PLAY MATTERS—A Blog Hop All About Play

Written by Les Dahl on September 18th, 2015. Posted in Family, Learning Solutions

Girls dressing up as pirates

Girls dressing up as pirates

document.write(" geneva, sans-serif; font-size: 16px;">Using the unique platform of a "blog hop", Janine Halloran, a fellow blogger is promoting websites about the benefit of play in children's development. Check out these interesting and informative articles...



Written by Les Dahl on September 1st, 2015. Posted in Education, Learning Solutions



document.write(" sans-serif;">Amid a maelstrom of economic, social and political changes throughout the world, parents and educators are asking questions.


  • Is our education system keeping pace with the transition from the Industrial Age to the Information Age?”


  • Is our curriculum adequately preparing our children for the rapidly changing job market characterized by meteoric advances of technology?”


  • Can education stem the crumbling foundations of civil society and the threat to world peace?”


These are weighty questions demanding serious consideration, open-minded discussion and resolute action.


Much of the discussion about 21st Century education focuses on methods and technology. Absorbed with these issues, we run the danger of not 'seeing the forest for the trees'. Although curriculum, methods and technology are important, these are secondary to the fundamental issue, “What is the purpose of education?” Without at least a consensus of purpose there is little hope of significant change and meaningful improvement in the outcome of education.


A blueprint outlines the architecture of a structure. It may be a complex or carefully designed plan or model, or it may be a planning document that guides and sets priorities. I offer the following as a blueprint for education in the 21st Century. Following these guidelines, we can more than adequately prepare our children to take their place in the 21st Century.


My blueprint is based on the fundamental presupposition that

education is a collaboration between parents and school in which parents hold the primary responsibility.


I hold that the fundamental purpose of education is

  • to guide a person (not a statistic) through a program that equips and trains that person
    • to be an individual of character,
    • developing his/her unique gifts through life-long learning,
    • growing in wisdom through well-honed executive and decision-making skills,
    • empowered to contribute positively to the betterment of others, civil society and the world.


I also maintain that an education system must serve its clients (i.e. meet the expressed needs of parents, students, civil society) for their advancement, not require strict conformity to the status quo imposed by bureaucracy.


The hallmarks of the education I propose are

  • integrity of individual character and of family values
  • positive self-esteem and thoughtful social interaction
  • strong motivation for learning and for academic excellence
  • purposeful dedication and service


Each of the hallmarks is initiated from within, activated by personal choice. Thoughts, emotions and actions proceed from the heart. The condition of the heart determines how skills and knowledge are used. Significant attention must focus on 'heart issues', primarily by parents in the home but reinforced and complemented by educators in the school.

Education must be holistic in nature if it is to fulfill its purpose.


I identify the following as the seven components of holistic education. They create guidelines for curriculum development.


  • spiritual — a profound reverence of and personal relationship with our Creator


  • moral — a clear knowledge and practice of basic moral values (universal principles)


  • philosophical — a clear sense of identity and raison d'etre (who am I? and why am I here?)


  • academic — proficient reading, learning and reasoning skills through which wisdom is developed


  • vocational — clear vision of purpose and life's work expressed through one's unique giftings, talents and abilities


  • cultural — appreciating cultural values and social behavior without compromising basic moral values and universal principles


  • physical — enjoying prosperity and health by maintaining proper hygiene, exercise, work, rest and diet

Without home and school working together in a holistic approach, the end result is fragmented, disenfranchised youth with neither compass nor map to chart their course through life.


One of the reasons home-schooling out-distances institutional schooling (private and public) is that it distinctively embraces a holistic approach. Children who are the products of holistic education inevitably rise to prominence, power and influence wherever they go—not perfect by any means, but prepared for any event.


Developments in the 21st Century—the good, the bad and the ugly—demand change. Pointing fingers of blame and accusation is of no use. The situation requires serious consideration, open-minded discussion and resolute action. We must get on with the job.


In the hands of a knowledgable and experienced contractor, the blueprint ensures a vision becomes reality. How well he fills in the details determines the end result. As parents and educators, we are both knowledgable and experienced. We are able to tackle the issues from both sides. Are we working from a relevant blueprint?


I'm sure mine is not the only blueprint. Mine has guided my efforts in establishing 4 schools, one in Canada and 3 in Jamaica. It has also guided my efforts to home-school our 4 children and the 2 grandchildren now living with us in Jamaica. It has served me well.


Image courtesy of adamr /



Mainframe vs Cloud — Has Education Stepped Into the 21st Century?

Written by Les Dahl on August 8th, 2015. Posted in Education, Learning Solutions




document.write(" geneva, sans-serif; font-size: 16px;">The desire and the ability of children to learn are activated with their first cry. Sadly, outdated methods of education suppress children's innate curiosity (desire) and their urge to explore (ability). Nevertheless, children learn.

We live in the 21st Century having evolved beyond the Industrial Age into the Information Age. We pride ourselves in astounding advances in technology.Today's mantra is: Work smarter not harder!


Question: How come so many of our methods of education are stuck in 19th and 20th century Industrial Age concepts, such as assembly line,and mass production?


The predominant symbol of the 21st Century is the computer. Its rapid evolution reflects the accelerated development of technology. In 65 short years computer technology has come from massive mainframes to PC's to laptops to hand-held smartphones—shrinking in size but expanded in capacity.

Although this advance in technology is truly amazing, it doesn't compare to the astounding capacity of the human mind. Is today's education actually developing the potential of children's minds and equipping our children for the realities of today's world? Our mandate as educators, both parents and teachers, is to bring our methods of teaching into the 21st Century with the same creative diligence of the pioneers of computer technology.

One of the most fascinating innovations of computer technology is cloud computing. The contrast between mainframe vs cloud computing serves as an insightful analogy of 19th and 21st Century methods of education.


Much of our education follows the mainframe model—learning is static and inert, students are de-motivated and bored.


 Simply put, the primary function of a mainframe computer is to store and process huge amounts of data quickly. Most teaching today involves someone lecturing to a classroom of students and students memorizing information from notes and textbooks. Like a data entry clerk, teacher enters pieces of information into her classroom of computers (students). This data is stored in their data banks (memory) to be processed quickly (homework and exams). Classroom and homework assignments generally serve to reinforce already-stored information rather than expand knowledge. Rote learning is the default setting on these computers. The end result: learning becomes static and inert, and students are de-motivated and bored.


Critical thinking is a default setting of the cloud model— learning is an engaging process of exploration and discovery without limits.


Cloud computing is defined as “using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer.” Using this model, the emphasis shifts from teaching (i.e. disseminating knowledge) to facilitating learning (i.e. learning how to access information, process it through critical thinking, and then apply it in problem-solving). The source of knowledge is no longer limited to teacher and textbook. Information is now available from a network of sources anywhere in the world. Access to information is no longer derived from sitting passively listening to a lecture or struggling to read a cumbersome textbook. Knowledge is now at the students' fingertips on interactive devices that engage them as they pursue their topic. The emphasis is no longer on how much students can remember but on how well they can function in the learning process. Learning and critical thinking are the default settings of this model. The end result: learning is an engaging process of exploration and discovery without limits.


Teaching methods not teachers are out-dated.


Does this 21st Century model eliminate teaching? Teaching methods not teachers are out-dated. In fact, teachers (and parents) are even more necessary to hone reading, math and thinking skills and competent use of technology—tools which are critical in the learning process. In light of the rapid developments of the Technology Revolution, education must be quick (but wise) to change.




Endnote: My professional career spans more than 45 years in the field of education. The transformation from teacher to facilitator of learning has been a learning process. Neither the process nor my transformation is yet complete.


In 1965, the IBM 7094 mainframe computer (shown in image above), had all the same components as the computer in your pocket, input, storage, processing and output, though it ran a thousand times slower than yours and cost several million dollars. <>


Written by Les Dahl on July 31st, 2015. Posted in Education, Family, Learning Solutions



document.write(" geneva, sans-serif; font-size: 16px;">Educating our children must go beyond academics. Helping children acquire and practice right moral values is critical. The well-being of a community and a nation depends on it. Holistic development of children is the mandate of parents, care-givers and teachers.

Without sound moral values, children have no basis on which to make good choices. Moral values are guideposts pointing the right direction. They help children appropriately apply what they are learning to situations of real life.

Without positive moral guidance children become self-inflated and self-absorbed individuals with a gorilla-sized attitude of entitlement. They have little regard for, nor interest in, others except for personal gain. Only solid moral values rescue such from their illusionary, self-created universe.


How Can Values Be Cultivated In Children?



Phase 1: Teach

Values are 'seeds' that must be sown into the minds of children. They must be taught the concept (e.g. respect) clearly so they know what is expected of them. Relevance is established as children are shown clearly how the value (e.g. respect) is applied in their real-life experience. Role play followed by discussion can help clarify relevance and context.


Phase 2: Talk

Once a value is 'planted', it must be nurtured. This is accomplished as a vocabulary is developed around the value. For example, as respect is introduced, children must hear and use the word, its synonyms and words related to respect often (within reason, of course) throughout succeeding days. The objective is to establish a consciousness of respect, which in turn embeds thought patterns of respect which eventually become the paradigm by which children make choices and by which they interact with one another.


Phase 3: Walk

In this phase children “walk the talk” with the help of parent, care-giver or teacher. As a child demonstrates inappropriate behavior, the following three steps help get them back on track. The focus of intervention is restorative rather than punitive.


1. Facilitate clarity.

(a) Ask leading questions that help the child identify exactly what was wrong about their behavior. The issue cannot be resolved if the child cannot identify and name the inappropriate behavior.

(b) Guide the child to understand (i.e. identify and name) what would be appropriate behavior in the given situation.

(c) Explore several appropriate behaviors and the outcome each would produce. It is important for the child to see that more than one option provides appropriate behavior. They must see that their power of choice determines the outcome.


2. Help the child own their inappropriate behavior.

As long as the child makes excuses and blames someone or something other than him/herself, the issue cannot be resolved and he/she cannot move on.

(a) Help the child admit they were wrong. e.g. “I was disrespectful when I called Amy a name that hurt her feelings.”

(b) Help the child apologize appropriately. e.g. “I'm sorry for calling you a name that hurt your feelings.” The issue is not resolved with a vague “I'm sorry.” Help the child be specific in naming the wrong.

(c) Help the offended child express forgiveness. e.g. “I forgive you, Amy.” Saying the name tags the forgiveness precisely. It releases the offender to get up from her mistake and empowers her to move forward with a new level of respect—for herself and for others.

(d) Have persons involved in the incident promise they will help each other behave appropriately. We need each other to become the persons we want to be.


3. The goal: children making values-based choices and resolving personal conflicts using values-based strategies without adult intervention.


Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said it well, We want a society where people are free to make choices, to make mistakes, to be generous and compassionate. This is what we mean by a moral society; not a society where the State is responsible for everything, and no one is responsible for the State.”

Whether by spontaneous, one-on-one mentoring or structured class/group discussion, children will embrace moral values that shape their character and conduct. They will become the kind of adults who make a difference in their community and in their nation.


7  Values That Help Children Live Wel


Of all the values (one list had 225 entries!), the following seven make a good starting point.

  • Respect: proper regard for the thoughts, feelings, wishes, rights and property of others
  • Honesty: sincere, genuine, truthful yet tactful, without deceit or hidden agenda
  • Forgiveness: ready and willing to forgive out of understanding and compassion .
  • Trust: firmly believing someone is reliable and free from suspicion and doubt
  • Patience: tolerating delay, problems or interruptions without becoming annoyed or anxious.
  • Gratitude: being thankful, ready to show appreciation and to return kindness.
  • Love: showing understanding and compassion; ready to sacrifice for the benefit and empowerment of others.


Children groomed in these values are equipped to live well. They benefit their family, community and nation. Where children grow with these qualities of character, there is hope.



Written by Les Dahl on July 28th, 2015. Posted in Peace, Sage's Scroll


document.write(" geneva, sans-serif; font-size: 16px;">Before we awake each morning, our day is already set. The day unfolds like a steeplechase course with hazards and barriers. Circumstances test our wit and our grit. People cross our path. Some encourage or assist and propel us forward in the race. Others impede our progress with distraction or obstruction. As the reality of the day hits, we either struggle to stay afloat or make peace with life. The former results in stress and frustration; the later, in shalom—feelings of satisfaction and significance.

Five principles form an empowering framework to meet each hurdle confidently. They help us to keep our focus, undeterred by anything or anyone along our course. The freedom derived from these 5 concepts enable us to run strong and finish well. With these principles firmly embedded in heart and mind, we quickly recover when we stumble. By them, we make peace with life. 


1.  Nothing in life happens by chance nor by accident, but by design and with intention.


We may not understand the greater purpose or design, but that in no way alters the fact that everything happens for a reason. We are told that just as any artistic masterpiece reflects the genius, character and personality of its creator, so the entire universe reflects the glory of its Creator.

At each phase of the creative process, the Almighty stepped back, as it were, to consider his handiwork. Each time He declared, “This is good!” A master craftsman knows intuitively when his physical creation perfectly expresses the idea his mind conceived. There is nothing random nor haphazard about the universe. Trust the Almighty with the design and intention.


2.  God is good—everything He creates is designed for a good outcome.


Two attributes describe the Almighty— God is Light...God is Love. Light generates life, love nurtures life. All that the Almighty created and continues to create day by day is designed to generate and nurture life. As we negotiate the barriers and hazards on our course, we come through better, stronger, wiser, happier and more enduring.

What about disasters and calamities? In 1988, we experienced Hurricane Gilbert, one of the worst in Jamaica's history. The devastation was massive and recovery took months. Two observations emerged.

Farmers and environmentalists noted that the affect of the hurricane was similar to a giant broom sweeping across the island leaving a clean floor on which healthy new growth sprang forth. Second, local and international journalists noted the overwhelming response from relief agencies and governments of various nations to the ensuing desperate need. The same occurred after the earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal and the tsunami in Japan. These 'silver linings' do not compensate for the horrible loss of life, but they do give hope that human compassion is not yet extinct.


3.  Each day is filled with assignments and tasks—some are endurance training and some are preparation, each will be repeated or rewarded.


Every incident we encounter is an opportunity to test our mettle and to exercise our skills. The purpose of some situations is to equip us for a later assignment. We must pay close attention and learn the lessons well. Otherwise, we may have to repeat the experience until we get it. Assignments that are completed well are rewarded with greater responsibilities and more demanding assignments from the Almighty.

We must learn to connect with people we meet. Many remain friendly acquaintances, but some connections become important relationships. Their value is not only the benefit they bring to us, but also the blessing that is ours as we bring benefit to them. Some may play a significant part in an assignment down the road.


4.  Some assignments are bigger than us—they require skill, knowledge and power beyond what we have.


Our tendency is to look at circumstances (and life) in a natural way only. Some situations we encounter in a day, however, are more than we can handle naturally. These remind us that there are times we need supernatural help. The impossible circumstances provide opportunity to cultivate authentic faith for living in the real world. We learn how to invoke the Holy Spirit's power and experience the assistance of angels. The Almighty does not intend for us to run the race in our own strength.


5.  “Why” is this happening is not as important as “what” will I do with what I'm facing.


Our ultimate purpose in life is to be the carriers of God's glory (i.e. the attributes of the Almighty) into every situation we encounter. It is not an impossible task; it is a process.

  • We choose to trust the Almighty with our life and with each new day that dawns. He accepts, and promises to walk us through our day.
  • We invite the Spirit of the Almighty to infuse us with Light and Love. He does, and the supernatural dimension in us is activated.
  • We practice listening for His instructions—sometimes called intuition, gut feeling, listening to our heart. As we practice, our mind and heart become skillful at distinguishing the voice of the Almighty from every other voice. We may make mistakes initially, but we learn quickly.
  • We embrace the partnership—our best effort and Holy Spirit's supernatural empowering. As the partnership matures, the results will amaze and delight us.

We either struggle to stay afloat or we make peace with our life. Our day is filled with stress and frustration or with shalom. Transformation is activated by our choice.


Image courtesy puttsk /



Written by Les Dahl on July 23rd, 2015. Posted in Education, Learning Solutions


document.write(" geneva, sans-serif;">My rite of passage into the teaching profession was a grueling contest of cunning wit and enduring grit. Would an aspiring 22-year old novice survive a ruthless pack of wolves cleverly disguised as sixth graders?

I cut my teaching teeth in Prince Rupert, a rugged fishing town 500 miles up the coast from Vancouver, B.C..  King Edward Elementary School served as a melting pot of well-mannered middle-class children and rough “wrong-side-of-the-tracks” kids. The latter was predominant.

In October, only a month after I had begun my final assignment as student-teacher, the principal approached me. I understand you're looking for a job,” he began. “I have a vacancy in January.”

Hmm, this is a little unusual, I thought, since we're but a few weeks into the term.“What have you got?” I asked. Teaching positions were scarce at the time. He described the following situation.

By the middle of October, these sixth graders had driven two seasoned professionals to nervous breakdown and exhausted the full roster of substitute teachers. (You couldn’t pay them enough to take this class of hooligans...not even for a day!) The class was now under the firm hand of a diminutive, old-fashioned school-marm, a veteran who had been coaxed out of comfortable retirement to hold off these budding terrorists until “someone suitable” could be found.

A clever scheme formed in my mind. “Let me observe the class for the remainder of the term as a ‘student teacher’ being mentored by Mrs. McGibbon. Don’t let the students know I am their teacher come January.”

I sat at the back of the class aghast at the macabre theatre playing out before me. Like a pack of vicious wolves these 11-year olds tried everything their mischievous minds could conjure to break down the brave old war-horse at the helm. Only her courage, experience, and love for children carried Mrs. McGibbon safely through the entire term and back into welcome retirement.

Day after day I studied each student thoroughly, interacting with them whenever possible. I learned not only their names, but how each thought, their likes, their dislikes, their family background, anything and everything that would help me understand who and what I was up against! I memorized their every move.

You can imagine the initial shock on the first day of the new term when I was introduced as their new teacher. Their next move was predictable. Almost imperceptibly, eyes flashed the message from student to student, ‘This rookie is easy prey. Let the games begin!’

As I wrote on the chalkboard, one after another dug into their arsenal of mischief. Without turning around, I called each by name and by misdeed. By mid-day, the entire class was convinced Mr. Dahl had eyes in the back of his head!

The remaining two terms of the school year changed my ideas about teaching. This class shifted my focus from methods and teaching to facilitating and learning. They set me on a quest to understand how children learn.

As the year progressed, these students began to achieve academic success, much to the amazement of the principal and the rest of the staff. The secret was not really my cleverness, nor my diligence as a CIA spy, but my willingness to learn the 3 R's of teaching.


  1. Respect
  2. Relationship
  3. Recreation

As the students saw that even under fire I... 

  • respected them as people (not animals!),
  • respected them as individuals (not a bunch of misfits!),
  • respected their personal and academic potential (no teacher, not even their parents, thought they could amount to anything!),

one by one surrendered and began a journey with me on a pathway of learning and discovery none of them even imagined existed.

As our trust of each other grew, we shared our inner selves. Unresolved emotions surfaced and we learned how to address personal issues and resolve conflicts without resorting to violence and bullying. Relationships emerged—students and teacher, students with peers. (Although some parents engaged in the process, others in that situation simply weren't interested.)

My biggest challenge was motivation. Learning was not a high priority in the dysfunctional families in which most of these kids lived. They saw little value or need for school. In short, school was a year-long prison sentence repeated 12 times. Most would drop out by 9th grade.

The learning environment and classroom dynamics had to change.

  • Lessons, assignments, homework shifted from useless and boring to meaningful and fun!
  • Organized team sports played during the lunch break created a positive outlet for pent-up energy.
  • A school choir gave opportunity for cultural expression.

None of the staff thought the energy and creativity of “this kind of kid” could be harnessed. Yet, here they were, enjoying school and actually learning, too.

My journey in education has been a colorful adventure in learning. I owe my start to this rambunctious class of sixth graders, a pack of wolves who initiated me in the 3 R's of teaching and made a facilitator of learning out of me.


Image source: <>