Oldest Marathon in the World

Today over thirty thousand runners run the 120th Boston Marathon, the world’s oldest and most prestigious marathon. It’s also the 50th official year that women have been running. If you live in Massachusetts, you might have watched along the route some years for hours as you screamed support, urged runners on, shouted encouragement, and yelled “Keep going! You can do it! You’re almost there!”

The first American winner today was Tatyana McFadden, a racer in the women’s wheelchair division.

I’m listening to our national anthem played now in her honor.

My father began taking me to watch the Boston Marathon when I was very young, so young that he had to squat down to be at my level. We’d stand across from Tasty Treat in Ashland on Route 135, and he’d tell me which runners to watch for.

Attending large sporting events is fun and teaches us lessons.  At the very least, we reflect on our own achievements and reinforce the goals we hope to reach.

How to Discipline Kids: Moving ON, Part III

In the last post, I gave you a good framework to use when addressing back talk with your child.  The last step to take is moving on, bringing her back into the family’s tasks and rhythms.

Of course, neither you nor your daughter may feel like falling into each other’s arms at this point.

That’s okay.  By moving on, you demonstrate a powerful love and respect for her. I know you will do better the next time.  I love you and will stick by you no matter what. I am here to help you even when the going’s tough.

A child’s development is rarely linear.  There are not neat stages through which children pass, with infallible instructions for each. Growth is arduous and messy, trial and error, and many times the path is bumpy and rough.

Be proud of how you are raising your children to be thoughtful, thinkers in our world.

 

How to Discipline Kids: Managing Lip, Part II

Your child is in her room, device free, cooling off during a time out.

Choose a reasonable amount of time to leave her alone. Don’t make it too long. You want to make a point without ruining the whole day.VG.two-women-crossing-the-fields

The biggest lesson you’re about to show her is that in your family, you recognize bad behavior, address it, and then move on.

Because you are the adult, you must teach her how to do this. It is difficult but healthy, from both an educational and a developmental perspective. It demonstrates respect for your child and the consistency shows her that you love her and commit to helping her.

  1. Choose a reasonable amount of time to let her cool off. About twenty minutes is right for most children this age.
  2. Find a quiet corner and ask her to return and talk.
  3. Revisit the issue of lip and what it means to your family. Avoid arguing about what happened. Focus instead on the behavior–giving lip, back talk—and speak calmly.
  • Olivia, do you remember the rule about back talk we have in our family?
  • Why do we have that rule?
  •  You seemed angry about —-. Let her give a short explanation. There’s no need to argue over details.
  •  I know that you can think about a better way to handle your feelings.
  •  What will you do the next time you get angry?

4. End with a hug and move on.

I’ll write more about the importance of moving on in Part III.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Discipline Kids: Giving Lip, Part I

There isn’t a child on earth who hasn’t given lip. Or back talked and made nasty remarks at you, their parent.

Developmentally speaking, children mostly use this language (or the accompanying tone of voice) as part of their separation from you.VanGogh_Bedroom_Arles1 At the time, they have a strong reaction to something, or feel peevish or mean–and punching a pillow isn’t going to make them feel better. They lash out at someone close to them and usually it’s someone they trust.

It’s important to understand as much as possible about your child’s context when she gives lip. However, effective discipline means that you must follow through every single time.

Imagine that your fifth grader daughter talks back when you ask her to help with something:

“No! That’s stupid. You can’t make me! I hate you!” Her nasty sneer gives way to angry belligerence.

What do you say and do? Don’t let it pass. Drop everything and address it calmly whether you’re in public or private.

“That talk and tone is unacceptable in our family. You know that. Leave your [phone or electronic device] on the table here and go to your room.” Let her stomp away and slam her door.

Addressing lip in this concrete way does several things:

  1. You address it immediately and calmly. There are no exceptions.
  2. You take away something of value immediately, like electronic devices. This is better than “no TV for a week,” or ”You’re not going with your friends to…” because you are dealing with it right away, and moving on.
  3. You direct her to a place where she can cool down and so you can calm down. Let her stomp and slam to get some of the anger out.

Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity

When I teach science, I look for opportunities to integrate the arts because the arts are means of expression for everyone. To me, it doesn’t matter if you know much about classical music. It’s more important to use music and help others to enjoy it by making direct connections with other disciplines.

You can do this, too.

For example, The Planets, composed in 1914-1915 by British composer Gustav Holst, is a suite of pieces inspired by his understanding of astronomy and astrology. My favorite piece is “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity” because its musical themes are recognizable to many.

After learning about the solar system, I’ve asked children to listen to “Jupiter,” had them evaluate what they hear in the piece, and then determine if it expands or deepens their understanding of the planet. This is quite sophisticated for children of any age, but I’ve been astonished at the insights of even young students.

You can follow the lead by listening to the great Leonard Bernstein speak about The Planets. “Jupiter” begins at about 24:58.

Geography for Kids

One April, my class of adult learners discussed the work of cognitive psychologist Jean Piaget.  When I mentioned he was Swiss, the students’ blank looks jolted me.

I pulled down a wall map.  “Who can show us where Switzerland is?”  There were no takers, until one of the younger members of the class offered to identify the country.

VG.ChurchAuversSurOise
 Show your child how to find Paris on a map

“I think it’s up around here,” he said, his index finger traveling from Norway to Sweden. “At least, it used to be.”

This wasn’t funny, it was shocking.  As an educator teaching students who wanted to be teachers, it was my responsibility to address this. We spent the remaining classes of the semester using maps and globes , learning geography–states, countries, continents, landforms, oceans, latitude, longitude, and more.

How much geography does your child know? Geography for kids is basic knowledge, but with crowded curriculum today, teachers are lucky to squeeze it in.

This topic begins in early childhood and builds throughout elementary school.  By grades 3 or 4, children should know the basics. Next time you visit your child’s classroom find out if they have maps and globes.  Some schools that are squeezed for resources don’t have these.

When you support the learning of geography at home, do these 4 simple things:

  1. Hang a large world map in your home, at child height.
  2. Talk about maps, use them, play games with them, use your finger to identify places and landforms.
  3. Get a globe and handle it often.  Amazon has fun inflatable ones.
  4. Don’t rely on smartphones or computers as geography teaching tools. Students need to touch, feel, trace with fingers, and manipulate tangible objects to learn well.

I prefer to use maps from National Geographic because of their quality.  Some issues include wonderful regional maps that you can examine with your child–another kind of reading.

 

 

Folk Wisdom

Part of enjoying your kids’ childhood is talking and making friends with their parents at school, games, or parties. You’re all in the same stage of parenting, so it’s a fun network to be in. VG.first stepsYour kids belong and are happy, parents connect, and it doesn’t take long to realize there are many shared beliefs and suppositions that most everyone agrees with.

Educational and cultural psychologist Jerome Bruner used the term folk wisdom to define these beliefs. Some folk wisdom is harmless. Other folk wisdom is just plain wrong. Why would we want to raise our children with inaccurate science?

Here are two examples:

If you go outside in cold weather without a jacket, you’ll get sick.

  • Scientists state that people get sick from viruses, not because they didn’t wear a jacket.

If you give kids too much candy, they get hyperactive.

  • No science confirms this. In fact, study after study has disproved this belief.

There are always parents–and even teachers–who claim that for their child / class, they’ve personally witnessed it. That’s all the proof they need to stick to their folk wisdom. But why promulgate something inaccurate?

When we teach our children to look at science, they learn to question, examine, think, and draw conclusions.  Showing a child how to be a critical thinker is some of the best teaching parents can do.

Don’t Say This

Do you ever say to your child, “I wasn’t good at math, either,” followed by “I’m more of a English (or other topic) person.”

Pardon the caps while I write,  “STOP SAYING THAT!”PortraitCamilleRoulin Vincent_van_Gogh

I know you’re probably trying to show sympathy as your child puzzles through math homework. Or trying to be honest. Or sharing that they’re not alone. Or trying to show that you, an important adult in their life, confronted challenges just as they are doing.

Today, we know more about math learning and the kind of encouragement that helps children:

  • “I know you’re doing your best.”
  • “Did you call one of your friends (or five or six of them) for help?
  • “I’ll listen while you read the directions aloud.”
  • “What does Mrs.—want you to do when you’re stuck?”

Also, if you are able to take apart a problem and help your child understand it, by all means do so. That can be a great strategy if you are able to teach them, not tell them.

Finally, tell your child to ask the teacher what to do the next time they need help with math homework. We parents want our children to feel confident about asking for help whenever they need it.

 

 

Cooking up Math

 

Did you know that you have a math lab in your home?  It’s called the kitchen and is a perfect place for you to practice estimation and measurement with kids.

VanGogh.Oranges
Start early with your toddler and have them count everything. Older kids can estimate the number of sections in each orange.

Whether you are a cook who uses exact measurements, or one who uses handfuls and pinches, help them to learn.

A bag of salad feeds about how many people?  How many gallons, half gallons, pints, or cups of milk do you drink in a day?  Monitor the grams of protein in food and estimate how many you eat.

More specifically, how many teaspoons in a tablespoon?  How many tablespoons of butter in a half cup?  You get the idea.

I know when families get home after a long day and dinner needs to get on the table fast, it seems impossible to let children help.  Especially when you can do chicken nuggets, a salad, and couscous in seconds!  But when you’re aware of the possibilities present, you can take advantage of them.

In math, learning measurement and estimation needs practice right through childhood–and perhaps beyond.  That’s because in many schools, there simply isn’t enough time to find, collect and use all the tools necessary for the hands-on learning that kids need.  Parents need to backfill learning math at home.

What are some other places at home to practice learning math?

 

 

 

 

 

Books in Your Home

Studies show that the number of books in your home library directly correlates to your child’s achievement.  This isn’t surprising, because children who see books in the home, read books in the home, and are read to at home become better and more fluent readers. It’s reading practice.

van-gogh-yellow-books-c-1887

Our home library is extensive.  My professional books about teaching and learning fill an entire wall.  Biographies, which I love to read, take up about six shelves of their own. There is a special bookcase holding books by and about E.B.White.  Same with cookbooks.  My husband’s library of program and project management, woodworking, and homebuilding books is significant, too.  Our children’s books remain in the hundreds, although we’ve given many away.

Our children grew up surrounded by books, with everyone reading, going to bookstores, having weekly trips to the library, and stories every night before bedtime.  Our family was immersed in reading practice.

When parents ask me how to improve their child’s reading, I encouraged them to:

  • Consider themselves a critical part of teaching kids to read.
  • Go to the public library and take out books your child finds interesting.  (Take advantage of your tax dollars!) Let the librarian help find books at the proper reading level for independent reading.
  • Read aloud together every day.  Children’s picture books often have challenging vocabulary, so talk about the words as you go.
  • Teach children the pleasure of browsing in a bookstore.
  • Sign up for the classroom teacher’s book club–Scholastic or another one.  This is an inexpensive way to build a home library with fun books your child chooses.
  • Model reading at home every day:  newspapers, magazines, books, Kindle, audio books.   There’s something for every reader.

Your home library matters.  How can you expand it to help your child today?