Tagged: unschool

What Homeschoolers and Startups Know About Learning…

Check out this post on the Praxis blog, where I make the case that homeschoolers and self-directed learners already embody the learning style that is the future of hiring and professional development.

From the post:

“Classrooms don’t prepare young people for success in life and career.  They’re slow, expensive, often boring, the incentives are all wrong, the setting is dull, customization is almost non-existent, and lack of real choice means peers and professors alike aren’t the most valuable people to add to your personal network.

Home educators and self-directed learners know this.  They eschew the conveyor belt approach to education.  They step out of the classroom and into the world.  They understand that real learning is a lot more fun, varied, and valuable than chasing the same paper as everyone else.”

I share the three things that homeschooling an apprenticeships have in common:

  • Interest vs. credentials
  • Doing vs. memorizing
  • Being around vs. reading about

Check out the post.  It’s good.

Seven Deadly Mindsets

Dan Sanchez was kind enough to invite me to coauthor a little piece for FEE.org about mindsets inculcated by the schooling process and how a key step toward personal freedom and growth is recognizing and obliterating them.  This is what my friend Zak Slayback would call “deschooling yourself”.

Check out the article here.  The seven mindsets we outline are:

  1. The conveyor belt mindset
  2. The permission mindset
  3. The student mindset
  4. The teacher mindset
  5. The worker mindset
  6. The recess mindset
  7. The major mindset

From the article,

“The first step toward self-emancipation is certainly not supporting or opposing a presidential candidate. Neither need it be civil disobedience, evasion of government directives, or resistance to the authorities. There is much lower hanging fruit to be had than that.”

And,

“Only a people who first free themselves spiritually and individually can hope to free themselves physically and as a society. It is impossible to liberate people, as Voltaire said, “from the chains they revere.” And the first order of business in improving society is, as Albert Jay Nock said, “to present society with one improved unit.””

Read the full text.

How to Play Basketball Well

The same way you do everything else well.  Practice, then reflect, then practice some more.

The common, conveyor-belt education system has a pretty bizarre approach to learning.  It doesn’t mirror any learning pattern that high performers in any field use.  It looks something like this:

Theory–>Theory–>Theory–>Theory–>Theory–>Practice (end)

In other words, you sit in classrooms studying things and memorizing knowledge from “experts” for nearly two decades.  Then you’re supposed to take all that theory and successfully practice it in the real world and live happily ever after.  Education is done, now you just go live well.  You’re supposed to succeed in the marketplace and life after only ever thinking about it.  Unless the theory is the practice – unless you’re learning to be an academic – this is a very bad way to learn.

I’ve written before about how absurd it would be if we taught bike riding the way we teach careers.  But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about an even better comparison, and one I know more about than biking.  Basketball.

How do you learn to play basketball?

First, you practice.  Maybe on a mini hoop, maybe on a full-sized hoop.  But you just start shooting and dribbling.  After you have the basic motions and movements and muscle memory down, you start playing with other people in actual games.  You play a lot of pick-up basketball.  Maybe you play in an organized team setting.  The coach might have you focus on specific aspects of the game or skills as you drill and condition.  You’ll scrimmage, run plays, and plot your approach to offense and defense.  You play, then a new concept is introduced, and you immediately play some more and try it out.  Then you stop to reflect and get feedback, tweak your approach, and play again.

At the highest level, this pattern is even more pronounced.  Good players practice a lot.  There is no world in which merely theorizing about basketball teaches you to succeed on the court.  Practice is always the first step and vastly more important if you have to choose one.  But when you go from good to great players, something else happens.  Theory comes into play.  The learning pattern for playing most successfully looks something like this:

Practice–>Practice–>Theory–>Practice–>Practice–>Theory…(ad infinitum)

Great players spend more hours in the gym than anyone.  But after they play the also reflect on their performance.  They review film from previous games.  They study what the offense did.  They observe what happened and theorize about why they were stopped in the paint by this or that defense.  They plan for the next game.  They review film of the next opponent and plot an approach to match.  They constantly reflect on the feedback they get from the real world of practice and play.  They seek out other achievers who have struggled with mental toughness, or strength building, or recovery from injury.  They employ motivational tactics and specialized training.

Notice the pattern because it’s very important.  Hours of film study and offensive scheming are of no value to the novice.  If you’ve never hoisted a ball in the air, learning the perfect placement of your index finger or the optimal use of trash-talk to gain a mental edge isn’t going to help you.  Theory is hugely important.  But it becomes important only when it has past practice upon which to reflect and future practice for which to prepare.

Notice also that, unlike the conveyor-belt education system, the basketball model is never done.  There is no end point.  It’s an ongoing process.  There is no graduation.  Michael Jordan, at the peak of his game and dominating the greatest ballers on the planet, famously came back from every offseason with something new.  He practiced.  He reflected and theorized.  He tested it with more practice.

In this model the role of teacher fades almost entirely.  Specialists with knowledge of the history of the game or the mechanics of the human elbow can be employed in specific situations when needed, but they are in no way the key ingredient to learning the game nor are they valuably employed until a whole lot of playing has occurred.  Instead, coaches and trainers emerge.  People who don’t tell you which facts about basketball are correct and must be memorized, but people who challenge you to get off your butt when you don’t feel like practicing.  People who help you in the process of reflecting on your unique game and keep you accountable to your unique practice process.  They are observers who watch you in the actual act of playing the game and provide real-time feedback from their vantage point.  They aren’t your authority – you can’t find a new coach anytime – but there for motivation and insight.  Some of the greatest players are famous for ignoring their coaches as often as listening to them even though they deeply respect them, which strikes me as a pretty normal and healthy way to see the relationship.

Another important thing about learning basketball is the value of mimicry.  How did the hook shot join the common arsenal of post players?  Because someone did it well and everyone who played against them realized how effective it could be and began to copy it.  How do you learn to crossover or headfake?  By being crossedover or headfaked at the playground and determining to do the same.

Learning happens more from being around people and environments than it does from consciously thinking about them.  You have to be immersed in the actual play of the game.

My friend and colleague at PraxisTK Coleman, our Education Director – loves the game of basketball probably even more than I do.  We don’t view this analogy as just a cute comparison.  I think success in any career is far more like success in basketball than it is like success in a classroom.  The principles of learning the game are the principles of learning to perform in just about every other arena.  This is why we are so focused on apprenticing at startups and small businesses – practice – and reflecting on the experience and how new skills and mindsets can make it better – theory – and trying them out – practice – and discussing…etc.  This is why our advisers have coaching sessions with participants, rather than giving them lectures.  Philosophy is hugely important to success in any field.  But only if you’re already in the field trying things out.

Kids aren’t practicing for life or career by sitting in the classroom taking tests.  They’re theorizing about it.  They’re not observing those who are successful (except, best case, at teaching) and mimicking them.  They’re reading what other people said about the successful.  They’re being introduced to a few fragments of the history of the game or uniform design or what one conditioning coach thinks about one approach to calf muscles.  They’re not being transformed into great players, they’re simply checking the memorization of lifeless, contextless knowledge off a list of assignments.

You can’t expect to win by studying.  You’ve got to play the game.

Episode 63: The School Sucks Project, with Brett Veinotte

I’ve been a big fan of the School Sucks Podcast for a few years now, so it was awesome to have Brett on the show to discuss his work and what motivated him to launch it.

We discuss his personal history, the history of schooling, why conspiracy theories are valuable learning tools, and much more.

Check out all things School Sucks here!

This and all episodes are available on SoundCloud, iTunes, YouTube, and Stitcher.

Episode 56: The Art of Selfish Learning, with TK Coleman

One of the downsides of formal education is that it fosters learning for the sake of satisfying a person in authority instead of learning in order to satisfy one’s curiosity.

Schools generally offer praise and avoidance of pain when learning rules are abided, which is still externally guided and not connected to our curiosity and goals.

TK Coleman comes back on the show to talk about the importance of selfish learning – approach that helps you achieve your goals and improve whatever it is that you see as valuable.

Learn selfishly!

This episode sponsored by Praxis and the Foundation for Economic Education.

Apply to Praxis now!

Check out FEE seminars to learn about economics and entrepreneurship this summer!

This and all episodes are also available on SoundCloud, iTunes, YouTube, and Stitcher.

What the Heck Are ‘PDP’s’ and Why Are They So Awesome?

I’ve written before about the power of daily challenges, about how simply eliminating unwanted elements from your life is often better than trying to achieve some lofty goal, and about how identifying and overcoming obstacles one at a time can be better than plotting a perfect long-term path.

All of this, as well as concepts like deschooling yourself and creating your own structure are wrapped into a very tangible tool we at Praxis call a Personal (or Professional) Development Project (PDP).

My colleague Cameron Sorsby writes about PDP’s:

“A Praxis Personal Development Project (PDP) is a short-term set of challenges with the goal of gaining self-knowledge, overcoming obstacles to success, and gaining mastery in areas of value to the individual and the marketplace.

For the majority of a young person’s life they are told where to be, what knowledge they need to gain, and what skills they need to develop in order to be successful. Their day-to-day structure is designed for them, which makes it an incredible challenge to transition to professional life successfully.

Creating and completing a PDP helps you instill creativity as an everyday habit, develop marketable skills, and provide tangible evidence that you can create value for others. It helps you overcome those unproductive habits you developed in over-structured institutions like school and start deciding for yourself what knowledge and skills you value.  Ultimately, the purpose of a PDP is to become a superior version of yourself within a short-time frame.

Praxis participants complete a series of 12 PDP’s throughout their program experience. With the help of their program advisor and access to resources like the Praxis Curriculum Library, each month they create a PDP and follow through with completing it.”

Check out a few recent Praxis participant PDP’s here.

Check out the Praxis Teen Entrepreneurship Course, which includes a 30-day PDP built into the program.  If you can successfully complete it (harder than it sounds), you get a free coaching session with Education Director T.K. Coleman.

Book Review: Rise Above School

My Amazon review of this excellent book by my good friend, radical, entrepreneur, blogger, podcaster, and fellow unschooler Jeff Till.

This book is worth every dime for the “58 arguments for home education” alone. A list so powerful, simple, and clear it’s hard to imagine ever seeing school the same or wanting to send your kids there after reading.

But Rise Above School is much more than that. The author presents an incredibly honest and accessible story of his own process of moving from unthinking adherent to the educational status quo to a parent embarking on a radical unschooling lifestyle. The core insight is one of empathy. What your kids suffer through – bus stops, early alarms, homework, single-file and cinder block cells, lunchrooms, bullies, age-segregation, boredom – is something you would not want to put yourself through, or your spouse, or employees. How then can you do it to your kids?

Jeff is not romantic in his portrayal of home education, nor bitter in his exploration of schooling. He’s refreshingly down to earth. Though moral and practical arguments underpin his advocacy of home education, he shares plainly some of the more compelling reasons in simple things like daily life being more fun and less boring. No need to construct elaborate curricula. Just enjoy your kids. Let them sleep in. Play video games with them.

Rise Above School is an ideal intro to the concept and arguments surrounding education for someone a little disillusioned with mass schooling, but unsure what to do. Start with this book.  If you like where it takes you, Jeff includes a list of additional books and resources for those who want to go deeper.

Buy Rise Above School on Amazon in paperback or Kindle.

Episode 22: Blake Boles on Unschool Adventures and Self-Directed Learning

Blake Boles is an author, entrepreneur, and self-directed learning advocate.  He’s written several books on education beyond school and runs a program to help unschoolers to travel the world.  He joins me to discuss his own education and career journey and what he’s learned along the way.

Find him online here.

This and all episodes are available on SoundCloud, iTunes, and Stitcher.