Saturday, June 16, 2018

Happy Father's Day!

Ancient Hebrew word pictures describe the father as the
strength of the home. I have observed over the years in my work and with my own family that strong, loving, and reliable fathers raise strong, loving, and reliable sons and daughters. Mothers nurture their children and are intuitively connected to them throughout their life. However, it is the father whose touch and direction bring worth to the individual.

As a child, my mother always looked forward to family prayer and Bible times at the end of the day, because afterwards her father would five each of his children a hug. That simple connection let her know that she was loved and important.

This Father's Day, if you are a dad, be the strength of your home to your family. If you are the son or daughter, find ways to let your father know you do not hold anything against him. If possible, reach out to him with a hug. Tell him at least one thing you admire about him. It could bring a change in both of your lives.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Honoring the men and women who helped us keep our four freedoms!

Memorial Day is a time to remember those who have sacrificed their time and lives for our freedom over the centuries. It has also become a holiday weekend in which we take time to enjoy those freedoms. 

On January 6, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt gave a speech to Congress about the four freedoms we enjoy in America, not necessarily enjoyed anywhere else. In December of that year we entered World War II to ensure that we would not lose such freedoms. 

The Four Freedoms articulated by Roosevelt and later sculpted by Walter Russell were:
1. The freedom of speech and expression
2. The freedom to worship God in a person’s own way 
3. Freedom from want 
4. Freedom from fear

Today, we are in a societal battle to preserve these same freedoms. It bothers me that we no longer give a lot of attention to our founding fathers in schools across the country. Many of them are actually being vilified. Yet, over two hundred founding fathers gave their finances, time and their lives to sculpturing our future; a future in which we could enjoy “the four freedoms”.

Not only am I thankful for the living veterans and currently active military individuals, but I am also very thankful for the signers of the Declaration of Independence and for men like the uncompromising George Washington at and his rag-tag army’s final victory over the British. His leadership over the fledgling country is unparalleled in the history of nations.

I am proud of Francis Scott Key’s poetic writing of the brave example of the men who wouldn’t give in to tyranny and who defended our determination to be free by defending the flag that stood for our new republic. 

I am thankful for men like Thomas Jefferson who presented the words of Jesus to be distributed to the Native Americans and his letter that declared no law could be made to take away our religious liberty and that the government was to have no authority over our religious inclinations or our churches. I am thankful he formed the navy to destroy the Muslim pirates at the battle of Tripoli and the Mediterranean Sea. 

I am thankful for John Adams who gave such a clear vision of the uniqueness of America and his son, John Quincy Adams who mentored Abraham Lincoln, who brought about the destruction of slavery. 

I am thankful for Martin Luther King’s influence, which brought about an end to laws still honoring slavery. I am thankful for his great speech, “I have a dream”, a vision of what we could accomplish and who we could be as an exceptional nation of goodness and mercy and truth put forth by Almighty God.

I am thankful for a nation that still displays its motto, “In God We Trust”, for surely there is not better reason to remember those who have given us the four freedoms to honor and cherish. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Standardized Testing - What we test and Why?

The following article reveals why tutoring math and reading after school and during the summer is so important. Teachers, parents and taxpayers need to take notice. One of the reasons Stilwell’s Learning Center has been so successful is that we involve each student in their learning.

What do standardized tests actually test? Why are they needed?

Some of your children have just finished end of the year testing to see how the child and schools have progressed this year. The question is, “What do the tests really measure?”

Veteran educator Marion Brady helps answer that question and its consequences for teaching and learning. Brady has written history and world culture textbooks (Prentice-Hall),  professional books, numerous  nationally distributed columns, and courses of study. His 2011 book, “What’s Worth Learning,” asks and answers this question: What knowledge is absolutely essential for every learner? His course of study for secondary-level students, called “Connections: Investigating Reality,” is free for downloading here. Brady’s website is

By Marion Brady (Article from

A headline in the January 26, 2009, issue of Forbes magazine reads: “Bill Gates: It’s the Teacher, Stupid”

The article that follows says that on a conference call with journalists, “Gates pointed out that experience (as measured by years on the job) and master’s degrees (which carry great weight in teacher hiring) show no bearing on whether someone will be a great teacher or a mediocre one.”

Gates’ opinions are important. He’s done as much as anyone or more to shape current education policy in America, and his focus on teachers — the good ones as miracle workers, and the tenure-protected bad ones as the main cause of poor school performance — has pushed aside interest in and dialogue about other social and institutional factors affecting school performance. He’s spent millions trying to pinpoint what makes a teacher great. He’s reached no firm conclusion, but thinks the great ones are easily identified. They’re the ones who raise scores standardized tests — and to school reformers like Gates, test scores are infallible indicators of quality.

The truth is that teaching—trying to shape minds—is hard, complicated work. Claims that class size, school size, teacher education, and teacher experience make no difference in performance is sufficiently at odds with common sense to require an explanation.
Like most people, Gates believes that learning is a product of teaching. That assumption is the bedrock of traditional schooling. It’s taken for granted by newspaper and magazine editors, syndicated columnists, and talking heads on television. It shapes nearly all commercially produced teaching materials. It’s how schooling is portrayed in movies and on television. It’s why traditionally arranged classroom furniture is in rows facing front, why most teachers talk a lot, assign pages in textbooks, ask questions about what’s been said and read. It’s the conventional wisdom.

Teachers teach, learners learn, and standardized tests monitor how well the process is going. The tests measure a quantity—the amount of information taught, minus the amount not learned or learned and forgotten. Subtraction yields a single, precise number convenient for sorting and labeling kids, teachers, schools, school systems, states, nations.
Simple and straightforward. Right?

There’s a now-familiar ancient Chinese proverb which, loosely translated, says, “Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I’ll remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.”
That’s three very different approaches to teaching—telling, showing, and involving. The first two lend themselves to standardized testing. The third one—the only one that really works—doesn’t. It says that what needs to be evaluated are the outcomes of personal experience, and personal experience is very likely to be too individual, too idiosyncratic, too much a product of a teachable moment exploited or created by the teacher, for its outcome to be evaluated by machine-scored standardized test items.

Involved learners don’t just read about plants; they’re outside, identifying, examining, and classifying, the weeds and whatever else is growing around the school. Involved learners aren’t filling out worksheets about geometric principles; they’re determining the height of the school’s flagpole by measuring angles and lengths of shadows.

Teachers doing those kinds of things are usually older, better educated, and more experienced, but high-stakes testing’s single-minded focus on scores has reduced them to simply guessing what’s probably going to be on the test and hammering it to near death. Experiences that create understanding? When test scores can dictate what happens to you, your students, the school’s principal, and the school, understanding runs a distant second to filling in the right bubble on the answer sheet.

It took me about 15 years in the classroom—and a federally funded 1960s “think freshly” initiative—to accept that what mattered most wasn’t what I said but what kids did. When I made that radical switch, I began a search that continues, a search for experience-creating activities (a) so interesting, the teacher can leave the room and nobody notices, (b) so useful, the activity’s relevance is self-evident, (c) so complex, the smartest kid in the class is intellectually challenged, (d) so real-world, perceptions of who’s smartest constantly shift, (e) so theoretically sound, the systemically integrated nature of all knowledge is obvious, (f) so wide-ranging, the activities cover the core curriculum (and much more), (g) so varied, every critical thinking skill is exercised, (h) so scalable, concepts developed on a micro level adequately model macro phenomena, (j) so effective, when the activities themselves are forgotten, their benefits are fixed permanently in memory.

The raw material for creating a near-infinite number of activities that meet those nine criteria isn’t hard to find. It lies within the property boundaries of every school or randomly chosen slice of real life. Finding it is mostly a matter of looking at the too-familiar and the taken-for-granted until it becomes “strange enough” to see.

Modern school reform based on test scores as the main accountability measure — supported by the Business Roundtable; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; the National Governors Association; the Gates, Broad and Walton Foundations; some big-city mayors, among others—have engineered an educational train wreck. They took over an institution struggling to replace the minimally productive 19th Century idea that learning is a product of teaching with the demonstrably better idea that learning is a product of the activities of learners. Then, instead of asking educators how they could help with the transition, they slammed the door in educators’ faces and wrote standards and tests that have locked the sterile 19th Century view of teaching even more rigidly in place.

For millions of kids, it’s too late to undo the damage they’ve done. But if parents and other concerned citizens make enough noise, the giant, tax-wasting, kid-abusing, craft-and-profession destroying, super-standardizing, multibillion dollar testing juggernaut that’s perpetuating a stupid idea of what it means to educate and be educated, can be stopped.
If that can be made to happen, teachers can pick up where they left off before they were rudely interrupted—trying to figure out how kids learn best.

Still, we will come away from this reform era having learned a couple of useful lessons:  One is that no machine can measure the quality of complex, emotion-filtered, experience-based learning. And the second: If you’re testing the wrong thing, there’s no reason to keep score.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Confusion or Focused Excellence?

Loud, raucous, hateful or non-melodious music appears to cause confusion in the brain and even slows drivers' reaction time. We were created to respond to the varying degrees of love and gratitude, according to neuroscientist, Dr. Caroline Leaf. The brain doesn't know what to do with hate or fear except to grow dark memory "trees".

Melodious, well-metered music that has varied but predictable nuances benefits the brain and builds beautiful light-enhanced memory “trees”. Mathematical, ordered and focused patterning in the brain is greatly influenced and enhanced by classical type music. Hymns with positive and thought provoking words help store sequential memory for moral and spiritual growth.

The dark memory trees can be eliminated or off-set by building joyful, happy, creative thoughts over time. Dr. Leaf has also commented on studies indicating that those brains which have been applied to positive learning skills bring life and health to the system, rather than confusion or progressive death.

This impresses me, because our learning systems at Stilwell’s Learning Center use music which conform to the brain's ability to create healthy "brain trees" bathed in light, which enhances the ability to focus, retain and eliminate confusion and fear. The students begin to realize how they are benefiting, even though in the beginning they might not be able to verbalize it.

Over the past several decades, I have noticed that most students who come regularly and learn to focus and achieve, usually retain what they have learned and within even a 3 month period begin to excel in their school subjects. Confidence levels, penmanship, order and genuine optimism and positive mannerisms improve.

Another thing I notice is that those who continue with us for several years are those who stand out in a crowd. They are not the mediocre individuals, but those who become the successful leaders and productive citizens.

It seems to me that we should consider not only finding ways to maximize our own potential in life through learning new things and growing. We should encourage our young people to do the same. It has been my experience that most children, teens and adults who have great learning disabilities or a poor start in life, covet the opportunity to improve and given the opportunity and encouragement, improve very well.

Sadly, I have also seen students who have never been encouraged to do more than play silly games on the internet or with some expensive software. Why not use the same energy developing the brain with reading, music, writing or math training, such as we give at Stilwell’s Learning Center? In time, those individuals could be positive world changers.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Stop, Look and Listen!

In first grade we had it drummed into us to Stop, Look and Listen before crossing a street. It was probably the most important lesson we learned in first grade. Lately, I have been thinking again about the need to Stop, Look and Listen. See how well I grasped the concept in first grade?

In first grade I had to Stop, Look and Listen when I went out to play “hide and go seek” around the large bushes in our play area. There seemed to be two girls who really liked me and kept chasing me and trying to kiss me. I only wish that had been part of the rest of my school years.

On our morning walks my wife and I see a lot of wild life. We have lots of quail in our huge back yard, because we feed them. The quail will suddenly run like crazy for under-covering of a pine tree or one of the thick gardenia bushes. The one “big daddy” quail watches faithfully while the others eat and gives out a Stop, Look and Listen warning when something is not as it should be during ‘breakfast”. No doubt a hawk or roadrunner was present and the quail must hide fast.

Not long ago, we watched twelve javelinas cross the road ahead of us. One larger one waited in the middle of the road while the others crossed safely. He must have been trained to Stop, Look and Listen by the crosswalk school attendant. On the other hand, some jackrabbits need training.

Another time we had to shoo a very healthy coyote off from getting ready to jump our neighbor’s wall to pick up yet another plump chicken for his growing family. We have a particular interest in keeping him from that task, since our neighbor has supplied us with eggs from her free roaming hens. Hens don’t seem to have been taught the meaning of Stop, Look and Listen. They seem to rely on the rooster who is no longer in the yard, having served his time as fried chicken.

Not too long ago on the walk, I turned my head to the right to see one of the neighborhood’s great horned owls. As I did so and turned back to my walk, I noticed I had veered from the left side of the road and was about to be hit by a car from behind and one from the front. I was right in the middle of the road. My attention had been drawn toward the owl. I did not Stop, Look and Listen and had almost been run over by anxious drivers on cell phones eager to get to work.

The moral of all this is that our focus can get out of whack when we forget to stop for a moment, look at what we are really doing and listen to our training and our Trainer for re-calibration in thinking and directions. My advice is to remember first grade and take time to Stop, Look and Listen!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Knowledge Explosion!

I admit I am part of a counter-culture in our society.  With knowledge exploding every day, teachers, parents, businesses and even school publishing companies often get sucked into the philosophy that we just need more knowledge.  The problem is that most of us need to have skills first to make use of the knowledge.  Only then can knowledge be transformed into wise choices. In this present period in history, we can find out just about anything from the internet. How we use or eliminate what we learn will lead to success or failure; good or evil.

None of us can do everything we would like to do. Our purpose in life becomes more important with exploding knowledge and expectations.

Successful people concentrate on their present purpose in life. Their expressed purpose might change as time goes on, but specific, written goals to achieve seem to be a constant given in their life expressions.

I remember reading about Walter Russell, who was simultaneously a famous painter, sculptor, philosopher, writer and scientist. Five different areas of expertise! His personal plan to accomplish such extraordinary success in all these areas was to work with determined focus on one vocation for only 2 hours each day, thus working ten hours per day with focus, excitement, purpose and satisfaction. It wasn’t necessarily the knowledge he possessed in the beginning which created success, but the vision and imagination of what could be accomplished with skills developed through his focus on each discipline. One example is his sculpture of the “Four Freedoms” requested by President Franklin D. Roosevelt; the freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship; freedom from want; and freedom from fear.

Over the years, some of my employees have wanted me to expand to include, history, science, art and other types of tutoring. It could be done, of course, but I have personally selected the tools of reading/spelling/comprehension and math so necessary in order to excel in the other areas of instruction. Encouraging self-confidence and eliminating learning challenges is the goal. We get results when we remain focused on our purpose!

Knowledge is good, but the use of it is more important. Hitler had knowledge, but his wisdom on how to use that knowledge was warped and evil. Don’t be intimidated by the knowledge explosion. Live with a positive purpose in life with your knowledge focused for good!

The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination. Albert Einstein

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Strategies for the New Year....Continued

As we discussed creating goals and writing them down last week, I did the same activity in my own business and life. Below are My Goals and Plans for the year. 

What are your Goals and Plans? I would love to hear them in the comments below! 

Strategy #5: Next, I begin to put them into categories.
1.    Personal Mental Development
     1)   Read one book every week which challenges my intellect.
     2)   One lesson each day with AdVocab (a higher vocabulary learning program)
     3)   Keep a daily journal of the things for which I am most thankful.
     4)   Read Success Magazine, BNI podcasts and literature and other business helps.

2.    Spiritual Growth
     1)   Follow a plan to read through the Bible in one year.
     2)   Study a different book each month on spiritual subjects.
     3)   Teach from what I am learning in church or seminars.

3.    Physical Enhancement
     1)   Sleep at least 8 hours per night and take a 15 minute power nap after lunch.
     2)   Meet with a physical trainer every other month for evaluation and new tasks.
     3)   Daily walks of at least one mile.
     4)   Far-infrared Sauna 5 days per week.
     5)   Weekly and daily Cardio and strength-based exercises

4.    Family and Marriage Desires
     1)   Family Dinner one Sunday afternoon per month
     2)   A weekly date night with my wife
     3)   Find ways each month to bless our children and grandchildren.

5.    Business Plans and Goals
     1)   At least 30 students Attending Stilwell’s Learning Center each week.
     2)   At least 10 Distance Learners each month.
     3)   Stick to the prepared budget for 6 months and review.
     4)   Employ and train 2 part-time tutors and 1 part-time office manager.
     5)   Contract to Webmaster and Face book manager.
     6)   Develop a weekly plan to receive referrals from current clients, former clients, schools, churches, clubs, BNI, etc.
     7)   Take one visitor per month to BNI.
     8)   Interview on a Friday Community radio broadcast.
     9)   Consider 15 second ads on radio stations when budget allows.
     10) Speak to a club or other venue at least once per month.
     11) Develop website blogs to boost internet presence.

6.    Recreational/Vacation Plans
     1)   Train trip to California with wife and granddaughter.
     2)   50th wedding anniversary in Frisco Colorado in August.
     3)   Healing is Here Week at Charis Bible College, Woodland Park, Colorado.

7.    Civic Responsibilities
     1)   Research different community volunteering possibilities, such as city council meetings, Helping homeless children, Salvation Army events, BNI benefits, etc.
     2)   Tithe to Church and give offerings to orphanages in Mexico and U.S. and Africa.

These will become the nuts and bolts of my schedule and my everyday business and personal life framework for the New Year. Month to month, I might make changes, deletions or additions, but it will still be the basis for a tracking record for the year.