Stop, Look, Listen

Our kids, no matter the age, need us to be with them, explaining what makes one thing beautiful and another ugly, why one thing is important and the other trivial, and why this is quite right and that is all wrong. A relationship such as this is what makes the world a better place, one person at a time.

I am reading a book about finding life’s great truths in the humblest of places.  The Power of the Powerless is about the lessons learned in a family that cares for a child that has no abilities.  The book affirms life in a profound way. What at first seems like a horrible family situation is revealed to be a wonderful place to grow up.  Here is an excerpt.

“The more a parent points out things to their children, the more the children will take it upon themselves to select, identify, listen to, see, embrace.

“I was brought up in a house where the extraordinary was always discovered in the ordinary. I learned to appreciate the sound of water slapping against itself because my father, each Spring, took an iron rake and walked to the small stream that divided our property in two. Each Spring he pulled sticks, rotting leaves, and stones up from the water that broke free the flow of the stream. ‘Christopher, listen to the water rushing.’ So I listened.

Life imitates life. Children do what adults do. If parents are readers, there is a good chance that their children will grow into the reading habit. If parents embrace the enchantments of the heart, there is a good chance their children, too, will laugh.”

Christopher de Vinck, The Power of the Powerless

Raising Boys to be Real Men

Boys are misunderstood.  Too often, they are disciplined and shamed by their teachers, parents, or grandparents because it is falsely assumed that good boys should act just like good girls.

Raising boys is a topic of numerous books, but one that stands out is Raising Cain, by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson.  I had the privilege of hearing them speak at a conference, and their wisdom impressed me deeply.  Here are my notes and thoughts from two of their sessions.

Emotions.  Give boys permission to have an internal life. Give approval to their wide-ranging emotions, as long as they behave civilly. Their tendency will be to hide their emotions at every turn, but this is not healthy. Help them use words to express their feelings effectively, since it is not in their nature or in their culture to speak openly about their feelings. So, give respect to their inner life, and speak about your own inner life. Share your likes, dislikes, fears, sorrows, regrets, hopes, and weaknesses with each other.

Activity.  Accept the high activity level of boys as a healthy part of who they are. Give them a safe place to express their need for action. Embrace their physicality as natural, normal, and in need of channeling, rather than suppressing.  Boys need to learn to manage their physicality, but they do not need to be shamed for their exuberance.

Speak to them.  Talk to boys in their language – in a way that honors their pride and masculinity. Be direct with them. Say what you mean and mean what you say.  And when possible, use them as consultants and problem solvers. They will love feeling important to you. It is important to communicate with them in a way that honors their wish for strength and respect.

Re-define courage.  Teach boys that there is more to being a hero than physically defeating an enemy. Continue reading “Raising Boys to be Real Men”

Reading Textbooks Well

Reading a Textbook Well

      How to Read Smarter, not Harder

      When reading a school textbook, a fluent reader will:

 1.  Survey all the titles, headings, vocabulary terms, tables, and questions because he knows that those things hold big clues about the overall purpose and meaning of the text.

2.  Read quickly but carefully, guessing at new words, but not racing to the end or skipping large chunks of text.  He reads as fast he can comprehend.

3.  Decelerate during what feels like an important section of text.

4.  Ask questions about each section: “What was that all about?” and “What new things am I learning here?”  If he can’t answer, then he goes back to re-read the confusing parts.

5.  Answer with great care the questions that go with the text.

  • Study each question very carefully, even more carefully than he reads the text.  If he does not understand the question, he asks the teacher or somebody else for help.
  • Use context to form his answers.  He does not just find the key word in the text and grab a few words next to it. He reads the sentences before and after the key word.
  • Paraphrase answers. He puts answers in own words, rather than just copying exactly what the book says.

Middle School: Top Ten Things to Know

The following is an open letter from my boss, Steve Hall, Head of Middle School at Westminster Christian Academy, to our parents. It’s one of my favorite pieces about teaching and parenting young teens.

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Dear Parents,

The middle school years are a unique time of life.  It is crazy, wonderful, exciting and baffling. As a public service, I’d like to share with you some basic truths about the middle school student living in your home. In the style of the late night shows, I’d like to share with you the Top Ten Things You Should Know About Your Middle School Student

:

10.  Each student has one compelling mission each day: avoid embarrassment! It is true that most students believe everyone is watching them at all times. Each student believes a misplaced word, a stumble in the hallway or a failure to meet the unwritten rules of middle school culture — though, in reality, unknown to all — will be seen and remembered forever by all classmates. Parents, don’t take it personally if they don’t want to hug in public anymore.

9.  Although all outward evidence suggests otherwise, you are a very important person to your child, and your child feels more secure and valued when you care enough to talk with them about anything and everything. Don’t let the rolling eyes or mock disdain deter you. It’s one of those unwritten rules they have to follow as teenagers.

8.  You will require a haz-mat suit and gas mask to handle the unique aromas coming from young teenagers. You have never, ever encountered anything quite like a classroom containing the smells of sweat, an overabundance of body spray and perfume, wet socks and hot, breathing children following PE class. The truth is that kids are self-conscious about the changes that create these issues. It’s a time of a great deal of change in height, weight and appearance. Your child needs a proper diet, plenty of sleep and good hygiene. Be courageous as parents and talk about these changes. The more you talk about them, the easier the discussions will become. Continue reading “Middle School: Top Ten Things to Know”

I Wish You Failure

Once again, I offer an article from NPR’s This I Believe.  Jon Carroll started at the San Francisco Chronicle editing the crossword puzzle and writing TV listings. He has been a columnist for the paper since 1982.

Last week, my granddaughter started kindergarten, and, as is conventional, I wished her success. I was lying. What I actually wish for her is failure. I believe in the power of failure.

Success is boring. Success is proving that you can do something that you already know you can do, or doing something correctly the first time, which can often be a problematical victory. First-time success is usually a fluke. First-time failure, by contrast, is expected; it is the natural order of things.

Failure is how we learn. Continue reading “I Wish You Failure”

Building a Better Brain

  1. Snooze time
    It is essential that children get the proper amount of rest. Follow the recommendations of your pediatrician – at least eight hours per night. Not only will your kids be more alert and ready to learn, they will have much happier attitudes. Set a bed time for your child and stick to it.
  2. Exercise that brain
    Your child’s brain is like a sponge ready to soak up everything it comes across. Age appropriate games help to stimulate his mind and gain many varied skills. Board games, building blocks, puzzles, checkers and chess are just a few examples of games that also build smarts. Continue reading “Building a Better Brain”

The Race to Nowhere

The Race to Nowhere is a film that will make you think deeply about what a good education looks like.  It will challenge your beliefs about the nature of homework, AP classes, and college preparation.  You will re-think what a “successful kid” should do in middle school, high school, and college because, in many ways, what we as a society think about that fundamental question is dead wrong.

Whether you are a parent, teacher, or administrator, this is a must-see documentary because it points out some very powerful flaws in our educational system and offers some good solutions.  Unlike other recent films about American schools, it does not demand more from students, parents, and teachers; in many ways it asks for less.  It will get you thinking and talking.

There are more screenings popping up around the country, and it will eventually be a DVD to purchase.  Check it out.

If this trailer resonates with you, and you’d like a greater sense of what this movie is all about, here is what the filmmakers suggest parents do in response to their film:

Continue reading “The Race to Nowhere”

Creating Consumers or Citizens?

This article, “Reversing the Consumer Mindset” is well-worth reading.  More importantly, as a parent or grandparent, it is worth reflecting upon, since we shape the kids in our care in more ways than we care to admit.

Here is a sample… “I was taught to throw out broken items, rather than seek to repair them myself or do without them. I was taught that love is given through tangible gifts.”

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