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We’ve moved….

All things go through many changes in the course of their lifetime…   After a few lifechanging issues I have renewed Independent Learning and Homeschooling under  a slightly new name at http://indlearnerhomeschooler.blogspot.com/

Please visit us there….. This site will remain open for the time being as an archive as I move things to the new site.  Thanks for your support and continued reading…. John

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Wow, I’m behind…

All I can say is forgive me because posting everyday got away from me… I have vowed to myself to try to restart again tomorrow… I so want this to be useful….. and good… I’m trying ya’ll really… 🙂

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The Practice of Learning…the cultivation of the child

Kurt Vonnegut said “The practice of art isn’t to make a living. It’s to make your soul grow.”  

I risk a paraphrase of that magnificent quotation…

The practice of Learning isn’t to make a living.  It’s to make your soul grow. 

Inside every human child there is a secret place… hidden… unknown… instilled with a magnificence we cannot fathom…

A place as deep as any ocean… as individual as each child’s DNA… In fact, I postulate this place holds each child’s personal intellectual genetic compass… a pathway that is only found through following the desires of that child’s intellectual heart… 

It is a place not often found… a place found only by the most blessed of people who were reared in an environment that encouraged that mad pursuit of intellectual independence toward what a “particular”  child was created to do… not educated, but cultivated… placed in sacred soil where the child was allowed to grow toward who he “is”…  for those who never find that special gift become those who live incomplete lives and who come to say in their old age those most tragic words… “If only”…

It is a place all but never found… for the soil in which we place most children today is not sacred… rather it is an artificial soil intended to grow discrete skills, uniformity, conformity, and the intellectual joining with the mass of humanity… humanity defined by the industrial definition of what it is to be human… 

They all must read… but they will read…

They all must calculate numbers… but they will calculate…

They all must write… but they all will write…

They all must understand what they need to endure in the world… but they will endure…

and they will learn all those things through the search for that hidden place… the sacred gift that each child is given… what they were made to be… 

These blessed children live in a world not defined by an expert’s definition of what a “graduate looks like”… No, they live in a world dedicated to letting them find the hidden place within their being by following their joy… by following that strong compass bearing holding true in their soul… by following their innate fascination with the creations miraculous paths…

They are the ones who walk the paths reading the compass of their heart… indeed that is the nature of those who found their genius… those who did not find that hidden place look at those who did find it and marvel… and feel the saddest intuition… did I not have something like that in me…

When we look at such a person we are looking at pure joy… we are looking at a being following the light for which they were created… the musician who plays miraculously… the doctor who heals with hands that seem dipped in sacred waters… the teacher who can reach into a child to help them find their hidden gift… the shuttle pilot who rides the thunder into the vastness of space… the carpenter who builds a house to stand the centuries… the cook who creates wonder from the gifts of the Earth… the physicist who listens to the music of the spheres… the machinist who works the elementals into shapes that allow the engines of our world to generate untold power in silence… the pastor who can communicate the eternal or quiet a grieving heart…

All these and millions more gifts are in as many children… But so few ever find that hidden place within their soul… so few… 

So what must we as a civilization do? 

We must remove the bindings of artificiality in what we allow children to learn…

We must renew our faith in art… music… great literature… true science…

We must renew our faith in play…for play is the foundation of creativity…

We must learn to trust that true compass within ourselves that always points to the joy… for as surely as we try to follow another’s compass or definition of learning we crush the joy…

We must give up our belief that there is “One” body of knowledge needed by every child…

We must not confine our thinking about learning to the small and mundane, but rather turn our thoughts to the greatness that could be… in every child… for in every honest and good path there is greatness…

We must trust our civilization to the miracle of the genius that created every child… we must allow ourselves to cultivate every growing child in such a way that they search, honestly search, for their hidden place… their hidden gifts… who they are supposed to be…

We must believe that we were given our minds to develop… 

We must believe above all else that we do feel the tug of the compass within ourselves… 

We must believe that if we follow that tug, that arterial tide within ourselves we will find our genius…

We will know when we have found our hidden place because it will be as if we have a powerful wind at our backs… those who have found their hidden place are the ones we call brilliant… the ones we call genius… the ones who inspire us… 

Should we fail in this we will see no more Galileo’s, no more Bach’s, no more Debakey’s, no more Einstein’s…  and we are failing… 

We are failing because we have believed a lie… we have believed that every child must be measured, cut from the same dull cloth, labeled with any of the hundreds of ways we try to categorize and limit human beings… We have believed that every child must learn the same things and be measured in the same way… and match the image of “what a graduate should look like”.   

We have believed the false premise that a human child can be manufactured through our well-meaning programs and curricula.  We have believed that the fact that we all share DNA makes us like every other… 

We have to learn that our DNA, the very thing that defines us all as human, makes us all as humanly different as stars in different galaxies… for that is what DNA is… it is an individual program… none like another… 

No human child is created like any other…when we found that DNA is a living program we took it to mean uniformity of universal intent when it means exactly the opposite… universal uniqueness…    

 This is why there is a dawning in some hearts lighting the way to another path, an independent brook away from the stream of humanity flowing into a sea of conformity… into the religion of similarity, of artificial counting of bits of knowledge, of sameness…. 

Those are the hearts that beat independently, the do answer to another rhythm, another music of the spheres…..

 The saddest truth is this; we will not see another Galileo, another Bach, another Debakey, another strange walker in time unless we have the courage to rebuild that which we call learning…. in our attempts to create uniformity in learning we will block the next stage in our development as human beings…. as a species specially created by God… each of us with a distinct purpose… each with an inborn joy that is lost to most of us by the time we are teenagers… the result being all the particular problems that do overtake our children because we are trying to actually create a uniform human being… as uniform as the length of each grass blade in a suburban lawn.

We must adopt a practice of learning that is only intent on finding that hidden place, a practice of learning that is independent, that results in the cultivation of the seed that is within every individually created child. 

 

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Informal Learning…resources

Today I bring you some resources on informal learning.  This is rapidly becoming the new paradigm in corporate training and in some areas of formal education.  We independent scholars and homeschoolers have known about this concept all the time.  But it has been well hidden.  Lets see what some other people have to say about it.

Mariaconner.com  Check out what Maria has to say.  She tells us it accounts for about 75% of corporate learning today.

Informal Learning  is a new book by Jay Cross.  Disclaimer… I have no connection to Amazon, Jay Cross or any publisher.  I just like the book.

Informal learning in 10 minutes  YouTube video series of 3 by Jay Cross.

Self-Directed Learning

Informal Learning  Informal learning should no longer be regarded as an inferior form of learning whose main purpose is to act as the precursor of formal learning; it needs to be seen as fundamental, necessary and valuable in its own right, at times directly relevant to employment and at other times not relevant at all. (Coffield 2000: 8)

Formal and Informal Learning According to a three-year study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and performed by ASTD (Carnevale, Gainer, & Villet (1990), two out of three workers say that everything they need to know was learned on the job, rather than in the classrooms.

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The Learning Mind Set

When a child is taught in a traditional way most of the decisions are made for the child.  All the natural power is taken away from him.  The motivation to learn becomes the need to meet the deadline, fulfil the assignment and achieve someone else’s goal for him. 

 

Force vs Respect

To a teacher this is very much like classroom management.  Teachers who rule by brute force may have very, very quiet classrooms.  But there may not be much learning going on.  And such a teacher will soon learn that they better not turn their back.  The kids are behaving out of fear, not out of ethical conviction of what is right.  The teacher who is able to make the kids realize “why” good behavior and respect is important and useful will have a class that can operate peacefully and often by itself.  And that teacher can turn their backs on the students because the kids have “true” respect for that teacher.  They are behaving because it is the right thing to do. 

The “learning mindset” vs the “programmed mindset”

The same principle works with learning projects.  As long as a child is working “for the teachers goals” she will accomplish the goal but won’t always accomplish the learning.  That is why when a child is told to write a 500 word essay you will often find them counting words without being able to really tell you about what they are writing.  That is what I think of as a “programmed mindset”. 

Contrast that with the “learning mindset”.  To understand the difference just think about a child who is at play with something at any age.  Such a child can go at it for hours without stopping.  That is also true of research scientists, surgeons, woodworkers and writers of blogs.  Those people are doing what they are doing because they are motivated by the joy of what they are doing.  Some call that state of mind flow.  I like to call it the “learning mindset”. 

Strive to establish conditions that lead to the “learning mindset”.  Here are a few ideas that will help do that.

  • Always allow a child choice in what they are going to work on.
  • As far as you can always make the conditions as close to play as possible.
  • Create a problem to solve.  A while back the Harvard Medical School arranged some of its curriculum around the study of real life cases that medical students had to analyze and solve.  Motivation and achievement went way up.
  • Don’t push. Let things develop according to normal human development schedules. Some kids don’t read as soon as others, but they will all be reading at the age of 20.
  • Keep your goals out of it.
  • If something has to be learned, and certain things do, sit down with your child and plan how to accomplish the goal.  Let the child set the schedules and goals. 
  • Let the child determine the way the required material is learned. 
  • Don’t be afraid of using technology to the utmost extent.  Remember these children are natives to technology.  We are the immigrants to technology. 
  • If something doesn’t work, oh well, try it another way.  Never think you or the child has failed because a technique bombed.  Think about how you learn.
  • Above all think about how people learn in the real world.  They learn things when they need to learn them.  That is why so many kids are failing in schools.  They are working on things determined by committee according to some government determined schedule. 
  • Perhaps most important is to remember that we are talking about living, breathing human beings here.  Each one of us learns differently at different rates.  It’s like the old saying of sailors… “don’t spit into the wind”.  Some things just don’t work.  And remember it doesn’t mean anyone has failed.  It just means something didn’t work.

Strive to keep a learning mindset.  Never get too excited about the anxious goals and schedules set by government entities. 

A very interesting take on this concept can be found at http://fongkeeken.blogspot.com/2009/11/learning.html.  This is a blog called A Penny for My Thoughts and the writer gets it right.

Brian Frank has written another excellent addition to this conversation at http://brianfrank.ca/2009/12/dynamic-motivation/

Roger Shank has written a brilliant piece called the “top ten mistakes in education” that is found at http://preilly.wordpress.com/2009/11/20/roger-schanks-top-10-mistakes-in-education/  He reminds us that there really is no learning separate from doing. 

He also has a great insight into the uselessness of studying.  

Think for a moment about why medicine is called a “practice”.

 

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Learning projects as the key to independent learning

We all learn what we must by creating our own content.  By this I mean that sitting through a lecture is passive.  We learn by doing.  So much of what we do in our work is learned through our work.  I know it is entirely possible to teach yourself virtually anything.  I’ve done it many times.  Most of what I know I was introduced to in school at best.  The real learning took place when I began to “practice” the skills as a teacher.  The best learning skill I stumbled across was trying to break down things I was to teach so they could be understood by my students.   My students learned a little.  I mastered my subject. 

A few years ago I decided that I wanted to buy new end tables to go with a new sofa I had purchased.  I had just moved into a new house.  Furnishing it on a limited budget was proving to be a challenge.  Everything I looked at that I liked was out of my price range.  Everything I looked at that was in my price range was, frankly, junk.  I was completely frustrated.  But, a peculiar thing had just happened.  I had seen the movie called “The Edge”.  In the movie the main characters are trapped in the wilderness after a plane crash.  They are then pursued by a killer bear.  The point of telling you about the movie is that a line in the movie helped resolve my end table problem as well as giving me a way to add to my income substantially.  At one desperate point in the movie the main character says to another character trying to goad him into going on the line “what one man can do, another man can do”.  He repeats it again and again.  He makes the secondary character yell the phrase until he is pumped up enough to go on. 

So, standing in a furniture store I recalled that line from the movie.  I started looking at the end table I liked.  I turned it over, examined it from every angle and decided that this was something I should be able to build.  To that point I had never cut a piece of wood in my life.  So I set myself a problem.  I would become a woodworker.  I went to a bookstore looking for books on woodworking.  I bought several.  Then I spent the next two or three weeks reading everything I could about woodwork.  I went to woodworking stores with a picture of the end table I wanted.  The guy in the store said “first you build a box”.  Of course, I then asked him how to build a box as well as what tools I would need to build one.  He took me to a cabinet in the store.  First, he took the drawers out which he explained were open boxes.  Then he showed me the frame of the cabinet which turned out to be, guess what, a box that had a simple support structure for the drawers.  Then he showed me a copy of a magazine that had a plan for end tables, a dresser and a bed.  I asked him what I needed at the bare minimum to complete the job.  I bought a basic table saw and a couple of hand tools.  I had a number of tools at home in my garage that I inherited from my father. 

I studied the plans until I had them memorized.  Then I bought some oak plywood along with a couple of oak boards as the plan specified.  Within a week I had my two end tables made that were stronger than anything I had found in the store.  Today much of the furniture in my house is my work.  I also sell custom furniture.  Soon I learned to do other types of woodwork which I now sell at shows and through galleries.  My work is in homes all over the country.  Later I took a few classes which taught me new techniques.  But for the most part I simply ran into a problem then found a solution. 

I had embarked on what has become a life-long learning project that has furnished my home as well as giving me a substantial second income.  In that way I learned woodworking to the point where I am able to build virtually anything I want to have in my house.  I’ve also learned how to make it look as good as that which can be found in fine furniture stores.  In the process after the initial addition of some tools I have saved thousands of dollars on furnishings.   So, this is how you learn… 

First, set yourself a problem.

Then identify what you need to know to solve the problem.  I will outline how to do this in future entries in this series of posts.

Follow through with a plan while you learn by doing. 

Change course when needed. 

Add layers of complexity to your skill set as you go. 

Continue to do so until you are a master at the particular skill you are trying to learn. 

Remember that a learning project can be small or large.  A learning project can be easy or seriously complicated.  But you can teach yourself virtually anything while getting help from instructors when needed as you go along.  Most of what you do will be researched from the web or other print sources. 

In this way you can learn anything.  We will examine these processes in detail as we go along.  I invite you to stay with me on this journey in the discovery of how we really learn. 

And, you will do most of it at home.   

What we do with young people is almost completely passive.  They sit attempting to receive information in a way that is completely alien to the way people actually learn.  One cannot learn to ride a bicycle listening to detailed instructions being given about how to sit on the bike, how to move the pedals or how to steer.  One has to get on the bicycle to learn to ride.   Similarly, you can’t learn to swim without getting wet.  Kids can’t learn to swim by standing on the side of the pool practicing strokes.  They have to get into the water to actually apply the principles they must use to swim.

There are several things mature learners can do to ensure that they master what they want to know.  Parents working with home school kids can guide their children in duplicating what a mature, efficient learner will do.

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