Parents and kids have an opportunity to make learning great again!
Schools and districts are sending home curriculum materials or shifting to online teaching.
So, what should you do?
Our recommendation: Take charge of your kid’s education.
You can do it!
It’s understandable you are concerned about your kid’s education and making sure he/she will not fall behind.
But your fear may not be real.
What is real is you have a great opportunity to become the teacher your kid deserves; a teacher that knows your kid better than anyone else.
You, with other parents around the country, have a great opportunity to create a new education system based on strength-based education and a learning environment based on a culture of success.
Why It’s Necessary for Parents to Take Charge of Education
Two out of three of our nation’s children aren’t proficient readers. In fact, fourth-grade reading declined in 17 states and eighth-grade reading declined in 31.
The gap between the highest and lowest performing students is widening, despite $1 trillion in Federal spending over 40 years designated specifically to help close it. ( U.S. Department of Education, 2019)
The bottom line is if you can’t read you won’t be successful.
But this is not our kids’ fault. Our kids are not broken.
If you build it they will come!
What is required is a learning process that is built on the talents and interests of our kids. Through such a process, our kids will thrive and society will be the beneficiary.
The first step is to acknowledge and answer these three questions:
1) Does your kid come home from school depressed, disappointed, or frustrated?
How often do you receive a blank stare when you ask your kid, “how was school today?” No matter what you do, nothing seems to work. Often the result is increased stress and anxiety. As your kid’s parents, you want your kids to be happy and excited about school. But nothing seems to work.
The reason is that our public schools use teaching methods that are not natural and not consistent with common sense thinking.
As adults, we learn things that interest us and have a purpose. When we focus on our kids’ natural talents and interests, education becomes exciting and our kids are motivated to learn.
2) Why isn’t learning an adventure, mystery, or energizing?
The reason is clear and most kids have figured it out; school is not a place where they can learn about things that interest them. A school is a place where you learn about topics and subjects that other people believe are important.
Unfortunately, many parents have bought into this thinking; that somehow kids won’t learn if we emphasize their talents and interests over an externally, top-down curriculum.
Powerful evidence exists that when we start with the natural talents of our kids, great things happen.
3) Why do public schools not value our kids’ talents?
Common sense suggests one of the most important factors in creating a high-performance education is instilling a culture that values natural talents. When you start with talents you build interest and commitment to learning; opportunities for success are everywhere. When we connect our talents to the world around us we learn. We crave knowledge and skills to grow our talents into strengths.
When we start with talents our kids are excited about learning, just like when they were preschoolers.
For this to happen, however, our kids must be free and empowered to learn without any specific roadmap or what schools call the curriculum. This would mean kids are responsible for their own learning and chart their own course of action.
That’s why schools do not value your kid’s talents.
Parents can change everything
By emphasizing talents over weaknesses, parents can create opportunities for success where kids are eager to learn and are self-motivated to do their very best.
What is most important and valuable about the home as a base for children’s growth in the world is not that it is a better school than the schools but that it isn’t a school at all. ~ John Holt ~
It took a viral epidemic to spotlight the many alternatives to public K-12 schooling
The coronavirus has caused schools across the country to close, requiring parents to return to the role they once played, “their kid’s first teachers.”
The worst thing parents can do is duplicate the public schools
As parents realize school closures are the new normal (for some time), moms and dads will need to get organized and develop a schedule. But instead of attempting to replicate the school day, parents are encouraged to create a strength-based education schedule and be a strength-based education parent.
Here’s an example of a strength-based education schedule
A sample daily schedule
1) Morning Talent Discussion – The day begins with a discussion of talents. Parents and kids discuss their natural talents and how they can be applied. Talent assessments are given and reviewed.
See the book below, “Strengths Explorer,” to identify, assess, and apply your kid’s strengths. Use the book, “Strengths Quest,” for older kids. Every morning there should be a review of this information. Parents with their kids discuss activities where they can apply their talents. Activities can stand on their own or be part of projects.
One great activity is for parents and their kids to maintain a diary of their talent discussion. Each day the diary can be reviewed. What was learned from the day before and the goals for the current day? Unlike normal subjects, talents evolve and expand and can be applied to many different knowledge and skill areas. Record, discuss and summarize learnings, insights, and possibilities.
2) Growing Talent Activities – You don’t need prepared materials to develop activities for your kids to apply their identified natural talents. Discussion on identified talents should focus on the knowledge and skills necessary to grow your kid’s talents.
A big difference between the strength-based education approach and what takes place in public schools is that the learning process has a purpose and meaning for kids; the knowledge and skills they learn are connected to their talents.
Learning activities should result from a conversation between parents and their kids. It is important that kids are empowered and feel in control of their education. This is critical, regardless of the age of your kids.
Jumpstart Strength-Based Thinking and Reduce Stress – The easiest way for parents to reduce their own stress is for their kids to feel empowered and in control of their own lives. Through strength-based education, this happens and the best way to start is to have your kids realize their value by appreciating their natural talents. Here are a few questions to jumpstart this process:
- What are your thoughts regarding your talents? Thinking about them, what makes you feel really good?
- Which talent is most important to you and why? Thinking really hard about this talent, what comes to mind?
- This about your talents what would you like to do right now? What excites you? What can I do to help?
- Thinking about your talents how would you describe yourself? If a stranger asked what you can do really well, what would you say?
These sample questions can be expanded and rewritten based on the age of your kid. They can also be asked depending on your kid’s talents. Most important think of ways to connect your kid’s talents to knowledge and skills to help advance and expand their talents.
For example, if your kid is a “Future Thinker” you can ask your kid to imagine about his/her potential; what great things he/she would like to do and why? Other questions could focus on what the world might look like or inventions.
For the talent, “Competing” questions can be focused on games, goals, or winning. Your kid can compete against him or herself to do more or accomplish something faster or better.
If your kid’s talent is “Achieving” he or she is eager to get started and get to work. The achiever can’t wait to start working on goals. Success builds on success for the achiever so be prepared to provide lots of challenges and opportunities to do great things.
For these and any of your kids’ talents, you can ask your kid to think about what information they would like to know or what excites them. What would they like to read? What can we find on the Internet? You can even watch TV to see how television shows connect to your kid’s talents.
How about a field trip? Go on a field trip to the grocery store. Put together a scavenger hunt for products and groceries. Emphasize your kid’s talents as you organize your “hunt.” You and your kid take a close look at ingredients on the packages, how groceries are organized on the shelves, where the products originate and how they are marketed and the nutritional value of each product. You can also focus on the technology in the store, including how you check out your groceries, the bar codes on the groceries, and how the store orders groceries for consumers. This is just one example and with a little creativity, you can easily link your kids’ talents to a world of knowledge and skills. A final point is to make sure you have a great prize at the end of your field trip.
3) VideoConferencing with Other kids Around Talents – Through various forms of technology and videoconferencing kids have the opportunity to engage and share knowledge and skills supporting their talents.
Kids can learn from each other where teaching and learning are seamless.
Parents can also play a supportive role by offering resources and their own knowledge and skills.
By embracing videoconferencing kids are not isolated and have the potential for developing positive and healthy relationships with other kids.
Collaboration is much more dynamic as well because each kid will bring a specific set of talents to enrich the learning process for all kids.
Learning through videoconferencing provides kids so many different ways to combine their talents with their interests and truly creates an environment that is constantly changing as talents grow into strengths. Knowledge and skills are continually attaching themselves to talents where kids no longer view learning as a burden they are required or obligated to do. Rather, learning is fun and inspiring.
Virtual playdates: Kids can connect with their friends over Google Hangouts, emphasize and explore their talents together over Google Docs, play educational multiplayer games, or interact with each other over FaceTime.
Digital strength-based storytelling gives kids the opportunity to showcase their talents. Kids can share ideas on how talents can be grown into strengths. Using any format, art, music, interviews, presentations, movies, paintings, photographs, etc., kids can discuss the knowledge and skills that support their natural talents. Kids can share files as they grow their talents together.
Below are a few resources that describe a variety of things kids with their parents can do together to create an online strength-based community.
- Digital Storytelling: Animated Powerpoint Tutorial
- Free Web Conferencing Tools
- Zoom Collaborative Learning
4) Kid Driven Learning Opportunities – The more kids discuss their talents with their parents and other kids, the more they realize their potential and opportunities for success.
You don’t need a body of research and a room of experts to know that kids like to do things they are good at and when you combine talents with interests you have a recipe for success.
So, it only makes sense when you bring together kids around their talents and interests (online) you have a bundle of exciting opportunities to learn new things.
Kids + Talents + Interests = Opportunities for Success
In the public schools a curriculum – subjects and tests – is what counts and talents are seldom if ever considered. For example, when was the last time your kid came home and said, “The teacher talked to me today about my talents?”
With talents come opportunities to learn new things which means knowledge and skills. And when you combine talents with interests, the result is a passion and excitement for learning.
Consider the points below when developing an exciting learning environment for your kid:
- Real learning is internally driven. You can’t force your kid to learn.
- We should not be surprised kids resist learning subjects that do not interest them.
- The key to kid-driven learning is based on the opinion that the talents of our kids are more important than passing a test.
- Constantly look for ways to combine your kid’s talents and interests.
Strength-Based Project Teams – Kids can also participate in Strength-Based Project-Teams where each kid has a certain role and responsibility while at the same time providing feedback to the entire team. Because the projects are virtual, kids may be able to contribute unique resources and information based on where they are geographically located.
Strength-Based Project Teams are a student-driven approach where kids apply their talents to explore real-world topics and issues that interest them.
Students learn about a subject by working for an extended period of time with other kids to investigate a complex question or challenge. It contrasts with paper-based, rote memorization, or teacher-led instruction that typically has no connection to student talents or interests.
5) Summary of the Day’s Activities – The day should end as it began for your kid with a focus on talents and interests. One strategy for assessing the day’s activities is to have a conversation with your kid around 4 key areas: Talents, interests, empowerment, and flexibility.
Let’s briefly discuss each area:
Talents – At the end of each day, you and your kid should have a better understanding of your kid’s talents, how they can be applied, and how they lead to learning opportunities.
Here are a few questions which can drive the conversation:
- How do your talents make you special?
- What new things are you learning because of your talents?
- How do you feel about your talents?
- What would you like to do with your talents?
Interests – In many ways interests are an extension of your kid’s talents. When you can do something well it usually becomes an interest. When you combine talents with interests you create opportunities where your kid is motivated to learn new knowledge and skills.
- Are you learning things that interest you?
- Are there other things that interest you?
- What can we do to make your interests more of our school day?
Empowerment – Stress increases the more we feel out-of-control. And this is no different for kids. When kids drive the learning process they are more interested and eager to learn new things.
- Do you like what we are doing each day?
- What do you like the most about each day?
- Are there ways I can give you more control of what you learn?
- How can I help make your learning more existing?
- What is that you like most about the way you are learning?
Flexibility – There are dozens of ways to reach your goal. And while there may be one right answer there is not necessarily one right way to be successful. When we emphasize talents over a set curriculum, flexibility is very important to how learning is structured. When talents drive the learning process nothing is set in stone and as a result, learning is an everchanging process.
- Do you feel like you have choices on what and how you learn?
- Are there some things you would like to do more during the day?
- Thinking about what we do each day, how can we make it more interesting to you?
- Taking a look at our schedule, what changes would you like to see?
I’ve concluded that genius is as common as dirt. We suppress our genius only because we haven’t yet figured out how to manage a population of educated men and women. The solution, I think, is simple and glorious. Let them manage themselves. – John Taylor Gatto
By emphasizing your kid’s talents over weaknesses and problems, you will view your child or young adult very differently. Everything will change!
More specifically, you and your kid will feel better about each other and look forward to learning together.
You and your kid will feel fulfilled, not drained or stressed, and most of all energized.