s been getting a “knights’ Christmas party” that I put together but he went above and beyond and made me custom LEGO minifigs from some of my favorite Christmas movies.

Dudley from The Bishop’s Wife:

Is that Cary Grant or what?! Also from The Bishop’s Wife, Henry and the model of his cathedral:

Capturing David Niven’s moustache in LEGO. Plus the cathedral has stained-glass windows — this photo doesn’t do it justice.

From A Christmas Story, dream-sequence Ralphie:

And of course:

Flick? Flick who?

Finally, an important scene from another classic Christmas movie:

Before you judge me for considering Die Hard a Christmas movie, let alone watching it annually, remember — it doesn’t matter what your traditions are, just that you’re having a great time with the ones you love.

And if you break out into dance, even better.

Happy holidays from me to you!

xoxoxoxoxoxo

Still better than this:

Tags: 

One weekend you run into a friend who asks you how your holiday season is going and you think about the kid with the never-ending cold, the house that’s a mess, the decorations you haven’t managed to put up yet and the gifts you haven’t even thought about much less purchased, and you say, “Oh, it’s good. How about yours?”

And they tell you about taking the kids into the city to see the lights and then go ice skating and it’s a lot of work but you only get one childhood, right?, besides it’s a weekend they’ll never forget and after they leave the coffee shop you go outside and tap your head slowly on a brick wall for a few minutes.

The following weekend you run into a different friend at the same coffee shop and you’re feeling chuffed about all you accomplished during the week and when they ask how your holiday season is going you say terrific, in fact, you may take the kids into the city to see the lights and then go ice skating and they smile in the way you imagine they would smile at someone going into surgery and pat your arm and say, “That’s nice, but we prefer a season that’s more *meaningful*, you know? Today we’re going to play in the snow, have hot chocolate, and then make handmade cards for the nursing home. But I guess a commercial holiday is fun, too!” And after they leave you go outside to your special wall.

There are a lot of measuring sticks for special occasions like holidays, birthdays, summer vacations — and education, too. The variety is wide enough that you can always find that special measuring stick that makes you look like you’re failing miserably.

This is one reason why people tend to clump up with others who are making similar choices — because then it’s *standardized testing*. You can concentrate on one measuring stick and put all your effort into being the most Waldorf-y you you can be.

FOMO is everywhere this time of year, making you feel like no matter what you choose, you’re blowing it somewhere else. So this is just me popping in to say the competitiveness of “you’re not doing enough”/”you’re doing too much”/“you’re doing the wrong thing” is for suckers. Forget the impossible-to-find sweet spot and instead of being hard on yourself and those around you, prioritize and relax. Pick the thing you really want to do and do that. Do less so you can enjoy more.

 

*Note: There is a fantasy element to this post that imagines you got to go to the coffee shop alone two weekends in a row.

*The title of this post refers to George and Harry Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. If you don’t have time to watch it this year, I forgive you.

Giving meaning to those educational buzzwords

Published by Lori Pickert on December 3, 2013 at 09:19 AM

What skills will you need to succeed in the future?

I shared the above infographic (found here) on my Facebook page with a note saying “We need to compare the skills listed in this infographic with the education/experiences our children are receiving and adjust accordingly.”

I got an interesting comment:

Lots of buzz words in that poster....would be great to discuss actual ways to carry out these suggestions.

Leadership, critical thinking, collaboration — are these just buzzwords today?

How do solid skills become buzzwords?

When the path isn’t clear. Everyone agrees that critical thinking sounds essential, but they go home mystified as to how to really teach it. You see it mentioned in blog post after blog post but there’s no clear steps laid out showing how to incorporate it into what you’re already doing.

When it’s all talk and no walk. Everyone agrees collaboration is an essential skill, but it isn’t built into the curriculum. The new budget shows us investing in desks, not tables. The new schedule doesn’t allot any meeting time for children or adults.

When inspiring ideas aren’t followed up with ongoing support. Whether it’s a professional development day, conference session, workshop, book, TED talk, or blog post, everyone gets all excited about a great-sounding idea — but then, left to figure out how to put it into action on their own, with no ongoing support when things get difficult, that great idea never gets off the ground. Disappointment sets in until the next exciting new thing … that dies without support. And then the next. And so on.

They’re not buzzwords because they aren’t real or achievable  — they’re buzzwords because in some places, they’re just noise and no action. Not this place though.

So, back to what I said about this infographic:

We need to compare the skills listed in this infographic with the education/experiences our children are receiving and adjust accordingly.

Buzzwords or no, these are real skills your child needs.

If you look at how your child is learning (notice I said how your child is learning, not what your child is learning), do you think they’re acquiring these important habits and skills for thinking, learning, and doing?

If the answer is no, then you move on past the buzzword to:

What experiences does a person need to acquire these skills?

With PBH, these deeper thinking and learning habits are the curriculum:

Leadership

From the graphic: Take a cross-disciplinary approach to project teamwork. Participate in leading and following.

What does this actually mean? Kids need experience playing every role in contributing to a team effort. They need the chance to be the oldest and the youngest, the most experienced and the least experienced, the one who spearheads the effort and the one who makes a contribution. They need experience seeking out opinions from the group and they need experience speaking up and offering an opinion when they aren’t in charge. It’s not enough for them to always be the follower or always be the leader, always be the youngest or always be the oldest — you need to make sure they are getting a variety of collaborative experiences.

Concrete ways to achieve this goal: Don’t always mix with the same crowd where your child slips into the same position each time. Your child will find it easier to step into a new role with adults and peers who haven’t pigeonholed who they are and what they can do. Encourage your child to dig into interests whether you think they have natural talent or not — don’t feed the idea that they should only do things they excel at. Help your child start organize their own group activities and start their own communities. Make sure you haven’t pigeonholed your child — change their environment, invest in their motivation, and wait to see what they can do.

Critical Thinking

From the graphic: Engage in self-directed, project-based, and applied learning.

What does this actually mean? If other people are preparing your learning experiences, they’re cutting your intellectual meat for you. By the time kids are teens, they should know how to prepare their own curriculum: know what they want to learn, choose their own resources, research at the library and online, locate mentors and experts and peers with similar goals, communicate clearly with each of those people, create communities, and so on. If they can’t do this, they haven’t received an adequate education. How do they get these skills? By developing them from the very beginning.

Concrete ways to achieve this goal: Help your child become a self-directed learner. Help them work on projects that last weeks, months, and even years. Don’t constantly introduce new things. Help them dig deeply into a single idea. Practice slow learning.

Communication

From the graphic: Learn in an environment that requires participation in many modes of communication.

What does this actually mean? You can excel at classroom learning by figuring out what the teacher wants and giving it to them. You can do this without ever really understanding or caring about the material. Being adept at communication requires having something you want or need to say, understanding it yourself, figuring out how to articulate it to someone else, then delivering it in a way that makes sense for that specific situation. It requires knowing how to talk, how to write, how to persuade, how to ask, how to be polite, how to engage in social media, how to use images to convey ideas, and so on. It requires moving from a one-way-only form of learning and sharing to a flexible and freely transferable way of learning, thinking, doing, and connecting that is platform-independent.

Concrete ways to achieve this goal: Tap into your child’s self-motivation. Start by helping them care enough to want to communicate. Then help them find an audience. Help them share. Help them publish. Use tech for something other than entertainment — help them produce what they consume. Don’t think you have to teach them how to do everything, therefore limiting them to the modes of communication you’re comfortable with — invest in their interests and their ideas and help them connect with experts who can help them do what they want to do. Don’t turn everything they do into a teaching/grading momentgive them some area of their learning life where they don’t have to worry about spelling and grammar and can focus on their ideas. Give them the opportunity to care about improving their own abilities — which means getting out of their way.

Collaboration

From the graphic: Choose work that is collaborative and measure success by team results. 

What does this actually mean? Collaborative work is work done by a group of people who are combining their efforts to meet a large goal. Why measure your success by team results? Because if the team isn’t happy, then it wasn’t a collaborative effort. You need shared meaningful goals and a process for working out how to meet those goals together.

Why is collaboration important? Because you can’t do everything yourself. You need friends. You need colleagues. You need mentors. You need cohorts and followers, employees and colleagues. Collaboration teaches children how to translate what they want to do from their bedroom to the real world.

Concrete ways to achieve this goal: The best way to teach your child how to collaborate is to show them by being a good co-learner. You are their first audience, their first mentor, their first friend. When you help them own their own learning, you are collaborating with them on their education — creating a negotiated curriculum.

Next, make sure they have the opportunity to work with other kids and adults toward a shared goal. This can be as simple as inviting friends over to help with a project. You can create your own communities and groups focused on your child’s deepest interests. You can help them find places in your community where they can contribute to goals they care about.

Collaboration is how we get things done, and we want to help our children become people who can make their ideas happen.

Adaptability

From the graphic: Take advantage of flexible work schedules and learning platforms to work, raise a family, volunteer, and learn.

What does this actually mean? In my opinion, nothing. It’s an advertisement for the University of Phoenix, which prepared the infographic.

What should it mean? Adaptability is the ability to fit yourself to the situation. You don’t sit around complaining that the world isn’t giving you what you need and want — you figure out how you can change what you’re doing in order to meet your goals even when conditions are less than ideal.

Concrete ways to achieve this goal: Stop saying you don’t have enough time to do the things you want to do and learn to use the time you have. Show your child how to get up, dust themselves off, and start taking action on your goals. Can’t afford to get them the tools or materials you wish they could have? DIY it. Barter. Have a bake sale. Team up with some like-minded friends. Stop advocating and start doing. Can’t find the experiences, communities, or opportunities you wish they could have? Create them. Slowly realizing your daily life isn’t aligned with your deepest goals? Make a fresh start. Constantly taking one step forward and two steps back? Stop preshrinking your opportunities.

Believe in yourself so you can believe in your child. It isn’t about the conditions — it’s about what you do, every day: your choices, your actions. Get out of your own way. Know that you can keep going, keep working, keep improving, so you can help your child know this. It’s what you do that matters, so start doing the things that matter most.

Productivity and accountability

From the graphic: Provide a code of conduct in learning situations to build accountability and productivity.

What does this actually mean? Hmm, not much. A bit circular, am I right?

What should it mean? Productivity means getting things done. Accountability means someone is expecting you to get those things done and tracking your progress.

Concrete ways to achieve this goal: Help your child set their own big goals, break them down into achievable tasks, keep track of their plans/ideas/intentions, post reminders in their workspace, and remember what they want to do. Set aside time dedicated to doing their meaningful work — make it as important as the commitments you keep to others (dance class, tae kwon do, etc.). Create a family culture that honors meaningful work.

Regularly meet with them and talk about their big goals, their plans, what they need from you, and how they plan to proceed. Help them be accountable to themselves first and foremost. As they move into the world and contribute to different groups and collaborative projects, they will be held accountable by coaches, teachers, friends, and bosses. This is your opportunity to help them own their own goals and learn to make their own ideas happen just because it matters to them.

Innovation

From the graphic: Seek out learning environments that build technology and media fluency.

What does this actually mean? They blew this one entirely. Let’s move directly to…

What should it mean? Innovation doesn’t equate to technology. Innovation is doing things in new ways.

“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.” — Theodore Levitt

Concrete ways to achieve these goals: Innovation is something that is probably overemphasized. Many businesses succeed not by innovating (doing something complete new) but by solving an existing problem in a useful way. Tim O’Reilly had this to say about innovation:

In the latest issue of Wired, Tim O’Reilly, the brilliant technology thinker and book publisher, offered his corrective on innovation, in this case with respect to entrepreneurs: “The myth of innovation is that it starts with entrepreneurs, but it really starts with people having fun. The Wright brothers weren't trying to build an airline, they were saying, ‘Holy !*&#, do you think we could fly?’ The first kids who made snowboards, they just glued skis together and said, ‘Let’s try this!’ With the web, none of us thought there was money in it. People said, ‘This document came from halfway around the world. How awesome is that!’”

So what if we all stopped trying to “innovate” — and started trying to have fun and really do something new? And what if we set ourselves a more basic (and more authentic) set of challenges as we look to the future:

What difference are we trying to make in our field? What do we care about? — Please can we all just stop innovating?

To help your child be creative and innovative, you have to give them adequate time. You have to help them see themselves as people with great ideas who can do interesting things.

As to building technology and media fluency, stop fighting about screen time and help your kids make something awesome. Dump your scarcity mindset and realize that your kids can love video games and books, TV and the outdoors.

Accessing, analyzing, and synthesizing information

From the graphic: Seek out a curriculum focused on real cross-functional issues to help you think about how issues interconnect.

What does this actually mean? Cringing at that awkward phrasing. I don’t know what they’re trying to say here, so let’s move on to…

What should it mean? Your child needs access to information, and they need the opportunity to analyze and synthesize that information themselves.

Concrete ways to achieve this goal: Stop cutting your child’s intellectual meat into bite-sized chunks. Give them direct access to resources, knowledge gatekeepers, experiences, artifacts, and so on. Don’t hand them library books — help them ask the librarian for help and let them sort through the books and choose the ones they want to bring home. Don’t find cool science experiments and neat crafts for them to do. Let them find their own cool stuff. Skip the faux-DIY/hacking/making groups that still have adults doing all the real work. Give your kid the tools, the control, the space, and the support to make her own ideas happen and slowly accumulate the knowledge and skills she needs to do that.

Don’t just answer your child’s question and cut off a potentially rich line of inquiry. We already know how smart you are. You have nothing to prove. Give them the opportunity to dig into an interest and generate their own questions then find their own answers.

Help them find multiple resources with different points of view and decide what they believe and why. Don’t stop with one or two books — let them range about and find different perspectives and opinions.

Embrace rigor. Get your kid out of the backseat and into the driver’s seat, and do it now. I’ve worked with three-year-olds who could do this. How is it we have teenagers who can’t?

Entrepreneurialism

From the graphic: Develop the ability to solve current and relevant issues.

What does this actually mean? I heavily edited their text to get down to the nut of how they were defining this and it’s pretty weak. If they’re saying that a successful business should solve a real problem, that is correct. However, it doesn’t really address how to nurture entrepreneurialism.

What should it mean? Work is changing. Every person needs to operate as an entrepreneur, even if they work for someone else. In today’s work world, everyone needs to run their career the way they would run a small business. That makes these skills essential.

Concrete ways to achieve this goal: Teach them to own. Help them develop authentic self-confidence. Give them the opportunity to start businesses now, as children and teens. Help them become financially literate. Show them how their interest connects to real jobs and real businesses.

I started my own company when I was 22, fresh out of college. I ran that business for over 20 years. I founded and ran a private school. I’ve worked as a consultant. I’m not just talking through my hat here. I know what it takes to start and run a business and I think it’s an essential skill that every child should learn — but not every child does. Most adults suffer from a lot of wrong ideas about business ownership, and they pass those along to their kids. The biggest wrong idea is “that’s the kind of thing other people do — people who aren’t like us, people who have more money and more contacts, people who have more experience and went to better schools” and so on and so on. Not true. Your child may grow up to have a traditional job (if they still exist), but they may instead be part of the freelance economy. Help them master all of the skills on this list and they’ll be ready for that.

Global citizenship

From the graphic: Learn in a diverse classroom to gain opportunities to build cross-cultural understanding.

What does this actually mean? Get out and mix with a diverse group of people. Don’t always stick with people exactly like yourself. Don’t let your learning experiences be too homogenized. Get experience now with meeting, talking with, and working with a wide variety of people.

Concrete ways to achieve this goal: Eschew labels. Mix it up. Diversity isn’t just about skin color or religion. It’s about connecting with people who have different ideas and vastly different experiences. More and more we are moving toward a global economy, a global community. The last PBH Master Class had participants from over a dozen different countries. I have good friends I speak to every day who live across the globe from me. The internet has made the world easier to navigate — you don’t have to get frisked at the airport to travel somewhere new every day. This is the new reality: your neighbors aren’t just the people who live on your street and your friends and coworkers can live anywhere.

Take a real look at this list. These aren’t just skills that can help you get a job. These are skills that can help you do the work you most want to do, whatever it is.

If the buzz sounds good, and the skill or experience seems valuable and worth having, you’ll probably have to do the hard work of figuring out how to make it happen for yourself and for your child. No one is going to hand you a prepackaged curriculum for authentic, self-directed learning — you have to build it yourself. Set big goals, break them down, find experiences, make connections, and build your own learning life from scratch. Sure, it’s harder than clicking the “Like” button. But it’s what we want our kids to be able to do — so we have to walk that path ourselves.

In the end, it’s only a buzz word if you click away. If you’re willing to do the work, you can have the reality behind the noise.

Permission to be yourself

Published by Lori Pickert on November 19, 2013 at 10:32 AM

Today I was reading William Zinsser’s newest book of essays and was struck by what he said about his students, mostly women, who take his memoir-writing class:

Most of them are paralyzed by the thought of writing a memoir. How can they possibly sort out the smothering clutter of the past? But mainly it’s fear of writing about themselves.

… I want them to think of themselves as people — women who lead interesting lives and who also write, trusting their own humanity to tell plain stories about their thoughts and emotions. Why do they think they need permssion to be themselves? “Who would care about my story?” they say. I would. I give them permission to write about the parts of their lives that they have always dismissed as unimportant.

What Zinsser does for his students is what we do for our children when we support them to pursue their own meaningful work.

If they begin early enough, they may never hesitate and think that they need permission to be themselves. But if they start a little later, or if they hear messages from peers and the other people around them: Shh, don’t embarrass yourself. Don’t embarrass me. You’re not good enough. You’re not old enough. You’re not smart enough. Maybe later. Shh.

These messages don’t even have to be spoken out loud; they come through as gestures and grimaces and parents changing the subject. Enough of that and they may believe no one cares about what interests them. They may doubt that anyone will be interested in what they have to say. They may doubt whether they can be writers and artists and builders and makers. Does the world need or want what they can offer?

By being your child’s first audience, you send the message: Someone cares about what you think. Someone cares about what you make and do.

By supporting their work, whatever it is, you show them that they can produce what they consume. They can contribute something of their own. Their perspective and their opinion matters. Their ideas matter.

Many of us are paralyzed at the thought of doing whatever it is we want to do. We think no one cares or wants to hear what we have to say. We think our contribution is so negligible, it’s not worth anyone taking notice — and if they did take notice… well, our heart beats faster just at the thought.

When we do our own meaningful work and when we make it possible for our children to do theirs, we’re helping them avoid falling into this trap. They don’t need anyone’s permission to be themselves. They don’t need to be picked. They don’t need to be praised or rewarded. Their ideas matter. Their opinions matter. Their interests matter. The sooner they learn that — the sooner they know it’s true — the sooner they can own their feelings, their interests and talents, and their life.

Make sure they know they have your permission to be themselves.

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