Changing Perspective With Color

Funny that even though my child is homeschooled, I’m no different than any parent who sends their child to a traditional school. They, too, are away from their children for most of the day and have to rely on a second-hand account of what happened. My wife is the primary homeschool “teacher” to my 8-year-old daughter, and because of that, there are a lot of things I’m not privy to during their day. Oh, sure, I can get the rundown when I walk through the front door at 6 pm, but it’s not the same as being there.

So if you’re a fellow work-a-day parent feeling the same way, here's something I want you to consider to balance the scales a bit:

Bring your work home with you. Reframe it, re-architect it, tell a story about something that happened like it was one of those "Career Days" at a traditional school.

Here’s an example. I'm a software tester. My job is to find glitches, bugs, and whatever misfortunes could be hiding in my company's high profile online services.

I doubt if my daughter will follow in my footsteps to become a professional “bug hunter,” but every day on the drive home, I scan my day for anything I can talk about with her. Is there something I can show her on the computer that gets her excited about how I found a glitch? Is there a story I can tell about how I used the scientific method to help me design an experiment?

Better yet, can I get her to tell me how she found a problem on her laptop? Maybe something she found in Minecraft, Terraria, Animal Jam, or Roblox?

Well, as a matter of fact, yes.

My daughter showed me a sprite glitch in Roblox – an online multiplayer game with some basic graphics fidelity, much like Minecraft, but with a Lego vibe. A sprite is a graphic vector, an element that paints a part of the world like a wall or a landscape. She had found a problem that enabled her avatar to walk through walls, which started flickering. The cool thing that made it like my work was that it wasn’t always easy to reproduce. That’s where art meets science. To reproduce the glitch, she had to recreate the variables that conspired to make it happen. That takes experimentation, conjecture, and observation.

It eventually led us to look at YouTube videos of Roblox glitches to see if any others had reported it. Indeed they had, and I was reminded of something useful.

Years ago I read an amazing book that changed my work life and my perspective on Perspective. I had been feeling stuck in many ways and limited in my skills, especially when everyone seemed smarter than me. The book was Six Thinking Hats by Edwin de Bono and is about 6 different perspectives you can use to approach a problem.

Each perspective is represented by a color:Blue – wearing the blue “hat” is about management. How do you organize? What are your procedures and milestones?White is like Star Trek’s Mr. Spock – it’s all about data and logic. What are the facts?Red is the opposite (more like Captain Kirk). It’s about how emotions play a role in thinking.Green is about creativity – what novel, extraordinary, or interesting idea do you have?Black is about scrutiny and negative thinking, much like how a villain or a “black hat” computer hacker would think.Yellow is the opposite – it’s about optimism and sunshine. Tomorrow is a new day. How can we make lemonade out of these lemons?These perspectives help me think differently in a practical way. When I’m stuck or biased, remembering these 6 colors helps me gain some momentum. Even when I’m in a meeting, I can visualize this rainbow in my mind and think, “Ok, I have heard Optimism, Negativity, Management Thinking, Logic and Data, some Creativity… but you know, no red yet, no Emotions.” Then I’ll think about offering a suggestion: “This sounds good, but it’s a lot of work. Can we make it fun somehow?”

I don’t know whether this will be relevant or meaningful to my daughter, but I’ll bet the day will come soon when she’s stuck on solving a problem. I won’t know what happened during her day until I ask about what she was trying to do, and maybe I won’t have any better ideas for her, but the real gift I can give her is a set of perspectives.

So many parents may be caught in one perspective -- perhaps the Emotional one (“How do you feel about what happened…Were you having fun or feeling frustrated?”), or maybe the Logic one (“Let’s work out the problem on paper, step by step.”)

But the others are just as useful. Wear one as if it’s a colored hat. Take off the Red one and put on the White one. Wear that one for a while and put on the Green one. Take that off for a second and wear the Yellow one.

My daughter loves science, but there’s a point where being logical is exhausting or even frustrating because it’s not making any sense. Let that be ok. Getting beyond being stuck may be just a matter of putting on a different hat for a little while.


Jon Bach is the Quality Manager for Ebay in San Jose, California. Through his blog, The Dad Report, he shares insights about his family's first year of home education as well as his thoughts about learning and alternative forms of education.