From the Desk of the Head of School, Michael Schuler.

Thursday, january 23, 2014

The Future of Education Was Invented in 1906

Recently, Forbes magazine published an article entitled  The Future of Education Was Invented in 1906.  The article references the story of Jose' Urbina Lopez Primary School, an underprivileged school in Mexico. According to the article, a teacher at the school helped his students be the best in the country by utilizing student-directed methods.

However, as the article points out, there is nothing new about the approach.  It mentions that the "future of education was invented in 1906," by Maria Montessori. The author's main point is that Maria Montessori, a doctor and researcher, was groundbreaking because her pedagogy was the first scientific education method. He said that Maria Montessori "experimented" with methods and, based on the results, built up a theory of a child, which she then tested and refined through experiment.

I look forward to elaborating more about the specifics of the article.  I would encourage you to read it through the following link.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/pascalemmanuelgobry/2014/01/22/the-future-of-education-internet-one-laptop-per-child-ted-sugata-mitra-montessori/

Thursday, january 16, 2014

Competition as it relates to Montessori philosophy

Several weeks ago, I mentioned that there has been some excellent news coverage of the Curry family, a group of highly successful athletes whose children attended a Montessori school for most of their early education.  The two sons, Stephen and Seth, are playing professional basketball, as did their father.  Their sister, Sydel, is presently in college and competing on a Division 1 volleyball team.  Sonya, their mother, also a college athlete, founded the Christian Montessori School in Huntersville, North Carolina in 1995.

I continue to be struck by her comments regarding competition, especially as it relates to Montessori philosophy.  I was one of those kids who grew up in a simpler time.  I went to school, was expected to work hard in class, and played sports for three seasons from grades 5-12.  I was fortunate to continue playing division 1 lacrosse for four years in college.  This was not unusual.  Many of my friends followed a similar path.  I only mention this to point out that I had many competitive athletic experiences which impacted me in a very positive way. So I was more than a little interested about comments that Sonya Curry made regarding competition.

"The world teaches us that competition is a fact of life.  I always tell my children,'If you can tell me that you left everything out on that court in practice and in games, then we don't have to have any discussion. But if your answer is that you didn't give 100 percent, then I'm going to challenge you on that because that is where competition originates...external competition isn't as positive and effective as inner competition."  She goes on to add that Montessori classrooms inherently teach students to be self-confident, to not listen to "outside voices," and to listen to themselves.  Also, according to Sonya, a Montessori education encourages independence, self-motivation and, always, respect for others.

I believe that many of the aspects of a good Montessori program are evident every day here at Bozeman Summit School.  I feel like our approach is very much in line with the thoughts that the Curry family shared.  Our teachers do an excellent job of knowing every child in depth and encouraging and guiding them to reach their potential. We, too, understand that competition is a fact of life. Yet, we strongly believe that a key to success, in sports or in life, is developing individual motivation. We have excellent, trained, caring teachers who provide support for every child in an exceptional environment.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Nothing But Net: An Interview with the Curry Family

Congratulations to all of our students and teachers for a wonderful holiday program last week! It was very enjoyable to watch and listen, over the weeks leading up to the program, as the students practiced and sang holiday songs under the guidance of our teachers.  It was a huge success in every regard!  Once again, thanks to all of our parents for helping with the set design and decorating, as well as the costumes for the students.

On a different note, I recently read an article in Montessori Life, a publication of the American Montessori Society, entitled Nothing But Net: An Interview with the Curry Family.  The article focuses on the lives of the Currys, whose son Stephen plays professional basketball for the Golden State Warriors, brother Seth played for Duke University, and their sister, Sydel is headed to Elon College to play volleyball.  Their father, Dell, played professional basketball, as well.  However, most noteworthy for our interests, is the fact that their mother, Sonya, is the director of a Montessori school that she opened in Huntersville, NC in 1995.  All the Curry children attended the school from early childhood through sixth grade.

Here are some of the comments the sons made in reflection of their Montessori experience: 

"I used to love to come to school every day because there was something new I was going to learn every single day, at my own pace," said Stephen.

"My fondest memory was simply learning different things in a hands-on way. You'd see other kids from other schools who just had sheets of paper, but going to a Montessori school and being able to learn similar things in a different way-looking back on it now-that's unique," commented Seth.

When asked what characteristics within her children were cultivated through their early Montessori experience, the mother and director, Sonya, said, "I was thinking about the school in the sense of what a Montessori education can offer; the term 'tailor-made' came to mind. That's what it did for three different human beings-my children."  She then went on to say that they never had to fit in to the environment and even though there are parameters in Montessori, it was always about respect.  I couldn't agree more with her observations and reflections.

If you are interested in learning more about the Curry family, I would encourage you to check out the short video on the AMS website at www.amshq.org.

Have a wonderful holiday!  Thank you for all your support of BSS.

 

The following entries were written by former Head of School, Dani Stern.

Thursday, january 26, 2012

Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Intelligence

I realize you’re an educated bunch, but just for the fun of it, let’s review interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence.  Howard Gardner’s groundbreaking work on multiple intelligences recognizes these concepts as the two forms of intelligence that relate to how people cope with situations.  Interpersonal intelligence is understanding others and acting on that understanding.  Intrapersonal intelligence is the ability to know how we feel and have insights into why we act as we do.  

Here’s a good reason to help your child with an elevated emotional IQ:  “Scientifically, a case can be made that helping children improve their self-awareness and confidence, manage their disturbing emotions and impulses, and increase their empathy pays off not just in improved behavior but in measurable academic achievement.”  (Goleman, 2005)

Even more essential, at least to me, is that our children grow up and “play nicely in the sandbox.”  In other words, as humans, our biggest goal in life is to be accepted and loved, and to give love in return.  GPAs aside, I want this first and foremost for my kids and yours, too.

Caretakers and parents can make an impactful difference in children’s lives by providing them with opportunities to improve their social and emotional skills and build resilience.  Judith Colbert shares some suggestions to help you at home:

Help children increase their social competence by interacting positively with others:

  • When a child does not appear to have the social skills to get along well with others in a group, organize a play situation with just two or three children to give the child guided practice relating to others.
  • Help children learn to share by creating situations where the children will have to take turns using certain materials, such as the sought after Lego piece or the glitter glue.
  • Help children learn to take turns when it involves what they want to play.  For instance, pass the football for 10 minutes then play soccer for 10 minutes.  The next time, the one who wanted to play soccer gets to choose the activity first.

Plan activities that are appropriate to the age and abilities of children, but also provide them with opportunities to make decisions and solve problems:

  • Allow children to choose their activities and take responsibility for their choices and their behavior. Choosing gives them a measure of control over their lives and a feeling of autonomy or independence. It also shows them that choices have consequences. They may make a positive choice and enjoy the activity, or a negative one, in which case they will have to learn to cope with the results.
  • When a choice doesn’t work out, help the child deal with the resulting frustration and disappointment.
  • When planning activities for a group, allow for varying levels of ability. What may be relatively easy for one child, may pose a frustrating problem for another. When an activity frustrates a child, work with that child. Break the activity into smaller, simpler segments so that the child can experience success. Provide positive feedback when the child succeeds. When the group is ready, challenge the children with tasks that are more difficult and allow them to practice solving problems, including the problems posed by their own emotional responses.
  • Encourage children to take ownership of specific achievements and feel proud of what they have accomplished. Help them understand their achievements by praising specific aspects of what they have done. Don’t simply say, “Good job!” Say, “I like the way you folded your clothes and put them away.” Instead of saying, “I’m proud of you,” say “You should be proud of yourself.”

Modeling – Use a variety of strategies to give children examples of emotional intelligence in action:

  • Adult Behavior – Make sure that you model the kind of behavior and problem-solving skills you would like them to acquire. For example, when you make a mistake, admit it and then point to the possibility of improving in the future. “Oops, I spilled the rice. It’s okay. I’ll clean it up and try to be more careful next time.”
  • Stories – Read stories or watch movies involving characters who have successfully solved problems and related well to others; show children how social and emotional skills can be used in daily life. Encourage the children to tell you how the stories relate to their own experience. Believe it or not, the American Girl Doll books and movies are perfect for elementary age children, girls and boys alike.
  • Songs – Remember the power of music and songs to tell stories. Children have long known and loved the Eensy Weensy Spider that crawled up the water spout, was washed down, and went right back up. Think about current entertainers, such as Charlotte Diamond, who has written songs about accepting life as it is and overcoming disappointment. “My Bear Gruff” describes loved friends who are “not extra special, but special enough.” In “The Whistling Paperboy,” the music does not stop when a much loved paperboy leaves because he is replaced by a “Whistling Paper Girl.”

When you give children skills and strategies for controlling their emotions, solving problems and relating to others in positive ways, you give them tools that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sex Education Starts in the Home

I addressed this sensitive issue two years ago.  I think it’s a pretty important one and wanted to broach the topic again for those of you who weren’t yet parents at Bozeman Summit School or for those who may not have thought about or had that talk yet.

A friend of mine has these little check-off lists she likes to tell me about. “By age 5,” she’s says one day while hiking, “your child should be able to count to ten.” Okay, I can handle that, or at least work on it. The last one I remember goes something like this: “By age 8, you should have had the ‘sex talk’ with your child.” GULP. My eldest was about to turn 8. DOUBLE GULP.

Off to the library I went and found some very appropriate, user-friendly, sex education books for children. I got up the gumption right before the book was due back to actually read one. Too bad Ellie, the soon-to-be 8 year old, fell asleep right quick. I was left with Ben, who was 5 at the time, and was as interested as could be. Not a problem, I soon found out. The book was developmentally sound and the truth is, the younger, the better. Young children are so much more open to talking about sex than adolescents, so I’m told and can only imagine.

Some pointers for sex education with your child:

Use correct language and start talking about these issues early in a child’s life. Use the proper names when discussing parts of the body. If and when they want more information, they’ll ask if discussion is easy with you.

○If your child doesn’t seem interested, don’t push. It might not be the right time for them. Do let them know you’re available if they want to talk about anything.

○If you’re embarrassed, say so. They know you so why hide it? Say something like, “My parents didn’t talk to me about this, so it’s kind of new for me. But I want to tell you the facts because it’s important. If there’s something I don’t know the answer to, we’ll find out the information. Okay?”

○Find information sources that are aligned with the developmental stage of your child. Be sure to look over the material first. Different sources offer different approaches based on different ages and values.

○Assume that your child is developing sexually a few years earlier than you did. Kids are reaching puberty at an earlier age and it’s not unusual for girls to begin menstruating at 10 or 11 years of age. What’s more, the media has changed drastically. Kids are exposed to a lot of sexual imagery and need help making sense of it.

○ If you’ve never read about sex, inform yourself. Go to the library or book store for a few hours. Several titles are available not only for general sexual information, but also for how to talk with your kids.

○The risk is ever growing. Learn to talk with your children about sex now. It will make the conversation that much easier later on down the road. By establishing those open lines of communication about sex (and any topic for that matter), you lessen the risk of waiting to talk with them after they're in trouble.

Good luck and let me know how it goes. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Observing Children

Today, I had the genuine pleasure of working with the children on a holiday project. It was delightful to witness the kids being 100% in the moment as they focused on their identical, yet unique, respective projects. Their task was identical. They had the same materials to choose from and the exact same instructions. The end results, however, were all very unique, just as the children are. Some used a TON of glue while some hardly used any at all. Some kept theirs simple, and others were elaborate. Some were flashy, yet some were subdued. Some of the students were silent as they worked diligently and methodically, while others visited with their peers as they wistfully added a touch of this and a sprinkle of that.

I love that our children have the ability to be 100% present so often. We have much to learn from them. Even more, I so enjoyed this glimpse into their creative side and the pondering of how it plays out now and how it will play out in the future. (See, there I go again, losing the moment.) Often, when students go about their day choosing particular works first because they favor them, or expressing how they got to a particular answer, I get a glimpse of what might be their future. I often imagine them in their early adult years as writers, actors, engineers, artists, teachers, and so on. It’s fun to imagine how life will play out for them.

In the meantime, I say we observe our children up close and from afar and give them everything we possibly can to ensure their happiness and well being. In the process, we can ensure our own.

Happy Holidays to you and yours! Enjoy the extra time you’ll have with your children.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Significance of Friendships for Children

Friendship is a skill we learn early on as children. What children learn and experience about being a good friend at school, home and other activities is an immense part of their education. Two weeks ago, I shared a couple of ideas to help you facilitate healthy friendships in your child’s life. In light of the heavy text in the last two newsletters, I waited untiltoday to share a few more.

Teach your child how to handle different social situations. You actually began this process when your child was a toddler. For example, you began to teach your toddler how to share and to say “please” and “thank you.” Continue coaching your child as she grows older and encounters more social situations. For example, when friends come over to play and the play date ends, make sure your child knows to escort her friend to the door and say something along the lines of, “It was nice having you” or “Thanks for coming over. I hope we can do it again.” If your child will be encountering a new or difficult situation, talk to her (script her) about it beforehand. For example, she is not sure if she wants to go to a birthday party because she is anxious. Actively listen to her concerns. Active listening is when you simply listen and repeat back what you think you heard to ensure you understand the message correctly and thoroughly. It doesn’t mean to be active with your words and opinions. Acknowledge her feelings without judging them. For example, say, "It sounds like you feel a little scared about being around kids you don't know." Next help your child brainstorm ideas about how to handle the situation. She might want to practice what to say to the birthday child when she arrives or to invite another acquaintance over to get to know her better before the party.

Talk with your child. Spend some time every day connecting with your child. This time is not for giving instructions or lecturing, it is just for talking about the day or things that interest the two of you. When your child is talking, let her know you are listening. For example, make eye contact, nod, and ask her questions to encourage her to elaborate on what she is saying. Talking with your child will not only help you keep up with her, but it will also let her practice the very important social skill of holding a conversation. Equally important, it will instill in her the notion that you are always there to talk with and she can tell you anything.

Help your child learn to see others' points of view. Around the age of six or seven, children are developmentally ready and more capable of understanding others' feelings and points of view. Help your child develop this ability by talking about different situations. For example, when reading a story with your child, stop and ask how a character is feeling and why he does certain things. Or when your child tells you about situation at school, ask how she thinks the people involved felt and why they acted as they did.

Help your child learn to manage negative feelings and solve problems. Being able to manage her feelings and work out issues are important skills in getting along with others. When your child talks about how she is feeling, show you are listening by reflecting what she says. For example, you might try, "It sounds like you're mad at Jamie." Then, gently coach her with problem solving. First, help your child identify the situation. For example, say, "It sounds like you're upset because Jamie didn't include you in the game." Then help her brainstorm solutions. Talk about the possibilities she comes up with and have her choose one.

“Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Fitting in with friends is very important to school-age children and becomes even more important as children near adolescence. Recognize how significant this is to your child. If she and her friends do things that seem silly to you, bear with it. For example, you may not like how children this age like to dress. However, if your child's behavior is not dangerous or offensive, do not sweat the small stuff.

Conclusion
If you are concerned about your child making enough friends, stop to consider whether she just has a different social style than you. For example, your child be more “monogamous” than you, and prefer one or two close friends rather than a wide circle of friends. One style is not better than another. What matters is that your child is comfortable and happy with her friends. If it seems that your child has no friends, talk to her teacher, school, or pediatrician for additional guidance and resources.

As a parent, you play a crucial role in your child's social development. You cannot make friends for your child, but your love, patience, and support make it possible for your child to meet new people and make friends on her own. Friendships are crucial to a school-age child. They help her develop the self-confidence and social skills she will need as an adult.

Thursday, OCtober 6, 2011

Can TV be Traumatic for Children?

You bet it can. Sadly, when children take the violence and other disturbing themes on TV as reality, they often view the real world as a mean and frightening place. Kyla Boyse, RN, shares the potential multi-faceted effects of violent viewing:

  • Symptoms of being alarmed or distressed by TV shows can include nightmares, anxious feelings, being afraid of being alone, withdrawing from friends and even missing school.
  • Violent or disturbing programs can cause sleep problems in children.
  • Gory-looking things like grotesque monsters are especially frightening for children aged 2-7. Even when adults reassure them that the images aren’t real, kids under eight still have a difficult time telling the difference between fantasy and reality.
  • Most children exposed to fear-provoking movies express regret about the experience because of the intensity of their fright reactions.
  • Children ages 8-12 years who view violence are often afraid they may be a victim of violence or a natural disaster.
  • Violent threats shown on TV can cause children ages 8-12 to feel panic and worry. When the threat is in the form of news it creates stronger fears than when it was viewed as fictional.

What canyou do? For starters, be in tune with the shows your children are watching. As nice as it is to let them have free range of the TV while you cook dinner, don’t shrug your responsibilities completely. Decide what programs are appropriate for their age and disposition and stick to your rules. Additionally, to minimize peer pressure to watch inappropriate programs, you can talk to the parents of your children’s friends and agree to similar rules, if possible. Or, as it is with many situations, simply tell your children, “Mary may be aloud to watch that at her house, but in our home, we don’t. We are you parents and we’re doing what’s best for you. Would you like to watch something else or help me make this salad for dinner?”

Finally, too much television, even when it’s appropriate, is simply not good for brain activity. Studies show that two hours of TV watching a day is pretty much the maximum a person should entertain. What a difference it can make for your entire family when the television is turned off! It significantly improves play, concentration and relationships with the whole family.

Scrabble, Rummikub, Othello anyone?

Thursday, september 8, 2011

Morning Routines

After his first day of school, I asked my son, Ben, how he enjoyed it. He responded with an emphatic, “Best day EVER, but so LONG.” For most of our students, it doesn’t have to be a new school or transitioning from Kindergarten to the first grade, for the day to seem lengthy at the beginning of the school year. Switching gears from sleeping in, playing in the sprinkler and riding bikes, to sitting still on circle, choosing work and controlling oneself for seven straight hours, can be exhausting for children. However, the second week into the school year, not only my son, but all of the children here at Bozeman Summit School, are becoming acclimated to the 180 degree turn they’ve all experienced.

Speaking of complete turn-arounds, we parents are also experiencing a new schedule which begins, ugh, in the morning. Below are some helpful hints to lessen obstacles and make for a successful send off:

  • Preparation: Help your child prepare the next day’s clothes, lunch boxes and backpacks the night before.
  • Prediction: Ensure that morning routines are the same, so your child knows exactly what will happen. If the morning will be different, talk with your child the night before, painting a picture of how things will look.
  • Simplify: Reduce the number of choices your child needs to make in the mornings – for instance, decide ahead of time what sort of breakfast you will offer the following morning.
  • Relaxation: Allow plenty of time; if necessary, move waking time to earlier for more relaxation. Focus on being relaxed yourself. Nothing amps up a kid more than his parent rushing around telling him to do the same.
  • Rhythm: This is very important. Allow space for a brief time together, over breakfast perhaps, or in bed together, to hold hands, or talk about the day to come, and look forward to when you will all be together again.

Top of the morning to you all.

Thursday, june 2, 2011

Summer Parenting

As you know, next Thursday is the last day of school. It’s time to switch gears, get into summer mode full of camp, travel and most likely, seeing a lot more of your children. The American School Counselor Association has a few tips for parenting during the summer. Children develop a security, an increased self-esteem and have fewer behavioral problems when they have consistency, rules, appropriate consequences and positive authentication in their lives. Consistency means your behavior is completely predictable all of the time. To a child, this means, every time I throw a fit in the grocery store, Mom or Dad will leave the store. Trish Hatch, Ph.D., likens it to a slot machine: “If you give in once, it’s like a slot machine that pays off. Winning once is addicting. If the slot is never paid, no one would ever put money in.”

Having rules in written form is helpful. When a child breaks the rule, the parent can point to the printed sheet that was formerly discussed and agreed upon and ask, “What is the rule?” This takes the heat off of the parent as the “bad guy” and puts it on the rule. Naturally, rules should be clearly stated and reasonable for the child’s age and development. In some situations, rules can be created with the child, which creates responsibility on their part. A rule may read: “Bed time is at 8:30 p.m.” When Cody tries to negotiate for a later time, the parent asks the Cody, “What is the rule?” and the answer is clear.

Two exceptional words can be used when your child wants to engage in an interminable argument with you or decides to defy your authority. They are “nevertheless” and “regardless.” For example:

Parent:“Ellie, please pick up your artwork and then set the table.

Child:“But Mom, Ben was the last to use the art supplies and he NEVER sets the table.”

Parent:“Nevertheless, I want you to pick up the artwork and then set the table.”

Using these simple argument deflectors can help you avoid the confrontation and negotiation that keep the child’s focus on the issue. These two simple words can be used to circumvent arguments in almost any situation. In resolving conflicts at home, it helps to specify the task while being direct. This way, there is no confusion. Keeping the statements short and to the point will yield the greatest success and your child will feel more successful upon completion. Don’t forget to acknowledge a job well done.

Parenting is undoubtedly the hardest, most rewarding and important job there is, yet there is no instruction manual for children when they come into our lives. We must try new things, hone our skills, learn and support one another and give ourselves a break when we hit a rough patch. Hatch concludes with two phrases from Janet Lane andHenry Chester. “Of all the things your wear, your expression is the most important,” says Lane. Chester echoes her with, “Enthusiasm is the greatest asset in the world. It beats money, power and influence.”

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Keeping it Simple

Life often feels analogous to a treadmill. We keep going and going but can’t manage to switch the “off” button. Go to work, take the kids to piano, Taekwondo, birthday parties and ski lessons. Get the birthday presents, the non-dairy cake for my allergic son, drop off one child and pick up the next. Don’t forget the 40th birthday celebration for a dear friend that entails packing my ski gear and suitcase and heading out of town the following weekend and make sure to hook up with another good friend when he comes to Big Sky for a ski vacation yet the weekend after that. Oh, yes, and manage to sneak in three workouts a week, one of them being yoga to help with my stress levels. Sadly, I’m certain I’m not the only one on this treadmill because I see many others out there doing the same thing and they share a similar story.

It’s easier for me to give advice than to take my own but if you’re on life’s treadmill and struggling to catch a breath, I encourage us to all to pay attention to what Simplicity Parenting has to offer. It’s clear that the pace and complexity of modern life can be toxic not only to us but to our children, as well. There are a few key elements that author Kim John Payne recommends for a healthy, balanced life:

Quiet

The radio doesn’t have to be on 24 hours a day, although music certainly has it’s time, place and benefits. Likewise, an hour or so of T.V. a day isn’t detrimental (research suggests no more than 2) but having it on continually in the background increases needless chatter and noise. By quieting our lives in a reasonable manner, there is time and space to think. When we decrease the incessant stimulation (auditory, visual, informational), children and parents can focus more wholly on things that really matter.

Implementing it:

Simply turn the radio, television and computers off more often. Talk to your child/ren before you implement a drastic change. It’s amazing how well elementary age children can adapt to modifications when we talk to them about the benefits of those changes. For example, when I spoke to my own kids about the need to go to bed earlier because Drs. recommend 10 – 12 hours of sleep per night for optimal health and growth, they not only agreed but made efforts on their own volition to get to bed earlier.

Rhythm and Predictability

Simplicity Parenting encourages parents to give children a consistent framework for their lives; at least a semblance of a daily routine. This doesn’t mean a down-to-the-minute, militant schedule, but rather a sense of structure and regularity to the days and weeks.

Implementing it:

A schedule is easy to implement with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bedtime. The trick here is for those times to be similar on a day-to-day basis. Another way to incorporate rhythm and predictability is to assign particular days for tasks, bath time, chores, laundry, etc.

Balance

While weeks can be peppered with scheduled, high-energy activities, plenty of time should be left open for children to play genuinely and recharge. I realize how difficult it can be to the resist the enrichment opportunities in our community coupled with our child/ren’s desire to participate in this art class and that musical endeavor. However, in my own experience, most of my memorable times as a child, were those arising out of unstructured play, either alone, with friends or with siblings.

Implementing it:

Provide your child/ren with more unstructured playtime and put to rest the nagging voice that says, “I should be doing more with her.” When I apply this principle to my own life, giving myself permission to take time each week for a creative, recharging activity, the benefits are palpable.

Physical Simplicity

There is something to be said for physical simplicity. A home that is less cluttered can have the same effect on our psyches. Meals follow the same principle; a simple lunch of quality bread, cheese, and tossed greens proves immensely satisfying. Wholesome food can be appreciated that much more when competing herbs and fruitless ingredients fight for attention.

Implementing it:

Assess the toy bin on a regular basis. Swap unused toys with friends or donate them. Discriminate when considering which toys to add to the collection. This goes for your closets, wardrobe, pantries, etc. Lastly, try to stay on top of clutter control and even incorporate it into your schedule for rhythm and predictability.

Here’s to keeping it simple for you and your beautiful children.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Connecting With Children

The following words of wisdom were shared by a fellow Head of School in Houston, TX. She attended the American Montessori Society’s annual Head of School Symposium recently and had the good fortune of hearing Dr. Ned Hallowell speak. This excerpt was copied from Childcare Exchange.

Connecting with Children
January 25, 2011

An understanding heart is everything in a teacher.
-Carl G. Jung

"A 'connected childhood' is the most reliable key to success and happiness," observes Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., in Work & Family Life (January 2011).

"The starting point in creating a connected childhood is unconditional love from parents or another important adult who is active in a child's life. But loving children unconditionally doesn't mean you don't have expectations for them. High expectations are fine — just not unrealistically high. When parents' love always has to be earned (when they imply 'I'd love you even more if you got all A's'), children feel that they can never please their parents, no matter what.

"Have high but realistic expectations. It's easy to get caught up in the great riptide that sucks kids out of childhood and into an achievement fast-lane as early as nursery school. Be assured that by providing connectedness, above all, you're giving your child the best 'leg up' on the competition. The connected child will achieve at the level he or she is supposed to and will enjoy doing so.

"At the opposite extreme of driving children too hard is not expecting enough from them. This is a form of disconnection called indifference. For example, if a child senses that nobody really cares enough to make sure homework gets done, this can lead to sadness, loneliness, and low self-esteem, which can result in self-destructive behavior.

"As with everything else, balance is key. Being a loving, connected parent doesn't mean giving kids too much, too soon and always coming to their rescue. We should remind ourselves that children don't need a lot of fancy toys or clothes. What they do need is your time, interest, love, guidance, and ability to say no."

Now, I don’t believe it takes a PhD to utter these simplistic words of wisdom, no disrespect, Dr. Hallowell, but that’s the beauty of these tidbits of advice. They are SIMPLE, yet they are genius. Book upon book is written about raising children, teaching children, child development, positive discipline, attachment theory, etc. When all is said and done, however, a philosophy that embodies, “I just want my child to be happy at the end of the day,” is pretty simple to follow. Hey, I’m guilty of it; reading this book and that article. So, read all you want but please, remember that the key to that happiness is their connection to YOU.

Parent well and stay connected to your amazing kids.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Simplifying This Holiday Season

In the midst of the holiday season, I find myself wanting it all to be over. The craziness, that is. Then I think to myself, “What a shame! Aren’t the holidays a time to be with my family and close friends, a time to be thankful with my loved ones? Why wish it all away?”

It’s precisely at this time of year we are given the opportunity to make choices about our pace of life, which isn’t easy. There is a cognitive dissonance going on for most of us where we really do wish for connection with our family and yes, “peace on earth.” Yet the pressure to speed up, go shopping, get to the post office, get your child’s black outfit for the winter program and attend “mingle and jingle” parties is absurdly acute.

Here are some ideas to simplify the holidays. It could be easy on your bank account as well as your nerves.

1. Clutter: Do we really want more clutter in our homes? Talk with extended family, especially GRANDPARENTS, about your wish for simplicity. Framing a conversation about your parenting style and what you want to instill in your child/ren may take the potential sting out of a request to keep the gifts simple. Let them know it’s important that your kids don’t confuse love and care with an overabundance of “stuff.”

2. Rhythm and Predictability: The holidays make for atypical family routines. The normal benchmarks of our days such as wake-up times, school and work, meal and bed times are the things that give our lives structure. More than ever, this is true for children, as it gives them a sense of safety and security. The temptation during the holidays is to throw caution to the wind and to relax all of these rituals. Unfortunately, there is a threat here to maintaining balance and family sanity and it is this... if we do away with our well oiled routines we take away the structure that makes navigating family life possible and enjoyable. The icing on the cake is that during the holidays we have more time together and our family interactions are at their most intense.

So, here’s the million dollar answer. Keep the rituals but be flexible with the times. The table still needs to be set, teeth brushed, toys picked up and so on. If we sustain these predictable moments in our child/ren’s lives they will offer familiarity and allow for decompression that is all the more important during the hubbub of the holidays. Sit down each night, think about it and make some choices that are easy enough to follow through with and then, without becoming obsessive, stick to them.

3. Scheduling: Instead of adding fuel to the fire that many of our kids experience during the school year, try to actually cool it down. Do less. Rediscover the gift of creativity. If your kids whine and say, "I’m bored, there's nothing to do,” your response can be, "Mmm, what could you do?" Boredom is simply an antecedent to creativity. Soon projects, games, reading and creative play breaks out. These activities can last for quite a while. What’s more, you get to relax and read a favorite magazine or your latest book.

4. Filter Out the Adult World: Remember, kids hear way too much adult conversation these days. They aren’t developmentally mature enough to handle the pressures and themes that exist in the adult world. This can become even more intense over the holidays because we spend so much time together in mixed age groups. Don’t forget the three simple questions to ask before you say anything in front of your child, "is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?" If the answer is "yes" to all three then you’re probably on good ground. If not, zip it. Say it later when you can enjoy the conversation within adult company.

Lastly, excessive TV, digital games and computer time is generally not healthy and something to be conscious about. Try to limit screen time to two hours a day, total. Take walks and hikes. Go skiing/boarding, skating and sledding. Try the Swim Center or the hot springs.

They say it’s as easy as one, two, three, uh in this case, four. These simple ideas are attainable. If they reside with you, and I hope they do, try to stick with them and see if you do get to enjoy your family and friends a bit more than usual this season.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why Children May Not Listen

I haven’t read the book Simplicity Parenting yet but I subscribe to author, Kim John Payne’s, E-zene. I thought I’d share some highlights of the article “Simply Said: Why Don’t Children Listen?” by simplicity parenting coach, Sue Gimpel.

Do you find yourself repeating, threatening, hollering, or offering bribes to get your children to do what you want? When you finally get their attention, are you pleased or do you dislike the monster you’ve become? There is another way to get and keep your child’s attention. Talk Less!

As parents, we all want to teach our children about our values, how to do things, and how to get along in life, but have you ever noticed that as a culture we just talk too much? We fill in the silence with idle chatter, or much worse, idle gossip. If we are not talking face to face, we’re talking on our cell phones, or texting, or on Facebook. To children, all this talk becomes constant background chatter, and they are unable to distinguish the noises coming at them from voices speaking to them. They are not just blocking you out, they are truly in a world of their own, a world of imagination, and all the adult voices and conversations are simply “background noise.”

Another way we overwhelm our children, so that they need to tune us out as a means of self preservation, is by talking about our adult world in front of them, or to them. Children under nine often live in a rich inner, imaginative world, especially if they are feeling safe and secure. Children have a natural sense of awe for the simple wonders of life, caterpillars, puddles, and climbing trees. It’s up to us as parents to share the pressures, worries and political opinions of the adult world only with other adults, who have the thinking and feeling capacity to understand these issues. (Let’s not forget, those children over age 9 are still children and have the right to thinking and participating as such.)

So, how can we talk less and let our children be children? Here are three simple questions you can ask yourself before speaking to, or in front of children: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?

Is it kind? Even when what you have to say is the truth, if it’s hurtful, don’t say it in front of children. It’s not necessary or healthy for you to share a funny story at someone else’s expense, especially in front of your children.

Is what I’m about to say true, or is it second hand information? If you aren’t certain of the source of the information you are about to share, it’s a good idea to hold off. You can ask your child before (s)he launches into a long story about someone else, how (s)he knows it to be true. If the response is, “Well, Josh told me that his sister told him that the neighbor...” You can calmly reassure your child that (s)he did not see it, nor did Josh, so we don’t really know this story to be true.

Is it necessary? A young child may feel it is absolutely necessary to tell each and every step of how they accomplished his task and it’s important for us to listen to his stories. As adults, however, we don’t need to fill in the gaps with unnecessary gabbing. When there is less background noise, there is more room to hear what’s in the foreground. If we talk less, we can listen more. When we speak only what is necessary with kindness and truth, it is easier to be heard. When a human being is heard, whether young or old, we all breathe a little deeper and appreciate each other a little bit more.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

An Adventure in Helicopter Parenting

I found myself in an uncertain position not long ago: hovering near my 6 year-old son, as he played with some older friends at a local park. They were all getting along swimmingly and then I noticed Ben couldn’t keep up in speed. He petered out, looking defeated and sat down on the bench. The others ran off and continued in their game, unaware that the younger kid wasn’t playing anymore. I looked for signs of breathing distress, as his allergies and asthma may have flared up but physically, he seemed fine. He was just smaller and not as fast. His facial expression told me he was sad or hurt. Part of me wanted to ask the other boys to include him, to slow down a little.  Another part of me wanted to swoop in and join him on the bench to make the sting go away. And yet, the last part of me decided to let it play itself out. Ben’s wheels turned, his face changed, and he got up and joined some other kids playing in a tree fort. In no time, he was smiling, laughing and climbing a tree.

Nothing is harder than watching your child struggle, even fail. And, because we are smarter, more well-read and armed with cell phones, it’s all too easy be helicopter parents, swooping in to take care of things for our children instead of letting them figure it out for themselves - like write the science paper. Or, bring the forgotten lunch to school for the 100th time. But, just because we can bail out our kids, doesn't mean we should. This was my son’s deal and his life lesson to learn.

So, the next time you’re about to take off on an adventure in helicopter parenting, try these three easy steps first, suggested by Lian Dolan:

Breathe
Yes, I stole this from yoga, but it's still a good call. Whatever situation is happening at the moment will be better illuminated with a little perspective. Breathe, calm down and take in the big picture. It's one grade, one game, one blown college interview—life will go on.

Remember
Recall all the times you were tested as a kid, either academically or socially. Were your parents around to rescue you? No, they had their lives to lead. But those incidents taught you to cope with disappointment and made you who you are. Give your kids the same moments. Someday, they will thank you!

Support
It's not a thin line between helicopter parenting and neglect; it's a wide, fertile valley of supportive parenting where actions have consequences. Being supportive means giving your children a framework of values and a work ethic and then letting go so that they can explore the boundaries of that framework. Some days, they will thrive. Other days, they will start the semester-long project the night before. Provide food and drink, but step away from the glue gun.

My son found an alternative to trying to keep up with the older boys. I held my tongue while he learned a lesson about coping and finding solutions. It’s not like he blew a college interview, but maybe, if he starts relying on himself at a young age, the college interviews will go off without a hitch.

Thursday, september 23, 2010

The Importance of Family Meals

Gone are the days when Dad came home at 5:00 p.m. and dinner with the entire family was on the table at 5:30. Nowadays, dinnertime and the kids are all over the map. This one has soccer practice, Mom has a meeting and the teenager has a group homework assignment at the library. Fast food is high on the priority list, or a quick sandwich eaten on the run. Dad may even be skipping a meal in order to get every one where they need to be. Even if you did prepare a meal, everyone will eat at different times. Sound familiar?

This is a typical scenario for many households these days. Our fast-paced, jammed-packed lives leave little time for meals that are shared with everyone in the family. However, eating together regularly can be a wonderful source of family time, a way of slowing down and keeping a family in contact in the midst of busy schedules. If your gang is hungry for good old fashioned family meal time, here are some ideas for helping you all gather round the table and why it is important.

Regular meal times provide stability. Kids need schedules and routine. They need things to be in order and to know ahead of time what the schedule is. It helps them feel loved and secure in a crazy world. Having a regular mealtime the same time each evening, can be very important. Even if your main course is pizza, try and eat at the same time as often as possible. If it just isn’t possible every night – try for at least three to four nights a week. Or, try for breakfast or lunch, whatever time frame gets everyone there at the same time.

Another good reason to get everyone to the table is the fact that families who eat together regularly are less likely to have children with eating disorders. They learn good eating habits from their parents and the parents know what’s going on in their lives.

Eating together encourages communication. If you’re sharing a meal, you are most likely talking while you eat. Kids will often share things about their day and talk casually while relaxing to dinner. Use this time to check in on what’s going on in their lives, to encourage them and to compare schedules. Find out the latest classroom study or just what’s playing at the movies. The subject won’t matter as much as the fact that you are taking time to visit with one another.

It relieves stress. There is something that’s very relaxing about sitting around the table with friends and family sharing a meal. Good food doesn’t have to be fancy food. It can be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or a big pot of homemade soup. Sharing, talking, taking the time to eat is a great stress reliever. Having your kids be present for dinner forces them to slow down and catch up with the day.

“So, how do we get there?” you may ask. Being prepared is the first step. Below are some websites that can help your family come together for meals more often. I’m especially fond of e-mealz.com because it provides you with a grocery list for the week, cutting your bills in half at the same time. Remember, you don’t have to do an about-face overnight. Start small; aim for 3-4 family meals. That way, you’ll experience success right away. Stick with it for a few weeks and then continue to grow your plan.

Bon appetite!

Under 30 minute dinner recipes. Hundreds of free recipes online!
www.Safeway.com

Wonderful Recipe Guide. Find healthy breakfast meals Here.
www.RecipeGuideSite.com

Find quick healthy meals. Delicious recipes that are tasty!
www.YumThatsTasty.com

Recipe Ideas Perfect for Busy Parents. Quick & Easy to Follow!
www.Education.com

thursday, March 4, 2010

Family Meetings

If you're staying home for most of spring break, like my family is, chances are a family meeting will come in handy. I thought I'd share the basics of a family meeting if you haven't looked at them in a while or have never looked at them at all.

Family meetings help remind us that we are all connected. What we do or don't do influences and affects those around us. Once our children are old enough, they can become part of the problem solving process. Younger children can watch their older siblings and parents participate in meetings and learn from them. There are three basic requirements to hold a family meeting:

  1. The problem must be relevant and important to all involved. The family bathroom is too messy.
  2. The parent needs to provide nonjudgmental leadership. It's not really a "family meeting" if mom tells everyone how the problem will be solved. "The flat iron will be unplugged and put away, the cap to the toothpaste will be screwed on after every use, towels will be hung, and the counter will be wiped off. Got it?" All participants need to know their feelings and ideas count.
  3. The environment needs to be conducive to sharing. The dining room table, where everyone is seated and can be seen clearly, is an appropriate setting. In the car, running late on the way to school/work in the morning, is not ideal for a family meeting.

In a family meeting, problems are stated simply and clearly, and then clarified. ("I'm afraid the house will burn down because the flat iron is still plugged in." "Or worse yet, someone will be electrocuted!" "I'm frustrated because I hang my towel neatly, but no one else does." "Toothpaste on the counter grosses me out.") The problems are: the flat iron is plugged in and left out, all of the towels aren't hung, the counter is messy and the cap to the toothpaste isn't screwed on after use.

All family members present and/or look at possible solutions and then discuss their feasibility. Adding a second bathroom is feasible but might not be possible at this time. A plan of action is then agreed upon and then carried out. The father and brother will shower in the evening, the mother and sister will shower in the morning. Everyone will clean up their own mess before they leave the bathroom. The family will invest in a flat iron that shuts off automatically.

One month later, the results are evaluated. They agree that the schedule for showers is working but the cap to the toothpaste gets left off from time to time. They agree to purchase toothpaste that has a flip lid. The children decide when they have a family and buy a home that it will definitely have two full bathrooms.

Having presented their own ideas, listened to one another's reasoning and worked together to find a solution, everyone feels they are listened to, cared for and important. The skills learned in family meetings will help our children deal effectively with problems that arise in school, work and in social situations. When we tell them we know they can solve a problem in life, we pass on a realistic attitude as we empower our children with self-confidence and a sense of their self worth.

Happy spring break and good luck with family meetings.