Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Plato and starting off right on the climb

"With anything young and tender the most important part of the task is the beginning of it; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression most readily taken."  Plato, The Republic

What is "learning"?  In my experience, you have learned something if you can pull it out and use it after you figured it out.  And, to do that, either you have to want to use it or there has to be a really good reason for using it.

How someone learns something is impacted enormously by that character that Plato is talking about.  And, the "wanting to use it" (passion) is born sometime in one's life and the "really good reason" comes about as the fire under all of us that motivates.

Learning to learn means setting the pool right.  I know what that means because I've begun to learn many things later than those young and tender moments.  And, not setting the stage to really believe you can get it means adding a whole mountain of self-doubt to the task.

Maybe my question is too simple because what I am talking about is really LEARNING, not just figuring something out long enough to fill in a bubble sheet.  So, let's focus on "you have learned something if you can pull it out and use it after you figured it out."

I was sitting next to another parent waiting for one of my children to finish a class last year.  I asked what this parent did for a living.  She said, she had been a lawyer and was now a teacher.  I guessed she was an English or Writing teacher.  She said she was a Math teacher.   HHHHhhhhmmmm....

Then she explained,
she wasn't an English or Writing teacher because she had long surpassed trying to explain to a student how to do those things.  She, herself, didn't focus on doing the writing because she had already figured it out and was using it.  But, Math, was something she had struggled with herself as a student.  She could explain it to her students and anticipate the hills they would try to climb when they were learning.

And, she didn't let the fact that she was a lawyer get in the way of knowing her struggles would make her an effective teacher.

I am in a wrestling match with my own passions and learning styles.  I guess I should have majored in Anthropology, and not let learning to use data scare me so much.  Now, I am really beginning to understand the value of backing up observations with hard data.  And, I need to learn how to use Unity to bring my game to life!  Arrrrggghhh...

But, I also have a passionate belief that anyone, any age or background, can learn.  The length that learning goes to depends on their curiosity, motivation or desire.  And, the right fit of what they are learning.

Okay, time to go gaze at this mountain again.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dark Star heading toward Context

I have just returned from three weeks of REJUVENATION.  Merriam Webster says, "to restore to an original or new state".  I would have to give my vote to "new state" because some tweaking has been going on from the original.

How badly do you need to be restored?

I have been running on grit and fumes and general optimism for so long that it had become the NORM.  The clue was on day 8 when I woke up with a very strange, albeit not negative, feeling.  It took me several minutes to identify what it was:  I felt RELAXED.  I was living in wonderful natural beauty, spending time with people I care deeply for, and the end of the time was capped with a few days of being "off grid."  With the major help and support of my husband I did not check emails, or read.  I wrote, wrote, wrote, called people, went in the lake with the dogs and began to ride on the bike a little bit.  I can state with absolute certainty that I have been RESTORED.

And, so, with this restored me I have a more focused agenda for myself.  I spent a couple of days going through what I have been WORKING ON with my game.  It is MY game and I realized it will always be that unless I finish it and give it a whirl.  I really believe that people are asking right now:

1.  Is going to college worth it because of the cost and outcome?
2.  Do kids learn skills and content in high school that is really valuable, or is it just a grind?
3.  Does high school and college prepare a student for finding a job and really living in the world?

And, for those questions I am convinced I can help find answers.

I have been trying to learn UNITY which is a game design platform.  Boy, figuring this one out is really, really CHALLENGING.  But, I will figure it out.

And, on my agenda is a second project...writing a book.  I am not a DEAD HEAD but I think the Grateful Dead and its surrounding world is one of the most interesting anthropological topics I've seen in a while.  So, I am setting out to look at a small section of it, and how the Grateful Dead has impacted my life over about twenty years.  I really did send a wedding invitation to Jerry Garcia (and it must have landed in someone's mailbox because it never came back.)  And, I did want to play Aiko Aiko as I walked back down the aisle.  But, there is much more to that story.

How many of you listen to Uncle John's Band, Not Fade Away, Dark Star or the Sirius station?  How many people who read this blog and live somewhere out in the world away from the United States know what I am even talking about?

Did I mention I have just returned from visiting my most wonderful child who has begun college?  It was a really satisfying, fun and successful trip which I am so glad I made.  There is life on the other side of high school.

My wise and creative child said, yea, yea, the Grateful Dead book....but what I really should be writing about is the ten years of homeschooling!  Hhhhhmmmmm.....

Friday, July 12, 2013

I found BASF in a Box of Rain

I remember as a teenager thinking about what I wanted to do, and it wasn't creating an entirely new product--it was making things better.

 BASF We make things better.

And, now, I am doing it AGAIN.  I went to college.  I travel.  I have a family and a home.  And, I am happy but I will be happier if I can help others do things better.  Hhhhmmmm, what does this mean?

Well, the first question is "do you want to do things better?"  I have found as I get older I can answer that question more effectively.  How many times have we gotten older and said, "I wish I would have known this then!!"?  Well, maybe part of life is learning those sharp little pieces of experiential wisdom.

I was just reviewing the Birkman report that my husband suggested I get several years ago and our wonderful and talented friend Ginny translated for me.  I have read it before but maybe it has taken a while to really understand it.  I need to be treated as an individual, I need time to consider and make decisions and I definitely need deadlines but I will be in your corner, treating you with respect and hearing you when you speak.  Over and over it says I need time, I need to be grown not shoved, not constrained but given markers.

Am I happy?  A very wonderful and good friend asked me this question a few nights ago.  I couldn't freely yell, "well, yes!  of course!!"  So I have been sitting on that question and in my "needing time" way trying to find a path to it.

And, yesterday I had a long conversation with one of my scholarship kids.  She is a real go-getter who is coming from not much concretely but is going to go a long way just based on her focus and attitude, not to mention smarts.  But, in talking with her it became apparent that she wants to become a lawyer (very clearly) and she thinks there are only divorce and bankruptcy attorneys.  Whoa!  I said, "what about Environmental Law, Research, Energy, International.....?"  She did not know about these options, but now she does and she is going to go learn about them.  How many people would benefit from knowing about a few more options or realizing they had done something like this already?

So, am I happy?  Yes!!  I have so many blessings and people and options it makes me afraid.  But, there is still me and the fact that I can make a difference.  That feeling is intoxicating.  And, doing it by creating a world that isn't real but will lead you back to a world that is--that's something I could do all day and not worry about the time.

I love my husband, and my children, and the life I live.  I love walking the dogs and buying milk and watching the lake and mountains.  I AM happy (even though it makes me afraid sometimes) and I can give people a way to try things out without having to make a commitment at that moment.  They can enlarge their experience, and who knows where that may lead?

I am taking an online game design course.  It is a lot of information but I am going to complete it.  And, in the meantime I want to leave you with a question:  WHY?  Why do you want to _________?  It's not an easy question to answer.  I posed it to myself and found some earth-shattering answers and some mundane answers.  I don't know which scare me most.

One example of the power of WHY

Why do you want to go to college?
Why are you in the job you are?
Why haven't you gone to the gym?
Why haven't you made that sales call?
Why are you sitting alone at your desk working, studying, daydreaming and not going out for a walk?

Answering the why question doesn't require any action.  It is a good first step.

Box of Rain (part of the lyrics from The Grateful Dead)

Look out of any window, any morning, any evening, any day.
Maybe the sun is shining, birds are singing,
No rain is falling from a heavy sky.
What do you want me to do, to do for you to see you through?
For this is all a dream we dreamed one afternoon, long ago.

Walk out of any doorway, feel your way, feel your way like the day before.
Maybe you'll find direction,
Around some corner where it's been waiting to meet you.
What do you want me to do, to watch for you while you are sleeping?
The please don't be surprised when you find me dreaming too.

Look into any eyes you find by you, you can see clear to another day,
Maybe been seen before, through other eyes on other days while going home.
What do you want me to do, to do for you to see you through?
It's all a dream we dreamed one afternoon, long ago.

Walk into splintered sunlight,
Inch your way through dead dreams to another land.
Maybe you're tired and broken,
Your tongue is twisted with words half spoken and thoughts unclear

Monday, July 8, 2013

Open with Caution! This post is packed full...

Wow!  The past couple of months have no real effective description.  How much life can a person pack into a few weeks?  What a seminar on moderation, deliberation and soaking up life!

Cycle back to:  I am a DESIGNER in search of a CONTEXT.  I am listing out what I have been reading and doing over the past few weeks.  There is a wide range of issues that I am learning about and a number of problems I want to get in on.  I read over one of my recent posts and yes, TO GET FOCUSED GET BUSY is good advice.  But, getting too busy doesn't help the focus.

YES!  To get focused get busy, but not too busy.  I am all over that right now.  Yes, I need a context, and yes, I need focus, and yes, I want to start spinning the plates I have so carefully been washing and drying.  But, let me tell you what I have been doing that has kept me so BUSY!!

Here is a list to keep us structured:

1.  Dad's memorial service
2.  Awarding scholarships
5.  Get social at the Hoe Down
6.  Beginning of college
7.  Transplant

1.  When a parent dies it is a big deal.  If this comes unexpectedly or if it has been a long process doesn't matter; it is a big deal.  It matters not if you have been close, not so close or really estranged; it is a big deal.  I am a parent and I was born into a family with two parents and one of them died.  There were aspects of our relationship I will never understand, and aspects of each of our personalities that bothered the other but I also know that my fabric comes from my father, and my mother, and from my own life.  There is no perfect world, and no perfect family, and no perfect parent.  But, I was graced with the father whom I had and I will miss him.  I have made peace with the fact that I will never show him so many things, but then that wasn't going to happen even if he lived to be 150.  So, I respectfully mourn him and all of really solid, good things about him.  And, the memorial service was lovely and respectful and gave people a place to pay their respects and visit his spot on the pond.  It was well done.
2.  If you want to learn about kids in high school give them a scholarship.  Give them an application to fill out that has thoughtful questions on it.  Ask them to tell you what they can do, where they have been, what they are reading and how they spend their time.  Don't ask them about grades or class standings.  And, then, read between the lines and deliver your decision in a video you have made yourself complete with music and inspiring quotes (and pictures of your kids or dogs or travels).  Or, just get up and tell them what wonderful human beings they are (using all of the skills you learned in speech class.)  Those kids will teach you a thing or two--and it isn't about their grades or class standing.
3.  School is not for the faint-hearted, especially not high school.  Try doing six things at once well.  Try figuring out what six or seven or eight teachers want you to do, and how to fit in just that 30 minutes or hour each night that their class requires for homework after spending all day at school and then sports after school and dinner with the family because it keeps you together, and then sleep?  When do we have to cull books and notes to complete tests in our adult lives, or find passion in subjects that may never have a bearing on our lives?  When was the last time you did a whole semester of some type of work just to get the practice? (Well, maybe this happens more than I would like to admit.)
This one has at least a couple more posts-worth...
4. ISRAEL!!!  What a trip!  My family and visited the old city in Jerusalem and so many holy sites.

  It is wild to walk streets that are old, knowing older streets lie beneath them; knowing people who I read about in ANCIENT HISTORY did mundane daily tasks and had glorious moments that changed the world RIGHT THERE.  Then, we travel through a check point (we are not in Kansas anymore) to Bethlehem...BETHLEHEM to meet George who really changes my world.  Welcome to the West Bank, Palestine and the nasty wall.

 I found out about settlers, and maybe think about our own settlers in America a little differently.  I met people with so much dignity and pluck.  And, a whole world of history that just walked right into my conscience.  One minute I was in 2013 Palestine and the next in ancient Rome.  The land under the feet of Israel has been around for so long that the stories could be plumbed like the ice cores from Greenland.  Walking in Capernum, in Nazareth, in Cesaria or Haifa was so much more than taking a picture and sending a postcard.  The United States is so young because we have not asked about what came before us.  Israel left me with such breathable history and experiences.  George left me with a completely new view of contemporary life in a place that is home but is being eked away.  And, I have a new appreciation for the definitions of sacred, dignity and compromise.
5.  Nothing can replace old-fashioned, in your face friends and family activities.  And, nothing can replace my father-in-law's Hoe Down.  As a proud member of the Hoe Down Concierge I have been there for each one.  Dunk tank, elephant, mariachi band, fife and drum corp, egg toss, what's your strength?, Wild Bill, and much, much more ending with karaoke and fire works.  This year add bag pipes, a killer acrobat act and Latvian New Year -- oh, and the best behaved and cutest baby I've ever seen.  We returned from Israel on Wednesday, Hoe Down on Saturday--need I say more?
6.  One day a child is graduating from high school, the next there is an international trip with the family, the next is a huge social event, the next I am waving good bye as that child passes into a new realm.  Make no mistake, I will still have a place, but he is riding his own bicycle and I am here now if he wants me.  It is a chillingly humbling moment yet so exciting.  I have to remember to pray and breath, breath and pray...
7.  I am transplanted for a few weeks.  I enjoy living in my own skin and wherever I am led.  I still want my creature comforts (and for this time maybe a dehumidifier.)  There is global warming, and it makes the weather wetter and more violent in my part of the world.  But, there are also amazing moments...

So, I have unloaded the past several weeks and now I can move on to more game design and getting my context back!