Which Learning Style Fits Your Teen? The Answer May Surprise You

Which learning style best fits your teen? Actually, Open Doors intern Kate Boelkins makes a strong case for going beyond learning styles. Kate is studying to be a secondary education teacher at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.  As part of her training, she has studied and critiqued the theory of learning styles. Read her insights below.

You know you’ve seen these kinds of quizzes before–maybe you’ve even taken one–but how accurate are they?

The definition of a learning style is actually fairly loose. Some educators may subscribe to the idea that students in their class will fall under the umbrella of three main learning styles – visual, auditory, and tactile. Some use the VARK modalities, categorizing learners as Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, or Kinesthetic. Others utilize educational psychologist Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, a much more detailed breakdown of various types of thinking:

  • Visual-Spatial
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic
  • Musical
  • Interpersonal
  • Intrapersonal
  • Linguistic
  • Mathematical

Students in school are often tested for their learning style or preferred intelligence. This test or quiz is intended to make students more aware of their learning habits, as well as inform the teacher. This information is valuable, but there is a disconnect between this knowledge and how a teacher uses it to guide her instruction and assessment.

In order to appeal to “kinesthetic learners”, teachers have students get up and move around the room, or hop up and down while they read. “Musical learners” are told to compose songs or rhymes to aid them in remembering spelling words or mathematical equations. Diagrams on boards and sketches in notebooks are expected to be the means by which “visual-spatial learners” absorb information.

The learning style tests themselves do not prescribe one all-inclusive style to a student. For example, when I took a multiple intelligences quiz in my latest education class, I was an even mixture of intrapersonal, linguistic, bodily-kinesthetic. I laughed the results off as inaccurate – clapping or tossing a ball does nothing to enhance my learning, and I need a lot of visuals when it comes to math. Here lies the essential problem with relying on learning styles – they are ineffective because students are fluid and ever-changing.

In a letter to the Washington Post, Howard Gardner himself rejects the idea of learning styles. His theory of Multiple Intelligences “assumes that we have a number of relatively autonomous computers—one that computes linguistic information, another spatial information, another musical information, another information about other people, and so on” (Strauss).

His Multiple Intelligences are not to be funneled into specific learning styles, but instead are intended to determine the way our flexible minds process information. To label a student as a “linguistic learner” and therefore use specific learning strategies with her is to do that student a disservice. A student may have strong linguistic preferences while reading and studying a book, but this does not automatically transfer to a math class. In this case, handing the student a math textbook and instructing her to read a chapter does not necessarily mean that her reading will ensure her comprehension of equations and problems.

So clearly, the interchangeability of Multiple Intelligences and learning styles in the classroom is misleading and inaccurate, according to the creator of Multiple Intelligences himself. But what about other types of learning styles, such as the VARK? Although success of teaching to learning styles is perpetuated in mainstream education, a 2008 study seems to disagree. The Department of Psychology at the University of California asserted “that at present, there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning-styles assessments into general educational practice” due to the fact there is little correlation between specific learning style instruction and success or failure (Pashler).

Question to ponder: why do schools use methods that are not proven to be effective?

Open Doors focuses on the student as not only a learner, but a human being as well. After all, the two are inextricably connected. Mentorship is key in the relationships we build with teens. With this mentorship comes the fostering of self-direction. Students unearth through experience what they love to learn, and how they learn best – not through an internet quiz that defines them and puts them in a specific category.

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Open Doors member gets a hands-on learning experience in the Wild Edibles class

Resources:

Strauss, V., & Gardner, H. (2013, October 16). Howard Gardner: ‘Multiple intelligences’ are not ‘learning styles’. Retrieved October 10, 2014.

Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2008). Learning Styles Concepts and Evidence. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 9(3), 105-119.

Riener, C., & Willinghm, D. (2010, September 1). The Myth of Learning Styles. Retrieved October 10, 2014.

This post is part of our “Your Life – Your Learning!” series, designed to help the Grand Rapids community rethink teen learning, and brought to you with support from the Wege Foundation.

What is keeping my teen from learning?

What is keeping my teen from learning?

“We teachers – perhaps all human beings – are in the grip of an astonishing delusion.”

Our astonishing delusion about education.

“We think that we can take a picture, a structure, a working model of something, constructed in our minds out of long experience and familiarity, and by turning that model into a string of words, transplant it whole into the mind of someone else.”

Trying to implant our knowledge in the brain of another.

“Perhaps once in a thousand times, when the explanation is extraordinary good, and the listener extraordinarily experienced and skillful at turning word strings into non-verbal reality, and when the explainer and listener share in common many of the experiences being talked about, the process may work, and some real meaning may be communicated.”

It’s easier to share knowledge when you’re in close relationship with a lot of non-verbal sharing.

“Most of the time, explaining does not increase understanding, and may even lessen it.”

– John Holt, (1923-1985) American Educator,  in How Children Learn

The more impersonal and disconnected the relationship, the harder it is to share knowledge.
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Open Doors teens at the beach — because sharing real life experiences leads to sharing real life knowledge. (And it’s fun!)

This post is part of our “Your Life – Your Learning!” series, designed to help the Grand Rapids community rethink teen learning, and brought to you with support from the Wege Foundation.  If your teen isn’t learning in the classroom, come find out more at our Open House on Monday, October 13 at 12 noon.

How Can Your Teen Claim Her Power? Part II

by Jacob Saborin

Our Open Doors Intern, Jacob Sabourin, has worked closely with struggling students at Aquinas College here in Grand Rapids.  He is a Political Science major with a keen interest in the politics of power.  At Open Doors, he offers a class called Powerful Possibilities.  Here he continues his critical analysis of power.

In Part I, Jacob explored how teens can reclaim their power.  It begins with some critical thinking about what power is, and how they can access it.  Here he explores how critical thinking can be integrated into every part of education — connected in the same way the real world (outside of the classroom) is connected.

Think you know what a strawberry is? Let’s look at that.

Usually we can speak the word from an early age, and we know what it means. It’s a strawberry. It’s red. It has seeds. We can taste that it’s sweet and tart. The green parts are less sweet. We learn these things on our own, before schooling even begins.

Then we enter school. We learn to spell. S-T-R-A-W-B-E-R-R-Y. We write it ad nauseum to practice for a spelling test. Second grade, probably. We copy the definition out of the dictionary. A fruit, hollow on the inside. Things we pretty much knew already from eating a fruit salad at home a couple times a week. But we sure got that spelling thing down, anyway.

Spelling test — no “strawberry” though.

Sixth grade we start talking about various countries’ imports and exports. We might imagine crates of strawberries stacked between rows of pineapples and melons on a boat sailing from Brazil (which we recently learned is in South America) to the U.S.A., relayed onto a truck, and driven to the supermarket. We wrote down and presented those lists of imports and exports on a poster and read them to the class for our presentation. Strawberries were grouped in the category “fruits and vegetables.”

In high school we probably took a class on economics that said all prices are determined by supply and demand in our advanced capitalistic free market system. More people demand strawberries, the supply goes down, and the price goes up. Or vice versa.

And that’s what we learn in school about strawberries. What else is there to learn?

First off, the connections and relationship between the linguistic roots of strawberries (explored cursorily in second grade), the geography (hardly glanced over in sixth grade), and the economics (oversimplified and propagandized in eleventh grade) were never explored. The social and political aspects of strawberry-related agriculture were never mentioned. In essence, through schooling we never understand how a strawberry actually affects our lives.

Strawberry farm worker from Florida

What if we learned about strawberries in a different way?

If I were to visit a strawberry farm on Michigan’s western shore, I could ask the farmer why his strawberries grow there because I read on my plastic supermarket package of berries that they were from Mexico and usually the fruit says it comes from a Latin American country. A conversation like this might ensue:

Farmer: “Well, the soil’s pretty decent in the southern part of Michigan because three hundred years ago the land was almost entirely covered in oak trees, which died or were bulldozed and left good nutrients in the ground for plants to grow.”

Me: “So good soil makes good strawberries?”

Farmer: “It helps. It’s hard to grow on poor soils like in the Upper Peninsula where the pine trees leave the ground all acidic. But the biggest reason there’s so much fruit grown in western Michigan is because Lake Michigan keeps the growing season longer than in other places.”

Me: “How does the lake keep the growing season longer?”

Farmer: “The growing season is between the last frost of spring and the first frost of autumn. Water has a very high specific heat, which means it takes a long time to heat up and a long time to cool. Much longer than land. So in autumn when the ground in most places starts to get cold, the lake is still warm, and it keeps the plants from frosting over and ruining the fruit. Plus, the lake keeps the temperatures predictable in spring, so we know just when to plant the seeds to make sure they won’t frost after we plant them. The lake being so warm in winter is also the reason we have lake-effect snow.”

Me: “Oh, that’s cool. A couple years ago I heard there was a problem with fruit growing or something. All the fruit was expensive and I couldn’t find any local fruit.”

Farmer: “Yes, the prices went up because massive amounts of our crops died because there was a sudden frost weeks after we planted in the spring.

Misshapen berries resulting from blooms which were partially damaged by frost.

Farmer: “I lost all my money and had to get a loan and go into enormous amounts of debt, and now I can’t afford to eat anything but rice, beans, and the food I grow myself. Weather anomalies like that are getting more common because of global climate change caused by the unchecked industrial development of the human race, and it could cause a lot more disasters, food shortages, famines, and economic collapses. Also all of those things tend to incite war.”

Me: “So what you’re saying is, you think we’re all going to lose our jobs and starve if we continue to destroy the planet?”

Farmer: “Well, let’s not look at it in such a grim light. That’s not going to happen to all of us.”

It may seem like I’m drifting off-topic at this point in the conversation. But I’m not. This imaginary conversation just covered geomorphology, geography, climatology and weather, politics, sociology, and economics. And the entire conversation was, at its core, about strawberries. And the entire conversation related to the everyday lives of the people involved: the news stories we hear on the radio or television, our financial struggles, the food we eat, the weather we trudge through, and our seemingly mundane conversations at home.

The youth at Open Doors often want to think critically, on an advanced level, so that someday they can have these sorts of conversations and not feel totally unaware.  If teens want to access their power, they can start by understanding how connected the world is, and how their choices — in what they purchase and how they treat the environment, for instance — can have a powerful effect on the world.

Leah Goldsworthy
A teen connecting creative choices with the natural world during the Open Doors Summer Program.

This post is part of our “Your Life – Your Learning!” series, designed to help the Grand Rapids community rethink teen learning, and brought to you with support from the Wege Foundation.

How Can Your Teen Claim Her Power? Part I

by Jacob Sabourin

One of the things we love to explore with teens here at Open Doors is how they can reclaim their power.  It begins with some critical thinking about what power is, and how they can access it.

Our Open Doors Intern, Jacob Sabourin, has worked closely with struggling students at Aquinas College here in Grand Rapids.  He is a Political Science major with a keen interest in the politics of power.  At Open Doors, he offers a class called Powerful Possibilities.  Here he begins a critical analysis of power.

A stressed teen tries to access her own power in ways that cause friction with family.

The word poder in Spanish has two meanings when we try to translate it into English:

  1. Power (a noun).
  1. To be able to do something (a verb). Conjugating poder in this way allows a Spanish speaker to say things like “yo puedo,” which means literally, “I can.”

Power as we think of it (as a noun), is a measure of the ability to do something. “What can I do?” is the same question as “What power do I have?”

Resources are the sources of peoples’ power. Money, knowledge, and physical strength are all resources. In this way, money, knowledge, and physical strength are all forms of power.

A good way to begin to understand power dynamics in the world is to ask questions about resource allocation. For example:

  • Who has the most money? How did they get that money? What do they spend it on? How much do they spend?
  • Who has the least money? Why do they have so little money? What do they spend their money on? How much do they spend?
  • Who has the most knowledge? How do they get that knowledge? What are they using that knowledge for?
  • Who has the least knowledge? Why do they have so little knowledge? How do they use their limited knowledge?

    A teen often fears he is the one with the least knowledge and the least power.
  • Who has the most physical strength? How did they get so much physical strength? How do they use their physical strength?
  • Who has the least physical strength? Why do they have so little physical strength? How do they use their limited physical strength?

To ask these questions is to begin to think critically about the world around us. These questions can be applied to the large scale: “Who has the most power on Earth?” or the small scale: “Who has the most power in my classroom?” To be a true critical thinker, one also has to ask, “How much power do I have?” and related questions such as, “Who has power over me?”

Through critical thinking, we become aware of the world, and by extension, ourselves. So, through critical thinking we gain knowledge of a very important kind.  This knowledge allows us to increase our power as individuals.

If everyone were to think critically about the world, we would all be more knowledgeable, and all of us would create a more powerful society. That is, we would be able to do more.

An empowered teen has more tools to face life’s challenges.

In Part II, Jacob will explore how every part of learning can be connected to these questions of power.

This post is part of our “Your Life – Your Learning!” series, designed to help the Grand Rapids community rethink teen learning, and brought to you with support from the Wege Foundation.

Self-Discovery through Self-Directed Learning

by Kate Boelkins

Kate Boelkins is studying to be a secondary education teacher at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.  As part of her training, she has assisted in several classrooms in the area.  We are delighted to have her as an intern at Open Doors.

Developmental psychologists agree that the voyage towards self-discovery is vital for mental growth, for emotional development, and for self-esteem improvement.

Open Doors Tapestry
The voyage of self-discovery — those who open doors discover new lands within.  If a tapestry says it, it must be true.

Yet self-discovery is often ignored or suppressed in the traditional classroom setting.

In their natural state, teens are constantly struggling with an identity crisis brought on by changing relationships, mounting responsibilities, and simple developmental psychology. Between the ages of 12 and 18 years — a mere 6 years — we expect teens to develop a sense of self, to home in on their interests, and to use those interests to outline a plan for the rest of their lives.

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Every teen must embark on her own version of the hero’s journey, like those found in film and literature.

In theory, this period of self-discovery and identity formation is fostered by the encouragement of adults who reinforce exploration and motivate teens to develop a sense of control and independence in their lives. This encouragement should inspire self-confidence in teens and help them find their core direction in life.

However, this doesn’t seem to be the case for a majority of teenagers graduating high school and headed out into the “real world.”

Recent studies show that up to half of college students enter college “undecided”, having no idea what to pursue despite the fact they are paying tuition for their education. On top of that nearly 80% of college students change their major at least once.

Distressing research from Penn State suggests this complete lack of direction is due to a “developmental disconnect”.

These teens simply haven’t formed enough of an identity to define their interests. Why not?

  • The traditional classroom takes students and strictly defines the information in which they will be immersed each year.
  • This knowledge is comprised only of an “academic” load, meaning the traditional subjects of English, Mathematics, Science, and History.
  • The exploration within each subject is shallow and broad, and allows no flexibility for students to delve deep into an area of interest.
  • Areas outside the traditional academic area are ignored, and even rejected from the classroom.
  • Learning is transmitted through books and lectures, not real world experiences.

After graduating high school, students have been exposed to only certain areas of academic information. If subjects in school fail to grasp their interests, teens are at a loss when asked to choose a direction — nothing seems worth pursuing. When they reach college, they’ve had little time to define their own identity and find it impossible to make an informed decision.

Additionally, this lack of freedom affects the psychological state of the teen as a whole. The classroom experience is restrictive– it’s commonly noted that one week we expect students to ask permission to use the restroom, and the next we expect them to have a detailed plan for the rest of their lives.

Raising hands to use the restroom, though it helps the teacher keep order, is part of system that doesn’t support independence and self-direction.

Schools often fail to encourage and support student exploration. Teens need new experiences; it is normal to run through many different trials and errors before they have the self-knowledge to make decisions.

Instead of fostering opportunities and embracing failure, schools often try to confine students to specific ways of thinking and doing.  They look for hard commitments too early in the students’ development, without offering the tools to build self-knowledge.

Teens are then left with two poor choices.

  • Fall into a pre-described identity defined by the school climate they’ve known, which can result in choosing a post-grad path like college that is a poor fit for the student.
  • Avoid self-exploration completely.

The lack of self-discovery and identity formation in the teenage years can have life-long impact.

So how can this change? How can we as a society foster confident, strong-hearted, and self-directed teens?

It begins with adults. We have the responsibility to our teens to change our perspectives on what is important for them. Instead of ensuring they fit in the mold, we need to encourage the quest of new experiences, applaud them when they pursue what they love, guide them when they have questions, and let them know it’s okay when they change their mind.

At Open Doors, this mentor relationship is priority – teens have the freedom to explore what interests them, whether it involve traditional academic areas, video games, or wild edibles. By their side are experienced adults whose mission is to simultaneously participate in their exploration and guide them towards self-discovery and the future.

This post is part of our “Your Life – Your Learning!” series, designed to help the Grand Rapids community rethink teen learning, and brought to you with support from the Wege Foundation.

“Better than a Report Card” — One Parent’s Open Doors Story

Dear Open Doors;

I am in awe of the tremendous growth I have seen in my son Tristan after his first year at Open Doors. He started the year very reserved and hesitant to get involved, which is true to his public persona. (Or at least it was!)

He tended to avoid situations that could potentially be embarrassing. He spent the first semester asking to be picked up immediately after his Biology class and wanted absolutely nothing to do with any activity in which he might feel the need to “share” anything – verbally or otherwise. He politely refused to have his picture taken and added to the website.

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Though he didn’t want to share most pictures, Tristan did give us permission to share this photo of his hands chopping dandelion roots in the Wild Edibles class.

The staff and members of Open Doors respected these things completely. (I am confident a school would have seen this as a “problem” to address.) Rebecca and Adena did a great job of offering him ways to participate and contribute individually – painting a much needed sign, helping to move things, inviting him to meetings about fracking, etc – which gave him the space he needed to “warm up” while still feeling that he was vital to the center.

Ever so slowly, he started asking to be picked up later and later. He stayed to hang out and explore other classes. He chattered about film studies and foraging. He told me about sharing his theory of fluctuations in the stock market being related to fears of the “blood moon” with his finance class. He loved to tell me about conversations he had with the other members about their hobbies.

By the end of the year, my reserved kiddo was cracking jokes and showing off his juggling and hula-hooping skills at the end of year celebration in front of all of the members and their families. My heart sang that night.

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Crazy for hula hoops!

Juggling
His juggling blew us all away.  We also like the Grateful Dead shirt and the sunglasses.

As a parent, you want your child to shine to the world as much as they do when no one is watching; to be their true selves, no matter the situation. I am positive that if it were not for the respect and room to grow given by everyone at Open Doors, the world would never know the funny, bright and confident Tristan that I do. And that would be a shame.

A special thank you, Open Doors, for the letter you sent at the end of the year. Your insights about Tristan were spot-on and it made me feel awesome to see that you really know him and are acutely aware of his needs. It was so much better than a report card.

Sincerely,  Danielle Bodziak

Tristan and his chair
Tristan built this in a summer woodworking class that we heard about and shared with his family. Awesome!

“A Little Genius In Every Madman”

Joey Ramone of The Ramones was always “different.” (image credit: Adam Louttit)

In our culture, when a teen is really different, the adults in his life often feel a crushing pressure to try to fix him and to get him to conform.  “How will he ever succeed in this world?” we ask.

Joey Ramone’s brother, Mickey Leigh, had this to say about how his brother’s unique gifts were supported:

“Fortunately for my brother, our mother was an incredibly nourishing person, and raised us in such a way to never think of any individual as useless because they may not be on a par with the status quo. That because a person might be struggling with whatever mental or physical condition they have been afflicted with, it does not mean they have absolutely nothing within them to offer society, or to contribute, be it artistically or another way. She instilled that in me, and though it was very difficult to grow up sharing a room with someone turning lights on and off, running the water in the bathroom for hours and hours, unable to throw things away; or to walk to school with him as he stepped on and off the curb while the other kids pointed and laughed- due to the way my mother raised me I was about as sensitive as a younger brother could possibly be.

“If I had been like a jock, or macho type of kid, I don’t think he would have fared as well. I’ll admit I lost it several times, but l never treated him as a hopeless lump of flesh. I encouraged him as much as possible, taught him how to play the guitar, and encouraged him to get into bands.

“When he found himself unable to deal with his problem and felt suicidal, he voluntarily admitted himself to St Vincent’s Psychiatric Ward for evaluation. That was when I told him ‘don’t worry, there’s a little genius in every madman.’

“We were not your average family. Our parents got divorced when we were very young. Our mother was an artist who encouraged us to recognize and express our individuality. I knew we were different from the other kids. My brother was not normal, and we lived in the same room, so neither was I. It was impossible for me to be. I shared his problems right along side him, and knew I had to, like it or not. We were both freaks. Fortunately he was able to tap into his inner strengths and realize them, unleash the incredible talent he had within him, and was in an environment that allowed him to thrive. And as fate would have it, thanks to rock & roll, it worked out pretty damn well for him.”

Supporting and accepting a teen for being exactly who he or she is — that’s where it all starts at Open Doors, whether it’s through our regular program or our Summer Art Program.  There are many, many ways to be in the world — many ways to make a living, and many ways to contribute.  Help us explore these many ways with our teens:  donate or contact us to find out more.

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“I’m Bored!” Four Ways to Really Help Bored Teens this Summer

As a quick Google search revealed, there are a slew of Internet articles about how to handle boredom in your teens this summer.  They suggest organizing your young person’s time, making sure they get up everyday, and limiting “screen time.”  Though we can understand the concern that teens will curl up in their bedrooms with the blinds down, watching TV all summer, all these suggestions deal only with surface issues.  Our culture has a long way to go when it comes to delving into what boredom really is for a teen and what it could mean for them.

Summer Swing
Summer can mean a time to reflect.

1.  Ask and listen.

We at Open Doors have noticed that “I’m bored” can actually mean a lot of things.  Think about how boredom feels.  It can feel restless and discontent — or it can feel lethargic or even despairing.  If we can help our teens explore that, we can find the deeper truth underneath.

For instance, complaining about being bored often means is that a teen is looking for connection with a person they care about.  They may be feeling disenchanted with the world and need help finding their inner spark again.  They may mean that they have lots of half-formed ideas about their next direction, but they need help sorting them out.  And many teens are remembering the playfulness of their younger days, and wishing for a way to recapture it.  Only when you know the deeper need underneath the complaint can you work towards a solution that really fits.

Also, keep in mind that what a parent is seeing may not be what the teen is experiencing. If the same video game has been on for hours, check in and see what it means.  The teen may be really enjoying the challenge and the chance to immerse herself in it.  Or she may be feeling disconnected and unsure what else to do.  Ask with an open mind, and listen carefully to the response to make sure you understand.

If you don’t feel able to connect with your teen in this way, that’s okay.  Many parents were not treated with this kind of respect when they were young, and they find it hard to do so with their own kids.  At Open Doors, we may be able to help with our Summer Art Program.  No art experience is required, and your teen can participate as much or as little as they’d like.  We can help them connect and sort things out — not to mention having a lot of fun along the way.

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Connecting with others.

2.  Be open to exploration.

For a parent, it can feel so different when a teen who was up early every day for school and activities starts sleeping later into the sunshine hours.  But exploring a new sleep schedule can mean exploring the feeling up being up at night, when the world is quiet and the night sky invites reflection.  It can mean the kind of intense half-awake dreaming that comes with dozing in the sunlight from the window.  Our culture doesn’t value the rich inner life that can be explored by spending some time just “vegging,” but it’s there, and exploring it is an important part of teen development.

Happiness
Happiness is an inside job, and often it’s found with some time spent in reflection.

Our Summer Program has flexible hours so that night owls can sleep in and still connect with others in a gentle space that honors their journey.

3.  Don’t compare.

It can be easy to comment, loudly, that the neighbor’s teens seem to be industriously running their own lawn mowing business, and hey, they’re not bored.  Resist the urge.  Every teen has his or her own journey, and you have no idea what’s going on behind-the-scenes in that neighbor’s home.

sad teen
How it feels to be compared.

If you find yourself tempted to compare, re-focus on connecting, exploring, and playing.

4.  Be playful.

As we mentioned in the first tip, many teens feel torn about growing up.  That’s a natural part of the process, and it encourages us to bring the best aspects of childhood — playfulness, spontaneity, laughter, creativity, and our honest emotions — into our more adult lives.  Model your own playfulness, and look for ways to support playfulness in your teen — whether she is with friends, family, or engaged in an activity.  Play is such a revitalizing part of life.

At the Open Doors Summer Art Program, we look for ways to bring play and creativity into community life.  We believe that a lot of adults would be more fulfilled if they found ways to integrate the childlike into their lives, and so we use all kinds of art as a medium for helping our young adults do so.

Dandelion fluff on parking lot lines
Creative fun in everyday life.

This post is part of our “Your Life – Your Learning!” series, designed to help the Grand Rapids community rethink teen learning, and brought to you with support from the Wege Foundation.

 

Three Ways to Consider Alternatives to High School

1. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
-Robert Frost

path in forest
The path less traveled has a pretty awesome view.

You feel like you’ve been waiting for your own incredible journey.  You’ve been marking time until your life can start.  Leaving high school can be the first step on that path.

Brainstorm.  If money were no object and you weren’t in school, what would you do?  This frees your mind to think big.  Write down your ideas, including where you want to go and what you want to see.  Find an adult who will listen to your ideas and help you talk over possibilities.  Many of them will be closer than you think.

2.

Everything I learned back in college
Everything I learned in high school? This goes double.

You realize that the kind of learning schools offer is now available online, for free, from a wide variety of sources.  From the Khan Academy to MIT, from John Green’s Crash Course in World History to an exploration of the Cosmos and the most interesting NOVA Chemistry Course you’ll never see in school, you can immerse yourself in the subjects you love without tests or grades.

3.

Won't Swim in Rivers
Dare to be different.

You want an alternative to high school that’s truly different — not just a computer-based learning program, but something that supports you in being the unique and creative person you are.

When you leave school, you can explore art and craft, shadow someone you admire at their job, and try your hand at your own small business.  You can build self-knowledge in several ways:  volunteering for a community you care about, traveling, or joining an interest-based group, like a book club or foreign language club.  In a recent article, Blake Boles shares 12 ways to educate yourself, and his book, Better than College, has ideas that people of all ages can explore

In addition, Open Doors can coach you through your options, right here in Grand Rapids.  Call us.

This post is part of our ongoing “Your Life– Your Learning!” series, launched with support from the Wege Foundation.