Tag Archives: cognitive

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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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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Independent scholarship, independent learning and success

Did Leonardo Di Vinci have a Ph.D.?  No.  Nor did George Washington, Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin have any advanced degrees.  The fathers or our country lived at a time when if a citizen went to school at all, one only went through elementary school learning to read, write and do basic arithmetic as well as ethics.  At the time Leonardo was alive and working, knowledge was acquired in an individual way.  Before the industrial revolution when assembly line schools came about across the world, education was largely individual or built around the classics and mentors.  Before that time scholarship outside institutional education was the norm.  It has now become the exception but the tide is beginning to turn.  Many more people everyday are opting for the freedom and intellectual independence afforded them by becoming an independent scholar.  

 Early practices of pursuing knowledge were based on individual interest and passion for a field of study.  This is returning today.  The university system arose throughout the nineteenth century.  The pursuit of knowledge was essentially unionized locking out those who were not part of the university system.   But private or freelance scholars have persisted outside the walls of the university because they have a passion for what they do.  They have a love for their subject that transcends the limits of the traditional university.  There are astronomers, futures study specialists, biologists, photographers documenting the entire world and so many other areas of study going on that it is hard to comprehend it all.  The problem of being inside academia versus working outside academia has always been an issue.  However, in the 1970’s independent scholarship began to build its own house.   Now independent scholars are becoming more accepted as they publish their work and make real contributions to a variety of fields.   If you want to pursue this further you might want to read “The Intellectuals and the Powers from 1972, Men of ideas by Lewis Coser from 1965 and Independent scholarship by Gross and Gross which is presently in print. 

 The fact is many books written in the non-fiction market in America were written by someone who could rightly be called an independent scholar.   The Chronicle of Higher Education, Change, Lifelong Learning as well as other journals are paying much more attention to the phenomenon of independent scholarship.   The number of people pursuing serious intellectual work outside of the university is very, very hard to pin down.  There is something like 100,000 people who are in and out of the academe, many Ph.D.’s who will work out of the academe.  Estimates for those numbers go upwards of 10,000.  Membership in independent scholarship organizations has grown and now numbers just under 2000. 

 Among the issues that led to this growth has been a desire to return to the real intellectual exploration that characterized the founding fathers.  250 years ago education looked nothing like it does today.   While there were schools the majority of Americans did not attend them.  Some did attend them but rarely did anyone achieve anything beyond a basic elementary education in school.   The father of our country George Washington had what amounts to an elementary education.  Yet his intellectual growth and intellect made him a giant.  Most education at that time revolved around the classics and mentorship.  One most often learned by doing something worthwhile in the presence of a mentor. 

 Other pressures leading to the growth in independent scholarship has been the downturn in available jobs in higher education.   Many people who achieved advanced degrees could not find work in their field but they still found joy in doing work in their discipline.  There were other professors who became dissatisfied with the political nature of the academe just as many parents have become dissatisfied with the character of the public school today opting for home school.   Many of these people began to think of themselves as truly independent.  And, they began to organize. 

 The National Coalition of Independent Scholars is one such organization.   The goals of the NCIS are as follows:

 The National Coalition of Independent Scholars (NCIS) was formed in January 1989 to facilitate the work of independent scholars.

NCIS objectives are to:

•Bring independent scholars together to share scholarly interests and expertise

•Improve access to research libraries for independent scholars

•Offer independent scholars information and advice about grants and fellowships and about publishing.

•Encourage foundations and institutes to open competitions to independent scholars and to include them on review committees

•Hold conferences and workshops of interest to independent scholars and to the public

•Offer grants-in-aid to NCIS members and small grants to affiliates

•Serve as administrator for members applying for grants

•Encourage information exchange through publications and electronic communication

•Aid organizations of independent scholars by collecting and sharing organization experience and by publicizing their work

•Provide information for the creation of local organizations of independent scholars


The movement is growing.  There is no reason why any intellectually interested child or adult should not become an independent learner.  Up until this century there was very little organized schooling and some would argue that average citizen was much better educated.

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Obama’s School Speech seen through Democratic Eyes

First let me say to my best friend….the word is spelled p-r-i-n-c-i-p-l-e.   And thanks for kindly pointing it out.  I was writing in the wee hours of  the morning, Sheesh.  🙂

The democrats are right!  I can hear the ambulance sirens now coming for the hopefully not dead bodies of several of my blogger friends, and my friends who ordinarily take me on about what I write.  I learn much from them.   They always make me think.  And sometimes, though rarely, they are right. 🙂  So I thought for tonight’s little blog about the upcoming Presidential address to captive school children I would take a look at what democrats have rightfully said about past presidential speeches to school children. 

IN 1991 Then President HW Bush spoke to one school.  There were no lesson plans produced for that speech.  The Department of Education didn’t initially suggest that children write letters the themselves about how they could help the President.  This speech was also clearly in violation of my principle that children in school are always a captive audience.  Also, the President can never separate what he does from his office.  So every speech he makes must of neccessity be part of the party line.  It must be political.  Richard Gephardt (D-MO) said “The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students.”  The Democrat was Right.  (Distinct sound of more of John’s acquaintances hitting the ground).   There were House Committees that wanted a complete explanation from the Department of Education to explain how its funds were used for the speech.   This committee was right.  The democrats were right. 

Rep.  Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo), chairwoman of the Select Committee on Children, Youth and Familieshsaid that it was “outrageous for the White House to start using precious dollars for campaigns” at a time when “we are struggling for every silly dime we can get”  to educate American Children.  The Democrat was right!

So, the dems are right on this one.  An American President should not be involved in making speechs to American schools.  In America we hold our schools apart from the church.  I believe we should hold them apart from the state as well.  Lets remember that there has never been a president elected by 100% of the American people.  Let’s hope there never will be one elected that way.  If it every happens we are truly and well cooked.  We have to remember also that in America we hold our children to be protected from the ravages of politics.  Yes, even something so seemingly innocuous as the POTUS saying work hard, study, graduate and the come work for the state.  Just kidding. 

So as we have seen in this post presidents have made speeches before to school kids.  They were rightfully opposed.  I was against Presidential speeches to captive school kids when the Bushes spoke, when Ronald Reagan spoke to school kids and I oppose it as President Obama is about to make the same mistake.

Here is something great for home schoolers or anyone else who decides to take their kids with them next Tuesday.  Get a picnic basket.  Fill the basket with loads of goodies.  Get good ham, good bread, chocolate, iced tea to put in the basket.  Then go somewhere beautiful and have a reading of the United States Consitution.  Then spend the rest of the day enjoying your most precious gifts; your children.


Filed under home school, home school law, politics, President Obama, Uncategorized

Obama activities, public schools and the Presidential address to American Schools

As we all know by now the President of the United States will address American school children on September 8, 2009.  Many questions have been posed regarding the appropriateness of this address.  Spirited debate has erupted around the internet, on the various media outlets and most certainly on the internet.  Much of the debate now centers on the materials that have been prepared to accompany this speech.  While many school districts have made what I think is the right decision to let parents decide to let their kids view the address I believe it is still important to know what is in these materials.

I think it would be admirable if President Obama wishes to simply encourage students to work hard, study and succeed.  However, I think that any responsible parent would want to know what is contained in the speech that their child will view.  I also think that responsible parents want to know what is contained in the materials prepared for their children.  What are the learning objectives?  Is there a political bent in the materials?  Are the materials Obama centric?  Are the materials intended only to inspire and motivate the kids?   Let’s look at a few excerpts from the prepared materials.  The full body of prepared teaching materials can be found at the United States Department of Education website.  I encourage you to examine the complete set of materials for yourself.    First, let’s look at the high school lesson plans.

The plans start generically.  Then it is suggested that 

  •  Teachers may post in large print around the classroom notable quotes excerpted from President Obama’s speeches on education.

This seems to beg the question is this about inspiration or President Obama.  My primary complaint in the last post was the idea that a president cannot be non-political.  By the very nature of the job it is impossible to separate the President from the politics.  Here teachers are being asked to research President Obama’s speeches about education in order to feature the words of President Obama. 

Let’s look at a couple of other things.  A bit further on in the secondary materials we find this:

Create a “concept web.” Teachers may ask students to think of the following:

  • Why does President Obama want to speak with us today? How will he inspire us?
  • How will he challenge us?
  • What might he say?
  • Do you remember any other historic moments when the president spoke to the nation?
  •  What was the impact?

The questions trouble me because they seem to be as much about President Obama as they are about inspiring school kids.  The questions do lean toward a positive view of President Obama.  They have to.  The speech is being given by an American President.  What is the educational purpose of the question about “historic moments”?  Why are the questions worded so that they are more about President Obama than his subject?  “How will he inspire us?”   The assumption is that the President will inspire all the kids.  But what does that do for the kids whose parents did not vote for President Obama or who may not be happy with the Presidents’ plan for the country?  What does a teacher do with a child who says the President did not inspire him?  Do these materials leave room for interpretation?  What grade will a teacher give a student who thinks the President is not inspirational?  A wise teacher would grade on grammar, construction, support of ideas or validity of the students argument.  But what do you do with the teacher who is devoted to the cause of President Obama.  What do you expect a teacher who is an Obama ideologue to do with this kids result?  On the other hand what would a teacher do who absolutely disagrees with everything the President is doing?  Can you expect complete objectivity?  No.  While the vast majority of teachers are fair, good people there are those who are so devoted to a cause that they cannot see past the cause itself to be fair to a student who disagrees.  It will happen.  There will be students who will be sacrificed on the altar of someone’s ideology.  In America we do not hold kids hostage to a politician.  A sitting President cannot ethically give a speech to children who are legally obligated to attend.  Further, how can a President then have his Department of Education distribute materials that one must assume will be taken for a grade by many teachers?   This is a travesty. 

One might well ask why I would spend time in a blog designed to focus on independent learning and home schooling instead focused on a Presidential speech to public schools.  I do so because this is the reason that many parents are opting out of the public system.  Many, many parents do not want to subject their children to any form of political machination.  And, many parents will rightly object to their children being held legally liable to attend a Presidential address.  Personally it mystifies me that anyone of any political stripe would stand for this on principal. 

Here are a few other examples of things the Department of Education has included in the study materials.  You be the judge.   But please visit the Department of Education site so that you can look at the materials and make an intelligent decision about what you are going to do with this event.  My bias is known.  I congratulate the school districts who are opting out. 


  • What resonated with you from President Obama’s speech? What lines or phrases do you remember?
  • Is President Obama inspiring you to do anything? Is he challenging you to do anything?
  • What do you believe are the challenges of your generation?
  • How can you be a part of addressing these challenges?


From the elementary materials:


  • Teachers can build background knowledge about the President of the United States and his speech by reading books about presidents and Barack Obama.
  • What can students do to help in our schools?
  • What is the president trying to tell me?
  • What is the president asking me to do?
  • What new ideas and actions is the president challenging me to think about? What specific job is he asking me to do?
  • What do you think the president wants us to do?
  • Does the speech make you want to do anything?
  • Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?
  • What would you like to tell the president?


As we should all do when making decisions please go to the site and look at the rest of the materials for yourself.  I have obviously selected the things that bother me most.  There are other parts of the materials that strike me as innocuous.   But, this is a President like any other elected by some of the people, opposed by others who is making the presumption that American parents all want him to address their children while they are legally obligated to be at school. 


Your children are a captive audience for the President of the United States.  And there is not one thing your child can do about it.  You can do something about it. 




















  • Does the speech make you want to do anything?
  • Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?
  • What would you like to tell the president?
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    digital photography, home school, and learning

    Parents are always concerned about how to motivate kids with new and unique ways to encourage learning.  The way to their hearts if often through their technology or technology in general.  Digital photography whether it is with a digital phone or a digital camera is a way to get them hooked into a subject using technology.  There is nothing that can’t be made more interesting through the use of photography. 

    Our children are certainly members of the technology generation.  The first time I truly felt old was the day I took a phonograph record to school when we were working on sound.  I was really surprised to realize that there were children in the room who had not seen a photograph record.  After I thought about it a while I realized that my seventh graders have always had compact discs.  They have never lived without cell phones.  Most have never had to “dial” a telephone.  Instead they push buttons.  In some cases they simply tell the phone to “call mom”. 

    The digital camera provides another way to encourage kids to process information.  Let’s say you are working on sequencing steps in a process.  In the old days you might have the kids list the steps in some process like baking a cake.  That’s ok.  It might even interest some kids.  But the truth is that writing the steps down just might pose a problem with motivation.  But more important a pencil and paper project might not provide the deep processing that we all need in order to completely learn what we need to know. 

    You do the same things.  Have the kids carefully read the recipe.  Then gather the materials.  Get everything lined out to do the recipe.  Now is where the process will change radically.  Instead of writing down the steps or recording on paper what is done the child will photograph each step.  An important thing is to encourage your child to set up the lesson just as if he or she were photographing it for Food Network. 

    Your child will be motivated, by the technology, to think very carefully about what must come first, second, third and so on.  If it were me I would have the child plan the steps on a computer rather than on paper.  This will allow the child to cut and paste later as they get ready to present their “sequencing” exercise. 

    Have the child set up the first step.  You might be the “assistant photographer”.  Perhaps the child would rather use a tripod and use the the cameras time delay system to maintain complete control.  Set up and take the first photograph.  Continue this process until the child is finished with the cake right down to icing it, cutting it and serving it. 

    Download the pictures into the computer.  Then use some kind of presentation program such as PowerPoint or the Google Docs application to design a step by step presentation.  The student will then type steps to explain the slides with photographs or perhaps make a movie using an application like Movie Maker which is found with windows. 

    Lets say that you are working on a science project involving leaf types.  Often kids are asked to draw the shapes, label them, make cards to drill the types of leaves and try to learn in that way.  Good enough.  But there is a better way.  Make a list of the various leaf types.  Check a guidebook for your area out of the library.  Then take the camera to a local public park to photograph all the leaf types that can be found.  Photograph everything.  Photography even avoids touching the infamous poison ivy or poison oak but still getting examples of their leaf types.  Bring home your samples in digital form.  Down load them to the computer.  Your budding scientist will then use a presentation program or perhaps a word processing program to create a booklet of leaf forms as the completion of the assignment. 

    Today I tweeted a hint to encourage parents who were trying to teach their children angles to take your child out with a camera to photograph as many acute, obtuse and right angles as they can find.  These can be presented in any way imaginable. 

    Collect pictures of various types of animals at the zoo.  Perhaps the student is working to learn the different phyla of animals.  Off to the zoo you go with the camera to photograph animals you would never have a chance to see in any other way. 

    There is no limit to what can be done with a digital camera and imagination.  Any subject—-I repeat —- any subject can be aided with the use of digital photography as a way to motivate you child with a subject. 

    In the near future, I will be working with projects involving digital video.  Video may actually be more appealing to your child.  Anything you can do with a camera, you can do with a digital video camera.  You can for instance compile a tour of the historical sites around your city.   Any child could take that recipe idea making a Food Network style show.  Any process can be demonstrated from the steps of a recipe to how to assemble any kind of craft project.  Want to get a child hooked on writing?  Have the child write a script for a digital video program on some subject of interest to the child. 

    A few years ago a brilliant teacher had students in the Appalachian Mountains collect information on the “old ways” of their grandparents.  They interviewed each of the elders.  Then they took the interview material to school. There they wrote books that were actually published. 

    Can you imagine what you could do with your family history if you had your child do a genealogy project, or grandmothers recipes, or grandfathers hobbies.  Can you imagine how valuable it will be to you to have video taped interviews with all the elders in the family.  Trust me on this nothing will be more valuable in the future as a video record of what has gone before in your family tree.  You will one day be glad you had your child do the project. 

    Look for more on this subject in the coming days.  I have also written a small booklet on this subject —  teaching with digital photography —  which will be available here on this site soon.

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    Filed under home school, independent learning, nontraditional learning, photography, video