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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Life Skills for Teens: College and Beyond

Before your children leave the house for college or a job in the workforce, acquiring certain life skills will set them up for success. Some you can teach them, while others they may learn in the digital world. The following are just a few skills you can teach them:

Advanced Cooking

Everyone knows ramen is the platform of the college student's food pyramid. But it doesn't have to be. While a well-prepared meal is something your teens have taken for granted, teach them how to prepare some of their favorite meals, and they'll thank you for it in the long run.

Make sure they know their way around a kitchen and how to use specialized kitchen tools like a heavy-duty slicer for meats and cheeses.
Teach them how to sear, braze and season with precision. Make sure they know how much they can save if they pack their own lunch with home-prepared sandwiches compared with purchased food from cafes. If your teens know their way around a kitchen, they'll also be able to land a job at a restaurant or deli easier than if they live off ramen in their dorm room.

Second Language 

The United States is quickly becoming a multilingual country. Whether you know a second language or not, make sure your kids study a second language throughout school and into college. Those who enter the workforce with proficiency in a second language can expect a 10 to 15 percent pay increase.
An estimated 25,000 jobs in interpretation are estimated to be created between 2010 and 2020, a growth rate of 42 percent, according to CNN, and this market doesn't include the military.
Sixty-six percent of recruiters in North America agreed that proficiency in a second or third language will increase in importance over the next 10 years. People who are bilingual have more opportunities and typically make more money than those who aren't.
Give your children a head start and encourage them if they enjoy linguistics and languages.

College Isn't for Everyone 

Some jobs don't require a second language or even a college degree. W
ith the digitization of everyday life, social media managers, marketers and freelance writers have more opportunities than ever before. Well-written content and concise messages are in high demand.
You don't necessarily need a college degree for a job as a freelance writer or a social media marketer. However, you do need writing skills for both jobs.
Some writers are better editors than others, but freelance writers and social media gurus should at least be decent editors of their own work. A love of writing is essential for this career path. If your teens have a love for the written word, encourage them to research either of these jobs.
While Instagram, Twitter and Facebook can seem like a waste of time, many businesses and corporations pay good money for a well-managed account and concisely written copy.

image: Moyan Brenn


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Learning isn't linear

Whenever I talk to people about unschooling, I get the question: “but how does that work”. Really, what they mean is: “How do people learn”.

Over our 7 years of unschooling, I must say that learning does not - not even closely - resemble the way the schooling system believes it does.

In a traditional system, learning is believed to be linear. You do reading 101, regularly, then pile it up with 102 and so on. You continue this practice for about 14, 16, 18 years, depending on where you live, and in the end you’re accomplished.

Now, just from observing my own children, and conversations with other unstopping parents, learning isn’t linear AT ALL. If I have to define it with some ‘shae’, I’d say the spiral comes close. It’s cyclical, it moves away and back to the ‘core’, and it’s ever continuing.

My eldest has a taste for the written word. She’s 7 and can only read and write her own name. In Belgium, that’s quite the shock. But she loves the written word. She loves pretending to write, look at words, and be read to… As much as possible. We’ve been reading chapter books for quite a while now and have covered many classics and half the Harry Potter books.

Yet she doesn’t read yet.

Her interest in words started about when she was two. We’re a heavy reading family, so even early on I would read to her. Anything really. She’d point at words and ask me what that word is. I’d tell her, point to similarities… Then she lost interest, the pointing out words game wasn’t frequent anymore.
A while later, when she was about three, I know for a fact she could recognise some letters or at least letter groups. Pa and Ma for example.

She went through a phase where she did lots and lots of pre writing exercises.
Then at about 6, she did a lot of very scholarly early reading and writing.
Now, at 7 and a half, she talks about learning to read again. It comes and goes.

Now, my daughter is a perfectionist and like to get things ‘just’ right (wonder where she gets that from), I figure she probably recognises some letters, or later sequences, but is too proud to meddle. She’ll probably be one of those kids who one day picks up a chapter book and just reads it. And astounds us all.
And that’s ok.

Now, I am her mother and I observe her closely. I have been with her nearly every day of her life. I see her effort, I see her achievements, I (sort of) see her progress. Some things are small and escape me at first.

Other people don’t notice these small things because they aren’t as closely involved. “Can she read yet,” is all they ask. Reading, however, is a process, not a possession. She’ll get there, but in people’s linear view of learning, there’s just no understanding how exactly this is happening, or where she is on her path. She could very well read tomorrow. Or in a couple of years. I don’t know. But I don’t worry.

To cast the full picture: I myself, was an early reader, so the not reading, learning to read process has been very much one of learning to let go for myself. For a long time, I was anxious about it. I had read extensively about unstopping and knew that children learn to read at very diverse ages. Somewhere between 4 and 14, quite a vast span. But I was somehow confident that my children would be early readers, too… How could they not be? I’m a writer, we read, and I was an early reader myself.

Comes to show that unschooling is all about deschooling yourself and putting your assumptions to the test.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Pushing Through - What Kyriarchy has Taught Us About Our Periods

On Monday, I had a bit of a girl's moment with an Amerikan woman working here in Mulanje with Peace Corps. She's running a cloth pad program for the girls in the local school and so that was the topic of conversation. In Africa very few girls go to school, and statistics drop massively as soon as they hit puberty. During their periods, girls tend to stay at home, leading them to get behind on the boys and eventually drop out. 
One of the reasons girls don't go to school while they're on their period is shame. Easy period options like pads or tampons or cups are simply not available. The horror of being called out, having it known that they are on their period is just as predominant as in the West, except that here, leaking and bloodstains are much more of a reality.
wasbaar maandverband
Insert: cloth pads. Leaking is avoided and girls can just go to school while on their period
Or can they?
Below her breath, my friend whispers that the girls here just haven't learned to 'push through' like we have. They experience their period as an ordeal, they feel squeamish and sick. So they don't go to school. Teachers tend to think the girls are just lazy. My feminine solicitude tingles.   
Pushing through is indeed something we have learned in the West, because we don't want to be less than a man, do we? The culture of 'equality for all' has been translated as 'everyone the same', which even was a goal for the first feminist wave. We have learned to ignore and underestimate our clear biological differences. Yet it is unmistakeable that there are differences between man and woman. 
wasbaar maandverbandOne of them is the fact that women have their period about once every month. 
Traditional cultures hold a time of separation for women while they are on their period. Our dominant views in the West have translated this as a sexist seclusion from society for something as trivial as a period. We read it as women being unclean, shunned. However, during the separation period, women get a time of rest, healing and restoration. Something much needed during the flow. 
If you ask the majority of Western women if they'd rather spend time in seclusion, taking care of themselves and their body while on their period, I figure you get a wholehearted "yes". 
That's why the Red Tent movement is gaining such momentum. 
So, instead of forcing girls to deny themselves, their feelings, their physical sensations and making their bodies subjects of kyriarchy, let's validate women! Let's all recognise each other and search for a different way of existing in society as a woman. Without lagging behind on the men, but without ignoring our true selves. 


Monday, September 14, 2015

Unschooling: What if I Don't Have the Right Answer?

Recently, I was confronted with this question by a parent who was interested in unschooling her child: "What if I don't have the right answer?". She continued by highlighting children's inquisitive nature and her limited knowledge of things in general.
"I am highly passionate about my field," she said, "but what about the things I don't know? What if my child asks me about history, which I know very little about?"

The notion of the One Right Answer and the Summit of Knowledge is very much part of the school paradigm. In a school setting, the teacher holds the Right Answers, all of them, and each question just has one. This is possible because the information seen in the span of a lesson is controlled and pre-established.

There is no such thing in unschooling.

First of all, we break through the notion that there is just one answer. Sometimes there are none, sometimes there are many.
In unschooling, there is also no top down transfer of knowledge such as is attempted in a school setting, so sometimes the answer comes from the parent sometimes the answer comes from the child but it can just as easily come from a third party a book or the internet.

What is important is the process, the stimulation of seeking the answers. The feeding of the mind.

Whenever I don't have the answer, I will ask my child what she thinks. You will be surprised at the vast array of answers that come up. They might not al be 'true' but they will stimulate learning. Stimulating the way of finding answers is also much more important than just handing a clean cut answer to your child. And before you object to this method of learning, it's actually an established method of learning, called the Socratic method. After Socrates, who would entice his students to learning by answering each question with a question. Though I must admit I'm not as good as he was, I have to remind myself not to just answer the question every time. Then again, I was conventionally schooled.
Showing your child how to discern scientific information from hearsay, how to find the right references, discerning fiction from fact, that is what is important, and that is something you don't have when you're concerned of always offering the 'right' answer.

Furthermore, it is important that your child sees that you don't hold all the knowledge that you too are learning all the time. This may be a most stimulating notion. Monkey see, monkey do, also works when learning is concerned. If an unschooled child is confronted with an eternally learning parent, he too will wonder about the world, and seek out knowledge about the things that grasp his interest.

Unschooling requires a change of paradigm. If you can accept that answers will be found in due time, if you can grow that trust, then you're almost there.