In 1909, chess master Jose Capablanca played dozens of amateurs in one day in Cuba and won 168 games in a row. When asked how he played so well and under such constraints he said “I see only one move ahead.. but it is always the correct one.”

Setting up educational plans for students with special needs can be daunting but it is wise to do one move at a time keeping an eye on the big picture. One of our former students had a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) due to multiple skull fractures as a child. He could retain only 5% of information he was exposed to in a regular classroom setting. He came to Valley Oaks as an 7th grader from out of state. Our Valley Oaks staff worked with his family seeing “only one move ahead” at a time with his education while asking “Where do we want him to be at graduation from high school?” Here are some of those moves our VOCS educational team made:

  1. Hayes taught the mom in 7/8th grade how to teach in the home with a structured day and how to put together a visual lesson that helped the student retain information.
  2. Miss Darla (Mrs. Lambeth) gave the student information on the Regional Occupation Program welding class in Mojave. He took the evening class all of last year (10th grade) with his father and became certified in multiple forms of welding . One of his first projects, was a business card holder made out of quarter inch steel with my name welded on it. I proudly have it on my desk.
  3. The high school staff provided opportunities for multiple modes of instruction (visual, auditory, hands-on), and alternative forms of test completions. The high school staff met weekly on brainstorming our next move.
  4. Besides wanting to be a welder this young man wanted to be a pilot. I made some cold calls and got him signed up for a free summer camp at Mojave’s National Test Pilot School this last summer. He and another VOCS student received hands-on instruction in a flying laboratory analyzing date from on-board computers in several flights, learned about the team needed to fly an experimental aircraft, and try out 6 different simulators. I met with the NTPS head test pilot last Friday, and he said the flight team was impressed with our student’s knowledge of welding and air frame maintenance.

We can’t always make the correct decision like a chess master, but we can move one step ahead as a team. You as home educators are the most important part of the team.

In that same year as Capablanca shared his tactics in decision making, President Teddy Roosevelt shared this: “In a moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing. The next best thing you can do is the wrong thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”

I attended the orientation at the Test Pilot School with the student last May. The head test pilot gave a detailed move by move plan as to testing experimental aircraft. At the end of the presentation he showed a slide of a very ugly monkey and said that test pilots have to tell aircraft designers from time to time that “their baby is ugly” , ie: change some things.   If something is not working in your decision making in home schooling don’t be afraid to tell us that our “baby” (curriculum, instructional method, or whatever) is “ugly” (not working).   Our team can use this information to make the next move.

 Blog post by Brian McFarland