project-based homeschooling

Small Wins Wednesday: The academics of play

Published by Lori Pickert on June 25, 2014 at 08:41 AM

Writing and drawing about the Jacobites.

• • •

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

This week’s small win is from Kirsten:

Six-year-old R is resistant to anything that vaguely resembles school and has been known to shout “I DON’T WANT TO LEARN ANYTHING!” in response to any scholastic suggestion. So we’ve decided to pull back for now, and completely unschool, subtly strewing interesting stuff, and raising interesting topics at the lunch table, but requiring nothing.

This generally works really well. I know that for a 6-year-old, play is his work, and I’m constantly amazed at what he’s learning from what I perhaps patronisingly call play. But there’s certainly nothing that looks in any way academic. Until last week.

We’d taken him to see a reenactment of an 18th-century Scottish battle, and it really piqued his interest. He’s been playing battles in the garden (always a particular times of day, on a schedule!), making guns (lots of iterations to get the perfect gun), looking at books about the battle and doing some great artwork about it.

I have also been a bit concerned, though, that he’s been watching quite a lot of television, and in particular some programmes that I don’t think have a very good effect on him. So we agreed that he would no longer watch TV at supper time.

On the first evening after we’d reached this agreement, I thought there would be some attempts at renegotiation. But instead, he sat down at the table with a history book, found some passages that particularly interested him, and started copying them out. Apparently these were to be information signs for the museum he was setting up in his bedroom.

We looked on with quite some amazement. This was the boy who wouldn’t do anything that looked like school, spending his suppertime copying out passages from a history book and discussing them with us. Reading, comprehension, handwriting and history all in one, when no requirement is made of him to do anything educational.

To be honest, I know that what he learns from play is just as valuable as what he is learning from sitting down reading and copying from a history book. But the progression from play to research and writing certainly felt like a win! It’s moments like this when I am reminded just what is so great about homeschooling in general, and project-based learning in particular.

• • •

Thank you so much for sharing your small wins — real children doing real work (and parents working hard to become good mentors) are more inspiring than anything. 

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

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

Jacobite museum in bedroom

 

Yesterday I posted about respecting children’s interests. I titled it “trust, respect, and attention…” because I think you have to trust that your child’s authentic interests will lead somewhere good, you have to respect their genuine feelings about things, and you have to pay attention — or you’ll lose the opportunity to really understand them and what they care about.

Serendipitously (mind-bogglingly so), I read two things later in the day that related to that post.

First:

One recurring question is, why does the intellectual development of vast numbers of children…slow down? What happens to children’s curiosity and resourcefulness later in their childhood? Why do so few continue to have their own wonderful ideas?

I think part of the answer is that intellectual breakthroughs come to be less and less valued. Either they are dismissed as being trivial … or else they are discouraged as being unacceptable — like discovering how it feels to wear shoes on the wrong feet, or asking questions that are socially embarrassing, or destroying something to see what it’s like inside.

The effect is to discourage children from exploring their own ideas and to make them feel that they have no important ideas of their own, only silly or evil ones. — Eleanor Duckworth, The Having of Wonderful Ideas

The less we respond to children’s interests and ideas, the less they are needed and required and celebrated, the less they will be produced and offered.

By contrast, the child whose interests and ideas are the main ingredients of her learning life, discussed and encouraged and celebrated every day, is unlikely to suddenly stop having them.

Second:

“The lesson from childhood, then, is that if you want to win the war for attention, don’t try to say ‘no’ to the trivial distractions you find on the information smorgasbord; try to say ‘yes’ to the subject that arouses a terrifying longing, and let the terrifying longing crowd out everything else.

The only way to stay fully alive is to dive down to your obsessions six fathoms deep.” — The Art of Focus

Interestingly, this article refers to another that discusses how few people are engaged in their work:

[J]ust 30 percent of employees in America feel engaged at work, according to a 2013 report by Gallup. Around the world, across 142 countries, the proportion of employees who feel engaged at work is just 13 percent. For most of us, in short, work is a depleting, dispiriting experience, and in some obvious ways, it’s getting worse.

…Employees are vastly more satisfied and productive, it turns out, when four of their core needs are met: physical, through opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work; emotional, by feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions; mental, when they have the opportunity to focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks and define when and where they get their work done; and spiritual, by doing more of what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work.

The more effectively leaders and organizations support employees in meeting these core needs, the more likely the employees are to experience engagement, loyalty, job satisfaction and positive energy at work, and the lower their perceived levels of stress.” — Why You Hate Work

Deep interests are irrevocably connected to engagement.

We learn best when we are genuinely engaged with our work, and we can only find our meaningful work by following the threads of our interests and curiosities. Yet we try to develop learners not by helping them learn about what interests them most (fueled by self-motivation) — instead, we set everyone to studying a generic, standardized curriculum with no time to ask and answer their own questions or contribute their own ideas.

“[M]any employers remain fearful that their employees won’t accomplish their work without constant oversight — a belief that ironically feeds the distrust of their employees, and diminishes their engagement.” — ibid.

A huge number of adults are terrified that if they don’t crack down, children won’t learn anything at all.

If we can’t trust that our children’s interests will end up being worthwhile — that rigorous exploration of any interest can be intellectually challenging — then we are really distrusting the learning process. We aren’t entirely sure that you can strengthen your abilities as a learner if you study Minecraft or My Little Pony instead of computer programming or Greek Mythology.

But our lack of trust in the process can be felt by our child as a lack of trust in them — in their interests, their enthusiasms, their abilities, the very stuff that makes up who they are as unique individuals.

If it’s fear that’s stopping us, we really need to stop, go back, and try again until we really understand how learning works — before we accidentally derail our children and their confidence in themselves the same way we were derailed so many years ago.

“We often ask senior leaders a simple question: If your employees feel more energized, valued, focused and purposeful, do they perform better? Not surprisingly, the answer is almost always ‘Yes.’ Next we ask, ‘So how much do you invest in meeting those needs?’ An uncomfortable silence typically ensues.” — ibid.

This is a question we can ask ourselves: Do our children learn and work more energetically and purposefully when we support their authentic interests and mentor them intentionally and enthusiastically? How much are we investing in that part of our learning life?

The learning and work we do as children can set us on a lifelong path of meaning and purpose.

Are we doing everything we can to help our children get on that path?

 

Edited to add:

I found another one today…

Adults constantly raise the bar on smart children, precisely because they’re able to handle it. The children get overwhelmed by the tasks in front of them and gradually lose the sort of openness and sense of accomplishment they innately have. When they’re treated like that, children start to crawl inside a shell and keep everything inside. It takes a lot of time and effort to get them to open up again. Kids’ hearts are malleable, but once they gel it’s hard to get them back the way they were. ― Haruki Murakami

 

Recently I was contacted by a mother who told me she was upset and frustrated because she was trying to introduce PBH to her sons and they were resisting.

She had been trying to share her own work with them in an attempt to make her own learning visible and start building a family culture of making and sharing.

And what happened?

“They act like my work is boring and not important. They don’t want to listen. They roll their eyes and change the subject.”

I asked her what her sons’ interests were — and things got very quiet.

“Well… I’m not sure. They used to be really into video games. But now… I don’t know.”

What happened with their interest in video games?

“Well… I didn’t like it. I thought they were spending too much time on the computer. The games seemed stupid. I told them they were wasting their time…”

Her voice trailed away.

When her sons had shared their authentic interest, she had reacted by

- saying it was boring and unimportant,

- not listening,

- rolling her eyes, and changing the subject.

Now her sons were reacting to her interests in the exact same way.

When we share our true interests, we are sharing part of ourselves. When we get back disdain and criticism — or when we’re simply ignored — then we learn to hide that part of ourselves. Maybe we drop that interest — or maybe we just stop talking about it with that person.

We might stop sharing other interests with that person because we want to avoid that negative reaction. We might even stop sharing our interests with anyone. Why open yourself up to ridicule?

It’s easier to just do what everyone else is doing — that way, no one will call you a dork or make fun of you. No one will look down on you. Keep your real interests to yourself — or just stop having interests altogether. They’re probably stupid anyway and it’s not like anything’s going to come of them.

Whatever you do, don’t reveal your true self to someone who didn’t like that little bit you already showed them.

Our family is our first community. Our first friends. Our first colleagues. Our first audience. Our first mentors.

We learn our first lessons there, and we carry them forward when we meet and interact with the larger world.

If we learn at home that our interests are no good and not worth having, it’s very hard to overcome that lesson in the larger community where we’re even more nervous about fitting in.

If we hear “what you care about is stupid and worthless,” it’s easy to convert that to “you’re stupid and worthless.”

It’s never too late to reverse this. It’s never too late to say, “I was wrong.” It’s never too late to say, “Tell me about what you care about. I really want to know. Because I am interested in you.”

It’s never to late to listen, to support, to invest in your child’s authentic interests.

The child who is listened to will listen.

The child who is supported will support.

The child who is mentored will mentor.

The child who is believed in will believe in himself — and you.

If you give trust, respect, and attention, that is what you will receive in return.

It’s not about whether you like video games or not. It’s about whether you want your child to know what HE likes. It’s about whether you want him to trust his own feelings. It’s about whether you want him to be capable of developing his unique talents and gifts. It’s about whether you want him to tap into his deepest motivation and be willing to challenge himself.

When you support his ability to know what he likes, you’re putting him on a path of self-knowledge and meaningful work.

Diminish what he loves and you diminish him.

 

See also More thoughts on dismissing children’s interests and ideas

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Small Wins Wednesday: The power of documenting

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

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

• • •

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

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

Documentation is one of my weak points.

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

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

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

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

• • •

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

See these PBH posts about journaling and documenting:

Project Journal — Parent’s

Inside My Project Journal

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Alma working

• • •

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

 

Alma has been working on a baking project for several months.

Recently we had a dilemma. She would love to bake every day. But it costs money. And if we eat it all we would grow very fat. She didn’t feel confident enough to sell to strangers, and she didn’t want to talk about prices to people. Baking once a week wasn’t enough for her. I suggested baking very small things, but that doesn't work for every recipe.

She likes to bring things to family for parties, as a gift. But she doesn't want to think about how much money people should pay, and she’s very concerned that they are satisfied with the product. She has made some cakes for my friends, and they were happy with them, but Alma almost couldn't sleep because it made her very anxious.

After brainstorming with friends in the PBH forum, we decided that she would bake for charity, and for friends and family. We set a budget apart for it, and friends/family can pay what they think is fair. The same for gatherings like homeschool outings. This way she can get used to baking for others and working with her insecurity about what people think of it.

This has led to a series of great wins…

She baked for friends and the woman was so astonished by her cookies that she asked for baking lessons. Alma will bake at her house on Saturday, a basic cake for starters. Our friend will pay for the ingredients and Alma will teach her how to bake. Her husband has a sweet tooth so he was very happy about this arrangement. They are both professional artists and in return will teach her about sculpting and printmaking. Yay!

We instituted her budget and immediately she had a plan — she wanted to make her own fondant. It was an awful mess and the kitchen smelled like you were inside a marshmallow, but she went through with it. Now she has three pounds of pink fondant. She cleaned the kitchen and she is so proud. She wants to bake pink decorated small cakes for her visit to the Toon Hermanshuis on Friday.

Toon Hermanshuis is a place where people with cancer can meet and talk. Alma baked for them as a volunteer. They loved it. She made it a commitment to bake a cake every week. She was very proud of her work. And she went on her bike, by herself, with a big box full of lemon cake through the rain. I didn’t have to drive her — she said she is not made of sugar and it is her project. And it is a five-mile ride. She came back wet and proud and she made me proud too. — Josh

 

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

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

A cake for a friend

Contributing to a bookstore event

Cake for her aunt

Making fondant

Fondant dragon

Cake for the cat club

Cake for Toon Hermanshuis

Small Wins Wednesday: Authentic writing

Published by Lori Pickert on March 12, 2014 at 07:37 AM

Kit (age 3) is now plowing through the old Birds & Blooms magazines so she can figure out what to plant in the garden. #butterflyproject #pbh

She is insisting on writing all of the flower names herself. — Sarah

• • •

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

 

My 10 yr old has been between projects since his football project waned, possibly as a result of the season ending. A couple of weeks ago he was reading a magazine article on the seven wonders of the ancient world when he became inspired by the information about the creator of this list. He began thinking about making a list of his own. Great, I thought — until he said he would make a list of the top Mario games on his blog.

How did we get from the ancient world to Mario video games? My eye began to twitch as it always does when video games come up during project time, but I know enough now to not say anything and not to jump to the conclusion that he’s just finding excuses to play games during project time.

He wrote his top 10 list and then decided, after getting his feet wet, he’d make another top 10 for the best galaxies in Mario Galaxy. He wrote this list over the course of three days. He researched other lists, watched videos of top 10s, and really considerd the best galaxies for his list and why they should make the top ten and their individual placement. By the time he was done, he had created a thoughtful and entertaining piece of writing that was also quite lengthy I might add (at least as long as any school report would be required to be and far more interesting to read). He had catchy openings and varied sentence structure and, although it wasn’t very academic in topic, it was authentic and I could see a budding talent for writing.

Never could he or would he write anything so amazing on any topic I told him he must write on. He might squeeze out a few boring sentences to compliment a topic he deemed boring, but it wouldn’t be anything close to this blog post on Mario. Even better, he came to me with his “to do” list one day so he wouldn’t forget what he needed to do the next day! Now he’s creating Mario pixel art. He’s using graph paper for his designs and then building them in Minecraft. He’s planning a post on that as well.

PBH can be hard, but I’m so glad I’ve stuck with it through all the struggles and doubts and difficult times. Both my boys have produced some amazing stuff in the last year, but I’ve had to see it with my fresh new PBH glasses. My old traditional school glasses would never have seen the value in all this work or even let it proceed. We would have missed out on so much!Christi

 

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

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

Small Wins Wednesday: Observational drawing

Published by Lori Pickert on February 26, 2014 at 09:21 AM

Carrie shared this photo of her daughter’s project notebook on Twitter: “Notebooks aren't just for grown-ups! Love my kid's #pbh book.”

• • •

Every Wednesday we’re going to share a small win from the forum, Twitter, the Facebook page, or (with the writer’s permission) from the mail bag.

 

Family field trip to the dam for their National Engineering Week event. For the first time packed clipboards and paper for sketching, per Lori’s suggestions. To be honest, I thought they would just be something extra I had to lug around for five hours, but something utterly unexpected and utterly amazing happened. My son made five different sketches. Three of them were during the guided tour into the powerhouse where he had to sketch fast. I thought that would discourage him but it didn’t.

Later he said his favorite thing was the sketching, although he amended it to second favorite. First favorite was going partially inside a generator.

Bonus: In an attempt to model sketching, I sketched my own version of the powerhouse generators. The ranger who accompanied the tour said to me, “You’re BOTH artists!?” I looked at my *sketch* and had to chuckle. “Ya…ya…I guess we are.” — Kat, from the current Master Class forum

 

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

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

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?

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.

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.

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