If life skills could be picked up off the shelf, put into a box, wrapped, and tied up with a bow, I would quickly run out and buy intentionality. Just as quickly, I would wrap it, address it, and send it off to my young adult children.
As I see it, intentionality is a huge indicator of success.
An individual may aspire to a great career, a great love, a great family, and a great life, but what is a great career, a great love, a great family, or a great life? Intentionality answers these questions and creates a plan.
Intentionality is defined as “the fact of being deliberate or purposive”. It does not leave aspirations to chance. It does not step weakly into a dream and hope it comes to pass. It rolls up it’s sleeves and gets to work.
Oliver Wendell Holme’s words create a picture of intentionality.
“To reach a port we must sail, sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it. But we must not drift or lie at anchor.”
When one lives intentionally, aspirations are broken down into manageable, measureable pieces. As with sailing, the destination is charted and adjustments are made as the winds change. For example, a great career might include writing and publishing an anthology of short stories. Our eldest son is a writer. This is a present goal that will mark a great career for him. He will not achieve it without intentionality. Getting published can destroy the faint of heart.
Similarly, a great love might be to celebrate a life time of anniversaries. That goal is guaranteed to have a messy middle! It requires many, many small intentional steps of forgiveness, reconciliation, and self sacrifice. I speak from the trenches. My husband and I recently celebrated 31 intentional years of marriage. Our great love is not a fairy tale. It is a collection of deliberate, purposeful actions guaranteeing the intended outcome.
Living ntentionally is not easy, but it is simple.
First, goals are defined.
Next, the big steps for achieving each goal are mapped out.
These are followed by day to day actions that tackle each big step.
Intentionality is necesssary for every bit of the achievement process, but it really comes in as a super hero to save the day when one hits the messy middle. This is where the work is hard and the end seems illusive. It remembers the promise made and determines to stay focused on the intended prize. It reviews the purpose and deliberately faces the challenges. It seeks the support and counsel necessary to combat resistance to trudge on.
In a nutshell, intentionality refuses to leave the important stuff to chance.
Teaching our children to live intentionally is important.
So why would I box it up and send it off to my children? If I understand intentionality so well, did I not model it for our children? The truth is, much of my adult life, I have stayed afloat with grit and vague aspirations. I did not understand the importance of intentionality as a process. In as much, I’ve moved towards these aspirations, but only recently have I started setting concrete goals. The answer then is no. I am not sure that I modeled intentionality well. Thankfully children do not grow up in a vacuum filled only with the influence of parents. Teachers, coaches, extended family, and mentors fill in the gaps. Our children are setting goals and moving toward them. Nevertheless, a box of intentionality might fill in the gaps where training failed.
Unfortunately, I can not go to the store and grab a box, nor can you. We can; however, model it to the children that are present in our lives right now. Whether we are parents with little ones in our care, grandparents, teachers, extended family, family friends, or neighbors, we have the opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life forever by guiding them towards an intentional, well planned life.
The harmful beliefs and behaviors we carry around with us are being left like partially filled packages of M&M's for our little ones to feed on.
The Tale of the M&M Wrapper
Last Thursday I had an encounter with an army — an army of ants!
I'd stepped into our daughter’s bedroom with a pile of laundry that she’d left in the laundry room. I meant to plop it on her bed—nothing more. She doesn’t like when I invade her space. However, the bed was unmade. I have a high need for order, and on that particular day, my self-control reserves were a little low. I should walked out of the room, but my boundaries went flying out the window. I could not help myself: I started to make the bed.
As I plumped the pillows, I noticed a peanut M&M’s wrapper on the floor. I guessed that Rachelle had fallen asleep with a book in one hand and the M&M's in the other. Naturally, I reached down to pick it up.
As I headed toward the waste basket, I noticed that there was a tiny little sugar ant crawling up my arm. Then there were two. I peaked into the candy bag. Horrors! There was an army of ants in there feasting on several stray M&M's. In an instant, my hand was covered with the little critters. I dashed to the bathroom sink, turned on the water, and flushed the lot of them off of my hand before they could venture any further. I had no desire to have a bon-a-fide case of ants-in-the-pants.
I returned to my daughter's room with the vacuum, expecting to sweep up one little trail of ants, but there were disoriented ants everywhere. Clearly, the message had been communicated that there was a delicious breakfast waiting -- but where was it? I had to sweep the entire room.
Once the disappointed critters had been dealt with, I sent a text to my daughter telling her why she would find her room cleaned and swept when she came home. Then I sent a second text. It read:
We may not be able to conquer the ants, but we certainly do not need to feed them!”
Since then, I’ve been thinking about my ant encounter. I think there is a metaphor here for parents (and teachers).
Consider the partially empty wrapper. It was not placed there on the floor purposefully to draw ants. In fact, my daughter’s dislike for the tiny invaders would suggest that, had she been aware of the fallen wrapper and realized that it wielded the potential to draw an army of ants, she would have been careful to eat all the candy and dispose of the paper properly. She might have even decided that a better plan would be to not munch on candy at bedtime.
Worse Than an M&M Wrapper
I think that wrapper is representative of less than beneficial beliefs and behaviors that we unknowingly drop for the children in our spheres to quietly and unnoticeably feed on.
Children construct their image by internalizing early relationships, specifically those with parents and other significant people — teacher’s, grandparents, caregivers, etc. In as much, children are like sponges. They absorb the negative and positive interactions between themselves and others creating a composite image of their early experience.
This composite image is programmed into the neurons of their brain. It determines most of their feelings, self-messaging, and behavior. When there is an abundance of life-giving aspects to their childhood interactions, they grow to be functional and caring in their relationships.
The exciting, scary result is that children carry this composite image into adulthood. It s exciting because it means that we are all programmed uniquely, none of us have identical childhood experiences — not even siblings. What a wonderful gift we each are to the world when we enter it with self confidence and trust in others. It is scary because no childhood is perfect. Our composite images are a blend of both the loving and not so loving crelationships and experiences. Furthermore, this composite image is who we believe we are.
The good news is that recent brain research has proven that our brains have the potential to reorganize by creating new neural pathways to adapt as it needs. As adults, we can create a new program that serves us better than our childhood program — and we should, for our children. The harmful beliefs and behaviors we carry around with us are being left like partially filled packages of M&M’s for our little ones to fed on — but it isn’t M&M’s they are feasting on. These harmful beliefs and behaviors put the children whose lives we touch at risk for being disoriented and lost.
Recently I accepted an invitation to participate in a podcast interview. One of the questions I was asked was, “What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?”My answer was, “Know thyself. Take inventory of your emotional health before you get married and have a family. Don’t be fooled into believing that you do not have elephants in the corners and closets of your being just because you had a great childhood.”
There is nothing to lose and a whole hearted life to gain for both ourselves and our children when we reprogram from childhood before we hit the parenting starting gate. Personally, I believe that we all, from the age of 18 to 108, owe it to the children in our lives to be on a continual journery of wholeness -- body, mind, soul, and spirit. The more wholeheartedly we are living, the less work our precious children will have to do to live wholeheartedly when they reach adulthood.
We all, from the age of 18 to 108, owe it to the children in our lives to be on a continual journey of wholeness.
Resources that have been invaluable to me as I have sought to journery toward wholeness:
Download the Worksheet on Facebook at A Teacher Next Door
Here it is, Thursday, my target day for a blog post, and I have hit a brick wall. I have nothing inspiring, enlightening, or empowering to put out there for you all.
But I do have the work I put into an exercise for one of my tutoring clients. I will pass it on to you. Maybe you have a child, grandchild, or child in your care that will benefit from a little place value instruction and practice.
But first, let me introduce you to Number Street.
Number Street can be used in many creative ways to help children grasp numbers.
- It can be used as an aid in helping young children read numbers.
- When used in conjunction with math manipulatives, it helps children understand the value of a number.
- It can also be used to explain regrouping.
- Finally, Number Street can be fun.
Just yesterday, I was reviewing place value with a young student. Though I was not using a graphic of Number Street, her focus floated off into the distance as focus does when we are picturing something in our heads. She said, “Remember Number Street?” She had a smile on her face and a sparkle in her eyes. There was a nostalgic tone to her question. This is a student for whom math is a challenge, yet she was, remembering our place value drills fondly!
Why did you need to meet Number Street?
The exercise I have to share contains a graphic of Number Street. Without a bit of background knowledge, you may not know how to use it.
So, how do I teach Number Street?
Depending on the age and grade level of a student, my number street has more or less houses. I point to the house on the far right and say, “This is the one's house. How many ones do you think can live in the one's house?” If the child says 9 or less, I say, “Wow, you are amazing!” If the child says one number that is 9 or less, I say, “You are right!" Then I ask if any more ones can move in. I work with the child’s understanding and lead him or her to the fact that no more than nine can live in the one's house. In fact. If ten want to live together, they have to move to the ten's house.
While a child is still learning about numbers, this can be done with manipulatives (sweet treats that can be eaten are always a hit). With older students, I simply use tic marks or the written digits. Either way, you demonstrate the movement of the ten ones by placing a 1 the house to the left and a zero in the ones house. Then you proceed to explain that you now have one group of ten ones.
You get the picture. If not, let me know and I would gladly create a demonstration video. I would do it now but I would not accomplish my goal of posting on Thursday, and I’m told by the experts that consistency in blogging is very, very important.
So, you may be asking, why should I bother with teaching place value?
To truly excel in any field, you must understand the concept and reasoning behind the methods. When you understand the concept and reasoning you enjoy the work because then you can get creative!
Place value is the idea that each digit in a number represents a certain amount, depending on the position (or house, as on Number Street) it occupies. It demonstrates that each number can be broken apart and put back together. For example, 254 x 2 = (200 x 2) + (50 x 2) + (4 x 2).
This opens up new ways of manipulating numbers. When children understand that there is more than one way to solve a math problem, it takes away or lessens the fear of failure. Removing fear removes a huge math barrier.
Also, because understanding place value opens up new ways to solve problems,a child is no longer locked into memorization and repetition of processes. The end result is that he or she will have an easier time with addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, expanded notations, etc.
In a nutshell, place value is the “why” behind the basics of mathematics.
But wWhy Number Street?
As I mentioned earlier, I have a math-challenged student who remembers Number Street lessons fondly. Need I say more?
Visit A Teacher Next Door on Facebook to download the Number Street resource I created for my student and her mom to use between our tutoring sessions.
Then check out the following resources:
Please note that IXL is a membership site; however, the site allows a limited amount of free practice each day.
I challenge you. Take a walk down Number Street with you child. Use your imagination and find ways to play that make mastering place value a fond memory.
Reading with pre-readers and early readers builds reading skills and vocabulary.
Do you have a grammar girl or guy in your life? I do. It is my daughter. She claims that I am the reason she is finely attuned to the misuse of the spoken word. Apparently, when mom drills grammar and vocabulary during childhood, one can not tolerate misuse in adulthood.
She and I were in a conversation about finances earlier this week. We were trouble shooting ways that she might build up her bottom line. My suggestions were seeming nigh impossible to her. Finally I said, “Well, I will pray for a boon on your finances."
This is where grammar girl came to life. She promptly informed me that she would need an increase, not a decrease. I was confused. I told her I thought that is what I was suggesting when I used the word boon. She said, "No, boon means ruin."
You have to know me a bit to understand the rest of the story. I am easily “put in my place” by others. While I did give my understood definiton, she stood her ground. In the moment, I didn’t stand up to her confidence. Instead, I assumed that I didn’t really know the meaning of boon. I did, however, check the meaning after the conversation, and I must admit that I felt a tiny bit victorious when I read the definiton. Later, after sharing the definition of boon with my grammar girl, I learned that her brain had registered the word bane. These words have completely opposite meanings.
Boon means something beneficial to a specific person, entity, or cause. "Getting called out of school on the day of the test was a boon for Sam, as he hadn't remembered to study."
Bane refers to anything that is a cause of harm, ruin, or death. But we often use it for things that aren't that bad, just feel like it. You might say mosquitoes are the bane of your existence.
This story could be an illustration for miscommunication. Maybe I will repurpose it someday, My first thought though, as I processed this comedy of vocabulary errors, was, where did I learn this simple word that is not commonly used in day to day conversation? More importantly, why was I so easily convinced that I was wrong? The answer was immediate. I picked it up while I were reading, and I’d determined the word by the context of the story or article I was reading. It had been stored away to be used at an opportune moment. I'd not drilled it often enough through reading and use to be dead confident when I used it.
That is the core message, the take-away, from this post.
Reading and drill through exposure and use builds vocabulary.
If you want your child’s vocabulary to really grow and flourish, she/he must read — read a lot and read a wide variety of text. In fact, I did a quick online search. The first 3 sites I visited put reading at the top of the list for building vocabulary.
Why is reading so important?
We learn through repetition. When we keep coming across a word or phrase while reading, it will make more and more sense to us, because we’re seeing it in different contexts. When we add the habit of drill, we increase the chances that a word is internalized.
The timing for this little reminder was perfect. With summer vacation just around the corner, there is room for parents, grandparents, and care-givers to step up and take the initiative to enrich their children's vocabularies.
Three Steps to Summer Vocabulary Increase
READ: Start at the Local Library.
Consider narrow reading. Help your child select a new focus each week of the summer.
READ: Plan an Age Appropriate Strategy
- Pre-readers - Visit Scholastic to learn more about building vocabulary in young children.
- Elementary School - Visit ReadingRockets.org for strategies to build your child’s vocabulary.
- Junior High and High School - Visit MyCollegeSuccessStory.com for 10 Ways to Build and Use Vocabulary
- All readers: Create an account for each of your children at www.readtheory.org. This free website is one that we use with our adult learners at the Martha O’Bryan Center. It has proved invaluable to growing our students’ skills.
QUIZ: Create an Account for Quizzing Vocabulary Knowledge
- Go to www.vocabulary.com to create an account for each of your children. Even your non-readers can learn and grow their vocabulary when you work as a team to grow their vocabulary. Just use caution. Do not push beyond their enjoyment of the game.
The Big 7
While "READ, READ, and QUIZ" will work wonders, for the vocabulary increase, make the list I found at EnhanceMyVocabulary.com a lifestyle in your home:
Read, read, and read.
Keep a dictionary and thesaurus handy.
Use a journal.
Learn a word a day.
Study Greek and Latin roots.
Engage in conversations.
We made all 7 of these habits during our homeschooling years, and all of our children reaped the rewards. Our oldest is pursuing a writing career. He uses words I have yet to incorporate in my vocabulary in his published stories. Our middle child’s high school English teacher shared with me that she saved his papers to grade last. Why? She knew she would be rewarded with a well-written, engaging paper. He used words well. Our youngest, she grew up to be my grammar/vocabulary girl!!!
In summary, I must admit that it is a bit humbling to have three young adult children whose vocabularies and writing ability outshine mine. However, it was my desire (I expect it is the desire of every parent) that they outshine me in every way. As one who knows, just let me say, "It is a happy thing to watch your children shine!"
Research based report on increasing vocabulary: Scholastic Professional Paper
a rousing game of Settlers of Catan
With summer break just around the corner, many parents and care-givers are wondering what can be done to protect students’ learning and keep the summer doldrums at bay.
I recently read a white paper by Elizabeth N. Treher, Ph.D on learning with board games. I was interested in discovering what the experts say about the use of educational board games for encouraging learning. I have been utilizing the game of Horseopoly with a young private tutoring client for the purpose of reinforcing numeration, counting money, making change, mental math, addition, and skip counting. Katie (name changed to protect privacy) and I have been having so much fun; I needed reassurance that my strategy qualifies for "best practice".
Although the purpose of Treher’s paper is to argue the use of board games for corporate training, her position would support the use of board games for learning with children and teens as well. Treher states that hands on and heads-on learning work together. Either alone is not sufficient. She adds that properly designed board games are an effective way to provide this combination.
So what is it about well designed board games that qualifies them for effective learning tools? To begin with they are:
Additionally, they can:
reinforce learning and provide opportunity for application,
be a visual metaphor to connect learning,
provide opportunity for problem solving,
conceptualize learning and make it concrete,
create an environment of collaborative learning,
build communication and relationship skills when played in teams,
require critical thinking,
and reinforce learning among a wide range of player ability,
With all these benefits, it makes sense to work time into the summer schedule for board games.
LearningLiftOff.com offers a wonderful “best educational board games” list broken down into age categories. However, do not be limited by this list. Creativity, ingenuity, and an adult with a goal in mind can turn just about any board game into a fun, learning experience.
RememberFor example, as mentioned earlier, I’ve been playing Horseopoly with a student of mine. Checking math problems is boring, but Katie is all too willing to double check that I am not cheating her from the right amount of rent!
I recently signed up for a Trello account. Trello is described as:
. . . the platform that gives you a shared perspective on any kind of project.
It is a digital graphic organizer that enables collaboration. Individuals can work on a project together, apart. How fun is that?
True confessions, I have yet to put Trello’s tools to use. To be honest, I’m behind the front runners when it comes to leveraging technology in the home and workplace, but I’m interested in staying current in this world driven by technology, and I think any one caring for children should be interested as well. Digital literacy is a 21st century necessity. As parents and teachers, we should be doing everything we possibly can to empower our children to thrive in this brave new world.
However, that little aside is not the point of this post. One of the side benefits of joining Trello is their wonderful, but not overly zealous, email invitation to check out their latest blog post. An article in a recent post caught my interest.
The title of the article was: The Invisible Problem Wrecking Your Productivity and How to Stop It. The title drew me right in. Who wants to be wrecked? Not me. If I am being wrecked, I need to know it. Even more, I need to know how to stop it! How about you?
The core message of the article was this: Multi-tasking as a productivity skill is a myth. It is just plain stressful. Additionally, there is evidence suggesting that multi-tasking temporarily lowers IQ.
Multi-tasking as a productivity skill is a myth.
I really like articles that debunk the prestige of successfully multi-tasking. Why? I don’t multi-task well! It is a huge stress trigger for me, and I do not weather stress well.
In fact, just hours before I read this article, I was bemoaning the passing of time. I’d shared with my daughter how much I miss my stay-at-home mom years. There is a longing within me to reconnect with the simplicity of caring for my family’s needs one task at a time and at the slower, more wonder-filled pace of children.
Sadly, I see fewer and fewer families living the quieter, more peaceful life I remember. With the many opportunities and privileges children have today comes increased stress due to, you guessed it, multi-tasking. So what is multi-tasking and how is it trickling down to our children?
Categories of Multi-Tasking
Classic multi-tasking is described as trying to perform more than one task at a time.
Rapid multi-tasking is going from one task to another in quick succession.
Interrupted task-switching is have to switch from one task to another before the first is done.
Below are examples of how multi-tasking harries our children:
Classic multi-tasking: Imagine the helter-skelter scramble to get out of the door to school. "Did you grab your lunch?" "Do you have your soccer cleats? Remember, there is soccer practice after school." "Did you put your homework in your book bag last night?” Can you hear yourself firing these questions at your child/ren while they are still concentrating on simply waking up?
Rapid multi-tasking: Think about the after school trip to soccer. “Here is a snack, eat it while we drive. We are running late, so put your socks and cleats on while we drive. We won’t have time to study for your spelling test after soccer. You have piano lessons. Study them now."
Interrupted multi-tasking: Ponder the stress put on a child who thinks and acts at a slower pace than the norm. While the child is only half through with an assignment, the books are put away and he/she must transition with the pack.
The Cost of All This Multi-Tasking?'
During a study conducted at the University of London, the researchers found that heavy multi-tasking temporarily lowered the IQ of multi-tasking men up to 15 points. This decline is similar to staying up all night. If multi-tasking affects men in such a subversive way, to what extent are we short changing our children’s capacity to learn?
So What's a Parent to Do?
Consider the sound advice offered at hyper-parenting.com:
Leave unscheduled time. Everyone needs it. Cut back 5-7% in scheduled activities. That's all you need to recapture sanity. Relax and enjoy your child, your life, and your unscheduled time. Be unproductive sometimes. Spend time when you have no real expectations. Play Monopoly, shoot hoops (with no coaching), draw pictures, take a walk, or watch a movie. Maybe you can even smell the roses once in a while. Make character and relationship count. Live your values.
And do things which have no product that has to be produced at the end other than the joy of spending time together. . .This truly bolsters a child's self-esteem and is the greatest gift we can give our children, the deep, inner conviction that they don't have to perform for us to love and cherish them. Once upon a time, that was called "unconditional love."
A Few Simple Things A Parent (and Teacher) Can Do:
Simple awareness is powerful.
- Be mindful of the ways you may be inadvertently stacking and switching tasks on your child.
- Take control, one situation at a time.
Decide to live counter to our culture.
Make family (classroom) relationships priority.
Schedule a routine check-up.
- Parents: Ask yourself, “Am I enjoying life?” “Do I have enough space to be free and relax?" Ask your children, “Are you enjoying life?” “Do you have enough space to be free, relax, and express yourself?"
- Teachers: Ask yourself, "Am I enjoying the classroom?" "Do I have enough space in my day to enjoy the children?" Ask your students, "Are you enjoying school?" "Do you feel hurried?"
Plan empty space in your week.
- We all need time to think, freely entertain ourselves, and relax.
- Do not allow this time to chance. Put it on your calendar.
We can never go back to life as it was. We should not want to. There is joy in the forward adventure. However, we can move forward in ways that are gentle and do not wreck our children. We can stop
What constitutes qualification?
This is a question that I’ve been mulling over for several weeks.
It started when I’d courageously shared with a co-worker that I feel like a faker in my position. My bravery paid off. She admitted similar feelings. It was comforting to know that I am not alone in my misgivings about my qualifications.
A few days later I was sitting across from a friend at Muddy Waters Cafe in Wooster, Ohio. I'd invited her to consider collaborating with me on a creative project that would draw on our collective experience. I perceive her as highly qualified for the task. Therefore, I was surprised when her immediate response was, “The project is intriguing, but I’m not sure I’m qualified."
I should not have been surprised. Remember, only days before I’d confessed that I feel like a faker. In a culture where advanced degrees and a long list of professional accomplishments are the basis for qualification, anything less suggests inadequacy.
So says the critic in my head.
However, there is a kinder voice that invites me to value my qualifications based on a different standard—a standard I sang about as a little girl:
"This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”
My life experiences, circumstances, natural talents, practiced skills, passion, and dreams create a one-of-a-kind degree that qualifies me to shine confidently.
In short: I am singly qualified to give from the wealth of myself.
The same is true for you. You are qualified to give from the wealth of your self.
The same is true for our children. At every stage of the game, in school and in life, our children are qualified to give from the wealth of who they are.
Certainly, the qualification of our unique selves does not open every door, but when a door is opened, we can evaluate acceptance or rejection of the opportunity based on whether it is something we have in our hearts to do. We can decide not to limit ourselves by our lack of credentials. Then we can teach our children to do the same.
The Year of 2000+ Books
Josh, our oldest son, was an aspiring writer. I say was because he is no longer aspiring to be a writer. He is a writer. He has earned the title. No, there is not a New York Times best seller with his name on it -- yet. However, he is doing the hard work of a writer.
Recently he celebrated a milestone in his career. The literary journal Glimmer Train recently published a short story he submitted. Along with his story is a page featuring a childhood photograph. Memories drew me in to the photo he'd chosen. Pictured is a bright eyed, enthusiastic 8 year old, arms draped over the captain's wheel of a tugboat.
However, it was his description of the photo that held my attention and fired up the synapses in my brain resulting in the connections that became the 5 building blocks to the best education money can not buy.
The first building block is found indirectly in his words:
"I can't remember definitely where this photo was taken. It is somewhere in the Great Lakes region, as evidenced by the map on the wall behind me. I remember taking field trips when I was young to museums from Chicago to Cleveland . . . and plenty of places in between."
I would add 'and beyond'.
So, what is the first building block?
#1 - Provide Rich Experiences
If you have read my blog bio, you know that I home schooled each of our children for varying lengths and periods of time. I had a compelling reason. I'd been teaching and seen first hand that I, in spite of my desire and dedication, was handicapped by the numbers. I could not meet every student's unique learning needs 100% of the time. As a result, I found myself teaching to the middle.
I figured that it was unlikely that my three children would all be 'middles', yet I wanted them to have the best start possible in school. It became my goal to provide one-on-one instruction until they were competent readers and comfortable with basic maths. I believed that I was best suited to provide our children with this individualized learning. After all, I had the advantage of round the clock observation during the first five years of their lives. I knew their learning styles, gifts, and personalities. No teacher could match that knowledge.
This is the basis for the second building block.
#2: Orchestrate One-on-One Instruction
One of my greatest parenting memories, basis for the third building block, is collective. It happened over time and encompasses every moment I sat with our oldest son on one side, our second son on the other side, and our daughter on my lap. What were we doing? If you guessed reading, you are absolutely correct.
It was our first year of formal home schooling. Joshua was learning by design. The two younger ones were learning by proximity and osmosis. I read; they listened. We logged over 2000 picture books, early readers, and children's classics during that year. Our children met people and traveled to places unknown through the stories we read. We giggled. We held our breath. We repeated favorite lines and practiced using new words. The end result -- our children enjoyed reading before they were ever challenged by the process of learning to read. Reading became a way of life in our family. In the process, I raised children who value reading. I cannot claim that they all love to read. Our middle son does not, but he values reading for what he can learn. The other two are avid readers for the love of stories.
Have you guessed the third building block?
#3 - Make Reading a Family Affair Before and After Formal Schooling Starts
We began to implement the 4th building block the moment our children were old enough to understand our words and observe our actions. Life skills and values can be taught, but they are more readily caught. Why? Children are grand imitators, and the powerful parent-child connection makes mothers and fathers the number one role model during the earliest, formative years. My husband and I decided to stack this deck in our favor by remaining unplugged from television and technology during our children's earliest years. We preferred that they be watching and learning from a real family and from real life. This is not to say that there was no exposure to the television, but it was limited, age appropriate, and when necessary, there were debriefings.
Neither is this to say that we got this perfect. You can not model what you do not know. We brought into our family strengths and weaknesses from our own childhood imitating. From recent personal development reading I have been doing, I have been made keenly aware of some weaknesses our children will have to overcome if they are imitating me. My advice to young parents: work on yourself so that you have the best to give.
The fourth building block?
#4 - Model Life Skills and Strong Values
Sometimes I marvel at the things I see our young adult children doing. They haven't been without their challenges, and they've each experienced the consequences of a few less than stellar choices. Haven't we all? However, they are strong and independent and they believe in their ability to push towards the life they want to live.
I like to believe that this is a result of our belief in them and our refusal to hover over them. In reality, I know that we can not take full credit for this. This key was the one of least intentionality on our part. Yet I prayed continually that our children would rise above my husband and I in every way, and I believed in the outcome. I think this is the hope of every parent. What we do with this hope makes a huge difference. We can be passive or we can be intentional in our efforts to empower our children. This begins with believing in them.
What is the fifth building block?
#5 - Instill Belief and Independence
One might argue that my title is untrue. It takes money to provide rich experiences, one-on-one instruction, books, and for at least one parent to remain in the home and out of the work force. I agree, but look again. The title does not include the word free. It only says that these are building blocks to the best education money can't buy.
In other words, parts of this education can be funded by dollars and cents, but the key elements of this education are funded with time, love, and at least one adult who is committed to doing whatever it takes to send his/her child into the big, wide world empowered to live well.
The truth is, this is a parenting life style. It does not require a commitment to home schooling. It does require a commitment to your child. It also requires determination to be the ultimate decision maker in your child's education. With intentionality and planning non- home schooling parents can utilize these keys.
Have you ever heard Dr. Ben Carson's story? If you have, then you know that he credits his success to his working mother. She implemented these building blocks without the privilege of formally home schooling. However, in my estimation, she was a bon-a-fide home educator. You can be too!
Start your child today on the best education money can't buy. Take a day trip to the closest living history village, talk together about what you are learning as you wander the site, read a related story when you are home and through the following days. All the while, model life skills and values that will empower your child . Finally, make this a lifestyle. You will be glad you did!
George Dawson's personal narrative is part history, part lessons for life, and part memories of days gone by.
In his memoir, Life Is So Good, George Dawson tells the story of his first mule purchase. He describes it this way:
"When picking a mule, a man takes his chances. But I would say that I made a pretty good choice with Joe. Even so, with any mule, you treat it right and he'll be okay . . . You got to be patient with a mule, get him to work with you instead of just working for you. I always took good care of him--rubbed him down and got him a treat, a carrot or an apple, if I could, before I stopped to sit down. At the end of the day, I would want to just stop and sit, but I never did till I took care of Joe first."
When I read Dawson’s description the thought crossed my mind that uncooperative children, all people really, would respond to Mr. Dawson’s habits for getting the best out his mules.
Habit #1 - Start with Patience
Dawson learned to be patient with his mules. Patience is defined as "the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, difficulty, or annoyance without getting angry or upset.” The opposite response is anger and annoyance. Without fail, anger and annoyance serve only to make a stressful situation worse.
In contrast, a patient response is a nurturing response. It says to ourselves and to others that it is okay to work and act at our natural pace. When we are given permission to work according to our nature and need, we are more relaxed, and in the end, more willing to produce.
Habit #2 - Follow up with Assertive Leadership
Truthfully, I knew nothing about working with mules when I read Dawson’s book, but curiosity sent me on a search for understanding. What does “get him to work with you instead of just working for you" look like? What I learned is that this translates into be an assertive leader.
Steve Edwards of Queen Valley Mule Ranch of Queen Valley, Ariz. has 30 years experience working with mules. He says, “Mules are only going to take care of themselves. If you do not have the ability to tell a mule where to go, it will tell you where to go, and it may not be where you want to go.” He has discovered that it is most often the mule handler or the tack that is the problem when a mule is difficult.
When children are uncooperative, they are taking care of themselves. If they are shown that what you want from them is in their best interest, they will begin to work with you.
It is important to:
provide a clear explanation of expectations.
allow and answer questions.
provide step by step accountability and feedback.
model and encourage a best effort.
show enthusiasm for accomplishments.
give direction and help when the child is truly stuck.
Habit # 3 - Support with Kindness and Encouragement
In the early 1900’s, Harvey Riley, a superintendent of government mules for over thirty years, wrote a book about working with mules. He believed that few animals respond to kindness better than the mule. Dawson’s kindness included loving care. When Joe was rubbed down after a work out he learned that he could count on being cared for by his handler. He was happy. His needs were being taken care of.
In the same way, children need to be cared for if we hope to receive their best. When we care for children we are responding to their needs. Unmet needs are often a trigger to uncooperative behavior. When met with resistance consider the possibility that your child needs something from you. It might be understanding. It might be encouragement. It might be a protein snack or a nap!
Habit #4 - Make it Worthwhile
Joe learned something else that went a long way to motivate cooperation and hard work. He learned that there were rewards that were valuable to him. He learned that there would be a carrot or an apple before George sat down.
In the adult world, employee productivity analysts have excavated 4 intrinsic rewards that are necessary for producing optimal work performance. An article in Ivey Business Journal lists these rewards. They are
Why should we expect children to work for us simply because we want them to, simply because we are bigger and more powerful? This comes back to unmet needs. An uncooperative child may be uncooperative because he or she needs to experience the rewards of work. What is the “carrot” that a stubborn child will value. It is not likely to be a piece of candy. Threats may work on the short term, but they lose their dazzle and, over time, become nothing more than bribes. Instead, consider factoring in the same intrinsic motivators that adult workers respond to.
Meredith Hodge of Lucky 3 Ranch says, “When treated with patience, kindness, and understanding, mules learn to trust and obey.” Isn’t this true with children as well?
Delicious! 4 Simple Ingredients!
In a previous blog post I encouraged readers to be observant of and encourage the “super powers” they see in the children they are nurturing. I included a list of 50 ways to bring out a child’s best found at the American Institute of Learning and Human Development website.
I reread the 50 ways to bring out a child’s best list again this week. I was looking for one thing in particular. It wasn’t there, but I think that it deserves a place on the list. It occurred to me earlier this week when I was eating my dinner.
You need to undersrtand -- grocery shopping is one of my least favorite chores. When we had children in the house, I shopped weekly as a discipline. Children need to be fed. However, with the shift to a totally adult household, my cupboards can get rather bare before I venture out to the grocery.
Monday evening I came home to Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. Well almost. Her cupboard was bare. Mine was sparse, lacking anything that would inspire me to cook. Nevertheless, I was hungry, so I reassessed my opitons. First, I noticed one lonely acorn squash that had been waiting patiently to be used. Then I found a partially used jar of pasta sauce and small block of cheese in the fridge. Finally, I grabbed a partially used bag of stir fry vegetables in the freezer. The end result was a tasty stuffed acorn squash that even looked appetizing. I have proof as to the aesthetics of the dish. I carried one half to work with me the next day. My co-worker said, “Ooh, that looks good!"
While I ate my dinner the old axiom “necessity is the mother of invention” marched across my memory. Necessity had fueled my creativity. The end result was a delicious, healthy dinner.
With that thought came the the 51st way we bring out a child's best. We raise children who draw on their best abilities when we require them to solve problems.
So, how do we encourage problem solving?
- Do not rush to the rescue when a child experiences everyday difficulties.
- Give sufficient time to try to work things out for themselves.
- Observe the child’s efforts and help them out a bit if they become overly frustrated.
- Set the Stage!
- Give children time to explore and experiment.
- Provide interesting materials that can be used in different ways.
- Children will do and make things of their own design when given the opportunity.
- Open-ended materials hold children’s interest for longer periods of time than toys designed to be used in one way.
- Have Confidence!
- If you are doubting their ability to think for themselves, they will doubt themselves.
- Be Enthusiastic!
- Sincere praise like “Wow! You figured that out all by yourself,” goes a long way to build a child’s confidence and willingness to risk failure.
- Pointing out the steps they took to solve their problem affirms their ability to work things out and encourages them to think about the steps they took to solve the problem.
- Model Creative Problem Solving
- We’ve all heard the axiom, “Children learn what they live.” Harness the power of your child’s confidence in you!
So, this week, be mindful of the challenges your child faces. Ask yourself:
"Am I giving my child time to solve her own problems?"
- Step back.
- Offer encouragement.
- Ask questions that activate the brain.
- Praise effort.
- Then accept the results as worthy.
Finally, if you discover this evening that your cupboard, like Old Mother Hubbard’s, is nearly bare, invite your child to make dinner with you.
My dad applies his super power to a small herd of mini Herefords.
"Will you train my mules?"
The question was a complete surprise to my 82 year old father. It came from a man he’d met only minutes before at an auction. Though Dad has had horses most of his adult life and has broken a few colts, he has never trained a mule. As far as he could figure, his qualifications were his signature cowboy hat, boots, and belt.
It isn’t any wonder this stranger saw a bon-a-fide cowboy standing there. My dad has been a cowboy at heart his entire life. During my formative years his horses were a weekend hobby while an 18 wheeler was his workday steed and the open road was his range.
To this day, weekend or weekday, Dad is not dressed until he has put on his belt, boots, and hat. On Sundays and for other dress up occasions, he adds a string tie.
Several days ago I saw a mug at a local shop. It read, “I’m a teacher. What is your super power?” Dad’s mule training invitation was fresh in my mind as I read the inscription on that mug. It occurred to me that dad’s hat, boots, and belt were a sort of super power costume. The idea that mule trainer extraordinaire was written all over my dad fascinated me.
I began to wonder. If my dad’s parents had seen this attraction and natural inclination towards the cowboy’s life in my father when he was a boy, if they had fed and nourished these seeds, would my father have followed his heart to the open range? Would he have stories to tell of the mules he has trained, the cattle he has rounded up, and the hundreds of horses he has broken? Would the cowboy life have been front and center in his life rather than a hobby?
It is too late for my dad to make a career on the open range, but it isn’t too late for each of us to study the young people in our lives for the purpose of identifying their super power and feeding the fire. It isn’t too late to create a climate of learning and growing that not only encourages but allows little cowboys to be cowboys.
In an article first published in 1993, Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., shares 50 ways parents, teachers, and adults in general can encourage children towards their unique giftedness. Twenty three years later these strategies are still relevant. The first 5 on the list are:
- Let your child discover her own interests. Pay attention to the activities she chooses. This free-time play can say a lot about where her gifts lie.
- Expose your child to a broad spectrum of experiences. They may activate latent talents. Don't assume that he isn't gifted in an area because he hasn't shown an interest.
- Give your child permission to make mistakes. If she has to do things perfectly, she'll never take the risks necessary to discover and develop a gift.
- Ask questions. Help your child open up to he wonders of the world by asking intriguing questions: Why is the sky blue? Find the answers together.
- Plan special family projects. Shared creativity can awaken and develop new talents.
Find the entire list at www.institute4learning.com/articles/50_ways.php
Aaron atop a boulder encountered as we climbed.
I Can't Do This!
I stepped into the classroom to give two students a 40 minute warning. They were taking a practice test in preparation for the high school equivalency writing exam. One student pushed her paper towards me and said, "I can't do this. I've been sitting here for 10 minutes, and I have nothing."
I encouraged her to relax and just write. I assured her that she had the skill; all she needed was the confidence. I promised that we would work together after the test to strengthen the skills necessary for success.
How Did I Do It?
Later in the day I was trudging up an incline at the farm park where I walk for exercise. The climb was minimal compared to the four mile climb I'd made several years ago, yet I felt a pull in my leg muscles and shortness of breath. I wondered at that moment how I'd ever made it to the summit of the mountain at Table Rock State Park in South Carolina.
These two events of the day were seemingly unrelated, but as I continued my hike, I began to make connections.
I Had Aaron
The day I hiked up to Table Rock, I was with our son, the athlete and adventurer. It isn't often anymore that I get to spend a whole day with him, let alone try to keep up with him physically. The reward for working hard was the friendship and challenge shared through the climb. Even more significant was the fact that Aaron is whole hearted in any quest for physical strength and stamina. He had enough belief for himself and his hiking companions. Unfortunately, his belief could not conquer the weakness of his dad's bad knee. We lost my husband halfway up the mountain, but I endured to the end. I had a compelling reason to stick with it. I also had someone physically and mentally stronger leading the way.
I realized as I was thinking through that strenuous hike that my son's role in my success was huge. When I was keeping up, he led the way. When I started lagging, he stepped behind me and let me lead. He was the invisible push I needed. Occasionally, when the path was wide enough, we climbed together. When we arrived at the summit, he high-fived me and gave me a celebratory hug. He didn't say, "You did it!" as though I was a lesser factor in the accomplishment. He said, "We did it!"
My thoughts shifted back to the morning and my student's distress during the writing test. Because I believed in her, because I wouldn't let her quit, she not only wrote the essay, she earned a satisfactory score. There is work to be done to guarantee a passing score on the official test, but this stepping stone of success was huge. She'd climbed a mountain that she would not have climbed alone. You can bet I offered her a high five, and she accepted it.
Every day, we have the opportunity to be an Aaron, to empower with the same kind of leadership that drew me up the mountain and pulled a passing score out of a discouraged student.
- believes in the one he/she is traveling with.
- leads when his/her companion is comfortably following along.
- steps back when he/she is courageous enough to take the lead.
- follows close behind.
- provides the push necessary to encourage the weaker, less experienced, or discouraged towards the goal.
- decides that the goal is attainable.
- works to arrive at the destination together.
- celebrates the accomplishment.
Whether we are parents, teachers, supervisors at work, leaders in the community, or just someone farther along the road in life or skill, there are opportunities every day to empower others. By traveling with another, rather than charging on ahead or pushing from a place of superiority, we take others with us to the summit.
At the summit of our mountain climb, we caught our breath as we took in the beauty of the created world. Our world tipped towards perfection.
In the same way, each time we choose to lead like Aaron we tip our world a tiny bit closer towards heaven.
It was not difficult to spot my niece's love for the animal kingdom. Fortunate for her, both granddads own hobby farms. Her parents make regular visits to "fuel the fire".
"It is the learners who will inherit the future; the 'so-called learned,' who think they 'know it all' will find themselves frustrated by a world that has passed them by."
This quote from Eric Jensen in his book Super Teaching fascinates me. It also validates my mission: to lead through learning for hopeful tomorrows.
Our world is changing at breakneck speed. How do we cope with the change?
I believe that those who are not encouraged to embrace life-long learning will be left behind. Psychologically, this position, being the last in the pack, will leave the "unlearners" without hope for a better future.
The Gift of Learning
Charlene Costanzo shares a quote from Gary Zukav in the introductory pages of her children's book The Twelve Gifts of Birth. The quote reads: "Each soul comes to earth with gifts." We each have a set of gifts that we are born with. Some of these gifts are unique to us. Others we share. One gift we have all be given is a capacity and desire to learn.
Consider everything a newborn learns during her first year of life. She does not cognitively understand it, but she is driven by curiosity and determined to move from dependence to independence. She uses every resource available to her because there is something in it for her. She isn't learning to crawl, stand, and walk in order just to please her parents. She wants to move by herself. She isn't learning to talk to make "mama" happy. Granted, her mother's delight reinforces the learning, but the child is experimenting with sound because she wants to be heard and understood.
Intrinsic motivation -- this is how we encourage learning.
The best place to start is with ourselves. We model learning. If you are a learner, kudos to you! Lead on! If the desire to learn was beaten out of you by negative experiences, then feed it, and it will grow. Feed it by directing your learning towards your needs, interests, and dreams. As you learn to do this for yourself, your child will take notice.
Lead through learning by:
When you see your child's eyes light up with interest, it is time to act.
Feed the desire to learn in your child:
sign him up for a class
take him to the learning centers related to his interest: the zoo, the planetarium, a nature center, a business that offers tours, a living history museum, etc.
buy or borrow books related to his interest
buy tools that enables him to experiment: paint brushes, an ant farm, erector sets, a robotics kit
give him your casts offs to create with
Providing these resources is especially important if his interests do not match yours. Too many parents lead their child right into their own passion without considering whether this is the direction their child is inclined to go. Sometimes parents inadvertently steer children away from a passion with their lack of awareness or disinterest. Work on awareness, then share your child's passion with him! The point is, you grow a learner by fueling his need to learn, not your need for him to learn, and certainly not the local school district's need for him to learn.
Sometimes finding a child's passion can be a hit and miss proposition. When our boys were young our oldest son carried his toy tool box around with him as if it were attached to him. Several years later, when both boys could manage a hammer, I decided to involve them in constructing a set of bookcases. Both boys had fun, but in the end, the younger of the two became the hands-on creator while Josh, the toolbox welding toddler, grew to love creating with words. Fortunately, I value reading and writing, so his passion was well fed. In the end, both of our sons, as well as their younger sister, who toddled around the bookcase construction site, became avid, life-long learners
If our children are the rule, there is a guarantee that comes with all this modeled and shared learning. Before you know it, your little learner will be leading the pack. He or she will be the one that is calling back to others,
"Come on, excitement and hope are out here in this world of discovery and learning!"
Repetition and drill increase learning. Experiment with new and fresh ways to review and drill.
By default, parents are teachers. Many teachers are parents. If you are one, or the other, or both, this list is for you.
Smart Questions for Smart Teachers
Ask these 8 questions when you set out to win the attention of your child or student(s) for the purpose of teaching a lesson. Answering these questions prior to beginning a lesson will set the stage for willing and active learners.
Question 1: Who is this about?
If it is about you, you have already lost the right to teach. I've heard it said, "Students do not care how much you know until they know how much you care."
Question 2: What do I know about my child or student that I should take into account?
Consider your child's / student's age, personality, talents, abilities, interests, and needs before plowing forward. Strategically matching varied methods to your learner's "thumbprint" goes a long way to encourage a willingness to learn.
Question 3: How do I create a safe environment?
You would not follow someone who you do not trust. Likewise, your child or student will not follow you if he or she fears ridicule, shame, or criticism.
Question 4: How can I encourage my child / student to think for him/herself?
Be careful to allow time and opportunity for questions. Do not criticize confusion. Urge your child / student to be accurate, to check to see if something is true by checking the facts. Guide them into discussions that link related and meaningful information. Help them to make connections, draw conclusions and question their assumptions. Model fairness, considering others when drawing conclusions.
Question 5: How can I establish need?
We are willing learners when we know that we need what is being offered. Children are no different. They need to have an understanding of why it is important to learn the lesson you are teaching.
Question 6: How can I repeat what is important in new and fresh ways?
Repetition and drill increase learning, but not if the learner shuts down out of boredom. Experiment with delivery.
Question 7: Am I prepared to be concise with my words and ask open-ended questions that do not have right or wrong answers?
Talking too much causes students to tune out and lose focus. It smothers attentiveness and interest. Asking questions invites students into the lesson.
Question 8: Am I ready to listen?
Value the answers that your child / students offer. The willingness to answer will be snuffed out if the student believes that his/her opinion or ideas will be discounted or corrected.
Parents and teachers who ask and answer these questions before delving into a lesson will not only set the stage for learning, but there will also be a wonderful side effect. These smart parents / teachers will be training their children / students to think critically. The end result is that these learners will be strong problem solvers and decision makers because they will have been given the tools to think for themselves and an appreciation for learning.
Enlist music to help teach the facts and there will be no more math facts blues!
"The Blues", a poem by Billy Collins was featured on NPR's Writer's Almanac a few weeks ago. Collins suggests in his poem that people will not listen to your pain unless you sing it in a song. I was amused by the poem in spite of the fact that I do not fully ascribe to the message. I do not believe that you are high and dry if you can not sing your pain. Story is powerful whether or not you put it to music. We can find sympathetic ears for our painful stories.
However, pain was not my focus as I mused over the words of The Blues. Instead, I was remembering when my children were in their early school years, and they were tackling the memorization of math facts. Math fact songs became my friend. I didn't know why they helped our children learn the facts. I only knew that the facts were being memorized. That was good enough for me.
Collin's poem ignited my curiosity and I did a little research. I discovered Henry L. Roediger III, a professor of psychology at the Memory Lab at Washington University in St. Louis. Roediger has an explanation for why songs easily stick with us. He explains that the hippocampus and the frontal cortex are two areas in the brain associated with memory. They process a tremendous amount of information throughout the day.
Getting this information into the hippocampus and the frontal cortex is the easy part. What is difficult is retrieving the data. He says that music acts as a cue, but it is not the tune that is important. It is the structure of the music, the rhythm, the rhyme, and the alliteration. All that structure is the key to unlocking information.
Just as Collins poem suggests that music will unlock the listeners sympathy, Roediger's research indicates that structure attached to something we have learned is the key to retrieving it. This is explanation enough for me.
Memorizing math facts is just plain hard.
- Firstly, math facts are not particularly fun for the average child.
- Secondly, few children can grasp the future rewards.
We know that as students progress into higher levels of math in school, memorized facts are a boon.
They are content with being first and second graders.
We also know that as adults quick retrieval of the math facts is invaluable for the mental calculations we make as we are working at home and in the marketplace.
They can not see beyond the relevancy of today.
- Thirdly, many of the tips and tricks used to assist in the memorization of the facts are dependent on the child's grasp of numbers. Some children in the early grades are still trying to grasp the concept of numbers.
Utilizing music to memorize math facts is clearly a good idea. It has been proven by experience and is supported by brain science. However, for fun and to make one last plea, I did a rewrite of Collin's poem:
The Math Fact Blues
Much of what is said here
must be said twice,
a reminder that few children
take an immediate interest in memorizin' math facts.
Few children will listen, it would seem,
if you simply recite
2 + 2 is 4 and 4 + 4 is eight
or 2 x 3 is 6 and 3 x 3 is nine.
But if you sing it to them
with the help of the band
which will now lift you to a pleasant,
more ardent and inviting key,
children will not only listen;
they will shift to the excited
edges of their chairs,
moved to such acute anticipation
by that chord and the delay that follows,
they will not be able to resist
unless you release with one finger
a scream from the throat of your guitar
and turn your head back to the microphone
to let them know
that 12 divided by 4 is 3
and twelve added to twelve is twenty-four.
(Thank you Billy Collins for the framework for this poem!)
Are you ready to start singing?
Math Fact Music Resources
Sing 'N Learn - Resources are not limited to math fact.
Amazon - Many of these listings have samples that you can listen to. Matching your child's tastes to the music you choose may be beneficial.
You can learn more from "Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning," written by Roediger, Brown, and McDaniel.
Have you ever heard your child say these words?
"I'm not smart."
Have you ever said these words about yourself?
If so, your thinking is wrong. Brain experts are debunking the idea that our learning is limited by a static intelligence. They are shouting a new message. Their message is:
Intelligence can be developed.
The brain is pliable or amenable. In other words, it is open and responsive to suggestion; easily persuaded or controlled.
Doing challenging work is the best way to make the brain stronger and smarter.
How would you live differently if you knew that how you use your brain, not the raw materials you were given at birth, is the deciding factor for how smart you are?
How would you educate your children differently?
A December 2014 article in the Huffington Post features an interesting list, 5 ways to capture an "Aha" moment.
The Five "Aha" Snatchers:
- Be curious
- Let your mind wander.
- Pay attention to coincidences.
- Look closely at contradictions.
- Act on your insights.
These are permissions or habits that encourage our brain to tap into its full potential.
A great place to start to educate yourself and your children about our wonderful brain is at "Neuroscience for Kids". This site was created and maintained by Eric H. Chudler, Ph.D. Eric is a neuroscientist (Research Associate Professor) and Executive Director of the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering in Seattle, Washington.
Another resource available to parents and teachers is the Growth Mindset Lesson Plan created by Kahn Academy and PERTS, Stanford University’s applied research center. This lesson plan was created in order to provide a few activities to introduce students to the concept that intelligence can be developed.
What better gift might a parent or teacher give students at the beginning of a new school year than the motivation to learn and the belief that he/she can!
There is a Chinese proverb that says, "Learning is a treasure that follows its owner everywhere." It is a treasure that is free for the taking. All that we need to do, all that our children need to do, is accept the challenge.
This school year let's take the challenge to do the work that enables us to truthfully say, "I am getting smarter every day."
By the way, the next time you hear someone say, "I'm not smart," share the good news that they can be smarter. All it takes is some good old-fashioned hard work!
The daisy's in this puzzle were few and uniquely shaped. Choosing one of these pieces gave me a quick start.
The Quiet Ones
Nathalie Lussier is a digital strategist. After she mastered online marketing, she began training others to do the same. Because I am always looking for better ways to market myself to potential clients through my website, I try to learn from the "masters". This quest to learn led me to Nathalie's website. A pop-up that appeared during my visit to the site endeared me to her. The message was an invitation to the quiet ones, the misfits, the dreamers, those who have something to say but aren't all that interested in making noise. This description resonated with me.
I am one of the quiet ones. I raised a quiet one. There was at least one very quiet one in every class I ever taught. It isn't surprising that I was intrigued by Nathalie's invitation.
At any rate, Nathalie's call to those who are bright, articulate, creative, but quiet and sometimes a misfit was chasing around in my mind as I was driving to a tutoring client's home for an early morning session. The word misfit was front and center in my thoughts. I suppose that we have all felt like misfits from time to time, but there are clearly those who feel it more intensely.
In Every School
The quiet ones can be found in every school.
You see him as he wanders through the school day with barely a word spoken, yet when he picks up a paintbrush, he outshines every child in the class. You find her sitting under a tree with a book, content to share her recess with playmates on a page, but the next day the teacher is entertained by a short story she wrote "just for fun". You visit your child's classroom and sit down beside the quietest child, the one that seems to hide behind his own shadow. You strike up a conversation with him and are amazed by what he knows about the solar system. Maybe one of these descriptions comes close to describing your child. If this is true, read on and be encouraged.
The MisFit Puzzle Piece
As I rolled the word misfit around in my thoughts, I was reminded of a strategy for putting together puzzles. You look for a uniquely shaped or colored piece, and then you build from that piece. It is easy to find the pieces that surround it because its tabs, edges, or colors are distinct. Once you've added the next few pieces, the picture begins to form and you are on your way to a completed puzzle.
I believe that we, the quiet ones, are like that unique puzzle piece.. We don't shout-out, "Hey, look at me. Look at what I can do. Listen to what I know. Hear what I have to say." However, if taken notice of, if given a chance, the quiet ones are often that piece of the puzzle that is uniquely designed to pull people together. They might put into words a message that starts a movement. They might write a song that touches a million hearts. They might paint a picture that inspires a nation. Maybe, like Nathalie, they gracefully lead others into successful businesses.
The quiet ones are often that piece of the puzzle that is uniquely designed to pull people together. -- LuAnn Graber
So hats off to the quiet ones, the bookworms, the dreamers, the misfits, the ones who have no need to be up front and center. They may be more crucial to the moving and the shaking going on in this world than any of us imagine! But they can only be their amazing selves if they are encouraged and empowered. They can just as easily shut down. When they do, the world loses out.
What can a parent or teacher do to empower the quiet ones?
Shine a positive light on your child's quiet, introspective nature. One way that you can do this is by introducing your child to quiet people who are making a big impact on the world.
Recognize and commend your child for the effort he/she puts forth when in social situations. Acknowledge that you recognize it is hard work and that you are proud of his/her courage.
Involve them with others by giving them jobs to do that focus in on their giftedness. Be alert to signs of overload.
Help your child identify successes and celebrate with him/her.
Help your child to initiate contact with other children.
Be alert to the hobbies and activities that your child is drawn to and give them every opportunity to shine. Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson once said: "The way you overcome shyness is to become so wrapped up in something that you forget to be afraid."
Engage your child in conversation. Listen -- really listen to what he/she has to say. Be mindful to invite your child to share in group conversations, but respect his/her choice to remain silent. When he/she does share, praise him/her when you have a private moment.
Susan Cain wrote in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking,
“We often marvel at how introverted, geeky, kids 'blossom' into secure and happy adults. We liken it to a metamorphosis. However, maybe it's not the children who change but their environments. As adults, they get to select the careers, spouses, and social circles that suit them. They don't have to live in whatever culture they're plunked into.”
Why should these children wait? Mindful parents and teachers can create micro cultures in their families and classrooms that empower the quiet ones for a lifetime of security and happiness.
Note: Check out Ravensburger Puzzles for quality puzzles for all ages.
The book my mother read from that captured my imagination and introduced me to "Hiding"
In 2012, the Stanford University d.school and its Environments Collaborative Initiative published Make Space. This book is a tool for helping people intentionally manipulate space to ignite creativity. I happened across an introduction to the book as I was searching for research that I might share with my clients – research that encourages parents and teachers to give children more time for:
and free exploration.
I ended up at Make Space: The Book. One particular link on the site caught my eye: The Hiding Place.
It led me to a two-page spread from Make Space. I learned what a hiding place in the work environment is and why researchers/innovators at the d.school believe that we need them.
Why do we need hiding places?
Hiding places offer a crucial respite from an open, collaborative environment. The more extroverted the work space, the more you need these spots of passive, dark yin amid the swaths of hyperactive, brightly lit yang.
Clearly, the folks at the d.school are addressing institutional space needs, but I wonder. Does their research translate to family spaces? Also, would it support a jump to arguing for guarding against filling our children's lives up to overflowing with structured, organized, supervised activity?
Do our children need more time to hide?
If a parent or teacher were to provide a hiding place, what might it look like? At the d.school, they created a space they call “Booth Noir” as a response to the need for a place to get away. Deconstructing Booth Noir revealed critical characteristics of any good hiding place.
The Characteristics of a Good Hiding Place
It’s different and it offers a needed break.
It’s immovable. There are no decisions to be made, nothing to arrange but your own posture.
It’s beyond low-tech—it’s no tech.
It’s tiny, encouraging feelings of coziness & security.
It’s dark, yet warm.
It smells good.
It requires a ritual to enter.
Does this remind you of something from your childhood? If you were like many small children, two chairs, a comforter, and a flashlight were all you needed for a hiding place. Could it be that little children know intuitively where to go to find calm and to get the creative juices flowing?
When I was young, my mother read to us from a child's poetry book entitled For a Child: Great Poems Old and New. One of my favorite poems, penned by Dorothy Keeley Aldis, was about hiding. The poem begins, “I'm hiding, I'm hiding, and no one knows where . . ." My siblings and I begged over and over again to hear this poem. We liked the poem because we were children and we could relate to the delight of hiding.
Children like to hide. Sometimes they need to hide!
The d.school's project was to help people intentionally manipulate space in the workplace to ignite creativity. Their belief is that we do this by making space. It stands to reason that if space ignites creativity in adults, our children would also benefit from space for creativity.
I am more convinced than ever that we must give our children time to play, to dream, to explore, and even to hide!
Note: "Hiding", the poem I referred to earlier can be found in Elizabeth Hauge Swords' A Child's Anthology of Poetry.
A bucket full of "kid's meal" toys gave this sweet girl an acceptable activity to enjoy while mom enjoyed a grown ups party at our home.
"Miss LuAnn, am I being good?”
One of my young clients asked me this question multiple times during a recent tutoring session.
Each time I responded, “I don't need you to be good, Sweetie. I need you to pay attention and do your best work.”
Have you ever thought about it? What does it mean to be good?
The adult who asks a child to be good may know exactly what is expected. The child, on the other hand, has only a vague idea at best. Telling a child to be good could be compared to telling you or I to build the Taj-Mahal. I might be able to draw the structure if I had a picture, but I would have no idea how it was built. If I could start building it, I would never be able to complete it without instruction and help. “Being good” is no less daunting, especially to children who are still learning to self-regulate.
There are three basic problems with the mandate to “be good”.
- It is an ineffective way to communicate what it is you want from your child.
- Being good is an unrealistic expectation. The very adults who are telling children to be good are not good all the time.
- Highly sensitive and compliant children can carry “be good” into adulthood as a never ending impossibility. They have internalized the mandate to “be good”. Without a standard that matches their unique physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual makeup, it is a message that it is impossible to measure up to. I know, I've been there.
So what is the alternative?
Four Alternatives to Asking Your Child to “Be Good”
- Use specific language to describe expectations.
- Role play expectations.
- Keep the child's energy directed towards activities and tasks that are meaningful and engaging.
- Provide a variety of acceptable behaviors for the given circumstance.
There is a story in the Bible that talks about being good. Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up to Him and asked him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus responded with a question. "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God. Then Jesus proceeded to remind the man of the commandments he'd been taught to obey as a child. Jesus understood the impossibility of being good. At the same time, he did not let the man off the hook. He implied that it is possible to be obedient and obedience, not goodness, would be the man's ticket to life.
This story illustrates a principle we can use as parents and teachers:
Offer children acceptable behaviors rather than vague expectations that leave them wondering, “Am I being good?”
Stacy Wiles, mother, teacher, and photographer, shooting my daughter's senior pictures
A long time ago a friend said to me, “You were born to be a mother or a missionary.”
I chose the path marked mother.
Yesterday, I remembered my friends words. It occurred to me that without realizing it, I had proved my friend wrong. This was not either/or. It was both/and. I chose to be a mother, but I there was room in my life for developing and utilizing the gifts that my friend identified as missionary material. Now, that my children are grown, I have more time and opportunity to focus on being a missionary.
Those many years ago, I thought of a missionary as someone who travels halfway around the world to share my faith. Over time, I came to see the possibilities in a much broader scope.
One definition the dictionary gives for missionary reads: prompted by the desire to persuade or convert others. By that definition, I am a missionary. I am on a mission to persuade others to grab hold of hope.
- There is hope for students struggling in school.
- There is hope for adults working to earn a high school equivalency diploma.
- There is hope for women who have forgotten how to dream.
- There is hope for those who desire a healthier life.
- There is hope for the children our family sponsors through Compassion International.
Yes, I am both a mother and a missionary, but both/and is not my special privilege. You too can be and do more of what you are gifted to be and do. For some, it might be best to segue from one thing to another. For others, it might be just as feasible to meld your gifts in such a way that you are living both/and simultaneously.
Try this little exercise:
Fill in the blanks to the following statement.
I was born to be a ________ or a _________.
Now rewrite it:
I was born to be both a __________ and a _________.
Next brainstorm what both/and might look like for you. Stacy Wiles, a colleague from my Ohio Virtual Academy days, is a wonderful example of living both/and. At the time that she shot our daughter's senior pictures, she was both a photographer and a teacher, as well as a mother. Examples of her amazing work can be seen at Wiles Photography
Stacy is a great model for demonstrating that the gifts and talents within us need not be forfeited. We may not be able to do it all at the same time, but at some time and in some way, if we are willing, all of the birth gifts we've been given can be shared.
The wonderful thing is that as we are developing and utilizing our birth gifts, our children are watching, and they are learning to do the same.
History and literature kept Josh engaged in learning when math got boring.
Tutoring K-8 students comes with unique challenges. Many times the students I serve are falling behind in their school work. Sometimes the student simply needs help with an individual skill or deficit in foundational skills that can be easily addressed.
However, more times than not, I am sought out by parents whose children are behind due to a learning disability. These are the challenging ones. They are often quite bright, but their learning style or disability is masking their potential.
I've been working with one such student for some time. Only recently, I noticed a particular behavior that had me puzzled. I suspected boredom. We'd been working on foundational reading skills that were holding her back from realizing grade level reading fluency. She wanted to move on to "harder" things.
I went searching for help and found an interesting article on boredom in the ranks of the twice exceptional -- highly creative and intelligent students with learning disabilities.
"Many twice-exceptional kids are able to get through years of school before hitting a point where their giftedness no longer enables them to compensate for their disabilities. Especially when many things have come very easily to a child for a long time, it can be hard for her to accept it when things are intrinsically boring but necessary. It can also be hard for her to recognize it when the work is actually too hard, or when she does not have the necessary self-regulatory skills. Complaints of "boring" should not be met with the automatic assumption that you're in situation Number 1 - the work is too easy. Most likely, there are learning opportunities to be explored."
I was reminded of our on twice exceptional child. Our oldest son was tested for giftedness during his middle school career. Though he did not meet all of the criteria to qualify for a bona fide gifted program, he did qualify for advanced math placement. His teacher, Dr. Coddle recognized his need for a broader spectrum of challenges. He also recognized something else. He recognized the potential for future failure. Because so much learning came so easy, Dr. Coddle made a prediction: He said, "There is going to come a day when this child's ability to sail through by the seat of his pants will let him down."
Dr. Coddle was right. One day Josh was sitting in our kitchen working on a college math course. All of a sudden the book sailed across the room and crashed to the floor. He had met a level of math he couldn't easily master and he had not developed the skills necessary to meet the challenge. He lost interest in math, or maybe he never enjoyed math enough to go for the gold. He passed the course but not with his usual high scores. He got bored with it because it was too hard.
All was not lost. Josh found the discipline he is willing to work hard at. Words are his thing. This fall he will begin working towards a master's of fine arts in creative writing. Additionally, he has already earned the right to identify as a published author.
Remembering our son's journey encouraged me to look for ways to keep my young client engaged and moving forward. She and I may face more boredom due to the hard stuff, but we can overcome it. If you have a twice exceptional child that is bored, be encouraged. You too can overcome! Look for his or her gifts and nurture them, and believe! The challenges he or she face today need not rule his or her life!
a couple of young "movers" getting their daily dose of forest bathing
We've probably all heard or used the parent's prescription for bad or bored behavior: "Go outside and play." Little did we know when we heard or said it that outdoor exercise truly is good medicine.
I recently read an article by Bill Sears, M.D., author of over 42 books on family health, including "The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood," and online at http://www.askdrsears.com/.
According to Dr. Sears, neuroscientists have discovered a myriad of health effects that are derived from a simple walk in nature. In fact, Japanese neuroscientists refer to this medicine for growing healthy bodies and brains as "forest bathing".
The benefits include: decreased heart rate, more relaxed blood pressure, increased happy hormones, decreased stress hormones, mellower moods, stronger immune systems, and fewer fearful thoughts
Other neuroscientists have dubbed outdoor exercise as "visual vitamin". The phrase "pleasing to the eye" applies to the brain as well, as the eye is an extension of the brain. When the eye is connected to nature "eye feel good!"
Dr. Sears offered an extensive explanation. In summary, the brisk movement causes blood to flow over the surface of your endothelium, a layer of cells lining the interior surface of blood vessels and your bodies largest endocrine organ. Each cell of the endothelium is its own organ, filled with microscopic medicine bottles that release health promoting substances into the bloodstream at just the right time, in just the right amount, with no harmful effects. This fast moving blood creates an energy field that releases nitric oxide. This nitric oxide acts as a key to open your pharmacy and dispense the medicine you need. It is free medicine just for the taking!
Dr. Sears described a study of ADD boys. The boys were divided into two groups - the movers and the sitters. The movers were prescribed vigorous exercise. The sitters were given no such prescription. The results were not a surprise to me. I would expect that they will not be a surprise to you. The movers showed remarkable improvement in the traits common to boys diagnosed with ADD, especially their ability to sit still and focus.
The sitters, on the other hand, showed no such improvement.
I had to laugh at Dr. Sears final decree. Schools would do well to consider a new mantra: no child left (on their) behind. However, school is out for the summer. It is our turn to ensure that no child in our care is left on their behind!
a fairy crown for your princess
School is fast coming to a close, but there is no need for the learning to stop. Exploring a nearby nature preserve or park is a great way to expand your child's mind, and May is a lovely month to get started. All manner of flora and fauna are gracing fields and forests.
When you go, take along a camera and/or a journal. Add a few colored pencils to your backpack. You might take along a tree, flower, and/or bird identification guide as well. Although, your smartphone might be far more useful.
Encourage your child to photograph or draw everything that catches his or her fancy. He or she can make notes about the time of year, location, and any other interesting observations. Children who enjoy words might even enjoy writing a poem about something particular that they have drawn or the hike as a whole.
As an extra bonus, take along a few twisty ties, and you will have everything you need to make your little princesses a fairy crown. Clover and wild daisies are prolific in mid-May. Their stems are pliable and can be used to weave a flower garland.
What are the benefits of this outdoor classroom?
First of all, it is a fun way to learn.
Secondly, you are making memories.
Thirdly, you are getting enjoyable exercise and fueling your children's innate sense of wonder while your own sense of wonder is renewed.
Also, you may spark in your child an interest in the great outdoors that will deliver delight for a lifetime.
However, I have a story to tell that will tug at your heart strings and illustrate the greatest benefit of all.
A year ago we opened our home to a college student who needed a place to stay for several weeks. I came home one day from my walk at Harlinsdale Farm Park (http://www.franklin-gov.com/government/parks/facilities-and-parks/park-locations-maps/park-locations/the-park-at-harlinsdale-farm) with a flower crown in my hand. When I handed the flower crown to the young woman, her eyes lit up.
"How did you make it?" she asked.
I told her to bring me some flowers, and I would show her. She wasted no time. Later that day she came into the kitchen with a hand full of daisies and clover. I demonstrated the braiding process. She quickly caught on. Within minutes, she'd finished her first crown. I witnessed the making of more crowns during that two-week visit. Several days before her departure, she shared something that broke my heart.
She said, "You can not imagine what this stay in your home has meant for me. The smell of dinner cooking as I walk down the stairs, the heart-to-heart talks, the flower crown, my mom never did these things. You've shown me what a mom can be!"
The greatest benefit: these moments together exploring our world and creating memories prepare your children's hearts to be creative, loving, wonder-filled adults.
Are you ready? It's time to grab the gear and head out to the park!
http://www.howcast.com/videos/166638-how-to-make-a-daisy-chain/ (This method uses a slit in the stem. I use a braiding method.) Send me your email through my contact page with the following request: Free Daisy Chain Instructions.
All school age children experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Research shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of summer vacation.
On average, students lose approximately 2.6 months of grade-level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Studies reveal that the greatest areas of summer loss for all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, are in factual or procedural knowledge.
Educators refer to this as the "summer slide".
There is much that parents can do to protect their children from these learning losses. There are library sponsored summer reading programs to participate in. There are science, art, and history museums to visit. There are many wonderful websites available that offer learning opportunities.
But what do working parents do? How can they support their children? How do parents who can be at home with their children stay the course with good intentions to keep their children growing academically through the summer?
These are the questions I was asking myself several weeks ago as I was thinking about the end of the school year drawing near. I began to formulate a home based summer program that combines online learning programs with teacher direction and support for maintaining and potentially gaining academic ground.
Click on the contact tab and submit your email for more information.
Go to ATND's contact page to request your free PDF copy of the Anxiety Emergency Plan.
Have you ever been driving along, and a shadow creeps across your peripheral vision tricking your brain into registering a physical presence - another vehicle or a person? You go for the brake; then you realize there is nothing there.
Maybe you have been out hiking when you round a bend, and a ragged tree stump masquerades as a ne'er-do-well sending you into the adrenaline rush that comes with fear. Once you realize that the threat is perceived and not real, your heart slows down to normal, and you laugh at the silliness of running from a tree stump.
Consider your school age children. Many of them are in the middle of or heading into state achievement testing. Imagine you son or daughter sailing along through the test when suddenly there appears a question that looks unfamiliar. It may be something they have learned. However, it is presented in a somewhat new format. It may be a concept or skill they know, but they draw a blank. They experience the same response to fear as you did on the road or in the woods to a perceived threat. Some children freeze, and the test instantaneously triples in difficulty.
You can not sit beside your child and offer reassurance. It would be impossible to prep your child with every possible question that may appear on the test. Homeschooling enables your child to avoid state achievement tests, but you aren't ready to take that step. What can you do? Try preparing your student before the test. Teach him or her how to rebound from difficult problems.
First, and foremost, explain to your child that state tests are not the measure of a person's ability to succeed in life. Introduce them to some of the world's greatest contributors who achieved miserably in the classroom. Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Disney, Steven Spielberg are a few just
Secondly, make sure that your child understands that your only expectation is that he or she puts forth his/her best effort. If you do not stress about testing, they are far less likely to do so.
Thirdly, help your child create a test-anxiety emergency plan that includes these 5 steps:
- I will think: "Test anxiety is normal. I will not fight against it."
- I will take a deep breath. I will inhale deeply to the count of five, then I will exhale slowly.
- I will make a fist and squeeze tight, then I will relax my fist. I will imagine my whole body relaxing.
- I will read the problem again, if the solution comes immediately I will answer it. If not, I will move on to Step 5.
- I will move on to questions I can answer. If there is time, I will come back to this problem and any other difficult ones.
Fourth, practice the anxiety emergency plan. Put challenges that have the potential to cause your child a measure of anxiety in front of them. Then, walk your child through the emergency plan. Do this on a regular basis. Your goal may be to prepare your son or daughter for standardized test day, but in the end, he or she is learning how to handle life!
my handsome sons and their beautiful wives
Do you believe it? Is there truly no going back?
Two words stand out as vehicles by which people try to travel back, nostalgia and regret.
Nostalgia is defined as a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. Yes, we can go back and revisit happy times, but we can not stay there. Times change. Places change. People change. Possibilities change.
Regret is a completely different story. One dictionary definition for regret is as follows: to feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity. Regret cripples even more than nostalgia. We can sit with our regrets, but we will find ourselves exceedingly uphappy - guaranteed.
When I was a little girl of nine or ten I liked going to my grandparent's house. My dad had teenage sisters still living at home. They were a mystery to me. I heard music coming from their rooms that my parents did not play at home. It is in their rooms that I heard the melodies of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young for the first time. I liked it. Whenever I hear CSNY music I am transported to a my childhood. Their song, Teach Your Children Well, was a favorite.
Lyrics to: Teach Your Children Well: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/crosbystillsnash/teachyourchildren.html
As a child I liked the harmonies and the instrumentation. I didn't think much about the words, but as I listen today, I recognize the call to choose forward motion, for yourself and your children by offering grace and keeping perspective:
You, who are on the road must have a code that you can live by.
And so become yourself because the past is just a good bye.
Dear parents, teach your children that in life there is no going back. First of all, there is no possibility of backward motion until we've moved . Once we've moved we have three healthy choices: continue on the path we've chosen, choose a new path, or recalibrate and push forward on the path from which we've come towards something new. Attempting to go back is emotional suicide.
Moms and dads, we teach our children that there is no going back by focusing on the big picture - for ourselves and for our children. I do not preach this as a master but as a learner - a slow learner. My children are grown. I can only give them this gift moving forward, but you whose children are still young, you have such a great opportunity. Grab hold and don't look back!
Do you want to learn more? Check out Raising Your Children With No Regrets: 7 Principles of an Intentional Mother by Catherine Hickem: http://www.amazon.com/Raising-Your-Children-With-No-Regrets/dp/1579218881
a reminder to look for the treasure inside each person
Yesterday I went to the mailbox. There were four pieces of mail. Three were placed in the wrong box. They belonged to my neighbor. I put them in her box. The fourth was addressed to "The Family at (our address)". It was obviously junk mail.
I have the habit of ripping junk mail in two before tossing it into the waste basket, and so rip away I did. As I tossed the torn pieces into the trash, my eyes fell on what looked like a torn dollar bill. I reached back in to investigate. Indeed, there was not one, but two brand new, one dollar bills in the middle of the recently shredded letter. Had I misread? I retrieved the torn pieces of mail and put them back together. Was it another letter that was meant for my neighbor? No, it was addressed generically, to the family living at our address. A quick glance told me that the sender was paying in advance for the completion of a survey. I was on the way out the door to a tutoring appointment, so I set the torn mess on my desk. I would look more closely at it later. Later has not yet come.
However, whatever the original purpose of that letter, it has offered me something more. It has given me a word picture. My quick judgment of the value of the letter based on the address is very similar to the quick judgments we make every day as we meet people on the street, in the market place, at work, and at school, even at church. We decide whether the person is worth getting to know based only on what we can see. Often we toss the possibility of a friendship away as blindly as I tossed those dollar bills. Yet, if we would just take the time to open the individual up with questions that demonstrate a sincere interest, what might we discover - a delightful sense of humor, a common interest, a shared passion, maybe a gift or skill that we might fan into flame?
The torn dollar bills were a complete surprise. . . a delightful moment in my day, not for their monetary value but for the reminder to look for the treasure inside each person I've been given the opportunity to meet.
Participation in athletics develops healthy "push back" in children and teenagers.
Pull out a DVD copy of the 2012 film version of Les Miserables http://www.lesmis.com/, and you will see the following four words.
Fight. Dream. Hope. Love.
Les Miserables is a story of resistance:
against that which keeps an individual from experiencing his best life.
It is a story of standing up against and breaking free from beliefs that confine us in prisons without bars.
The backdrop of the story is that of the French Revolution (1789 -1799), a period of radical social and political upheaval in France. The revolution profoundly affected all of modern history, marking the decline of powerful monarchies and churches. The rise of democracy and nationalism came on the tails of the French Revolution. Though the revolution failed to achieve all of its goals and at times degenerated into a chaotic bloodbath, the movement played a critical role in shaping modern nations by showing the world the power inherent in the will of the people. Step into the excitement and chaos of the French Revolution as told by musician and artist Jeffrey Lewis by visiting http://www.history.com/topics/french-revolution . But come back because this message is important.
While the resistance of the revolution is important to the overall story, it is simply pointing to the real story of resistance; a story found in the intertwining lives of its characters. Jean Valjean, the primary protagonist, steps up to care for Cosette after the death of her mother. He chooses caring for others, even when it means risking his own life and welfare. He resists the safety of self preservation for love.
His resistance represents hope for tiny Cosette. Prior to her new life with Jean Valjean, Cosette, was under the tyrannical care of inn-keepers, Monsieur and Madame Th?nardiers. She resisted their brutal and abusive treatment, never adopting their cruel views. She held fast to decency and goodness. Further into the story, she must draw on the power to resist Valjean's stifling protection, a difficult choice due to his deep love for her. This resistance is feuled by her growing fondness for Marius Pontmercy.
Marius, Cosette's suitor, finds himself caught between two ideologies, those of his politically conservative grandfather, the man who raised him, and his father, the revolutionary. He must resist both in order to find his own way. Marius begins to truly develop only when he leaves his grandfather's house, finding himself and finding love.
A Google search http://tiny.cc/9tdvjx offers the following definitions for resistance:
1. the refusal to accept or comply with something; the attempt to prevent something by action or argument.
2. the ability not to be affected by something, especially adversely.
To the point, resistance is a refusal to accept the status quo.
My thoughts were drawn to this band of resisters several days ago. It was early morning. My mind and body had risen up in rebellion to a habit I established over nine months ago, a habit of 10,000 steps a day. I was tired. I hadn't slept well. The old habit of exercise avoidance recognized my weakness and stepped up in resistance. I knew that the only way to win was to push back. Resistance against resistance was the name of the game. I was determined to win, and I did. I headed out for my walk.
As I thought about my push back against the morning's resistance, as well as the collective experience of the characters in Les Miserables, I decided that it was time for me to work on a new habit - the habit of resistance. The decision was sealed as I journeyed back in time. I realized that the greatest growth in my life has come when I have chosen to resist, when I have fought, passion against apathy, courage against fear, determination against defeat, belief against doubt.
When it comes to resistance, fear is the hardest for me to push back against. This has been true through too many of my adult years and certainly through much of my child rearing years. It is a well known fact that children learn what they live. How did I not realize when our children were small what a powerful gift I could give them by purposefully modeling resistance of a passionate kind, especially internal resistance, as an opportunity to rise rather than bow? Thankfully, our children have grown to be very strong, independent young adults. By default, they have chosen to be resisters. Even so, intentionally teaching the power of resistance would have resulted in a very powerful gift.
As parents we train our children to be obedient, and rightly so, but the writer of Ecclesiastes understands that there is a balance to life, a time for everything:
- There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.
- a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
- a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
- a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
- a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
- a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
- a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
- a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
Please, oh please, dear parents, our culture has become one of conformity and of fear. We must teach our children to break free. We must show them that we break free by pushing back. We must teach them to think well for themselves, to make their own choices, to stand up and resist that which is fighting to keep them from living their best life - including the misguided, over-protective confines placed upon them by us, their parents.
I can not believe that I am saying it, but I am.
Parents, teach your children to fight. Teach them to push back and into the fight that moves them toward their best life.
There is a time to fight! It takes the fight to realize the dream, to fuel the hope, to experience the love.
Fight. Dream. Hope. Love.
Purposely designing our lives with cadence is like having a school bell that calls us to the next thing.
I met with a business associate today. She spoke about having cadence in our lives. She said that without cadence we get lost in wasted time; therefore, we can not achieve our personal best.
For me, this was a new use of the word. It struck me as being true in my life.
What is cadence? The word is a noun.
It is defined as a regular beat or rhythm, the way a person's voice changes by gently rising and falling while he or she is speaking, an ending part of a piece of music.
What Leigh meant was that we need to have a rhythm to our days, weeks, and months. This rhythm keeps us doing what is truly important to us. Leigh shared that this rhythm gets her up and moving when she might otherwise sit and watch Rachel Ray on a perfectly productive morning. Now there is nothing wrong with the Rachel Ray Show. You can learn your way around the kitchen and collect a lot of great recipes while watching Rachel. http://www.rachaelrayshow.com/
The question is: are you any closer to living the life you want to be living by sitting in front of the television morning after morning?
Developing a cadence that draws you to your goals and dreams involves some soul searching and some design work. What consistent commitments do you need in your day, your week, your month that will keep you focused on the goal? When is the best time for you to commit to this activity or practice? When do you put "restore" time in to keep the cadence sweet?
I found my cadence as a stay at home mom. It came naturally as I ordered my children's days. There was never a morning that I woke up without a plan. Then I met the empty nest and the gentle rising and falling of the music I'd danced to for years came to a screeching halt. All that was left was silence. It took me a while to realize that I needed to reassess my life and decide on a new goal, one that would put rhythm back in my days.
The idea of purposely creating cadence in your life may be new to you. It may be, as with me, new words for something you have or are living. Whether it is a new idea or an old one with a new name I would encourage you to consider your cadence.
This is especially important if you are a mom (or dad) who is home schooling your children. You need the structure and so do your children. Sometimes home educators choose this schooling option because they have a high value for freedom. That value for freedom, when not bridled, can be harmful to your child's education. In the end, it can be harmful to the entire family. Structure is good. It is a powerful tool for success in school and in life.
Structure sounds so harsh, so confining, doesn't it? But cadence . . . what a beautiful word!The word alone invites me to reassess my days. How about you? Are you ready for a more intentional rhythm in your days? Are you ready to achieve your personal best, your family best, your home school best, your working parent - child in the brick and mortar school best? What ever your situation, choosing cadence will change your life.
Check out one homeschooling mom's "cadence". It isn't the cadence of an army of soldiers training, but there is a cadence in the gentle and sometimes changing rhythm of their days:
A grandmother enjoying a moment with her granddaughter.
It is the strangest thing. I can wander through an entire morning with nary a creative thought or bright idea. Then, I stick my hands into a sink full of hot, sudsy water and it is like a switch is flipped. The mindless activity of scouring scum off the bottom of dinner's rice pot opens the door to reflection. More times than not, that reflection sparks the creativity buried deep. That creativity rewards me with so many wonderful, woolly, and wild thoughts and ideas.
Today I was reflecting on the work of parenting children at home. As one who has been there, done that, I was lamenting. I had only 18 years, 21 years if you count college years, to affect the lives of my children. I was wondering if I had done enough to empower our two sons and our daughter to face the challenges of life. Thank goodness my thoughts didn't camp there. Instead, I smiled as creativity whispered, "Ah, but you had more than 18 years. You had 18 years of moments. Do you know how many moments there are in eighteen years?"
Well, no, I didn't, but I do now. I pulled out my calculator. My husband is the mathematician in the family, so do the math and correct me if you will, but according to my calculations (based on 14 waking hours) there are 5,110 hours in a year. There are 310,200 minutes in a year. There are five million, five-hundred eighty three thousand, six-hundred moments in 18 years. I typed that out in words because I wanted it to sink in. That is a long string of moments.
My heart did its' happy dance as I began to recount some of my favorite moments with our children. I chose to stay at home with our children when they were small. I had more moments than my husband. When was the last time I thanked you, Randy, for giving up your own moments with the children each day you headed out the door for work to maximize my moments with them. Your sacrifice has hit me in a whole new way today.
Yesterday I read the words of Vicky Westra, a cancer survivor. I could give no better advice to mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, any one really who is present in the life of a child:
"Instead of worrying about not having enough time, we should just expand our time."
In a way, my creative thought expanded the time I had with my children from a measly 18 years to 5,583,600 moments. Oh the things one can do in a moment.
Vicky went on to offer this blessing to her readers. I pass it on to you.
"May your days be filled with small, sacred moments of awareness.
May you set aside your hurry, your pulling, your wishing for different.
May you linger over meals and take walks with slow steps.
May you hold books with pages, mugs with steam, and hands who know your secrets.
May you settle in, right where you are, refusing to wish for something different.
Enjoy your time, friends (children). Live your moments -- live them full."
( Read more at: http://edithsanford.org/community/words-are-powerful-survivor-insight-from-vicky-westra/ )
My hands in hot, sudsy water, they are hands enjoying a moment connecting to a heart remembering moments.
Dear sweet mama with sticky little hands tugging on your sweater and a counter full of dishes dragging you out of the moment, pull up a stool, fill the sink with warm water and a double portion of dish soap and invite that little one to share in a moment. Who knows where the creativity will lead?
"We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight."
Recently, as I was making last minute preparations for my adult education students at Martha O'Bryan Center in Nashville, TN, I came across a wonderful story that resonated with my students. It sparked a lively discussion and unleashed in my students a desire to read and discuss more stories with a moral.
The story was about a wealthy child who was taken to visit a poor family in the country. It is not stated, but it is implied, that the child's father wanted to instill in his son an appreciation for their wealth. However, it is the father who is taught the greater lesson on appreciation and wealth. He saw the "poor" family through his son's eyes, and suddenly, the tables were turned.
Who is really poor? It is a matter of perspective.
Check out the story at http://www.moralstories.org/lesson-learned-by-son/ to discover the poverty that the boy saw. Then, after sharing this story with your children and talking about what makes one rich, take a look around the web sight for more gems that can be a conversation starter to help your child think about life and matters of the heart.
an example of atmospheric perspective
Atmospheric or aerial perspective is the art term used to describe how atmospheric conditions influence perception of distant objects. Where an object is in relation to the horizon determines how we see the object. We see objects that are increasingly far away as lighter in color. The colors become cooler and detail is minimized.
Atmospheric perspective is easier to see than to explain. The photo at the right was taken at Snowshoe Ski Resort, a premier destination for Mid-Atlantic & Southeast skiers, snowboarders and winter enthusiasts in West Virginia. ( http://www.snowshoemtn.com/ ) Notice the detail and clarity of the condos and trees in the foreground. As your eyes move back from one mountain peak to another the tone, intensity, and clarity diminish.
I love atmospheric perspective. There is something mysterious and alluring in the undisclosed detail and muted colors. It is as though someone or something is calling to me with a promise of secrets to be discovered and magical fairy tale adventures to be had. Yet, when I take to the path I discover the truth. My eyes have tricked me. The furthest hill is as down to earth real as the hill I started on. However, if I reach back and take the hand of my retiring imagination, I can still find the mystery and wonder I was drawn to discover.
When I invite a child to lead me on this journey, we are both enriched. Children draw us in close to investigate, to see, to touch, to smell, to taste, and to listen. The world we thought we knew becomes magical again. We discover joy and experience new strength for living. In addition, studies have shown that investigating and experiencing the natural world pays big dividends for children. It stands to reason that the adults with them are similarly enriched. The following are proven benefits:
o improved concentration
o increased self discipline
o improved motor fitness, including coordination, balance, and agility
o improved health
o improved creativity
o improved awareness, reasoning, and observational skills
o ability to deal with adversity positively impacted
o increased peace and oneness with the world
o increased sense of wonder which is a motivator for learning
o positive feelings about self and others are fostered
o stimulates social interaction
o impacts independence and autonomy
Today, find the time and find a place where you can experience atmospheric perspective with your child/students. Talk about what you see far away. Imagine together what mysteries you might find in the muted distance, then take to the path. Talk about how objects that were muted and without detail far away are now sharp and in focus. Then explore up close the wonders of this little part of the world you are walking hand in hand through. Fight dragons and save damsels in distress if you will. Then return to your home or your school and write about your adventures. This is experiential learning and it is what will transport you and your child/students from bored and unmotivated learners to inspired and fired up learners.
A blessed child -- Wooster, Ohio photographer, Amanda Amstutz, http://www.thesnapshotlife.org (under construction), captured the power of love communicated through the hands
"To bless something is to say something nice to God about it." -- Thomas Talley
Complete silence, one could have heard the proverbial pin drop. My writing students had never been so quiet. It was testing day for the students attending the Martha O'Bryan Center's (http://www.marthaobryan.org/) adult education program. Then, for several seconds, the silence broke. It started with a sneeze, followed by "bless you," "bless you," "bless you," and one more "bless you."
I'm not sure why this struck me as a curiosity. Maybe I've never heard this polite response to a sneeze in such a quiet setting before. Maybe I've never heard it so many times in succession. Maybe it was just the way it sounded like popcorn, pop, pop, pop, a little slower, pop, and then quiet again.
We are conditioned from childhood to respond to a sneeze with "bless you," but a blessing can be so much more than a rote response to a sneeze. A blessing is a gift that affirms others, enabling them to understand their worth.
When our children were young I came across a book entitled "The Blessing". The authors, Gary Smalley and John Trent, Ph.D. put these words on the jacket of the book, "No matter what our age, our parents' approval affects the way we view ourselves--and how we act with those we love the most." Upon reading the book I made a decision. I would choose a specific time each day when I consciously blessed our children. Bedtime became the appointed time. Each night I sat on the edge of their beds, placed my hand on their heads, and pronounced the Biblical blessing found in Numbers 6 over them. They looked forward to it and sometimes, when I was weary and not making my way to their rooms expediently, I would hear them call out for the blessing. It became as important for me as it was for them during their early years, for it was impossible to go into their bedrooms and bless them while holding on to anger or frustration over the childish behaviors I may have endured that day. It became a ritual that wrapped our days in love.
But blessing our children is more than ritual. It is more than words spoken at bedtime. Blessing our children is choosing to love them unconditionally and choosing to communicate that love intentionally. We didn't do it perfectly, but we did do it intentionally, and it made a difference in our lives as individuals and as a family. It can make a difference in you and your family as well. If you have not found the blessing, I highly encourage you to check out the resources below. I promise you, putting into practice the principles laid out in "The Blessing" will quadruple the love in your home., your home school, your classroom, and your life.
"The Blessing is about being happy yourself and making the people around you happy..." -- Jacksonville Sun-Times
To purchase the book:
To purchase "I Choose You" - A children's book by John Trent
Our son Josh at JH Ranch http://www.jhranch.com/ - a great place to take your teens as you guide them towards finding their dream. At 25, Josh is moving towards his dream, to be a published author.
I've been thinking a lot about dreams lately -- not the kind that one wakes up to with heart racing ten miles per hour from a high speed intergalactic chase or weaves three friends from three different places and seasons of life into one crazy patch work quilt. I am also not referring to dreams born out of envy; the wanting of something because someone else has it. The dreams I've been thinking about are the ones that are fueled or obliterated by what Steven Covey calls our unopened birth gifts: our ability to choose, our understanding and trust in the laws or principles that govern the world in which we live, and our courage to recognize and capitalize on our unique physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual intelligence. In his book, The 8th Habit - https://www.stephencovey.com/8thHabit/8thhabit.php, Steven Covey suggests that it is from these birth-gifts that we find our voice. I think finding one's voice walks hand in hand with living one's dream.
The problem is that too many of us get our voice and our dream stamped out by the time we leave home. We are trained from the cradle to graduation to listen to collective wisdom. This would be well and good if we were also taught how to tap into our birth gifts, but too many of us are not. Instead we are unconsciously encouraged to march in formation with our family, irrespective of our unique design. What we are left with is a vague, unfulfilled dream, a dream that we do not understand and have no idea how to live.
But there are those who are not willing to be limited by in-the-box thinking. They are the dreamers who do. They are either fortunate enough to have had parents who taught them how to use the birth gifts they were given or they reach deep inside and find the gifts hiding there, start using them, and by trial and error one day they find themselves in a rhythm of life that is in sync with their unique design. They find themselves living their dream.
So, which are you, a dreamer who dreams or a dreamer who does? Which do you want your child to become? What can you do to develop a dreamer who does? The truth be told, I have more questions than answers. I do not have ten steps to developing a dreamer. Why do you think I've been thinking about dreams of late? I'm still climbing towards mine! During my climb, I've tried to encourage my children to take the first step towards theirs: to choose to dream. But I'm afraid I may have sabotaged my efforts with a push-pull dance. "You can be anything, do anything you choose. But wait! Be sensible; be smart, only one in a thousand makes it to the big leagues." Can you hear yourself?
We need to listen to our children, really listen and watch. What are they passionate about? What are they good at? We need to give them every possible opportunity to discover their unique talents. We can not decide for them. We must let them decide. If ballet makes Susie cry, quit ballet at the end of a season and try baseball. If Sammy is more fish than human, find a way to get him in swim lessons. Don't be limited by budget. Where there is a will, there is a way. Always, always listen and watch! If Trisha wants to check out every book in the library about lizards, let her. Then go to the pet store and buy a lizard. If Theodore climbs every thing in sight, build a ropes course in the back yard. We need to also be ready for interests to shift. When they do we need to go with the flow. Experimentation is how our children discover what they are good at. The goal is to give our children permission to choose, to train them to utilize the laws of nature in their best interest, and to give them the courage to take full advantage of their unique physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual intelligence. When it is time, our children will find their voice. When they do, they will be doing their dream! Can there be a happier day for a parent?
To learn more about Dr. Steven R. Covey (1932 - 2012) go to https://www.stephencovey.com/
Becoming a better person moves one towards better parenting. Covey's materials can help you work on personal change that can overflow into great physical, social, emotional, and spiritual dividends for your child.
Our son Aaron's joy and excellence during his late teens and early twenties: building, maintaining, and racing quads in the GNCC circuit http://www.gnccracing.com/. I could only look on in wonder.
In an earlier post I wrote about the lessons we unknowingly learn simply by engaging with others, their actions, and their belief systems. We not only learn this way, we teach this way. Sometimes the lessons are less than beneficial, but we teach them because they were taught to us. Yesterday I was reminded that we are always teaching, sometimes to the detriment of a child. Thankfully I had the courage to speak up about a potentially crippling lesson and a wonderful young mother had the incredible internal strength to respond with a teachable spirit. As a result, the lesson she went home and taught in the evening was a life-giving one.
I was quietly working at my computer when my co-worker, the aforementioned mother, asked me a question. She was meticulously at work on a poster project, carefully cutting out letters which she planned to trace onto the poster board. I'd assumed it was something for the adult education program we both serve, but her question cued me in to the fact that I'd likely assumed wrong. When my clarifying question in regards to the project revealed that she was working on her daughter's school assignment I was a bit taken aback.
Coming from the perspective of an elementary teacher I could almost feel my eyebrows rise. Then too, as a mother who has been there and done that, I wrestled with whether to hold my tongue or speak up. After a few moments of internal wrestling I decided that it was unfair for me to sit silent in fear of her response. I had valuable hind sight to offer. Gently, I asked Jacqui if I might share a little perspective from a teacher and a mother. She was willing.
I explained that, as a teacher, I would want to see what the child could do. I could understand if a parent offered assistance but it was never my expectation that a project be designed, orchestrated, and much of it completed by the parent. I wanted the student to have the opportunity to learn from the creative process.
As a parent, I shared that I have been where she is standing and in retrospect I did absolutely no favors for my children when I chose to over help. What I did accomplish was to teach them something I never intended to teach, that I didn't trust them to do a good enough job. I warned Jacqui that this kind of hovering would likely backfire into one of two scenarios; her daughter would become fearful or incapable of independence, or she would eventually put space between herself and her mother in order to do life on her own.
When I encouraged Jacqui to simply provide her daughter with the tools, the encouragement, and a minimum of hands off assistance, she was relieved. My encouragement to embrace the idea that her daughter's school assignment was not about perfection but about experience helped her to relax. She had been acting out of fear that a sloppy project would reflect badly on their family. She needed to hear that this project wasn't about the family; it was about an opportunity for her daughter to grow.
I am very proud of Jacqui. She was relieved to be freed from the tyranny of perfection and was more than willing to make this project about her daughter. Because Jacqui has a teachable spirit, she went home after work with a resolve to empower rather than over-power her little one. Jacqui is an amazing mom. Her daughter is a very blessed little girl.
Doing your child's school project in part or in whole would certainly be considered over-protective. Dr. Robyn Silverman lists on her website 6 effects of over-protectiveness. You can read the entire article at: http://www.drrobynsilverman.com/parenting-tips/helicopter-parents-helpful-or-harmful/ . The 5 effects directly related to the child and parent are:
o Undermining confidence
o Instilling fear of failure
o Stunting growth and development
o Inability to launch
o Raising parental anxiety levels
Congratulations Jacqui! Her daughter is going to grow up confident, unafraid of failure, able to solve problems, develop independence, and ready to soar when it comes time to fly. All the while, Jacqui will be maintaining healthier stress levels. How about you?
Please, please, please, if you are a parent that is swooping in and giving verbal and/or nonverbal messages that your child can not do it (whatever it is) right or well enough, STOP. You are creating a dependency that can cripple. Let go! Encourage your child to do their best with moral support and a minimum of parent assistance because their best is good enough and it is their best that will drive them to the excellence you desire.
Cheering you on!
Happily and Cooperatively at Work
January can be a challenging month for parents, home schooling and otherwise. Children have come back from a month of celebration, which is usually characterized by lighter work loads, into the grind of school work and resumed schedules. I was challenged with this January drag while working for an online charter school in Ohio. One aspect of my job was to provide support to my students' learning guides, generally a parent or grandparent. A conversation with one very frustrated mother whose child had become uncooperative with lessons led to the creation of a tool designed to motivate and teach.
The tool was called the Privilege Bank. As I thought about that title and the resource I hoped to offer visitors to ATND I decided it was not properly named. Privilege is not earned. The tool targets earning free time activities and other family perks. Thus the Opportunity Bank was born.
It is intended to be a teacher. If used consistently and with perseverance, it can teach children that opportunity comes through responsibility. It can teach wise use of wages earned through work. It can teach a most valuable life lesson if a child continues to resist: the poverty of laziness and/or disdain for work. Finally, it can serve as a real world teaching tool for addition and subtraction and provide consistent practice for both.
The opportunity bank is simple. The child is given a list of responsibilities with a reasonable time for completion and an equivalent monetary value. As tasks are completed, they, along with their monetary value, are recorded. The child can then use these earnings to purchase opportunities such as TV viewing, computer time, or electronic gaming. A chart (soon to be available at: https://www.facebook.com/ATeacherNextDoor) can be used to record the deposits and withdrawals. No money need be handled; however, with older children the use of either real or play money provides hands on experience with counting money and paying for goods.
In order for this tool to be effective, the opportunities offered for purchase must be of value to the child and not given freely.
Are you in the the January doldrums, fighting against uncooperative children and wondering if there is any way to change the climate of your home school, classroom, or family life? I challenge you to give the Opportunity Bank a try. It worked for the parents I served at Ohio Virtual Academy http://www.k12.com/ohva. It can work for you.
To be paid "under the table" is a no-records-attached payment system that some folks use when exchanging services or goods. The point is to have no trail for the government to follow in order to collect taxes. It is a foolish practice. The IRS is on the look out for cheaters. When caught, there are stiff penalties.
Did you know that teachers also watch for "under the table" activity? A few days ago I was working with a third grader whose mother came to me for help. Her son's math performance had begun to plummet. When he hit the third grade he discovered that math was more time consuming. Computation had begun to take a front row seat in his daily assignments. Because he had not mastered the basic math facts assignments were taking too much time. He was no longer enjoying math. Math performance had decreased as enthusiasm waned.
I was working with Jay. The name has been changed to protect the guilty! We were using fact family flash cards. Jay started to squirm when he was faced with a fact he didn't know. Then I noticed it. The hands went "under the table" and the eyes rolled up in concentration. He was counting fingers! Now, counting fingers might be just fine if the goal isn't to be able to answer within 5 seconds or less. But our goal was to answer in five seconds. I smiled and said, "Jay, hands on the table." The incredulous expression on his face as he asked, "How did you know?" deserved to be preserved on film, but I had no camera. I responded, "Mrs. Graber knows." I suppose I had a look that deserved preservation as well, a bit like the cat that caught the canary.
The hands came up on the table and we worked together on the problem fact. Then I challenged Jay to a contest. The cards he couldn't answer in 5 seconds were mine. The rest were his. The winner would be the one with the biggest stack. He laughed and I pouted, pretending, of course, as he stacked up answer upon answer within the five second time frame. Suddenly he didn't need to sneak around with hands under the table. The pressure was off. This was a game and he was having fun.
"Under the table" activity during math drill won't land a student in jail, but dependence on fingers can delay memorization. The debate rages. Is fact memorization necessary? After all, we can count on calculators and computers. I would argue that memorization of any kind is great for the brain and memory is simply unavoidable in math. For an academic discussion on the value of fact memorization read chapter 12 of Frank Smith's book, The Glass Wall: Why Mathematics Seem Difficult.
The lesson to be learned: make learning facts fun through the use of games, give tons of encouragement, provide visual aides, and teach the facts in families. In time your student will soon discover that he does not need his fingers. He just needs someone to believe in him and give him a reason to retain.
Just the Facts, Five Games for Teaching Facts: http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/lesson/lesson339.shtml
Fact Family Cards: http://www.mathcats.com/explore/factfamilycards.html
Have you ever explored a construction site? When I was a little girl my grandfather was a residential builder. I remember going with my dad to grandpa's construction sites. Initially, there was little to see but much to do. I would climb on mounds of dirt created by the bulldozers and backhoes. I would listen as grandpa described the house he planned to build. I would try to imagine what it would look like as he pointed out the foundation markers.
Further into the building process I could climb up ramps where steps were not yet in existence. I could walk through walls that were only framed in. I could dig in the loose dirt of the basement that was waiting for cement to be poured. It was an engaging place to play. When I left the site I often had a treasure or two in hand, a bit of scrap wood, a shiny stone, or a treat that my grandpa pulled out of his pocket.
As the building progressed there were more adventures in store. I remember looking forward to visiting the site after the electrical work was completed, but before the drywall was up. It was then that I was able to collect the quarter sized silver circles that were pushed out of the electrical boxes. Since I rarely had the privilege of being the only child on the outing, a contest usually resulted. Who could find the most "silver dollars?" Sometimes I won, sometimes I lost, but always I came home with more treasure, pretend money that I used when I played store.
The exploration was not only fun, it was educational. As I listened and observed I learned how a house is built. The skinned knee or two I experienced taught me how to play safely. When my dad or grandpa grabbed my hand or put themselves between me and a potential fall, I learned that I was loved and cared for. In my middle elementary years when my parents built a new house and my dad laid all the brick, my siblings and I carried mud and brick. I learned how to work.
My grandpa is no longer building houses. He died some years ago. Now I am, with the help of a web designer, building something he never dreamed of building, a virtual front porch, where I can share my passion for learning. So scoot on over and explore. You won't find blocks of wood and silver circles to collect, but as we build I hope you will find an encouraging story, a quotable quote, a usable teaching strategy or tool, or something that will encourage a smile. Oh, by the way, I promise that I do not need to hold your hand; this is a no-danger construction zone!