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Avoiding False Assumptions

Avoiding False Assumptions

Hello and good day!

I push the blinds up in our downstairs room every morning. The sun floods in through the windows and outside we can see the pine and maple trees, our fruit garden, and the massive laurel bushes that surround our yard.

If it is warm, I open the windows so that fresh air can blow in. We hear the finches and the stellar blues chirping in the trees. A racoon sneaks by along the fence, making his way around back to eat the cat food we leave out.

We homeschool our three sons and I am in charge of teaching math. I wake them up early to do an hour of work before I have to start my own workday. I believe that a calm, beautiful environment is conducive to challenging intellectual endeavors.

However, many mornings, the scene that unfolds is far from calm and beautiful. It very frequently is filled with tears and snot.

I admit it. I can be a hardnosed father. I am a loving father. And that is why I can be hardnosed. I want my children to live up to their potential and that requires learning to push through hardship.

In a traditional classroom setting, a child may feel so frustrated that they'd like to cry and wail. But social pressure requires them to tamp down their impulses.

That is not the case in a homeschool setting. Children are in a safe place, their home, and they have no qualms about showing their true feelings. Tears or no, they must finish their work. It is a requirement.

I've learned a lot about human nature watching my kids do math. I can see how stressful it is to learn new skills. Often overlooked is that children are in a constant state of learning. If you had to learn a brand-new skill every two days for the next 10 years, imagine what that might do to your psyche.

Adults generally have the privilege of practicing more or less the same skills for the rest of their lives. You settle into a career. You become an expert. And that's that.

Youngsters are required to start anew, again and again. We should have sympathy for that, and I do. But I also am not willing to raise quitters. This is one of the very difficult things about being a parent, knowing when to be hard and knowing when to relent.

It is more art than science. The main thing that sets my children off is having to start over. I see that they are on the incorrect path and that they must go back to the beginning.

They've made a false assumption before starting off. They've misunderstood the question. They've worked hard under an incorrect understanding. Then they find out that it was all for nought.

Thanks to the time with my kids every day, I am coming to realize the devastating impact of misunderstanding questions and making false assumptions.

Here is what is so bad about it.

No matter how hard you work and how sincere your effort, you simply cannot succeed if you've misunderstood the problem. Your only option is to go back to the beginning and start all over. Persisting in an error will never solve the error, no matter how much you wish it would.

This is a bitter pill for my kids to swallow, but there is no other way. It is a bitter pill for an adult to swallow as well. You must abandon all of your hard work, erase the sheet clean, and begin again. This is why, as of late, I've been preaching to my kids that sometimes the slow way is the fast way.

Many times, the work is very easy if you set up the problem correctly. It pays to make sure that you understand the question before you fly into calculations.

Here is a funny example of this. 11 years ago, my Peruvian father-in-law visited us here in the United States.

We decided to take him on a trip to New York. We visited Manhattan and then drove to upstate New York to stay in the country for a few days. We stayed in a small, lovely hotel in upstate New York and enjoyed the natural beauty of the region.

The time came to fly home and we had to make a 5-hour drive to the airport. We left with what we figured would be plenty of time, about 8 or 9 hours to make the drive. This was back before real time GPS.

The crucial step was turning left onto highway 13. Before we reached highway 13, we came upon a sign that said highway 13e. Somebody pointed to the sign and said I should make the turn.

I was driving and we took off down highway 13e. It was a little two-lane road that went through gorgeous countryside. Long fields of tall green grass and forests filled with robust trees as far as the eye could see.

Remember back before GPS how you almost had a sixth sense about driving in the wrong direction? At some point, it occurred to the three of us, my wife, my father-in-law, and me that we must have made a wrong turn.

We'd been driving for two hours, and it just didn't make sense that this road would lead us into a city with an airport. It had to be wrong.

We pulled over and thought about what to do. There was no other choice. We had to go back to the turn off and look for the proper highway 13. Looking at the clock, we realized it would be very hard for us to make our flight on time.

But the tickets were expensive, and we had to try. Somewhere on highway 13e, before we realized our error, we had decided to chug the remaining water in the gallon jugs of water we'd purchased for the trip. We didn't want to waste the water by having to throw it away. Better to drink it.

After an hour or so retracing our wrong turn, nature started calling, but we were concerned with making good time and we decided to hold it until we got to the airport.

There came a moment when we thought we couldn't wait any longer, but by that time, we found ourselves in the city sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic and we were sure we'd miss our flight. Finally, we made it to the airport, dropped off the rental car, and approached the check in counter.

The lady at the counter told us to hurry with all our speed for the gate. We took off running, our kidneys on the verge of bursting. In the security line we danced in place, scrunched our faces, and prayed to hold out just a moment longer.

When we got to the gate, a fellow was making the final boarding call.We ran onto the plane, almost in tears.

Salvation at last.  

Had we just taken a second to acknowledge that 13e and 13 might not be the same thing, we could have saved a lot of heartache. It would have been worth driving 45 minutes up the road to make sure we were doing the right thing before deciding.

Of course, I must apply this to chocolate as well.  

Most problems with chocolate can be traced back to poor fermentation. You simply can't make fine flavored chocolate with poorly fermented cacao. It took us two years to develop an excellent fermentation protocol and we couldn't make a sale that entire time.

However, that long, patient approach in the beginning served us well, because our entire business is based on providing a very high-quality product.

I am running out of space now.

But before I sign off, I am going to make a pledge.

I pledge to check my assumptions before taking action.I know this will save me a lot of headaches and backtracking in the long run.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!