Thursday, July 31, 2014

The secret to balancing work and life

Julie Ashton, Life Coach and Business Consultant, has this to say about managing time:

"It is well a known fact that you cannot manage time, you can only manage what you do with your time. Many people talk about ‘to do’ lists and priority management in order to get control of their ‘time’. However, while we need these tools, most of us do not question our habits, personality and belief systems when trying to improve how we manage our time. Often when trying to ‘prioritise’ tasks in order to gain control of our day, we prioritise on what we believe is important and those beliefs have been created by our values and other people’s expectations not on what is truly important to us in our lives."

What is really important? What is urgent but not really important? If you track your daily activities, you may be shocked to discover that you spend more than 80% of your time dealing with issues that are urgent and yet not important. Sometimes it's because they are small and therefore easy to get out of the way with a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes it's because they're persistent and won't go away (phone calls are a good example). Sometimes it's because we simply go through our lives, hour after hour, week after week, stuck in our routines (particularly if our Working Style has a non-preference for variety).

When you plan tomorrow's activities, classify each one in terms of importance and urgency. And, just for one day, try to do only the important stuff.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What Can You Learn In A Boat?

What can you learn if you sail the world with your parents for a year? In addition to your expected home-schooling lessons, you will learn:
  • minute geographical details of the area you're sailing
  • the culture and the history of every port
  • exposure to foreign languages
  • navigation
  • soft materials technology when mending sails and sewing new clothes from your old ones
  • hard materials technology with boat repairs
  • food technology: meal planning with cans and local produce
  • electronics: when your laptop malfunctions
  • converting from the local currency into your own - in your head
  • the art of bartering and bargaining
  • the dying skill of letter writing
and the list just goes on and on.

A dream come true, not only for kinesthetic learners.

If you don't own a sail boat or can't see yourself shutting down your normal life for a year in order to go on holiday, don't despair. There is always pretend-play. Try it out.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Thinking-Based Learning

How do you teach children to think? One intermediate school in New Zealand believes they've found the golden key. We found their thinking-based approach to learning so compelling, we hasten to share it with our clients.

Here's what the school website says: "Here at Birkdale Intermediate School we have developed a thinking-based learning approach in social science, science, technology and The Arts. We give our students ‘real world’ problems to solve with no one right answer. Their work is judged on the quality of their argument. Each unit has a particular thinking focus where the thinking skill is explicitly taught.

To support this learning we are developing units of work we call Quests. A Quest for new insights and understandings. A major Quest lasts for about six weeks. The Quests come with a teachers guide and a multimedia CD ROM or iPad App of specially chosen resources. We are happy to share these with other schools."

Here are some of the examples of their awesome quests:
  • "Titanic – When something tragic happens people are often quick to guess at the cause. This can be very dangerous. If we are to protect ourselves from further harm we must be very certain of the cause. It is vital that we are skilled at causal explanation. In 1912 Captain Smith was on the bridge of the largest man made moving object on the planet. The R.M.S. Titanic was near the leading edge of technological development and was thought to be virtually unsinkable. We all know it hit an iceberg and sank, but knowing what happened will not protect us from another disaster. Knowing why it happened is the key. Using skillful causal explanation and the original documents from 1912 can you work out why the Titanic hit the iceberg?"
  • "Filemoni’s Dilemma - Filemoni is a 13 year old Samoan student. He is the eldest of five children. He lives in a village on the island of Upolu with his mother, father and siblings. His parents are thinking about emigrating to New Zealand under the belief that the children will be able to have a better life there. They would be able to stay with extended family members in Auckland. However, Filemoni is very confused and has called upon his friend (you) in New Zealand to help him through this time. Using skillful ‘compare and contrast’ what would you say to Filemoni? Should he come or should he stay?"
  • Lest We Forget – On hundreds of War Memorials all around New Zealand you will find the words ‘Lest We Forget’ engraved in stone, etched into glass or cast in bronze. These monuments are designed to last many centuries. People have gone to a great deal of trouble and expense to get this message to everyone who stops and reads the words. Make a well-founded judgement. What should we remember about War?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Magic Of Field Trips

Education doesn't only happen in a classroom. More often than not, a fun outing can lead to learning, especially for kinesthetic learners. And, if you choose your trip field well, it can also lead to ice cream! 

A few years ago, my children and I were lucky enough to witness the ice cream making process from beginning to end. Zany Zeus in Wellington is more than an ice cream factory and parlour. That’s because the owner, Mike, is very focused on educating his customers about the ice cream making process. “I did a degree in food science,” Mike says, “yet I never saw how to make ice cream until I started my own factory.” This is why his shop has a ceiling-to-floor window looking straight into the factory where the magic happens. And magic it is indeed. From ingredients as simple as organic milk, skim milk powder, sugar, stabilisers and frozen boysenberries, Mike and his assistant John (who jokes he pays money to come to work and make ice cream every day) can whip up boysenberry ice cream in as little as fifteen minutes. But first, the laws of food hygiene have to be observed. Anybody who steps into the ice cream factory has to wear a hair net, an overall apron, and gumboots. They must also wash their hands like a surgeon. “It’s because harmful bacteria can grow rapidly in the ice cream mixture,” Mike explains.

Once the ice cream makers are scrubbed clean, the fun begins. Mike and John work as a team to blend the ice cream ingredients into a uniform mixture, achieving the most amazing colours: pale green for pistachio ice cream, pink for boysenberry ice cream, brown for chocolate. “Nothing artificial,” Mike assures us as he pours the big bucket of ice cream mixture into the churning machine. “If we can’t achieve the flavour or colour we want using natural ingredients, we simply don’t make that ice cream.”

The churning process takes 10 minutes at -3 to -6 degrees Centigrade and you can see the liquid ice cream turn solid before your eyes. When Mike scoops it out of the machine into plastic containers, I get a taste. Amazingly, the pistachio ice cream tastes of pistachios, and the chocolate ice cream is a chocolaty as you can get. All of them are incredibly smooth and creamy, and, like John, I’d happily pay to work here every day.

The last part of the process is freezing the ice cream for an hour in an industrial fridge at a whopping -30 degrees! In a world where children sometimes don’t know that apples come from trees, factories like Zany Zeus are a boon. “Once you see the ice cream made,” Mike says, “you know where it comes from.”

(Is your child a kinesthetic learner? Find out.)

The visit to Zany Zeus made us think about ice cream and Google additional questions.

·        Q: What are the different types of ice cream?

·        A: Gelato, sorbet, sugar-free, dairy-free.

·        Q: When was ice cream invented?

·        A: Over two thousand years ago, in the Persian Empire. They didn’t use milk.

·        Q: What’s the weirdest ice cream ever?

·        A: Turkish ice cream - it stretches like chewing gum and is so chewable you can eat it with a knife and fork!

·        Q: The weirdest flavour?

·        A: Garlic!

·        Q: What is Centigrade?

·        A: A scale on which to measure temperature. Water freezes at zero.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Gifted Children Are Students Too

Whenever a country perceives its education system to be inadequate (or worse than that of its trading partners), the government steps in. Typically, two things happen:
  • the Ministry of Education submits a proposal to lengthen the house children spend at school (by lowering the entry age, increasing the hours of school per week, reducing the holidays), and
  • all the attention is focused on the underperforming students, while gifted students get largely ignored.
To see why increasing the school hours is not a good idea, have a look at this article. Our blog will focus on the paradox of gifted children.

At first, it's not a paradox at all: surely students who struggle need more teacher attention? Yes and no. Children who have trouble learning to read, for example, need more attention in order to learn to read. Most gifted children, on the other hand, will take to reading like the proverbial duck to water. This does not mean gifted children need the teacher less - they just need the teacher to teach them something they don't already know. 

In many parts of the world, especially among the English-speaking countries, there is an alarming trend to let gifted children cruise through school bored. Although they will pick up the 3 Rs, they will never reach their potential to become another Einstein or Stephen Hawking unless they are exposed to challenging materials at school, unless they learn how to love to learn, and unless they learn how to learn.

Basic skills come so easily to gifted children that many of them don't actually know how to learn something they don't grasp immediately. To them, the lesson is either immediately obvious or too difficult. While a less apt student is used to trying to understand the new concept until they get it, gifted children never learn that specific technique of trying and trying again.

The result? Instead of educating a bunch of brilliant scientists, doctors, entrepreneurs and inventors, a country that neglects its gifted students will end up with a lot of young adults incapable of growing the national economy.

Is your teenager gifted? Find out here.