Can You Teach Innovative Thinking To Your Kids?

November 16, 2012 in culture, psychology

A new book The Innovator’s DNA by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and Clayton M. Christensen, challenges the old assumption that innovative thinking is something you’re born with rather than something you can learn. Studies have shown that only around 25-40% of innovative thinking is genetic, but that leaves room for lots of environmental input to have an effect. But how would you go about instilling this type of creative mindset in your child? And admittedly, we all know, some children are just more rigid in their thought processes than others. But the premise of this book is that even these people can be helped to loosen up a little and think outside the box.

The book is aimed primarily at companies who want to encourage innovation in their employees, but it’s easy to see how you can extrapolate the lessons to a classroom or a family that’s homeschooling. I haven’t read the book as yet, but this article about the book by Erica Swallow is excellent in homing in on the key ingredients you would want to encourage. She says the authors “have boiled the formula of innovation down to five key skills:”

  • Questioning allows innovators to challenge the status quo and consider new possibilities;
  • Observing helps innovators detect small details — in the activities of customers, suppliers and other companies — that suggest new ways of doing things;
  • Networking permits innovators to gain radically different perspectives from individuals with diverse backgrounds;
  • Experimenting prompts innovators to relentlessly try out new experiences, take things apart and test new ideas;
  • Associational thinking — drawing connections among questions, problems or ideas from unrelated fields — is triggered by questioning, observing, networking and experimenting and is the catalyst for creative ideas.

As a former homeschooling mom, I know it would have helped me just to have had these posted on my refrigerator door! Perhaps I would have spotted an innovative moment in the mind of a child more readily and encouraged it sooner. Sometimes the temptation is to squelch innovation because it may appear to be disruptive at times to the normal routine or schedule. I’m all for kids having to behave themselves, but I did try to allow for a good bit of flexibility if a child got off the beaten path (my plan for him that day) as long as it seemed productive. But these guidelines give me all sorts of ideas for ways I might have encouraged innovation to a greater degree in my kids’ thinking. I might have had a broader view of what was “productive” too.

I especially liked the premise that networking “permits innovators to gain radically different perspectives from individuals with diverse backgrounds.” I know in my own life I have especially enjoyed meeting or reading about people who live or think in ways I have never seen before. That’s one reason why I’ve always been drawn to missionary stories such as Bruce Olson’s Bruchko–it catapulted my thinking so totally beyond the borders of my white, Anglo-Saxon, American bubble. It confronted me with a more radical approach to trusting God. Christians are often needing to let God shake them up a bit, sift their ideas, winnow their ways. After all, becoming innovative thinkers is actually our calling in Christ–“…and do not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” I might put that list up on my refrigerator after all even if my kids aren’t around to see it!

Worldviews, Homeschoolers, and Differences Among Us

November 9, 2012 in Christianity, culture, homeschooling

I happened upon this blog a few days ago–by Dr. Jay Wile, a PhD in nuclear chemistry and a Christian.  I loved what he had to share about his first time speaking on worldviews at a homeschooling convention. He started off saying that he’d never been around homeschoolers much before and then continued–

The very first time I spoke at a homeschooling convention, I noticed a distinct difference between homeschooled students and their publicly- and privately-schooled peers. While most publicly- and privately-schooled students actively avoid interaction with adults (especially adults who are teachers), most homeschooled students actively seek out such interaction.

He goes on to say that he gave a total of six talks at this convention, one of which was “Building a Biblical Worldview.” And this is what I really loved–
In that talk, I try to stress that a Biblical worldview is not about having a set of “approved” beliefs. Instead, it is about studying the Bible diligently so that you can know it well enough to apply it in all areas of your life. To illustrate the importance of this fact, I opened the talk by discussing four different men of God: C. S. LewisAlvin PlantingaHenry Morris, and J.P. Moreland.

Each of these four men either have done or are doing remarkable things for God, yet they have quite different views on a variety of topics that many Christians consider important. Two of them are theistic evolutionists, one is a young-earth creationist, and one is an old-earth creationist. Two are Calvinists, while the other two are Arminianists. One of them believes the Bible is not inerrant, the other three believe that it is. All four of them belong to different denominations, ranging from very traditional to essentially charismatic. To me, however, it is clear that all four of them have (or had) a Biblical worldview. In the end, then, a Biblical worldview is not dependent on having a specific set of beliefs. Instead, it is dependent on using the Bible as a lens through which you see the world. The very act of doing that might cause you to believe differently from another Christian on a variety of issues, and that’s not only okay, it is expected.

The key here is that these views all do indeed differ, and they can’t all be absolutely correct because they disagree with each other on various points, but they all should be respected by Christians. And then here (to me) is the clincher:

I had several people come up to me after the talk and express their appreciation for my approach. They agreed that in many churches and homeschools, there is too much emphasis on making sure that children believe the “right” things and not enough emphasis on teaching them how to use Scripture to think critically about the important issues that Christians must face. The former does not produce children who own their beliefs. The latter does. I am glad that many who attended this homeschool convention are committed to the latter!

Well put, don’t you think?

Read Baktar for Halloween!

October 9, 2012 in Christianity, culture, History

One of my books is a kind of crazy story within a story about a black cat called Tar who actually turns out to be more than just a cat. And it’s also about Baktar, ancestor of Tar, who lived among the ancient Incas. Baktar, A Tale From the Andes makes an excellent early chapter book for young children, say 7 or 8 and up, and it’s especially suited to Halloween. You’ve got the black cat first of all, and the mystery about Tar and who or what he really is, then a mystery in the Inca story as well, a suspicious character, attempted murder, and cloud-shrouded Machu Picchu. The reader will find out about the ancient Inca king Pachacuti and the very real story of his conversion from worshiping many gods to just one invisible God of creation. Plus there’s much more in the book about the Inca people in general and their truly amazing civilization.

I first came across the account of Pachacuti’s conversion in an intriguing book by Don Richards, Eternity in Their Hearts. Don is the author of several books on missionaries to Papua New Guinea, including Peace Child, the account of his own family’s amazing adventure there ministering to a cannibal tribe. I recommend all of Don’s books! They would make great supplementary reading for your older kids and excellent additions to any social studies program for homeschools. Nothing like learning how a cannibal looks at life to broaden your horizons, enlarge your heart, and help you understand just how dark the darkness without Christ can be.

You can find Baktar for $8.49 at CBD, and on Kindle for just $1.45.

Write Your Name in Other Languages

August 14, 2012 in culture, language

I’ve had a link up on my website at various times for students to write their name in hieroglyphs or in cuneiform, but here’s a place to go to get the script for your name not only in either of those two scripts but also in Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Hawaiian, Japanese Kangi, Russian, Latin, and even Elvish–via Tolkien’s invented language. And that’s not the whole list!

Here’s “Laurie” in Japanese–

Thought some students might have fun with this! Here’s the place to go–

Write Your Name in Other Languages

Some Surprises about Study Habits

August 7, 2012 in culture, psychology

Study HabitsRecently I dug up an old New York Times article that I wanted to re-read. I’m doing a little research on techniques that might help my new group of GED students that I’ll be tutoring in the weeks ahead (I’m a literacy/GED volunteer teacher). I decided this article was definitely worth posting on–especially with homeschoolers in mind.

Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits by Benedict Carey

The author covers some recent findings which “directly contradict much of the common wisdom about good study habits. I’ll give you a brief rundown–

  • Varying the place where a person studies improves retention.  Students who studied the same subject matter in different environments showed improved test scores over students who studied continually in the same place. So having the one perfect place where you always go to study…not so perfect!
  • The learning-styles approach within education lacks any substantial foundation. One researcher goes so far as to say that “the enormous popularity of the learning-styles approach within education and the lack of credible evidence for its utility is, in our opinion, striking and disturbing.” I must admit to being more than a little surprised on this one, and though I didn’t muss with different learning style approaches back when I was homeschooling, I have some mom friends who swear that it was finding out about learning styles that “got Johnny through 3rd grade” or the like. Katherine, for instance, watched a virtual transformation in her son’s comprehension when she put his books on audio tape because he was an “auditory learner.” My friend Ellen claims her son just couldn’t catch on to reading until she switched to a kinesthetic method and began “writing” letters and words on his back with her finger, among other exercises. The author of the article quoted several studies, but in my opinion, the jury is still out on this one. I guess I have too many counter-testimonials rumbling around in my brain.
  • Varying the subject matter during an extended study time has been found to be more productive than studying only one subject for the same period of time. (So much for cramming!) Similarly, one study found students retained their math problems much more effectively if different kinds of problems are served up in the lesson rather than if the lesson dealt with just one type. In one experiement, “The children who had studied mixed sets did twice as well as the others, outscoring them 77 percent to 38 percent.” I thought immediately of Saxon Math which my own kids used and which varies the problems within each daily exercise. Turns out Mr. Saxon’s approach is backed by this latest research.
  • Forgetting is your friend. This last finding was my favorite but I suppose it is the student’s bane because it leads to giving the student more tests. The reason is that if we learn something (for test #1), then forget it, and then we must re-learn it (for test #2), we are more likely to remember it longer than if we simply studied it several times over (for 1 test only). It’s the forgetting that helps. Supposedly the brain exercise of learning, forgetting, re-learning is more powerful than just learning, learning, learning. Interesting, right?

So forget everything you just read! Then go read the full article so you can re-learn it after forgetting it and have better recall. You’ll find the article brings out other interesting applications for each of the above findings.

Also, if you like “shocking” studies–READ NURTURE SHOCK. It’s my standard baby gift now. The studies are guarranteed to surprise you and it’s one of my all time favorites.

Give Books to Children

August 3, 2012 in culture, random

For the past year I’ve been working as a volunteer for adult literacy in my community. It’s been incredibly interesting and rewarding. I had to do some in-service training recently and was interested in some of the statistics that passed my way. For instance, if you are a child in the lower income level in the U.S., the average number of hours you have been read-to when you enter first grade is 25 hours. The average number of hours read-to for a child in the middle income level is 1250 hours. Quite a difference. It’s pretty obvious how much advantage one child would have over the other.

The organization I work with is aiming to increase the literacy level of adults. But when you help the adult’s reading level, studies show that this automatically ups the percentage of time spent reading to any children in the house. One adult male I worked with reported reading a book to his 6 year old granddaughter for the very first time. He had never read a book to any child before. What a lift for me to be even a small part of that new step he had taken!

But another hindrance to making sure young children learn to read and enjoy it is simply the availability of books in the home. Lower income families often have no reading material at all in the house on the child’s grade level. Studies have shown that children who receive books as a gift to take home show a marked increase in test scores, increased interest in school, and a significant increase in number of hours reading on their own. In contrast to all of this, my own family’s problem was where to stuff all the books! We were overrun with them. I’m ashamed to say that not once did I think to say, “God, thank you that I have so many books I can’t find a place for them all!” But I certainly do now.

So here’s a great place to read more about getting books into the hands of children who need them and where you can help out if you’re interested. It was something I was looking into and just thought I’d pass it along. Here’s the link–

Awakening among Iranians in Germany

July 22, 2012 in Bible, Christianity, culture

According to a recent online article from Christianity Today by Matthias Pankau and Uwe Siemon-Netto, “The Other Iranian Revolution,” there is a recent and vibrant Christian awakening–a wonderful movement of the Spirit–going on today among Iranian immigrants who are living in Germany.  The article places “the genesis of the Persian awakening…in Saxony, the birthplace of the Reformation, where Christians have become an endangered species.” (Only 13% of east Germans say they believe in God.) And as if that wasn’t ironic enough, the very Bible Luther translated for the German people has played a part in this awakening as well:

“Twelve years ago, Trinity Parish in Leipzig, a tiny congregation of the Independent Lutheran Church, began teaching German as a second language to asylum seekers awaiting government approval of their refugee status. Trinity used Luther’s Bible translation as a textbook… Intrigued by what they read, several exiles asked to be baptized. They brought along friends who also wished to learn the basics of the Christian faith.”

The authors state that “linguists credit that translation with having created the modern German language.” This is much the same way that Tyndale’s New Testament, which went on to make-up an estimated 85-90% of the popular King James Bible, helped to create English as we know it today.

Now the very country where the Reformation began, which since has become a predominantly secular culture, is giving birth despite itself to a whole new movement of the Holy Spirit. Pastors all over Germany are reporting similar conversions wherever there are large communities of Persians. It’s as if God is saying, “If you won’t carry on the faith of the Reformation, I’ll bring the Reformation back to you through another people!” It will be fascinating to see what happens among the German people as the faith of these Iranian believers bears fruit within their newly adopted homeland.

If you want to read more about the Persian awakening, the dangers faced by the converts, the visions of Jesus being reported, and a little bit about the underground Christian movement in Iran itself, go to the full article here.