NATIONAL SITUATION: Systems such as those running public schools are very slow to change. It will take generations for schools in the United States to truly change—if they ever change.
PERSONAL SITUATION: As parents, if we wait for public schools to meet the needs of our children we are setting our children up to fail.
But There Is Good News!!
THE GOOD NEWS: We as parents DO NOT have to depend completely upon school systems to educate our children. In fact, there’s much we can do to help our children succeed independent of schools.
Here’s a quick list of steps that we can take to become advocates for the education of our children.
- Increase your emotional bandwidth so that you can spend at least 1 hour each day focused on your child’s education. This is huge and oftentimes the biggest obstacle for parents just getting started. If this seems overwhelming start with 15 minutes a day or partner with another parent and use a team approach. No matter how stretched you are, you will not regret carving out this time for your child. Again, if an hour seems impossible—start with 15 minutes. Some of this time will be spent interacting directly with your child and some you will spend looking for resources and connecting with other parents and supportive educators. But it’s hard to do this when we are stretched thin and overwhelmed by our daily responsibilities. Increase your bandwidth.
- Libraries are still one of the best ways to turn kids on to learning and reading…and most of what libraries offer is totally free. Get a library card and find out what they have available.
- Turn your smartphone into a private tutor for your child. There are more good apps out there than I could ever share with you. No matter your child’s age or academic needs, you can find great resources they can access on your phone. My youngest son uses apps to study for tests and quizzes. My grandson uses apps to practice drawing his numbers/letters and learn sight words; and I use apps to study different languages. Many are free but I have paid up to $4.99 for a good app if it’s what I need to move forward. NOTE: If you don’t want your child to “play” with your phone, get an older smart phone that isn’t connected to phone service. Connect to WIFI and download apps that your child can use later.
- Use online resources to find out what you need to know to get started. Here are some samples of the options I provide for parents. But there are many more out there.
- Free and low-cost resources by grade level
- Videos to help parents put their limited time to good use
- Access to educators who will answer your specific questions as your begin this journey
Photo Credit: Derien Downing (Artistic Avenue)
Over time, taking this series of steps will empower you and lead you to additional steps in ensuring the success of your child. You will find new questions and the answers to those questions. You will discover new relationships with people who are on the same journey. And, if you’re like most of us, you will thoroughly enjoy this journey and the wonderful benefits that come from investing in your child’s future in this manner. Because the short sweet truth is that you’re the key element required for your child’s educational success. -cd
First, my apologies for not posting for quite some time. My reason for not posting is actually a good one that I hope you appreciate in the months to come.
Now, to share an experience I had yesterday. While going about my day, I heard two statements that have been turning over in my mind ever since. I’m accustomed to running into things like this once a month or maybe even once a week depending on my schedule and what I’m doing. But, two statements in one day regarding the quality of K-6 education really got my attention.
NOTE: These are two totally unrelated statements in two totally separate contexts. I just happened to be present for both.
Statement 1: Fourth grade teacher in an urban school
If my students are doing their best and working their hardest I give them A’s. I don’t care what they say; I’m going to give them an A and give them some hope. Of course, then I hear from the parents when they fail the ISTEP. Their confused because their child is making A’s on their report card.
Statement 2: Minister of a large urban church
Your child’s school has four different fourth-grade classes. If they are struggling learning with the teacher they have; then go up there and tell them to move your child to another teacher that they can learn from. Because the problem isn’t that your child can’t learn, but that the teacher can’t teach.
Both of these people made these statements in very authoritative ways based on their personal perspectives. Both are seasoned professionals who are well established in their fields.
These statements are great representations of what parents are up against as it relates to K-12 education. Public education systems are broken in many communities of many nations. Many parents hear statements like this or come into contact with these attitudes and have no idea what they need to do to ensure their child gets the education they need. Or maybe your child is doing okay right now but you’re concerned about what will happen as they advance into higher grades.
Well, you don’t have to wonder or guess at what you need to do to ensure your child gets a good education. Maybe you need to ask for a new teacher—or maybe you don’t. Follow this link to find out 10 Things Every Parent Should Know About Thinking and Learning. Not only will this course get you ramped up fast so you know how to navigate your child’s K-12 education; it will also connect us so that I can continue to share free and low-cost solutions to help you coach your child successfully through their K-12 education. As parents, we have options. Let me show you how to be sure you choose the right one for your child. -cd
Enough is enough; and I have had enough. This is a turning point in my work. This is a turning point in my writing. This is a turning point in the how I focus my personal energy.
But I’m betting that none of that matters to you. Am I right?
If you are reading my blog then you are probably a learning professional of some sort or looking for answers regarding thinking and learning. If you are either of these, my turning point will serve your needs as well as mine. How, you ask? Because, I will now be sharing information in a more direct, transparent, and deliberate manner. In fact, I’m going to start right here by sharing what has led me to make these changes.
Some of the reasons behind this change in my approach may surprise some of you. But whether they surprise you or not, this collection of facts, trends, circumstances, and problems is what has driven me to decide to communicate more openly regarding the role of learning in our lives.
The Why(s) Behind My New Approach:
- Because how you think is going to influence everything you do and don’t achieve in life. Your attitudes, habits, approaches, language, and behavior are all influenced by how you think.
- Because people rarely know the right questions to ask when they are looking for answers.
- Because the children of parents who know what I’m sharing in my blog and courses have a huge benefit over those whose parents don’t know these things.
- Because, in the United States, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is growing significantly harder to navigate. Being able to cross over to the haves side is based on how you think.
- Because a person can graduate from a baccalaureate program (or many of the graduate programs out there) and not know the things I’m sharing here. In this day and age, having a degree doesn’t necessarily mean a person is well educated. And being well educated doesn’t guarantee success. So what does increase your chances of finding success?
- Because when your boss tells you he or she needs “more” from you, they don’t mean more of the same thing. They are talking about a very different type of more. They are talking about a more that they may or may not be able to define for you.
- Because there isn’t a shortage of jobs in the United States. There is a shortage of people who are qualified to do the jobs that are open.
- Because you have to know what you don’t know, in order to navigate your way to sustainable success.
- Because when you know how to think in a manner that serves you well time and time again, you become more confident with each experience. As your confidence builds you begin to navigate life in a different manner—a manner that allows you to achieve the things that are important to you independent of what others feel is possible.
I could probably add a few more items to this list, but you get my point. There is a way of approaching thinking and learning that makes a huge difference in how we navigate life. Sharing the what, why, and how of thinking and learning in the most blatant, direct manner possible is going to be my focus for the foreseeable future. -cd
It’s January of a new year. If you’re like many people, at some point in the last couple of months you have given some thought to what you want to achieve/change this year. Some people approach the notion of change with New Year’s Resolutions while others avoid the cliché and go hardcore with their annual goals.
Whichever approach you prefer, I’d like to ask you a question or two.
- Are you working with your child to help them set learning goals?
- Are you teaching your child to set learning goals and focus his or her attention?
When it comes to successful learning it all begins with a learner’s ability to set learning goals and focus. But, in this day and age, we can’t assume that our kids know how to focus their attention. As parents, we have to work with them to be sure they develop this ability. After all, who cares more about how they develop as learners than we do?
The other day I was talking with a young lady about education and the work I do with parents. She wasn’t a parent, but kept asking me questions about learning, so I kept sharing with her. She was surprised to learn that many parents spend huge amounts of money on tutors, learning coaches, and special programs to help their kids develop the ability to think and learn in an exceptional manner. She had never considered that parents were spending money to give their kids access to this training. She stood there for a bit considering this; then acknowledged that while she had never thought about it; it made sense that this was the case. I then explained to her that while paying for these services was one option, it wasn’t necessarily the best option. The best option is for parents to become their kids learning coach. That’s right, kids whose parents become their learning coaches have an inherent advantage over those who get help from paid sources.
Not sure this is true?
As I asked previously, who cares more than you do about how your child develops as a learner?
Who has been watching your child grow and learn since the day they were born?
Who knows your child’s likes, dislikes, patterns, and habits?
Who is with your child throughout his or her entire K-12 education?
The simple fact is, you as a parent know your child better than anyone and therefore can help him or her develop in ways no one else can. But, whether you intend to use other additional resources or not, being able to understand your child’s development as a learner is hugely valuable and possible with just a bit of deliberate effort.
If you’re interested in learning what you need to know in order to help your child, subscribe to this blog before January 30th and I’ll give you free access to my course 10 Things Every Parent Should Know About Thinking & Learning.
In this course, I give parents the information they need to begin making a deliberate effort. I also answer questions and help parents with the specifics required to help their kids. I don’t have all the answers; but I help them find the answers…and I’ll do the same for you and your child. -cd
I was an average student in my formative years. In some courses I was below average. In others I was above average. But overall, I was average. It wasn’t that I hated school or anything; but nor did I particularly enjoy it. Honestly, back then I liked school more for what it offered me socially than anything else. But then, back in the 70s, kids could approach school that way and still end up doing pretty well for themselves later in life. That is not the case in today’s climate; nor is it the way I’m training my 12 year old to approach his education.
You see I don’t want my kids/grandkids to make the same mistakes I’ve made. Instead, I want them to understand while they are in in middle school, high school, and studying at the undergraduate level that how a person learns impacts every single aspect of life once they pass a certain point.
Some of you might think I’m stretching it a bit to say that. But, one of my favorite writers says it like this.
…there is a vast difference between simply thinking, and directing our thought consciously, systematically, and constructively. -C. Haanel
The days of being able to approach education casually have come and gone. In today’s classrooms, our kids need to know both how to learn and how to approach learning experiences. If they don’t, they are not going to be able to successfully navigate education through to completion of a baccalaureate degree—period.
Consider your responses to these three different situations.
- If an instructor asked you to do a critical analysis of a book they assigned you to read, how would you approach this assignment?
- If your supervisor asked you to do a comparative analysis of two different approaches to a solving a particular problem how would you begin that project?
- When you are faced with the need to change in order to move your life or career forward how to you handle such situations?
Now, number one is clearly about learning. But, did you recognize that items two and three are just a much about how you think and learn?
Prove It For Yourself
I never expect people to take my word for something just because I say it’s true. But, if you watch people long enough, you will see for yourself that people who are confident in their ability to think and learn are more flexible and therefore generally more comfortable with change. Keep watching and you’ll see that a person who is comfortable with change is able to change more quickly than those who are not comfortable with change. And most adults will attest to the fact that people who can embrace and engage in changing more quickly than the masses will benefit from their ability to do so.
If you continue observing and thinking about this you will probably notice that as humans, once we have gone through a few seasons of change successfully, we become even more confident in our ability to handle change. As our confidence in our ability to change increases we become more flexible and begin proactively looking for signs that we need to change so we are prepared beforehand. Being observant in this manner allows us to begin asking and answering questions is a manner that changes the way we navigate change and life in general. Then if we stick to this way of thinking, learning, and changing we begin analyzing our own behavior and tweaking it in a manner that allows us to tailor our approach to navigating change so that we can accomplish even more—faster.
For some of you reading this post, all of this may seem like a major stretch. But for those who are determined to learn, think, and grow in a manner that changes the game for you and those you love, you may be seeing how all of this connects through a new lens. Here’s the same information stated more overtly.
When you become skilled at thinking and learning in a game-changing way you can do the following:
- Analyze and process information effectively and efficiently
- Ask questions based on the gaps and opportunities identified while analyzing
- Collect data points (important information) based on responses to the right questions
- Forecast how things will unfold based on observations, analysis, asking the right questions, etc.
This isn’t some sort of science that only those who have studied the science of thought can understand. It’s really truly the way things work for anyone who cares to begin thinking, learning and living differently. You don’t need anyone’s permission to begin operating in this manner. You simply need to begin paying attention to what’s going on around you; and begin thinking and learning as if the quality of the life you live depends on how you think about what’s playing out in your life. -cd
As an educator who’s nearly fifty years old, I have had the privilege (okay, it wasn’t always a privilege) of hearing many people share their opinions on the value, or lack of value, of education. I’m not sure what it is about me that makes people want to share so openly. But, every now and then I will have someone vehemently share their thoughts on what’s wrong with higher education; what’s right about it; why one approach is better than another; what type of degree best serves learners and any number of other topics pertaining to education.
These rants are provided by people from all walks of life. Occasionally, they lead to interesting conversations. Other times, I walk away puzzled by the views just shared. Eventually, I began to realize that those with little education have many misconceptions regarding the goals, benefit, and value of higher education. That makes sense, right? I mean, how can people who aren’t well educated understand what it means to be well educated?
No matter what your education/credentials, consider the answers to these questions from your personal perspective.
- What would a good, a better, or more education do for you?
- If you decided right now to become better educated, what knowledge would you pursue?
These might seem like rhetorical questions, but they aren’t. There are real, doable, answers to these questions. And, it may surprise you to know that the answers aren’t as complicated as you might think.
The Key To Being Well Educated
First, let me state openly that being well educated is about knowing how to think, not what to think. Yes, in higher education we study specific content but more importantly if we are being well educated we are studying how to think, solve problems, and create solutions. Consider the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principle can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Unfortunately, most people aren’t comfortable identifying and pursuing principles/rules. Rather than learn the rules related to their desired outcomes many people choose instead to mimic the methods they see someone else walking out. Then they wonder why they aren’t achieving their desired results.
Before I go any farther, and so that there is no misunderstanding, let me state using different words the key to being well educated. If you want to be well educated in a manner that helps you achieve your goals; study the rules associated with what you want to achieve and where you want to be in life. Study the rules in great detail and learn them well. Then, once you know the rules, practice applying them until you can do so in an exceptional manner. Once you have achieved that, find unique ways to apply these same rules. Understand that there is no short cut to learning the rules. Nor is there any benefit to learning someone else’s approach if you don’t first know the rules that govern the context in which the approach is being applied.
Now that we’ve covered that, ask and answer these questions for yourself.
- How well do you know the rules associated with the job/career/profession in which you work?
- What best practices exist in your career/profession?
- How have things changed in your career/profession in recent years?
- What are the additional professions or specific jobs/positions that are closely related to yours? Do you know the rules associated with those also and how they overlap with your work?
- When was the last time you studied something new?
- What memberships do you have to professional organizations? What professional journals, magazines, or websites are you reading regularly?
Here’s a brief example of how this all looks and plays out for me.
I’m an Instructional Designer. I have studied the principles, models, and best practices in the field of Instructional Design. However, in order to set myself apart from the many people who label themselves Instructional Designers, I have also studied the following topics as they relate to Instructional Design for very specific reasons.
Human Cognition – The more I learned about designing instructional content the more I wanted to know about how we actually process, store, connect, and retrieve information.
eLearning Design & Development – Roughly 90% of my work product ends up being developed into an eLearning experience. Having a thorough understanding of what happens after my specific work is done allows me to do better work which yields a better final product.
Visual Design – Words are powerful. In fact, the ability to communicate effectively in verbal form is considered by many to be the highest form of architecture in civilization and a passport to success (–C. Haanel). However, the combination of verbal and visual information is so powerful that when it’s done correctly it can greatly enhance a learning experience. But when it’s done incorrectly, the combination of visual and verbal information can completely undermine the learning experience. I don’t want to risk undermining someone’s learning so I figured I’d better dive deeper into this too.
Sound a bit overdone? Well, for those who are satisfied with doing things in a standard manner, a basic understanding of your career is fine. But, if you want to design an exceptional career for yourself, you need to go above and beyond standard and ensure that you are well educated in all facets of your work and those topics related to your work. Now, I’m not going to leave you hanging by ending this article here. I’m going to share the one final tidbit that usually gets left out of such conversations.
If you decide to take a deeper dive and pursue being a well-educated professional, you need to understand what you’re getting into. Because, when you begin operating in this manner it seriously changes the workplace dynamic. To be certain you don’t put yourself in a bad situation, be sure to put as many of the following in place as possible.
- Consider how your direct supervisor feels about you expanding your knowledge of your field. Will she/he be supportive? If not, you may want to do this independently in your personal time away from the workplace.
- Do the same with your coworkers. They may or may not be supportive of your decision to change your professional approach/direction. You really want to surround yourself with people who are supportive and tend to operate in a positive manner when it comes to learning and growing professionally.
- Don’t be surprised if once you begin educating yourself you begin to outgrow your current situation. In fact, be surprised if this doesn’t happen. That means you need to tweak your approach a bit. Everyone says they want promotions and great professional opportunities. But many don’t understand that continual and consistent growth is the key to opportunity.
Now, all that being said; be open, pursue knowledge, and enjoy where the journey takes you. -cd
Originally Posted September 2014
It’s been a busy few weeks, but we are now well into 7th grade. He’s had his first quizzes and exams. He has had his first football game. He appears to be doing well and to be enjoying himself. But I will say that after only 2.5 weeks of being back in school, he is uncharacteristically comfortable to have a lazy Saturday at home. He even passed on racing MX this weekend. This tells me many things.
- His new schedule and commitments are stretching him.
- He still needs his quiet time.
Neither of these things surprises me as my child is a lot like his parents. Quiet time calms the nerves. 🙂 He has taken on quite a bit of responsibility this year. He has played football before but it was a weekend league that was not connected to his school. This time around it’s at the middle-school level and his teammates, classmates, teachers, and coaches are all connected. When he was in 5th grade and played in a league only a handful of other players at school even knew he was on the team. Now, his classmates show up to the games and his coaches are also his teachers.
Right now, it looks like he’s enjoying all of this, even as he is managing himself so that he can rise to the occasion. The fact that he chose not to race this weekend, in order to rest and to keep from risking injury (his words) after getting dehydrated in Thursday’s game, tells me that he is committed to his teammates in a manner that demonstrates maturity and wisdom. Goodness knows we’ve been praying that he walk in wisdom. –cd