Author Archives: Fred Ray Lybrand
Author Archives: Fred Ray Lybrand
One of the big challenges I face in teaching kids to write is getting mom and dad to chill out about writing well. Most of us lock up when too much is on the line! The Ugly Truth is that no one can learn much of anything without practice (especially writing)…AND…when there is too much of an emphasis on writing well during practice, then almost no learning can ever helpfully happen.
Writing needs practice in order for a student to tap into her own language instinct talent. My suggestion for homeschoolers (and others) is to allow your child a day of writing WITHOUT ANY CORRECTIONS by following Natalie Goldberg’s Rules—
Don’t take your fingers from your keyboard or put down your pen because you want to check email, attend to a chore or get something.
Instead, much like during meditation, you must stay present with whatever you are writing.
If you cross out while you write, you are editing your work. There’s a time for self-censorship and for removing what you didn’t mean; it’s after your writing practice is done.
Natalie adds that writers who use pen and paper should write between the lines and on the margins of their notepads.
Again, there’s a time for proof-reading and it’s not during first drafts.
The purpose of writing practice is to free yourself, write on “waves of emotion”, and say things you hadn’t thought possible.
This loss of control is difficult to achieve, and I’ve found it only comes deep into a writing practice session.
Natalie practices Zen (a topic she relates to writing practice in her book), and she cautions against over-thinking the words that appear on the blank page.
Natalie says writers in the middle of writing practice shouldn’t back down from an idea that’s scary or an idea that makes us feel naked.
We should “dive in” because these ideas have “lots of energy”. In other words, if you feel uncomfortable writing about a topic, you need to write about it.
What a powerful gift if your child begins to practice outside of ‘class time’ because he learned to see the power of learning. Practice is like running everyday, rather than making every run like a race. Daily writing doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does need to be done.
Like running, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Some days you don’t want to run and you resist every step of the three miles, but you do it anyway. You practice whether you want to or not. You don’t wait around for inspiration and a deep desire to run
Hope this helps.
Off to learn,
Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand
Here's a discussion Jody and I had online discussion about kids learning to understand what they read. I think you'll find it thought provoking:
Though I'm writing this on Christmas Eve Day, the same principle applies anytime. Holidays are especially given to conflict when family's get together because we tend to easily punch each other's buttons (they know our buttons because they installed them!).
Now, to stop conflict dead in its tracks, we need to understand how it works. Of course, I mean ordinary conflict between individuals (I'm not trying to talk about the Middle East here). Basically, this diagram, if you can imagine it getting multiplied, explains a common cycle:
Bear in mind that this can be either IMAGINED or REAL, but for the cycle to work it must be PERCEIVED. Either way, someone feels blamed and defends herself, which then comes across as blame, which leads to the other person defending himself. Feel free to mix up the hims and hers in this example.
The game escalates until a final meltdown or someone walks off. Maybe they come back later and apologize, but what if you could just stop it when it's happening?
What else contributes?
What to do makes sense once you know one more thing: SPLITTING
Splitting is also known as black-and-white thinking or all-or-nothing thinking, which simply means we can tend to decided that someone/something is 100% wrong or evil (or right or good). While it goes hand-in-hand with certain personality disorders, it is also something we can all do. Long term cultural and national conflicts use this tendency. Examples include, "All Jews/Blacks/Whites/Arabs/Mexicans/Americans/Rich/Poor/Republicans/Democrats are evil."
While this is lame and irrational, it still can capture someone in the moment. If you are thinking the other person is 100% wrong, then you won't have much of a path ahead except to 'fix' them as the evil source of blaming you, true?
What Do You Do?
The key is to snap out of the black-and-white thinking AND chill-out the sense of blame. Sounds easy, huh? 😉
Here's what you do: SHOW A LITTLE RESPECT or APPRECIATION. When there is still respect/appreciation in play, then no one can really look at things in an all-or-nothing-you're-blaming-me way. Here's how you do it:
1. FIRST, tell the person something you appreciate related to the conversation (yes, you have to mean it!)
2. SECOND, tell the person whatever else you want to say
I've found you can also mediate well in this manner. You describe what you appreciate in one person (and what you are concerned about / disagree with), then you repeat it for the other person. A professor of mine named Norman Geisler taught us to list what was 'good' about the other point of view BEFORE we gave our arguments against it. Great approach!
So, here is how it might sound.
"I appreciate that you are staying in the conversation and want to resolve it, but I'm frustrated that I can't finish my thought without being interrupted."
"I appreciate that you care so deeply for racial equality, but I don't see how you are considering both sides of the debate."
"I really respect your talent for debate as a means of understanding the issue, but it doesn't seem you are open to someone sharing new information."
Obviously you may need to run at this a few times, but you'll find that if you FIRST keep sharing something you respect or appreciate related to the conflict of the moment, then things will most often calm down. Of course, with humans nothing works all the time! What this does tend to do is to get it out of the black-and-white-blame loop because you are reaching toward their heart with something good.
Off to learn,
Fred Ray Lybrand
P.S. This approach works even better if you and the other person can both agree to communicate with appreciation or respect before sharing the point of disagreement.
How about a little honesty: We all want to succeed, true?
Success just means that we get the end result we want. If you want to graduate college and don't, you just can't call that success. You might be successful, but not on that point because you didn't successfully complete college (what you wanted). Of course, there's nothing necessarily special about having to complete college (ask Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg); but if it is your aim, then success means finishing.
Even spiritual goals like peace and joy and kindness can only be considered successful for us when we get them. The challenging thing about success is that it REQUIRES FAILURE. I developed the diagram below a few weeks ago after finishing our Mastering Goals Course (especially for kids). When I showed it to Jody she said, "You came up with that?" I said, "Yep, I did just now." She said again, "You did that?" Now, that's one of her best compliments (and I am grateful) because she instantly got the point...which, on occasion, she misses because I can get a little complicated if I don't watch myself. Apparently I passed the keep-it-simple-silly test this time!
OK, so there's not much to it. It kind of sounds like "If at first you don't succeed, try try again." And, while that's OK, it doesn't really grasp the important fact that FAILURE is a necessary step in the process. Moreover, LEARNING is also a required step toward success. The idea is that you are in a not-yet-successful box that you must break out of by outwardly moving from trying, to failing, to learning, to Trying again.
This is exactly how it works...we all, who can, learned to walk this way. We tried and failed and learned and EVENTUALLY walked! Aren't you glad the first time you plopped down on your bottom no one said, "You failure, you'll never learn to walk!" and left it at that?
All of us need to be cheered on, and we must learn that failing is a part of learning. I know it's simple, but most miss it. In preparing our kids to leave home and impact the world (or at least survive / thrive), we simply must get them to value failing and learning and trying again.
We have a great course that can help you make this real in their lives. Check it out by clicking on Mastering Goals.
Off to fail,
Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand
P.S. Okay, sometimes there are one-hit-wonders...but it only happens rarely and NEVER in multiple areas for anyone's life. Best to get used to The Outward Spiral of Success!
So, don’t we hear this all the time? How are you going to socialize your child if you homeschool? What about socializing homeschoolers when they are isolated from others?
These kinds of jabs are a bit frustrating, but I’m sure jabs go in the other direction. Often people are asked, “Aren’t you afraid for your child’s safety in public school (implied: since you don’t home school)?
So what about socialization? What happens to human beings to become socially mal-adjusted? Can homeschoolers really figure out the socialization question? Is it legitimate? Do private school and public school kids face a guarantee about socialization themselves.
Here are a few thoughts…hope they help!
If you find this helpful, would you please send it along by re-tweeting it or sharing it on facebook or your site? Also, as always, leave a comment and we’ll talk about it!
Everything I'm about to say will seem ridiculously absurd to a lot of people, especially those in education who honestly aren't that smart (or educated). Home educators have a decided advantage since they are not interested in a 'percentage' of students graduating from home college and life ready. For most homeschool families it's 100%...we just aim for every student to succeed.
Even if these statistics are dated, we know that things aren't any better. The simple fact is that educators either don't know what they are doing OR they are unable to do what they need to do because of the constraints in the system.
My simple premise as an educator and the father of 5 Fine Readers is that we have missed the point that COMPREHENSION is actually all that matters. Take a moment and ponder: Does it really matter how fast or slow your child reads if she can't understand the content?
THERE ARE 3 IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT SLOW READERS
[Slow readers are just readers who are subject to the same bits of reality we all must face]
1. Reading Speed is Limited (no matter what)
2. Comprehension Speed is the REAL Issue
3. Once the Brain is 'Hooked Up Right' - Comprehension is a Breeze
Reading Speed is Limited (no matter what)
Having taken over 1/2 dozen speed-reading courses, I can assure you that actual speeds are limited by physiology. Just like talking has limits that run a range between fast-and-slow talkers. You can take a course in talking faster (I guess), but the REAL ISSUE is what you say 😉 This is the same game with speed-reading; as speeds increase then comprehension will diminish. At one time I tested out at 1600 words a minute with an 80% comprehension rate...which means I would barely make a "B" four times faster. Here's a good explanation if you want to learn more: http://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2015/01/19/speed-reading-redo/
Comprehension Speed is the REAL Issue
The honest issue is comprehension speed. If your child is reading slow it is most likely because he is not understanding what he is reading. That's where reading things over-and-over comes in to the story. Plus, vocabulary, reading way too slowly, learning challenges, lack of focus, etc., come into play. The real focus every home educator should have (and public/private educator as well) is, "Do you understand what you are reading?" If they don't understand it, then they are just swooshing their eyes over the words.
Once the Brain is 'Hooked Up Right' - Comprehension is a Breeze
While we all have an instinct for language, it is rather easy to not understand what's going on. Haven't you misunderstood someone's point (or a joke's punchline) before? The reason we often miss these things is that we have some other story line bumping along in our heads. We mistake words and then create some other story about what was said. Usually this is about poor habits or skills in putting together the information.
We have found that there are Three Stages in Comprehension:
1. The Pieces of Information
2. The Connections Between the Pieces of Information
3. The Logic of How the Pieces Fit Together as a Whole
Our Mastering Reading Course (see above menu) provides a very specific series of exercises designed to "Hook Up" almost anyone's brain for reading. Frankly, it is exactly what happens naturally when a fine reader develops.
WHAT TO DO
Outside of our comprehensive approach to learning how to Understand without having to Read Every Word (crazy idea, huh?). The best place to start is with these simple steps:
1. Have your student read to you out loud for 10 minutes
2. Ask your student to explain what she read in her own words
3. If it isn't clear and detailed enough, re-read the passages and repeat step #2 until you are satisfied
I dare you to try this for 5 days in a row! I also dare you to see what an amazing course of study we've developed to give all students the gift of UNDERSTANDING what they read.
Off to learn,
Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand Jr.
In creating fiction, all we have to do is think of a bag lady and a computer salesman, and immediately a thousand questions come up, which lead to answers, which then lead to more questions, and so on.
In a way, that really is all there is to it! Fiction sort of writes itself sometimes.
The challenge we often see in our students around the globe is that they 'don't know what to write about' (or some other such hogwash). The challenge is that kids don't realize some basic things about writing:
A. With fiction, you really just make it up (which is why it is easier than other kinds of writing).
B. You can't really know what you are going to write until you start writing. In this way, writing is really about discovering as you write how you are going to say something.
So, as a matter of practice, if you can simply get your child to do the following, then anything can happen---
STEP 1: Pick out two things in the world somewhere. They can be anything. If your child gets stumped here, she probably has a phobia in place ;-( In that case, just go get a nearby book and turned to page 32. Start reading until she picks two items that are mentioned.
STEP 2: Write down 3 Questions that someone could ask about the two items.
STEP 3: Start writing!
EXAMPLE: Lizard & Coffee Cup
Why is the lizard in the coffee cup?
Why does this lizard like to drink coffee?
Why is the coffee cup afraid of the lizard?
Can a coffee cup be a new house for a lizard?
"It's a fine cup. Yessir, a very fine cup indeed."
Gormit, an American Chameleon, was so excited he blushed bright red even though he was sitting on a deep green leaf of Mrs. Snooley's gardenia bush.
"I'll have it for my house," he said to Clappity-Clack, his really big grasshopper friend.
"Who needs a house?," CC (short for Clappity-Clack) said as he chewed down the grass-blade he was holding with his four hands.
Gormit was a little surprised but he politely asked CC, "How can you have friends over to visit if you don't have a house?"
-Fred Ray Lybrand Jr., 2015
Off to learn,
Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand
P.S. More help here: www.advanced-writing-resources.com
It is striking sometimes how little we realize SKILL DEVELOPMENT is more important than content. As Covey pointed out, the person who sharpens his saw can cut way more wood than the person who just keep sawing! I might add that a chainsaw is even better 😉
I get it--- you are busy doing life and doing work, but you probably don't realize how much time and impact it can have just to move your reading skill up a notch or two. It's even more profound with students...staying weak at reading means staying weak in both college and career.
Often we just need some motivation to start working on improving, so here are 10 Reasons improving your ability to read and comprehend is worth it. There are stories that you'll know which prove each of these points...just think a little.
1. Builds confidence intellectually and academically
2. Opens your world up to new information and new possibilities
3. Empowers you to find better answers
4. Improves your writing
5. Makes any kind of reading more enjoyable
6. Leads to more enriching friendships with others who read
7. Makes you smarter and your brain more efficient
8. Makes you more articulate
9. Makes you more interesting as a person
10. Means doing better in college because you are simply a better student
On balance, all this means is that it's more strategic to read better than to read more. Think about it: If you can't comprehend what you are reading, then it doesn't matter how much you read. Like typing, working on your speed can save you a massive amount of accumulated time. However, reading more effectively does even more. It isn't speed-reading that you need, it's speed-understanding. When you read effectively you can access the knowledge to change your world (and you'll have a ready-cure for all boredom in life).
There's more to it, but this is exactly why we emphasized (and taught) reading skill development to our kids. Even without a course or book you can do a couple of things that will make a huge difference:
1. Start reading and discussing the same book with a friend or group of friends.
2. Practice: Stop every 5 pages when you read and repeat the basic points you just covered out loud (this part is important). Just a few times a day will make a difference.
Just those two things will change your reading life (or that of your students). I dare you to try them. If you homeschool like we did, then you already have the ingredients for better reading right in front of you! So, get cookin'...
Off to learn,
Fred Ray Lybrand Jr.
Here's a sample of The Writing Course Ideas
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