Tag Archives: learning

49er Fantasy

No, not the football team.  Euw.

The miner kind of 49ers.

I’m from California, and the Gold Rush of 1849 has always been one of my most favorite periods in history.

The other day my daughter and I were watching a documentary of the pioneers and the Gold Rush.  It told the story of a family who went west to seek their fortune.  Usually men went without their wives and children and just hoped to make a bunch of money to bring home, or send for their families later.  But this family took off together.

When they arrived, the lady found that the miners would pay five dollars to have a meal cooked by a woman, which of course was a lot of money back then.  Well, maybe not to a guy who just found a bunch of gold nuggets in a creek and has blown phenomenal amounts of cash on booze and prostitutes.  Five bucks for a “home cooked” meal would be nothing.

But anyway, these miners had gone so long without being fed by their womenfolk, not to mention even seeing a woman up close, that she was greatly appreciated.  So much so that she was able to open a restaurant and make a tidy living off her culinary skills.

Now I know that some people fantasize about being Eddie Van Halen, or Angelina Jolie, or maybe even Bill Gates.  Having fame, fortune and glory is a commonplace desire.  But I haven’t felt as envious of anyone’s life as I felt hearing about this woman feeding all those men, winning their innocent affections and being compensated handsomely.  

I imagine, being her, I would feel like the most beneficent goddess mother, appeasing the boys’ stomachs and comforting their loneliness (she had her husband there, so I’m assuming that she was relatively safe from untoward advances.  Either way, nothing inappropriate figures into this particular fantasy of mine!)  They would adore me, looking up at me with their sad, scruffy, hungry puppy dog faces as I set before them some stew and biscuits still hot from the oven.  It would fill their bellies and warm their hearts and their homesickness wouldn’t sting quite so badly for just those few moments.  After their many months of perilous journeying, miserable gold panning, lousy food and rough male company, just the swishing of my clean skirts as I went to fetch the coffee would be like music to their ears.

Silly, I know.  But if a person’s fantasies reveal their essence, then I am all about food, earning a good living and being an adored mother-figure.  

I can live with that.

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Filed under society

Fantasizing about a school…

All this talk of grounding techniques reminds me of a trick I came up with a couple of years ago to get my worrying mind off the poisonous thoughts of “oh no!” and “what if?”  while I’m trying to get to sleep.  I simply turn my mind loose on the fantasy of a school.

Okay, you already knew I was weird.  No sense accusing me of it now.

A school for homeschoolers.

Essentially, a place to gather with others interested in the same subject or to work independently.  A place of resources, mentors and a culture of learning.  A place where the adults want to learn as well.  A place of no grades or tests.  A place where there is a program in place to graduate if that is the path you choose, if your dream is to become a doctor or some other career that requires going to a university.  But instead of being driven by governmental edicts, learning will be fueled by interest, curiosity, will, passion.  Instead of being treated like miserable little factory workers or, dare I say, untrustworthy prisoners, students will be respected as thinking individuals.  The culture of learning will inspire responsibility and serious application of brain &/or body power to chosen tasks, whether they be a study of calculus or drawing with crayons or planting tomatoes.

Hey, it’s a fantasy, what can I say.

There would be workshops of all sorts: art studios, music rooms, a stage with back rooms full of costumes, an organic garden and greenhouses, mechanic garage, computer lab, library, kitchen, sewing area, as well as a couple of academic classrooms for people who wanted to focus on headier subjects.  There would be a huge playground and lots of athletic equipment and fields/courts so that kids and adults could run out their wiggles.  

Don’t ask me how we’d pay the electric bill.  I’m not allowed to think about things like that.  Makes me too tense and leads me back to worrying.

I’m only allowed to imagine how the garden would be laid out, where the strawberry patch would go and how many people would be out enjoying green beans right off the vine.  I’m only allowed to envision how tall the shelves would go in the library, and which books we absolutely MUST have and how many window seats we should put in.  I can only wander the hall and see a group of kids giggling and running out to play before lunch while another older group sits on the edges of their seats arguing about which design of recumbent bike would be most efficient, occasionally glancing around in anxious anticipation of the arrival of the resident bike guru who will help them begin construction.

I can enjoy the thought of a meeting of the writing group, a gathering of adults and teens who trust each other enough to share words and ideas and help each other express themselves to the world. I can imagine the ‘zine they would put together and distribute to everyone they know.

And pretty soon I’m asleep.

I wonder if someday I will fall asleep thinking of these things, but instead of being fantasies they will be memories of a dream come true.

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Filed under education

Tutoring

I just got my first tutoring client in our new town, and it’s going to be a short gig.  This kid’s too smart to need me for long.  Just needs a little confidence-building and he’ll be off and running.

But just a couple of sessions is enough to remind me of how much I love it.

When you teach, you have to try to gear the material to EVERYONE, an impossible task but what else are you going to do.

When you tutor, you do whatever they need.  If you can tell they need everything written down to be able to process the information, then you write it.  If you hear one or two recurring pronunciation errors (I tutor languages), you point them out.  If they need you to repeat certain things or jump over that one part or remind them of that thing they keep forgetting… you can be whoever and whatever that student needs.  Do they need you to walk them through the whole exercise?  Do they just need a nudge in the right direction?

I love the fact that everyone learns differently.  I love the challenge of figuring out what a student needs and how I might phrase something so that it makes sense to them.

I remember when I was in grade school and a teacher would explain something and a kid would ask a question, and I could always tell that there was a crossed wire between what the teacher said and what the kid heard.  So how did the teacher answer?  Most of the time: repeat exactly what they said the first time.  I knew, if they just tweaked it, came at the answer from a slightly different angle, this kid would get it.

I love to look at things from all possible angles, walk around some theory or rule or bit of information and investigate it for leaks, holes, or undiscovered treasures.  I love to be able to rotate the invisible gem and make it magically appear for someone who wants to see it.  I love to try to connect that particular piece of the world to all the others, try to fit together some big picture so we might Get It.

The best and worst case scenario in tutoring, I find, is when the student is really inspired by the subject.  Best case, because it is a total joy to watch them drink in the material, so satisfying to realize that they are listening to things I point out and that they put into practice almost everything we cover, so validating that someone else likes to study the subject I’ve devoted so much of my life to.

Worst case scenario because, like my current student, they don’t really need me.  The usual case is the concerned parents see a test score that went amiss for whatever reason and they panic a bit and want to make sure things aren’t heading in the wrong direction.  I provide a couple of sessions worth of support, a few study hints, some guidance to additional resources, and these kids will be able to fly solo.  They want to.  Like I told the parents the other night when they asked for my assessment of their child’s abilities, I don’t want to talk myself out of a job, but honestly, as long as he keeps up with the school work, he’ll do really well.

I’ll just sit here and hope that a few more come along for me soon.

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Filed under education