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What Should They Study in College?

So, I’m going to be a lone and stupid voice…but I want to save you all the heartache in life I possibly can.

Tiringly, parents incessantly nag their kids into pursuing careers that they are suited to only mildly if it at…and mostly because of money.  Now, before you think about an exception–just leave it there, it is an exception.  The Grand Mistake is Pursing a Job Path in College as Your Primary Goal.

Here’s the truth—when you check it out, you find that about 85% of Americans are not in the career field they studied (for) within 10 years of graduation.  Do you see the problem yet?  100 folks study hard and in 10 years only 15 of them are still in that field (surely engineers are an exception!)  The reasons are likely multiple, yet understandable.  Industries are dying and rising before our eyes—change-and-retooling is the climate in this increasingly face-paced world.  However, another reason is even more likely— most people find out they basically HATE the field they study for!  They were young, they looked at where the money was, and they didn’t give ‘what do I want to do / what do I love?’ a second thought.

That’s too bad.

Here’s a different viewpoint.  Go get EDUCATED, don’t go get an EDUCATION. What I mean here is something to do with developing a particular skill.  The skill is simply ‘learning how to learn’.  Just think about it.  If you can teach yourself anything then you are ready for everything.  Need to retool?  No problem.  Need to advance your career by learning something?  No big deal.

The point of education should really be to learn how to learn.  Learning how to learn is the traditional idea behind ‘Liberal Arts’.  The word ‘liberal’ in education used to be connected to the words liberty and freedom.  Once you have learned how to learn, then you are free to pursue whatever you’d like.

May I tell you the big secret about ‘what to study’–it doesn’t matter. OK, maybe if you are going to be an engineer it will, but for most other things it really doesn’t matter.  If your child will study something he loves in college, then he is likely to do pretty well at it…which means he has a shot at learning how to learn (because he was successful).  It’s even better if he has the goal of learning how to learn in the curriculum he chooses.

My dad wisely told me to study English (we thought I was going to be a lawyer) because, as he said, if you can read and write you can learn and communicate.  What more do you need?  Exactly!

My son, Tripp, finished at the University of Texas (Austin) with a degree in Studio Art.  People used to ask me ‘what can you do with that’?  Nevermind they cool ways artists are used in the design businesses… I simply told them that he loves it and has a goal of learning, not a goal of a particular job.  Also, if you learn how to take nothing (blank canvass) and make something (painting)….well, that seems like a pretty sweet skill for the rest of your life.  Currently he has been employed to study public policy issues and map the causal loops in systems-dynamics presentations.  He’s thinking next is seminary and a Phd across the pond.  Not exactly Studio Art (though he has sold a number of paintings).

Again, what does that have to do with art?  You’d be surprised!  He has learned how to learn.

Focus on learning the skill of learning…you’ll be surprised how valuable (and FUN) that path will become for your student and your life.

Blessings,

Fred Lybrand

How to Help Your Child Think Up What to Write

The following was my response to an inquiry about a child who doesn’t know what to write during the writing part of the homeschool day.

Even though we don’t yet know the exact details (always best to find them out because each situation is different), I will throw out some additional thoughts to the excellent stuff several of you have posted.

In The Writing Course we explain how we can always write because everything reminds us of something. When kids don’t write it is almost always an issue of fear or control…not an issue of writing. If a child knows that he is just trying to write OK, and he knows that he can’t really think up what he is going to write before he writes it (this is in the course too), then all that is left is to learn how to make use of his own mind’s ability to associate. I show them how to use their own name.

I’ll use my middle name RAY (yes, I am Fred Ray…hey…born in Alabama) and come up with three words:

R – rollercoaster

A – airplane

Y – yarn

So, all I’ll do is start writing something OK involving those things.

Petula was always scared of rollercoasters. Even when she flew over the County Fair in her uncle Ceadric’s airplane and the rollercoaster looked very small and safe, she just couldn’t remember that feeling when she got near the ticket booth. Today was different. She was going to conquer the rollercoaster! Maybe it was the way the kitten played with the yarn, she couldn’t really say. But, she did notice that the kitten fell off the counter three times. After each fall it just climbed up again to win the prize. “If Tinker can keep trying for a ball of yarn,” Petula said in a squinted whisper, “Then I can ride a silly rollercoaster.” With that she grabbed her uncle’s hand and walked toward the booth holding a paper dollar she had gotten from her Hannah Montana wallet.

Well, you get the point. At the very least (if a child doesn’t know what to write) have him:

1. Do copy work (that will eventually motivate him to make up something more fun)

2. Write a description of something outside the window or of a couple of items in the refrigerator.

3. Use some of the other ideas mentioned in this group

God bless,

Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand

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Why the Stork, the Tooth Fairy, and Santa Dumb Down Our Children

Could harmless lies make our children dumber? Here are a couple of thoughts by Anne Sullivan (Helen Keller’s teacher) worth reflection:

I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think.

It’s a great mistake, I think, to put children off with falsehoods and nonsense, when their growing powers of observation and discrimination excite in them a desire to know about things.

I am no authority on Anne Sullivan, but she certainly hits the nail with her head on these two points. The whole notion that children must be taught to think is at the core of socialization theories, Rousseau, Dewey, and the Tabula Rasa (blank slate—see Ibn Sīnā the Islamic Scholar) silliness that has soaked deep into the concrete floor of modern educational thought and practice.

Did you know that about 20% of children can learn to read even if you don’t teach them? Have you noticed how kids usually know more about operating the computer than their parents? Did you know that ‘sign language’ was entirely invented by the kids who used it (not the parents who first learned to use the manual alphabet with there children)?

Children need to be challenged and fed…but that doesn’t mean coddled and spoon-served pablum for their entire lifetime. Children are first and foremost learners. If you will grasp this as a ‘given’ then the entire nature of how you might teach and interact with them is transformed.

Of course, Anne Sullivan’s second point is quite telling as well. How often do we season our children with falsehoods and nonsense. Seriously, just think of some of the things we all do? Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Stork, and the Tooth Fairy are all such falsehoods.  Now, before you get upset (or overly happy), please know that I see nothing wrong with pretending and playing games with our kids. Pretending, however, means everyone gets what we are playing (like a tea party without tea).  We play along, but we are also in on the gag.

The Lybrand “Tooth Fairy” was kind of crazy!  We never wanted to make our kids feel bizarre compared to their friends, but we also didn’t want to treat them as though they were mindless simpletons who could not think for themselves. So, our Tooth Fairy would always give a little money along with a variety of other items (jacks, small toys, a plastic lizard, etc.). They were always more interested in the stuff than the money! Also, they ‘knew’ the game, and had loads of fun getting rid of their baby teeth.

There just isn’t much of a reason to ever lie to our children…even about death, sex, and taxes. HOWEVER, you don’t have to tell them everything you know about the subject. Especially in your home, you are going to have many opportunities to clarify and expound on things (especially sex).

But why does promoting Santa and the Stork make our children dumber? Why could telling falsehoods hurt? The answer is found in Sullivan’s phrase, “when their growing powers of observation and discrimination excite in them a desire to know about things.”  Teaching is in part about cultivating this desire to know though observation and discrimination.  Imagine a child having a worldview built on falsehoods that don’t match reality (Santa funding all the toys and getting to every house in one evening…quite and economic & time-space-continuum issue) knocked down again and again. You may not think it is much, but we know how lives get distorted (denial) through the pain of growing up in a dysfunctional, especially alcoholic, home. Why would we ever surmise teaching our children anything other than understanding the truth of things is a good idea?

If I had time here I’d speculate on the current economic crisis and how we keep looking for Santa to save the day.  Sometimes, fairly, the political world needs to be called out on there own fairytale rhetoric. A few encouraged kids could grow up to observe, discern, and offer some leadership with the jacket of Truth smartly tailored and worn well— ready for work.

In the meantime with your own children and students, please consider aiming for the truth. They are smart and know it anyway (or will find out soon) that you have been fibbing. When need a brave generation that is hard to trick. I’m guessing this training could begin at home.

Blessings,

 

Fred Lybrand

P.S. By the way, we did direct our children NOT to tell their friends ‘the truth’ about various things other families practiced. It isn’t our business to straighten out other families ;-)…and it shouldn’t be yours either!

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