Or-Tal's Writings

entrepreneur/mother/education revolutionist/high tech addict



Let Them Be Bored

“Let them be bored, teach them how to make it through boring stuff”.
I think that was the most interesting request I have ever heard a parent ask a teacher before. It came partly as a comment to me saying that my greatest expectation of my young son’s school is that he will learn how to learn.

The conversation took place in the first meeting of the parents in my son’s 5th grade with the new class teacher. In this introductory meeting he asked each of the nearly 70 parents that gathered in the classroom to describe their education vision, wishes, hopes and expectations of the school. It’s a Waldorf school and many of the parents said they chose this school simply because they hated the alternative – the “regular” school system. But listening to each one describe a vision was interesting and inspiring. Parents aren’t asked often enough this very clear and simple question. I have 24 school years of parenting behind me (12 of my daughter, 8 of one son and 4 of the other son) and this was the first time. Learning what members of this community are expecting lay the foundation for a supportive community for the joint ride to education and scholarship.

“Learning how to learn is important and valuable”, this father continued my thread, “but while we teach our kids the process of learning, they must also learn how to cope with the boring side of it, the tedious tasks: they can’t expect everything to be interesting and attractive all the time”.

It got me thinking. I thought about all the times I hear or read about engagement in the classroom. All the intensive dealing with using technology in the classroom, so that kids will have an interesting time and action packed learning experience. We often get out of our minds in that effort to make the schooling experience so rich. Anything to keep them in the process.

But the basis of learning is a human need. Like we need food and drink and love, we also need to learn. At early childhood it is a survival instinct. How many times would the baby try to walk and fall until he gets it? Or the toddler repeats the stacking of building blocks until he figures out the right way to do it without them falling? Hear any complaints about the process? I don’t think so. Do parents interfere in that process, or work hard to make it more interesting?

So what happens when our kids get to school? To be perfectly honest – boring happens. Boring takes over. The balance between boring and tedious on one hand and rewarding or satisfying on the other hand is broken. Getting a smiley sticker on the notebook isn’t a reward worthy the investing of a whole hour in solving arithmetic exercises. This doesn’t feel like a rewarding experience. My daughter, Shai, thinks that sometimes the clear path or a result, conclusion or some other grand finale, can also make for a rewarding or gratifying experience. But it’s the little tedious tasks you do with no clear vision of where it is leading you, or when will it end, that earn the title “boring” and end up detestable.

On a slightly different note: we got a dog last week. Her trainer works with the positive dog training method. So each task the dog does to our satisfaction earns it a big reward, either in the form of something to chew or in the form of love demonstrations. It’s amazing to see how quickly this young dog learns through a simple promise of a rewarding experience.

Building a Community of Responsible Parents

It’s an endless effort, building a community. I’ve been at it for months now. Bootstrapping our startup, Saveby, means it’s up to us, two founders, to fulfill at least 6 positions in it. If that sounds difficult consider the fact those two founders are at two different time zones, 7 hours apart. We do our best to divide responsibility, and sometimes we get help from our good friends and excellent connections. Still, launching a public alpha is not all excitement. It’s stress too.

Saveby is a self service group shopping platform. It enables consumers to create or join their own dream deals. Who deserves this service more than parents, embarking on the new parenting shopping cart for the first time?? Or the second… or third… That’s why we decided to launch our service to parents, in the US, who are hoping to get the best baby gear for their kids and still maintain a solid college fund. How about that?

Most of our efforts nowadays are dedicate to establishing communications with such parents throughout the US. We discover meetup groups, forums, blogs. But mostly we discover people and that makes our work so much more interesting and fun.

If you are a parent and you want access to our alpha stage, please comment below and don’t forget to include your real email (it’s never public). We’ll get personally in touch.
To further support us – follow our twitter, like our facebook and you can join the new “Saveby for Parents” group on Facebook too.

Startup life: It’s a family effort

One month into the summer vacation and the kids are pretty busy. They keep themselves occupied, they don’t get bored, and they seem to be really happy with their freedom. I get to see them during meal times mostly. They don’t complain, yet I can’t escape the guilty feeling that’s creeping on me: What a terrible mom, not dedicating quality time to my kids during their summer vacation.

At the height of it, when I finally decided to take an hour off emailing and social networking to play a board game with my 9 year old son, he accepted me with a hug. Enhancing that guilty feeling.

But they know, and I even heard them explain it to their friends, that their mom is working, working really hard, working a lot. Sure, mom is at home, but mom is in her study, and shouldn’t be disturbed.

So it’s not only me paying the high price of a startup set up. Not that I ever believed it was only me. I can safely say that I am lucky my family accepts my crazy work hours and supports the startup effort.

Commit To Your Students’ Success, Please!

“We’re committed to the rules and regulation”, said my son’s teacher to me, as she’s trying to explain why the school wouldn’t let a 7th grader attempt a specific test one more time.
“No”, I said, “You are committed to your students’ success”.

This, apparently was not clear. “There are guidelines we must follow”, she tried again.

“The only guideline is your students’ success”, I repeated. “If a kid gets 95 and 88 and 87 in some tests, and then 35 in one other test, you should let him retake that test until he is content with his achievement. You can’t just leave him with the 35 because some city clerk wrote a rule saying ‘be tough on the kids and don’t let them repeat the tests’..”.

At that point I was advised to perform a 3,000 shekels total evaluation of his learning difficulties. Yea, one of “the rules” is to abide by recommendations produced by such a diagnosis.

Don’t get me even started on what happens to those students who cannot afford such an expensive diagnosis. Just a quick reminder: Almost all students in Israel go to public schools and the law states students’ right to get free education for all. We already know it’s not free – with hundreds of shekels spent on books and booklets. But a law that requires parents to spend huge amounts on a private psycho-educational evaluation is just crazy, not to mention unfair.

People in Israel talk a lot about gaps breaking the society. It’s a small country. We’re only 7.7 million people. There are less than 900,000 students in grades 1-6, and about 600,000 in grades 7-12. That’s all. You’ll be correct to ask yourself how big a gap can occur within such a small country.

And I’m just left with the echo of my conversation. How can teachers feel more committed to the system’s rules then their students’ success?

What if a heavenly teacher doesn’t really have wings?

I’ve been pouring my aching heart over failing teachers and education systems here for the past 3 years at least. Recently I came across an amazing story, of a heavenly teacher.

She’s the teacher I would have dreamed of getting for my little boy. A dream come true. She’s kind, warm, and serene. She speaks calmly, never raises her voice. She leads the kids into learning, developing their curiosity. Makes them ask for more. Gives them a feeling the classroom is a safe harbor. Yet with all this her boundaries are crystal clear. They know they have to prepare their homework. They understand how to behave in the classroom. They know they have to respect each other in and out of the classroom, and that some games will be frowned upon. They know the right and wrong. And they are only on 3rd grade.

One day the teacher came to the school management with an announcement. She told them that she has developed friendship with one of the single parents in the classroom. “Over the past year”, she confessed, “it became evident that this is more than just friendship. This is love. We do not plan to move in together right now or become full partners, but I thought you should know”.

After about 3 weeks or less of pondering the school has decided the teacher should not continue to teach this class. In spite of the special relationships that have developed between the kids and the teacher, and even though they realized she’s the perfect teacher for this class and despite the fact that in this school it is customary that the teacher remains with her class till 8th grade – all this made no difference. In fact, the only reason the teacher wasn’t let go altogether was, perhaps, the fact that she is – really – a great teacher.

I am not school management, but I am an experience mother: Very experienced into education systems. I have seen teachers discriminate between students with no reason at all. I have seen teachers teaching relatives with no favoritism at all. I have never seen such a good teacher (except for maybe my daughter’s retired teacher from 2nd grade). I can’t help thinking; Did the school management really weigh the gain vs. the loss here? Or was it simply the easy way out of potential-maybe-someday headache? What do you think??

Newly Named Disease: Schoolitis

My daughter got it. It took me a while to define it as an illness. But it is. And bit by bit I am discovering more and more kids who have this disease to various extents.

Over the past two years plus my daughter got sick a lot of times. Really sick. Dark circles under her eyes, running nose, nausea, stomach aches, dizziness, weakness, sleep disorders, lack of appetite, headaches. We went to the doctors. Ran the blood tests. Nothing pointed anywhere. When the first long vacation of the school year came, and all symptoms disappeared I got the first hint. It all came back with school, and disappeared again with the next vacation.

We sat down and had a long analytical discussion. Now, I am not a doctor, nor a psychologist. I am a mother. A very attentive mother. And I decided I need to get to the bottom of this.

The background is also relevant: my daughter is highly gifted. From the time she joined the special class for the gifted on 3rd grade, till the time she left this class and went to high school, on the 9th grade, she never wanted to miss a day at school. She loves learning and does a lot of learning by herself. Her grades have always been perfect. Even now, with the Disease, she is a straight A student.

But now she hates school. In that eye-opening conversation she confessed that her main problem with school is that “school is preventing and delaying learning”. In those words. Being a mother of gifted kids that’s a startling truth to hear.

But even if they weren’t gifted… I mean, if this is the way a gifted student is feeling, then those who don’t share such a motivation for learning must be feeling even worse, don’t they??

A little asking around confirmed that high-school-frustration manifests in various physical ways – similar to what my daughter has been experiencing over the past two years plus.

Like other diseases there are several ways to prevent and to treat it. Unfortunately, prevention demands a deep reform into the education system. Treatment – well, the only thing left to do is to let her go. Skip school as much as she needs to in order to feel better. But that could work with kids who can learn by themselves. I am at loss when it comes to kids who really need the classroom and the learning enabler. This is taken back to ed-reform table.

But one thing I do wish: I wish that parents all over would realize that this is real. A real disease. It’s not laziness or some other form of “I want to skip school” naughtiness. This is a real illness and please treat your kids-with-Schoolitis exactly the same way you would care for them when they have the flue or even Angina.

What Does Bar-Mitzva has to do with Entrepreneurship?

This silly question kept popping over the past few weeks, as I have been working on both – the launch of my startup company, and the launch of my son into adulthood.

So a child reaches the age of 13 and there’s a bunch of ceremonies and traditions worldwide around the grand achievement of getting to a 13th birthday (give or take a year or two). All are aimed at marking his entrance to a world of adults.

We celebrated this event yesterday with the family at a restaurant. My son was excited and touched, proud and happy. He received many blessings and presents. Can’t do without the symbolic sentence like “you are now…” bla bla bla (although I think that was the waitress). This morning he found it hard to get out of bed. First day of the week. Then he started coughing and declared he is sick. The child remains a child. No ceremony can change that.

I found an interesting correlation with the launch of our startup company, Saveby. The fact that you announce the launch of an alpha version – doesn’t mean, of course, this baby can now walk. There’s such a long way ahead of us. The transition to “adulthood” can take steps forward and backwards just like adolescents do.

It just made me think that perhaps, the Bar-Mitzva and similar adulthood ceremonies should be postponed for another 5-10 years. Or better still, don’t let age or ceremonies decide adulthood, let development announce it, when it’s there.

As for the start up – at least there the convention is simple: when it walks you can remove the “beta” for the title. OK, my son is now in beta.

Needed: A Goal for Ongoing Revolution

I sit on my chair, in my study and I scratch my head. I feel like I have a mystery to crack. The mystery concerns the future of education, or rather the mysterious revolution in education. I hear great people (which I would love to meet in person) say “We need to change the DNA of education” – Greg Whitby and “Every education system in the world is being reformed at the moment, and it’s not enough. Reform is no use any more. Because that’s simply improving a broken model. What we need is not evolution, but a revolution in education” – Sir Ken Robinson.

But the ground is not shaking. It’s not even purring. Nothing. A year goes out and a year goes in and I ask myself how to crack this mystery. What would make a revolution in education? What does it take? Where to start?? And where are we heading?

Can you imagine the French Revolution or any other for that matter being a success without a clear goal?? An #edchat has just ended on twitter, on the topic “What should be the single focus of education if we could agree on only one goal?” . There was no clear agreement. Just a lot of similar opinions, wants, aspirations and – OK, some common goals.

We are having a revolution. Yet, in most cases, around the world, kids are still sitting in rows, facing a blackboard (or white) and the teacher, writing in (paper) notebooks and reading (paper) books. Hard to feel a big revolution this way. And indeed – this is no revolution. Even those schools who try to modify, add and change are not really “in the revolution”.

Yet a revolution is happening.

Like a good Kafka book – it seems there’s an oppressed mass rebelling against a mysterious ruler, only the ruler is an unclear one, and the rebels go in different directions.

One group of rebels go towards technology. Let’s put some more of this to get us what we want. Another thinks creativity is the key. Other think personal values, global citizenship, preparation for employment. Those are all very nice targets – but can they define a revolution??

None of the above, sorry. Or all of them – depends on your perspective. But the true goal of the Education Revolution, or Education Reform Movement is to alter the goal of education totally.

Let’s start with the name: no more EDUCATION.
It’s about time we start talking about LEARNING.

That’s the first change in perspective.

While education is defined in the dictionary first as “the act or process of educating or being educated” and second as “the knowledge or skill obtained or developed by a learning process”, learning is defined first as “The act, process or experience of gaining knowledge or skill”.

It doesn’t seem like a grand difference – but here’s what I see. Education is given, it’s all in passive – while learning is a take type of action, all active.

While education is something determined by the state and forced upon students, learning is what the students are actually taking with them.

Some students don’t’ get the education they require – because they don’t get to be heard. Their personal desire or interest in a topic has no place in a totalitarian regiment of education. Curiosity is often turned off in school, as it is all about getting through some oiled machine, with pre-defined targets. And not about true development which would often change targets and adjust to modifying reality.

I mean, does it make sense to decide in 2010 that in 2022 today’s first graders will have to finish school by passing exams in Math, English, History, Literature, Bible and perhaps 1-2 more topics? Can you really say that this is education?? Can this really help future generations get a job? Or be happy?

But if the 2022 graduates will finish school knowing how to learn whatever interests them, and starving for more knowledge, then I can say that future generations are safe.
Well, at least safer then they are today.

Established: The Ed Reform Movement

A idea sneaked on me this afternoon: I would like to establish a new movement, social and political movement, the sort that can become a universal force. An Ed Reform Movement. Black Panthers of Education. Well, not exactly.

It actually evolved from a new facebook group titled (free translation from Hebrew) “Parents ‘Yes We Can’ Reform Education”. I thought, why only parents? What about students who care and have a say? And then I thought about parents to be, and parents who’s kids aren’t in school any more, but they see the deep roots and high tops of the education tree and they want to take part and affect the change. And the teachers?? Oh, yes, those teachers who care and want to change and make a difference but their hands are tied by a heavy and old fashioned system.

Then I thought, if such a movement would be established, it should sweep everyone, all sectors in Israel, religious and non religious, Jewish and Arab, and Bedouin and Druse. Those who are interested in politics and those who aren’t – but they are all interested in their kids and their future. Such a movement could campaign in the next elections and win a seat or two – and get more budgets for education – and all those who are expected to cry about the education budget being taken from the police, the defense, health, labor, – all those will hopefully get to see how much money can larger education budgets actually save on all others.

And then I thought, well, actually, this should be a world movement. Nothing unique to Israel here. Education systems are at a critical point all over the world. How different things would be had we invested more in education in the weaker parts of this earth. How much could we have gained in terms of less hunger and illnesses. Less wars and more conversation. It all starts and ends in education, people. And it’s all in our own hands.

Oh, why should it only be a dream?

If only there were 34 hours a day…

In less then 30 minutes I will be out the door again, on my way to the violin lesson with my 7.5 year old son. It’s raining outside, and windy, and cold. I would rather stay at home. But to be perfectly honest – the weather is not the reason. The reason is that I have so little time to work.

I feel like running against the wind. Got so many errands and driving assignments there’s barely no time left for continuous undisturbed work. With no other choices I find myself trying to catch up at night, sometimes staying up until 1AM. These are good quiet hours that allow me to read huge amounts of material. But these are slow hours for writing and really not the time for conversations at all.

I have to admit that being a mother AND an entrepreneur is, let’s put it delicately, challenging. I want to be there for my kids, I want to take a part in their lives, I want to play with them, read with them… I also want to live my own life and find time to do some sports, to meet with friends, watch TV. Taking on entrepreneurship is what changes it to super-juggling. Entrepreneurship requires more hours then a day has to offer. I’m in a serious deficit.

Is this why there aren’t so many mother-entrepreneurs?

Yet, I am not ready to give any of it up. To make things even worse – I think I have discovered my calling over the last several months. I feel so passionately about education I just know I have to get involved and start doing things. Well… I actually started to. More news would follow.

It’s Kidsville!

It’s kidsville time!!

I admit it.  I gave in to my youngest child and let him get an account on Facebook. Farmville was the trigger, and though he is apparently the first among his 2nd grade classmates to play it I am not convinced he is the first one to have a Facebook account. He started by playing Farmville with his brother (6th grader) and sister (10th grader). But his network of neighboring farms is expanding to include their friends and more distant family members.

CNN titled it “Social networks and kids: How young is too young?”
They mention, among other things, Susan Greenfield who was quoted on “The Mail”, an article which I already covered in my February post. How young really? My daughter joined on 8th grade. My son at the beginning of his 5th grade. And then my youngest at the beginning of his 2nd grade. That’s probably as young as possible for a text based network.

But here are two new facts to consider:

First, the PEW report published a day after the CNN item. It’s titled “Social Isolation and New Technology” which “finds that Americans are not as isolated as has been previously reported. People’s use of the mobile phone and the Internet is associated with larger and more diverse discussion networks. And, when we examine people’s full personal network – their strong and weak ties – Internet use in general and use of social networking services such as Facebook in particular are associated with more diverse social networks.”

The second is this item, published on National Geographic about 2 weeks earlier, titled “Googling Fights Dementia, Study Suggests”.

So let’s stop and think for a moment.

What do kids find in social networks?

I think that … big surprise, the same as adults: Accessibility. Of people, of course. Why is it OK for me to use social networks to connect with colleagues who I never met and may never meet face to face in my life, from other parts of the planet, but it’s dangerous for kids to use social networks to connect to classmates or school mates or soccer team members who they cannot meet on a daily basis after school hours?

Well I am no fool. Some people jump at this question with the dangers theme. There are many dangers lurking around the cyber corner and these are more meaningful to innocent young kids then they are to adults with some life experience or to teens with some networking experience.

Yes, some teens are more network savvy then some adults I have met. They understand what details one never reveals, what information to present or not to present in the first place, how to block unwanted communications… They know the network’s right and wrong as well as they know the streets’ right and wrong and sometimes even better. Those streets that bear dangers to innocent young kids too – so what’s the difference?

The difference is that we know the streets, we feel that we can see the streets and imagine we can anticipate street behavior. However the network is perceived as not visible and unpredictable. Personally I might be a different mom. I fear I cannot see what is happening with my kids on their way home from school. It’s about 300 meters walk, through a path between trees, and it’s scarier in my view, then the time they spend online – either chatting or on social networks.

The Internet, as I see it, is a channel of communications which is here to stay. The question we are facing now is not how young is too young, or how to control the younger generation’s use of the network, but rather – how do we make it more visible and more predictable to us, their parents.

I keep remembering this “House on the Prairie” episode “Cross Connections” where they introduced the telephone and switchboard in the town. There will always be those who abuse the innovation, but can you imagine our world without a telephone connection??


Curiosity Fed The Cat

Addressing younger Israeli scientists, Ada Yonath, winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Chemistry said – curiosity was the key to scientific progress. “If one has curiosity, then one stands the chance of attaining a high level of scientific inquiry.”
Read more here.
I took this quote and asked my friends and colleagues on firesidelearning – the social network that’s doing conversations about education, what room is there for curiosity in the classroom.

Got some interesting replies, including a surprise visit from my 15 year old daughter, who was happy to share her view on this topic.

Ian Carmichael, from Tasmania, Australia said – “…So, in classrooms there needs to be space – and a record – for fruitful questions – and that means space for unprogrammed questions. There also needs to be space for the pursuit of those unanswered questions…” He then adds: “And if there’s no space for curiosity, fruitful questions and their pursuit, then my classrooms will contribute nothing to creativity, invention or understanding. I may have a future Nobel prizewinner pass through – but my classes will have added nothing to them.”

Mike from the US added: “For me…. CONNECTION is a key component to education vs factory schooling. It is next to impossible to connect with 140 kids a day…. that is an assembly line…. good for making cars…not being with people…”

The my daughter joined in and admitted: “Well, the truth is I like studying- I just don’t like to study at school. I’m just bored, and I think it’s hard for me to wake up in the morning not because I didn’t sleep enough, but because it happens to me too often that I sit in the classroom and think ‘what did I wake up for? staying in bed would be a better use of my time than sitting here and getting bored..’. …”

She goes on and amazes me with this: “I think of school and how we learn now, and it’s just amazing to think that what was said about education more than 2000 years ago is so true for today-Socrates thought that humans have a basic nature they are born with: curiosity. He thought it’s wrong that the education system, instead of developing and using this curiosity to teach the children, they kill this curiosity and instead of teaching they make the kids memorize, and while learning and understanding through thinking and researching will help the humanity develop, memorization is a great way for staying in one place.”

Are we staying in one place?

Following Mike’s questions she writes:  “It’s fun to ask questions and think about them, and finding the solution gives a good feeling – but after you find the answer, the only thing you can do with it is ask more questions.”

Well she refuses to stay in one place.

Ellen Pham, an elementary teacher from the US, suggests a more realistic view of this room for curiosity in the classroom, or lack of it. She writes: “…I don’t think the purpose of today’s public education is to develop large groups of free and creative thinkers. How would industry keep them in line for the menial tasks that await them? And in any system, these menial tasks have to be done by a large group of people. I think it helps the individual soul when these tasks are at least essential, and not just for making someone else profit.” And adds: “The way I see it is that realistically, in the system we have, it is up to the individual student to keep his/her curiosity alive. Parents, concerned teachers, and students can fight for more engaged and creative curriculum, but it remains an uphill swim.”

Latest input to date came from Janet Navarro, who teaches literacy education courses to pre-service teachers in Michigan and is a mother of 2 teenage boys. With an optimistic note she writes: “…I said to a friend, just the other day, that in my teacher education classes, if the only thing the students take from the class is the disposition to be curious (especially about the children they will teach) then I’ve done enough.
Bottom line, I said, it’s not really about the content I’m teaching: with curiosity, they can learn to teach children how to read strategically (it’s all in books and it’s all on the Internet). It’s about the development of a way of being in the world – the world we live in, the world we will help to create – or destroy – the world beyond the one in which we were raised, and the worlds of the children they will teach.
It’s better to be curious about whether or not you are teaching this child the things that will move him/her forward, whether or not you have the right books, strategies, tools set up for them, than to be able to pass a test on what those strategies are….
Yes – whoever coined the adage “Curiosity killed the cat” started us in the wrong direction. Maybe we could say, “Curiosity fed the cat!”…”

Oh, how I wish this cat is fat.

School Sweat

3 kids at school. A new and promising school year. Some thoughts to start with.

Kid #1 will spend 38 hours at school, 5 days a week, an average of 7.6 hours per day, of those 8 breaks adding up to one hour recess time. She will be studying, if I am not mistaken, 12 or 13 topics. She goes on to study math in an afternoon program for additional 3.5 hours. She is 15 years old.

Kid #2 will spend 40 hours at school, spread on 6 days, of it an average of less than one hour per day recess time. He will be studying about 13 topics. He is 11 years old.

Kid #3 will spend 24 hours at school, spread on 6 days, with an average of 40 minutes recess time per day. He will study 8-9 topics. He is 7 years old.

Coming home from school they are pretty exhausted. So they eat, and rest, watch TV or play. They hope to squeeze in their afternoon time their choice of class – sports or arts, meeting with friends and playground time.

But they also have homework to prepare.

Kid #3 spends an average of 10-20 minutes, depending on how angry he is for the fact that he has to open his books at home.

The older kids spend anything between 20 minutes and 2 hours on their homework on a daily average.

Work Laws In Israel

In Israel the workers unions are very strong. There are very clear work laws, who relate to number of working hours per day and per week. Also specific rules exist for employing kids (ages 15 and up).

And the law specifies:

A work day will not be longer than 8 hours in a 45 hour working week (6 days) or more than 9 hours per day in a 43 hours working week (5 days). Kids can never be employed for more than 40 hours per week, and never longer than 9 hours per day. Kids under 16 can not be employed later than 20:00 unless with a special permission. In a 6 hour working day a teen is entitled to 45 minutes break, at least one break is of 30 minutes minimum.

School time is our kids’ working day. It’s what they do. Their occupation. If  I look at their week in light of the employment laws I can’t help wondering how much more can they bear.

My 15 year old spends 41 hours in the classroom and is required to spend an average of 10-20 additional hours on homework.

The 11 year old spends 40 hours in school, and I can understand his frustration when he is required to spend even 5 additional minutes on homework. He is only 11.

The 7 year old, a second grader, only 15 months ago spent most of his time playing at the nursery school. He is still shocked by the fact that most of his daytime is spent in a classroom, sitting at a desk. No need to describe what he feels about homework.

Last January a fifth grader from New York wrote an essay claiming homework is illegal slavery. His essay was published here and he got immense publicity such as this.

Still, homework seems here to stay in the crazy race to the top. Top of the class, best school, highest grades…

There are more topics taught today, so more class time is needed. Instead of using the growth of new topics to allow better personalization of learning by the students, there is less choice and schools are actually competing on giving more and more. Enrichment is a key word in the marketing of schools and if it’s not enough that we are drowning in a sea of information we are doing the same to the next generation, who find themselves skipping, skimming and unable to perform real research and exploration during their school years. We don’t use the accessibility of information to help fine-tune school experience and teach the kids to reach relevant information. We simply flood.

It’s a tough choice, really. Looking at my daughter’s list of school topics I see perhaps 3 or 4 she could do without. She wants to major in Physics, Chemistry  and biotechnology – so why does she need to do a final exam in literature or bible or grammar?

Obviously the repeated answer is that kids who graduate from school need to demonstrate a level of general knowledge and fine culture. But hey, how about leaving them some free time, so they can watch movies and read books and develop their taste and personal observation of culture, while actually enjoying it?

My Vision For Future of Learning

It’s my first attempt at a video presentation… better will probably follow.

Happy Birthday, Shaii!

Been inspired to write something a little more personal today. It’s a special day today. It’s my oldest daughter’s 15th birthday. It’s on this day, 15 years ago, that I became a mom, and my husband became a dad, and together we officially became a family, family with child.

In three weeks we will be marking our 23rd wedding anniversary. A wedding is also a life changing event. But it’s not the same as having your first child. And it takes years to realize just how much a life changing event this is.

Beyond experiencing joy and pride over the little person emerging, an adult responsibility is revealed and takes over. A new grasp of reality is happening. My father’s stories, which he told us when we were kids, so full of humor and wit, about his childhood adventures in war struck Europe and all of his solo travels all done before he was 10 years old, suddenly took a turn. The full responsibility over the lives we have created is still not sinking in even 15 years later.


Different parents have different perspective of their responsibility towards their generated next generation. I always had a tendency to take things seriously.

And so, over the past 15 years, and a total of 3 kids, I’ve assumed responsibility for their health and manners, well being and education. I’m responsible for the set of tools with which they will set off to meet their adulthood. Until they are capable of it, it is still my responsibility to make sure they learn how to eat balanced meals and behave well and get that promising education.

Shaii, 15 years old today, has 3 years to high school graduation. I think I’ve done pretty well with her. She knows how to learn. She was born curious and will probably always be. This makes her an open and friendly girl, who never gets bored. She will make the most of every environment she’s in.

I still wish, though, that I could do more for her, and for my boys, and for all learners, to make that education work better for all types of learners and for the march forward.

Happy birthday, Shaii.

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