Tag Archives: learning

Attitude Matters: 10 Attitudes to Spread the Love of Learning


Q&AEven when you choose to unschool, as a parent you will have moments when you are the teacher. Don’t worry if you don’t have a teaching credential. The critical elements that make a great teacher are often not taught in college, nor are they required to earn a teaching credential.

So, you may be asking yourself these questions:

How can I be the best teacher for my kids?  As a self-directed learner, how do I become my own best teacher?

How does a great teacher spread the love of learning?

Close your eyes for a moment and remember the best teacher you ever had. Maybe it was in a Sunday school or summer camp. Think of someone who was a great teacher in your life- not necessarily a classroom teacher. It could be a coach, a music teacher, a scout leader, a professor, a parent, a neighbor, a mentor. Perhaps a friend.

Can you recapture the good feeling of that learning experience?   What did you learn? How? What was it about the teacher and how they interacted with you that made it  great?  How did they make you feel? Jot those down.

I have two elementary school teachers that immediately come to mind: Mrs. Willing and Miss Alcott.  I don’t remember any specific anecdote about my second grade class, but when I think of Mrs Willing I  feel  happy and warm and loved and totally accepted, like I can do anything. I recently saw some of the report cards my mom saved from those years.  Mrs. Willing focused on my strengths and I excelled, learning and growing stronger in knowledge, skills and the ability to manage my habits and learning. (Any guesses as to what I needed to work on?)

When I think of Miss Alcott and fourth grade, I smile and remember square dancing with Earl. Earl was tall and skinny. I was short and skinny. And we were overachievers in the square dance set – when they said swing, we were going for lift off. I couldn’t wait for the caller to holler “and SWING YOUR PARTNER!”

I can still close my eyes and feel like I am flying while dancing with Earl, I’m sure my feet must have been off the ground. Miss Alcott and the rest of the class were in hysterics, in a good way. I also remember struggling to have beautiful cursive like my teacher and how she never got mad at me, even when I made so many blotches with my ink and fountain pen. My handwriting improved but is still not great.  Yet I left that class with the confidence that I could learn and improve anything, if I wanted to concentrate on that skill. I remember walking to her house to visit her for years after I was in fourth grade, and still feeling seen, loved, and encouraged.

The nightmare teacher

Okay, now, think of your WORST teacher. What made them the worst teacher you ever had? How did they interact and teach? How did they make you feel? Jot it down.

Unfortunately this one is an instant memory, too. My high school spanish teacher lived to humiliate students. I still feel creepy crawly just thinking of him.  He made a derogatory comment about how my chest size didn’t match my brain size. That sense of heat and dread and embarrassment comes flooding back. It’s a wonder I ever spoke Spanish again.

I can’t forget my piano teacher who said, “Lisa, Lisa, Lisa. It is such a shame. You are my hardest working student but you have no talent. What a waste.” It took years before I played music again. Even though I’ve tried to overcome the devastation of that moment I am much happier and freer moving to the ukulele than I have been able to be with piano.  It’s been more than 40 years and this still gets me. Don’t be that teacher.

Okay, let’s break it down. What can you do to be the great teacher and not the world’s worst? What made me feel great and horrible as a learner had nothing to do with those teacher’s credentials or subject area expertise. There are multiple attributes that can help improve teaching and learning, but the underlying attitude toward the learner is key to setting the stage for learning to unfold.

So, start with creating that feeling of confidence and joy that makes you want to learn and feel like you can learn. Strive to develop these attitudes in yourself, and look for them if you are finding a teacher for yourself or your kids.

10 Attitudes for Spreading the Love of Learning

Accepting. Accepts and loves learner for who are, where they are.

Experimental. Mistakes do not equal failure, they are feedback we can use to give us direction for what to try next.

Calm. Trusts the learning process. Manages emotions, time, activity, and pacing to reduce stress.

Loving. Connects emotionally, loves unconditionally, encourages enthusiastically.

Open-minded. Enjoys learning from all situations and people about all kinds of topics in new ways. Willingness to find new ways that work for learners.

Playful. Shares a sense of humor. Believes learning is and should be enjoyable. Joy, laughter and fun can go hand in hand with learning, hard work, and challenges.

Positive. Sees and build on strengths. Sees potential. Believes that all are capable of learning and growing and that change and growth are good.

Reflective. Practices reflection and analyzes how and what needs to change about self  to improve interaction and communication with the learner.

Respectful. Respects learner’s input and feelings, and empowers the learner. Creates a safe environment for learning.

Responsible. Takes responsibility for own actions and doing what needs to be done, even when inconvenient. Apologizes when needed.

Be the Change: Progress not Perfection

Embodying these ten attitudes to spread the love of learning works for parents and self-directed learners. It is an ongoing process. Sometimes we need to work on how we view and treat ourselves as learners before we can spread the love to our kids. Keep at it.

None of us are perfect. I am sure you will have, just as I do, plenty of what I call “Mea Culpa Moments.”  There will be times you need to slow down and work on rebalancing and basic relationship repair, which is more important than any topic, deadline, or outside  pressure.  How I wish I could undo the times I lost my patience, yelled, and let stress take over and ended up modeling exactly what I didn’t want to teach.

One of the beauties of unschooling and homeschooling is that you have so much more time with your family. You can structure your day to build in the time for mindfulness and reflection. You can choose the activities and company you keep to support your developing the learning attitudes that you want. And when you are in the teacher role, for your kids or yourself, you can aim to be that teacher that leaves a legacy of joyful learning.

What’s your opinion?  Do you need or want an attitude adjustment? I’d love to hear from you.  Send me an email at learningbeyondschool@gmail.com!  Lisa

Why We Dared Leaving the System to Leap into Learning Beyond School

Why did we start homeschooling?  What kicked us over the edge of fear into being willing to try something different? To go against the grain? It wasn’t just one thing. (It never is, is it?)

Why did we dare to leave the system and leap into learningbeyond school at LisaNalbone.com?Of course, there was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back,” but if I only cite the straw, then you won’t know the whole story.

Before “the straw” I recognized that Dale needed something different because

  • He was frustrated and got angry easily.
  • He talked negatively about learning, school, and himself.
  • He seemed less happy, joyful, and motivated.
  • He told me that he “got shot down” when he was excited about an assignment, went off on a creative tangent, and did more than what was “required.”
  • He started doing the least amount of work possible to meet a requirement.


He told me.

After investigating other schools and finding the same kind of problems, we looked into homeschooling and unschooling.  At first, it seemed too extreme a solution, but once we acknowledged that the problem of Dale coming to hate learning was extreme as well, we started considering it in earnest.

What helped move us to say “yes”? We went to the annual HomeSchoolers of California conference where we found:

  • Lots of people homeschooling
  • Lots of different ways to do it
  • Lots of opportunities for connection for Dale and the whole family
  • Lots of resources
  • Lots of families who had homeschooled whose grown children were happy, functioning adults  with jobs, pursuing higher education, or self-employed
  • Lots of people who were defining success in their own terms
  • Lots of folks unafraid to be themselves and follow a path that was right for them

Still, we had doubts about leaving institutionalized education. But then we thought about some of what we were considering doing just to stay within that system, like my taking a full-time job 20 miles to the west to pay for a private school 30 miles to the east. And we thought about emotionally scary things like the increasing teen suicide statistics and how our exuberant Dale, the Tigger of the family acting more like Rabbit or Eyeore. And then Dale himself asked us what our real values were and whether we could reclaim our courage, the courage to be different. Given all that, it seemed that we should make the leap.

Were we scared? Yes.

Did we know what we were doing and love it right from the beginning? No.

But we figured it out as we went along. It was a big shift and definitely nerve wracking at the beginning, especially because I felt on display in our small town because of my past role as a local public school teacher. But it was also exciting to meet new friends and try new things and we were lucky to find a local group doing cooperative activities.

What I did love immediately was the change in my son.

His enthusiasm and motivation were back. He was more himself.  He was happy.

And that made all the uncertainty worth it. And then we realized that learning how to figure things out, reflecting on what’s working and not working, and making changes—all things we were forced to do as new homeschoolers—are great life skills. These were skills that would benefit all of us as we moved forward through our schooling life and beyond.

And then we started to realize the other benefits of homeschooling. Of course it meant that Dale had time to try new things and to figure out who he was, what he loved to do, and how he learned best. But beyond that there were unexpected benefits: having more time together in the few short years before my child launched into the world. And learning new things together. And modeling skills for Dale and then having him model adventurousness and persistence for me. Homeschooling was a wonderful gift for all of us.

Those are my reasons, beyond that unimportant camel-breaking straw, for stepping into learning beyond school.  I’d love to hear yours. Email Me  at learningbeyondschool.com or send me a  tweet!


Review:Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori Pickert

There are so many things I love about this book. From page 7,

When we talk about project-based homeschooling, we are moving beyond knowledge and skills and probing underneath for the machinery of learning. We are thinking less about the specific facts that will be learned (radius of Mars, exports of Peru) and more about what makes a person want to learn and how we can help them become adept at doing the things they want to do.

Rather than filling our child’s educational plate and saying, “Eat up. Trust me. This is what you need,” we hand them the menu and say, “Order something that looks good to you.”

Resource Review of Project Based Homeschooling, Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori Pickert at LisaNalbone.com

I agree with Lori Pickert’s take on  mentoring self-directed learners and learner-centered education.  I love that she addresses the big picture by looking at learning and how we choose to model our values and gives very practical, tangible steps you can take to begin the process with your children.  She also has  great series of articles on PBH for grownups.

Give the book a read and  you can also enroll in  her upcoming PBH Master Class and take a look at the many other resources she has to offer at her site. I have not taken the  PBH Master class, but have heard and seen rave reviews from both new and seasoned homeschoolers and unschoolers. I participated in two email based classes she offered this summer, on journaling and drawing, and they were excellent.

Lori provides great resources with her  blog posts, forum, classes,  Tip-Sheet, and conversations on Facebook and Twitter. I only wish they had been available back when we began our unschooling journey.

She says it so well. From page 147,

“When you devote some of  your learning time to helping your child pursue  his self-chosen work, you help him become project-oriented. You help him become deeply acquainted with his passions, his talents, his interests.  You help him find out what he can do with those interests.

You support your child’s pursuit of his own self-chosen work, and you equip him with the thinking and learning tools he needs to succeed. You create a system that promotes meaningful work and the means to achieve it.

This is not a one off experience. It is a way of thinking, learning, working and sharing. It is a way of living. “

Is it time to hand your child the menu?   Yell Yes!


Just to be clear, I am recommending Lori, her book, and classes on the strength of her work. There is no financial reward or affiliation.