In my LifeSPARKS A-Z strategies for nurturing lifelong learners- V is for Volunteer and S is for Share.
These are great strategies whether you are nurturing a child, or yourself, to take control of your learning and thrive.
Some of my family’s most significant learning experiences have come from trying to make a contribution to something we care about.
And that has often involved learning from, and with, others who care. Sometimes that has meant a DIY approach, and sometimes it has involved taking advantage of the generosity of others sharing their expertise.
Do you ever struggle with making decisions? Feel overwhelmed or scared about choosing one thing and moving forward? Get stuck with analysis paralysis?
This can happen especially when you are facing a decision with lots of angst and hope, that requires the courage to go against the grain and follow your own path instead of the generally accepted route. If you are thinking of unschooling, homeschooling, or UnCollege you know exactly what I mean.
But, if you don’t make a decision and move forward, well, what’s the point?
I like to do things my own way. And, when stressed I seem to write lyrics or limericks or attempt my simple version of poetry. Here is the process I use to get myself out of a decision making mess, in case it might help you. I hope you enjoy my handy-dandy little poem and these steps make it easier for you move through your decision-making process.
How to Make Better Decisions
D efine goals & priorities
E xplore ideas & opportunities
C hallenge assumptions
I nvestigate realities
D ecide & take action
E valuate your satisfaction
D: Define Goals and Priorities
I always like to start with WHY – get clear about your goals and hopes related to the decision. Consider your dreams and your values. Try to step back from your immediate concerns and set your emotions aside as you clarify your goals.
When Dale was unschooling during his senior year of high school he was frustrated and angry. He felt ready to be done and was itching to go to college. We had to pull back and say, “ Wait – sure you can think about where you could go to college RIGHT NOW, but let’s also think about everything you could do with this year. What is at the bottom of your frustration? What is it you are wanting that you think you can get at college?” This is how he ended up with his internship at Zinch.
E: Explore Ideas and Opportunities
I love generating lots of ideas and possibilities – Why not? How about? What if? This is one way to combat our tendency to limit ourselves before we are even ready to decide. Expand. Get creative!
One of the ways that life has dramatically changed is in how many more avenues there are to access information, education, training, networks, and the world. Lifelong learning beyond the classroom is all about options. Give yourself permission to try new things and change your mind.
C: Challenge Your Assumptions
You are trying to overcome what is called confirmation bias – when we only look for information to prop up our existing ideas. It’s always good to look for examples that contradict, disprove, or give you more information to base your decision upon. Challenging your assumptions, see my “raising a Thiel Fellow tips”, is a good practice to apply to decision making and all areas of parenting and life.
I: Investigate Realities
Do your research. Investigate and get the nitty-gritty details about costs, consequences, and time frames. Let these realities help you plan ahead for potential difficulties and help you determine if you’ve taken the right path. Get some first-hand experience as soon as you can.
Look for ways that you or your child can do what I call real world researchand get some hands-on experience as early as she/he can. There is no reason to wait. People can job shadow, volunteer, intern, interview and find ways to reality test assumptions. Thank goodness I had a work-study job in oral surgery during my first semester at Duke, before completing 4 years of pre-med. I passed out cold the first week on the job after seeing the first incision. I decided to rethink my plan.
D: Decide and Take Action
Don’t get permanently stuck in analysis paralysis. I get bogged down with this a lot, so a critical step in my decision model is taking action – it is time to decide and get on with it. If after all your investigation you want to have a plan B ready to go, that’s great. Just decide and go for it.
E: Evaluate Your Satisfaction
Evaluate, reflect, and revise! Decisions are not set in stone. You can change your mind or make a new decision when needed. If it didn’t work out the way you thought it would, what did you learn to help you move forward?
For example, when we first started homeschooling we started one way, very ‘schooly’, but said we would evaluate how we were doing it on a weekly basis. We changed course after our very first day! We also said we would try homeschooling for one year and then re-evaluate and look at which options now seemed best for the following year. The documentary Class Dismissed does a fantastic job of showing a family going through this process of deciding and revising their educational choices.
In working on the ABC’s book, Carrie and I researched publishing platforms, various options for print, e-books, workbooks, a video course, and a card deck. Warning – some of us can spend too much time thinking of new ideas instead of committing and completing. It wasn’t until getting started that we learned more of what we needed to know.
Here is your rally cry:
D-E-C uh I-D-E
That is what will make you see
What your next – uh – step should be, so
D-E-C- uh I-D-E – Yeah!
What do you do to help you make a tough decision? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments. Lisa
I often hear this question from parents. When we began homeschooling, even though I HAD a credential, people constantly asked, “But how will you teach high school when you are only an elementary teacher ?” I know how intimidating it feels. Don’t let it stop you.
Breaking news: Like it or not, if you are a parent you already are a teacher.
Becoming more aware of what you are teaching and improving how you do it will make you a better parent and help your child learn. It’s kind of scary once you understand that how you live and interact everyday is what you are really teaching your child.
It’s okay. Breathe.
I am not trying to denigrate teachers. But I would like you to consider a few points:
There is no reason to teach the way you were taught, and many well documented reasons from brain research to help learners in new ways.
At one point all teachers were not teachers yet. They started somewhere.
The best “teachers” in our lives are not always a person or necessarily some one person with a degree in teaching.
Supporting the learner’s needs and the processes of exploration, growth and connection is more important than teacher training skills or subject matter expertise.
The most important quality of a great teacher is the willingness to be learning all the time, along with and from the student.
One of the most important things we can teach someone is to love learning and how they can learn for themselves, without needing us to plan, manage or direct learning.
We teach the most by how we live our lives.
You may have lots that you want to learn. That’s a good thing.
You may need to have courage to stand up for yourself and kids and go against the grain. This is a great lesson to model for your kids.
There will always be challenges. Just because you make the decision to unschool or homeschool doesn’t mean issues, difficulties and challenges will disappear. They may change, They lessen. But life is full of challenges and opportunities. Every problem is an opportunity for learning and adventure. Showing our kids how to deal with difficulties, determine our priorities, and make decisions in line with our values is some of the most important teaching we can do.
Once you become a parents there are lots of decisions to make, and it is not always easy to decide what to do. We’ve had lots of big decisions to make; when Dale was a baby, with our parents, and as parents of an energetic and passionate young adult starting UnCollege.org.
Our experiences and my reading on navigating the new territory and challenges with decisions which go against the grain prompted me to write this letter.
Dear Parents and Hackademics:
I often hear from children, of all ages, frustrated about not getting parental support for a gap year, trying self-directed learning, or what I like to call learning beyond school. I hear from parents who are unsure or upset about their child wanting to diverge from the path the parent thinks is right.
I see two issues getting in the way of Hackademics getting what they need and want.
One is an issue with how parents and kids communicate and interact around volatile topics. The second issue is with how we approach the decision making process. Just by virtue of being human, whether kid or parent, we have to fight the tendency to limit our options before we even start addressing what the right decision is.
So, if you need some secret sauce to help you communicate with your parents, understand each other better and “get to yes”, you’re in the right place. And if you have some thorny decisions ahead, read on.
Here is a bit of advice along with a few tips that can help you, parents and kids, have better interactions and make better decisions. These tips work for just about any topic. Do yourself and favor and use them.