Archive for April 2014

The Knowledge Gourmet Mentality

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Parents, don’t allow your child to fall victim to the Knowledge Gourmet mentality. Read this metaphor and see how long it takes you to figure out exactly what I’m talking about.

Paul has an amazing life. In his mind, it’s pretty grueling, but you and I wouldn’t mind a day or two of in the life of Paul. After all, he’s a Knowledge Gourmet. Each day Paul spends at least three hours in three different restaurants, sampling, nibbling, engorging on the restaurant’s “special.” He’s there to taste and enjoy everything from garlic fries to coq-au-vin, from Dutch apple pie to Zabajone gelato. Every menu is memorized, every taste is logged into a book, and part of his work involves being able to recite the biographies of every chef he meets. Along with the tastings comes the Venn diagram: he must compare and contrast the Asian cuisine with the American, noting even the differences between the wall art and types of napkins used.  Clean napkins are there at his disposal, and they miraculously appear with every swipe of food from his lips. I neglected to mention that this is not a weekend retreat for Paul.

This work involves daily restaurant visits and weekly reports that will take him four years to work through. Before you ask how Paul pays for this experience, let’s first talk about his goal, which is far more important. Paul’s plans are to become the next big celebrity chef. Good thing he has such a lofty goal, because reaching it will pay the restaurant tabs, right? His parents sure hope so, since they co-signed the tabs to prove their dedication to their son’s future. The government, too, wants to invest in Paul, so they happily send him the paperwork to promise him both grant money, and an amazing loan opportunity with low interest rates he won’t have to pay back on until he’s finished with the program.

I will stop this metaphor at this point because this is so obviously preposterous and foolish that someone would so easily confuse information consumption for the ability to produce. Some occasional fine dining here and there, yes, but he should have been starting at the stove and learning the business management of a restaurant in order to later have a chance at becoming a celebrity chef.  Now all he will have is the cruel memory of four extravagant years, followed by years of paying back debt and probably working on anything but the culinary world (unless it involves a cash register and a “would you like fries with that?”).

Unfortunately, without careful planning, parents approach their child’s college experience the same way: apply, get accepted and then acquire a taste for the most expensive educational courses possible. This teaches the child how to consume information, but without producing anything genuine of his own.  Some of the most abused college education by knowledge gourmets are those who pursue music degrees, history degrees, fine art degrees and English literature degrees.  It is consume, consume, consume, but as the formal education comes to an end, all their involvement in that world of knowledge also comes to a complete stop. Why? That’s because there is no training or ability to produce anything of value for others and the money that has thus far fueled this most delicious consumption has come to an end.

The moral of this story: if you wait for your child to turn 18 to suddenly look for a talent direction, you might have already raised up a Knowledge Gourmet who is headed for years of post-college heartache. Instead, start early in his teen years looking for ways to gently build up a long-term talent and get him used to producing something of value for others in that domain. Then when he’s ready for college, he and you will know which educational investments will make the most sense to his future and his family’s future. And yes, somewhere in there, there’s still room to enjoy a little bit of Zabajone gelato after all.

Your child doesn’t have a serious talent yet? Drop your haphazard two-year search for a unique talent of his own down to only seven days by following my talent discovery method. Order and download my e-course “How to Discover and Develop Your Child’s First 100 Hours of Talent.”


Philosophy for Five Year Olds

philosophy for five year olds.jpgGuest Post by Renee Harris:

This past week I spoke on the phone with two different women, in two very different situations, who eventually asked the same question: what curriculum should I choose?

The first woman was a grandmother who saw the lasting results of homeschooling in other families and wanted to encourage her daughter to homeschool her own child. The second woman pulled her child out of public school last January when she grew exhausted from the petty dealings of the administration who cried “bully intervention!” every time there was a disagreement on the playground.

While both women had seen enough of the homeschool world to know there’s value in educating the child at home, each was hung up on how to teach him.

Did I mention that in each situation, the child was only five years old? Five!

For you veteran homeschoolers, you remember the early days. Once the decision to homeschool was made, you immediately began collecting curriculum catalogs, attending workshops and fairs, and asking questions of other homeschoolers.

If I had wanted to end the conversation abruptly with each of these women, I would have directed them to some popular “box” curriculum websites, where an all-in-one package is ready to jump start each family on its homeschool adventures. Or I would have suggested looking for play groups and co-ops to enroll their children to make sure the socialization part of the homeschool day was met. Or ultimately I could have suggested they look into the local charter school. In the latter case, they could have educational professionals ready to create a plan for their child, and even provide funding for extracurricular activities, like piano lessons or swimming.

But I couldn’t give them a short term answer, when I knew there were negative long term consequences to those choices when they are not selected in the context of a good home education philosophy. It was one of the comments which brought the underlying issue to light: “My son can’t sit still for 15 minutes to get through his writing lesson.”

Right there, the issue being brought out in this comment is not really the problem of finding the right curriculum, but the problem of not having a strategy and plan for managing the focus of young and active little boys (little girls, too, but especially little boys). In this conversation, my husband was also part of the Skype call and we both immediately told her to stop worrying about the writing lessons… at least for now.

I won’t deny that the pressure is there to come up with the quickest fix possible. The new homeschooling mother feels like she must prove to the outside world that Junior can identify his letters and colors by age four, know his states and capitals by third grade, and soon after be able to distinguish between a direct object and an indirect object. In short, she must produce a child that looks like everyone else’s child, at the same stage in life, and on exactly the same subjects of interest.

Here’s the problem if either of these women go down the short term road:

  1. She’ll produce average children, who won’t look any more interesting than any other average children on your neighborhood block.
  2. She will either underwhelm or overwhelm the child, leaving her child feeling very frustrated in some subjects and leaving him completely bored in other subjects.
  3. Her child’s time and education will be dictated by a workbook, which can’t possibly care for the family’s or child’s natural strengths and handicaps.

So what’s the better alternative for a young child?

For the five year old, here is the philosophy I recommend in approaching selecting learning resources and apportioning time:

  1. Provide gentle home activities where the child learns to share: puzzles, Legos, and coloring.
  2. Provide a home schedule where the child learns to clean up after himself, as part of his learning and not as an after-thought: create 30 minute increments of “school” where the focus is not on worksheets, but rather tactile learning. The focus should be to teach how to set up and clean up (known as “mise en place” for you foodies). You’ll be thankful when he’s 10 and knows where to find his pencils and paper…. and printer ink.
  3. Provide opportunities to interact respectfully with his parents and siblings. He should know how to wait to ask for help rather than demand attention from an adult who is deep in conversation on the telephone. How do you teach this? Provide a 30 minute period of time where he is not allowed to interrupt you from your work. Set the timer so he knows when he’s free to talk to you.
  4. Provide “jobs” reserved just for him which place an importance on the child’s place in the family. Our five year old empties the dishwasher a couple times a day. He “reads” comic books with his little sister or plays Dominos with her. He fills her glass with water at meal time.

Do you notice how most of those activities are not really for sale in standard curriculum?

Make this the primary focus of your five year old’s education. Sharing, showing respect, taking care of one’s property, and completing chores are best taught at age five, not twelve. Then later at age twelve, he can go all out on much more traditional learning type of activities because the mechanics of organization and respectful interaction in the family are assimilated. Reminders and growth in maturity are always necessary, but you won’t be dealing with the basics any more.

Follow those guidelines for a jumpstart to homeschool success for your youngster. Provide him plenty of snuggle time with you, reading, chatting and playing. It’s a great philosophy for five year olds and you instinctively know it. After all, you brought him home so that you can be with him. What will surprise you is that this emphasis on responsibility, respect, and “big boy-ness” causes him to be able to assimilate what you’re trying to do through workbooks, tears and frustration. He will WANT to be able to learn his letters and colors when the workbook frustrations are alleviated. You are teaching him and providing him the time within to learn how to love learning and how to be able to learn within a social context.

In the next post I’ll share some of the books and resources that Jonathan and I found extremely helpful for homeschooling our children in the younger years. By creating the right environment now, you will be able to build the foundation for later constructing the talent-based homeschool.

The Answer to Your Question is: Blog

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Should your older child blog? Absolutely, unreservedly, yes!

Do you want your child’s talent to be discoverable even while still living under your roof?

Then the answer is: blog!

Do you want your child to be able to connect with experts from around the world in his field of interest?

Then the answer is: blog!

Do you believe that your child’s ability to communicate about his talent is as important as the talent itself?

Then the answer is: blog!

Do you want your child to learn to write with passion and focus about something that he cares about?

Then the answer is: blog!

Do you want your child to build a portfolio of hundreds, and eventually thousands, of documented evidences of his talent?

Then the answer is: blog!

Do you want your child to build his own unique voice within the context of a larger field of talent?

Then the answer is: blog!

If you want to get your child up and going on a blog focused around his or her talent within 42 days, then I recommend you buy and print out my “Blog to Your Talent” guide. Hand it off directly to your young adult to do it on their own. Also check out the full e-course to get even more personal hand-holding from me. All the techniques in the guide, I have applied to my own teenage sons.

Order the e-Course:
Blog to Your Talent: Learn How to Showcase Your Talent in 42 Lessons

How to Find Your Own Generous Heroes of Your Talent

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In the past few weeks, my fourteen year old son Caleb was able to reap still more rewards as a result of having originally taken to documenting his talent journey publicly. By doing this, I mean that he has blogged about his talent and he has been an active participant in an online forum dedicated to supporting a community of bladesmiths. In this community, professionals and serious amateurs encourage each other and share news of the the latest development in the craft and trade.

Caleb’s blogging started a couple years ago when he started to write about his interest in bladesmithing and about the progress in his learning. That consistency allowed him to convince the gatekeeper of the professional bladesmith forum that he should be accepted as a member. Since it is a serious forum dedicated to a serious craft, they understandably do not want people to join who are not going to contribute to the spirit and community of bladesmithers. That is where Caleb’s public blog acted as a calling card to open the doors. His blog was absolutely necessary to have as a young person, to demonstrate his commitment to wanting to learn. He was a novice in a field populated by adult veterans of the craft and without the asset of his blog, it was doubtful he would have been allowed in.

Once inside the forum, Caleb started learning as fast as he could the etiquette of engagement within that professional world. He also learned to ask the right kind of questions in order to make progress in his quest to becoming a better bladesmith. He dutifully read up on previously explained material when told to do so. Because of Caleb’s friendly, but respectful interaction (a couple of social mistakes along the way, from which he quickly recovered), he was able to find out many time-saving and money-saving ideas he could implement in his novice workshop without breaking his small budget. A couple of adults even generously shipped him some tools and resources to encourage him along, while others wrote him personal messages in order to encourage him in his pursuit. As a result, he started making significant progress on his knives. His interaction on this forum has been nothing short of amazing. Had he tried to acquire this level of interaction through the traditional means of networking, he would have broke his parents’ bank in trying to attend expensive summer workshops, flying to distant states, and going to specialized schools. That is even assuming that I would have allowed him to do so at such a young age, which of course I would not have.

Continuing the story of how Caleb recently reaped still more benefits from his online interaction with his talent, he was able to take advantage of an opportunity to accompany his grandparents on a European trip as a means to further consolidate his participation in a small, but vibrant world-wide community of bladesmithers. He boldly contacted four different bladesmiths from the forum that he knew lived in the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. I braced him for the fact that of the four requests that he might only get one true invitation. But clearly I was wrong. I had underestimated how strong of a bond there was in this online community. Not one, but all four professionals generously invited him to visit them in their private workshops on their home properties!

Caleb is still in Europe as of this writing, but he has confirmed to me that, with the help of his grandfather as chaperone, he has indeed been able to visit all four bladesmiths and was warmly welcomed. When he comes back next week, I and the rest of the family, can’t wait to hear a full account of his in-real-life encounters with some of the heroes of his talent world. Some heroes were tough with their advice, others more gentle, but all were generous to him in his quest to become better at his talent focus. This is the power of deciding to interact in the community of one’s chosen talent.

If any of you would like to know how to jump-start your own child on his blog, please let me know and I will be glad to share with you what works and doesn’t work. Contact me through the feedback button on this website and I will personally reply back to you. If you are already convinced that blogging is the way-to-go for your son or daughter, I would like you to sign up for the “Blog to Your Talent” e-course. This e-course is designed to walk your young person through a simple 42 lesson plan for starting a new blog related to his or her interest or talent-focus.


Need a Second Opinion on Your Homeschool Plan

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Write long-term goals first. Then, and only then, determine your intermediate and immediate goals. (Photo credit: madame.furie)

Need a “second-opinion” on how good your current homeschool strategy is?

Match up your current situation against this back-of-the-napkin approach to coming up with a homeschooling plan for your child:

List the general goals you want your child to reach in his early adulthood. These goals should be ten to fifteen years down the road. Academic goals should only be some of the goals listed. Other educational goals would include family, spiritual, and career goals.

Translate those broad life goals into closer intermediate goals that you would want your child to reach by the time he is eighteen.

Next, translate those intermediate goals you have for your future eighteen year old into very small goals that you could achieve during the coming year.

Once you have that list of goals, you are ready to start shopping and signing up for various educational tools and resources. Every time you ask a friend, browse the web, a school catalog, or sign up for an activity, you should judge its value as to how well it does to getting you closer to your immediate goals.  Does ballet get your daughter closer to becoming a professional author in her adult life? If not, do not sign up. Does the local Remote Control Aircraft club help your child get closer to becoming a great engineer? If so, sign up for it.

The key to all this is to remember that another family’s goals are NOT your goals. Adopting their educational resources by default will only create frustration. This is because their tools are optimized for their specific family goals, not yours. So you must work on understanding what your educational goals are first before you can know which tools make sense for you.

By working backwards from your long-term goals down to your present goals, you will surprise yourself at how much smaller a role traditional academic tools will play in your daily routine. For example, if your daughter wants to actually write books for a living, then joining an online writing club may be far more important than signing up for another Jane Austen course. By working your goals backward in time, you will be able to apportion your child’s time in the right way.

Email me your plan and goals. I will personally read them and give you feedback.

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