The Incredible Moon

Image result for moon pictures

                When I was very young, I was fascinated with the planets, which my sister and I read about in the children’s’ encyclopedias our parents bought.  I wondered how such planets existed, what they were like, and both the pictures and reading opened up the imagination.   That amazing red storm on Jupiter, far larger than our own planet.

                Interestingly, with time passing, like most, I still was fascinated, but spent more time with other past times.  Now, we seem to be refocusing on the marvels of space.  NASA is returning to the moon, and there are both private interests in bringing people to Mars.  Elon Musk?  Other entrepreneurs?

                Consider the moon.  A quarter of a million miles from the Earth, yet it follows a path around our planet as our planet follows a path around the sun.  Amazing.  What keeps the moon orbiting the Earth?  Of course, many of us remember the pail of water discussion, where a swinging pail holds the water (gravity), but the inertia keeps the water in the pail (speed), and that these two forces are in perfect harmony.  I remember this, but it only created more questions.

                Why is everything spinning?  Electrons orbit the nucleus of atoms forever.  Moons orbit planets.  Planets orbit suns or stars.  Galaxies are rotating.  Why rotate?  And the interaction of forces between all the parts of the universe. 

                A neighbor once asked us what is at the end of the universe.  In other words, if you got to the end of the universe, what is beyond?  Of course, we had no answer.  And certainly, the day to day activities and necessities of life require our attention.  Must pay the bills.  Work.  Chores.  Helping others.  Life is full time.  But the question was excellent.

                Could it be that gravity is not a pulling but a push?  Could it be that energy coursing through space places “pressure” on atoms, bringing them together as water rushing down a river creates whirlpools?  So, the moon is simply following the trail of energy, swirling around the Earth as the Earth swirls around the Sun, and the Sun swirls in the galaxy, electrons swirling around the nucleus.  

                Of course, I would not venture to believe I understand it all, but certainly considerations opens questions, and what encourages more young minds than curiosity, interest, and exploration? 

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Understanding Made Simple

                We were watching a game show a couple of weeks back.  Regarding prices, a contestant gave a prediction, yet it was so far off what is common.  On another show, we heard discussions about the economy, again amazed at the disconnect between perspective and real cause and effect.  In both, we noticed that there seemingly no realization or critical thinking skills being used.  Both seemed certain of themselves, and even upon additional information, there seemed to be no reflection.

                What is understanding?  It’s something we’re born with, but with time, can be lost.  I remember my folks telling me that “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.”  They were using a common phrase at the time which regarded the brain like muscles.  I never quite agreed, but I understood the need to learn and develop skills that would later help with life and opportunities.

                The concept is simple, and real, but all too often most people don’t “see” the importance of this little concept.  It’s like a small breeze.  You know it’s there, but you never think much about it.  And yet, it creates the San Francisco Bay Bridge, sends men to the moon (perhaps Mars one day), begins new businesses, brings inventions that improve our lives, and created both the internet and social media.

                Here’s how I’ve explained this before, something I came to better understand during college, but more so in application.  As we see it, it does require time, experience, and reflection, but I’ve known some younger people that seem to be blessed with tons of understanding.  Over the years, I’ve learned that people are all different, have their talents is various applications, but also what we spend time in usually provides the foundations depending upon how we approach and pursue.

                I look at a fan.  It just makes sense.  I look into the eyes of one I’m talking to, and the understanding of where that person is coming from just makes sense.  In college, I listened to the professors, seeking to understand where they were coming from, and once I “got it,” everything else fell into place.  I was stranded on the side of the road, many a time, but with the maintenance manual, repaired and got back on the road.  A friend asked me to train his dog, so I taught it to sit, raise a paw, and roll over, watching the dog for the clues it could give me that would work.  Understanding.  A friend of mine, who has taught many years, wanted to start a business.  So, he does both.  Understanding.

                So, again, what is understanding?  It’s not intellect, though the intellect is used to gather information.  Research?  Of course.  Experience?  Absolutely.  Time and patience?  Yes.  But I also think an inquisitive nature helps.  Curiosity.  Wonder.  Pursuit.  If you want to learn something, sometimes you will need others to instruct, but along the way, seek to understand, because the learning curve will be steeper, more so in some, but certainly higher.

                I’ll take this time to share something I’ve shared before.  I had a student who’d always received Ds, needed additional help, but was being mainstreamed into my class.  I spent some time with the special education teachers, listening as they explained their time with him.  I always enjoyed talking with the special education teachers for their experiences are varied and they have a plethora of students which they seek to help, trying different directions to bring out their best.

                Well, something happened in the third quarter.  He had been getting Ds and Cs, a little better than in previous years, but one day he asked me a question.  He wanted to know, if he got done early, what were his options?  At that time, I had some creative assignments students could take part in should they complete assignments early (i.e. creating games, letter writing, challenging dittos, etc.).   For some reason, completing his assignments as quickly as possible, then having some choices afterwards opened something up. I had always encouraged him, helped him with the work, but when suddenly he had choices, that I encouraged him to think for himself, something clicked.  He still had to do the main work well before he could move to the choices, but that motivated him.  He was motivated from within.  As I saw it, that part of a person engaged from within was expressed in different ways:  from work time to challenging assignments.  Well, to make a long story short, he was on the honor roll for the last two quarters.  He did it.  Not me.  He just clicked with what we both understood. 

                One more story.  A lady I had been dating wanted to go back to college, but she was afraid of having to take Algebra.  She said she never quite understood it in her younger days.  So, we sat together, going over some problems.  I explained those x, y, and z’s used in problems are like the empty boxes we all learned about in grade school.  You know:  3 + blank = 5.  Suddenly, she got it.  That little bit of information opened up her understanding.  Of course, the course took time, but she actually enjoyed learning Algebra. 

                Understanding is learning made live.  It engages us.  It makes what is on paper interesting.  And if we can learn to utilize something we were born with, we might be engaged to learn even more simply because we’re interested.  Then, the learning curved goes up.

Understanding Made Simple

                Recently, I had the joy of reading words of authors past regarding this concept of understanding.  As a teacher, I have always encouraged this in my students:  to “see” things for themselves.  Of course, understanding takes time, often through times and experiences, often in life’s trials.

                The concept, as I’ve shared, is a simple one.  Understanding is seeing, observing, then really “seeing” with “ah haaa” moments.  You see and perceive, but cannot explain how you know:  you just do.  Where the understanding is coming from, you cannot explain.  You can’t see the understanding, you just know you understand.

                Okay, we’ll wax less philosophically.  Less serious.  But it’s a concept of the human experience.  It goes apart from mere learning and intellectual discussions.  It goes to the core.  And without experiences, effort, and time, often it’s less in individuals than in those enduring times of hard work, long-term efforts, trials, and those spending their lives to truly understand the real aspects of living, often because they have no choice.  It’s something that is valued, something that is nurtured, and with time, becomes something that fills our lives with more appreciation, but also with the added realizations of problems and difficulties. 

                It was in college, during a time of attempting to find an easier way to study and garner better grades that this came to me (I later, through reading authors of the past, discovered this something men and women have sought throughout history.).  I “saw”, by understanding what my professors were teaching, that I could cut most of the “study” time out.  If I “saw” where they were coming from, whether I agreed or disagreed, then I pretty much knew the subject, the reading, and took notes based upon that realization(s). 

                Of course, I don’t think I ever would have realized had I not chosen to work different jobs, stressed to figure things out, and reenter the classroom with very practical experiences to base the learning upon.  In this, I encourage our youth in doing chores, partaking of hobbies, getting into sports, but also taking time away from the television, iPhone, and other electronic media, working with their hands, perhaps even starting small businesses, so they have time to experience and realize.  Like the article I wrote about a kid starting a lawn mowing business, it’s the time, determination, and looking to understand that opens up more understanding.

                For those who have their children in public, private, or home school, I cannot lessen the need for “hands-on” experiences, readings of real consideration, time at museums and zoos, not to mention going to the parents’ work places, but also discussions at home in which real consideration of the day’s events may bring out real thoughts and consideration, something that shared ideas can bring about. 

                Read some of the classics, together perhaps.  Read some of the historical figures and their words, including those of the revolutionary war, the civil war, and WWII.  Discuss.  Share.  Consider.  And allow time and consideration for understanding to develop.  Start a small business, perhaps a lemonade stand, then watch and learn about other businesses, then discuss along the way.  In this, through life’s experiences, the education comes alive. 

Real Understanding/ Real Learning

                Here is something teachers, tutors, and parents alike can utilize in instructions and a quality education.  Whether the children are in public, private, or home schools, the tools are very useful.

                In essay writing, regarding opinions (i.e. response to an article, a story, something viewed on television, or even a discussion), young people should learn to “support” their opinions with reasons, and with time, with reasons garnered from other sources.  This is developmental.  This grows with time.  But in the application, young people learn that there are “reasons” to believe what we believe.  They also learn the reasons for others’ views which they need to challenge their own thinking.

                For instance, I shared a discussion my brother and I had with our father about who should get to watch the television.  My brother hadn’t been watching all day, and I had sat at home, watching and working on homework.  However, we both knew a particular show I had told everyone I wanted to watch (I shared this a week in advance.).  I explained we both had the opportunity during the day to watch, that I had already told everyone about this particular show, and so forth.  Amazing that at a young age, I understood the need to support.  But I also knew I had to have valid reasons.

                     Whether the children believe cats are better than dogs, school days should be shorter, we should pollute less, or why they should earn more for chores, or even why one era of history is better than another, they should have reasons for believing which can be both in verbal and written form.  Also, in regards to famous historical figures, an autobiography, or the coming to America from other countries (i.e. Columbus, France, and so forth, which led to the thirteen colonies), they can do some research, improving upon them from time to time as they grow in experience and understanding. 

           In this way, our youth are learning to think for themselves.  But also, through their own and others’ experiences, they are learning about decision making and where to look for answers.  An education is valuable.  How much we put into it can open doors.

Writing is Very Important

                In any school, writing is a very important skill.  As a young person, my teachers had me write, but looking back, I wished the practice had been more consistent.  Thankfully, as I grew older, I saw the benefit of writing skills, and in college, took additional writing courses as well and practiced on my own, along with friends who understood the necessity of quality writing.

                With quality writing, we have good grammar and punctuation, and these skills enable us to better find jobs (resumes, letters, and business correspondents) requiring good communication.   They also help us when writing business letters or letters of complaints.  I can remember, on a couple of occasions, when I wrote business letters.  In one case, I complained about a business that had caused damage to a product.  Writing directly to the corporate office, explaining the problem and how terribly it was handled, they sent a check for the damage (I took the product to another company for repairs.).  No questions asked.  Just copies of my receipts. 

                Furthermore, through writing, we better understand what we’ve read, especially when we use the writing in summaries and essays.  We can also partake of the creative process, thereby learning modes of expressions, thinking about what we wish to communicate, and improve with time.  All of this takes time.  Some students will advance quicker, but every student has a writer inside waiting for the opportunity and direction.

                Is it difficult and time consuming to teach writing, which includes reading the students’ efforts and correcting?  Depends.  If you enjoy the process, then it’s fun.  If you enjoy seeing young people grow and better able to communicate ideas, then it’s encouraging.  All too many young people do not have strong communication skills.  All too many young people don’t have the critical thinking skills that good writing instructions can improve.  “What did you mean by that, Sharron?”  “Can you explain this better, or support your ideas with better examples, Ryan?”

                Good reading skills is half the equation, and strong writing skills will support those reading skills and visa-versa.  They all work together.  And through the practice, young people are better able to explain and share ideas.  They will grow up better able to critique their own thoughts and writing.

Life is an Education

Recently, in addition to reading some fiction books, I became interested in historical readings:  WWII, the Revolutionary War and the direct words from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, among others.  This had moved into films and other media.  Current events, classical authors, but also magazines and other sources. 

            I had an interesting talk a week or so ago.  Talking with a friend (He owns his own store, and this after a career.), we were discussing how his business might improve.  While talking, a high school student walked in.  He asked how his (the student’s) year went.  He also asked if he felt better prepared for when he graduates (One more year.).  The high school student replied: “No.”  He felt he wasn’t getting the education he thought he should receive.

            Well, I asked about his understanding regarding history, and like many students (including myself when I was young), he didn’t think all those dates and events were teaching him anything of real quality.  Do I really need to know all of this stuff, was the message conveyed. 

            At the time, this brought back memories of another student, months earlier, who had taken business classes in high school.  At that time, after some talks, we got to the “business” of explaining the market, how businesses make profits, and how important it is to have hobbies, prepare while young, and work to your best as this is an education unto itself. 

            The amount of information available in today’s world is staggering.  But how young people are using that information is often not to their benefit.  We (the store owner and myself) talked about the value of hard work, learning on the job, and helping others out. 

            In today’s world, with all the opportunities, many young people are not “seeing” the opportunities right before them, perhaps (like us when we were growing up) caught up with their friends, social life, the internet and YouTube, entertainment, and all the rest.  It’s important for young people to have responsibilities.  This can be in the form of chores, some working with the parents so it can be a family experience.  Also, in being part of a sports program, they can learn teamwork and the value of others in their quests.  But in addition, learning about people of the past, those events and struggles that shaped our history to where we are today, and what the economy truly is (This last can be helped by young people starting a small business, learning customer relations, costs, responsibility, and more.) is important.

            However, what caught my attention more (and I suppose I could’ve done a much better job while growing up) is a lack of understanding.  Kids and teens think.  They think about a lot of things.  Life is full of things to think about.  But they haven’t yet learned the wisdom of where meaning fits.  What is important?  Why should I learn history (There are other sources outside school:  library, book store, etc.)?  The economy?  What is it all about? 

            How many people make assumptions and have opinions, but don’t have the understanding to base their opinions?  This takes time.  This takes consideration.  This takes “camp” time, fishing time, time away from electronics when doing chores.  This takes work time, sports time, time working a small business so they can see the “inner workings” of real life in the working world.  And it can be fun (Not all of it.).  This also takes time discussing with parents the issues of the day, the issues of the past, but also, having the opportunity to base opinions based upon real consideration and understanding.

            I’m reminded, at times, of young people listening to their parents discussing issues of the day, historical events, and even relating the two.  Hearing their parents (and perhaps other relatives and friends), brought with it the ability to think critically and with reason.  It opened a world of understanding so that they might better understand the world they lived in, but also their place in it.  This is something that parents, teachers, and books can provide, but with the accompanying of real-life experiences that bring understanding.

Outlook and Opportunity

Image result for Outlook and opportunity pictures

                Today, there are amazing opportunities in this world, and as has always been, many require time, determination, and often sacrifices.  Whether parents send their children to public, charter, or private schools, choose to take on the challenges themselves, or find other roads to educating them, there are many opportunities we can all take a part. 

                Public, charter, or private schools:  the education can be utilized to their fullest.  With parental guidance and encouragement, students can utilize the resources to their fullest, encouraging the children to learn, research, and use the opportunities to frame their determination which will serve them well as adults.  If homeschooled, the children have at their disposal a plethora of resources.  Of course, this is true in both scenes. 

                I learned this in college, but wished I had realized this earlier on when I could have more determined the university I attended.  What did I learn?  Whether I enjoyed, was neutral, or didn’t like some of my classes, I utilized them to their fullest.  I would ask myself, what is the professor teaching?  What was I being taught?  Most times, what I didn’t like became educational in multiple ways.  And sometimes, I researched what I was being taught so I could better understand, then I took the learning to higher levels.  In this way, each class often helped with other classes:  what I learned in one had further teachings for others, so I kept my notes, which I used in other classes to help with grades.

                Here’s an important concept:  Use what is before you to the fullest.  Parents and others will always have differing opinions as to what qualities a good education should have.  In any arena, use what is there to the fullest.  In this way, whether we feel in the optimal arena, we come out better for it. 

                As one who teaches, I have always attempted to provide my students with the best education possible.  I teach the curriculum to the best of my abilities, use the texts, and create lessons that further enhance their understanding and abilities to think for themselves.  I think the important aspect is a positive outlook, determination to learn and grow, then become prepared through a variety of opportunities to the challenges of tomorrow by taking on the challenges of today.