Right to Learn, Part 4: The Peer Problem, Part A

If you are new to Minds On Fire, you may want to start with True Confessions — it cuts to the core of what I’ll be exploring on the blog. You can find Part 1 of Right to Learn here.

13 Ways of Looking at the Issue: A Magpie’s View of the Peer Problem

“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate to others the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible…’— C.J. Jung

The short version: A child’s feeling truly accepted often has more to do with their peer group than with the individual child’s social development.

Children have a need to feel accepted by their peers. It is a central, universal drive. Acceptance by one’s peers has a profound impact on how one feels about oneself. A growing number of studies show that a sense of belonging impacts not just the development of a positive self-concept but also academic performance.

“The people I met were all skimming along the surface of what I was drowning in.”

My friend Rob was telling me about the feeling of isolation he felt … Read the rest

Right to Learn, Part 3: Challenge-Deficit

If you are new to Minds On Fire, you may want to start with True Confessions — it cuts to the core of what I’ll be exploring on the blog. You can find Part 1 of Right to Learn here.

School without challenge is boring. It breeds contempt. It fails to further a student’s ability to learn. High-school dropouts frequently cite boredom as a major factor in their choice to drop out.

And yet, people often underestimate the importance of keeping students challenged — especially in primary school and especially for students that seem to be quick learners. What is there to worry about? They will have no problem keeping up.

In the run up to kindergarten, my wife and I fretted over our son’s school options. Though we believe strongly in public education, our local school did not seem like a good option. Our son, at 4-1/2 , was already reading above kindergarten level and was adding a grade level or more every few months without any guidance from us. Who knew where he would be when kindergarten started? You see, our neighborhood primary school is something of a disaster with more than 75% percent of the students … Read the rest

Right To Learn, Part 2

If you are new to Minds On Fire, I recommend starting with True Confessions — it cuts to the core of what I’ll be exploring on this site.

In Right To Learn, Part 1, I introduced the notion that there are Universal Needs shared by all learners and that it is not always possible to serve those needs for every student when class assignments are determined by by age rather than cognitive ability — because not all kids develop at the same rate.

In this post, I’d like to start with a description of two needs that are often poorly served for asynchronous learners: Challenge and Peers. In the next post, I’ll go deeper into the implications for asynchronous learners.

Learning to learn is one of education’s most valuable contributions to individual growth, more important than the skills and content knowledge used to nurture this ability. An important part of learning to learn is cultivating the ability to work through challenges and setbacks. Even towering geniuses must develop this skill[1]. Research shows that failure to develop it can contribute to fragility even for students that show signs … Read the rest

Asynchrony & The Right To Learn, Part 1


Last night, my wife was reading aloud to us from A Wrinkle In Time when the following passage, spoken by five-year-old Charles Wallace Murry, stopped my heart:

“I really must learn to read except I’m afraid it will make it awfully hard for me in school next year if I already know things. I think it will be better if people go on thinking I’m not very bright. They won’t hate me quite so much.”

It spooked me.

You see, I learned a few weeks ago that my mother pretended to not know how to read when she entered kindergarten in 1932. “I thought there was something wrong with me. Five-year-olds don’t know how to read. None of the other kids could read. I didn’t want anyone to know. In first grade, there was some sort of contest on the class bulletin board to encourage kids to read. Kids would put up a card for each book they read. Kids were adding a card every week or two. I was reading a book every day or two, but I only put a card on the board every couple of weeks. I didn’t want the other kids to … Read the rest

True Confessions

I have become a real bore at parties. (Ok. True confession: I’ve always been a bore at parties, but I’ve recently upped my game.) I can’t stop observing and commenting on the ways that our educational system lets down kids that are different-minded or out-of-sync with their peers.

If a child’s development is out-of-sync with their peers, it matters.
It does.
If it’s really out of sync it REALLY matters.

I told you: single-minded bore.

While it seems to be all I talk about some days, I hadn’t even heard the phrase “asynchronous development” until a few years ago, when my now seven-year-old son was four, and my wife and I were trying to figure out what to do about kindergarten. While we support public schools, our local one was near failing. So, we were exploring our options and had found a couple of schools we liked.

I assumed all that was required to satisfy a kid’s educational needs was supportive parents, high-quality teachers, and a school with decent resources. School is, by nature, boring. Get used to it. Whatever weaknesses a school has can be compensated for later.

I had completely forgotten my own troubled history in one … Read the rest