Right brain learning

Fascinating talk about how we learn. Worth 20 minutes if you have the time.

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened — as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding — she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.

6 Problems with our School System

Aileen posted this video on Facebook today and I thought it was worth sharing, along with some of my thoughts.

The 6 Problems

  1. Industrial Age Values
  2. Lack Of Autonomy
  3. Inauthentic Learning
  4. No Room For Passion
  5. How We Learn
  6. Lecturing

Since I went to a public school from K-10th grade myself, and now work in a public school, I know and see firsthand how these problems are affecting children. I also know teachers who feel trapped by the system and would give anything to throw away their rubrics, standards, and grade-books in exchange for a freer learning environment.

It’s so unfortunate how the ones making decisions about how children should be learning are nowhere near the classroom. Worst of all, the ones hurt the most by these decisions are the students themselves. I could write an entire post on each of these problems, and how we feel homeschooling solves or at least addresses them.

I know some schools are actively working on programs to put students and their education first, using concepts like project-based learning and flipped classrooms. Many of these philosophies are quite similar to the unschooling model we use at home.

Imagine a world where students were not only given the opportunity but even encouraged to find solutions to real-world problems.

  • They could start and run a business instead of taking an accounting class.
  • They could take field trips every day to the places they read about in books.
  • They could have time to explore every curiosity in the world around them.
  • They could pursue an interest and see if turns into a lifelong passion.
  • They could learn from their mistakes when the risk of failure is so small.
  • They could teach us adults a thing or two.

Screen Time For Kids

There is an intense debate going on about how much screen time children should be exposed to since the mass adoption of mobile devices like iPads and other tablets. There are people on both ends of the spectrum and others are somewhere in between. I know parents who won’t let their children watch TV or use electronics until a certain age, while some let them use it before they can talk and walk. If you don’t believe me, look up “baby using iPad” on YouTube.

I think the question of whether it’s right/wrong or good/bad is the wrong thing to focus on. The question we should be asking is if it is useful and beneficial to our children because the answer shifts the conversation to something more helpful.

There’s no question we live in a society immersed in technology, electronic and otherwise. It is so embedded in our lives, we don’t even realize how much and how often we rely on it for our survival. Therefore, our kids will be exposed to it in some form whether we like it or not. Whichever side of the fence you’re on, it’s only a matter of time before they will be using it at home or in school, and eventually their job. So the only question we really need to ask is how we will prepare them to live in a world dependent on technology.

One app I recently began using my with my kids is Duolingo, a free language app. Lydia wanted to learn Italian so we started a private club in the app which automatically posts our progress, then allows us to comment on those notifications. It’s been a great opportunity to model positive online interactions using encouraging comments and emojis while also explaining the meaning of some phrases she doesn’t know yet. Evelyn recently joined as well, and I’m excited to have this channel of communication with them during the day as they learn. One of the best things I can do for my kids is to model a lifestyle of curiosity and be open to learning new things.

Because we are actively involved in our children’s lives, including their education, we feel it’s appropriate to give them access to technology that will assist and possibly even accelerate their learning. It also gives them access to teachers who have knowledge we simply cannot possibly possess. They can learn almost any language because it exists right at their fingertips. That is one of the key reasons we homeschool our children; not just to be involved in their learning, but to be participants as well. By showing them we are never too old to learn something new, we are teaching them that learning is a lifelong pursuit which can happen anywhere and anytime.

Inspiration for this post: The Problem Is Wasted Time, Not Screen Time

Making Things out of Wood

A few nights ago, I had a great conversation while catching up with an old friend. We started out talking about normal things like how our kids were doing and how things were going at our respective jobs but eventually turned to deeper things. Something I shared was how I was starting a new hobby of woodworking, thanks to the help of another friend.

I have a limited amount of experience on my own but grew up helping my Grandfather with various projects in his workshop, so in part, I am doing this in order to reestablish that connection I had with him and to my childhood. But the main reason I want to learn how to make things is that working in the technology field has left me feeling like I’ve lost a connection to the “real world” in a sense.

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Learning Spanish, Italian, and ASL

Last week I downloaded Duolingo and started learning Spanish. I took two years of Spanish in middle, which was the mandatory number of years one needed to take a language, and chose Spanish because the consensus was it was the easiest.

I did not do well (I think I got mostly C’s and maybe even a few D’s), probably due to the fact that I did not care about learning another language. I loved English and writing in school, and eventually went on to teach myself several computer languages on my own and in college (and beyond), including (in order):

  • HTML
  • Java
  • CSS
  • PHP
  • JavaScript
  • Swift

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