Tag Archives: learning

Don’t Forget to Go Outside!

Dale Stephens and his grandpa on a hike. Sond't Forget to Go Outside at LisaNalbone.com. Photo copyright JP Stephens
Dale and Grandpa hiking. Grandpa’s most recent backpack trip was at age 90.

Here is one of my core beliefs: to improve parenting, learning, and taking care of yourself, make sure you go outside everyday.

Let nature nurture.

Fresh air, sunshine, feet and hands in the dirt help cure a lot of what ails us.  

Need help with stress? Sleep? Moods?

Take a walk.   Continue reading

Learning Projects that Work: Learning by Earning

Homemade fruit stand. Learning by Earning  LisaNalbone.com
Dale’s homemade fruitstand.

Two different questions I have been seeing lately that can share an answer:

” What kind of things could my kids do if unschooling or homeschooling high school? ”


“How can I make money for the things I want to do -travel, attend a program or conference, buy the supplies I need…?”

Learn to earn and manage your money!

I think this is a worthwhile project for kids of any age. Sometimes those of us who are young at heart need to relearn these skills if we find ourselves in different circumstances than we expected.

Obviously the devil is in the details and the details will vary hugely based on who you are, your skills, your location and circumstances. It will be much more difficult for some than others. That’s reality. It’s not fair.  Dwelling on that fact will not solve your problem.

Figuring out how to earn the money for something you want to do and how to budget that money is a valuable life skill that will solve problems.  And it is very beneficial to learn this skill, if possible, BEFORE you are out on your own with out a safety net.

Here are some questions and  possible answers to spark your imagination. Many of these examples are real from yours truly and family, but I trust you can come up with better ones!  Continue reading

Do you take advantage of liminal learning?

Liminal learning photo collage and blog post at LIsaNalbone.com

Oh I wish I could paint that scene from the  night in Thailand when we were out in the ocean and dusk was falling. There was 100% humidity and no horizon – no line between water and air, no distinction just an opalescent, blue-grey sheen fading into the distance as far as the eye could see.

The only interruptions in the color were the dark masses of the 5 islands, a bathing water buffalo and one small fishing skiff  being paddled kayak style into the distance. It was eerily blue and quiet, and I wondered how they could tell where they were, how far from shore, or how to get back.

It made me think about the liminal spaces in our learning and how we have to let ourselves become familiar and at ease with the discomfort of transitions and uncertainty.  We have to hang in there when we aren’t sure where the edges are, or where we will end up.

It’s interesting—the way in which one has to balance life—because you have to know when to let go and when to pull back…. There’s always some liminal (as opposed to subliminal) space in between which is harder to inhabit because it never feels as safe as moving from one extreme to another.      Bell Hooks

 It  felt as though we were suspended in time and space. Continue reading

Parenting Tips from Jack Andraka’s Mom, Jane: Showing up and Keeping it Real

Quote from Jane Andraka, mom of Jack Andraka on parenting, interview at LisaNalbone.com

Jane Andraka is warm, funny, and down-to-earth mom, who happens to be, according to Forbes magazine, “a genius at raising brilliant kids.” Her sons Luke and Jack have been taking the science and engineering world by storm, while still in their teens. Her younger son Jack developed a break-through, simple test for pancreatic cancer and is the winner of the 2012 Gordon E. Moore Award, the grand prize of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Her son Luke won the 2010 Intel competition, including the “Genius Scholarship,” and the following year, the THINK award given by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to students whose projects benefit their communities. He is currently in college studying engineering and will graduate debt-free.

Jane was a dedicated and dynamic educational force in her children’s schooling, as she explains in her TEDX talk “Hijacking Your Children’s Education.” Jane, an anesthetist, works nights and her husband, an engineer, works days. They both needed to work, but they organized their work lives so that they could have more time with the kids and be available for whatever the kids needed.

I talked to Jane about what she did differently when raising her kids.

Lisa: Your boys are products of public school, with a short stint in private elementary school. Why did you switch from private to public?

Jane: First, we realized that private schools were really like country clubs to keep kids away from people. I think exposing kids to diversity is really important. We have all kinds of people in this world. We are all human and we all make mistakes. Nobody is better than anyone else. Then, when we moved them to public school, we discovered that the private schools in our area were academically way behind the public schools.


Lisa: It is hard to believe that they were ever behind! How did you catch them up?

Jane: Jack moved to public school in 5th grade. He was behind in math so we took him to Kumon (tutoring service) to catch up. Then we found a charter school with a focus on math and science and a program that we felt was especially good for boys.  The school incorporated lots of frequent movement along with its concentrated work. I thought that really helped, because boys and girls can be different (in their attention span and need for movement). In high school, the boys supported trying to get more girls involved in science and math because their academic competition teams were stronger when they included both girls and boys.


Lisa: How did you have time for everything?

Jane: (Laughing) What do you mean?  Geez, they get out of school around 2; they don’t go to bed until about 10–that’s at least 8 hours to DO something with your kids, to be learning something.


Lisa: How did you decide what to do with that time?

Jane: I asked them what they wanted to learn more about – what they wanted to do with themselves. We liked to tell our boys that problems are really opportunities in disguise. So what problems did they want to solve? And then we helped them as they figured out how they could work on those problems. We would do projects together, but always have the kids take the lead. We would ask them questions. And most importantly, we modeled the process of learning and doing.


Lisa: Why did you keep them in school? Why not take them out and have all day for projects?

Jane: We felt that they could go to school to learn how to deal with other people, different kinds of people, and how to negotiate with their teachers and peers. And they went to learn how to not be disruptive, to sit quietly and pay attention when something is boring, because we all have meetings like that at some time in our life. They can learn how to meet expectations and negotiate about those expectations if needed. Heck, there is a lot they can learn. But school is only, what 6 hours a day? Not every day. The parent still has plenty of time to make a difference.

Lisa: What did you do when you realized your kids were really bright?

Jane: I got on the Internet to look for resources when they were really young! I found the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (http://cty.jhu.edu/) there, and that they did testing and had lots of opportunities. I thought it would be easier for the kids to qualify when they were really young, and if they did, they would have more time to take advantage of the programs, so I had them tested as soon as they were able, which was around 2nd grade.  


Lisa: How did they feel about the testing?

 Jane: I made sure the kids knew the test was no big deal. There was no drama around it, I just said ‘let’s just take this and find out what we can.’


Lisa: And after they were tested?

 Jane: Then I had to slowly educate myself about the opportunities out there. It was great. John Hopkins had summer programs where the kids would have a couple of weeks running around with other kids just like them and that was wonderful for them and me! Plus, there were classes and all kinds of resources like competitions and things the kids could work towards. The Internet is so great–get on there and find the resources you and your kids need. And then get them there.


Lisa: You have a really refreshing and healthy attitude toward competition and working hard. How do you feel about competition?

 Jane: I say enjoy the work. Enter the competition, but go there for fun and to learn, not to win. It is so great to meet the other kids and see their projects. You learn more about communicating and get feedback that can help you improve at a competition. But don’t make the mistake of thinking the win and the judging is what is important. It is a one day thing and you have no control over the judge. It’s never good if you let the competition outcome determine whether you feel good about what you have done or yourself. Whether you are competing in science or sports or whatever, do things just because you love them not for the glory.


Lisa: That sounds easy, but actually doing it is hard! I hate competition, personally, how would I make it a healthy experience for my kid?

 Jane: First, make sure you, the parent, focus on the joy of the learning and not the prize. Second, do what the child needs, not what you, the parents prefer. And third, look for opportunities that focus on teams, presenting, or feedback with less focus on competition for a child that needs a less stressful environment.

Both our boys reacted differently to competitions: one thrived under the stress of competition; the other, was less stress resistant. So we took different approaches to competition. One boy skipped Advanced Placement classes to have more time to work on projects, while the other took the classes, but approached them as a challenge to ace them with the least amount of energy.


Lisa: How did you find the energy for so many competitions!

 Jane: We did one project for many competitions.  So you can take the same research and write an essay for an essay competition, or make a video, or, well there’s lots of different ways to share what you have done. And then you are meeting more and different kinds of people and learning how to present your work in different mediums. It’s such a great way to decide what you want to learn and work on.


Lisa: And how did you figure out what projects to do?

 Jane: I had the kids tell me what they wanted to do and why. I had them justify the plan they had. I wanted them to think through what they wanted to do and why it made sense. Kids’ brains are different and it makes sense that they should have different approaches. You have to find the right coaches or programs for your kid, whether it’s sports, arts, or academics.  Ask yourself how you can help them develop and then Google away. And then show up and support them.


Lisa: What would you like to say to other parents?  

 Jane: Take personal responsibility! Stop blaming the schools, the teachers, the system, WHATEVER. Stop blaming and you take action. Stop doing only what is convenient. You decided to have kids, so step up. Kids are an inconvenience, that’s the point. You are supposed to do what it takes to help them develop and reach their potential. You, not someone else.

Lisa: Thank you, Jane!

 If you would like to read more about the Andraka family and their approach to parenting see:





I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments and love it when you share.

If you would like to read more about the Andraka family and their approach to parenting see:



be Honest

When I first wrote the ABC’s of Learning Beyond School I used Help as the defining word for the letter H. But as I have talked with more people about parenting, self-directed learning and how to define success for themselves, I changed my mind.  I realized there are some core beliefs that are the bedrock of my approach to parenting, learning and life.  This is one of them, H is for be Honest.

be Honest original artowrk by Carrie Svozil LisaNalbone.com

 be Honest.

Yes, be Honest in all you do

Be radically honest  so you can build trust.

Be Honest when you look at yourself , even though it is hard and takes courage and integrity.

Be Honest about who you are, your biases and your expectations.

Be Honest about your blindspots, your strengths and your weaknesses.

Be Honest and dare to clearly see who your child really is.

Be Honest about  and celebrate your child’s strengths, talents, weaknesses, foibles,  and quirks.

Be Honest about why you do things and why you don’t, no excuses.

Be Honest about your choices.

Be heroic by spreading honesty and hope

Help  yourself, your family and the world by making honesty a habit.

Help others be honest and true to themselves.

When we honestly see ourselves and others, then we can trust and  bring our truest selves to the world. We can build confidence and connection.

When we  give ourselves and our children the gift of honesty, acceptance  and unconditional love,  we have the power to help ourselves and others heal.

be Honest.

How do you keep yourself honest?  

How do you help those you live with be honest?

Please pass it on!