Spring Science

Spring Science

Seedlings lend themselves to experimentation, but in the Northwest, I have found that only spring conditions truly lend themselves to a successful inquiry. Start with an exploration of seedling growth. Preview some videos such as this one, and begin to ask questions such as, what it would take to grow your own seedlings.

Meaningful questions that elementary or intermediate students can answer are questions such as, how does sunlight effect seedlings? Does a seedling know which way is up? Does the source of the soil make a difference in the growth of seedlings? Do seedlings need salt, or do they like salt and vinegar chips? Does the colour of the light affect the growth of seedlings? What matters more, the temperature or the intensity of light? These are but examples. The best questions are the ones you come up with while exploring. Just make sure that when you explore, you explore for questions.

Children usually need to be guided to make exploring purposeful. Present to them things they may not have seen before and look for signs of wonder. Ask them to express it and help them to shape it. Not all questions are equally created, and fashioning a good inquiry question is something for which they will need your help. When you have a question, reflect on why you are asking that question and ask if it is scientifically testable. This is the key stage and you are welcome to ask for help from your teacher. Your project will only be as good as your questions.

Once you have formulated your question, you’ll find you have one, or sometimes two things that you expect to change yourself and one thing you want to measure. So, for example, you may want to try growing seedlings in various amounts of compost. You control the amount of compost, so that is your independent variable. The dependent variable is the one that depends on the independent one. We guide our children to get used to taking data and plotting in a chart or a graph, or both. On the left or along the bottom is the part you control (independent variable), and on the right the part you want to observe and measure.

Once you know your variables, plan your experiment. Purchase any needed materials and supplies at this stage. An experiment is a fair test, so make sure that the only thing that changes is your independent variable, so for our example, if you have seeds in cups of soil, make sure that the size of the cup, the water, the light, and the temperature are the same for each cup. That is what makes it a controlled experiment or a fair test. You wouldn’t keep the one you want to win indoors and put the rest outdoors; and, you know this won’t work if you don’t do them all at the same time.

Measure all the factors that you can think of, including the one you are testing. Keep records of your data. Take pictures, draw sketches, and document carefully what you are doing at every step, right from the beginning. Keep the experiment going for as long as possible. Try to be objective, ask if someone else would get the same result.

Write a lab report. Include these headings: Introduction or Purpose, Hypotheses or Question, Method or Procedure, Recorded Data, Discussion, and Conclusion. Possibly more ideas here.

Happy Learning


Dates and Resources

Leaving Money on the Table

Everyone is aware of HCOS funding for learning resources. If for any reason you don't need all of it, there's nothing wrong with leaving it for others. It's a shared table and HCOS counts on the fact that few people spend every dime in their accounts. That said, it's wise to be deliberate about it, rather than missing the deadlines. My classroom experience matches my HCOS experience: conclude spending for the current year by the end of March. That leaves room for error and emergencies. Spend only what you need and leave the rest, but don't just procrastinate past the deadline. That's not good for learners.

  1. Funding Opens for 2019-2020 school year: approx. April 30 (Means you can get a Purchase Order number for 2019 - 2020 and use them to get supplies for September.)
  2. Deadline for purchasing outside of Canada: May 1
  3. Deadline for using the 2018-2019 PO#: May 15
  4. Purchasing Department shutdown: May 15  to July 1 (This means no special orders-- the ones that go through Purchasing. You can still use your 2019-2020 Purchase Order number directly with vendors who take HCOS Purchase Orders.) 

Note also: This is the last year for internet reimbursements.

Dates and Links:  

April 12 Open House

April 19-22 Easter

April 23 to 30 CHEC (Convention in Kelowna)

June 7 Deadline for new work samples.

June 24 Report Cards are complete and available.

You may be interested in my recommended resources page. I only add to these resources when I see a learner has done well using it within the BC curriculum. I hope to add a few more links this year.

 Rob Wahl recommended resources


The Promise of a New Year

About the Learning

I love the promise of a new year. A chance to get right what didn't work last year, and a chance to speed up what did work. We are filled with optimism and idealism. Enjoy the moment. It's every bit as real as the struggles and challenges that inevitably follow. Let yourself be inspired. You don't do this because you like to struggle, you do because it is God's calling.

Dates and Resources

Here's all our dates and links

Act or Be Acted Upon: The Need for Planning Now

Newsletter May 22,  2018

Photo: Skeena River in Winter as seen from the Old Bridge

Act or Be Acted Upon: The Need for Planning Now

With the approach of summer, we can start to think about next year. In the fall after the warmth and frolics of summer, we become idealistic. Pull out a sheet of paper to plan the year on September 1st and we are all likely to draw a blank. Given the need to continue, we then draw on the abstract. Over this year you have had many challenging experiences that you will soon forget. If you write your plans now, it will be like a time capsule, a message to your post-summer self.

Funding and planning are challenges and experiences you share with classroom teachers. Every teacher knows what it’s like to start school in the fall having forgotten what worked and what didn’t last year. Every classroom teacher knows what it’s like to leave money on the table because of not knowing what to buy until it’s too late. Money and planning go together. If your rule is to never spend money unless you have no other choice, then you don’t need to plan. You will, however, experience the world as one who has been acted upon, and not one who has chosen to act.

Between now and September of next year, I recommend the following:

  1. Reflect on what has worked. Make plans to start the year with what you know has worked well.
  2. Reflect on what you would like to do differently. Write down what problems you need to solve, and some of your ideas for solving them. As a classroom teacher, I would write my orientation lessons and classroom rules and routines. After that, year plans or brief course outlines that list units of study. Of course, the format doesn’t matter. Ask yourself how you can learn from your experience and start the fall with more effective routines and requirements.
  3. Choose two, three or four key topics and subjects to start the year. Usually, it’s just one thing for each of Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies. Once you have those start-up plans in place, then go looking for the materials you need to get make that happen.

There are two pitfalls to avoid. First is to try to have a year's worth of materials on the table for September, the second is to have nothing. I would recommend having enough materials to last three to four weeks, with the intention of making fresh purchases as needed to implement plans. These plans will then become your Student Learning Plan.

NCOS makes $500 available to you in advance of the 2018-19 school year, and all of your funds available as of August 1, 2018. If you would like any further advice about setting up the fall, please don't hesitate to call or email.





Many Criminal Records Checks will have reached their five-year expiry next fall. They are valid for five years, so please make sure your lesson-provider has returned a Criminal Records Check to HCOS within the last four years.

Please login to Encom and complete the self-assessment process with your child. This is an important Ministry requirement. Here's a link to help

Parent and Kid Friendly Performance Standards for Writing (Link)

Empowering Young Writers Web Page.

Questions as organizers:

Download Word Doc View in Browser
Social Studies Questions        Social Studies Questions      
Science Questions Science Questions

The Lost Art of Memory Retrieval

Newsletter April 23,  2018

Photo: Skeena River in Winter as seen from the Old Bridge

The Lost Art of Memory Retrieval

remember when I taught my son Grade 12 Pre Calculus mathematics in his Grade 11 year. He went on study AP Calculus the following year. He was good at it, but I remember how his ability to solve trigonometric equations really took off when he memorized the sine and cosine values at the 12 key positions of the unit circle. On that day, I was no longer a match for my son's mathematical ability. It was quite a feat of memory.

I grew up in a time when there was an overemphasis on short-term memory. Admittedly this was something of a barrier for me because being somewhat absent minded my short-term memory is of little value to me, and as a result, average at best.  I was always somewhat envious of those who could memorize their notes for an exam and then forget them. Except, I didn't want to forget them. I enjoyed university studies greatly but also found it exceptionally frustrating competing with the memorize-and-forget crowd. When you think about it, short-term memorization in and of itself is of little value.

There are several kinds of long-term memory. They include autobiographical memory and explicit or declarative memory (this happened, or remember when we used to...).  Explicit long-term memory is important too, we use it to identify animals, tell a story, explain the distributive property in Math. I am not talking about these kinds of memory. I am talking about implicit, long-term memory. The best example is saying the alphabet. It's entirely effortless and automatic.  Another great example is Bible verses. Most of us can say John 3:16 or Genesis 1:1 without trying. This is an amazing and useful capacity of the human brain that needs development.




Parent and Kid Friendly Performance Standards for Writing (Link)

Empowering Young Writers Web Page.

Questions as organizers:

Download Word Doc View in Browser
Social Studies Questions        Social Studies Questions      
Science Questions Science Questions

Educators were wrong to stop to emphasize short-term memory recall over real learning.  But in the effort to focus on true learning a key skill area is going missing because people are tossing out long-term implicit memory along with short-term rote memorizing. Long-term implicit memory is the art of total recall. It starts the same as short-term, but then it's reinforced by memorizing it again, better, at then again and again. A good schedule for reinforcement is 1 day, 3 days, 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, 3 months. By then it is probably memorized for life.

This is particularly important for Bible, Science, Math, and the Arts. Children can memorize the books of the Bible and passages of the Bible such as the Lord's Prayer, the Beatitudes and the Full Armor of God. In Elementary Science learners can memorize the planets of the solar system. In Math, can children count backward? Can the skip count backward by twos and fives? Are their multiplication facts at their fingertips? Is BEDMAS like the alphabet? These are skills that will pay off in time. A well-trained memory makes a lot of other types of learning a lot easier. 

Consider one or two memorization projects a year for the sake of cultivating the mind.  Imagine performing The Cremation of Sam McGee or The Sermon on The Mount for others to hear.  It is more than doable, can be fun, and disciplines and strengthens the brain. The act of memorization (not the content) quite literally improves the IQ.

For further reading, Google memorization. Here's an example of something interesting I found, but you can find ten others.

Happy Learning,



Building Young Writers #3

Newsletter March 13, 2017


Building Young Writers-- a simple process

In this the final installment in a three-part newsletter I would like to present you with a simple way to learn the art of writing, and by writing empower learners.  When we consider what learning really is, we want two things. First, we want deep understanding about big ideas. These understandings are nothing if they cannot be clearly articulated. The second is that learning does involve storing and retrieving key information. There is a practice and discipline of being able to recall specific information-- the capital cities of each province, for example. Stored and retrieved, facts are the raw materials of higher mental processes. But most learners all too often fail to see the relevance of storing and retrieving facts, and when they don't they either refuse to learn, or file the learning in their mind under, 'irrelevant things I had to memorize in school'. The solution, therefore, is to work on factual knowledge and it's context together. So here is a simple step-by-step method anyone can follow.

If I was to learn archery there are those who would have me perfect holding and drawing the bow first. After perfecting my stance, my grip, my positioning, and my draw I am allowed to use an arrow.  This method is awesome but requires a lot of maturities and personal discipline from the learner. It also leans toward all or nothing should the method fail. The equivalent in writing would be to learn all of your tool skills: penmanship, keyboarding, spelling, punctuation, and grammar first, and only then begin to write. This would be one possible method, but I would like to recommend something else, the method of successive approximation.


Parent and Kid Friendly Performance Standards for Writing (Link)

Upcoming Events:
February 28: Second Portfolio deadline for Term 2.
March 14 Term 2 Report Card comes out. (Slightly delayed due to family situation)
BC CHEC Conference April 28 & 29th

The current issues of “What in the World?” and “The Canadian Reader” are now available.  To download your personal copy, please go to the Subscribers page on their website: http://www.lesplan.com/en/subscriber-issues  Note:  The resources page at http://www.lesplan.com/en/resources has some good helps for you.

Passwords will be available from Rob Wahl, or by link sent out by email later this week.

Questions as organizers:

I recently received this document in which they have formatted many aspects of the curriculum into topical questions. Questions such as these might be a big break through for some. Please click the link and download the documents and find the questions relevant to your grade. Setting out to answer these questions would quickly align your thinking and planning with the BC Ed Plan. I'll be asking each of you which of these questions you want to answer for the next portfolio.

Download Word Doc View in Browser
Social Studies Questions        Social Studies Questions      
Science Questions Science Questions

If I were learning archery I would like a brief explanation of how to stand and hold the bow. I would like to shoot an arrow and see where it goes, and then make the corrections to get the arrow to the bullseye. Indeed I would test those corrections out by shooting the arrow again, repeating the process until I can hit the target consistently.

In this metaphor the archer is the writer, the arrow is the writing and the target is the performance standard. The bow is a pen or computer. It is this constant attempt to measure up to performance standards through which learn. We hit the target by writing and editing until we meet the standard. There are a few simple ways to apply this metaphor to writing that is geared toward writing on a computer but can also be done without a computer.

The first step is to gain some sort of experience. It could be looking at an image, walking a field trip, doing a church project, conducting an experiment, listening to a talk or reading a book. Learners should enter into the experience knowing they will be writing about it.

The second step is to scaffold the learner. Scaffolding is a way of helping the learner without doing the writing for them. The goal of scaffolding is to teach the learning process. Scaffolding allows the learner to do more than they can do alone but provides just enough help to make sure the learner isn't frustrated. Scaffolding allows a structure to be built inside. Once the structure is built the scaffolding is removed and the building stands alone. In like manner, we must provide learners with the support they need-- whatever it may be-- but without creating dependency.  You set up a scaffold when you sit together and discuss the process of learning so that everyone knows what to expect. Learner and support work through the process and master it by practicing together at first but with increasing independence. Bear in mind that the goal here is not that the learner can write but that the learner can follow the steps that will eventually allow them to learn to write.

The third step is to create a concept map based on the experience in the first step. At the outset, do keep this simple. You might shoot for five paragraphs including a single organizing idea, three supporting ideas, and a conclusion. For this, I recommend any software you enjoy using. Inspiration is older, dated software, but still works well and is easy for learners to use. Learners should spend long enough creating a concept map that they become familiar with the scope of the work. The concept map should become an outline although it may be possible to skip this step depending on what is being written. If an outline is needed but difficult, a great way to get a detailed outline is to use PowerPoint or its alternatives. But stress to the learner that PowerPoint is an outline. Creating the content this way can be fun and rewarding. It can be 70% of the work, but we must not stop there.

The fourth step is to create paragraphs that follow the outline. These paragraphs will then become the first draft of an essay or personal narrative. The writing should be rapid, relaxed, unstructured and without regard for any details that can be addressed in the editing process. The focus should be on the details of the content, writing things down that are detailed, supported with reasons, clear and logical. Part of this step is a quick initial edit to correct obvious problems of paragraphing, grammar and spelling, adding reasons where required and making the sentences complete so the thoughts are logical.  
The fifth step is to put the product to the test by self-evaluating. This is done by finding the square on the performance standard grid that best describes how well the learner thinks they met the standard. This is a key area for support. A good place to offer a reward like time for a favorite recreational activity if the one supporting agrees with the learner's self-evaluation. The self-evaluation is of no use if it does not generate a plan to edit the document to achieve a goal from the performance standard. This usually involves looking to the next column to the right along the same row.

The sixth step is to edit the document to meet the selected goals. This can be as much or more work than the first draft. The resulting re-drafted document should show improvements in all areas of the performance standards. There should be at two or three self-evaluations and edits before the work is considered complete.

I hope you find this process works for you. To learn it might lead to a number of learning skills that will last a lifetime. Don't forget to take that scaffold down slowly but surely.

Newsletter October 27, 2016

HCOS Newsletter October 27, 2016

Masthead Fall 2016

Newsletter, October 27, 2016

Keep On Truckin'

Resources and Activities

Earlier this week I sent you something to get you started thinking about the Article A Day Program at ReadWorks. I want to thank Clarice Lomavatu one of my colleagues from William's Lake for this content; and Nancy Gullision, who sent it earlier this week.  Here's the rest of that.

Building Comprehension Skills

ReadWorks is a good resource for finding materials to build comprehension skills.  One of the practices they suggest is called:  Article-A-Day.  This is a "high-impact, 10-15 minute daily routine where students choose and read one high-quality nonfiction article every day, as part of a weekly, topically-related article set. In K-1st grades, the teacher reads the article out loud to the students.  You only need about 10-15 minutes each day to do Article-A-Day, as part of your students’ daily routine. And it is worth it!"

Try doing Article-A-Day first thing each morning, or before/after a transition to lunch or a special. Students will know that this is their daily routine and will be able to get into it right away.   The goal of Article-A-Day is for children to become stronger readers by giving them exposure to new vocabulary and non-fiction materials.  It’s like exercising muscles, only these are reading muscles.  

After reading the children can write down or draw a picture of  - 3 things they learned from reading in their own “Book of Knowledge”.  

After making an entry into their Book of Knowledge, the children can share with someone else what they learned and would like to remember.  

I also found this video on the program, seemed like a helpful introduction:


Nancy also provided, this word document with more detailed information about how to use program. Click the link to download it.


Upcoming Events

Click to enlarge

October 26: It's great to be back from a mad caper to Saskatoon. I hope that nonsense is done now. I have a few last minute work samples to upload. They are due by the 30th.

November 1 to 10: I plan to contact each of you by phone just to see how things are going and to discuss how best to keep me updated on things. This is where I'll get see-saw going with a few of you who were interested.

November 11: First Portfolios due.



The Problem with the New Calvinism

On Free Will and Predestination

One of the big questions in Christianity is weather we have a free will choice in the matter of Salvation. The question hinges on Total Depravity. Total depravity has a range of meanings but it is usually not saying that people can do no good. It is the teaching that humans are helpless to come to salvation on their own power. Predestinarians say that since people are totally deprived they are spiritually dead and so cannot respond to the gospel. A person who is dead in their sins cannot say yes or no to the offer of salvation. Salvation is by grace, and grace alone.

I became an Arminian reading the journals of John Wesley. Wesley said, “either you believe grace is conditional, or you believe it is unconditional, there’s no position in between”. I thought about that and realized it is not the character of God as I understand it to make me an offer I can’t refuse. So I realized then I was an Arminian, because I believe that we can refuse God’s offer of salvation. Now that I’ve read more on the issue, I’m proud to be in the tradition of Wesleyan Arminianism. I don’t believe we contribute anything to our salvation by accepting the free gift– essentially by not saying no. That’s because God loves the whole world, and graciously deals with each person to give them a choice to come into salvation. This gracious dealing is possible because God loves each of us and gives us what we need to make a choice before we make it. We often experience this grace in key moments in our lives. That’s why the Bible says in Isaiah 55:6, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” It’s not so much a free will as it is a freed will. This coming along side is the work of the Holy Spirit, an act of grace that sometimes is called prevenient grace frees our will to accept or reject his offer of salvation.

As a member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance I can have any position I want as long as I adhere to our Statement of Faith. I also had to come to terms with the fact that my church includes both Calvinists, Arminians, and various other theological traditions. (Note: a tradition is a line of  teachers and students who themselves become teachers.) We can have spirited debate, but our church is big and strong enough to encompass and include all these views. My problem with Calvinists is not that they believe in predestination. I believe God has a plan for us too.

I am concerned that the new Calvinism fails to adhere to the basic Christian understanding of a God who is good. They also change the basic message of the gospel so that Jesus no longer died for the sins of the whole world and have to do fancy footwork around John 3:16. This I find very concerning.  These are serious issues, but even that isn’t my big problem. My problem with Calvinism is not Calvinism. What I oppose vehemently is anyone that seeks to “otherize” their detractors; this, to put them outside of the fellowship or outside of their rightful role as leaders. I have heard of Calvinists rejoicing in that they have gained control of a church and removed the other teachings. I find this ungodly, particularly if the church is Anabaptist or Arminian by tradition. Should anyone hint that you do not belong if you’re not Calvinist, or label you ‘Arminian’ as another term for theologically weak, not worthy of authority– if you witness such a thing, then rebuke them sharply. It is just simply wrong. It appears from all reports that the New Calvinism promotes itself and fails to treat with its peers with respect. Arminian isn’t a synonym for bad theology, it’s a strong and honored school within the reformed tradition. As Calvinists and Arminians I want us to honour one another and respect one another’s point of view. If we attend the same church we should be able to work together for the sake of the gospel.

Here’s an attempt to use outline mode to show where Arminians fit among the theological schools.


Christian Views on Salvation

Tradition Depravity  God’s Grace  Atonement Will Fall Away?

I. Orthodoxy (Free Will without total depravity)

 Partial  Conditional  For everyone  Free  Yes

II. Roman Catholic (Council of Trent)

 Partial  Conditional  For everyone  Free  Yes

III. Protestant


1. Lutheranism

 Partial  Conditional  For everyone  Free  Yes

2. Reformed


a. Calvinist

Total  Unconditional  For the elect  None  No

b. Arminian

Total Conditional For everyone Freed* Mixed

3. Anabaptist

Mixed Conditional For everyone Free Yes


*It might be an important distinction to make, that for Classical Arminians at least it’s more accurate to speak of “freed will” than “free will”.

HCOS in the Northwest Newsletter, April 20, 2016

MastheadNewsletter, April 18, 2016                                            The Skeena from the Old Bridge April 1, 2015

This week: It Only Takes a Spark

Activation Energy

We’ve heard a lot about project based learning but we’ve all done little about it. The new curriculum is based around the idea. It’s hard to get started in project-based learning. Learners aren’t used to the approach; it takes a while, perhaps months, for learners to really get ‘hang of it’. There’s an initial investment, but there’s also a big pay-off as learners gain independence. I like the idea in Chemistry of “Activation Energy. Have a look at the chart on the right. Notice how it’s hard to get started but pays off in the end. Best of all, at the end there’s a new stable state. No going back. It’s like lighting a fire, it takes a spark as the old song goes.

Nancy Gullison sent me this model of inquiry-based learning. It’s in the form of you YouTube Video, so I trust you watch, enjoy. If parents are planning to re-enroll in HCOS next year and want to use the Launch Cycle or version of it, please contact me about it now. I will help with the planning and provide you with the right kind of support.

I’ve made a special Launch Cycle Web Page from the material that Nancy sent. This will let me keep building it as a resource. If anyone wants to contribute to it, just send me links and information.

Link to The Launch Cycle web page

Finishing Well

Don’t forget your weekly reports are do Friday. 🙂

Its that time of year when we have to consider how we want to finish the race that is this year. We’re just going into the final lap, lets hang in there and make it a great year. Part of that is to find some great year end outdoor learning activities that kids can enjoy. Another part of that is to keep to a schedule, sometimes with the long days it can be challenging to get enough rest. Also, please consider re-enrolling for next year.

How to Re-Enroll for Next Year

Re-enrollment Process 
1.       Log in to your Encom account at http://encom.onlineschool.ca/
a.       If you do not recall your password please go here, https://encom.onlineschool.ca/public/forgotten-password.php.
b.      If you are unsure of your Username please contact [email protected].
2.       Click the re-enrolling link 
3.       Read through the instructions and select Yes or No and click Save and Continue
4.       Follow instructions on screen to complete re-enrollment

Upcoming Events

April 26 to May 7

April 28 to 30 Rob is in Kelowna at the CHEC Homeschooling Conference.

May 1 to 7, brief holiday in Lower Mainland

May 1: Deadline for curriculum purchases from the USA.

May 15: Deadline for learning resource purchases

June 3: Final portfolio due (You can collect these earlier.)

June 17: Final report cards due

August 29-31 Rob is in Kelowna staff training


HCOS in the Northwest Newsletter, April 2016

MastheadNewsletter, April 6, 2016                                        The Skeena from the Old Bridge April 1, 2015

The Power of Positive Learning

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

2 Peter 1: 5-7

Incoming Learning Task


The main thing that children struggle with learning self control. The modern term if “executive functioning”, its the internal language of our minds. Some of us talk to ourselves. Some of us have good logical minds. Mostly what drives us is our feelings. If we think our feelings are going to get hurt, we will avoid it.

Executive functioning occurs at the blue diamond. It’s the mind’s eye, the mind’s heart, the minds ear. It’s that voice inside our heads. Like anything else, it’s hardwired into our brains, but also changes with use. Children need to practice listening to it. Study the diagram. Notice that when children anticipate good feelings there is a positive feedback loop encourages awareness of the inner state which leads to self control. Self control says, I want to learn. I would encourage every parent in Christ to raise up their child in the knowledge that they are loved by the almighty God, and that they may be pleased with themselves because God is pleased with them. In so doing they will grow as Jesus did,  “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man”.


Upcoming Events

April 26 to May 7

April 28 to 30 Rob is in Kelowna at the CHEC Homeschooling Conference.

May 1 to 7, brief holiday in Lower Mainland

May 1:  Deadline for curriculum purchases from the USA.

May 15: Deadline for learning resource purchases

June 3:    Final portfolio due (You can collect these earlier.)

June 17:  Final report cards due 

August 29-31   Rob is in Kelowna staff training


HCOS in the Northwest January 25, 2016

MastheadSkeena_from_Bridge_January_21__2016_at_0458PMNewsletter, January 25, 2016                                         Skeena from the Old Bridge Jan 22, 2015

The emotional conditions for learning

One of the great benefits of home learning is that we get to set the emotional climate in the household. Now household emotions are up and down and rarely perfect, but that often better than the constant struggle of surviving in a classroom. Its easy to neglect the emotions around schooling. Certainly when we’re doing the chores, how we feel about it is really a matter of choice. But learning isn’t a chore. It can’t be a chore. It can’t be something that can be set aside from the important aspects of life. Learning is really something we need to do every day for our whole lives. So lets learn how to do it well. Part of doing it well is to get control of the feelings around learning.

We have the advantage of great research on feelings and learning. It’s actually easy to study– but never forget: all truth is God’s truth.  Here I’m drawing from Pekrun, Cusack, Murayama , Elliot, and Thomas in the peer reviewed Learning and Instruction issue 29, 2014. It’s an international study involving scholars from Munich, Dublin, Los Angeles, Rochester N.Y., and Fern Barrow, UK. If you want to read the full technical paper it’s here.

What the scholars did was they gave a large group of learners the same thing to learn, and told them different things about what the learning goal and the feedback from the test would be like. So the scholars were manipulating what emotions the learners were anticipating while learning. (Nice study.) Here’s what they found.

emotions of learning

As you can see the results re rather jaw dropping. In this study learners that both felt and expected pride of accomplishment will outperform one that feels and expects shame 60%. This is more than the difference between “special needs” and “top performing” students. 

This is not to say that there are not other factors, ones that we don’t control, involved in learning. All of the students in the study were of similar ability and background.

Finally, one important highlight is the promise of a better future is twice as powerful as enjoyment. Making things fun is great, but to involve children building a better future (in the child’s own value set) for themselves and their loved ones is the most powerful smart pill ever.

Lessons learned

Use Mastery, but not over-learning. Mastery learning gives children constant great feedback. They always anticipate success. Children are not bored with mastery but they are bored when after mastery they have not moved forward. For some it doesn’t take much delay, others will soldier on for way to long. Mastery isn’t perfection; mistakes still happen, but the learner “gets it”. The learner must still consolidate the skills and this will take far to much time. 

Create a positive emotional climate. Not enjoyment yes, but hope for achievement and pride in accomplishment. Rarely but on a few occasions, I fear children are robbed of the pride of accomplishment because of the passion parents have for the success of their children. Children need legitimate experiences of success and need to have meaningful experiences with personal success. That doesn’t mean they can’t have help, in fact they must have help. It means that the child must relate to the accomplishment as their own. Allow children to learn for their own benefit. Love does not seek its own.

Positive feedback works. Learning without feedback is like learning archery without being able to see where the arrow went. In order to learn archery you need a target. Parents can help learning by spending a lot of time building hope that the learner can hit the target. Then we have to practice shooting. For the practice to help we need to know where the arrow went. This is feedback. Parents can help learning by building pride by showing the learner what they have reason to be proud of, and by showing them that there’s hope to also hit the bulls eye.

learning curve2

The learning Curve

Appreciating the learning curve will help the emotional environment. Most times, learning will follow a curve that slow at first, fast in the middle and slow again in the end. The fast part in the middle makes some think that should be the way it is all the time. The slow beginning leads to frustration sometimes and negative emotions. In the beginning, lots of fun exploratory activities. I’ll have more to say about the learning curve in a future news letter. It looks something like this.

The great challenge of learning is to support your children’s emotions while they start slowly. Learning simple things well combined with an awareness of the learning goal.







Upcoming Events


Student Led Conferences to help build portfolio

I’ve received some great interest in Student Led Conferences. I’m scheduling on day to write a report for each learner. I would like to share those dates with you so you can be on hand for questions. The time includes two or three hours to visit each home. When families have two or more children I spend longer visiting and then write the two reports on the next day so it works out to one day per learner. We’ll in touch by email or phone to confirm a date.

Shames Mountain Skiing: There’s still time to sign up!

February 5, 11, 26 Ski days

Other Upcoming Events,

Jan. 11- Feb.19 FSA writing dates (Grade 4 and 7)

February 12 Portfolio #2 Due Date

March 4 Report Cards

April 8 and 9: Northwest Science Fair

April 29, 30 Home School Conference in Kelowna