Saturday, July 22

Pause a Fight!

Ok, so getting real here: Relationships are HARD work!  Maintaining a close relationship over years is really difficult; My own 20-year long (almost) marriage has made that very clear.

Navigating some of the challenging times with my husband, I realize over and over that we have habits that lead us, far too easily into downward spirals in our communication be it about sex, kids, or even driving directions.

So, as part of our shared commitment to continue working through our difficulties, and after I participated in the escalation of a dumb argument until it felt absolutely terrible, I asked myself what I could have done differently.  What I came up with was this 3-step process which I intend to use the next time it happens.  Hopefully, this might also help you.




I know this is challenging.  I really do!! I tend to defend myself, blame my partner, justify my behavior and often I don't listen very well.  When I watch my ego want to taking over, I remind myself that in the end that I really want connection more than I want to be right and if I let my ego take over it won't be worth the resulting tension and sadness. 

Thursday, June 15

On Grief


One year ago today, on June 15, 2016 my mom was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer.






Three months later she passed away. 

It's been a journey and I miss her every day.








Like so many painful things in life, it's often uncomfortable for people to talk about Grief. But those are the topics I feel are some of the most important and so I try to speak and write and share. But sometimes even I feel self-conscious about *still talking about the same thing.  








To acknowledge the day, I altered a poem by Gwen Flowers called "Grief" to make it more true to me.




Tuesday, May 17

A Network of Micro-Schools is The Future of Learning

This weekend I co-curated and hosted the first Innovation Ed Conference which brought together parents, educators, entrepreneurs and investors to explore where learning can and should be going.  

Here's the transcript of my talk from the conference on The Future of Learning:

"Eight years ago I co-founded for Bay Area families who are educating their kids independently, outside of school.  The group has grown to include a couple thousand people and based on their experience...it's clear that radically customized learning is extremely effective and produces self-directed and engaged learners.

Yet whenever I hear from [Innovative Schools] like [Khan Lab School and especially Brightworks] I'm envious of the resources accessible to them; consistent community, physical space and learning structures.

So, I want to talk about the possibility of merging the benefits of school with the freedom, agility and customization enjoyed by independent learners.  I want to talk about the growing trend-- what I believe will be a massive explosion-- in the availability of micro-schools and independent learning centers.

A micro-school as I'm using the term today is a place where a small group of people gather to learn and create in highly customizable ways. 

Consider other recent entrepreneurial trends; The Co-Working Space has grown out of the need for adults to come together to network and share resources, where they otherwise might have had to choose between a 9-5 job and relative isolation as an artist, freelancer or entrepreneur.  Hackers Spaces allow people to share equipment and tools and to build things together.  Meet-up and General Assembly offer courses and gatherings for like-minded people to connect and learn together.  Amazing, effective and timely offerings!  And they're almost entirely geared towards ADULTS.

Why not apply these same principles to learning options for teens?

It's the perfect time. Research shows that the current generation of young people are used to individualization and customization and if given a choice they are not willing to stick around if they aren't receiving relevant personal benefit or growth.  And while the current trend of DIYL — (do-it-yourself learning) is strong and exciting, young people don't want to learn in isolation any more than adult freelancers want to work at home alone in their living rooms.

Add to that the fact that we live in time and place where there is simply not yet enough schools like the ones we've heard from today and independent learning spaces and micro-schools seem like an affordable, agile and customizable solution for young learners to come together, to build, to make, to collaborate, learn, study and to just be together.  And the beautiful thing is that there's no limit to how many can exist.  

All that's needed is an individual with a vision; It might be an teacher, or a parent, or an entrepreneur with the vision.  Guess what.  It could even be a student!  

Maybe you imagine something part-time, maybe you need a full-time program or maybe it's a series of specialty classes.  It could be in one location, at a home, a business or in a community center. Or maybe the micro-school of your dreams is a series of pop-up environments, or interactive experiences, or a roving field trip series.  The options are really unlimited.

But this is not a new idea; It's already happening.  Micro-learning environments exist in the form of parent-run learning co-ops for all ages, where a group of families come together, hire a teacher and design or commission the curriculum for their kids.  They exist when an enterprising teacher gathers small groups of students to learn together in one-room schoolhouses.  Educators are taking ownership of education and running small businesses offering modularized classes in various subjects at Quantum Camp and Share Path Academy (just to name a few) where kids and families can choose one a la carte class or sign up for a whole day or multiple days.  

Outschool has begun to aggregate the class offerings available for and by micro-schools, and Cottage Class is innovating around connecting spaces, teachers and families as well as exploring the possibility of accessing space in senior homes and libraries.

What's needed?  Simply more and better.  More collaboration; better connectivity. 

Imagine a network of micro-schools coming together to share the resources that are usually only available to larger organizations like sports and theater facilities or social events.  

Increasingly we need to find new ways to connect the people who are already creating micro-learning environments and to inspire more people to create new versions, with the sky as the limit.  Perhaps we can even collaborate and build relationships between micro-schools and some of larger schools represented here today.  

I think we're all in agreement that student-centered engagement based learning is what is needed.  If we really want to see it happen the way it could, we're all needed.  We need parents who really understand the degree of individualization possible, educators who are ready to take advantage of the agility a small organization offers, entrepreneurs who see the opportunity and growing market in direct-to-consumer learning...and kids who have the courage to step up and insist that we let them join the party.

We didn't plan this conference to provide all the answers...mostly because we don't have them.  Rather we know that so many of you have solved pieces of the puzzle.  We want you to talk to each other, today and going forward.  Make connections, challenge assumptions, brainstorm possibility!"

Wednesday, January 13

San Francisco Bay Area Independent Learning Options

This post came about like most others; when I'm asked about a topic a LOT, it's time to park the answer here.

Taking kids out of school to learn at home used to be called "Homeschooling" but for me, and a lot of the people I know, that's an unfortunate misnomer.  We didn't leave school to recreate it at home, and anyway we're not home all that much.  There's too much to do, see and learn out in the world, close to home and further afield.

In the last decade since we left the Brick and Mortar school system a lot has changed.  The local scene is barely recognizable.  There are learning opportunities for all ages and all interest using a huge variety of formats and delivery/connection vehicles.

Educator, museums, entrepreneurs and business owners have increasingly discovered that we're an actual market.  That's right!  Parent will spend money on their kids learning.  Some of us will do so even if it doesn't directly increase their chances of getting into Harvard.

So, here's a collection of just a few of the wonderful options for a la carte, independent or direct-to-consumer learning offerings in the San Francisco Bay area.  Of course there are so many more if include all the after-school and extra-curricular activities but in order to narrow the focus I've included only those which are available to learners during the hours when most are in school.


Various Locations or Will Travel:
Beyond the Box Learning - Writing Coaching/Classes (Royd Hatta & Shu-Hsien Ho (Mountainview but travel): Language Arts Tutors and Teachers)

Quantum Camp (Piedmont, SF, Palo Alto): Pioneering the micro-school customizable model.  Offering small group classes to independent learners during the academic year and summer camps off-season).  Science and math classes for Grades 1-8.  

Thinkering School (San Francisco, Montara): Classes and workshops that encourage kids to Think, Make, and Tinker.

The Tech Shop - (Redwood City, SF, San Jose) - The TechShop is a playground for creativity. Part fabrication and prototyping studio, parthackerspace and part learning center, TechShop provides access to over $1 million worth of professional equipment and software. We offer comprehensive instruction and expert staff to ensure you have a safe, meaningful and rewarding experience. 

Mathnasium: (102 CA locations including Burlingame, San Mateo, RWC, Palo Alto, Mountainview and Sunnyvale): Franchised Math Small Group Tutoring; more progressive feeling and fun than Kumon or other traditional tutoring companies.  Some locations have Homeschooling Hours (like the San Mateo location; if you go there please say I referred you)...if not, ask them to open a day up. 

Outschool:  (Various) Great Listing Service for Learning Experience Outside of Regular School

San Francisco:


The Peninsula:

Classical Living History For Kids - Classes and camps offered by a College Professor and Foothill College Dean of Fine Arts, Simon Pennington, who along with his wife, is also part of Palo Alto homeschooling family.   They are committed to multidimensional integrated learning, community building, and academic excellence through fun, applied, and engaging courses. Classes involve language skills, mathematics, practical physics, writing, art, and history combined into projects designed to emphasize the synthesis of all these disciplines. Their aim is to challenge the intellect through 'living history' classes helping to create a love of learning.

Riekes Center: (Menlo Park): The Riekes Center, in Menlo Park near Redwood City, is a nonprofit organization that offers programs in Athletic FitnessCreative ArtsNature Awareness and Student Services.


School of Independent Learners (Mountainview): One on one classes


Kidizens (Los Altos/Palo Alto): Social Studies through hands-on Lego City Building


The East Bay:
The Crucible - (Oakland) The Crucible inspires creative exploration and expression through welcoming, hands-on arts education and experiences for people of diverse ages and backgrounds. As an innovative hub built around the industrial arts, The Crucible is a catalyst for individual growth and vibrant community connections.

The South Bay:
Communication Academy (Cupertino): Communication skills courses offering instruction and coaching from professionals in Public Speaking, Debate, Writing, and Math Olympiad.

The Young Socrates (San Jose and online) - I don't have personal experience with this but it looks interesting. Uniquely combine traditional class-room teaching and live webcast classes with online self-paced content and one-on-one tutoring sessions. 

Academic Antics is a core learning and enrichment program for homeschool families.  Found in 2010 by families in San Jose.

The A-Team - A community where homeschoolers come together to learn in a safe and fun environment.

Rock-It Science - Fun science classes for kids and teens



Adventure Out - Adventure Out is California’s premiere outdoor school specializing in surf camps, rock climbing classes, backpacking trips, mountain biking, and wilderness survival skills instruction. Our mission is to share decades of wilderness experience while achieving our wildest adventures in the outdoors.


Monday, September 28

NURTURING THE QUALITIES OF LEADERSHIP

Leadership is more than assigning tasks.  Rather, great leaders bring people together in pursuit of a common goal or intent.  Some thoughts on the characteristics leaders can nurture in themselves and others (how Meta is that?):

  • Integrity: I consider Integrity to be when what you say matches what you do.  A person of integrity can be trusted and people are more likely to confide in, follow and support a person they trust to be true to their word. 

  • Courage: Sometimes being courageous means doing what is hard, saying what is unpopular or simply being first.  Other people will find more courage inside themselves when they see it modeled.  

  • Commitment: Follow-through!!!

  • Generosity: A great leader cares about others and goes out on a limb to listen, support and serve the goals and dreams of another.  The irony is that helping others often ends up with the biggest gift of all going to the giver.  The best leaders understand and model this principle.  The greater your ability to care and contribute to people, the more effective you'll be and the more you'll reap the benefits. 

This post started with a Leadership Skills focus, but the same can be generalized to Nurturing Qualities for Effectiveness.  


Thursday, March 27

Pioneer Nation - My evolving list of Ideas, Plans, Inspirations

Pioneer Nation is a two-day event and gathering of people who are entrepreneurs committed to living a life of freedom and independence.  


A Query at Pioneer Nation
It's two days of working together to improve our businesses and to focus on actions for the purpose of increasing income, impact and sustainability.

I'm capturing my ideas as the two days progresses here.  Many of these thoughts come from conversations I've had with the other participants.

Why I'm here: Even though I'm pretty much obsessed with dancing right now, I don't want to forget about my two other primary goals for this year.  In addition to 1) competing in a Ballroom Dance competition (which is about to happen at SFOpen in April), I've also committed to 2) converting my Rock Your Talk seminar into a video course version and 3) (finally) completing the first draft of my book, MetaLearning: Creating Lifelong Self-Directed Learners.  SO...I'm after:

-connecting with like-minded people and inspiration
-collecting ideas on marketing, productizing, pricing
-having time to work on stuff (since sometimes focus is hard to come by in my daily life)


Random and Specific Notes:

I loved Chris Brogan's opening talk and his emphasis on building more business sustainability through Service which completely matches my values and how I love to operate.

Other people I've loved connecting with:

I loved hearing the story of James Todd's 24 Hour Book project which resulted in the book Everyday Superheroes.  I am intrigued about the possibility of using a service like his evolving A Book One Day.  I think it could get me past the obstacle of writer's block I've been experiencing since my computer was stolen out of my hands a number of months ago.  Action Step: Get back to using the interview process for finishing book.  Consider an interview for each MetaLearning skill.

A conversation with Seth Haley got me thinking about the possibility of collaborating with a videographer to create a product "Rock Your Talk on Video" offer which would help others speak effectively on-camera and which would result in a set of video modules to communicate the story.  These modules could be used for marketing.  Action Step: Explore the possibility of collaboration (QS videographer?) and/or price out as a supplied service.

[Friday:  Of note is the fact that the day after writing the above I discovered by chance that James homeschools his three kids and Seth was homeschooled.  I should be surprised since this event explicitly attracts people who are thinking outside of the box.)

Jenna Bee:  Totally resonated with her focus on working through the body as a metaphor and practice and her commitment and love of community-building.  Action Step:  Connect Jenna with the Watson U people, especially Tessa Zimmerman.

Doug Neill:  Involved in the super interesting field of SketchNoting or Graphic Recording.  I first saw this process in action at an Institute for the Future session on Hacking the Future of Education and have been intrigued by the process ever since.  My conversation with Doug was interesting especially related to the idea of teaching the process of SketchNoting for learning.

Sukhneet Singh: Amazing and deep conversation about values-based living, changing thinking, personal bias, science and religion relationship, Sihk culture and so much more.  Looking forward to doing a podcast with Sukheet later today for his Art of Change Project.  Action Step: Reconnect!

Connected with interesting people who are into Disrupting Education.  Patrick Larsen (writes about entrepreneurship, learning and travel and is a fellow-Hapa), Caitlin Muir (who was also homeschooled and took self-directed learning to hack college), Marli Williams (who counsels first-generation college students and has great ideas for expanding her service as well as an awesome evolving talk about empowering students to reclaim agency), Seth Perler (who helps struggling students shine).

Thanks to Ross Lukeman who writes a blog called AlternativeHomeToday I will look for a skype recorder and finally take interviews to an online post-able format.  Here's an example interview he did with Brittany Yunker.  I have to compare the possible free programs to the one he suggested which is Call Recorder and $29.  He notes that 19:9 aspect ratio is best.  (Ross: thanks! And do go for that talk.  It was fun seeing it begin to evolve out of our conversation.)  If you have experience and thoughts on this please do share your opinion in the comments, pretty please.  Action Step: Decide on program and start interviews for book and for courses, which can also be something interviewees can use for their marketing.  

Will connect more with Azat Mardanov who is an entrepreneur, web and mobile developer, yoga + paleo enthusiast.  He's recently published a number of books including Express.Js Guide and knows a bunch about e-book publishing.  He's currently writing "How to Write a Book" and is building out some programs requiring presenting.  Action Step: Reconnect to give support for presenting and get insight on book launch and web support. 

Gary Hirsch's Yes Bot
Really enjoyed my conversation with Gary Hirsch of On Your Feet.  Gary co-wrote "Everything's An Offer" which completely speaks to my belief that acting and improv are super fun and experientially effective ways to better understand communication, work and LIFE.  Like so many folks here, these guys are out of the box.  Check out their alternative compensation offer of Wild Work.  Love it!   Gary's Yes Bot is pictured at right.

Resources:

Strikingly.com: Gorgeous mobile-friendly websites in minutes
Call Recorder:  Records audio and video calls directly to your mac.
Time Trade:  Online appointment scheduling for individuals and teams.
From Jonathan Meade's Launch Anything:

  1. 40 Step Launch Checklist
  2. Trailblazer Movie Trailer
  3. Trailblazer Launch Blog and Sequence
  4. Trailblazer Affiliate Resource Center
Ideas:

In order to sustainably and effectively serve more people:

1) create clearer and differentiated product versions and multiple packages; (Great ideas from Nathan Barry and looking forward to reading his book, Authority which was just gifted to us all).  Action Step: Read book and Work on Packaging

2) Determine your Minimum Viable Product (which could even be an email sign-up giveaway).  Action Step: Put Speaker tip on email sign-up.  

3) Lots of push to outsource work.  Action Step: Consider outsourcing page design for products.

Action Item: Move testimonials around.  Weave them through content.

Reach out to Willo re: possible tech support.

SHOW that it works.  (Before and after video).

[The evolving story here]

How about you?  If you're at Pioneer Nation, what are your takeaways and inspirations?  If not, in the spirit of Chris's message what steps are you taking to be of service to your community?

If you're here at Pioneer Nation please say hello through twitter as I'd love to hear your story.  Or if your dance card is filled stay in touch by joining my mailing list.


Tuesday, March 18

Talk to Me First - Deborah Ruffman on Sex and Teens


Deborah Ruffman

 


March 18–19, 2014
Talk To Me First (Link to The BOOK)

Common Sense About Kids and Sex
Deborah Roffman is a nationally acclaimed educator and writer with over 30 years of experience working with children and adolescents. She urges parents to be the most approachable, reliable sources for our children’s sexuality education. Her advice for inviting natural, ongoing dialogs about sex is crucial to ensuring our children’s emotional health and countering the influences of a media-saturated culture. Ms. Roffman’s books includeTalk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids’ “Go-To” Person About Sex and Sex and Sensibility.  On March 18, Ms. Roffman will address her remarks to the parents of teens and present strategies for guiding young adults toward healthy sexual relationships


I loved this talk. It was a real call to get talking to our kids early and often about sex. My notes are unmassaged but I think the essential points are important enough that they should be shared in any form possible so until I'm able to package it more nicely, here they are in their roughest form.

Most important research finding is that parents really matter.  Children who grow up in families in which sexuality (gender, sex and reproduction) is openly discussed,  and children are assisted in learning how to think critically and deeply, those children grow up healthier in all ways.  


With every 6 months that children postponed getting involved in risky behaviors the healthier they are.  When they become involved they tend to do so with much greater foresight and insight.  Our culture tends to introduce sexuality in ways that are sensationalistic and reductionistic (reducing complicated people, experiences and lives) to stereotypes and characatuers.   


Hoop-ups, sexting...they are soundbytes made up by the media to grab attention.  


Talk about it at the dinner table.  Even if they don’t participate they are getting the message that it’s important and worth talking about.   The process of dialogue that teaches children how to think about sex, gender and reproduction.   It almost doesn’t matter what you talk about but  giving the message that this is important topic and is worth thinking about.


The eye rolling is just that they have to let you know that there is at least one part of them that doesn’t want to listen to what you have to say.


How to engage in dialogue:


What are the issues:


Pregnancy and STDs
Female empowerment and enjoyable sexuality
Pornography
Notion of sex as an act of human intimacy
How to think deeply about sex in a culture that trivializes and simplifies it
Sexting
Helping kids develop their own values and knowing if they’re ready (what do you really want!?)  (K?)


Q:What does a teenage girl want from her dad?  
A: Same as she wants from her mom.  Everyday people in their life.  The Five Core Needs!


Clear difference between who belongs in the category of child (including teens) and adult.  How do you make the transition from the child paradigm to the adult paradigm?  A: Children are totally dependent and our job is to take them from total dependence to independence.  They come into the world with five needs that they cannot meet on their own.  The nurturing adults meet them and then gradually teach them how to meet their own needs at which point they are adults.  


Five Core Needs and the Corresponding Adult Roles


Need #1: Affirmation


a. Unconditional Love and Acceptance for who your child IS.  This does not necessarily include their behavior.  


b. Simple Acknowledgement and Validation.  (ie Tongue-biting and instead reflecting back what you’re hearing).  


c. Remembering to look behind your child’s eyes and remember that they do NOT see the world in the same way as adults.


d. Developmentally-based responsiveness and knowledge of who our kids are


Tie this together and how it related to sex:


Brand new in history that people on average marry in their late 20’s and we have a delayed adolescents 14 years of sexual but not married as opposed to 150 years ago when boys finished apprenticeships, girls got their periods and people married at 16.


Educating for YES.  Lots of sexual decisions to make during that 14 years.


Under what circumstances might it be ok for you to say yes to certain experiences.  In what circumstances would it be in your best interest to say “no”.   Because we haven’t been teaching yardsticks that may be the reason


Need #2: Ongoing need for Information


Even our schools are 3-7 years late in teaching sexual content.   Need to be attuned to the way they think at certain ages.  


9th graders can understand probably (ie. you might die but you might not)...but emotionally they think statistics don’t apply to them.  Nature’s way of convincing teens that they are safe even if they separate from parents.  But they still need lots and lots of supervision.  Age 16 alcohol use increases at the same time as adult supervision decreases.  


Need #3: Ongoing Need for Crystal Clear Clarity about Values


There are no clear values about messages about sex in our culture.  Many are contradictory.  We have to NAME the values we want for our children.  Tend to give them rules but we need to name the VALUES we want them to bring to every sexual situation they confront.  Also a single standard for everyone, regardless of gender.  
Need #4: Ongoing Need for Limit Setting

These are the limits we use to keep our kids safe and healthy.  They need adult supervision and limits are the brackets we put around our kids for that purpose.  The art is knowing how to work with the limits and how to turn those brackets over to themselves over time.  The way you know how much to turn it over is based on track record.  Limits are not optional and increasingly there are more parents who don’t get that setting limits are not optional.  They need them even when they’re rolling their eyes.  


Re: Internet Devices.  Remember the public service announcement it’s 11 o’clock do you know where your children are.  Internet connection is unbridled independance and we’ve forgotten that in our love affair with technology.


I believe that all families should have an acceptable use policy for all screens based on the idea that Independance is Earned.  Once you’ve mastered x then you can have a bigger space.


Need #5: Ongoing Need for Anticipatory Guidance


What if x happened?  Walking them through possible scenarios that they may find themselves in.  If your child refuses to have this conversation they don’t go.  What if they can’t answer the questions?  They don’t go to the party.  


You cannot do this on your own.  You have to network with other parents.   We have to help eachother.  Also keep reading, reading, reading about development.  If you have 10 year old you have to be prepared for next year as well.  


Get yourself a mentor.  Help me keep ahead of the psunami.  FInd someone who have children older than yours, who have good relationships with their kids.  


Resources:
Eric Ericsson
Piaget
Colberg


Resources for our Kids:
Heather Corrina books


Take apart the terminology: blowjob, handjob…which are prostitution terms.


Worldwide people say that relationship sex is the best sex.   What makes sexual behavior “sex”?  What makes a particular act sexual?  A: Arousal.  The behavior doesn’t matter.  It’s a spectrum of behaviors going from least intimate to most physically intimate.  


What are the Values that you want your child to bring to every situation (including every sexual situation)?


Respect (for self, others, boundaries, sex itself (happens to be the most powerful action on the planet...create life, change lives forever), all genders.
Responsibility
Honesty
Integrity
Enthusiasm
Generosity
Equity
Empathy
Caring
Compassion


Challenge is that everything your kids are hearing about sex and the images are not supporing the message of those values.


NOTE on lecture:  The overarching perspective seemed to be that it’s not ok for teenagers to have sex.  I was one of only a few people in the audience who raised my hand that it might be ok.  That experience really made me want to further explore the question and made me wonder a little bit about the contextualization.  It did NOT change my opinion about the valuable information shared.