Camp Creek Blog

Brief announcement!

We’re getting ready to enroll the next two sessions of the PBH master class; one will start August 26 and one September 30 (they run for six weeks).

Everyone who signed up for the early bird announcement should have received an e-mail from me today (Wednesday). If you have gmail, remember that my e-mails might be languishing in your “Promotions” tab.

Tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. central we’ll start enrolling the early birds, then if there is still room, we’ll open up enrollment to everyone else on Friday at 10:00 a.m.

You can read the full class description and testimonials from students who took the first class here.

After these two sessions are filled, we’ll start a new early bird list for people interested in taking the class next Spring.

Thank you!

From the mailbag, a series of similar questions:

How should I handle my kids’ huge plans that can’t really happen?

Some of my child’s ideas are down-right unrealistic…

My concern is that he will feel let down…

If I try to find the possible in his dreams, I see his disappointment. He doesn’t like my sugggestions for making it “doable”…

Your three-year-old wants to build a rocket that really flies — one that he can sit in.

Your six-year-old wants to build a three-story treehouse with a fireman’s pole.

Your nine-year-old wants to write a novel that will be published by a real publisher — or a screenplay that will be produced by a real movie studio.

How can we help kids tackle their big, ambitious, seemingly unachievable goals?

When you say, “here’s the lesson — do this,” you know from the outset what’s possible. When you instead start with a child’s question and build outward organically, you eventually end up with a big piece of work — a project — the result of authentic inquiry. It’s big, it’s real, and it’s meaningful. That’s not something you can preplan. — Stop Preshrinking Your Opportunities

Why is it important to let kids move forward on their plans, even when they seem totally unrealistic?

I often tell the story of a four-year-old girl at my school who built a very detailed robot out of cardboard and found objects. Her parents and teachers all appreciated the hard work she’d put in, her creativity and her concentration. Then one morning she told her parents she needed to bring batteries to school — because she was ready for her robot to “really work.”

She cut a flap in the back of her robot, pushed two AA batteries inside, taped it shut, and was pleased as punch that now her robot would move and walk.

The adults were all worried that she would be very upset when she discovered her plan had failed. But there was no big meltdown. She was disappointed, but in a frowny, thoughtful, scientific way. She decided she needed to do more research — she needed to investigate the inside of other machines to get a better idea of what made them work. So another line of inquiry began.

Before you move to stop your children from trying to do the impossible, take a breath and remember what your job is: to mentor and support, to brainstorm and listen, to remind and reflect. Your job isn’t to step in and tell them their ideas won’t work and their plans are doomed.

Remind yourself:

You don’t know what your kid can do.

If you guess, you may woefully underestimate. Don’t set limits where limits aren’t necessary. Don’t set limits where they will not only curtail what your child can achieve but may discourage him from getting started in the first place. Big doers need big, complex, far-reaching ambitions. Set the goal small and his motivation will shrink right along with it.

In my experience, adults guessing at what children can accomplish set the bar far too low.

When we move to protect our kids, sometimes we’re actually protecting ourselves — from embarrassment (maybe theirs, maybe our own) or from having to deal with big, messy emotions like frustration and disappointment.

Start ramping your kids up to independence now. Don’t wait until they’re 18 and then drop them off a cliff; let them take steps toward being in charge of their own learning and their own future. Let them have their own ideas. Let them have their big, towering dreams and ambitions. Let them work away at something that seems impossible to you. You don’t know what’s possible. They have all the time in the world to get where they want to go. You don’t know what they can do if they try. Instead of worrying about how long it will take for them to be successful, worry about how long it will take them if they never start.

The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do. — Sarah Ban Breathnach

You don’t know where his project will go.

He may deftly switch directions. He may spend months concentrating on just one part of his overarching goal. He may, along his “unrealistic” path, discover a deep interest that will last the rest of his life.

I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else. — Pablo Picasso

Children grow and mature at an astounding rate. When your nine-year-old says she wants to write a novel and have it published by a real publisher, and you reply, “Well, sweetheart, I love you and I think you’re very talented, but that is highly unlikely to ever happen,” she’s likely to lay down her pages and walk away. You haven’t prevented disappointment — you’ve only brought it from the misty future to the right now, and you also killed all the learning and skill-building that would have happened in the interim.

Your child may work on her novel for a year or more and then decide on her own to put it in a drawer and start another. In the meantime, she’ll be building her skills, reading books about writing, and producing steadily improving prose. She may go on to publish a novel when she is 14 or 15 — all because she started now, because you believed in her and supported her now.

Choose to deliver your bad news — that her dream is statistically unlikely — and what will happen to her ambitions? What will happen to her idea of herself as a writer? Will she wait and start her writing career at 15? At twenty? Never?

You are looking ahead and predicting failure, but you are guessing about the path your child is going to take — and you’re probably plotting out a very linear A —> B path. Meanwhile, your child is most likely going to take a circuitous, rambling path as she explores all the different aspects of her ambitious plan. She’s going to dig deep into one thing, then another. She’ll probably change her plan as she moves along. She’ll take a sudden left; she’ll circle back; she’ll add in a whole new line of inquiry she needs to explore.

You cannot predict the path an authentic, self-motivated learner is going to take. When you guess — and then decide to go ahead and pull the plug because you know it won’t work out — you eliminate all the learning that happens along the way.

Ideas fly in flocks. To hold one idea in mind means to hold a cloud of them. — Kevin Kelly

Real learning takes a long time.

When we nervously move to cut our children off before they waste time on an impossible undertaking that’s sure to lead to disappointment, what we really mean to say to them is: You’re not ready for this yet.

We want them to hold their big ideas, dreams, and plans until their abilities catch up. What we fail to realize is that the only people who acquire those abilities are the ones who are chasing big dreams. The ones who give up stop trying and so they stop learning. They stop working hard. They stop believing in themselves and in what’s possible.

They don’t hear, “You can’t do that yet” — they hear, “You can’t do that.”

We don’t meant to kill the dream; we only mean to postpone it. But succeeding at a big undertaking isn’t like buying a ticket to ride the ferris wheel. You don’t wait until you’re “this high” and then boom, you’re all set. Big doers start chasing big, ambitious dreams long before they’re ready to make their final ascent.

I am always doing that which I cannot do in order that I may learn how to do it. — Picasso

You don’t know how your child will react to failure.

If you interrupt him while he’s building and say, “That won’t work,” you take away his opportunity to learn from his mistakes, brainstorm alternatives, and feel the rush of self-esteem when he finally solves his own problem.

Likewise, if you try to protect him from getting his dreams crushed, you instead crush his motivation, his ownership, and his self-confidence. Out of fear that he may feel disappointed later on, you take away his opportunity to find his own way, to be resilient, to invent a new plan, to find another way. You eliminate the possibility that he might discover on his impossible journey a very realistic focus for all his ideas and energy.

It’s the experience that teaches — not the outcome. If outcomes truly did the job, then every soccer medal would lead to a place on the Olympic team. You are focusing on the outcome and trying to save your child from emotional trauma, but actually working toward his goals is what’s going to make him strong, resilient, confident, imaginative, and joyful. Let him choose his own goals to work toward — it’s the working that matters.

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. — Henry David Thoreau

Self-motivated, meaningful work is never wasted time.

Do you think she’d be better served working on something she could really accomplish?

Is that because she would be acquiring more knowledge and skills? Or is it because you would have something more reasonable to share with family and friends?

Working toward big dreams, kids acquire the same skills as working on “doable” tasks — and more. They are working at their challenge level: the front edge of what they’re capable of doing. They are powered by intense motivation. Every big dreams breaks down into smaller goals which break down even further into achievable tasks.

If you can’t solve a problem, then there is an easier problem you can’t solve: find it. — George Polya

You help them break it down. No matter how big or ambitious a goal is, it always breaks down. When they eventually run into something they can’t do (if it happens), then you ask them, “What can you do?” You model for them how to work on big, ambitious goals — by taking it one step at a time.

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” — Anne Lamott

How you mentor the big dream

Instead of trying to convert your child’s dream into something “doable,” help her break her big goals down into smaller tasks. Help her find something she can start working on today.

Reflect her ideas and plans back to her. Help her see herself as a learner, maker, and doer.

Honor her work by giving her the space and time she needs. Invest in her deep interests.

Let her maintain ownership — don’t take over. Let her go at her own pace and set her own course.

Always take the approach of “If not X, then what?” Model how to take a break, step back, brainstorm, and look for alternatives.

For older kids and teens, treat their ideas with respect while communicating realistic constraints. Let them find the doable inside their own dream.

Older kids and teens are more likely to nix their own ideas and preshrink their own opportunities. Help nudge them past their own negativity and focus on what’s possible. Don’t put it off until the misty future when they think they’ll have more money, time, and freedom to chase their dreams. Help them understand that the more they learn to work with what’s available now, the more likely they’ll be to eventually become dreamers who do. The more they push things off until it’s easier or there’s more money or someone else chooses to help them, the more likely they’ll be to become dreamers who don’t.

If we let ourselves, we shall always be waiting for some distraction or other to end before we can really get down to our work. The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it out while the conditions are still unfavorable. Favorable conditions never come. — C.S. Lewis

Your goal is to help your child become a person who can articulate ideas, make plans, break down goals into achievable steps, and see things through. How do you do that? By letting him fully immerse himself in his deep interest and his big ideas.

Eventually he will set a big goal, make a plan, figure out what he needs to do to make it work, do the hard work, make mistakes, solve problems, and finish. That’s the goal you’re working toward. Those are the habits and skills that you are building. But the entire journey is one of learning and discovery — not just the big finish. Miss the journey and you miss everything. It’s the doing that will build your child’s thinking, learning, and making muscles. It’s the doing that will form his thinking and learning habits and his character. It’s the doing that matters.

Supporting your child’s big ideas, big plans, and big dreams is how you help him become someone who’s capable of actually achieving them.

When I was a child, things were different.

There were no screens to speak of — we had no cable TV, no video games, and no one I knew owned a computer yet.

When the summer sun dawned hot and relentless, we would pull on our shorts (cut from last winter’s jeans) and our striped Garanimals T-shirts and head outside.

That billboard I complain about would have been proud: we didn’t have video game controllers clutched in our dirty little hands — it was always a frog or a turtle, a handful of crabapples, a chunk of splintery wood, or a rusty hammer.

Every summer tended to be defined by large, lengthy, all-consuming projects. Projects that took up all of our time and energy, from dawn till dusk. Projects like digging a really big hole. Or trying to break the Guinness Book of World Records’ record for pogo-sticking. Or hammering 8,000 rusty nails out of old planks of wood with an eye toward making a fort or maybe a treehouse.

We spent weeks working on deep intellectual problems like how to catch a crawdad with a broken plastic bucket and a piece of hotdog as bait. No one’s mom appeared with a Pinterest post about how to build a crawdad trap and then, once we had him, how to turn his captivity into a teaching moment about biology and our polluted waterways. We just caught him (finally), then examined him at our leisure, played with him, named him, watched him crawl around in the grass, tried to feed him bologna, and then, if we didn’t kill him with too much scientific curiosity, we put him back in the creek. And no one even knew we had him in the first place.

When I was a child, things were different. We went swimming; no one was on a swim team. We played baseball; no one was on a baseball team. We hatched plans that required stealing balls of string from every junk drawer in the neighborhood; no one came at us with a Pinterest plan and a hopeful expression.

What has changed since then?

It’s not the screens.

It’s not video games or Minecraft or cartoons or comic books.

It’s freedom.

Not just the freedom to roam around physically, but the freedom that comes from not being under the parental microscope all the time — the freedom that comes from just being a kid when no one thought what you did all day mattered that much.

The freedom to conceive a big idea (digging the world’s biggest hole in the empty lot on the corner), rally support among your peers (bring your sandbox shovels and meet me after breakfast), problem-solve (get your baby brother’s wagon to move these rocks), practice leadership and collaboration (it was my idea; if you don’t like it, go dig over there!), and experience true satisfaction with a job well done (that is a really big hole).

No one cared what we did. No one said, “Is digging in the dirt really the best use of your time?” No one said, “How can you sit in front of the fan playing Monopoly for nine hours a day, six days a week?!”

If we had Minecraft back then, we would have played it nine hours a day, the way we played Monopoly and Clue. We would have plowed the vast capacity for single-minded focus that allowed us to dig a hole visible from outer space into building the world’s most complicated Minecraft castle.

How can you give your child a good old-fashioned summer like we used to have?

It’s not about fireflies or picnics or homemade kites. It’s about freedom.

Leave them alone.

Let them be in charge of their own time.

Let them have their own ideas.

Give them big, sprawling blocks of unscheduled time. Give them whole days, whole weeks.

Let them dig into whatever interests them and do whatever they want with it.

You can pull a million cute crafts and activities off Pinterest and arrange them for your child — and end up with a kid trained to expect a steady stream of fun things to do.

You can fill your child’s schedule with a perfect balance of activities combining creativity and outdoor time and language arts — and end up with a kid who doesn’t know what it’s like to be in charge, who doesn’t know what it’s like to make something happen.

You can end up with a kid who’s happy to let someone else have all the ideas and plan all the fun.

When we keep saying “you’ve had enough of that, now go do this instead,” we’re telling kids that their interests aren’t important and their focus isn’t needed. When we fill all their time, they don’t have the chance to fill it themselves.

The best part of the old-fashioned summer isn’t how innocent and simple it is, but how much room there is for growth, for ideas, for hard work, for freedom from micromanagement.  There are things you can learn in an atmosphere of freedom that you simply cannot learn in an organized environment. They aren’t always things about science or history or literature; sometimes they’re things about yourself.

The real difference between the summers of my youth and the summer of today isn’t what kids want to do, it’s how infrequently it’s even taken into consideration. Kids used to be in charge of summer; they used to be in charge of themselves. Now they’re passive recipients of someone else’s ideas, passengers in the backseat being taken somewhere to do something another person has decided they should do. Summer used to be the time when kids shook off the adult control of the school year and rose up, filthy with skinned knees, to create their own worlds. Now they seamlessly move from one adult-controlled agenda to another, from one set of classes to another, from one packed schedule to another.

If you really want to embrace the values of the old-fashioned summer, forget about the surface stuff — the yo-yos and pinwheels and bike parades — and give your kids a really radical gift: freedom.

Give it to yourself as well. Let go of the big expectations; take a deep breath and remind yourself that this summer has little to no bearing on your child’s future career prospects. Be lazy. Drink lemonade. Sit in the shade. Read a book. Cross off 90% of the things on your summer bucket list and really enjoy the remaining 10%. Eschew guilt. Summer is supposed to be about taking a break from the rest of the year, not simply switching from being pummeled by one set of expectations to being pummeled by another.

Pinwheels are nice, but empty days and low expectations are even better.


Ten ways to help your kids pick themselves

Published by Lori Pickert on June 26, 2013 at 09:08 AM

On Monday, I wrote a post about how sometimes, even if someone wants you for their team, it might still be in your best interests to pick yourself.

Here are ten ways to help your kids pick themselves:

- Didn’t get that part in the school play? Build a plywood stage in the backyard, hang a curtain, and hand them a clipboard. Target sells a great plastic microphone for a dollar that works as a director’s megaphone. You can string holiday lights above the stage if you want to get fancy.

- Spending most of the game on the bench? Mow that field behind your house, clean up the empty lot, or tell the neighborhood kids you’ll take them to the park. One bat, one ball, a few gloves — that’s all we ever needed. (Or one soccer ball. Or one football.)

- Help them set up their own minecraft server.

- Writer in the house? Let them know they can publish a zine or a neighborhood newspaper. Take them to Kinkos; give them a budget.

- No one hiring five-year-olds? Let them run their own front-yard business.

- Let them build a skateboard ramp in the backyard.

- No one else into their hobby? Not enough friends? Make your own community. (More tips here.)

- Didn’t make cheerleader? Set up a cheer camp in the backyard for the neighborhood kids. Or grab a room at the community center and make flyers. Ask them what they need.

- Loves movies but Hollywood not in the immediate future? Give them a videocamera and let them make their own movies.

- Too young for culinary school? Let them take over the kitchen.

Whatever it is your kids want to do, even if no one picks them, they can pick themselves. They can get started today doing the thing they care most about.

Want to enhance the experience?

- Give them a budget. Whether they’re baking or making or using up bandwidth, let them figure out how best to spend what they’ve got.

- Let them have their own ideas. Make sure they know what’s possible, then stand back and let them take over.

- Help them. Whether it’s power tools or chauffering them to the store or reserving them a room at the library, let them know you’re ready to help them when/if they need you.

- Encourage them to share. Teach someone else what they’ve learned; invite family or neighbors to see what they’ve accomplished. Spread the knowledge around and inspire someone else.

Support them. Grab the car keys and take them where they need to go. Give them a little budget to control. Give them tools or show them where they can access them in your community. If somebody says “No,” show them how they can say, “Yes.”

Help them produce what they consume.

If they don’t make the team, help them make their own team. If opportunities are scarce, show them how they can make their own.

There are a million roadblocks that appear in life — not enough parts to play, not enough positions, not enough room in the club. The earlier you learn to respond by creating your own opportunities, the better. No one else is in charge of what you get to do. They may be in charge of their class, their club, their team, but you can make your own.

No one can keep you from doing the thing you love to do. The younger you learn this lesson, the better.

Have some examples to share of kids picking themselves? Let me know in the comments and I’ll make this list longer! (Give me links if possible!)

Pick yourself — even if the team wants you

Published by Lori Pickert on June 24, 2013 at 07:20 AM

This post is part of my series on PBH for Grown-ups — you can see all of the posts here.

There’s a popular notion going around:

Pick yourself.

Altucher says it:

Pick yourself.

Too often we want someone to like our novel. Or promote us. Or hire us. Or buy our idea. Or put our product on their shelves. Or tell us they love us. Or tell us we are good.

You have to choose yourself first. …

Greatness is when every moment you choose yourself rather than relying on the past or the future to choose you. Rather than relying on anyone else in the world to choose you. — What is greatness? @ The Altucher Confidential

Seth Godin says it:

It’s a cultural instinct to wait to get picked. To seek out the permission and authority that comes from a publisher or talk show host or even a blogger saying, “I pick you.” Once you reject that impulse and realize that no one else is going to select you — that Prince Charming has chosen another house — then you can actually get to work.

If you’re hoping that the HR people you sent your resume to are about the pick you, it’s going to be a long wait. Once you understand that there are problems just waiting to be solved, once you realize that you have all the tools and all the permission you need, then opportunities to contribute abound.

No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself. — Reject the tyranny of being picked: Pick yourself @ Seth’s Blog

But — there’s an extra wrinkle.

The truth is, if you’re good, someone else probably IS going to pick you.

Someone’s going to want to publish your book.

Someone’s going to want you to write for their blog.

Someone’s going to want your content, your marketing ability, your skills.

Someone’s going to want you to work for them.

It’s very possible that no one is going to pick you. And in that case, you better pick yourself — or get used to warming the bench.

But it’s also true that if you’re good and people notice, they are going to sweep in and want to take advantage of your abilities. They’re going to want to put your talent to use. They are going to want you on their team. They’re going to want to tap your potential.

The question you have to ask yourself is:

Would I be better off picking myself?

There are entire industries (like publishing) built around taking your work and making money from it. There are people whose entire living is hustling up worker bees to fill their hive. These people are constantly looking for content and talent they can use.

They might pick you.

If you get picked and feel tremendously validated, before you walk around telling people about your book deal or your new job, take the time to sit down and think about where you want to invest your time, your effort, and your talent: in someone else’s dream? Or in your own?


No one picks you to start your own business.

No one picks you to be your own boss.

No one picks you to self-publish your book and keep the profits for yourself.

No one picks you to build up your own website, brand, and products.

No one picks you to create your own designs and share them under your own name.

The only person who can pick you to do those things is you.

Sometimes being picked is the right option. Sometimes they have something you need — experience, opportunities, contacts. Sometimes saying yes to working on someone else’s thing is the right call. Sometimes it’s what you need in the short term while you hustle hard on the side making your own thing.

But take the time to think about what it is other people see in you — your talent, your ability, your special skill — and then think about how you might exploit that for yourself. Think about how you might build something of your own.

If no one picks you, then baby, get out there and pick yourself. Start hustling.

But if someone does pick you, take time to think about it. Consider what you’re giving them and what you’re getting in return. Consider what you’re investing and who’s going to reap the returns. Think about how you might invest your talents in something that would belong entirely to you. Then do what’s best for you. But keep your eye always on what you want — the life you want to live, the person you want to be, the thing you want to build and share. Don’t let someone else’s validation knock you off course.

Pick yourself — even if you get picked.

All those who call you to themselves draw you away from yourself. — Seneca

The fellow who sits still and does just what he is told will never be told to do big things. — Charles M. Schwab

Friday link round-up

Published by Lori Pickert on June 21, 2013 at 06:53 AM

So we enrolled the PBH Master Class this week and we ran out of spots in a day and a half — amazing. If you want to get an early shot at enrolling in the next class (date as yet unknown), you can put your name on a list here. No commitment, of course — you’ll just get first shot at signing up. This list will be closed on July 8. Thank you to everyone who enrolled and who spread the word!

I hope you guys have been keeping up with PBH Kids — the latest two projects are both LEGO-related and both awesome! If you or your kids want to share a kid-directed project (including work in progress), let me know!

My favorite link this week is from Sugata Mitra:

If examinations challenge learners to solve problems the way they are solved in real life today, the educational system will change for ever. It is a small policy change that is required. Allow the use of the internet and collaboration during an examination.

If we did that to exams, the curriculum would have to be different. We would not need to emphasise facts or figures or dates. The curriculum would have to become questions that have strange and interesting answers. “Where did language come from?,” “Why were the pyramids built?,” “Is life on Earth sustainable?,” “What is the purpose of theatre?” Questions that engage learners in a world of unknowns. Questions that will occupy their minds through their waking hours and sometimes their dreams.

Teaching in an environment where the internet and discussion are allowed in exams would be different. The ability to find things out quickly and accurately would become the predominant skill. The ability to discriminate between alternatives, then put facts together to solve problems would be critical. That’s a skill that future employers would admire immensely.

In this kind of self-organised learning, we don’t need the same teachers all the time. Any teacher can cause any kind of learning to emerge. …

We don’t need to improve schools. We need to reinvent them for our times, our requirements and our future. We don’t need efficient clerks to fuel an administrative machine that is no longer needed. Machines will do that for us. We need people who can think divergently, across outdated “disciplines,” connecting ideas across the entire mass of humanity. We need people who can think like children. — Advent of Google Means We Must Rethink Our Approach to Education

Another favorite Mitra quote:

We need a curriculum of big questions, examinations where children can talk, share and use the Inernet, and new, peer assessment systems. We need children from a range of economic and geographic backgrounds and an army of visionary educators. We need a pedagogy free from fear and focused on the magic of children‘s innate quest for information and understanding. — We Need Schools, Not Factories

So, Mitra says that employers would admire immensely these different skills children could learn if we moved past a testing-based form of education and into what I would call a research- and building-based form. What does Google really want?

“[S]ome of the biggest stalwarts of the hiring and recruiting world — the interview, GPA, and test scores — aren’t nearly as important as people think. 

Google doesn’t even ask for GPA or test scores from candidates anymore, unless someone’s a year or two out of school, because they don’t correlate at all with success at the company. …

Academic environments are artificial environments. People who succeed there are sort of finely trained, they’re conditioned to succeed in that environment,’ [Google VP Bock] says.

While in school, people are trained to give specific answers, ‘it’s much more interesting to solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer,’ Bock says. ‘You want people who like figuring out stuff where there is no obvious answer.’”

Test scores don’t correlate with success — at least at Google.

I posted a few links this week about success — and how maybe we need to redefine that for ourselves.

“‘The way we define success isn’t working. … More, bigger, better — we can’t do that anymore.’ …

‘Right now, America’s workplace culture is practically fueled by stress, sleep deprivation and burnout.” …

The answer? To create a movement that embraces the idea that physical and spiritual wellness — from meditation to exercise to good nutrition — are integral to, not separate from, a successful life.” — A Call for a Movement to Redefine the Successful Life

And another quote from that article:

The idea that people are eager to find — or define — success outside the normal parameters is backed up by a study done for American Express.

The top ways people define a successful life, according to the study: Being in good health, finding time for the important things in life, having a good marriage/relationship and knowing how to spend money well. …

According to the Monitor report, many fewer people see owning an expensive car as a sign of success, while being satisfied and in control of your life have grown over the years. — ibid.

This article had some suggestions for redefining success:

“Most people who want a lot out of life are their own worst enemy. They take themselves too seriously. Judge themselves too harshly. Expect too much out of themselves and others. If you can learn to let go of all your expectations, quit trying so hard to get somewhere, you'll learn that just being you, present in this moment, is all that matters.” — Six Unique Ways to Be Successful and Happy

Sound good? Debbie Millman reminds us that our future is in our own hands: 

“Every once in awhile when we least expect it, we encounter someone more courageous, someone who chose to strive for that which (to us) seemed unrealistically unattainable, even elusive. And we marvel. We swoon. We gape. Often we are in awe. I think we look at these people as lucky when in fact, luck has nothing to do with it. It is really all about the strength of their imagination; it is about how they constructed the possibilities for their life. In short, unlike me, they didn’t determine what was impossible before it was even possible. …

If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now.” — Fail Safe: Debbie Millman’s Advice on Courage and the Creative Life

What does it take to redefine success for yourself? It’s hard to swim against the current. It helps to have a community of like-minded people who are also trying to wrest control of their own lives and their own destinies. If you need a community like that, think about joining the PBH forum.

In PBH-related news, check out Dawn’s beautiful post about building the community she needed:

“The room held a calm energy. Plenty of people talking, but no raised voices. Plenty of moving around, but no running, either with or without scissors. In between directing one child to cut paper in thirds, lengthwise, hand-over-hand guiding another’s fingers in separating the delicate, gentle tissue layers to form the petals, and commenting on how a color choice resulted in a lovely representation of a real flower, I sensed the flow happening around me. Adults and children, solitary or in small groups, knitting, crocheting, beading. Sewing, stitching, tying, trying. Siblings assisting each other, showing their work to each other. Quiet concentration, satisfaction with effort and result.” — Show me what you’re working with @ Happyer at Home

If you are interested in building a community, check out these free guides:

The Introvert’s Guide to Building Community

How to Start a Project Group

Hope everyone has a great week — I’ll have a new PBH for Grown-ups post on Monday!

I love how through this group I can see myself making progress as I work through each of my concerns and challenges. So glad it exists!!!! — PBH forum member

[Lori] also has a great forum, not a boring old “look how wonderful we are” forum, but a really inspiring one full of practical ideas for implementing project-based learning. — Kate @ An Everyday Story

Registration now filled for the PBH Master Class!

Published by Lori Pickert on June 19, 2013 at 09:07 AM

Update: Enrollment is now full. Please see below to sign up for an early beat-the-crowd e-mail announcement when the next class is scheduled.

Today we are opening registration for the PBH Master Class — a six-week-long e-course designed to help you dig deeply into the big ideas of mentoring and self-directed learning and put those ideas into action.

Full description of the class:

In this six-week class, we’ll be drilling down deeper into the core ideas of mentoring and self-directed learning and helping you put those ideas into immediate practice.

Each week you’ll get a batch of new material I’ve written specifically for this course along with a couple of simple suggestions or assignments. We’ll be experimenting with making small but impactful changes. We’ll focus not only on learning how to mentor our children, but on how to apply the same principles to our own lives.

I will be giving reading assignments, so please purchase a copy of the book before class begins or borrow a copy from your library or a friend. We will not be reading the book straight through, so if possible, please do that before class begins.

This class is not only for homeschoolers — it is for any parent or teacher who is interested in supporting children’s interests and helping them become active thinkers, learners, makers, and doers.

If you do homeschool, it doesn’t matter what approach you follow — PBH works with every type of homeschooling as well as unschooling. Everyone is welcome.

This is a community-based class. You’ll have the opportunity to make some like-minded friends who have the same goals and values for learning and supporting children. The private forum where participants and I will talk about each week’s focus and share questions, ideas, and issues will remain after the class ends so you can stay in touch with your cohort and keep learning together and supporting one another in the future.

The six focus areas of this class will be:

• Documenting & journaling

• Uncovering interests & choosing topics

• Maximizing your environment

• Building the making habit

• Defining your family culture

• Leveling up: How to maximize every learning experience

There is no session schedule you must adhere to for this class. The materials will be e-mailed to you regularly across the six weeks, but you can read them and access the forum whenever it works best for you. If you are traveling during that time, you can resume when you return and work your way through the materials at your own pace. The forum will stay available after the last class date so you can continue to get online feedback, support, and encouragement.

Enrollment is now full. Thank you!

Friday link round-up + announcement

Published by Lori Pickert on June 14, 2013 at 08:31 AM

If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astonish ourselves. — Thomas Edison

First, the announcement:

PBH Master Class

In July I’ll be teaching a PBH Master Class. For six weeks, we’ll be reading selections from the book along with supplementary readings and new material I’ve prepared just for this class.

I’ll be leading and supporting class members in a deeper exploration of the key elements of this approach and helping you put these ideas into immediate practice.

This class is not only for homeschoolers — it’s for any parent (or teacher) who is interested in supporting children’s interests and helping them become active thinkers, learners, makers, and doers. Please share the word if you think someone might be interested or helped by this class!

You’ll also have the chance to make some like-minded friends who have the same goals and values for learning and supporting children. We’ll have a private forum where class participants can discuss each week’s focus and share questions, ideas, and issues. This forum will stay up after the class is over so you can stay in touch with your cohort and keep learning together and supporting one another.

I hope to have the sign-up page ready early next week. If you are interested and would like to receive the e-mail alert, please sign up here.

Thank you!

And now, this week on Facebook

One of the best things I saw this week was this short video about creativity versus looking for a particular answer. It’s well worth a couple minutes of your time.

Even when adults are trying to set up a situation where kids can be creative, if children get a hint that they are hoping they do something in particular, it will squelch their creativity. The children start trying to please the adults rather than freely making and building and having their own ideas. This video is a beautiful example of what can happen when we back off and drop our own ideas in favor of theirs.

I loved this post about children needing purpose in their work, which is the heart of PBH:

[S]tudents today may be high achievers but they have no idea what for. … [They] need to find a purpose in life — something meaningful to themselves that also serves the greater good. …

In a series of studies of over 1,200 youth ages 12 to 26, Damon found that those who were actively pursuing a clear purpose reaped tremendous benefits that were both immediate and that could also last a lifetime.

[I]mmediate benefits included extra positive energy that not only kept students motivated, but also helped them acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to pursue their purpose, making them very strong learners.

Youth with a strong sense of purpose also benefited from positive emotions such as gratitude, self-confidence, optimism and a deep sense of fulfillment — all of which scientists have found help prevent depression and anxiety.

Students who carry this sense of purpose into adulthood may also benefit in the long run. Research shows that adults who feel their lives have meaning and purpose are happier, more successful at work, and maintain stronger relationships.” — Putting the “Awe” Back in “Awesome” — Helping Students Develop Purpose @ Edutopia

The sharing part of PBH taps directly into this. Connecting with their community and making a real contribution = purpose.

And this is so much easier to accomplish at home where kids can work on a project that is authentically meaningful and engaging to them!

Heather wrote a great post about mentoring your child to sew if you yourself don’t sew. She does a great job of outlining how any parent can be a supportive mentor in an area where they may not be particularly skilled:

“You might choose to learn with your child or you can help make it happen. Being a mentor means being a guide to something your child wants to learn. The great thing in this situation is that your child is coming to you with an interest. Just think of the intrinsic interest and motivation already at play! …

Remember that if you want your student to be in control and to lead the way in her endeavor to learn to sew, then the materials she needs for the job need to be at the ready. …Workspace is about making the project/learning activity accessible. I could make a long list of things my kids have ownership over in their learning and all of them involve us relinquishing control over workspace. We’ve worked to carve out spots for our kids to engage in what matters the most to them.” — Teaching Sewing in Your Homeschool (Whether or Not You Sew!) @ Blog She Wrote

She really gets into fine detail about environment, materials, and so on, so definitely check it out — you can apply the same ideas to any interest!

More and more people are stating the opinion that every kid needs to learn how to code. I really liked this article saying coding isn’t a golden ticket if kids can’t write — because writing is an essential skill to really succeed in business:

“Computer programming gets great press. … [Y]oung people have long been counseled on the advantages of learning how to program. … [Y]et, when I visit software companies, I often notice that the most successful employees aren’t necessarily the best coders. Instead, leaders in the software business are usually pretty good coders who also happen to be fantastic communicators. …

Whatever you do in the new economy, wherever you go, you’re going to be called upon to write. And the better you write — the more succinctly and confidently you wield language on the page — the more you’ll stand out. If you want to succeed, then, write. Learn to write, and practice every single day. …

Writing is really just a formalized way of thinking. Writing turns all those ideas that are flitting about your brain into a coherent picture of the world. That’s why you can’t ignore writing; in the modern economy, how well you write will often be taken as a proxy for how well you think.” — Class of 2013: Learn to write code. Sure. But really, learn to write.

As a person who’s been self-employed since college, I would add that writing is an essential skill for everyone, not just graduates seeking a job. If you can’t write a clear cover letter and resumé, your paperwork hits the circular file. But it was just as important for me to be able to communicate clearly to clients (and potential clients). How you write = how you present yourself to the world. The more we rely on the computer to do business, the less it’s about face-to-face contact and the more it’s about the page and the screen. Today, you may never meet in person the people you work for or the people who work for you — they will know you by your writing.

On the flip side, an interesting article from NPR about high school students reading less and less challenging works:

"‘The complexity of texts [high school] students are being assigned to read,’ Stickney says, ‘has declined by about three grade levels over the past 100 years. A century ago, students were being assigned books with the complexity of around the ninth- or 10th-grade level. But in 2012, the average was around the sixth-grade level.

Reading leads to reading… It’s when kids stop reading, or never get started in the first place, that there's no chance of ever getting them hooked on more complex books.” — What Kids Are Reading, In School and Out @ NPR

Wow, this sparked a huge conversation on twitter. Some people really wanted to stand up for YA and MG literature and pointed out that story and theme are just as important as technical reading level, and kids are more likely to be deeply engaged and have good discussion around a book they actually enjoy and understand. I don’t think it’s an either-or issue and I stand by my conviction that kids should be exposed to more challenging works in school. What say you?

We had another big twitter discussion about library reading programs, of which, as you may remember, I am not a fan:

[I]t’s a shame to treat reading as a sort of punishment — or something that requires a spoonful of sugar to go down, which is why I’m a curmudgon about reading programs that bribe kids with prizes or pizza if they read. Reading isn’t punishment — reading is one of the greatest things ever. When we act this way, we are sending a clear message that reading isn’t awesome — it’s something that requires cajoling, bribery, or denial. — In defense of reading, which should need no defense

Librarians insist that these programs bring more kids in to the library and get more kids reading — but it’s the adults who are pulled in by the programs, right? So I suggest we stop offering the bribes to the kids and give out free Starbucks coupons to the parents. I think it could work.

A couple of PBH for Grown-Ups-style links…

I liked this brief article about finding ten minutes in your day for the thing that matters to you — they were specifically talking about meditating, but the same thinking holds for anything you wish you could fit into your day:

“When was the last time you took 10 minutes to do nothing?

We may tell ourselves we take an hour to relax every night while we watch our favourite TV show or reading that book you never seem to finish. The half an hour journey to work with music from our iPod crowding the senses is also a familiar activity we may call our ‘chill time’. But in reality, none of the above is still not doing ‘nothing’.” — I don’t have ten minutes @ Scrawl Media

We have to use the time we have and prioritize the things that really matter. Find ten minutes for your meaningful work!

In that same vein, I like this series they’re doing at WhipUp — the quote is for the whole series:

“Stop listening to the advice of those that say it can’t be done, and seek the advice of those who are successfully doing what you want to do.”

Every day I see bad advice on Twitter and cringe. Be choosy about whose advice you’re seeking. Make sure they know what they’re talking about. If you want real, useful advice, take the time to choose mentors (even online mentors or authors) who have experience and success to back up their words. Think about the motives of the people who are offering you advice.

Do they want to be an insta-expert? (They spent a few hours reading about a subject online and now they’re an expert themselves.)

Do they have puffy ego issues? (They love being asked for help so much, they offer it whether they know what they’re talking about or not.)

Are they mostly focused on making money? (Have they had a long-term interest in this topic or is it just a niche they want to exploit?)

There is no substitute for doing your own research. Take the time to go to the library and check out a few books. Even a modest amount of familiarity with a subject can help you spot some of the people who don’t have the real knowledge to back up their faux authority. Then read their about page and make sure they’ve walked the walk before they started talking the talk. You’ll save yourself a lot of wasted time and heartache.

Ooh, I got a little cranky there at the end! Thanks as always for your support of the PBH community! And don’t forget to sign up for the e-mail list if you are interested in the master class. Have a great weekend!

Five ways to stop unschooling attrition

Published by Lori Pickert on June 10, 2013 at 08:12 AM

There is a frequent, whispered conversation that I haven’t seen written about much online: the fact that as unschooled kids get older, they start drifting off to school.

“My daughter has good friends we see at an unschooling conference every summer, but in our town, hardly anyone her age is still around.”

“My son says he wants to go to school. He doesn’t think he’s learning anything.”

“My daughter wants to go to high school next year. She wants more friends. And now my son says he wants to go, too.”

“He’s bored.”

“She’s lonely.”

The two main reasons unschooled kids opt for school seem to be because their social lives are withering away or because they want to reassure themselves that they’re getting an adequate education.

This might be less of a problem in areas where there are plenty of homeschooling and unschooling families, but many of us don’t live in those resource-rich areas. Over and over again, I hear parents lamenting the fact that they can’t find community — or that their community gets smaller every year.

These parents believe in unschooling — they believe it’s the best possible learning life. So why do their kids end up choosing school? What went wrong? And if we want our kids to stick with this lifestyle, what can we do about it?

My recommendations:

- Embrace meta-learning.

Some kids decide to go to school because they don’t think they’re learning anything. They don’t think they know enough. They aren’t sure where they stand vis-à-vis their public-schooled counterparts, or they suspect their schooled peers are ahead. They’re worried about getting into college.

Someone recently tweeted that her unschooled child told her he didn’t think he was learning anything — and she thought this was a good thing. How could that possibly be a good thing? If unschooling embraces the idea that kids learn naturally all the time, then children should know they are learning. They should understand how learning works, and they should recognize their own knowledge and skills. They should know what they know and they should know what to do when they want to know.

It isn’t possible to feel confident and skilled if you don’t know what you know. It isn’t possible to define yourself as a great learner if you don’t know what learning is.

If unschooled kids partly feel happy about avoiding the drudgery of school but simultaneously develop the sense that they’re falling behind — and the only way to catch up is to go to school themselves — then something is wrong.

The point of unschooling should be for children to master how to manage and direct their own learning. The goal isn’t to not be educated by someone else — the goal is to be in charge of what and how they learn, so they can move forward confidently to do whatever they want in life.

They should know how to plan their own curriculum to acquire whatever knowledge and skills they want or need. If they want to learn about Pluto or snowboarding or programming video games, they should know how to pull together resources, seek out experts, figure out what they need/want to know, and self-assess to decide when they’ve reached sufficient mastery.

They should be confident about their knowledge and skills, and if they detect any holes in their learning that they want to correct, they should not only know how to take care of it, they should know that no one else could teach them better than they can teach themselves.

If unschooling is life learning and “learning all the time,” then kids should understand and speak the language of learning. They should know they’re learning.

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?” — David Foster Wallace, This Is Water

In this scenario, learning is the water — if kids are swimming around in it but don’t know what it is, something is wrong.

- Embrace rigor.

Without encouragement, example, and support, kids may not learn how to dig deeply into a subject and get beyond the surface of learning. Without thoughtful mentoring, they may not remember their own plans or develop the routines and habits of mind that successful learners need to make their ideas happen.

If kids just glide around endlessly from one thing to another, never going beyond the shallowest investigation, just repeating the same bland motions (read a book, watch a video, do a craft or science experiment, then move on), they won’t become expert learners. They won’t ever have to work hard; they won’t ever need to tap into their own self-motivation or self-determination. They may even begin to believe learning is boring — because they haven’t yet experienced deeply engaging, meaningful, purposeful, challenging learning. They’re only acquainted with the pale shadow of the real thing.

Some kids will dig deep on their own — but not all of them. Left to their own devices, not knowing how to take their learning further, many will just coast along, not knowing they are paddling around in water that’s infinitely deep. Several years of this and no wonder they start thinking they don’t really know anything.

Some parents don’t think kids will do difficult work on their own, without being coerced or compelled. Those parents pontificate about kids learning all the time, on their own, but they secretly believe kids will quit once it isn’t easy — so when they see children doing rigorous, challenging, difficult work, they don’t believe it was truly self-directed. Ouch! They believe in kids — but only so far.

One mother curled her lip at the idea of a child having a PBH-style bulletin board to display her ongoing work because it seemed “schoolish.” In other words, she equated doing serious work in a serious manner not with children in charge of their own learning, but with school. How confusing it must be for a child to be nudged away from doing deeper, more difficult work because her parent believes that smacks of the institution of school rather than learning itself.

Deep learning not only helps your kids learn more about the world, it helps them learn more about themselves — their interests, ideas, opinions, strengths, abilities, and talents. They find out what what they can do. They become more proficient thinkers, learners, makers, and doers, and their self-confidence grows along with their knowledge and skills. If they don’t learn to challenge themselves now, when will they? If they don’t develop authentic self-confidence now, when will they?

Children educate themselves, but we adults have a responsibility to provide settings that allow them to do that in an optimal manner. — Peter Gray

- Stop segregating.

Having beliefs doesn’t mean you have to stick with your own kind. That’s not what America’s about. We’re the melting pot. I learned that in social studies in third grade. Yep, I went to public school, I drank Kool-Aid, I watched Scooby-Doo, and I am not a monster. I’m smart, creative, generous, and funny. You’d be lucky to have me as a friend — even though I went to public school.

There are homeschoolers with whom I have absolutely nothing in common except the fact that we are both carbon-based life forms. There are families whose kids attend school with whom I have loads in common — hobbies, values, a sense of humor. There are plenty of great kids who go to school — as you may find out if your child decides he needs to go there.

Stop demanding the homeschool ballet lessons, the homeschool tae kwon do class, the unschool archery camp. Get out and mix with the hoi polloi. This means people who homeschool in other ways as well as kids who go to school.

If your child has lots of friends, they won’t need to go to school just because they have fewer unschooling pals. To have more friends, you have to know more people — so stop artificially reducing the pool of candidates. Sure, kids who go to school are less available during the day; so what? There’s no timetable for friendship.

Making friends is a skill a person needs for their whole lifetime — let your child learn how to be open-minded, inclusive, and focus on similarities rather than differences. Help them have a big, ranging, complex group of friends of all ages and educational paths so school and socializing are two separate issues.

- Eschew labels.

Labels serve no purpose other than verbal shorthand. The wider the application of the label, the less useful it is. We don’t say chummily to someone at the playground, “Well, we’re human. Yep. Yep. And we’re, uh, surface dwellers, mostly. We do have a walk-out basement.”

“Homeschooler” and “unschooler” may have had some real significance ten or fifteen years ago when fewer people were making that choice, but now it’s so vague as to be virtually meaningless. Don’t reach for a label and hope to make a meaningful connection with someone. Talk about what you do. Ask about what they do — their interests, their hobbies, their meaningful work. Dig below the surface and make a real connection.

- Stop spouting dogma.

The only thing worse than meaningless labels is the person who insists they really do have meaning and you’re using them incorrectly. And here comes the lecture no one asked for on the topic no one cares about.

Better yet, they let you know you don’t deserve that label. You’re not wearing enough unschooling flair — and boom, they rip off your name tag and throw it in the dirt.

Ungrip from the invisible manual. Leave it in the car. It’s just as obnoxious to lecture someone whose six-year-old is happily reading Harry Potter about the brain-damaging effects of early reading as it is to lecture someone whose eight-year-old is just starting to read. Judgment is boring and if your opinion comes without request, it’s rude. Lighten up.

Your curriculum choices don’t define you. This applies to all homeschoolers and unschoolers, and most of us pinball among the various approaches over the years anyway. Most of us are on a never-ending journey toward our most authentic, best life, and that doesn’t come with a pre-gummed label.

I won’t say that we’re all united by how much we care about our kids and their education — because people who send their kids to school also love their kids and care about their education. We are all an interesting mixed bag and I sincerely hope the most interesting thing about you isn’t the form of education you’re currently using. Get out of your bubble and lose the agenda.

In summary, you can’t dig yourself a tiny little hole, climb in it, then complain that it’s lonely in there. Open it up. Make your learning experiences bigger and more complex; help your child go deeper and further. Believe that children learn naturally all the time but don’t stop there — help them become self-confident, self-reliant thinkers, learners, makers, and doers. Walk the talk: discover just how hard children will work on something they care about when they’re encouraged and supported.

Don’t limit yourself to building a community of clones — connect with a wide variety of people in a wide variety of ways. Don’t label yourself — live a life of such complexity that when people want to know how you live and learn and work and share, no label will suffice.

If your kids decide to attend school, it doesn’t mean you failed. There’s nothing wrong with going to school, and a child in charge of his own learning should be free to make that choice.

But if they don’t think they know enough — and they don’t realize they have the ability to fix that on their own — then something went wrong somewhere along the way. And if they don’t know how to build community and find friends wherever they are, they’ll have to make more compromises in the future.

So pay attention to those core values: learning and connecting. If your kids master those, then wherever they go and whatever they do, they’ll be choosing deliberately from a place of strength. They won’t drift toward something out of loneliness or anxiety — they’ll be confidently charting their own course.


Friday link round-up + updated PBH group guide

Published by Lori Pickert on June 8, 2013 at 07:40 AM

Before we get started, I’ve updated How to Start a Project Group, incorporating the additional suggestions and questions I received after I posted the first draft. If you want to share strategies with other people who are using PBH in co-ops, summer camps, and family PBH groups, join the forum!

We missed last week’s round-up, so here’s what I’ve been sharing on the PBH facebook page for the past couple of weeks…

First, a beautiful blog post Abbey wrote about her “PBH conversion experience”:

“Tonight, I went beyond “mentally committed because this seems like the best choice.” Tonight, I became totally heart-committed and gut-committed to this idea of letting his interests spark and catch fire and burn through acres of material … because tonight, I saw the pure joy in his face at being able to soak up as much information as he could hold with the promise that he would be able to keep coming back for more the next day, the one after that, the one after that, as long as he wanted. …

It was passionate. It was instinctive. It was his idea, his momentum, his knowledge, his research. And yet now, without adult prompting or coaching, he has learned where Argentina is, how big Herrerasaurus was, in what period it lived, what it ate, what its bones looked like, and that it had a small role in the movie Jurassic Park. (A little pop culture knowledge is almost always useful, right?)

I know it might not be like this all the time, but it can be like this at least some of the time. I can do this… I can make this possible for him by creating an environment in which he has what he needs to do this for himself. For the first time, I feel certain that this is the right decision for him and for our family right now. He's more than capable — I’ve always known that.

Now I can picture what it looks like.” — Project-Based Homeschooling: My Conversion Moment @ Surviving Our Blessings

And this is a way we can learn, not just in childhood, but for life:

“Self-directed play allows both children and adults to develop a powerful attention strategy, a strategy that I call ‘relaxed presence.’ …

When you [read or built things as a child], nobody was giving you an assignment, nobody was telling you what to do — there wasn’t any stress around it. You did these things for your own pleasure and joy. As you played, you developed a capacity for attention and for a type of curiosity and experimentation that can happen when you play. You were in the moment, and the moment was unfolding in a natural way.

You were in a state of relaxed presence as you explored your world. At one point, I interviewed a handful of Nobel laureates about their childhood play patterns. They talked about how they expressed their curiosity through experimentation. They enthusiastically described things they built, and how one play experience naturally led into another. In most cases, by the end of the interview, the scientist would say, “This is exactly what I do in my lab today! I’m still playing!’” — The Art of Staying Focused in a Distracting World @ The Atlantic

Bridging from preschool age to Nobel laureates, how does self-directed play and learning look like for older kids? At the IL Math & Science Academy, students get 20% of their time (one school day per week) to work on projects of their own choosing — or just to play:

“Every Wednesday at [the Illinois Math & Sci Acad], students are free to work on whatever they want — to follow their particular passions through self-directed study, internships, or other projects.

“[Peter Chu] spent countless hours playing this Dungeons-and-Dragons-like computer creation, but playing wasn’t enough. He wanted to understand how the game worked and, more importantly, change the things he didn’t like about it. As luck would have it, DikuMUD was open source software, so he was free to download the code that underpinned the game and start hacking it — and that’s what he did.”

“Other IMSA alums have gone on to discover new solar systems, teach neurosurgery, and found such notable tech outfits as YouTube, Yelp, SparkNotes, and OK Cupid. And the spirit that moved Chu to teach himself programming is still very much alive and well.” — Hogwarts for Hackers: Inside the Science and Tech School of Tomorrow @ Wired

This is compared to Google’s 20% time — a perk about which one employee said, “[W]hen you give engineers the chance to apply their passion to their [work], they can do amazing things.”

PBH is about giving kids time to work on their own deep interests, time when they are supported and mentored. It doesn’t have to be the entire curriculum, but it is essential for children to learn to direct and manage their own learning and their own meaningful work.

Kids need white space — they need down time. They need time to relax and play. And they need to develop the ability to manage themselves without being constantly kept busy with activities:

Modern parents are almost obsessed with filling up their children’s time. … [A]lone time is time a son or daughter uses to learn how to entertain themselves or just relax, without help or input from parents, siblings, friends, or babysitters. And it is a crucial aspect of the development of independence.

… The real world is not a constant party, or a day at camp. Real world includes downtime, and it includes alone time. And your job as a parent isn’t to entertain your children 24 hours a day. Introducing your child early on to the idea of spending time alone — and liking it — will help your son and/or daughter become a better companion to others and get more from their relationships with friends — and with you. They will grow to be an adult who can be happy on his/her own, or with someone else. And isn’t that the goal?” — Why Alone Time is So Important for Boys and Girls

In the forum we’ve been talking about how to help a child move from needing 24/7 interaction to being more self-directed.

Since it’s graduation season, we’ve been sharing some advice to graduates — advice that we can integrate into how our kids learn now:

“Jobs suck. At least the traditional version of a job, in which you do something you sorta hate, from 9-5p, and are paid for your time to just grit your teeth and do it. Let’s call this the ‘sell your time’ version of a personal business model: You sell your time to an employer, and they pay you for that time. …

There’s a better way — though it might not be the easiest way. … Learn to make something. Anything.” — New College Grads: Don’t Sell Your Time for a Living @ Andrew Chen

Real skills matter! In fact, they’re the most important thing potential employers care about:

“[T]wo of the first three people I hired for my new company made the decision not to get a college degree, and in both cases, it was the correct decision to make. If you talk to either of them, you will quickly realize that they are more intelligent and intellectual than 99 percent of the ‘degree holding’ population. They read more books than most college graduates I know.

Their head shots are prominently displayed on the ‘Our Team’ page of my venture pitch, and I have yet to have a single investor ask, ‘Where did that guy to go school?’ Investors prefer to ask, ‘What company did you steal them from?’

What’s more, skipping college puts pressure on young people to actually learn real skills and deliver real value — and that is a good thing.” — How Much Does Your College Degree Matter? @ PandoDaily

Scared to deviate from the crowd?

“Standing out seems riskier than conforming. But nobody ever talks about the risks of conforming: boredom (the worst of tortues), an uninteresting narrative (you'll never land your dream job), regret (we don't regret the things we do; we regret the things we don't do), a long and frustrated journey through the rest of your life (stemming from a lack of self-awareness).” — 31 Things I’d Have Told Myself Before College

Personalized education that focuses on your strengths takes you further than one-size-fits-all that focuses on your perceived deficits.

It can be scary to stand out, but even worse to blend in.

Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential — as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.

You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.

To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.” — Bill Watterson

For those of you attempting to embrace your kids’ love of Minecraft and other screen-related passions, I have some good stuff to share this week:

“I think the potential is really there for us to be raising a new generation of young people who have grown up with technologies that allow them to pursue self-directed learning on their own terms and on their own time schedules.

This is very different from how kids learn in school, where they’re handed a set body of knowledge that they’re asked to master and the expertise really resides in the teacher.

When kids go online in these more informal contexts where they’re pursuing their interests, they can really go, look around, and connect with knowledge, people, online communities that really enable them to tailor and customize what they want to learn, when they want to learn it.

And that is tremendously empowering for kids and motivating for them to learn.” — Dr. Mizuko Ito on Teen Development Online: Interacting with Media

Are your kids fascinated with Minecraft? So are educators:

“‘[T]he really cool thing about Minecraft is there’s an invitation to be creative and an invitation to be customizable and an invitation to engage at that level that’s much more accessible and much more on the surface.’ …

‘I’m interested in how it is providing kids a space to create their own game space and to share those game spaces with each other,’ she says. ‘This is a huge departure, not only from previous games, but previous toys and objects that were given to kids to play. Kids always make their own games in backyards and in schoolyards. And now they have an opportunity to make those games part of their shared culture.’ …

Minecraft certainly promotes some healthy behaviors, she adds.

Aside from rule-free, creative thinking, Grimes says, it encourages and facilitates a healthy co-operation.

‘The fact that you can collaborate in building a world together, you know, it’s amazing,’ she says.” — Minecraft Game Being Hailed as a Teaching Tool


Require self-direction.

Minecraft won’t do anything without the right input from the player. It doesn’t drag you along by the nose, but rather sits and waits for the player to do something important. And with every “correct” action by the player, they are rewarded with more freedom, opportunity and visual evidence of their decisions.” — 5 Lessons to Learn from Minecraft in Education @ TeachThought

Be sure to check out the great Minecraft projects being shared on PBH Kids!

Finally, some encouragement for the PBH grown-ups:

Eventually you will make a decision to forget your craft, or to zero in what you love most about it, truing to it fiercely above the urgent, the insistent, the loud demands that are yelling like a bully in your ear. Eventually it will be up to you to decide to turn a blind eye on the other things, and just pick this one thing. This one thing that feels important to you. That feels like the work you love, and just do it for an hour. Imperfectly. Even if it means you’ll be up a creek later. Even if it means there will be hell to pay. Even if it means the sky will fall. …

Eventually you will make the decision: to let circumstance define you, or to define your circumstance.” — Eventually You Will Make a Decision (or Reminders to Myself) @ Christina Rosalie


Stop listening to the advice of those that say it can’t be done, and seek the advice of those who are successfully doing what you want to do.” — Best Advice I’ve Been Given @ WhipUp

Thank you for hanging out with me on PBH and being part of this community!

I have to say that being a PBH mom has helped me tremendously to see that while being there for my kids, I can support my own work and make my dreams a reality. Learning as I go. — PBH forum comment

Thank you for challenging us parents the way you continually do and sticking up for the rights of children. You know why PBH rocks above all other educational methodologies? Because it’s the only methodology I’ve encountered that requires parents to try to become the best possible version of themselves in order to walk the talk. — PBH parent e-mail

Genuine interest is the magic ingredient that makes learning meaningful — and it’s what learners require to make their best efforts.

When we label a child as a “reluctant learner,” we’re making a big mistake. Not only are we focusing on the reluctance rather than the learning, but we’re telling a child that he has a problem learning. We’re missing the fact that it’s we who have the problem, because we have failed to provide our child with a learning experience that is interesting, relevant, and useful.” — The Myth of the Reluctant Learner