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Category Archives for "Problem Solving"
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Does Your Child Hate Math?

Hating math often seems like the normal way for most kids, but should it really be that way? The reason most kids hate math is the same as why they hate anything; they aren't good at it! What if we could show almost any child how to conquer math? A lot would change indeed!

​I’d love to hear your comments or answer your questions.

Off to learn,

Fred Ray Lybrand

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You Can’t Test Creative Writing

Now even the UK is up-in-arms about the inadequacy of using standardized tests to access writing skills.  Here are a couple of quotes from an article:

Head teachers fear some pupils in England have been graded incorrectly in a writing test that forms part of their national curriculum tests or Sats.

It also polled members in one local authority – Lancashire – where 47 out of 48 respondents reported “serious inconsistencies” in the way different papers were marked.

In June, a review of Sats by Lord Bew recommended the creative writing test should be scrapped and children’s creative writing skills assessed by teachers.

See: Head teachers angry over Sats creative writing marks

Of course, they are running into the same issues we face with our own SAT writing section.  It is genuinely improbable that we will ever create a standard way to judge writing quality through a mechanical method.  We attempt it with the supposed ‘rules of grammar and punctuation’—but if you spend any time studying and reflecting, you will realize that such things are not standardized.  Actually, it is impossible to create a static set of rules for a fluid thing.  Language continues to adapt and adjust and grow.  Sorry, that’s just how it works.  Language may be the only truly democratic thing on the planet (Thank you Rudolf Flesch for this point!).  A writing course could be the answer, but wouldn’t it need to foster freedom instead of crush us by its rules?

If English had a static set of rules then wouldn’t we all talk like Shakespeare?  Well, methinks I doth protest too much 🙂

Language is indeed fluid, and creative writers come up with even more cool-and-unique-to-the-moment ways of communicating things.  You can rest assured that Shakespeare wouldn’t have written with the same ‘grammar’ if he were alive today.  Or, stated plainly, if he had—we wouldn’t know who he is!

Isn’t it time for all of the stuffy grammarians to recognized excellence in writing on the basis of some other set of criteria rather than their own ‘approved’ set of rules?  N.B. –  I didn’t say, “Give up on excellence in writing.”

My suggestion?  Go back to sound.  Recognize language is an instinct in the same way music is an instinct.  Pay attention.  If people like a song…maybe there is a reason.  If people like a writing style…maybe there is a reason for that too!  In fact, could the reason be that it just sounds cool, whether it is grammatically approve or not?

What if we permissioned (cool use of a verbifying a noun that I’d get a D for in school) our own children to write, at least occasionally, in a way that just struck them as sounding great?  What new writer with a new style might we gift to the world because of our kind empowerment to write in a fresh way (it will also possibly become the new ‘good writing example’).

Recently I ran a few of my sentences through a popular grammar-fixing software program…and I did poorly (a D 🙂

Next, I ran Faulkner and Hemingway through the same program…they did worse than I did!

Maybe the other experts will figure it out and we can have the creativity perfectly programmed out of us.  In the meantime, why not join my expertise and help a generation of writers by encouraging them to write with their instinctive ear for what sounds how they want it read?  Curse the rules…full Grace ahead!

Write well and write free,

Fred Lybrand

P.S.  Thoughts?  Comment away…let’s think together.

P.P.S.  If you found this helpful, you might want to know I have a whole curriculum available to teach children how to write by sound (instinct): It’s called The Writing Course

Typos: Lighten Up or Your Kids Will Never Write

I may be overstating my point, but I see people obsessing on Typos in their writing, reading, and editing…I mean, literally obsessing.  Honestly, it isn’t worth it and it really isn’t that important.  Worse yet obsessing on typos— it can really damage a young writer.  I hear how awful typos are a lot from educators, parents, and the occasional passerby.  I don’t hear the same complaint from real writers.

A few days ago, I got a note from someone who had visited my Writing Course site.  This person wrote these words:

If there weren’t so many typographical errors on your webpage, I might have been interested in this for our son.

Well, I could get defensive, but I’m actually glad to know about them.  You see, I believe that no one ever writes things perfectly to begin with…in fact, trying to write perfectly is the number one reason children don’t write much at all.  Imagine if you had to write a paper word-perfect from the very beginning!  Well, it is that attitude that subtly creeps into the lives of our children as we teach them anything.  They don’t realize that ‘you can’t start with perfect’ is not only a good saying, it is also a good motto.

We teach kids to write in 3 Stages: OK…GET HELP…MAKE IT GREAT.  If they just try to write something OK to begin with, they do the single thing they MUST DO to learn to write– they start to write!

Well, here was my response.  I hope it was gracious, but I haven’t heard back.  Of course, this person and I may just have a disagreement about this topic.

Thanks for your input. I appreciate the concern about typos.  I love to clean them up myself and almost never find a published book that doesn’t have a few.  Typos are really about editing rather than writing. And, while I am embarrassed, I do know that this is the very thing that often keeps people from learning how to write.  Many great writers where notorious as poor spellers, but again, that’s what editors are for.

If your son has a steady diet of having to get everything word-perfect, he will have a tough time getting on to the business of writing.  Typos are not grammar mistakes or style mistakes…they are the very things humans have a hard time seeing (that is why it takes many to eyes catch them all).

The first thing we teach is how to move from writing OK…to getting help…to writing Great.  Unless we learn to write this way, we never learn to write at all.

I’ll make sure the typos are cleaned up.

Bless you in you labors for your son,

Now, honestly there were a number of typos like ‘the’ before The Writing Course.  How was this missed?  I have no idea, jeepers!  And yet, if our kids learn to come to us and accept correction matter-of-factly, then they will be able to receive feedback for the rest of their lives.  On the other hand, if we are constantly badgering them about the ‘mistakes’ in their papers, then they’ll just learn to avoid writing like the plague.  Writing isn’t easy.  Writing must be learned.  And, even great writers have editors the count on to catch every mistake!

I beg you to practice lightening up about typos…especially in texts and on the web.  Do you get their point?  Do you make typos and don’t see them yourself?

I’m not saying we should not have standards and edit our papers well, but I’m just saying…

Blessings,

 

Fred Lybrand

P.S. Please comment with typos you see and I’ll fix them 🙂

P.P.S.  As a further thought, the New York Times just blogged this op-ed called The Price of Typos …here’s a quote:

Before digital technology unsettled both the economics and the routines of book publishing, they explained, most publishers employed battalions of full-time copy editors and proofreaders to filter out an author’s mistakes. Now, they are gone.

How Could Going to College Ruin Your Writing?

I have a terrible habit of not agreeing with folks very often.  It isn’t that I disagree, but it is that I don’t agree completely.  On the other hand, I occasionally find someone who says something I want to give everyone I see a hug about!

Michael Ellsberg wrote an article recently that clearly explains the problem with college writing (and frankly, the high schools can’t be left out because the teachers learned to write in college 🙂  Here are a couple of his points:

Knowing how to write compelling and persuasive emails, letters, memos, pitches and proposals sets you apart from the masses, who are mediocre communicators. It is one of the most effective skills you could develop for expanding your leadership and impact on the world—and for fattening your wallet.

Anyone hoping to learn writing should stay a thousand miles away from people who write in such a manner. That is, they should stay a thousand miles away from most university professors.  Click Here for the Article

It doesn’t get much more exact and on target.  His point is that the bureaucratic nature of education gives itself to a conformity in writing so that voice (my way of saying it) is lost.  Whenever you are busy copying you are never original.

That really is all there is to it.  Some silly notions about the ‘correctness’ of grammar and punctuation and style simply destroy both confidence and uniqueness in writing. Honestly, this is exactly why The Writing Course is so effective for those who dare to follow our wild ideas.

But do you need a writing course at all?  Heavens no…you actually just need to write, especially if you are reading some well-written literature!  Of course, if good minds give you helpful feedback, then you can learn at the speed of light.

Don’t avoid college, but do recognize it is a GAME that your child (or you) will just have to play.  It is best to write like they want (the game) and secretly despise the lessons (despise in a proper and friendly way 🙂 they try to teach you.

Impactful writers are simply going to be rebels of a sort…but Oh how we will need you!

Cheers,

Fred Lybrand

P.S.  For a free video on how to give feedback to writers, click here: How to Give Feedback to Writers.

Lighten Up – Don’t Teach Math Too Soon

teacher math helpAgain, learning math early is NOT the key. Besides proof with our own 5 kids (Brooks just made an 800 on the math section in his SAT and didn’t start math AT ALL until 8 years old), just look at what the Finnish schools do (sounds a lot like homeschooling as you read the whole list…except a few twists). Finland ranks #1 and USA ranks #23 (lots of reasons for this). The following article suggests a few things. MY APPEAL is to LIGHTEN UP about MATH until they are 7 or 8 (or 9). At 4-6 years old, just use math around them, teach them to read, and rote-learn math facts (actually I question whether or not this is really worthwhile that young).

Finland:

The Finnish school system uses the same curriculum for all students (which may be one reason why Finnish scores varied so little from school to school).

Here are a few points-

Students have light homework loads.
Finnish schools do not have classes for gifted students.
Finland uses very little standardized testing.
Children do not start school until age 7…
Grades are not given until high school, and even then, class rankings are not compiled.
…more at…http://www.greatschools.org/students/academic-skills/1075-u-s-students-compare.gs

All I’m pointing out is that the Finnish world thinks:

1. All children need to learn math
2. You get help for kids who need it
3. Focus on learning and to be more well rounded…don’t obsess on grades.

I’m not saying we should be like Finland. I’m saying that homeschoolers (and the schools) have terrific opportunity. Finland shows that even if you do some odd things (socialization)…ALL kids can still learn

Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand

Don’t Teach Math Too Soon (Lighten Up)

teacher math helpAgain, learning math early is NOT the key. Besides proof with our own 5 kids (Brooks just made an 800 on the math section in his SAT and didn’t start math AT ALL until 8 years old), just look at what the Finnish schools do (sounds a lot like homeschooling as you read the whole list…except a few twists). Finland ranks #1 and USA ranks #23 (lots of reasons for this). The following article suggests a few things. MY APPEAL is to LIGHTEN UP about MATH until they are 7 or 8 (or 9). At 4-6 years old, just use math around them, teach them to read, and rote-learn math facts (actually I question whether or not this is really worthwhile that young).

Finland:

The Finnish school system uses the same curriculum for all students (which may be one reason why Finnish scores varied so little from school to school).

Here are a few points-

Students have light homework loads.
Finnish schools do not have classes for gifted students.
Finland uses very little standardized testing.
Children do not start school until age 7…
Grades are not given until high school, and even then, class rankings are not compiled.
…more at…http://www.greatschools.org/students/academic-skills/1075-u-s-students-compare.gs

All I’m pointing out is that the Finnish world thinks:

1. All children need to learn math
2. You get help for kids who need it
3. Focus on learning and to be more well rounded…don’t obsess on grades.

I’m not saying we should be like Finland. I’m saying that homeschoolers (and the schools) have terrific opportunity. Finland shows that even if you do some odd things (socialization)…ALL kids can still learn

Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand