Saturday, August 9, 2014

My Design for Learning

The important thing is not to stop questioning. 
Never lose a holy curiosity.
~Albert Einstein~

I feel people learn best when they are comfortable, have access to anything they want to know, and are treated with respect. I believe that when you learn what you love, you will learn it well and remember it.  My design for learning is something I've built over a lifetime of over 60 years and even after this course, I believe it to be the ideal. 
It was no surprise to find that I am a Distributed Individual Learner, with Distributed Collective Learner coming in second. I spent my early years despising school as it took time away from my learning. But having a dad who was an educator gave me some respite. He would take me out of school when possible, including several months of 6th grade, traveling with him and living in India. I have always been motivated to learn on my own, pursuing whatever I wanted to know. As a high school student in the late 1960s in a traditional high school, I got permission from our principal to organize two days of An Experiment in Self-Initiated Education, very similar to the Somerville Skillshare we saw in class.  Through college and beyond, I continue to learn new things all the time.
As a parent, I knew there were better options than traditional school, and having curious children, we decided unschooling would work best. This allowed our kids to choose what they wanted to learn, how they wanted to learn it, and with whom (if anyone) they wanted to learn it. I guess you could call me the leader of our learning organization, but I referred to myself as their facilitator.  Learning and living were so entwined, it’s even hard to write about it. Our home was always full of books, gadgets, and toys to play with. We spent much time outdoors, exploring fields, creeks, mountains, city streets — wherever curiosity led.  There were trips to far-off states and other countries, with parents, grandparents, and friends. There were large spaces to create in our home, and small spaces to cozy up with a book, or  with a cat or dog to ponder. 
The kids joined swim, basketball, and soccer teams, Girl Scouts, youth groups, and our public library and rec center held programs for homeschoolers in the later years of our learning adventures, which our youngest was able to take advantage of. The internet became more of a presence in learning at that time as well.  We worked one day each week at a soup kitchen, feeding the homeless in our community.  The kids still remind me how much they learned from the men and women we served. They saw adults learning as well, both at home and in the community.

Our goal for our kids was that they learn how to learn, that there are many ways to learn something, that anyone can be a “teacher,” including themselves, and that the world was theirs.  They all went on to traditional universities and by society’s standards would be considered successful graduates. But more importantly, they are good human beings, compassionate people, and have never lost that holy curiosity!  As for myself, EDX and Coursera keep me occupied. I am so grateful to be alive at this exciting time.  There is so much to learn out there, with so many avenues.  
Comfortable spaces, both emotionally and physically, and access to tools, books, people and nature.  For us, a perfect learning environment. I wish that for everyone.   

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Norman Vincent Peale said, "We tend to get what we expect." How true. I expect goodness. Truth. Integrity. Miracles. And I expect peace. Most of the time I get what I expect. And this has led me to a happier place.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Photo A Day: black+white

When is saw that the prompt for today's photo was "black+white," I immediately knew what I had to photograph. An old Catholic catechism that we found a while back at a thrift store. It packages Catholicism into a nice, neat box where, for every question, there is one answer. Nice and tidy. If only life were that easy. I have yet to discover a totally black and white issue.

Life is easy when you have all the answers. You never have to worry. You just do what the rules tell you to do, and you refrain from all the rest. Piece of cake. But I am full of questions and can imagine all kinds of "what ifs."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Photo A Day: looking down

Looking down --- on a house that is unbelievably huge, with several sections only slightly connected. What kind of family buys/builds a house like this? Is it one that has many, many children?  Let's say 20, and they all need their own room?  Hmmm... probably not.  Perhaps a family of individuals who don't really want to be a family, or do family things?  When I walked by this house I felt sick that someone could take up so much space and resources. But I also felt very, very sad.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Photo A Day: something you're grateful for

So many things that I'm grateful for, but for today's prompt I decided on Literacy Outreach, the program I volunteer with. In the last year and a half I have met so many wonderful folks through this program, from Martha, who's in charge of it all, to my student and her beautiful husband and children, and to all of the moms and their little ones who come to the library on Monday mornings for our Conversation Circle.  

My student is amazing. She's keeps busy with her family and church activities, caring so lovingly for her husband, sons, and daughter, and leading the music group at her church. She has the voice of an angel and plays several instruments. DH and I have unofficially adopted them all and consider ourselves Grama and Grampa!  Such fun. 

Most of the moms in the Conversation Circle are waiting for individual tutors, so while they wait they can come and  learn some new vocabulary, play some games, and practice what they already know. And their little ones get to play with other little ones,  and hear English being spoken, and -- big benefit --- see Mama learning a new language. When I mentioned to one little boy, a kindergartner, that he needed to make sure his mama practiced English as homework, he giggled and thought that was the funniest thing ever. Mama has homework! 

I am grateful for this wonderful program, through which I have met many new friends and enlarged my family!  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bellagatta's birthday

This is Bellagatta, the newest member of our little family. We got her at the Rescue Center near us and she has been so much fun. Like any cat, she spends a fair amount of time sleeping.

We purchased several "cat toys" at the pet store but Bellagatta prefers to make her own. Like this twisty-tie. And bottle caps. 

 Today was her first birthday so we decided to have a little party. We're caring for our friend's dog, so of course he was invited. He refused to wear the party hat, but loved the sardines. Our little neighbor came over, wore a hat, and held Bella's bowl of sardines with the candle. Bellagatta, however, refused to attend. Too bad. It was a fine party.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

More fun coming on Bella's blog.  Soon.  Run'way is returning!
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