Camp Creek Blog

PBH Facebook group

Published by Lori Pickert on July 31, 2014 at 08:13 AM

Heck has frozen over, pigs are flying, and I’m back on the Facebook so we could have a PBH Facebook group — check it out here!

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Reading and gender and the messages we send

Published by Lori Pickert on July 28, 2014 at 06:25 PM

Yes, yes, a million times yes to this:

A couple things happen when we focus all of our collective attention on boys and whether or not they are reading. First, we tell boys that they are not reading, and that reading is not an inherently “boyish” thing to do. We expect them, in fact, not to read, and boys who love reading are outside the norm. Next, we start gendering books and telling boys that they like certain kinds of books, that they are interested in humor and adventure and fun. And they specifically do not like the sort of books that help kids at this age figure out how to be in the world, and they specifically do not like literary books or hard books or emotional books. And they absolutely positively do not want to read a book starring a girl.

When we give panels on boys and reading with only (or even predominantly) male authors, we tell boys they are only supposed to like books by men. (This will be surprising to JK Rowling and Suzanne Collins.) We tell them that only men have something to say to them. When we say boys won’t read books with girl heroes, we are constructing that reality for them. (It gets troubling in all kinds of ways — the act of reading as a child is about empathy for and connection with the protagonist, and it’s quite problematic to tell boys we don’t expect they can empathize with girls.)

And in all of this, we’re telling boys that we don’t expect a lot from them. — On Gender and Boys Read Panels

The post goes on to make many more good points.

Related posts of mine on and around this subject:

[I]t’s a shame to treat reading as a sort of punishment — or something that requires a spoonful of sugar to go down, which is why I’m a curmudgeon about reading programs that bribe kids with prizes or pizza if they read. Reading isn’t punishment — reading is one of the greatest things ever. When we act this way, we are sending a clear message that reading isn’t awesome — it’s something that requires cajoling, bribery, or denial. It’s good for you, like broccoli.

But why — why?! — do we keep presenting reading as something that is incompatible with normal life? Why can’t you read and watch TV? Why can’t you enjoy playing the Wii and reading a good book?

Does it really follow that children need to be bored to read? And in order to invoke boredom — and cause children to read — we have to smash all the other entertainment options?

If we are going to put forth this idea that readers are people (and children) who sit around in horn-rimmed glasses and sweater vests, who don’t play football or Xbox, who don’t like Spongebob or Spiderman, then how are we going to convince reluctant readers that reading is one of the most awesome activities ever? — In defense of reading, which should need no defense

and

I worked for years in a school environment, and I constantly had to take kids and convert them into readers — convince them that they were wrong about hating to read, about not wanting to read, about wanting to do anything but read. When you try to promote something good (reading, playing outside) by attacking something kids love, you are seriously not helping me.

I tie this to the “books are broccoli” approach. Imagine a cartoon where a teacher is handing two parents a sheet of paper and saying, “Now, the way we introduce children to hating learning is to first get them to hate reading. So require your child to read 30 minutes every night and then fill out and initial this form.”

If you want to suck the fun out of anything that your child enjoys doing, I suggest you force them to do it for 30 minutes every night, fill out a form, and have you initial it.

What is the message there? Reading is broccoli. It’s good for you. You won’t do it unless we make you. Eat your broccoli. Read!

The kid who liked to read sees reading turned into an assigned chore. He gets the message: Reading isn’t cool, dude. It’s something no one would do if they weren’t forced to do it. And by the way, you don’t get to pick out what you read anymore. That book is too young for you; that other one is too old. And neither of them are leveled readers. Here, read this flat, melba-toasty book for a half an hour and then I’ll initial your form. Make sure you get your form signed or I’ll make you read it again. It reads or it gets the hose.

Does it ever work to encourage activity A by denouncing activity B? Books are broccoli and kids need their broccoli so that makes TV and video games candy. Sweet, delicious candy. I’m in my 40s but even I know: candy good, broccoli bad.

The either/or approach focuses on scarcity. The glass is half empty, your day is almost gone. Your free time is as scarce as hen’s teeth. Don’t waste it on things you enjoy! Invest it in these more intellectually valuable pursuits instead!

An entirely different approach would be to present books as candy, the outdoors as candy. — Why I don’t worry about my kids’ screen time, Part I

Our choices convey beliefs; we need to stop and think about whether we’re sending the messages we really want to send. Something worth thinking about.

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We are getting ready for our second free PBH class of the summer!

There are many great reasons to add drawing to your routine — here are just a few:

• Drawing is a foundational skill for making and a great way for prewriters to take and read their own notes.

• Learning how to draw observationally can help kids make it past the dreaded fourth-grade slump.

• Learning to look deeply and observe carefully is a great critical thinking skill and often leads to asking the interesting questions that launch project-based research.

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to integrate drawing into your project-based learning, join us!

Class starts on Monday — go here to sign up!

As a primary visual language, essential for communication and expression, drawing is as important as the development of written and verbal skills. — Anita Taylor, Why Drawing Needs to Be a Curriculum Essential

 

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Small Wins Wednesday: The academics of play

Published by Lori Pickert on June 25, 2014 at 08:41 AM

Writing and drawing about the Jacobites.

• • •

On Wednesdays we often share a small win from the forumTwitter, the Facebook page, or (with the writer’s permission) from the mail bag.

This week’s small win is from Kirsten:

Six-year-old R is resistant to anything that vaguely resembles school and has been known to shout “I DON’T WANT TO LEARN ANYTHING!” in response to any scholastic suggestion. So we’ve decided to pull back for now, and completely unschool, subtly strewing interesting stuff, and raising interesting topics at the lunch table, but requiring nothing.

This generally works really well. I know that for a 6-year-old, play is his work, and I’m constantly amazed at what he’s learning from what I perhaps patronisingly call play. But there’s certainly nothing that looks in any way academic. Until last week.

We’d taken him to see a reenactment of an 18th-century Scottish battle, and it really piqued his interest. He’s been playing battles in the garden (always a particular times of day, on a schedule!), making guns (lots of iterations to get the perfect gun), looking at books about the battle and doing some great artwork about it.

I have also been a bit concerned, though, that he’s been watching quite a lot of television, and in particular some programmes that I don’t think have a very good effect on him. So we agreed that he would no longer watch TV at supper time.

On the first evening after we’d reached this agreement, I thought there would be some attempts at renegotiation. But instead, he sat down at the table with a history book, found some passages that particularly interested him, and started copying them out. Apparently these were to be information signs for the museum he was setting up in his bedroom.

We looked on with quite some amazement. This was the boy who wouldn’t do anything that looked like school, spending his suppertime copying out passages from a history book and discussing them with us. Reading, comprehension, handwriting and history all in one, when no requirement is made of him to do anything educational.

To be honest, I know that what he learns from play is just as valuable as what he is learning from sitting down reading and copying from a history book. But the progression from play to research and writing certainly felt like a win! It’s moments like this when I am reminded just what is so great about homeschooling in general, and project-based learning in particular.

• • •

Thank you so much for sharing your small wins — real children doing real work (and parents working hard to become good mentors) are more inspiring than anything. 

Why do we share small wins? Because we put on our attention on what we want to grow. We support each other, celebrate each other’s successes, and we make more of the good stuff!

Have you had a small win this week? Whether it’s related to PBH or not, please share in the comments!

Jacobite museum in bedroom

 

Yesterday I posted about respecting children’s interests. I titled it “trust, respect, and attention…” because I think you have to trust that your child’s authentic interests will lead somewhere good, you have to respect their genuine feelings about things, and you have to pay attention — or you’ll lose the opportunity to really understand them and what they care about.

Serendipitously (mind-bogglingly so), I read two things later in the day that related to that post.

First:

One recurring question is, why does the intellectual development of vast numbers of children…slow down? What happens to children’s curiosity and resourcefulness later in their childhood? Why do so few continue to have their own wonderful ideas?

I think part of the answer is that intellectual breakthroughs come to be less and less valued. Either they are dismissed as being trivial … or else they are discouraged as being unacceptable — like discovering how it feels to wear shoes on the wrong feet, or asking questions that are socially embarrassing, or destroying something to see what it’s like inside.

The effect is to discourage children from exploring their own ideas and to make them feel that they have no important ideas of their own, only silly or evil ones. — Eleanor Duckworth, The Having of Wonderful Ideas

The less we respond to children’s interests and ideas, the less they are needed and required and celebrated, the less they will be produced and offered.

By contrast, the child whose interests and ideas are the main ingredients of her learning life, discussed and encouraged and celebrated every day, is unlikely to suddenly stop having them.

Second:

“The lesson from childhood, then, is that if you want to win the war for attention, don’t try to say ‘no’ to the trivial distractions you find on the information smorgasbord; try to say ‘yes’ to the subject that arouses a terrifying longing, and let the terrifying longing crowd out everything else.

The only way to stay fully alive is to dive down to your obsessions six fathoms deep.” — The Art of Focus

Interestingly, this article refers to another that discusses how few people are engaged in their work:

[J]ust 30 percent of employees in America feel engaged at work, according to a 2013 report by Gallup. Around the world, across 142 countries, the proportion of employees who feel engaged at work is just 13 percent. For most of us, in short, work is a depleting, dispiriting experience, and in some obvious ways, it’s getting worse.

…Employees are vastly more satisfied and productive, it turns out, when four of their core needs are met: physical, through opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work; emotional, by feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions; mental, when they have the opportunity to focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks and define when and where they get their work done; and spiritual, by doing more of what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work.

The more effectively leaders and organizations support employees in meeting these core needs, the more likely the employees are to experience engagement, loyalty, job satisfaction and positive energy at work, and the lower their perceived levels of stress.” — Why You Hate Work

Deep interests are irrevocably connected to engagement.

We learn best when we are genuinely engaged with our work, and we can only find our meaningful work by following the threads of our interests and curiosities. Yet we try to develop learners not by helping them learn about what interests them most (fueled by self-motivation) — instead, we set everyone to studying a generic, standardized curriculum with no time to ask and answer their own questions or contribute their own ideas.

“[M]any employers remain fearful that their employees won’t accomplish their work without constant oversight — a belief that ironically feeds the distrust of their employees, and diminishes their engagement.” — ibid.

A huge number of adults are terrified that if they don’t crack down, children won’t learn anything at all.

If we can’t trust that our children’s interests will end up being worthwhile — that rigorous exploration of any interest can be intellectually challenging — then we are really distrusting the learning process. We aren’t entirely sure that you can strengthen your abilities as a learner if you study Minecraft or My Little Pony instead of computer programming or Greek Mythology.

But our lack of trust in the process can be felt by our child as a lack of trust in them — in their interests, their enthusiasms, their abilities, the very stuff that makes up who they are as unique individuals.

If it’s fear that’s stopping us, we really need to stop, go back, and try again until we really understand how learning works — before we accidentally derail our children and their confidence in themselves the same way we were derailed so many years ago.

“We often ask senior leaders a simple question: If your employees feel more energized, valued, focused and purposeful, do they perform better? Not surprisingly, the answer is almost always ‘Yes.’ Next we ask, ‘So how much do you invest in meeting those needs?’ An uncomfortable silence typically ensues.” — ibid.

This is a question we can ask ourselves: Do our children learn and work more energetically and purposefully when we support their authentic interests and mentor them intentionally and enthusiastically? How much are we investing in that part of our learning life?

The learning and work we do as children can set us on a lifelong path of meaning and purpose.

Are we doing everything we can to help our children get on that path?

 

Edited to add:

I found another one today…

Adults constantly raise the bar on smart children, precisely because they’re able to handle it. The children get overwhelmed by the tasks in front of them and gradually lose the sort of openness and sense of accomplishment they innately have. When they’re treated like that, children start to crawl inside a shell and keep everything inside. It takes a lot of time and effort to get them to open up again. Kids’ hearts are malleable, but once they gel it’s hard to get them back the way they were. ― Haruki Murakami

 

Recently I was contacted by a mother who told me she was upset and frustrated because she was trying to introduce PBH to her sons and they were resisting.

She had been trying to share her own work with them in an attempt to make her own learning visible and start building a family culture of making and sharing.

And what happened?

“They act like my work is boring and not important. They don’t want to listen. They roll their eyes and change the subject.”

I asked her what her sons’ interests were — and things got very quiet.

“Well… I’m not sure. They used to be really into video games. But now… I don’t know.”

What happened with their interest in video games?

“Well… I didn’t like it. I thought they were spending too much time on the computer. The games seemed stupid. I told them they were wasting their time…”

Her voice trailed away.

When her sons had shared their authentic interest, she had reacted by

- saying it was boring and unimportant,

- not listening,

- rolling her eyes, and changing the subject.

Now her sons were reacting to her interests in the exact same way.

When we share our true interests, we are sharing part of ourselves. When we get back disdain and criticism — or when we’re simply ignored — then we learn to hide that part of ourselves. Maybe we drop that interest — or maybe we just stop talking about it with that person.

We might stop sharing other interests with that person because we want to avoid that negative reaction. We might even stop sharing our interests with anyone. Why open yourself up to ridicule?

It’s easier to just do what everyone else is doing — that way, no one will call you a dork or make fun of you. No one will look down on you. Keep your real interests to yourself — or just stop having interests altogether. They’re probably stupid anyway and it’s not like anything’s going to come of them.

Whatever you do, don’t reveal your true self to someone who didn’t like that little bit you already showed them.

Our family is our first community. Our first friends. Our first colleagues. Our first audience. Our first mentors.

We learn our first lessons there, and we carry them forward when we meet and interact with the larger world.

If we learn at home that our interests are no good and not worth having, it’s very hard to overcome that lesson in the larger community where we’re even more nervous about fitting in.

If we hear “what you care about is stupid and worthless,” it’s easy to convert that to “you’re stupid and worthless.”

It’s never too late to reverse this. It’s never too late to say, “I was wrong.” It’s never too late to say, “Tell me about what you care about. I really want to know. Because I am interested in you.”

It’s never to late to listen, to support, to invest in your child’s authentic interests.

The child who is listened to will listen.

The child who is supported will support.

The child who is mentored will mentor.

The child who is believed in will believe in himself — and you.

If you give trust, respect, and attention, that is what you will receive in return.

It’s not about whether you like video games or not. It’s about whether you want your child to know what HE likes. It’s about whether you want him to trust his own feelings. It’s about whether you want him to be capable of developing his unique talents and gifts. It’s about whether you want him to tap into his deepest motivation and be willing to challenge himself.

When you support his ability to know what he likes, you’re putting him on a path of self-knowledge and meaningful work.

Diminish what he loves and you diminish him.

 

See also More thoughts on dismissing children’s interests and ideas

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New resources on the site — enjoy!

Published by Lori Pickert on June 1, 2014 at 12:14 PM

We have some new resources here on the site:

Resource section — We’ve started to build out a huge collection of PBH and general learning-related resources for you to browse here. I will be updating this (LOTS more to add) so check back once in awhile. 

Journal Gallery — PBHers have shared photos of all kinds of PBH journals to help you think about the system that would work best for you. Check it out. (I’ll be adding to this one, too — some digital PBH journals are next!)

Workspace Gallery — Browse this collection of different PBH studios and workspaces from all kinds of homes. We even have some PBH group spaces. Inspiring!

Passion and Meaningful Work — We are continually adding to this collection of quotes that show deep interests DO matter when it comes to finding and doing your meaningful work.

Don’t forget these existing resources:

How to Start a PBH Group — Are you interested in starting a homeschool family project group, co-op class, summer camp, or just moving an existing group in a more project-oriented direction? Check out our free guide to starting a PBH group.

The Introvert’s Guide to Building Community — It’s not just for introverts. To make sure you start out on the right foot, read this solid advice for beta-testing and launching a new community.

What to Look for in a DIY/Maker/Hacker/Tinkering Group for Kids — This checklist will help you identify the best groups for self-directed learners — and avoid the people who aren’t walking the talk.

Ten Steps to Getting Started with Project-Based Homeschooling — If you have friends or family who are interested in learning more about PBH or self-directed learning, this is where you can point them.

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Summer PBH Master Class and Seminar enrolling NOW!

Published by Lori Pickert on May 28, 2014 at 08:13 AM

We are now enrolling the Summer Session of the PBH Master Class. It runs from June 23 through August 2 (six weeks) and costs $120. Please go here to read the class description and testimonials from former students. You may enroll here.

We’ve already done early-bird enrollment so space is limited!

If the timing isn’t right for you, you can join the early-bird announcement list for the next class. (No dates have yet been set.)

We are also enrolling the first Summer Seminar on Mentoring PBH Groups. It will be two weeks long and will run from August 4 through 16. It costs $75.

Please note you must have already taken the master class to take this seminar! You can dual enroll as long as space is available.

For more information and to enroll, please go here. If you would like to get on the early-bird list for next year’s class, you may do that here. If we repeat this seminar it won’t be until next summer!

Questions about anything? E-mail me!

Thank you as always for your support!

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It’s my birthday and I have presents for you

Published by Lori Pickert on May 16, 2014 at 09:08 AM

A birthday banner made of original comic strips!

• • •

It’s my birthday and I want to give you a present!

This summer I’m going to teach a series of free one-week classes — and today you can sign up!

Free Summer Classes 2014

#1: Journaling Boot & Reboot — June 15-21

Whether you want to journal about PBH, your own meaningful work, start a gratitude habit, or gain insight into your values and goals, you can use this free one-week class to jumpstart a great practice for this summer and beyond. This class is for you but we’ll also talk about how to inspire kids to journal and the best way to support and encourage them while letting them own the process and do it their own way. Sign up here!

Stay tuned for announcements of more classes as summer goes on! (To make sure you don’t miss anything, join our e-mail list!)

I give because I love. <3_<3
 
(If you want to give ME a present, please consider reviewing my book on Amazon! Other than a hug and a really big cake, that’s all I want. And I already have the cake.)
 
Read more about the free classes here — and keep checking back as we update!

Small Wins Wednesday: Becoming specialists

Published by Lori Pickert on May 13, 2014 at 08:05 PM

Visiting the bird specialist at the Field Museum. The tail on the Sap-Sucker is stiff to stablize it when going up and down trees.

• • •

Every Wednesday we share a small win from the forumTwitter, the Facebook page, or (with the writer’s permission) from the mail bag.

This week’s small win is from akari:

Today my boys 5 and 7 visited the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago as guest visitors, providing the museum with a dead yellow-bellied sapsucker (found after a window accident) as a specimen. The boys were given a tour of the bird division behind the scene by the bird head there and even met the only artist in residence of the museum!

(Older son commented later on, “Oh, I wish I could paint like her…” I found a book that she wrote on how to paint and I now have ordered for it to be on hold at the public library.)

My older son developed a strong interest in birds that seemed to have been triggered by encouraging naturalist grandmas, their most recent Christmas gifts, and seeing their birder lifestyles. The interest seems to have evolved from the boys’ original strong interest in dinosaurs. We used to call the herds of Canada geese various grazing dinosaur names. Also there was an opportunity at my older son’s Saturday Japanese school to make “product drawings” for their chosen stores in February. T made 23 drawings of birds in 3 days for that project and continued to draw continuously for some time.

A great artist neighbor also around the time commissioned my boys to design postcards to send to a daughter in NY to help celebrate her 30th year. I showed T how to scan drawings, clean them up, combine and edit on photoshop. The feedback and the little notes our neighbor sent our boys after each delivery were very encouraging. We will be delivering more postcards.

Towards the end of winter we started to feed birds (started from sunflower heads we grew last year) in our backyard (metra train embankment), and now we have a squirrel-buster feeder, a handmade thistle feeder for goldfinches, a suet feeder, and a hummingbird feeder that we have gradually added. We have counted over 15 different species of birds that now come to our feeders and they have developed interest in photography through it. T has submitted a number of his bird photos to the Ranger Rick photo contest and is eager to observe new migrating birds that visit us. We learned about a website called e-bird, from our new ornithologist friend, that would now allow the boys to report their bird sightings. We might set up a birdbath, nesting boxes, and even plant more flowers that would attract hummingbirds. We have a gardening day scheduled for our apartment community, and the boys and I are discussing the possibility of setting up a bird photo gallery (of visitors to our feeders) in the hallway to share with neighbors during snack time.

This win feels big because of how expansive this project is getting to be. They are becoming specialists! Also, my reasons for taking part in the PBH master class was to learn how to help integrate community input and stimulation to their work. I had always been shy about showing other people what my boys do but I think I am getting over that a bit for their own benefit. I feel that I am finally able to put to practice what I have always believed. My kids belong to the world and not just to our small family.

I am most grateful for the PBH community, a supportive husband, and the timing of this strong interest momentum, as I will soon be more busy with the arrival of a new baby. I am encouraged that the growing independence in our boys is gently making the necessary room for me to build a new relationship with a new baby. :)

After I asked akari if I could share her small win here, she added this addendum:

I wanted to add just one more comment. Especially if you might share my report with more people.

This moment of celebration and inspiration to report back to the PBH community as the mother/observer/helper came to me at this particular moment it seems also because I had been feeling rather discouraged about many other things that had been going on in my family. Not to bore you with details but to illustrate what I mean…

My husband’s health is not particularly good and we are currently having trouble straightening out the most basics of health insurance dealings with BCBS. If my husband cannot work any more, I will have to be out working which will put a fast stop to our homeschooling endeavors. We are renovating a new apartment unit where my mother is scheduled to stay prior to and when the baby arrives. The schedule is quite delayed and people are not living up to their promises. My feet swell now and they hurt. I only have a month left where the baby is in a neat little bundle within me. I have a beloved kitty dying with a kidney disease. He had always been with me laboring through every home birth…

When I read positive and happy comment that people make, I tend to get a fixed image of that person “yay”-ing and smiling all the time. But if I stop and think about it I know that is probably not the case. I know that just like all the challenges that I am facing, everyone else has their own challenges. Living is tough sometimes and for that we want to and need to celebrate all that we can say “Yay!!” about. So for the time being and for this particular project I’ve been working on with my kids, “Yay!”

• • •

Yay! Thank you so much for sharing your small win — real people doing real work are more inspiring than anything. 

Why do we share small wins? Because we put on our attention on what we want to grow. We support each other, celebrate each other’s successes, and we make more of the good stuff!

Have you had a small win this week? Whether it’s related to PBH or not, please share in the comments!

More birds he recognized. And they got to touch them!

Filling the bird feeders.

T making a thistle seed bird feeder, after we saw a goldfinch.

T drew 26 birds in three days.

Custom postcard made in Photoshop.

 

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