Bringing Forth

The object, if one can say that, of education is to bring forth what is already in each child. The information we impart is useful for the years ahead, but is not to suppress each child’s true self. Having said that, we do need to utilize wisdom and understanding, correcting where correction is needed. But this requires us to have understanding, experience, and the ability to impart information that engages and opens minds up, but to that which is already inside each child. Along the way, they learn responsibility, seeing it in the adults of their lives.

Those “ah haa” moments are moments of understanding. Correcting children is very good for them, though we need to follow what we already know in our hearts, not listening to everyone else who wish to modify what real understanding includes. I’ve always been grateful for having the adults in my life who lived lives of responsibility and lived lives of quiet wisdom. They imparted in just living, but also stepped in when required. They were calm most of the time, but strong when life required.

Bringing Forth from children and teens causes them to self-reflect. To look within. It is there that they find answers. Not painted over. Not filled with information that it supplants understanding and self-revealing information. A kid or teen working for mom’s business understands more than taking a class, for in the first, they learn and see, for real life has a way of challenging beliefs. How much more a person who starts and runs their own business? The same will include people who love to listen to music and those who learn to play.

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Another Side to Learning

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                Think about this.  The United States, the greatest country ever, with a constitution designed to protect individual freedoms, was created by all so many in ways that daunt the imagination, taking hundreds of years to become.  Some might even say longer, that the countries that came before necessitated conversations and deep introspection, which over time, and with the right events and people, became.  Washington, Adams, and many others, including the populace, did not have the internet, television, or Ipods.  No information on demand.  Not even yellow pages for those who remember.  When tomorrow’s dinner was in question, young people took their muskets and hunted for the meals.  People grew crops.  The sun, work, and talking with friends and neighbors were their education.  Life demanded solutions.  Life also showed the difficulty of millions of people with millions of opinions. 

                We grew up in simpler times, but sometimes I think we were born a century too late.  Running around the neighborhoods.  Digging through dumpsters for bike parts and supplies for our tree forts.  Making up games when we got bored.  Solving origami puppets in the first grade.  Television?  3 – 4 stations, so we poured through crafts books.  Popsicle sailboats for the gutters.  Mud pies.  Kids role playing outdoors.  Playing army in the neighborhoods, running around with makeshift, pretend, arms.  Tag.  Tree tag.  And anything else we could think of.  We even devised a sun dial to see how they worked.

                Wonder what it was like way back when.  What led to Socrates’ understandings?  What led to the “great thinkers” realizations?  How was the Golden Gate Bridge built without computers?  How did Washington and his men defeat a sophisticated British army, many men barefooted and dying, yet always persevering?  Tents.  Wooden forts hacked out of the wilderness.  Meals and desserts created from scratch, yet delicious.  Edison and the creation of light bulbs.  And so much more. 

                We loved making those telephones from two cups and strings.  Figured the vibrations through the strings turned into sound.  Paper planes we made up.  No books.  We didn’t know about plane books, so we made them up.  Kites from newspapers, for our parents didn’t buy any.  Fishing with branches.  Yes, we caught some. 

                These days, we see all too many struggles in learning.  It’s not that hard.  Part of our education, and those who came hundreds of years before, was life.  Getting out of bed.  No television or ipods.  Learning how others think by getting into backyard football or baseball.  Facing the bullies and learning how to outwit.  Fear at times?  You betcha.  Par for life.  Learning. 

                Socrates faced them all.  He was a warrior, as Washington was in his time.  He endured.  Then, having a clear understanding, he questioned the thinking of others.  But all he wanted to do was understand.  And for that, they had to get rid of him.  Happens all the time.  Often, the brightest and most inquisitive are ignored for thinking for themselves.  But to have created such a wonderful country, thinking for yourself necessitated clarity. 

                For those parents concerned with their children’s future, your children have all they need.  They need you, but they also need responsibilities and time to think for themselves (i.e. camping, role playing with friends, digging under rocks, playing and falling, fishing, and doing all kinds of things where they figure out things.  Fall down?  Scabs are nature’s band aids.  Bruises?  Par for the course when we were growing up.  Break a tooth?  We all did that.  Being bullied?  Self-defense courses and learning how to speak up.  Or outwit.  Or struggle and learn. 

                We see teens who don’t know how to cope without computers and iphones.  A lull in the conversation?  Youtube.  Nothing on a 300 channel television?  Youtube.  Bored?  Youtube. Where’s my phone.  Real conversations?  What is that?  Learning how to write grammatically correct sentences and paragraphs?

                For home schooling parents, teach communication in how we talk and write.  Have conversations and bake together.  Work on the car brakes together.  Talk.  Argue.  Take to museums.  Get outside.  Crafts.  Then garage businesses selling cupcakes and lemonade.  Creative.  Learn about money through activities.  Want a skateboard dear?  Help the neighbors with their yard and make a little money.  Not enough?  Okay, I’ll match you dollar for dollar.  Later, when you learn how to make money, you can figure all of it out.  At the grocery store, challenge the kids to figure out the costs of supplies with paper and pencil.  Then see how close they are to the actual amount at checkout.  Build bird houses.  Show the kids the checkbook, teaching them the cost of supplies and how the paycheck disappears quickly.  Take them to your job, if the boss is okay, and let them learn what’s involved.

                Math?  Ensure the basics to mastery.  You want to what, dear?  Go out and play?  Okay, first drill through these addition/subtraction worksheets.  Oh, about 30 minutes, longer if you don’t learn them.  Multiplications to mastery?  Before the 4th grade.  100 problems in 5 minutes minimum, but down to 2 by 5th.  You don’t know how to solve the problems?  Better get to your room and start thinking.  Yes, I’ll help you with the first problem.  Of course, that was more than my parents would do.  We were to learn the problems and answers ourselves.

                Young people are born with intelligence.  But like all the many who came in eras past, they are the ones who will determine success.  Each one of us is capable of so much.  But, what made the many successful was self-determination.  Actually, I also think they found little help from others so they learned to think for themselves.  There’s something that happens in the struggle.  It’s something we can’t take away.  There’s something in playing, something in facing bullies, something in creativity, that taken away, stumps growth.  What do you mean I can’t have a bicycle for my birthday?  So we dug through dumpsters, found parts, and made our own bikes.  Later, our parents got us another bicycle, perhaps at Christmas or later.  Then, we appreciated it even more.

    Oh, and read the classics. Tom Sawyer taught us a lot about life and the struggles.

                I would love to hear the stories of others who grew up in the generation(s) before electronics.  How did you learn while growing up?

How Easy it All is….

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                In writing this article, I can in no way speak for everyone.  I can only share the experiences I have been privy to.  Decades of learning and teaching, along with hobbies and other responsibilities have helped me, and others, grow in understanding the simplicity of learning. 

                I am always reminded of Beethoven, that fellow who saw a keyboard and it just made sense to him.  To Cesar Millan, he looks and dogs and their owners, and it just makes sense. I look at kids, and they just make sense. I look at a horse, and it just makes sense. Some pilots look at planes, and they see it all. We all have that to one degree or another.  And some of us find it, and others may not, though it’s there if they look for it.  I’ve found that some people never see it, or when they do, don’t recognize it for what it is:  understanding. 

                I think teaching at summer camps was key to opening my eyes (This and the second stint at college).  Due to the positive outlook of the owners, that they “saw” something in me as they saw in others (and I see it in the kids), that they loved the idea of spontaneous learning and trying your hand at anything, I experienced something many have not, but is also seeming to be lost in our country.  Self-reliance.  Learning anything in your own time.  Just try it.

                Not to belabor the point, but often times we are our own road blocks.  Do you know what happens when you give over your trust to someone else to learn?  You forget that you have all that you need.  Yes, we learn from others.  We learn from their experiences.  Want to learn Karate, find a black belt instructor who knows how to transfer his understanding to you.  But if we apply understanding and self-reliance, we learn much quicker. 

                At one summer camp, I worked with others in teaching beginning horseback riding.  However, one day, the owner’s first in command asked me to help a lady teach trick riding.  My job was to hold the lead rope (attached to the horse) while the instructor went with the student round and round, teaching him/her how to do tricks (i.e. sit backwards, lay backwards on the horse, spin, stand on the saddle, and much more.)  So, I observed but was careful in my job, knowing to support a calm horse.  I was always looking for any danger, to be ready in any case. 

                A day or so later, they asked me to run a beginner’s trick riding course, alone.  I thought they were crazy.  I had no training.  All I had was a couple of days holding the rope.  They told me the instructor knew I could do it.  So, I did.  Easy.  No books to pour over.  No classes to attend.  No videos to watch.  No program.  Just do it. 

                You see, what I learned, which I always had, and which we all grow up knowing, but we’re systematized in every walk of life, is that “we” can “see” the answers.  This curriculum.  That book.  Those self-help books.  These steps.  Whatever happened to innate knowing?  How would Beethoven have done if he had to be trained?  He just went to the keyboard and knew.  But, our insurance requires this much training and these certificates?  Really?  How many people out there can teach having never gone to college?  A friend, a business owner, I had teach another student about business.  In that one hour, the young man learned more than his one year of business class.  Why?  Because the business owner lived business and would only explain the practical reasons.  What worked.  What actually takes place.  And his innate knowing. 

                Those of you hoping for your children to learn well.  Look at your children as they are:  not as books tell you.  “See”, really see them, as they are.  And be willing to challenge them, to work on projects together, and get them trying things they might not otherwise do if we have to study everything.  There’s something each and every one of us has that we can tap into and learn without memorizing.  I never memorize.  Used to.  Never again.  I look to understand. 

                Over the years, as a teacher, I saw the more I did for the kids, the more they struggled, or got bored.  I also saw that some had learned helplessness:  learned helplessness.  It they had problems, there were programs and classes for this and that.  And sometimes, extra time and classes are needed.  But often, a connection is lost between the student and their innate understanding.  So, my hopes was to bridge the gap.  To bring them back to themselves.  To find that innate trust of one’s own understanding. 

                With time, I worked to teach the kids to think for themselves.  However, I realized, I had to show them where it was, and readers can look at other articles on my site.  To reiterate, one student said she couldn’t solve some math problems.  I looked at her.  Watched how she approached the problems.  Ahh, I said, you’re using your language brain.  To learn the math, after you listen to my lecture and take notes, you must look at the problems as if from a distance.  After being reminded a few times, she became a straight A student.  I did nothing.  All the success was to her.  She just realized I wasn’t going to coddle her, that the work would come from her, but that she had what she needed to understand anything.  Her success.  And, I encouraged her to help another student which helped her self-esteem. 

Understanding: A Most Difficult Subject to Convey

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This topic is perhaps one of the most difficult to convey, more so with adults.   I think this is in part, that as we get older, we tend to become more set is how we view the world and life.  I think, to some degree, this is normal.  As we get older, we learn more about what we believe, and with life’s challenges and responsibilities, we must focus on our jobs and families.  With the youth, it’s easier, because I think, in part, we’re closer to understanding and being open to other’s words and ideas.  This is where good parenting comes in.

                But this is not about parenting.  On occasion, I do meet an adult or parent who sees what I so graciously appreciated in realizing while in college, then later as a teacher.  But most times, the adults agree, but never really hear.  I say understanding is key.  They nod.  Yes, understanding math is important.  Understanding the subjects will help my child get better grades.  Yes, I understand.  And from this, their kids might do better.  But they never heard me.  A few do.  Then, it’s like a breath of fresh air.

                As many readers have read, when I teach young people, I teach to their understanding.  I don’t teach to their intellect.  The brain, with its intellect, as I see, is like a computer.   We can use it for many things.  It’s amazing.  But understanding is something completely different.  It’s like seeing the whole picture without thinking.  It happens in an instant.  It’s those “ah haaa” moments, many moments in life, that feels like a breath of fresh air.  It’s like coming alive.  It’s like the day dragged on with thoughts about this and that, and suddenly, you see, outside the fog of life and problems.  You see “behind” the scenes.  You see the core.

                When I teach, first, I look to understand what I’m teaching, then, the words pour forth from there.  In teaching horseback riding, I never had formal training in teaching horseback riding.  I just understood horses.  From there, I saw the relationship between horse and rider.  Having learned to ride horses, I knew what the rider had to communicate to the horse.  But I also saw each person has their own dynamics.  Get the new rider to understand the horse, then communication begins.  I don’t say, if you kick the horse’s sides, it will go forward.  I say, what would you do if someone poked you in the sides?  They get it.

                In teaching math, how do I get the students to do better (Of course, their basic skills must be excellent, which requires drills and practice.)?  As some have heard me say, I told a student that you must first listen well, see what I’m explaining, then solve the problems one at a time.  But here’s the kicker.  You have to look at the problem, one at a time, as if you were looking at it from a distance.  Look at the parts of the equation or problem, looking to understand, and suddenly the answer will come.  That part of you that is capable of understanding anything suddenly makes you solve.  But it’s difficult, teacher, the student replied a couple of times.  I said, I know.  Because you’re used to thinking thoughts in streams, not really “seeing”, being patient, you’re beginning to practice something that will help you the rest of your life.  A child that the mother thought would never be good in math received straight A’s that year.  She did very well the next year. 

                This little thing called understanding, I hope the readers come to see for themselves, is the key to gaining a quality education, but without the brainstorming and drudgery which is most students’ experiences.  But there’s something else.  When you understand and learn to learn from understanding, you will also see the problems in some teaching practices, some methods of learning, but also see faster than many of your contemporaries.  It’s like lightning at times.  What took one person weeks, even months, sometimes happens in a moment.  Then, when understanding takes, the learning is forever.  It’s yours.  But it’s not at the same time.   It only exists at the times of understanding.  But you’ll appreciate it.  Looking at things different than you did before.  But don’t try to memorize this.  It’s just there when you understand.

Snapshots

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1:  A student shared that she wanted to start a business rescuing dogs and puppies, then selling them to people looking for pets.  I shared what a great idea she had, that others have been doing this for years.  She was wanting to protect abused animals and those who don’t have a home.  So, I asked what her business plan was.  On this, she clearly hadn’t given much thought.  She just wanted to help pets.

So, I brought this to the class.  What did they think?  With time, I reminded her that in any venture, money is the key.  Most people want to do well, but then the reality of life enters.  So I asked the class what we would need.  Land.  Building.  Shelters.  Food and medicines.  Permits.  Training.   All would require money.  I suggested she work for a company or organization in that line of work.  Learn from them.  Research.  And over time, she would gain the experience and knowledge to begin such a venture.  With time, she seemed to lose interest.  However, another student began doing the research. 

2:  Another student was in my class for a second year (I had moved up a grade.).  Over the years, the topic of interests, hobbies, and careers are discussed.  If we have the resources, we research.  She wanted to start a business where weddings and other forums take place.  So, I did some research.  Upon opening the discussion again, I pleasantly discovered what I learned she had already researched.  I asked questions about sites, permits, and types of venues, and she shared other businesses.  Wow!  Fantastic, I thought.  And she continued to research. 

I suggested that when the time avails, she work for one of these businesses, learn the ins and outs, then when she has enough capital, even support from others, she ventures into her own business, but prepared to work 18 hour days.  She liked the idea.  After all, if it’s her business, she’s working for herself.

3:  One young man, who had struggled through life, was often worrying about things.  So, over the years, we talked.  He was glad I understood.  With time, together with his family, we worked to get his grades up.  His grandmother shared that getting honor roll had never happened before.  So, in class, we talked about hobbies.  I discovered he like cooking, and watching a competitive cooking show inspired him.  We discussed menus and dishes he could make.  So, I talked with his grandmother about letting him cook at home.  Perhaps, he might make delicious dishes, some that they’ve never had.  Perhaps, having this hobby might encourage him in his school work.  Perhaps, this might be his career.

4:  One student asked what is beyond the universe.  So, I asked the rest of the class what they thought.  Of course, like me, they all had blank looks.  So, I asked how big the universe is.   Of course, how could anyone have the answers?  Later, during lessons on the universe, we calculated the distance of one light year.  Well, light travels at a speed of 186,000 miles per second:  the distance of about 30 planets.  So, on the white board, we multiplied 186,000 miles by 60 (One minute), then 60 (One hour), then 24 (One day), then 365 (One year.).  **The kids were fascinated, so they did research on planets and other celestial objects. 

5:  Another student wanted world peace.  I asked, can we all get along with our next door neighbors?  Can we all get along in class/school?  To have world peace, what would we all need to do for that to happen?

6:  Other topics of learning includes balancing checkbooks, money companies spend, mutual funds, how writers get published, different cultural values, and more.

**In our classes, we have essays in problem/solution, pros and cons, cause and effects, and more.  When a student writes an essay, sharing a view, they must support it with sites or their own experiences.  In this way, they are learning to critically think.  They are learning to understand their own views:  what they are based upon.  Yes, sometimes we believe because we believe and see it is, and that’s okay, for not everything requires outside explanations, but in order to debate with another, an understanding of the topic is important.  Sometimes, we would ask that they consider other sides of the argument.  What might be others views different from our own?  For in a convincing paper, a good debater already knows the opposition and how they will answer. 

But it’s more than that.  In real debates, we must be ready to realize the other may have better arguments, for in real debates, what we are after is what’s best. 

The Future of Learning

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                To concerned and compassionate readers.  Thank you for your time and energy.  For over two decades, I have taught in many venues:  schools, tutoring, summer camps, and more.  But my real understanding of education came while completing college, taking a few years off to work, realizing I had to find a better way to learn or I wouldn’t be able to raise my grades.  I simply could no longer learn by memorization and study.  Those few years of working changed my thinking.  And when I taught in summer camps, I saw both how quickly I could learn, but more so how easy is was to explain to others, both young and older.  Sometimes, something that people think takes weeks to learn can be learned that day.  The more I saw this, the more my mind opened to understanding.  And this had a profound effect on how I would teach in schools.

                Over the years, as many of my readers, and friends and family, know, I continued to see better ways to teach.  Each year, I learned.  Each year, I collaborated with other teachers.  Each year, the students taught me something new.  And as I saw improvements in their understanding, I also looked for ways to better impart what I taught to them, but more so, to encourage them to think for themselves. 

                A friend liked what he saw in my classroom.  He asked questions, as a few others.  Why don’t you have any management difficulties, one principal asked.  I thought.  I replied that I guess the kids know I like them, but also know I expect everyone to try their best.  Yes, I’m strict, but more so for their own good:  to prepare them for the next grades and their futures.  But I also seek for them to figure things out for themselves.  As such, I taught to their understanding, more and more with each year.  And you know what?  When the students think for themselves, enjoy learning because they “see” that it’s in their wheelhouse, the classrooms seem to run themselves.   And teachers have more time to be creative.

                Recently, just for fun, I taught a lesson in a friend’s class.  She had been having difficulties with grammar, so I taught a preposition and writing lesson, taking 30 or so minutes.  I asked the class if they knew what prepositions were:  they all stared back with blank looks.  I said, okay, you’ll understand in three minutes.  Some of you have read the article on teaching grammar.  And yes, in 3 minutes, they all understood.  So I asked my friend to recheck the next day, to see if they retained, and they did:  all except one.  Apparently, that was a student who rarely listened.  But, I explained, you can get him to understand as well, so we’re discussing other ways. 

                What makes a great class:  teachers that know how to teach, have the children’s respect, and children ready to learn.  Simple.  And they don’t all have to be cookie cutter cutouts.  But teachers have to be themselves, utilize the best of what they have, and be supported to be the best in themselves.  As many teachers as there are, there are as many different ways of teaching.  One of my friends taught in ways I cannot understand.  He’s amazing.  He thinks I’m the better teacher, but I think he’s better.  Oh well, we both have skillsets that benefit the students.  And I’m looking for the students to develop their own skillsets so they can be their best selves. 

                One of my students, who was the best academically in all of my years, would do all the work with finesse.  With the passing of the year, she often did much more than I asked, even creating additional math problems to practice.  Yes, she was a straight “A” student, and that’s difficult to do in my classes because I have always raised the bar.  But I also assist students who are trying, even creating alternative assignments if that helps them.  My goal is to educate, and sometimes that requires variety and thinking outside the box.  One of my students who struggled with dyslexia, I utilized research and other forms of work to demonstrate his understanding.  Bright student.  But regarding the girl, whose grades and effort were amazing, she did not understand what I meant learning by understanding.  Her way was through sheer hard work, study, and effort, but it worked for her.  I’ve told classes, I am only sharing what I know, but if you discover what works for you, and it’s different from me, that’s okay.  We all have to be our best selves.  We can’t all be the same.

                I am very concerned with what is happening in education.  Currently, this blog is just for you who read.  I am considering turning it into an advertised site, but solely for the purposes of reaching a wider audience.  Our youth have great potential.  Teachers, good teachers, teachers with great compassion, teachers who endeavor to prepare our youth, and more need to be able to utilize their gifts and talents so the students can have all the opportunities we wish for them.

I have always supported parents in their determination to give their children the best education and opportunities.  I have also encouraged them to bring their kids/teens into my class for I will endeavor to do my best.  But things are changing and many amazing educators are leaving the profession.  Stress and more.  We want to do our best.

What do you readers think?  Are these articles something you think more readers need to see?  Can we be of help to all those who want to learn, want opportunities, but also want to better serve families?  I would appreciate your input and suggestions.   

A Conversation in Perspective

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                Imagine this conversation:

                “What do you want to do when you grow up?” Dan asked.

                The young man thought about it, then replied, “I don’t know.”

                “Well, what are you interested in?”

                Again, the young man thought, then said, “I don’t know.  Food?”

                “Well,” Dan continued, “what do you do when you’re not in school?”

                “I hang out with my friends.  We’re playing this cool video game, almost ready to reach level five.  We need to get some tools to reach the next lands.”

                “If there were no video games, what would you do?” Dan asked.

                Steven, the young man, thought for a bit.  He seemed thinking about something else.  The conversation changed and Steven asked when lunch would be.  He mentioned finishing his homework. They could go to that new fast food joint.  They have great burgers and fries.  What’s that new movie?

                This is a very common conversation.  It’s one that should be pursued.  Talks about careers, higher education, hobbies, and more should be the norm.  Having the children do chores, things that have practical applications which shows responsibility, builds their character.  And if the parents can work on things together (i.e. small business ideas, baking and cooking, photo albums, and more), they get to know one another, developing a sharing that opens doors of understanding.   “Why don’t you help the neighbor clean their yard?”  “Let’s go to that engineering firm and see if we can’t talk to one of the employees.”

                Some kids/teens think they’ll go to college.  As the university draws near, they still haven’t thought about what they want to do.  Perhaps, they think, they’ll discover while attending.  They’ll try a few different subjects during the first year or two, working on their undergrad work, then decide.  Can that work?  Yes.  But for many, they’re no closer to finding a career than they were when they started.  Just ask recent graduates.

                Who you are as a kid, as you grow up, the habits and interests you have, often determines the future.  Not always.  But by having that conversation, not with worry, but getting involved, the framework for the future develops.  Young people are influenced.  What will that influence be?  If that influence is productive and positive, that gives our youth a positive outlook.  Parents are the main influencers. 

                In one class, I was fortunate to have some kids in my class for a second year.  Throughout, we worked on the curriculum and standards, but also used creative assignments and projects, but as with all classes, I asked them what they wanted to do when they grew up.  Conversations like the one above, or blank stares with distracted thinking, was the norm.  But we pursued.  What are you interested in?  What kinds of jobs are there?  You want to be in the NFL?  Do you know what percentage of college athletes ever have a career in the professions?  If you’re determined, you should go for it, but also gain a good education with a focus on something you’re interested in should the sports profession not happen or last very long.  The average professional football career is how long?

                Interestingly, a couple seriously thought during that first year.  But more needed two years of these conversations for the penny to drop.  One wanted to run a business, and when I researched the idea, found the student had already done the research, going to places with similar venues.  Another realized a career helping others, working in emergency care, really called to him/her.  They still liked sports, but having these conversations got them thinking seriously about what they would like to do.  I shared that talking with people in similar fields would continue opening their eyes.  And if they could somehow be involved early, they could get started on their interests.  A business.  Okay.  Work part-time.  The more you know, the more you can prepare.