What's worth learning?

How to explain ERE, arranging family matters
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mojelly
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Joined: Fri Nov 09, 2018 1:18 pm

What's worth learning?

Post by mojelly »

So, I read this forum without ever posting (until now). I'm a widow in my early 40's, live in coastal Alaska, and have been homeschooling my kids for several years.

When my oldest daughter started 6th grade this year, I began finding it difficult to convince her that anything in the prepackaged curriculum we're using is worth learning. I should mention that she has very solid reading, writing, and arithmetic skills, so at some point while insisting that she be able to differentiate a rhombus from a parallelogram, I realized she's right. It's pointless to try to force learning to happen. She's already capable of learning anything whenever she needs it.

As a result, I've spent most of this school year trying to figure out what's worth learning. I felt truly lucky when I stumbled across Marion Brady's excellent "Introduction to Systems" course. We both like it, but I think we will complete it fairly soon, and I'm starting to think about what we'll do next. I do feel my daughter has much more to learn in math, but that's probably just me projecting my own love of math onto the situation. Also, we have had very good success with reading aloud and discussing classic and modern literature, without testing or writing assignments.

Keeping in mind that she's 12, what courses, books, movies, blogs, etc. would you recommend to encourage thinking? What skills and topics do you wish you'd learned during your school-age years? What's worth learning?

I hope that some of you will contribute your ideas, whether you have kids or not. Thank you in advance.
Last edited by mojelly on Mon Mar 30, 2020 10:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

daylen
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Re: What's worth learning?

Post by daylen »

Whatever isn't boring [from her perspective]. Just try not to kill her innate wonder until the age of 25 and she should be set for life.

Don't be afraid to challenge her, though. This will build a modicum of character so that she isn't boring to everyone else.

Oh, and give her a root shell now. This part is key.
Last edited by daylen on Mon Mar 30, 2020 2:41 am, edited 2 times in total.

ertyu
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Re: What's worth learning?

Post by ertyu »

There's two ways in which things are "worth learning." They can be worth learning because one experiences them as inherently interesting and stimulating even if one wouldn't necessarily get to apply them directly (possibly like the systems thinking course). Or they can be worth learning because even though in and of itself they may seem meaningless, they provide optionality (the rhombuses, knowing how to fix a bicycle). If you learn skills, you can do things that you couldn't do before. This is the area where my personal education is short: building things, fixing things, supporting oneself. My father is a very skilled person in this sense, and looking back, I wish he had involved me more in his projects so I would have learned. So I would suggest having at least one skill acquisition project going on at any time and stressing broad skill acquisition over favoring skills that are appropriately gender coded.

On the other hand, I am a very rhombus-educated person (you may want to note that Jacob is highly rhombus-educated also). This allows for the optionality to draw on the formal economy when easier and more expedient to do so. It might be possible to accumulate an investment-sized stash without knowing about rhombuses, but it's easier if you do, and having that stash - and being able to reconnect to the formal economy if one needs to - are very valuable from a resilience POV. IMO, most people start like me: rhombus-learned rather than skill-learned, and tightly coupled to the formal economy. Thus Jacob's book does not stress the importance of the optionality conferred by this type of learning - it seems obvious to all who have it, that's not their area of lack. But consider someone like @classical_liberal - or Jacob - who dips in and out of the formal economy as they need / want. If your daughter isn't rhombus-learned, she will have considerably reduced optionality. Consider: what if she has three children with an abusive man and needs to escape the situation? Being able to grow tomatoes is good. Having a job that allows one access to cash which can be used to move one and one's children from tomato plot A to abuse-free tomato plot B is good, too.

A 12 y/old would not see meaning in being rhombus-learned. You home-school - you are aware that the formal education system is a disciplinary apparatus just as much as it is a "learning" one. This is why. A teenager doesn't have the breadth of life experience to see why they should subject themselves to acquiring knowledge they don't find immediately meaningful for the entire course of their teenagehood and young adulthood. Even if you were to tell her that you would like her to be rhombus learned because it gives her the option to pursue A, B, and C -- or avoid D, she'll likely roll her eyes and tell you, "but who the hell wants to get stuck A, B, or C-ing anyway, mom - and lol, old people, always worried about silly shit like D." That's why they have parents (and formal schooling) to tell them, well, you need to do it anyway. This means that the first step here would not be finding out what to learn with your daughter, but you recognizing the importance of rhombus-learning. Otherwise you fall in the opposite-but-equal trap to the one the ERE book is designed to illuminate and help people avoid. Maybe @7w5 can speak to this from the POV of a woman - she is independent and self-reliant, but did decide to tap into the formal economy full-time this year, as far as I understood, to gain increased independence from grumpy old men (I might be wrong so expect to stand corrected).

There is the argument that automation and AI are coming so the skills one acquires during formal education would grow to be more and more meaningless over time. This is a valid argument. However, I still think a degree of at least a college level will be necessary for access to certain swaths of the economy. So whatever you learn with your daughter shouldn't exclude her from being able to obtain one.

Last but not least, learn a language together, preferably two: one easy-and-useful, like maybe spanish (varies by location and native language) and one structured very differently from your own language, such as korean, japanese, or chinese - or maybe hindi or thai or another language which will require a new way of thinking from her and stretch her mental capacities.

Please do not discount the importance of formal learning. In the immediate example, understanding exponential growth allows one to be an informed citizen who doesn't fall for disinformation spread to one by one's "leaders." Both access to math and science and access to philosophy, literature, and the humanities allows one to be a broader-thinking person.

daylen
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Re: What's worth learning?

Post by daylen »

Whatever you do, do not give her an economics textbook. Those things will demoralize her faster than Jacob can find the exit at a baby shower.

J_
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Re: What's worth learning?

Post by J_ »

too much abrevations are used here, what is rhombus ertyu?

ertyu
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Re: What's worth learning?

Post by ertyu »

Read the op's post:
When my oldest daughter started 6th grade this year, I began finding it difficult to convince her that anything in the prepackaged curriculum we're using is worth learning. I should mention that she has very solid reading, writing, and arithmetic skills, so at some point while insisting that she be able to differentiate a rhombus from a parallelogram, I realized she's right.
Stands for "pre-packaged curriculum" learning, or school-type learning. Being able to classify geometric shapes correctly, in this case. Not immediately meaningful to a 12 y/o but important to being a generally learned/educated/erudite person. I am extending the metaphor to include all kinds of school-learning - because rhombuses are just the beginning of math (and other subjects) that would not immediately seem to be "worth learning." The problem being that while a 12 y/o might be capable of learning what they want to learn, they're not going to want to learn the thing. It will not be "worth learning" to them because their life experience is too limited. They are not capable of seeing why it's worth learning. Which is why they have parents, who hopefully do not want to limit their optionality in life.

@mojelly: did not know about this systems thinking course, will go look it up! Thanks for the recommendation!

7Wannabe5
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Re: What's worth learning?

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@ertyu:

My primary motive for returning to full time professional work this year was to be able to pay cash for a new permaculture project site which would have less code issues to overcome than my urban site. My grouchy old man problem is more a paradox of the can’t ideal my lifestyle with them, but can’t ideal my lifestyle without them either type (sigh.)

Anyways, I am still in recovery from my attempt to teach middle school science at a charter school in a low income district. That said, I do have a few thoughts in the matter. First off, I would note that the national standards are actually pretty good. The problem is testing for achievement of them. In my experience, kids are pretty honest about sel-evaluation. So, for instance, you could simply give your daughter a list of the standards through the 8th grade and let her choose which she would prefer to work on.

Many years ago I worked as the math tutor for a school if homeschooled high school age kids. The kids chose their own course of study, but were held accountable for making progress according to their own goal setting. So, teaching in this setting was more like just serving as a resource and offering the sort of encouragement a life coach might offer an adult client.

If I hadn’t failed at overcoming the behavioral problems exhibited by 2/3s of the students, my plan with my middle school group was to teach the science standards and simultaneously remediate some of their math skills through the process of fun projects such as building a radio and breeding fancy mice.

I think encouraging her to start her own business would be another great idea. Number one on my list of things I wish I had learned/attempted earlier. Also number one on my current list of successes I wish I could replicate. No way in heck I would have gone back to full time employment by other if I wasn’t experiencing the entrepreneurial equivalent of writer’s block.

Alphaville
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Re: What's worth learning?

Post by Alphaville »

I like to look at the human world in the universe as constructed by emerging levels of organization

Roughly:

Physics -> Chemistry -> Biology -> Psychology -> Social science

Math and language play a part in the study of all of those.

Alphaville
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Re: What's worth learning?

Post by Alphaville »

Eg searching "physics for kids" throws a bunch of results

http://www.physics4kids.com
https://www.ducksters.com/science/physics/
http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/physics.html
https://mocomi.com/learn/science/physics/

there's a bunch of experiments you can do to demonstrate the utility of science in the real world.

also i said math and [strike]science[/strike] language above, but ART is also central to modern science education. check out STEAM (science, technology, engineering, ART, and math)
Last edited by Alphaville on Wed Apr 01, 2020 7:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

OTCW
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Re: What's worth learning?

Post by OTCW »

Learn as much as you can as often as you can any way you can.

mojelly
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Re: What's worth learning?

Post by mojelly »

I very much appreciate all the ideas and suggestions. Thank you.

Campitor
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Re: What's worth learning?

Post by Campitor »

"I do feel my daughter has much more to learn in math, but that's probably just me projecting my own love of math onto the situation."

Trust your gut on this. As her teacher and parent you're in a better position to assess her math skills as well as its potential impact on her future prospects. Even if she does nothing math related, it will instill the habit of breaking down problems into their component pieces.

How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg

Loner
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Re: What's worth learning?

Post by Loner »

Such a great and difficult question.

Learning doesn’t have to take the form of schooling. For instance, my dad used to take me to his workplace when I was young. He’d teach me social niceties, how to be polite, how to introduce myself, etc., and I feel that’s been quite helpful. I’m introverted, and un-gregarious, but I can talk with people without (I think and hope) coming across as too awkward. Given that life involves navigating social environments all the time, doing something like this (not sure what work you do, of even if you have a workplace) might be useful.

Hm, what else. Maybe philosophy. She might be too young, I don’t know, but I really enjoyed reading the old philosophers (Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Epicurus, Conficius, Montaigne, the French Moralists, etc.). Their teachings are relevant to (my) everyday life, unlike more recent scholarly philosophers. So not only does reading them make you become “cultured”, but most important, they make you wiser.

The arts, also. It’s pointless to force her like schools do, since the arts are something to be discovered and enjoyed, not compelled to do, but if she likes it, it might be worth gently encouraging and supporting her. And I’m talking here about doing, not just consuming. If she likes books, maybe she could try to write? If she likes music, she can try to play something? Etc.

For the rest, I think Daylen hit the bullseye: more than anything, I believe it’s important to listen to what she is interested in. So much learning in school is completely detached and irrelevant to kids’ lives. No wonder they are bored and ask “how will this be useful to me?” Most of the time, it won’t. I wish I had been homeschooled for that very reason. Man was school boring. Getting into kid prison every morning for rote-learning useless things for years on end really gets to you. Is your daughter already showing signs of interest in something specific? Painting? Math? Is she fascinated by something? A series of books? Animals? Fishing?

theanimal
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Re: What's worth learning?

Post by theanimal »

Nice to see another Alaskan!

I don't have kids.

I think what daylen said is the most important thing. The easiest things to learn about are those you love the most. I would encourage use of your physical environment. If you go fishing, hunting or travel on the land/water you can talk about biology, geography, ecology etc. It'll have so much more resonance than just reading it out of a book or watching a video.

Otherwise not particularly school related but I like what jennypenny has mentioned before what she does with her family. IIRC, she includes her kids in the financials of their home and talks about planning and their decision making process. That seems incredibly valuable.

benrickert
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Re: What's worth learning?

Post by benrickert »

@mojelly - I would say learning the basic concepts within each field that builds the basics for understanding and learning different mental models. Check out Shane Parish’s Farnam Street. You can subscribe to his weekly newsletter. He even started a homeschooling class during coronavirus lockdown. He has also published a couple of books on mental models. https://fs.blog/
For your own reading, Kaufman’s Poor Charlie’s Almanack goes into detail on how Charlie Munger is thinking about this.

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