BACK TO SCHOOL

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I have three grandchildren off to school this year. I checked in with my daughters to see how things went and was relieved to hear that the kindergarteners and first-grader headed out happy and excited, and came home the same way.  The first-grader shared that his teacher said  their classroom is like a family – where they all  care for one another.  What a beautiful tone to set for learners.

As a retired teacher, I know what kids need to be successful, and it’s so much more than academics.

So send your child off to school with courage.  Send them with joy and send them with positives.   And when they come home feeling discouraged or rejected, build them up.  Teach them that no one can bully them or make them feel less than……unless they allow it.  Teach them to speak up, and speak out – for they are worth it.  Teach them that their voice is just as important as anyone else’s voice.  Teach them that to gain respect, they must be respectful.    Teach them that sometimes things are difficult, but that’s OK.  Set a goal, work hard and never give up.  Teach them that there are always people to turn to when things get tough – find those people.

Communicate with your child’s teachers if you have concerns.  Respect their time but know that good teachers want to know if your child is struggling, and they will work with you to help your child.

Your child needs to know that you will always be there – to listen, share, and support.  So as you send your little ones out to navigate without you, know that you are still their most important teacher and they still need you to fill them up with all that is needed to be independent, self-reliant and confident to navigate their world without you.

 

 

BEING INTENTIONAL

 

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This week I have been doing some guided meditation and realize the power of intent.   As we grow up, we often lose track of our desires.   In the business of children, jobs, social activity, and just being a “grown-up” with all the responsibility  that entails, it’s easy to lose our dreams and lose our self.

Meditation is a great tool to help us reconnect with ourself,  and it’s a valuable tool for children as well.  It helps keep us centered and stay connected to our  body, mind and spirit.  There is a lot of research that supports meditation for improved health – both physical and mental.

The focus of one of the meditations I recently practiced  was on intention.  What a great thing to teach our children.   We should all have dreams and desires, but without being intentional  about those dreams,  they can become fairy-tales.

When I was teaching, I was in my element. Each day was filled with effortless intention, as I was doing what I felt I was always meant to do.   Now that I am retired I find the same effortless satisfaction in writing.  However through my meditation, I realized I haven’t been very intentional about it!!   So, I  have created my best writing space, which meant a few hours of thought about how that would look, sorting, organizing and cleaning out.  It’s something I should have done long ago!  It’s my own sacred space.  Does your child have their own space that helps to support their desires and dreams??   Namaste.

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Teaching Resilience

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I sent my children an email last week expressing my sorrow related to the Paris terrorist attacks.  AS a parent I felt a need to reach out to them -even though they are grown, married with children of their own – Once a mother always a mother.

I reminded them to take time to process, grieve, bow their head and pray if that brings them peace.  I asked them to keep their eyes and hearts open for all the beauty that still exists in the world – to watch for all the love that is present – for that is what will beat terror.  Love.  Bonding.  Caring for one another.

As parents of young children, I asked them to shield their little ones from the news of terror.  They are only 4 and 2 years old.  They live carefree lives full of love and and the innocence that childhood should be- protected by those who love them.  No child should be subjected to the terror we have witnessed lately – and for those who have no choice – I pray they are surrounded by adults who will help them process their emotions.

Older children who are exposed via TV and Internet need an adult to reassure them and help them process the events.  Follow the child’s lead in how much they wish to discuss and answer honestly. It’s best that they get the information from a parent or valued caregiver as opposed to another child.  Be there for them but don’t be surprised if they don’t want to have a sit down discussion.  Many children express their needs best in the context of everyday activities – in small subtle ways.  Be on the lookout and take time needed.

This is a reminder to take time to share all the beauty and love in the world and to teach children  resilience.  Teach them to empower themselves with acts of kindness.  Teach them how they can make a positive influence in the world each and every day in a million little ways.     Children are resilient.  Be there to help them learn just how resilient they are,  and in that process,  we may learn something  about ourselves.

 

BEING THERE

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My Mother was a teacher and  an inspiring mentor to me as I followed in her footsteps.  She taught me many valuable lessons which I still use.  She passed recently after struggling for years with Alzheimer’s, and I miss all of her – healthy Mom and Alzheimer Mom. No matter what was going on in her life, I learned  as I watched her navigate life.

I find myself thinking about what it must have been like for her with 14 Grandchildren.  I have four now.  Three girls and the eldest is a boy.  They are delightful and I could sit and watch them play for hours.  I love their childhood innocence and delight in the world.    I NEVER though I would be an intrusive bossy Grandparent – yet at times I have found myself just that.  AND then I have to sit back and realize that parenting styles are unique – children are unique – and the interactions we have as humans are complicated and layered.  I am a product of the billions of interaction with all others with my parental interactions being the most impactful.  AS I age, I understand more and more how much we are all a product of our upbringing and in some ways I feel like I have never grown up. I still look for the soft look that only a parent can give – that place of unconditional love that only a parent can understand and impart.

One of the most important lessons I have learned is the importance of being there.  Being present.  It’s not so much about what I do when I am with my Grandchildren – although we like to have fun baking, singing, dancing, and going places – but it’s about the quality of the interaction each time I am with them.  I have a chance to impart something magical and loving each time we gather together.   What a gift that is.  As a parent it can be difficult to understand the magnitude of your influence upon your children – yet there it is – inherent in your connection and never gone – I still feel that strong influence of my Mother -now in my new role as a Grandmother. I know that my Mother will be with me until the day I die.

I believe that Parenting done well  is the most difficult job on Earth.  But the good news is as long as you and your child are alive, each day is a new day to try and get it right.  And once you are dead, your child will carry you with them, so be in it well  and be in it for the long haul.  Because like it or not….it’s forever.

WHAT WILL YOU TEACH THEM TODAY?

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Parents –  Hug your child today.  Look for moments to give them some quality, authentic compliments (nothing phony or fluffy here).  Set aside time to give them your undivided attention.  Read them a book, listen to music and dance, bake a yummy Fall treat.  You are your child’s first and most important teacher.  What did you teach them today?
NEED SOME PARENTING ADVICE?  THERE ARE PLENTY OF GREAT BOOKS AND HERE IS ONE I LOVE!

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GROWING READERS -THE POWER OF ABC… “H..I..J..K..lemino”

Learning letters necessary?  Yes…. boring…NO!  These 26 symbols of our English language, when put together in the right order, are pretty powerful players.   Put together in the wrong order or leaving one behind and something that is very pretty can become petty.  A tart can become gassy and your dog may end up as a place for lots of dead plant material.

For toddlers and preschoolers who are beyond the stage of experiencing the world with their mouth, magnetic letters are a great tool for learning.   They can be front and center on your frig or used in a child’s lap with a cookie sheet, or on a desk with a small magnetic easel.

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When you introduce your child to a new learning tool, such as magnetic letters, let them experience them in their own way for a period of time. You will learn valuable information about what they already know as you watch how they interact with the materials.   Children are very curious by nature and giving them time to explore on their own will make them more agreeable when you direct the play.

Magnetic letters provide opportunity for much more than just learning letter name/sounds.  They are great for visual, auditory and tactile skills.     Help your child with visual discrimination by having them find letters that look the same.   As your child manipulates the letters, they are working on fine motor and tactile skills and as they hear the letter names and sound the letter makes, they are working on auditory skills. Math skills can also come into play as your child sorts letters according to color, shape and size and counts them.

Don’t forget to follow your child’s lead.  Learning letters should be fun for little ones and is a process that involves exposure in many different ways in many different settings.

All this ABC talk reminds me of a funny story.  At the beginning of the school year, we screen children to see how many letters/sounds they know (first grade).  One year I was working with a wonderfully peppy outgoing little girl, and as I pointed to the letter “L” she replied “lemino”.   L,M,N,and O all blended into one beautiful letter in her world of ABC.   Aren’t kids great?  Enjoy!

Helping Grow A Reader

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One of my greatest joys in teaching first grade was teaching children how to read. There are many things you can do to help your child become a great reader before they begin a formal reading program.

  1.  Tell your child they are a “reader”, even if they aren’t able to read words yet.  Seeing themselves as a “reader” will help them have confidence and patience as they are on their journey to becoming an independent reader.
  2. They are a “reader” because they can “read” the pictures to tell the story.   Reading the pictures is an early reading skill.  It will help your child notice details on the page, and strengthen vocabulary and comprehension skills . So look for books with great pictures that tell the story!
  3. As you read a story, have your child predict what will happen next.  This is an important skill in developing good comprehension.  They are using prior knowledge and critical thinking skills as they predict.
  4. Help your child to make connections between what they are reading and their own world.  This skill also strengthens comprehension and makes reading personal and relevant.

As always, have fun when reading with your child.

Next:  FUN with ABC

COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR CHILDS TEACHER WHEN YOU ARE SEEING RED!!

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OK – so let’s be real….sometimes your child’s teacher does something that really makes your blood boil.  For example, one day I came home from a long day at school to find my third grader locked in the bathroom.  She couldn’t talk to me as she was sobbing so hard that it was hard to catch her breath.

“She did really bad on a math test and she’s afraid you’ll be mad,”  her older sis said as she was casually watching tv.

My heart broke a little bit as I didn’t think I was that kind of parent.  I took a very soft supportive tone as I asked her to come out to talk.

She opened the bathroom door and  handed me a math test and all I noticed was a GIANT

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I assured her that she wasn’t in trouble but asked her if her teacher had given her feedback so she could correct her errors and learn from her mistake.

“No.  She just gave me my test back,” she sobbed.

That was it.  I saw RED and guess what???  We lived across the street from the school and it was still early enough that her teacher might be there…so I hopped on my broomstick and off I went…..test in hand.  

You might say that what I had to say to her teacher was not very calm….but done with great respect mind you – after all I was a fellow teacher.  BUT as a fellow teacher my question for her was:  “How could you simply hand her a test with a big fat with no concern at all to find out what her thought process was as she completed these problems – and no help to teach her the correct way so she would understand this process??? NO feedback??? NO remediation??? Just a big fat F???”  She understood my point and so did her two colleagues whose classrooms were connected by a few floating walls.

Should I have waited to speak to her until I had calmed myself?   Yes I think so.  Should I have brought this up to her at all?  Absolutely.  

Doctors have an oath,  “first do no harm”  and I believe educators should follow this same oath.   A teacher’s job is to teach, evaluate progress, and remediate or reteach as needed while always keeping the child’s esteem intact.   I don’t feel there is EVER an instance where a child should get a paper with a BIG FAT “F”. EVER! Do children fail?? Well – not if we are teaching them well and teaching them at their zone of proximal development.   Are all children learning at the same level and rate?  No. This is a simple fact.  Each child has different strengths and weaknesses and should be taught accordingly.  School should never be a place where children feel like they fail.

So – when you start to see RED, take a deep breath, do some thoughtful reflection on what it is that is making you angry and take some time to figure out the best way to approach the situation.   But don’t ever be afraid to advocate on behalf of your child.  That is your job.  Just try to do it without flying in on your broomstick.   You’d think as a teacher I would have known better….but when it comes to our children….well….sometimes we don’t think straight.

ENSURING SCHOOL SUCCESS-WHAT CAREGIVERS CAN DO

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It’s the beginning of a new school year.  There are many things that you can do to make sure your child has a great year.

  1. Have time, space and materials set aside so your child can complete  school work each day.
  2. Have space for your child to unpack and put school items. Make this a daily routine and make it your child’s responsibility.   Check to see if there are forms, notes etc that need your attention.
  3. Keep homework time age appropriate.   (See Article re homework)
  4. CONSISTENT early bedtime routine. 
  5. Healthy breakfast – or take advantage of school breakfast program.
  6. Daily reading to/with your child.
  7. Be available to discuss any issues your child has with school.
  8. Listen and reassure your child regarding any fears/concerns.
  9. Set up your child for success by teaching them skills to be independent. Have age appropriate expectations such as packing their own backpack as soon as school work is complete. They will be expected to unpack and pack their backpack on their own in the classroom.
  10. Don’t be surprised if they don’t come home full of stories to share about their day.  Instead of asking them “how was your day?”  ask them specific questions.  This may stimulate some conversation.

A positive attitude on your part regarding your child’s school  will go a long way in how they feel about school.  Happy learning!

Carol

Next:  HELP!  When to call your child’s teacher

LET’S TALK!

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TALK to your baby often.   As  you converse, your child is learning valuable language skills.  Get eye level and engage.  Even very young babies respond to a soothing voice.  As your baby gets older and begins to babble and coo, they will be delighted if you join in and mimic their sounds.   Now you’re talking!

 Hours of conversation with your baby will pay big rewards as you watch them go from babbling, to one word, to putting a few words together, to speaking in sentences and then WHOLE paragraphs!  Some days, when most of the conversation on their end begins and ends with “NO”….you may be sorry that they  learned to speak.  However, it won’t always be “NO” –  they will say the greatest things if you just pay attention and  give them time and space to formulate all the amazing ideas that are going on in their developing brains.   Conversation – a wonderful way to bond and let your child know how important they are.

I was getting coffee at my usual spot  the other morning  when I spied a woman with a young girl who appeared to be about ten. What a nice idea, I thought.  A day off from school – a chance for adult and child to spend time at the donut shop together.  In reality the adult was looking at her cell phone and the young girl was quietly eating her donut.  Both sat in silence – not looking at one another – I felt sad for  them.  What a missed opportunity for some quality time.  SO put down your cell phones, turn off your computers and TV and engage in some old-fashioned face to face conversation.  Your child is never to young or old to benefit!