Tag Archives: cognition

Reflective Learning Journals

Information processing…  A concept that is so, so important but so limited in our busy world…. So what do we do to add to our information processing….our number crunching… our mental data filing.  Well there is something magical about the hands… there is almost no learning that does not involve the hands in some way… there is a message in this…

Writing… drawing… coloring… cutting… pasting… all can be part of an information processing strategy… The best examples of this kind of journal can be found by studying the way some of the most awesome minds in the history of the world learned.  Consider the journals of Leonardo…

Leonardo’s journals included everything… he did studies of zoology,  human anatomy,  drafts of writings,  diagrams of weapons, studies for his great artworks….he literally wrote down every thought he had in the course of his life… They are fascinating to look at for their diversity of thought and creativity…. they are essentially trains of thought as they occurred to him… in great detail….

So how do we use this idea… first get a good journal… I like Moleskin journals because I just can’t seem to tear them up…  Get one for every discipline you are studying..  One of my great friends has a journal in which he has his essential knowledge… quotes… formulas… drawings… and so much else…

As you read, think, study, or reflect, write down every thought you have no matter how seemingly unimportant…. then follow it if it seems to lead somewhere else….

Write down every question you have about the subject…don’t be shy…Leonardo constantly referred to his lack of learning…write down questions that come from reading… those that come from reflections… as well as those that may seem silly…

Write down things you are trying to remember… there is something magic about the hand… in writing is processing… amazing things happen when one writes down questions…. facts… learnings….

Then answer your questions….  you will find that one answer to a question leads to another question… then another and another… until you have learned as much as someone who took several courses in the discipline…

If you are a writer… write down things about your characters that you may need later… never trust your memory… a good idea drifts off into space so quickly you can’t imagine.  

Include articles you find… cut them out and paste them in… then write their significant points in the journal… draw their significant points…. outline them… but whatever you do.. just work the material… so it will be digested….

Don’t worry …. in this process you will find that you wake up each day with more understanding… the more information you collect the greater your mental database will grow….

Cut pictures from magazines, journals, books,,, (your books)  and paste these into your journals with captions that explain to your their meaning… to you not to someone else….to you…

Draw your concepts… forget artistry if you aren’t an artist… try to get as close as possible… just work a concept until you have learned it…. don’t study it… work it… process it… play with it… just run it through your mind without fear that you wont learn…. you…will…learn….

Reflect… take time to write a couple of pages that consolidate what you are learning in one place.  Your wonderful brain will absorb this material… you will also find that this form of reflection will point out what you don’t know…

Set aside a few pages to write lists or goals about things to do to learn more about your subject. 

If your discipline works with photography, travel to take pictures of locations, collect and photography samples… the act of hunting for samples will force you to explore….

Explore and note what you find… travel, research, go to libraries… make notes… carry your notebook with you where you go on your hunt… I cannot imagine that Leonardo traveled without his notebooks. 

Reflect, collect, write, record…. and learn…. journaling is one of your best independent or home school learning tools…..


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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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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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Woodwork and Homeschooling and the art of “doing”

I study the lines of a wall cabinet….a piece made to take to Humble Trade days this weekend….proportioned to the Golden Ratio.  I work in the shadow of the greats….minds like Pythagoras, Fibonacci, and Johannes Kepler….all who revered and valued the ratio….the Golden Mean…everything in the cabinet is constructed according to the Mean…

The ratio says that one line is beautiful if related to another by 1.6180339887….numbers without meaning to most.  But holy to others…biologists, artists, architects and so many others have found the mathematics of beauty in the Golden Mean.  It is a ratio that strikes a chord in the human mind and heart…for to our eye it looks like nature…because it is nature.  The Golden Mean is expressed in the relationship of branches to trees.  We are built according to its descriptions….No less a man than Galileo say the Mean in the way we are constructed.  

So, I used geometry, also algebra and a bit of calculus because I don’t construct in right angles…..

And since my cabinet is of the west, I studied western architecture….the ranches, homes of the natives of New Mexico….living history….fitting my work into a cultural lineage that goes back into the dim mists of time. 

History…of New Mexico, Texas, the New World, Spain….what things you must know to build good furniture…not without problems however….then research until the technical problem is solved….How do I build a cabinet that stands partly in the tradition of the west which means Hispanic culture and also in the classical lines of the Golden Mean…. Research…learning….

Reading….I read books on Hispanic and western architecture, technique in working with mesquite, the origins and use of Turquoise, the symbols I use on the cabinet to let it tell of hope and faith and a good future…. Reading….

Tired….having done real work, moving wood, moving machines, cleaning up…actual physical education for  a classical purpose….

I look again at my geometry curious….Golden spirals, along with Logarithmic spirals….how would I have ever learned about those….

And where does red oak grow, and mesquite?   Red Oak…grows leaves with 7 to 11 lobes each… this fabulous tree can grow two feet a year…no wonder the one in the neighbor’s yard seems bigger everyday….I would never have guessed that it tolerates pollution well making it a good city dweller.  But it likes zones 3 through 8 basically the southern United States…a tree of the south…with grain so open you can breath through it.  But a beautiful wood it is too. 

The geography of Mesquite includes the American Southwest….of the American Indians…..a tree that is a bearer of beans, knurled branches, not tall but rugged…a bearer of beans and vicious thorns….thorns that can puncture a modern tire.. the beans can be ground into flour…meat roasted on mesquite is heavenly…

Today across america millions of kids sat in geometry, algebra and math classes wondering what is it for?  I wish we taught them that math is for building houses, boats and calculating doses of medicines given to precious children…that they could learn this by doing or seeing it… no….doctors of common sense have said no, it must be learned in the abstract then tested in the abstract….dead like the body of a dissected cat… and we wonder why they are rebellious….we wonder why they are bored…

Over the last few years school board after school board in their infinite simpleness eliminated practicality for theoretical learning….for they listen to the doctors of common sense who may never have taught a living child instead of listening to their own hearts….they have grown simple by listening to those who have set themselves up as experts.  But, I forget, many of them are products of industrial assembly line education as well…How could they know better…they were raised with the system that corrupted them….and they remain corrupted because they were taught to read problems and do artificial problems rather than life. 

So we send them to school, to walk from square to square, to follow a bell…Pavlov would be proud…so would the Prussians of old who did not value individualism but simple obedience….and they try to learn in the abstract…

Would they were at home living life in the woodshop or the metal shop… or on a commercial fishing boat….practicing a difficult musical instrument…studying real math to accomplish real goals…instead of the false assignments of the schools….

When I decided to do woodwork, I got a book and found a mentor….then I “did”….How many kids can build every stick of furniture in their home when they graduate high school, how many could grow enough food on a suburban lot to feed themselves in times of scarcity….none today unfortunately….but now much of the furniture in my home is home built by my hands,  hands that never took a class on woodworking…..what a message there.  

How badly we are failing our children… by letting them be educated by the government instead of the people who should be educating them….their parents….but the things we worship are important…the nightly mass of the television set…the rituals of Monday night football….the university of life being watched instead of being lived.   

If you want to learn “do”.  If you want to be a sheep….well that’s the easy way…

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Questions and the Golden Thread….



It’s October ….how is that possible….only a few days ago was the day  of the funeral….then a wonderful, beautiful time at loving relatives for a first meal without a deeply loved person….  no, it was a year ago….time passes, healing happens. 


October questions…today I asked a boy what October meant.  Learning is so strange…..a word follows a golden thread on and on….

Shorter days….the boy of summer said…”I don’t like it.  It gets cold”.  Why?  I asked.  “I’ll google it.” …. he walks over to the computer….. amazing world….I would have had to go without october knowledge….but this mere boy has the world ….. all of knowledge – well most of it…..  the Library of Congress may have less.  

“What did you find?”  ….  “Whats a Gregorian Calendar?”  was his answer?   Serendipity intervenes…..”What is a Gregorian calendar?” I respond….I get the – you aren’t going to tell me look again –  then a “wait a minute”..  

October….10th month of the Gregorian Calendar…. a calendar that came about because the Romans – actually Julius Caesar –  made a calendar …..the Julian Calendar….it was a calendar that was off by 11 1/2 minutes a year from the real passage of the sun through our glorious sky.  11 1/2 minutes….. “why would that be a big deal”  summer boy said.      

“How much time is that in a decade”?   …..   “115 minutes was the answer after a few minutes of blunt pencil scribbling…. decades became centuries……  the sixteenth century finally makes it onto the yellow pad… “How many days is 14,400 minutes?”  …..  more scribbling….furrowed brows…time passes….  “10 days?” summer boy asks with a question in his voice… “What do you think?”  I, his maddening tutor asks.   “Yea that’s it”. 

“Julius Caesar really got it wrong”.   “So, what happened” infuriating tutor asks. ….. a small smile…..  “I knew you were going to ask that”….

“Pope Gregory fixed it.”  “Who was that?”  “He was Pope in 1582 and he fixed it”….. “How?” ….  loud sigh combined with a big smile…. “He just stuck on 10 days”.  “Ok”, tutor says….. silence….”You want more?” summer boy giggles…. “Yea”……

“If a year is a century it’s a leap year if it divides by 400”.. “right”, tutor replies ….  thunder rolls, lights blink…..summer boy grabs the computer screen and says “Don’t you dare”…..

“We use this thing….now”  summer boy says with surprise….   “Why?”…. “cause it works.  It only gets off 1 day every 3,320 years”.   Summer boy does an awe inspiring pantomime of a person about to faint.


So people went to sleep on night and woke up 10 days later in 1582….. and because of that before we were through today a boy learned about the sun, the orbit of the Earth, time, math, multiplication, Pope Gregory, century upon century….more and more…hours passed…the golden thread of the question had laid out a tapestry of knowledge for summer boy and I….

Curriculum on curriculum… because  of October…. the tenth month that shares its first day with January in years that are not leap years….in those years October and January start on the same day of the week…. 

October is alone, lonely in leap years…. no month agrees to put its’ first day on the same day of the week as October….

One day in 3,320 years……Pope Gregory figured it out…. and today many summer boys would never know….

How strange is real learning when you follow the golden thread….

How wonderful are October questions…..

October…disliked by boys who love summer…..swimming, baseball, running in new-mown grass….

Questions are the golden thread of real learning.

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


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. 


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.     


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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