Posted in Inspiration, Tips for Parents, Tips for Students

Catch Up or Keep Up?

Something that I often find myself reminding students and parents alike is that “it’s easier to play keep up than catch up”. In other words, it requires less time, energy, and attention to stay current with your responsibilities than it does to get caught up when you are behind.

What it really comes down to is being proactive. Playing keep up means being proactive in your life, which corresponds to ease and and a positive sense of control. Playing catch-up means being reactive, which corresponds to feelings of helplessness and overwhelm.

If you’re a student, whether you’re constantly working a week ahead of your classes or a week behind, you have to maintain the same pace, but one position gives rise to a lot more stress than the other!

This is also why I counsel parents to have a conversation with their kids at the beginning of each semester where they look at their upcoming classes and consider whether the student is likely to need the help of a tutor in any of them, and be proactive about the hiring decision, rather than waiting until the student is struggling and lost before taking action.

Is “playing keep up, rather than catch up” something that you can relate to from your own experience? If so, let me know how in the comments!

Posted in Educational Reform, Gamification, Inspiration

Gamification: The Coming Wave Of Education

Tech blogger and serial entrepreneur Peter Diamandis, famous for opening up the space frontier with the original Ansari X-Prize for commercialized spaceflight, recently wrote

“In the traditional education system, you start at an ‘A,’ and every time you get something wrong, your score gets lower and lower. At best it’s demotivating, and at worst it has nothing to do with the world you occupy as an adult. In the gaming world (e.g. Angry Birds), it’s just the opposite. You start with zero and every time you come up with something right, your score gets higher and higher.”

This quote gets to the heart of why I think gamification is the coming wave of education. Gamified learning is not only more relevant and efficient than traditional learning, it is inherently exciting and motivating. Long recognized as a powerful productivity tool in the business and sales realms, gamification is just now starting to make headway in education. One of the most popular language-learning apps, Duolingo, gamifies the process of learning a new language. Even more exciting, to my mind, is that what started as a commercial app like any other is now making its way into classrooms, helping to transform the school experience into something more fun and empowering.

The implications of this to me seem staggering. Imagine a world where “education” and “school” aren’t things that we have to make kids do, but that all kids want to do. Where there are no deadlines or barriers to learning anything, and any person of any age can begin to learn any subject at any time, as easily as getting addicted to the latest mobile game. How will this affect social mobility and intellectual freedom? How will it affect governments and corporations? How will it affect communities, families, and individuals? One thing I’m sure of is that I’m excited to see!

Posted in Independent Education, Inspiration, Tips for Students

How To Know If You Should Drop Out Of Shool

There is a lot of social pressure to go to school and to college, but neither is absolutely necessary to lead a fulfilling and successful life. Just ask any of the thousands of unschooled kids across the nation, or any of the college dropouts who have become billionaires. School is only a means to an end, and shouldn’t be confused with the end itself. Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are considering taking an alternate route:

Are You Willing To Take On More Responsibility?

Are you willing to make decisions for yourself about what to learn and how? Are you willing to define your own goals and keep yourself on track towards achieving them? Unschooling yourself means drawing free-hand on the canvas of life instead of connecting the dots. This can only work if you are willing to be creative, courageous, and responsible. Quitting school doesn’t mean you get to do nothing instead; it means you have the freedom, and the responsibility, to do more.

Do You Have A Vision?

Do you have a vision of what you would like to achieve? Is school helping you realize that vision or is it getting in the way? If you can see a more direct route to pursue your objectives in life, then by all means follow it, and don’t doubt that you will be able to learn whatever you need to learn along the way.

Are You Passionate About What You Are Studying?

This is essentially the only reason to be in school: if you are passionate and excited about what you are studying, so that the learning process is rewarding in and of itself, then by all means keep doing it. There’s no reason to punish yourself with boredom and misery in exchange for some vaguely promised delayed gratification, when life is meant to be seized and enjoyed, and there is so much you could be doing right now that would be rewarding, satisfying, and practical.

Posted in Educational Reform, Independent Education, Inspiration, Tips for Students

That’s Just The Way It Is…NOT, Part 3

So many aspects of our modern lives and the way society is structured are taken for granted, and we just assume things are the way they are because they have to be that way. This series of posts looks at a few of the hidden assumptions we commonly make about education.

You Have To Go To College If You Want A Good Job

This conventional wisdom of the baby boom era is erroneous in two ways:

1. It is no longer true that you have to go to college to get a “good job”


2. It is no longer true that you have to get a “good job” to have a successful, exciting, satisfying, or rewarding career.

“What do you want to do?” is no longer synonymous with “What job do you want to have?”, but can more and more be answered quite literally:

“I want to go on adventures”

“I want to write”

“I want to make art”

“I want to help people discover themselves”

“I want to photograph wildlife”

“I want to heal people”

“I want to make people laugh”

“I want to create companies”

“I want to teach”

Any of these or countless similar aspirations can indeed form the foundation of a successful career.  Just as the huge lumbering dinosaurs were replaced by small, nimble, and adaptable mammals as environmental conditions changed, the changing technological environment and the resultant diffusion of the means of economic productivity is causing the huge, monolithic organization to become extinct, quickly to be replaced by tiny start-ups and independent solo operators.

These days you can be a freelance just-about-anything, and the opportunities to create a totally new career from scratch are only limited by the restrictions on the human imagination.  From 16-year-old sailors circumnavigating the globe, to 17-year-old nuclear physicists, to whole families bicycling around the world, more and more lifestyle pioneers are showing us all that life can be about so much more than getting a “good job” – if you want it to be.

Posted in Educational Reform, Homeschooling, Independent Education, Inspiration

That’s Just The Way It Is…NOT, Part 2

So many aspects of our modern lives and the way society is structured are taken for granted, and we just assume things are the way they are because they have to be that way. This series of posts looks at a few of the hidden assumptions we commonly make about education.

You Have To Go To School, Like Everyone Else

If there’s one thing that characterizes modern life, it’s options.  The freedom available to individuals in terms of the number of options for almost everything is expanding and accelerating.  This includes options about what to learn, how to learn, how to earn money, and how to pursue a fulfilling career.

Research has already shown that people perform better at all types of tasks when they get to choose what to work on, and they learn better when they study the things they are interested in.  For now school is still obligatory for most, but it is only a matter of time before governments and educational institutions catch on to the fact that their most effective role is not to mandate the learning process, but to facilitate it.  In the mean time, there are thousands of homeschooling and unschooling families are proving by example, in countless ways, that public school isn’t for everyone, and that the options for how to pursue an education and a career are limitless.

Mark Twain famously said that he had never let his schooling interfere with his education, and in today’s world we can all take this advice even more to heart, as there is no longer any reason that schooling has to interfere with education.  Instead of trying to march in lock-step with a fixed curriculum, you can learn about whatever you want, whenever you want, and let passion and interest guide you to master any type of knowledge or skill you desire, as well as design a rewarding career for yourself.

Posted in Educational Reform, Homeschooling, Inspiration, Tips for Parents

That’s Just The Way It Is…NOT, Part 1

So many aspects of our modern lives and the way society is structured are taken for granted, and we just assume things are the way they are because they have to be that way. This series of posts looks at a few of the hidden assumptions we commonly make about education.

Parents At Work, Kids At School

The fragmentation of family life is an artifact of corporate culture, but it’s not how most people truly want to live. It seems so normal now for parents to spend most of their day working outside the home and kids to spend most of their day at school that it’s easy to forget that this isn’t an arrangement ordained by nature.

In fact, many parents pine for all the moments they miss having with their kids, and miss having the chance to see them grow up. Most parents feel that they have no choice, and that leading separate lives from their kids is a matter of economic necessity.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way, and many families are proving that learning and life don’t have to be separate. Not only that, but work and life don’t have to be separate either. Go to school, get a job, work until you retire is still the dominant paradigm, but it is fading faster and faster as more and more individuals and families discover the alternatives made ever more accessible by the emerging connection economy. As the human family wakes up to its technological and social potential, the old assumptions about how we must organize our lives become more and more obsolete and less and less appealing.

Planning your life is no longer a matter of selecting from a menu of available options, it’s an open-source, DIY, choose yourself free-for-all. The bottom line is this: if you want to actually grow up with your kids instead of seeing it happen from afar, you don’t have to get permission, you just have to decide to make it happen, and get to work figuring out the nuts and bolts. If this family can do what they did, any family can equally well live the life they choose.

Posted in Inspiration, Tips for Students

I.Q. Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

Some kids give up on trying to learn math because they think they’re not smart enough.  Others are afraid of asking for help because they don’t want to appear dumb.  Both cases result from the mistaken emphasis placed on IQ.

If I.Q. is a thing that we can even measure, then it is a measure of how well a person can solve the types of problems that appear on I.Q. tests.  This really doesn’t tell us much about a person or their potential for achievement, any more than any other narrow metric would, such as how much weight you can lift, or how well you can draw.

Above-average intelligence is a gift to be sure, but everyone is gifted in different ways.  If you are wishing to have someone else’s gifts, it is because you aren’t fully appreciating your own.  Someone who has a high I.Q. might wish to be gifted with more physical beauty, someone who is physically beautiful might wish to be gifted with more athleticism, someone who is gifted with athleticism might wish to be gifted with a better sense of humor.  All such wishing is pointless, because it prevents us from appreciating, enjoying, and sharing the gifts we have.  It is also misguided, because when we are doing it we aren’t realizing that people who have those gifts we are wishing for aren’t necessarily having a better experience of life than we are.  Someone who is naturally athletic, beautiful, intelligent, or is born with tons of money in all probability lives with their own set of regrets and limitations that you would be glad not to have.

Intelligence is certainly not the determining factor in how well you do in school.  As one recent article states,

“A highly intelligent person might solve their homework in half an hour. An actively intelligent person starts their homework early, takes longer, but gets it done in a weekend. Both students pass.

The luckier person might seem the more intelligent one, but there are dangers to coasting through most of your life. The actively intelligent person is developing a more valuable skill: how to recognise and consistently do the smart things, even when they might not want to.”

Also, if you read the answers to the question “What is it like to have an extremely high I.Q.?” on Quora, you will see a common theme emerge: many people who answer say that school was very easy for them, but they hated it, and that it took them much longer than other people to learn many valuable life lessons.

Also, being praised for being smart has plenty of drawbacks, as my own experience has attested; it actually lowered my self esteem and my drive to achieve.  Being thought of as dedicated, kind, honest, and fair will get you much farther than being thought of as smart will.

Overall, giving any thought to your I.Q. is pointless.  Whatever your score on an I.Q. test would be, there is nothing that you could do with it, and nothing that it would allow you to do (or prevent you from doing).  You will be much better off focusing on discovering what you are passionate about and pursuing those interests, whatever they may be.