Monday, May 28, 2012

Components For Educational Growth - Part 1 of 2



 The Battle Song From The Movie Narnia





Alex, studying at the dinner table, many years ago at our old home in CA.


Alex's mother has always home schooled Alex...
whether or not he was in a formal school.

When he came home from Kindergarten...
he would sit at the dinner table for his mother's advanced lessons
(ever since he was 3 years old...he was used to a structured 8 hours a day of learning).

His formal education is an everyday affair
(although on weekends and vacations, it is modified to just
4-5 hours of formal study - and a few more hours of informal study)...
as this is a key component in developing a culture of intellectual growth.



In my mind, there are...


 Four basic components for educational growth (at home):

Timing Of Structure

Placement

Quantity

Quality



Two basic guiding supplementary components:

Positive Reinforcement

Conceptual Guidance



One inherently adaptable governing program management component:

Advancement by Merit 
(as dictated by results)



While I shall delve into each component
(the first article will cover the four basic components)...
I first would like to point out some evidence toward the merit 
of establishing a culture of education.


Asians...
as a group, excel in academics in America.

Because of race?

NO

It is because of a culture of education firmly established in their households.


Education is highly prized, and throughly praised, in Asian cultures in general
(and this is important...it is fully supported by the parents).

I know in many Asian households...
everything else takes a back seat to the child's studies.


----------------------

*Note...when I say "he" in my writings...it is generic for he or she.

-----------------------


When their child gets home...
he immediately does his homework...
at the dinner table.

His mother may then keep a helpful eye on her child
as he does his studies without distraction.

His mother may then prepare their dinner and easily walk over
to her child and explain concepts to him.

As the child has always had the attention of his mother...
her steady guidance helping advance him beyond his grade...
he sees school as a place to demonstrate his abilities.

Each test is his chance to show his great pride in his efforts.
Each grade is a step closer to what he wishes to be in his future.

Now...
it is not the expectation of the parents for their child to become a doctor...necessarily.

However...
it IS necessary that should he wish to go to medical school...
he could... as a direct result of his accumulated knowledge and academic standing.


So...
with my take on the whys...
let me go into the hows.



Four basic components:


TIMING OF STRUCTURE: 

 As a rule...
initiated as soon as practical...
both, in terms of life...
and day by day.


In general...
humans thrive on predictability as a result of structure in their lives.

With perceived gains toward goals...
in an efficient and effective manner...
they know their efforts are not wasted.

They feel productive and have a sense of time, and of future.

It is not work that humans disdain so much.

It is sustained unproductive effort that becomes mind numbing...
or even worse...
not having a purpose in life due to either having no direction...
or a seen path to reach a goal...
 that presents a sense of hopelessness and depression (situational).

In general...
with correct conditioning of the psyche through effort and reward...
a love of learning is instilled
(through the achievement of closely spaced objectives...
more on this later).

What an early start in a structured educational program does is:

Provide a norm of expectations by being on a Positive Spiral in life from the start.


To know the great pleasures to be had from sustained effort BEFORE the rewards...
is to learn Deferred Gratification
(which naturally leads to a magnification of the reward due to anticipation).

It is to learn one of the chief lessons of happiness in life.

To have a goal is to have a dream.
To have a dream is to have hope for the future.
To be able to actively pursue that dream through efficient efforts
is to enjoy not only the anticipation of the rewards...
it is to enjoy the sense of passion and purpose achieved through the efforts.

It is to enjoy the process, ever more, the higher you go.
The pleasure just builds with each passing advancement toward the goal.

Humans get used to standards...
in either a positive or negative manner.

A person who learns to reap his rewards after the effort...
always has something to look forward to.

A person who learns to reap his rewards before an effort...
always has dread to look forward to.

Once he has claimed his reward...
he has lost his anticipation...
his passion...
his sense of purpose.

That is when his life becomes WORK...with nothing to look forward to...but more work. 

 Such a situation leads to begrudgingly working...
to constantly spend more time and effort trying to get out of it...
than actually doing it.

It is to be on a Negative Spiral.


This applies for the short term, as well as for the long.

To have a child study FIRST...
as soon as he gets home from school...
allows him to truly enjoy what ever time off he has afterward...
without the dark cloud looming overhead of uncompleted work robbing
him of whatever pleasure he seeks.

He is imprisoned by dread instead of knowing, not only true freedom...
but the true happiness of a hard won reward
(a couch potato drinking his normal soft drink knows nothing of the great pleasure...
 and true sweetness, of a cool glass of water after a strenuous workout).

To allow a child to play video games first...
and then have to study, is to condition him to see studying as work...
instead of as a pleasure.

What is seen as work, is seen as a discomfort.
That which is seen as a discomfort...is avoided.
That which is avoided...is not achieved.




PLACEMENT:

A place of study which is in close proximity and of easy accessibility to a parent...
and in a place of high visibility, is not Orwellian....
it has a purpose.

Remember...
with a set place of study initiated early on...
these conditions are not only expected from the child...
they are favored.

He will have fond memories of his mother and father explaining things to him...
of lovingly guiding him in his studies.

A perfect place in many households...is the dinner table.
The chairs provide comfortable seating while still promoting good posture.
The table has plenty of room to spread out his materials, and the whole set up
is usually in good view from many places in the household.

When a child knows that whenever he is having trouble understanding a concept...
that one of his parents will help guide him in his studies...
instead of berating him for not understanding...
and knowing that when he does well...
he will receive praise instead of nonchalance saying it was expected of him...
he is not sitting in a hot seat...
but on a throne.

He strives to do well...
and to have his parent's attention...
knowing that they are his balance pole and safety net...
as he walks the high wire without fear.

He is exhilarated by the audience and by their applause.
He learns to love performing.

His parents may see him as he studies...
and get to know when he is struggling on a problem
by his body english or facial expression...
by a lack of page turning...
or by a lack of writing.

Periodically, they may check on him and monitor his progress.
They may steer him clear of frustration and many fruitless hours
of misguided effort by explaining fundamental principles.

By making his studies a priority in your household...
by making sure there are no disturbances (no music, T.V...etc)...
lets him know how seriously you take his studies.

By letting him know how important his future is to you...
you are letting him know how important HE is to you.

A reason to not have a child study alone in his room is that it separates
so much of what is good in having a parent monitor her child easily...
 and by being easily seen by the child.

It lets the child know that he is not in it alone...
that his parents are there in body...
as well as in spirit.

In essence...
it is not asking how a child did at his football game...
at his concert or recital, because you weren't there.
It is being there watching him perform...
letting him know you were there...
rooting for him...
caring enough to have been there to have been able to immortalize 
his achievements in your mind.

This difference alone makes it worthwhile.

Another important factor is that it takes away any impulse to be diverted.
 He will not be tempted to take breaks before the task at hand has been completed
 (you provide breaks between study sessions).



QUANTITY:

In short...
it is in having him do enough without doing too much.

OK...
just what is this magical optimal amount?

Ah...
this, of course, varies among children...
their aptitude and attitude...
not only from child to child...
but day to day with each child.

You see...
it is governed not by time...
but by achievement.

This way the child is not under control by the clock...
the child controls the clock.

He has every reason to give his effort his all...
as the quicker he understands...
the more time he will have to himself.

It is management by objective.

You have reasonable daily objectives...
(and with DAILY studying...each session may be shorter...
more easily digestible...more palatable).

And...
with each objective achievement...
always give plentiful amounts praise.

Now...
as a child educationally matures...
so will his ability to learn more in each session
(kept within reason - under most circumstances...
a child should have, at least, one hour a day of absolute free time on a school night).

The real test is how well he performs in his studies.


A general rule:

Watch for signs of under stimulation...necessitating more stimulating objectives
(boredom...apathy toward studies).

Watch for signs of over stimulation...necessitating more closely spaced objectives
with more frequent breaks
(rebellion...frustration).



QUALITY:


First and foremost...
100% understanding should be the goal.

Is it reasonable to expect 100% all the time?

NO

Is it reasonable to expect 100% some of the time?

YES


Steady progress comes from not being happy with a 95%...a 99%.
It comes from finding out, after each and every test...
where that one question was that was missed...
finding out why...
the misunderstood concept...
the careless mistake...
and learning it well enough to be able to solve it in the future.

Supplemental exercises from advanced work will keep your child ahead of the class...
so he will look forward to school.

Alex's homework is not finished until we check it.
If we find a mistake...
we have him research it...
and make corrections.

Should he not understand a concept...
we will run him through a similar type of problem until understanding occurs...
or we will illustrate the concept using everyday examples.
He then will be able to understand and answer his previously unanswered problem.


Especially when it comes to math...
we must research true experts in the field to teach Alex the concepts.

My wife is constantly researching new teaching software / DVD / websites
for advanced math, as Alex is not only almost beyond our capability to comprehend
his problems...his rate of learning ensures that he will eclipse our capability to research
and learn a math subject to teach him.  It is just enough now that my wife researches how
to work out a type of problem if Alex gets stuck.  It is long and laborious for my wife.
When my son realizes his mistake....he is off and running once again.



Now...
a large component of true education lies in the ability to correctly reason.

This should be started as early as possible.

Books, educational games and puzzles stimulate reasoning capabilities.

My wife used most of these when Alex was in Kindergarten and 2nd grade
(Alex skipped 1st grade).





With this slider puzzle...
Alex had figured out the principle for correctly sequencing the numbers efficiently
on his own.  From a scrambled position...to correct sequence 1 - 15...
and then backwards...from 15 - 1... took him under 5 minutes. 
 I believe he was in third grade at the time when he would revel in demonstrating this to us.









Alex had quickly grasped the Abacus concept...
although he was already quicker multiplying figures in his head in Kindergarten.







Always remember...
the number one quality in education...
is the ability to correctly reason.

With correct reasoning...
a child will be able to figure out
that which he already does not know.


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