Tag Archives: child rearing

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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Too much, the great dumbing down and the revolution that followed.

And in the end we finally destroyed our educational power by believing that which was false, that which was wrong, and that which did not fit human development.  In the years before the complete collapse of education in the United States our leaders made the mistake of believing that it was enough that a student be “introduced” to every type of knowledge in the world.  We set up high stakes tests that no one in history had to pass that covered literally everything in the knowledge base that our students had been exposed to for the twelve-year sentence our society gave to our kids. 

We believed the statisticians and the so-called education researchers who designed high stakes testing for us.  And we paid them millions for their services.  They designed tests that let one or two questions represent entire important bodies of knowledge.  And we listened to so-called experts who dictated what they told us we had to know whether our kids were going to be doctors, or entrepreneurs, or interior designers or whatever. 

We were foolish and daft enough to let “experts” tell us that you could tell anything from a one test snapshot of a students knowledge on school directed curriculum.  Then when that didn’t work we sought to improve “test scores” by emphasizing the same thing in a more difficult and demanding fashion. 

And soon parents began to vote with their feet.  They began to leave the public schools in droves.  It was becoming apparent that you don’t have to have a degree or a certificate to help a child learn.  It turned out that much of what parents had been told about their children’s negative behavior in school was really positive behavior out of school.  Parents soon became to realize that they were medicating their children into stupors only for the schools, not for the children. 

And so the great rebellion began.  Parents began to take their kids out of government schools in droves.  They did this because education had become arrogant.  Theirs was the only way, the way to educational Valhalla.  And no one without a teaching certificate could teach anyone anything. 

Parents didn’t stop.  They began to leave in huge numbers realizing that what the schools had been doing they could be doing by themselves with their children, unmedicated, and at home.  When kids started going to school at later ages and specializing earlier the behavior problems went away.  The prescriptions for Ritalin and other drugs were stopped.  And as the leaders looked at the kids, they didn’t see the success they fought back with laws, taxes and regulations.

They did this until they painted the people into a corner.  And then first one parent said “Not my kid.  My child was given to me by God. This is my child, not the state’s child.  Then others rose to join the chorus so soon the air was filled with the voices of parents who were not going to take it anymore.  And so, let the revolution begin… let parents vote with their feet.  Let them leave the public system.  For the public system seeks to create good little workers who believe in the power and the right of the state.  Just remember that the philosophy has now changed from the premise that our kids belong to the government to the premise that our kids were given to us by God to care for, to love and take care of ourselves.  It is time to tell the statists to take a walk.  Let’s do this together. 

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Keeping up with your home schooled child while you are away…

Single parenting may be one of the hardest things anyone can take on. It is a task best-managed by two people .  But that is not always possible.  The extended family and good friends can provide endless help.  But, tThere are so many single parents who are just trying to keep bread on the table for their kids.  How can a single working parent home school their children?

Today, I am going to limit myself to situations where the child is old enough or mature enough to stay alone. I am one of those who still believe the world is basically a safe place without monsters behind every tree. I could be proven wrong today, but I am going to pray that my beliefs will be proven true. I also believe it is good for a child to be allowed to take on more responsibility early in their lives.

Home schooling families are generally ones who have many friends. They are actually the families involved in many things outside of the home. Many have trusted neighbors close who may home school. They may also have elders close who might not mind looking in on the kids or at least making a phone call. The most important part of all this is that the child feel safe and is safe when left alone. They should feel that there are other adults to whom they can turn. So if you have trusted neighbors you might try asking them to either check in on the kids or make phone calls at some regular time. They don’t have to live really close to make a phone call. Often all that would be needed would be a simple call to be sure things are ok and on track. A family member might also be willing to do this at a certain time each day. There are also home school consultants who will call to check on your children. They will do this for a fee. What they do is call the child to make sure everything is ok, then call, text or email the parents to let them know how the child is handling the day. Often work places will not allow parents to make such calls.  Because of this, more services are becoming available to parents along with bonded tutors who can be trusted to work with your child when you are not around. All that can take place right in the home.

Please remember that we are really talking about here is the trust you have in your child as well as the safety of the surroundings. But having said that there are other ways parents can keep up with their kids. Cell phones are now nearly ubiquitous. Many of the devices have GPS systems installed in them. This allows the parent to track where their kid is if they have the phone on them. When you discuss these things with your child you may want to assure them that the point is not to keep up with the child but to assure yourself that the child is safe and sound. Having the child phone or text you at certain times of the day to verify what they are doing and where they are will also give you much piece of mind. One easy thing to do is to have the child take a picture of themselves in the house or where they are supposed to be at particular times during the day with their phone. They can then send these pictures to you by mms or by email to let you know where they are. They can bear a time and date stamp. The same thing can be easily done with the web cam and a chat program where you can establish and internet link to talk to the child and see what they are doing. There are a number of services that will do this for you.

Some parents install internet ready cameras in their homes so they can keep up with what is happening over the internet.  This is becoming very common among people who take care of the elderly.  Many care givers who do not want to place an elder person into a permanent care situation will simply install small web cams around the house so they are able to check on their elders.  Many of these systems can be installed so that you can actually talk to your child over the cam system.  It is entirely possibly now to keep up with what is going on in the house from anywhere you have an internet connection.

Many parents choose to involve themselves in a Co-op where children can be left during the day for a fee. The child will do their home schooling assignments, be in the company of other children and adults until you are free to pick up the child again. Many churches are now beginning to figure this out as a way to make extra income or become involved in a home school ministry by providing a place where kids can be while their parent is away.  Check with local home school associations or other home schoolers to track these services down.

If you don’t have a formal co-op perhaps it would be possible to get several trusted families together to provide needed supervision during times you cannot be at home.

Other solutions would be an alarm system that includes a panic feature. But with a reliance on family, friends, and other home school families you will most likely be able to manage well.

There are also excellent churches that sponsor classes for home schooled kids and supervised study halls. Perhaps the best place to start a search for these organizations would be a local home school association or home school stores in your area. A number of stores also have classes and supervised activities.

However, all of that may be unneeded if you feel your child is responsible or if you can check in with your child during the day or the time you are gone. All that leaves you with is the need to organize assignments. When I was a child I loved to organize myself. I even made a schedule out for myself from about the fifth grade. Yes, I was a strange child. That being said every child has a particular need for organization. Some need more while others need less organization.

I like systems that provide everything in one place that a student will need to work on a particular assignment while the parent is away. Some parents use shoe boxes, other use file boxes. One of the best systems is Sue Patrick’s Work Box System. Sue has created an organization system that is bar none as good as anything I have seen. You can find Sue’s materials here

You, of course, know your child better than anyone. You know how much independence your child can accept. I was by myself a tremendous amount when my mother worked after my father passed away. I was fine at those times because I had organized things to do. Remember there is always a solution to every problem. If I can be of help in any way brainstorming solutions or helping you figure out what to do, drop me an email here. There is a solution to every problem.

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The role of responsibility in single parent homeschools…

Can single parents home school their children?  Most certainly yes.  The adolescent in American society has been marginalized.  Teenagers are able to do much more than society has indoctrinated us to believe.  We have come to believe that during the teenage years kids are just unable to take care of their lives.  Nothing could be further from truth.  The social beliefs held by society regarding teenagers hold that they are basically not responsible, unable to think for themselves and unable to make rational decisions.  Perhaps so, but we have trained them to be that way.

The first thing we have to do is rid ourselves of the notion that young people, after an age where they can care for themselves, are unable. Adolescence is an invented concept, an illness almost.  This condition was created to justify the continued confinement of young people in state institutions where they are forced to follow strict guidelines aiming to help them grow out of this invented malady. 

Young people are not disabled.  They may be inexperienced, untrained, lacking in the social graces but that isn’t their fault.  Rather it is the fault of a society that keeps kids in a perpetual state of childhood long after they are able to do much for themselves.  We create kids who are unable to cope with life by not allowing them to live life.  We seek to control them far beyond the years when they need or want control.  They are shackled to us as people who are actually mentally ill or disabled.  I don’t believe this is the case. 

I have come to believe that most of the problems we have with kids in this era are caused by the way we treat them especially after the age of about 12.  We have never seen an era in American history when we have so  crippled the development of young people.  How do we expect them to grow into young adults capable of taking care of themselves and their business when we keep them in de facto day care until they are close to or at the age of 18. 

We make every decision for them.  We tell them when to change classes.  We tell them that you study math from 9 to 10 in the morning nor can anything else be done during that time.   Institutions tell them when they can go to the bathroom.  They tell them when they can eat, what they can eat and give them about 25 to 30 minutes to eat.  They have little or no control over what they learn or what they want to learn.  They are often told that what they want to learn is unimportant.  They are lied to about the usefulness of many subjects in their future lives.  Complain to me about that last statement if you can still work with Quadratic Equations or have ever used them in your work.  Better yet complain to me about that statement if you didn’t eventually figure them out for yourself. 

Everything we do with kids is designed to support an invented culture.  In that culture invented labels control who you are, how valuable you are thought of and often where you will live, how much money you will make as well as whether you will be regarded as a useful member of society. 

So, in setting up a child to be able to care for herself when a parent is not around first the parent must throw out all that garbage.  Parents have to give up the idea that kids are incapable of caring for themselves.  Yes, they are still responsible to the parent legally and morally but they are able to do the work of men and women much earlier than our culture seems to think.  Can a child prepare lunch? Yes.  Can a child follow a schedule?  Yes.  Can a child stay alone after a certain age for the greater part of the day?  Yes. 

I did.  I had no choice.  At home I was regarded as a young adult able to care for myself, take care of my needs and behave responsibly during the time my single mother was at work.  I was taught that I was able and responsible from the time my father died when I was 12 years old. 

I was thrust into an environment where my mother had to work or we didn’t have bread on the table.  I had to man up.  And I responded to it.  Yes, I still did childish things.  I liked to play.  But I also owned my life.  I soon came to believe that I was man enough to make the basic decisions about my life.  I took on learning projects at a very early age at the encouragement of my mother but also on my own.  If I wanted to know something I learned it.  Soon I came to regard school as superfluous to my life.  I had enormous problems with school after that.  I didn’t get into trouble because I was taught not to disobey, but it rubbed me raw that I had to slow down for the school, do what I perceived to be silly, and surrender my independence to the school at the start of the school bell.  I was a kid who was able to cook, able to plan my own learning, able to take care of the house, able to do all the things I needed to do to live successfully on my own when my mother was not around.  

Yet, while I lived a near adult life at home, I lived the life of a child in school.  I lined up with the rest, went to the bathroom when I was told, drank water when I was told and only then.   I could not take part in the most basic social interactions people are used to in the general society.  My conversation was controlled.  Attempts were made to control my thinking.  Attempts were made to make me think what the school wanted me to think.  Those attempts were unsuccessful.  I watched friends hit with boards because they spoke out of turn, engaged in normal childish behavior, forgot something  or expressed an opinion.  And I watched the culture approve of that. 

So step one has to be when working toward developing a single parent home school to give up the idea that your child is unable.  Your child is able to do far, far more than the culture has indoctrinated us to believe.  Trust your child.  Treat him as a young adult.  Extend freedom until a breakdown occurs then talk about it, pull back a little.  But, by all means sit down with the child to show him what is needed in a given situation, then expect him to fulfil what he needs to do.  The vast majority of the time the child will come through.

Don’t forget that adolescence is an invention designed to support government schooling.  It is a concept designed to keep young men and women in a perpetual state of childhood until they are nearly 20. 

And above all remember that your child was given to you by God.  Your child does not belong to the state.  Your child is a holy gift from God with all the rights all people are born with as stated in our government documents.  We seem to be forgetting that people crave freedom, independence and self-realization.  Give those things to a child and you will see miracles occur.

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A Holy Experience…Ann Voskamp’s brilliant blog

A few weeks ago looking for inspiration I experienced a God moment….no recollection at all how I got to Ann Voskamp and her beautiful, moving blog “A Holy Experience” .  God moments are like that….rare…mysterious….without method. 

Ann Voskamp has that incredible, rare ability to go right to the center of your heart.  Her writing quietly speaks of the absolute presence of God in her life and the life of her family….few writers have the ability to persuade and move you spiritually at the same time.  Ann writes with a logic which arises out of a spiritually disciplined heart…poetry embued with logic…She is one of the few writers working on the electronic frontier today who draw you back over and over just because of the beauty of her work, the design of the posts, her masterful photography, and the music one listens to as you read her inspired words….

She calls her writing “scratching in the dark”.  I would expect that of someone like Mrs. Voskamp…humble, sure, guided by an eternal compass.   But her writing is hardly scratching.   I understand what she is probably saying on the spiritual level.  We are all following the light of God out of the darkness.  We find ourselves in a dark world but a world with a bright future…the brightest of futures.  Mrs. Voskamp writes with a voice that comes deep from a place of love….

for her God who she praises continually in the pages of her posts….who she serves through her writing, her child-rearing, her work in her community and being the “mama” of a beautiful family…

for her husband, who is the obvious love of her life…she speaks of him in poetic terms…through her writing, you think you already know him as a man, as a friend, as a father and leader of his family..

for her children, the 6 lucky youngsters who she loves with all the might of a mother’s heart…who are the benefactors of her homeschooling…who are the receivers of her love…and the returners of as much love…

for her home and community…of which she writes with passion…a place made real, visible, and permanent in your mind by her soft, tender descriptions…she writes of it as a spiritual landscape, a place of beauty’s not yet discovered, a place of perfect peace. 

Mrs. Voskamp has raised the bar for all bloggers who aspire to the spiritual, the beautiful, the literary….no, this is no mere blog…A Holy Experience is Spiritual Art. 

Go and soak yourself in her words, her thoughts, her perception of a world filled with beauty, ultimate truth and a reflection of the power or the God we worship.

John…10/08/09…3:09 pm

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Truth, Home schooling and love — to Hope McGeough my mom

Warmth…..

I know I felt her warmth as she read to me.   Time stopped during those moments when I listened to my mothers serene voice as she spoke the words that I followed with my finger.  I may have been six.  Croup as it was called then kept me in her lap.   My death was close just hours before.  I knew it.  I felt it.  I had descended deep into it…peaceful…deeply loved….wonderfully floating….But, it didn’t happen that night.  They said it wasn’t time….So I was in her lap hearing the words as she spoke them….small finger following them in the book. 

Warmth…

Soon I would read with my own voice…without the aide of that small finger.  I just…learned…..just learned how as she read to me.   And I learned it at home… everything I learned, I learned at home…

She held me with a love I am not sure men can understand.  Her serene voice…  Her warm breath on my shoulders as I lay on the friendship quilt in her lap.  The softness of her right hand as it stroked my hair….I lay curled up on that sacred quilt….on the words of those who preceded me years before…their mother’s reading to them back in the dimness of time….who had come finally to their time ….. when they felt the love and peace I had just felt but whose time it was…so they went on. 

The quilt rests in my home now with it’s incomprehensible dates sewn by the loving hands of women born two centuries before I was a glint in my mothers’ and fathers’ eyes. 

The words sank into my being.  I wish….I wish I could remember what they were. A Golden Book I imagine.   But, that’s not as important as that I was in her lap learning….without learning….but coming to know.  

The early afternoon air rushes around my body as I try to keep my fingers on her casket, wood as she had asked for and that I picked for her,  as it is lowered into the welcoming earth….at the end of a life well lived full of joy and tragedy as we all experience.

My fingers strain to keep contact, but I can’t follow.  My hand lingers there.  I try to burn the feel of that precious wood in my mind.   I am aware of people who love me looking on…just aware.   I remember momentarily that I had wanted to make her final bed…I had the plans….but I just didn’t have the time.  I think of the ornate angel there with her resting over her heart my cousin Dennis made for her…it was over her bed for years…it gave her strength when she could see it, it brought her solice when she could not longer see but could feel it.  I thought of the tiny cross made from a slat that held up her mother’s bed on its’ iron frame that she holds in her hand…..and that I made for her….for this day….around her neck is a dove descending as the Holy Spirit descended on Christ when he arose from the water on the day he told John to go ahead and baptise him….when John thought he was unworthy.  Larry Fussell, an artisan and great friend – a brother,  gave her that gift that she so treasured….the smoothness and artistry of which she would feel after she could no longer see the world.   She asked to hold it especially in the last days.     

Lower. 

Then, finally, the casket came to rest where her beautiful earthly body will be until Christ returns in glory on the clouds.  A silver ring placed on the casket rests there now, placed there by one of her much beloved “sons”.    

I had no tears then, only relief for her tortured body, her blind eyes,  her legs that would not walk,  only gratefulness to God for her relief.     Only gratefulness to her for the man I had managed to become…even though I had only started to grow into real manhood.   Standing beside me with their arms draped over my shoulders, leaning on me,  were two of the boys and young men who helped carry her that day…all of whom she loved in a special way.   Their gaze followed her casket down until it made contact with the protection of the vault….their eyes filled, their hearts full.  She loved those kids in my youth ministry.  She loved all kids.  I learned that from her.   These boys from the ministry loved her.  I remember thinking that they would remember this day as long as they lived. 

Several leaves blew past on the wind.  Cody said to me “I’ll never forget this.  Thank you for letting me do this”.  I told him “She loved you Cody”. 

A day full of miracles….. miracle upon miracle.   

 The top of the vault is in place.  Still they are there….standing watch with me.   I would not leave her until it was finished….until her earthly body was safe….One of them, I don’t remember which placed his head on my shoulder…an intake of breath, I don’t know which one.  

The hallowed earth is put in place.  Slowly she is safe.  Slowly it ends.  And I breathe a “Thank you God”.   How do you thank God for someone who literally taught you everything about life….who taught me so much of what I would learn. 

And all of it I learned at home….at home in the shafts of afternoon light where I studied…. when I came home from school.  School….a place that was a nightmare for me….where I was placed in the “special classes” for a time because I was so different.  School….a place where I had already learned everything they had to teach me but where I knew I dare not show it.  School….a place that taught everything I already knew but nothing I wanted to know.  School…a place where kids were beaten because…they were kids…because seven and eight and nine year old boys couldn’t sit still in chairs locked into rows.   School….where you learned that to be different was to be done for.   

 

The last bit of earth is in place.  Yet, the people still stand with me…the strongest, most loving,  most beautiful family standing with me….good people…great friends…. My family stands around me along with the boys.  I remember saying to God…”how did I come to have this family filled with nothing but love”. 

Can I possibly feel my grandparents….can I possibly feel my father?  

the workers place the flowers….I take roses….

Kindness upon kindness….people walk by….some speak kind words….some just hug me….others of the boys who carried my mom surround me….their hands rest on my shoulders….the pastor who came to love my mother stands with me….Pat and his wife Connie, their son Charlie, are standing there….friends beyond anything I deserve….yet others still stand….then we turn to leave….

My father had nearly 50 years before gone home to God.  Now they lay together once more.  But, she was the one who taught me,…. not because he didn’t want to….only because his chance to shape me was taken too early.    

So she made a home for me.  I could not know then the depth of sorrow she felt.  I would be able to imagine her grief later…but, that was still in my future.  I remember on the day my father was buried she held me so tight I thought I would not breath again.  But, something in me said “let her hold on if it does kill me”.  Later, too, I would realize why she held onto  me so hard.  I would later release the ashes of precious cargo into the cold North Pacific wind…the ashes of a child conceived there above the green Pacific waters where the Puffins dive.  And those of his mother.  

I then knew why she held me so hard.     

I would come to know that there could not be great sadness without great love preceeding it.  And I was glad in my sadness.

And, she continued to read to me…and she continued to teach me, and she continued to help me understand that it was ok to want to know why the stars burn when you are six, that it was ok to imagine that you are conducting an orchestra when you are eight, that I shouldn’t be frightened that sometimes my vision went away and I saw fantastical bursts of color when I listened to music as still happens, that it was ok when I wrote b when it should be a d, …..  she said the “d will be there whenyou are eighteen”,

and all the while she took care of my father who was dying…..then helped me keep my faith and find myself again in music and science and a galaxy of words in my own special world when I started to go crazy when he actually did die… while she was coming apart herself…

and when I was fourteen she helped me heal from an event in which I was almost killed but about which she never really knew….nor did she ask… a decision I am sure she made consciously even though she must have known that I was changed forever…for which I am eternally grateful… she just stood by me until I had my bearings again… 

when I was too old, as I thought because of the arrogance of youth through which most kids pass, she provided me with books, conducting lessons, trumpet lessons, ….from which I learned everything I ever learned…..and from which she taught me and helped me learn everything I knew…

At home.

Thanks mom.

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It’s never too late, independent learning, Grandma Moses

As I said in yesterdays post one of the things I wonder about is time.  I’ve spent my life trying to figure out what learning is and how it happens.  It has been at foundation of my most recent profession.  I am at a place where I feel close to really getting a grip on what motivates kids to learn, what the best techniques are to learn a field, and can you really teach anyone anything.  I’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t teach anyone.  The single thing you can do is make them want to approach the warmth of your life and how you use your intellect.  But I said I wanted to write a few words about time.   It’s 2:00 a.m. in the morning.  I won’t sleep until I get a couple of thoughts in electrons. 

Time is the bane of any scholars life.  Remember when I use the term scholar I refer to anyone who has a serious interest.  I am now 58 years old.  Sometimes I do lose sleep questioning my accomplishments, my ability to accomplish what remains, or to start anything new.  Reasonable thought all.  Thank God I am not a reasonable person. 

Neither was Anna Mary Robertson who was born in Greenwich, New York, on September 7, 1860.  I have loved Anna Mary since I was about 16 years old.  I just didn’t realize her practical significance to my life until the last few days.  She was one of the reasons I found school to be a prison.  Because I would rather have spent time with her than almost anything back then except music.  You see her colors fascinated me.  She spoke to me about the life of my grandparents who I loved so deeply.   When I looked at her work in a book I checked out of the little library in Galena Park I saw my grandparents home for some reason.  I saw my childhood that was fast fading into the background of my existence.  I saw a way of life that I secretly wanted to live.  But it was my secret. My school in particular was not one that took a kindly view of 16 year olds who liked primitive art.  I protected that part of myself.  Until I escaped my prison into symphonic music, art, learning what I wanted to learn, and being around people who were giants to me in symphony orchestras, the worlds of music and art and at university.  The woman whose work I was in love with is better known as Grandma Moses.  She died just before I entered high school in 1961.  

And she had no real formal education.  Thank God she had no real formal education.  She would have probably been ruined.  Yet she is one of the most influential of America’s painters.  To me she is the equivalent of Norman Rockwell whose work I also love.  Her first painting was on a wall in her house.  She was wall papering but she ran out of wallpaper.  What a fortuitous problem.  Because she hung a sheet of white paper on the wall.  She painted a scene on that paper to finish out the decoration in the room.  What a finish it was. 

The scene is called fireboard.  If you want to see it you must go to the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont.  I will go there one day.  When I go I will whisper a thank you to Grandma Moses for helping me realize that it is never too late.  You see it took me nearly 20 years of my 30 year career to begin to think there were other ways to learn except in a classroom.  I came late to home schooling and independent learning.  But I am here now.  And even though I work in a classroom now I also work with many kids who have never seen the inside of a classroom.  And I know something I didn’t know when I was young.  There are other ways to learn save in a classroom. 

But back to my Grandma Moses.  The point is this wonderful American artist painted her first work in her 70’s.  After 70 years of life she started the work that would change the art world.  She found herself at the beautiful sunset of a quiet, worshipful, country life.  Grandma Moses started painting, in fact, because of the common illness of old age – arthritis.  Her husband who she loved dearly had passed away.  She became to old to farm. Grandma took up embroidery to fill her time.  But, soon, age cast its shadow over her again.  Her arthritis would not allow her to work her needles.  So she began to paint at the age of 76.  She once said:

What a strange thing is memory and hope; one looks backward, the other forward; one is of today, the other tomorrow. 

I want each of you to come down on the side of hope.  She also said:

If I didn’t start painting, I would have raised chickens

Thank God she didn’t raise chickens. 

And thank God you, my older readers, aren’t going to raise chickens.  Well, unless that is what your life long project is going to be. 

I am 58 but I am going to reach forward to the outer edges of what can be found out about how kids learn.  I am going to open a lot more doors.  And in that process of opening doors I am going to write as much as I can, speak as often as I can, teach as much as I can, take as many pictures as I can, learn how to use curves in Photoshop to make some of my more lousy pictures look presentable, see as many birds as i can, cut as much wood as I can and annoy as many adults who believe there is only one way to learn as I can. 

I can see the sun has past its zenith.  But I also see there is a while before sunset;  Barring some dump truck with my name on it.  If you are 20 or 40 or 50 or 80 there is still time.  Presidents have been elected in their last decades.  Many, many artists do their best work in their last decades.  So do scientists.  And so many of you, my friends, still have a work to do.  A short time back one of the people I most admired died in his late 90’s not a long time after he had performed his last heart surgery.  Dr. Michael DeBakey passed away near 100 have worked his entire life doing his best work late in life.  I saw him once in the Houston Medical Center bounding up a flight of stairs with a group of breathless, slobbering, gibbering medical students trying to keep up.  All kids.  All kids who couldn’t follow their aged professor and mentor up a flight of stairs; whose hands could not perform the miracles done daily by their demanding mentors’  hands. One of the young doctors said under his breath “what is wrong with that old man there are elevators.”  Being me I yelled out as he disappeared up the stairs “There’s nothing wrong with him.  He’s a force of nature.  He’s alive and living it all!”

For Heaven’s sake don’t give up.  I mean that literally because even if you are 58 or 59, you still have intellectual gifts to give the world.  You still have a path to mark out; a territory to claim.  Claim it!   

Live it all.  Find your project then live it. ………………………Home work will be checked :).

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