One of the first lessons I teach young musicians is how to keep a steady beat. I explore with the kids a list of “what if’s.” What if your heart didn’t keep a steady beat? What if it just stopped for a few minutes? What if it raced and then slowed and then raced again? The kids quickly pick up on the necessity of a steady beat.   

     We soon move to rhythm, which is the movement of the sound in a song. We compare the syncopation to the steady beat. It’s a great lesson, and all my music students learn it at a young age.

       Nevertheless, though, there are always those who, at a slightly older age, decide that their own beat and rhythm are just fine. It doesn’t matter that they’re trying to play within an orchestra… at least not to them!  As a principal of a school for the gifted, I don’t mind kids “marching to the beat of their own drums,” but I expect unity of beat and rhythm when we’re an ensemble!

        It’s all in the timing.  Now, I know that a time signature in music isn’t exactly what’s meant by the word timing, but I think there are a lot of parallels. Timing is a tricky thing, whether it be in learning as a toddler when to step onto and off an escalator or knowing as an adult when to shoot a gun at a moving clay pigeon.  But there are signs and truths about timing, just as there are in music.

         One of the hardest things for gifted children is to wait for the right time. They are often in a hurry to grow up. Gifted kids want the privileges of older siblings, and gifted teens just wish they were adults already. It’s important that we teach our gifted children and teens to enjoy the now.  The beauty of timing is the anticipation and the successful execution. If we teach our kids the time signature, they will enjoy the experience much more. For example, if we tell our children when we hit our growth spurt and encourage them that they, too, will hit a growth spurt at a similar time, our children will anxiously compare their heights to ours, noting each little half inch of growth.

         Having said that, though, I must admit that half of the fun of learning timing is working it out on your own. Sometimes I enjoy it most when I’m reflecting upon how much better God’s timing was than what I would have chosen. About my fourth year at Lawton Academy, I remember becoming convinced that God was going to fund a new secondary building, complete with a cafeteria, library, and auditorium... soon. While my students played sports at PE, I would step out the measurements of the auditorium on the grassy field. While visiting other cities, I would take pictures of features in rooms that I wanted to put in my secondary building. It’s been fourteen years, and God has just now seen fit to give us a multi-purpose building. It’s not exactly what I had in mind, but it’s exactly what we need when we need it most. As I look back on the years between that dream and now, I realize how the recession that occurred could have made the payments on a new building close to impossible to maintain. God had protected us once again from bad timing.  

    As I get older, I learn that just because God reveals the plan now, it doesn’t mean the event will occur now. Goodness, He anointed David king of Israel as a boy, but God didn’t allow him to be king until he had suffered enough to write some of the most inspiring praises in history (the Psalms). David was a man after God’s own heart because he waited on God’s timing.

     Whether or not you share my belief in the Bible, you have to know that the learning occurs during the waiting. In a world of instant gratification, this is going to be hard for our children to believe. In fact, they will mostly learn from hindsight for a while. Teach your gifted child that his time will come, and show him what he will learn as he waits.  Just like in an ensemble, things go better when we time it just right.

-          Michelle

    Timing is everything when you are a musician, a gardener, a car mechanic, a trapeze artist, and yes, even a parent!  Everyone, practically, is tied to some need for timing.  Being both a musician and an artist, I have an internal struggle: the musician wants perfect timing, while the artist has no concept of time when lost in creative thought.

    Our school differs from the state public schools when it comes to the time for children to attend school.  Due to sheer numbers, the public schools must limit entry dates to a set date and not deviate from it.  We, on the other hand, have the ability to judge a child’s readiness for school and make the determination best for that child.  Many bright children have been spared boredom in a typical pre-school classroom which borders on day-care service.  (Note: some preschool programs and day care facilities do offer fine “learning programs.”)

    Educational programs over the years have tried to mandate a certain age for the accomplishment of skills by children, only to find that not all children fit in that box!  Individuality is an important concept that must be paramount when timing a student’s learning path.  It requires keen observation, knowledge of the progression of skills, and much daring on the part of the teacher.  When we step outside of the typical box, we are on our own…accountable for the positive or negative outcome for that child.

    I am a firm believer that a child can learn anything if the teacher puts it into a concept which is familiar to that child.  I think children have a natural desire to advance on to new concepts rather than do the same old thing over and over again.  Thus, it is important for educators to spend the extra time developing that new level of learning for that child.  Immediately it becomes apparent that not all children learn at the same pace, and a “one size fits all” approach to learning just doesn’t work for all students.

    The hardest part of matching timing to a student’s needs, for me, is trying to pick a point of entry or departure for older remedial students.  The student doesn’t want to work in activities which are “young” or beneath his age.  However, finding activities of lower-order skills which are presented at a seemingly “teenage” level, is a task that is very hard.  Often a teacher must just write her own activities.  This is, however, probably the best solution since the teacher knows that student’s particular needs best.

    The other “timing” problem I face is that of the “hurried child.”  This child wants to write cursive writing before he or she can even recognize the complete manuscript alphabet.   The purpose of printing in manuscript is to properly form letters for an easy transition to cursive connected writing.  The print in manuscript also better matches the world of print around the child which he/she is trying to learn to read.  If the child and the parents of that child will relax and wait for the proper timing, cursive writing will be easy and certainly more legible.  

    Brain research has given us information such as the need for teens to start school later in the day.  Some timing such as this is often just not possible due to various restraints.  Research also shows that students read faster in the morning, but comprehend better in the afternoon, although at a much slower rate of reading.  So, when should a reading class be scheduled?  I’ve had reading classes at both times of the day.  The research has proven true.  But the question remains:  which is more important for the student…faster completion of work, or better understanding of the work?

    In summary, I spend a lot of my life dealing with issues of timing.  Do I solve problems with one basic line of reasoning?  No…I have to look at each case individually.  Then, I must look at timing issues such as schedules, student maturity, parent desires for that child, and my own available time.  Then, I do a lot of praying!  I have had a lot of success…but I have also had failures.  So, I will keep working for a better solution…and I will do what I can to help each student of mine to overcome timing issues.

                                                                                                        -   Kay



People always say, “timing is everything.” You never know how true this statement is until you experience it first-hand. There’s a reason why many of life’s biggest decisions and changes move incredibly fast. When the timing is right, things just seem to fall into place. This phenomenon is both exciting and terrifying, depending on how life’s timing aligns with the plan you create in your head.  

While there are some aspects of timing that are completely out of your control, there are other aspects of timing of which you have to be aware and act accordingly. Right now is a big time for high school seniors. December and January are prime time for early college applications. If you are the parent of a senior or you yourself are a senior, it’s time to get serious. Early applications for many schools close soon. It’s time to start putting yourself out there. This is also peak scholarship season. Although some scholarships are available year round, there are a lot more options directly preceding a new academic year.

Scholarships generally have a reviewal process that can takes weeks if not months. To ensure that scholarship money is accounted for by your fall semester, you need to be submitting scholarship applications. Googling “college scholarships” brings up thousands of pages of results for scholarships from all kinds of places. These applications vary in requirements and amount of money, but there really is something out there for everyone. But the time is now, so do your research and start applying for those scholarships now.

Timing is everything. While the overall timing of our life is out of our control, it’s important to be mindful of timelines that impact our futures. Be proactive and stay on top of deadlines. Being mindful of the things you want in life will allow you to stay on task and keep your goal in mind. Being responsible and proactive with timelines, and open to change when the timing is right, will set you up for success in your life.

-          Bria


Welcome to 2019 - the year of spontaneity. A motivational speaker I admire once told an audience that he names each of his years by what he hopes to accomplish in that year. For example, he had past years that were focus years, health years, career years, etc.

For me, I want this year to be a year in which I accomplish a lot. I started off the year by making a vision board that included inspirational quotes about health and wellness, self-love/self-care, working hard, etc. I knew this year was going to be life-changing, but I had no idea what would be in store.

We are six days into 2019, and my life is about to completely change. Unfortunately, I cannot disclose all of the gritty details just yet, but 2019 is going to bring total change to my personal and professional life. When making that vision board, I had no idea how fast things would move. The center theme of all of this change was spontaneity. I was offered something that was definitely a crazy offer on paper. It is completely life-changing and exciting. It is also something I never thought I would be doing. If you told me, even six months ago that in this year I would be making this change, I would not have believed it.

That’s the beauty of spontaneity. I could have easily turned this down and written this off as a crazy idea that would bring about too much change. I could have been too afraid of the potential risk associated. What have you been afraid to do or try? It doesn’t have to be some uprooting, life-changing move; it can be a small risk that improves your life and broadens your horizons.

I dare you (that’s right, we are taking it back to elementary school - I double-dare you) to take a risk that might improve your life this year. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. This year is your year. You are going to do great things this year; be spontaneous and open to opportunities. You’ll never reach your full potential when you are hiding in your comfort zone. What spontaneous thing will you do this year?

-        Bria

    Spontaneity is NOT a word often associated with me.  Everyone who knows me well knows that I always tend to look at an upcoming event with caution.  I learned long ago as a superintendent that Murphy’s Law is always in effect, and if anything could go wrong, it usually did.  Therefore, I looked at all the possibilities that could arise and made a plan of action for each one.  Needless to say, my family was less than happy with this predictive behavior, and thought I was just a negative person.

    During the snowstorm that surprisingly took place here in October, my pastor told the church that for the first time he realized what a struggle all of our school superintendents had making the decision about whether to close school or not.  He worried about someone trying to get to church and suffering a terrible accident on the way.  Well, I’ve experienced that deep turmoil every snowstorm for the past fifty years!  It’s not fun!

    Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy serendipity experiences.  I like to travel with my husband, and we enjoy checking out the local areas off the main highway systems of America.  We have met very neat and interesting people that way.  We have tasted America’s uniqueness from coast to coast in these unplanned adventures.  Now, I must admit that a few of these were not pleasant experiences…like driving all day until we came to a river which did not have a bridge crossing it.  We finished the entire day of driving right back where we started early that morning!

    I do, however, love spontaneity that I call “the teachable moment.”  I refuse to let a lesson plan get in the way of such teaching moments in my classroom.  I believe that is one reason Lawton Academy is so enjoyed by our families.  We stop and take advantage of such moments.  Often, concepts which would appear somewhere in our plans just pop up out of nowhere…and the time is perfect for teaching it at this moment.

    We met a teacher recently who told us his plan for the day’s lesson was dictated to him by the school’s administration.  I thought how limiting that would be!  Such faculty control also controls the thinking of the students…and perhaps kills any chance for teachable moments.  I remember as a first-year teacher having to place my week’s lesson plans on the principal’s desk by 3:00 Fridays.  When it came to carrying out the lesson plans the following week, they were hardly ever what actually ended up taking place.  There were constant variables which caused them to have to be changed.  I realize that the purpose was to be sure if a substitute was needed for that teacher, the day was already planned for the students.  But the trend I am seeing in many schools is micromanaging the classrooms.  Even our state legislature likes to get in on that act.  Everyone wants the best teacher for their kids, but no one desires their child to marry one or to become one!  Yes, it is a sacrificial vocation.  A truly good teacher spends three to five additional hours each evening just grading, planning and studying for the next day’s lessons to go well.  (Some may not spend that amount, but all will spend at least another two to three hours each evening on schoolwork.)

    I would recommend a wonderful little book about this called The Geranium on The Windowsill Just Died but, Teacher, You went Right On by Albert Cullum.  The ending is very touching: “Teacher, come on outside!  I’ll race you to the seesaw!  No, you won’t fall off!  I’ll show you how!  Don’t be afraid, Teacher.  Grab my hand and follow me.  You can learn all over again!... “ 

    I took the lesson to heart many times in my career.  I enjoyed the squeals of laughter as I slid down the tornado slide, got dunked in the cold dunk tank, and got tagged as I tried to get home free in a game of hide and seek!  Isn’t life wonderful!?  I think so!       

-        Kay

  Now, we’ve spent a lot of time encouraging you as parents to help your gifted child control his impulsive reactions. It seems odd that we would now encourage spontaneity. There is a key difference between impulsive behavior and spontaneity, though. An impulsive response is made without thought. Spontaneity thinks about it and says, “Sure. Why not?!”

     There’s a lot of benefit to encouraging spontaneity in your children. I know that is contrary to every bit of advice you hear from the talking heads. They esteem the virtues of routine and schedules, and there is wisdom in getting your child into a routine. Spontaneity is where fun is born, though, and kids need that. It’s fine to establish that the screens go off by 8:00 each night so we can wind down. But, it’s fun to spontaneously decide that this night, we’re going to the big screen (the movies) at 8:00!

    A child who is too scheduled bucks change, and change will have to come. In a world of “instant,” a parent would have to work really hard to keep a completely consistent schedule. My thought is, “Why not bring the fun every once-in-a-while?”

   Of course, too many spur-of-the-moment decisions can be bad as well. You want the spontaneity to be a welcomed surprise. Do it too often, and spontaneity becomes the norm.

    I love how big ideas at our school often hit us (the owners) all just about the same time. As soon as we each vocalize it, we realize we should do it. Change happens spontaneously. My kids know when they come back from a break, several things will have changed. They trust that it will be for the good, and they always seem to respond well. Like I said, “Spontaneity brings the fun.” Do something spontaneous with your kids today. No major life changes… I don’t want to be blamed for that! Just something small and fun… and spontaneous! Happy New Year!

                                                                                  - Michelle

Too Much

   “Too much” definitely describes this last week of school before Christmas break.  We have had: too much weather change for the worst; too much time needed to finish student-made gifts for parents; too much sugar in all the candies, cakes, cookies, etc. which everyone gladly consumed; and too much academic material to finish before report cards.

    Is it any wonder that all of us have been counting the days until break?!  At my age, I hate to live life looking forward to a special date such as Christmas holidays.  After all, I desire to cherish each and every day I have left on this planet!  In my mind, I see my life as the seasons of nature.  When I was a young sapling, I rushed through every day, looking for new experiences.  During the summer years of my life, I enjoyed life’s adventures fully!  In my autumn years, I filled every day with memories, family- building of future generations and small catnaps between chores.  Now I am in the winter years of life, and I see the delicate balance I must keep each day in order to feel I am completing my task which God planned for my life.

    Too much of anything can be a killer!  Even too much water…a necessity for life…can cause a person to die.  (I witnessed this in a silly contest a few years ago.)  Yet, our days are bombarded with too much advertising (every five minutes or so on TV) or too many robo-calls during the busiest time of the day.  My husband is constantly reminding himself and me that the cost of a new pick-up is “too much” since it is as much as a new starter home.  Since we’ve been watching our carbohydrate intake, we now notice the serving sizes of food in restaurants…definitely too much!  

    The thing that amazes me most, however, is that we never see “too much” love given to the lonely, or “too much” food and shelter given to the homeless in our community.  I was proud of one of our parents who worked to help provide about eighty-four homeless students in our city with gifts of necessities.  Our school received an award for having the third most participants of small schools in the Spirit of Survival Race for Cancer fund raiser.  Our students, staff and parents graciously gave blood donations, volunteer time, and Christmas boxes to third world countries.  Yet, the amount was nothing near the “too much” level of giving of selves.  Jesus told us, “Greater love has no man than this: to give his life for a friend.”

    The Giving Tree is a touching little book that inspires me every time I read it to my students.  I hope that my life will make such a difference in the lives of others.  President George Bush passed away a short time ago.  His death caused people of all walks of life and all political ideals to long for the kinder, gentler nation he desired.  Maybe his death was timely in our nation’s mad quest for “too much” of everything.  My prayer is that I and others like me will take the time to pray for our nation to be able to renew that spirit of unity and to monitor our behaviors so that we do not overdo the “too much” of what life offers.     Merry Christmas!  

-          Kay


  1. Thanksgiving

  2. Friendsgiving

  3. Office Thanksgiving Potluck

  4. Holiday Party

  5. Office Holiday Party

  6. Your Significant Other’s Office Holiday Party

  7. The party of a colleague of yours that really wants you to come even though you will likely know no one in attendance…

  8. Someone significant in your life that inevitably has a December birthday and feels wronged by that fact, so they insist on throwing a huge (non-holiday themed) birthday party in the middle of December.

  9. Christmas Eve

  10. Christmas Day

  11. New Year’s Eve

  12. New Year’s Day


It’s too much….


I don’t know about you, but it is December 16th, and I am over it. The number of parties I have felt obligated to not only attend but also dress up and bring food/beverage to is insane. It’s not even Christmas, and I have somehow decorated three trees (two of which were not pre-lit) and spent an astronomical amount on gifts for people that in some cases, I would never hang out with in my personal life. What is it about this season that makes you feel the need to buy a Lindor Chocolate Christmas tree for the girlfriend of one of your coworkers? I might be projecting, but this is exactly the kind of pressure that I feel this time of year.


    All of the parties, presents, casseroles, cookies, red dresses, Santa hats and glitter can really weigh down on a person. How do you handle it when everything feels like too much? For me, I believe in the importance of alone time. One of the other things that comes hand-in-hand with December in America is the idea of gathering people together to celebrate. This might be in the form of a parade, a party, or even just the crowded shops and malls as people try to find the best deals on gifts. You might not realize it, but constantly being in a group can and will make you feel exhausted. You need to take time to be by yourself and recharge.


Secondly, remember to practice self-care this month. The Holidays are focused on giving to others. This is great but remember to also give to yourself. As selfish as that sounds, it’s important to give to yourself, even if all you are giving is a break. Take time to do something that makes you happy. For some that might be treating yourself to a pedicure or a massage. For others, it can be as simple as allowing yourself to have a night in on the couch with a good meal and your favorite show. Failing to take care of yourself this season can make you temperamental around others and can keep you from fully getting into the holiday spirit. The worst thing you can do for yourself and your family is to create tension because you are exhausted by the time the festivities start and you are short with someone.


    Now if you are like me, you are probably thinking, “Who has time to relax and recharge? There’s so much to do!” And my answer to that is, “Maybe you are doing too much.”

For example, every year at work we have a community holiday party for the members of our space and their friends and family. Last year I spent almost an entire day decorating. There was fake snow everywhere (the blankets and also the snow confetti pieces), sequins and confetti shaped like Christmas trees, ornaments, and snowflakes spread out across every surface, little birds and snowmen with hats on, a huge intricate Christmas tree, fake presents, and glitter everywhere. It looked magical and it took me a full ten hours to clean up the next day. This year I spent three hours decorating. There was a Christmas tree (pre-lit) on the stage with big ornaments only, several smaller pre-decorated trees throughout the space, red and green lights, and a hot chocolate bar. This set up took me about an hour to clean up, and people loved it all the same. Sometimes the expectations we set for ourselves are far beyond what is necessary. There are situations in which going the extra mile is really worth it, and in those situations that will be evident. But save your energy for those really special moments so as not to wear yourself out.

This time of year is the prime example of “too much.” Remember that it is important to take care of yourself and relax as you go into the New Year. Starting with a calm mind can help set the tone for how you will experience 2019.

-          Bria


My husband returned last night at 9:00 p.m. from coaching elementary novice wrestling all day.  Over eight hundred kids had shown up to wrestle at this particular meet, and, for obvious reasons, everything ran late all day.  He plopped down on the couch, said, “They want to wrestle next week at Tuttle,” and then promptly fell asleep.  I, on the other hand, tossed and turned all night.  Never, in my thirty years of teaching, have I had to make a decision to participate in an event three days before Christmas!  I could not imagine any event being so presumptuous as to assume people would not be headed to Grandma’s by “three days before Christmas.”  To make matters worse, that day is the same day our son would be arriving to “come home for Christmas”!

    I thought about the fact that we watch football games on all of the fall/winter holidays.  Maybe it was okay for sports to run all the way up to the holidays.  But then again, this was novice wrestling.  As the principal, I have to be careful of the precedent allowing students to play sports this close to a major holiday like Christmas will set.  Am I asking too much by scheduling events that require students to stay in town till the last minute? Is it asking too much of novice students to give up every Saturday for three to four months to wrestle with 800+ students?

    Knowing “how much is too much” is one of the hardest concepts to master.  As young mothers, we’re told not to hold our babies too much or we’ll spoil them.  Throughout our children’s lives we are warned of the dangers of too much exposure to everything from media to the sun.  As kids, we’re told that, “if we make that face too much, it’ll stick that way.”  Then every single interest we have, we are told we invest way too much time in it, and we should diversify.

     I wish I could give you a finite measurement…something that tells you when you’re in the sweet spot – not too little and not too much.  Unfortunately, the only teacher for knowing the appropriate amount for anything is experience, and there are always a lot of mistakes made on the way to discovering the right amount.  The best I can do is to remind you of a few signs that something has reached “too much.”  If appreciation is no longer showed, you’ve reached “too much.”  If you don’t (or the child you’re making do the task doesn’t) enjoy it anymore, you’ve reached “too much.”  If no one notices if you’re there or not, that event has reached “too much” and is thereby not worth it. 

    As a thirty-year+ teacher, I would encourage you to create a scarcity of that which you want your kids to appreciate.  I don’t reward my kids for each little task they do.  I expect them to help out with picking up trash on the floor, cleaning table tops off, and putting chairs up at the end of the day.  I do, however, occasionally reward for exceptional cleaning.   These rewards are always an unexpected and a very welcome surprise.  Were I to do it every time, the kids would eventually wear out on the reward and not help at all.

     I’m not sure what we will do regarding the wrestling match.  I’m going to let a little more time pass and see if God reveals a solution that pleases all.  Fortunately, wrestling is an individual sport.  The individual families will get to accept or reject the coach’s invitation to the meet.  And maybe that is the answer:  each family must decide for itself what is “too much.” 

-          Michelle


Growing up I always associated maturity with aging. Now, I think maturity comes from experiences and circumstances. It’s become somewhat of a joke that millennials are not able to get full-time 9-to-5 office jobs nowadays. There is a narrative that we are all baristas, waiters or Instagram models. I personally know that many of the people I went to school with are living this life style and are having trouble securing office jobs. Employers claim that they want experienced employees, and no one wants to take a chance on someone fresh out of college to be their first touch-point with experience in their career field.


I, on the other hand, am working in an office setting and have been since I was 21. I have been fortunate to not have the typical life trajectory of the modern-day “young employee.” Because of this, I have been exposed to many things that are generally to be experienced by people much older than myself. I’ve been in situations for which I probably wasn’t ready, but I learned a lot in a trial-by-fire.


Over the last two years I have gained enough financial stability to have a greater level of independence in my personal life. I am not living in a studio with 2-3 roommates; instead, I have a one-bedroom apartment with a dog. I have had to learn a lot and mature as well. Living alone, maintaining an apartment, keeping an animal alive, and handling all my bills and taxes has made me grow up much faster than a lot of the people with whom I went to college. While I do believe that I have always been somewhat of an old soul, I think that my circumstances are largely responsible for the level of maturity with which I conduct myself.


Aside from circumstances, there is a portion of maturing that is a self-driven process. In middle school and high school, I chose to be involved in extracurriculars. I chose to get involved in student government, and I chose to educate myself in and outside of the classroom. I was driven and motivated to push myself to do competitive activities and learn and grow from other people against whom I competed. I attribute competitive activities to a lot of my maturing. These activities taught me dedication, graceful losing, and meaningful winning, and they helped me build my self-confidence about my own creativity, talent, and intelligence. These extracurriculars pushed my boundaries of what was comfortable and forced me to learn more about the world in which I live. I was exposed to different types of people. This broadened my view point and made me more socially and culturally aware.


Continuing to push my boundaries and meet new people has increased my maturity in my adult life as well. One thing that helped being a young adult in an office setting was surrounding myself with people older than me in my personal life. Many of my close friends and acquaintances are five to fifteen years older than me. This has given me the added benefit of being able to learn from their mistakes. The advice that I get from these friends and acquaintances is invaluable to me because it comes from a place of experience.


There are many ways to continue maturing. The best way to accelerate this process is to make it self-driven. Without your own motivation, you will still mature in time, but it will take longer. Being proactive about broadening your horizons and learning new things will kickstart the

process.  Associate yourself with the kind of people you want to be, not the kind of people you were/are. These people can help you grow and mature in more ways than you know. These efforts will help you mature and grow into the person you are meant to be. As we move into 2019, determine your goals for the year. What are you going to do to grow, learn and mature this year?

-        Bria

Maturity is that point when an organism is fully grown and developed.   In psychology, maturity is the ability to respond to the environment in an appropriate manner.  As a teacher, I tend to think of the process of maturing in terms of the latter definition.  My goal for students in a classroom is for them to behave in an appropriate manner for their age and grade level.

    Gifted education can cause some consternation in this matter since students are often placed in advanced classes due to their academic abilities.  As younger children participate in activities with students older than they, bumps and bruises (usually unintentional) become an often -epeated fact.  I, like many educators, find this situation a catch 22!  Meeting the needs of gifted children becomes a difficult balancing act!

    Placement of gifted students, therefore, must be done on an individual basis.  What may be good for one child may be the undoing of another child in the same setting.  At LAAS we take great care and do a lot of consulting before we move a child above his chronological level.  And if, after such a move is made, the child cannot adjust to the advanced maturity levels, we certainly will allow the move to be rescinded.

    In reality, our typical problems are not the students mentioned above, but the students who come to us very far below the expected maturity level for their ages.  I often see this in the primary grades where parents are so anxious to have their child in school that obvious problems are overlooked in the application process.  Children who are not potty-trained cannot have a successful experience in our four-year-old classroom.  Yes, there are some parents who allow children to continue to wear disposable pull ups even at three and four years of age.  With the invention of new absorbent materials, students who are not potty-trained feel no discomfort at all.  However, other students can smell the soiled underwear and often will express their disgust with not so polite adjectives!

    My teachers are noticing more and more the inability of young children to reach their mouths with food.  Much of their snacks are all over the floor and are left for the teacher to pick up after snack time is over.  My own reaction has been to compare these children to my own and those in my schools over the past years and realize how much more immature these students seem.  Perhaps, I think, it is because so many people are reading texts on their phones during meals that no one notices food being cast all over the table, floor, chairs and other children.   At last, my teachers are beginning to agree with me that snack time will go if more responsibility isn’t shown.  Guess what?!  I’ve already seen some improvement.  And yes, I do reward change for the better!

    If schools want to improve, they might start by not accepting the status quo of today…and try to instill some old-fashioned table manners, social manners, and responsibility.  It didn’t warp my children or any of the students I’ve watched pass through our schools in the past.  I think it would be a good first step in helping our nation to become a better one, with responsible citizens acting appropriately in their environment.     

-        Kay


Tim Elmore wrote an article in Psychology Today  in November of 2012, in which he outlines the “marks” of maturity:  1) is able to keep long-term commitments, 2) is unshaken by flattery or criticism, 3)  possesses a spirit of humility, 4) makes decisions based on character, not feelings, 5) expresses gratitude consistently, 6)  knows how to prioritize others before self, and 7) seeks wisdom before acting.  Great!  I’m almost mature!  (My parents are saying, “About time!)

      The definition of “mature” is much more attainable: fully-developed physically, full grown.  Now that I can achieve.  I am definitely mature by definition!  When talking “marks of maturity,” I’m making good progress, but I’m not there yet.

       Maturity is such a subjective idea. What might be considered immature by some might only be fun to others.  Since I work with teens, I will address what each of the marks of maturity look like in your teen. 

Able to keep long-term commitments:  your teen reaches maturity in this area when he realizes that a commitment to running club means running throughout the seasons (i.e., in 100+° weather and in 20°weather).  If your teen can keep a commitment for the length agreed upon, he is probably meeting this mark.

Unshaken by flattery or criticism:  Okay, all of us are shaken by flattery or criticism.  This refers to the making of decisions based upon that flattery or criticism.  Your child is mature when he does develop a crush on every girl who compliments him and want to beat up (or cry) over every criticism.  When he recognizes that others’ opinions are just that – opinions, then he has met this mark.

Possesses a spirit of humility:  I have very few students who have reached this mark.  Humility recognizes that she might have more talent than another, but the teacher is wise in decision-making and must have a purpose intended for the student chosen instead of her. Humility doesn’t demand his own way but gives way to the needs of others.

Makes decisions based upon character, not feelings:  This mark is so hard to attain.  We are not taught to deny our feelings often.  The problem with feelings is that they are often based upon assumptions.  To be mature, one has to weigh what we are feeling against what we know about that person’s character to make wise decisions.  This is one with which I wrestle every day.

Expresses gratitude consistently:  Again, there are many kids who will say “thank you” when a door is held open for them; there are not many who send thank you cards for gifts or awards that were purchased or even for a fun afternoon of activity.  I don’t blame the teen, though.  Gratitude is taught.  Sometimes we have to show people the hard work, time and money that went into an activity.  People don’t naturally seek the “behind the scenes” look.  This is why mommies across the world start telling their kids to say “thank you” before junior can even say, “Da-da.”

Knows how to prioritize others before self:  This mark is another work-in-progress for me.  I know how to put others before myself; after all, I am a mother.  What I’m still working on is not sounding like a victim when I do so!  I think, for a teen, this look like “not always having to get his way.”  Just being able to accept another’s idea when it’s up against your own is truly difficult.  Any teen who can do so is definitely mature in my book!

Seeks wisdom before acting:  This is another tough one.  It’s easier to react than to act, and acting takes a conscious effort.  If your child asks you what he should do before he acts, then I’d say he has reached this mark.  That wisdom coming from one’s own experiences will take a lifetime to build, so for now, relying on a parent’s wisdom is a good second.

     One last thought before I leave the idea of maturity.  I always shake my head when a parent tells me that it’s okay for his/her child to watch Rated-R movies because he/she is very mature.  I don’t care how maturely your child behaves, your child’s brain is not ready for the concepts presented in Rated R movies until the age appropriate for that movie.  When kids watch images they are not mentally mature enough to grasp, they develop some pretty weird ideas and explanations in their minds.  If you’re going to be their “friend” and let them watch those movies early, at least take the time to sit down and help them process every one of the scenes that might have content they don’t understand yet.  If you find yourself blushing, maybe you’re guilty of not possessing maturity mark #7 above.


Meeting Expectations

     I just walked past a permanent display at my church on which were the signatures of members who had committed to making themselves “third” in order of importance. My husband’s name jumped out at me, and where was mine? Written in my heart in a private covenant between God and me. Difference in execution… but still a commitment. Is my commitment less effective because I didn’t make it public as expected?

     In everything in which we participate, we are asked to meet expectations. I wonder how many of us want everyone to meet our expectations while not really trying to meet others’.  I expect parents of students at my school to read the weekly announcement sheet, but I rarely read our church’s newsletter.  If we blow off expectations as adults, why are we so surprised when our kids do it?

     The key is in the consequences. If parents don’t read the school announcement sheet, they don’t send money with their little darling by the “last day to purchase.” Then their little darling lets them hear about it… sometimes publicly!

      I have very high expectations for myself and for my students in school-related activities and lessons. Outside of school events, my expectations for my students are more akin to acceptances. I accept that teens will be interested in a relationship with a significant other. I accept that depression can occur in failure to find that person. I accept that, once found, the two will become inseparable.  I don’t expect them to behave differently than I did when their age. The consequence for demonstrating this need to be close (PDA) is a half -a-day suspension. It’s amazing how that shuts down the PDA (public display of affection) in my middle and high schools!  I don’t expect the desire to demonstrate PDA, though, to disappear. Instead, I expect the families of the couple to give them time together outside of school… even if it’s supervised… to experience “dating” (within reason, of course!).  Another example, if you would:  I accept that teens experiment with curse words, but I expect them not to be used while “on the job” (aka: at school and school-related events). 

     It is not wrong to have high expectations for our kids… especially gifted kids.  In fact, I have found that my students thrive because of the high expectations at our school.  Too high of expectations, though, and one runs the risk that his children will never feel “good enough.”  Too low, and he creates a future “burden on society.”  Wow!  Parenting is hard!  Fortunately, you are not the first parent ever to deal with this.  Seek the advice of those who have been through it.  You will make mistakes, but with some alternations and adaptations, you will create a thoughtful young person with high expectations himself.

-        Michelle

Are you happy with your life? Do you feel like you are making enough money? Are you at the point of your career that you thought you would be by your age? How about your love life, is that perfect?


Expectations are incredibly dangerous when they are unrealistic. There are so many expectations and ideals to live up to nowadays. In years past, the American dream was generally a white picket fence, two children, and a dog. That’s manageable. It’s hard to buy a house, but not impossible. Meeting someone is a big ordeal but still within the realm of possibilities.


In the 2010’s, this ideal has changed. While some people very much still strive for the traditional American dream, society pushes people to reach an entirely different expectation. Rather than expecting our young people to strive for houses and families, they push people to strive for fame and money. I realize that Hollywood has always glamorized the lifestyles of the rich and famous, but parents, you have no idea what your kids are being exposed to on YouTube, Tik Tok, and Instagram.


Your children and teens are spending their time watching influencers on social media content creation platforms spending exorbitant amounts of money on mansions, cars, designer clothes, gadget, etc. If you think I’m just talking about the Kardashians, you are sorely mistaken. Ask your kids about Jake and Logan Paul. You’ve probably heard of these Disney channel stars turned YouTube pranksters, mainly when Logan, the older of the two made national news filming a real dead body in the suicide forest in Japan.


Beyond all the very problematic content on this channel (which you should definitely be concerned about, but that’s a different conversation), these boys and their group of friends portray incredibly irresponsible financial decisions and total abundance of wealth and fame. There are many of these type of influencers across channels and interests (beauty gurus, sports channels, comedy channels, diy, video games, etc) that likely cover one or more of your child’s interests. I think the Paul brothers are especially dangerous because of the ages of their viewers.


The primary audience of Jake and Logan Paul is kids aged 7-19. That’s a very young audience, and it likely includes your child. Jake Paul alone has 17,599,368 subscribers on just his main channel. A significant portion of that immense subscriber count is young children that don’t have the discretion and judgement to understand that the Paul brothers don’t have a normal life. This results in unrealistic expectations. The more your child takes in content from these beautiful, rich, irresponsible people, the more they desire to be like them.


Earlier this year, 1,000 kids ages 6-17 were surveyed about what they want to be when they grow up. The top five answers were: Youtuber, Blogger/Vlogger, Musician, Actor/Actress, and then Doctor/Nurse. While this was a somewhat small data pool, several similar research studies and surveys have found similar results. To me, that is both terrifying (thinking long term about jobs in our country) and sad to think that our children have those expectations for themselves.


-        Bria


    Meeting expectations has always been a driving force in my life.  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t try to meet the expectations of those older and wiser than I.  Perhaps it was because I felt sorry for my mother who was constantly left alone with three children while my father traveled over the country driving his truck.  If my mother couldn’t count upon me to help or to fix things, who could she turn to for such assistance?  All her relatives were two hundred miles away.  So, I did what I could!

    When I was selected for the Gifted Program in St. Louis, I was going to be “so out of my element” that I worked doubly hard to meet expectations.  After all, how could I face old school mates if I failed at the new school?  One thing I didn’t understand as a youngster was that I was truly out of my element in that program.  Those new classmates grew up with college-educated parents who had the typical expectations for their children to excel in professions of note after a college education.  I had no idea of what a college even offered.  I had no expectations for life after high school graduation.

    My saving grace for college entrance was that I was not prepared to enter the clerical world of work…I had been given music lessons since I was ten years of age…and a music degree was a possibility.

What I didn’t know at the time was that God had a plan for me and my future.  Now that I have walked the path, I can clearly see the people and events placed strategically in my life to lead me to service in education.  His expectations, as written in the Bible I studied daily, led me to set work standards and ethics which contributed to the successes I’ve enjoyed in my life.

    When I founded Lawton Academy, I explained to parents that children will “rise to the level of our expectations.”  Therefore, my expectations for our students were set to a high standard.  As I have watched educational standards change over my fifty+ year career, I did not budge an inch.  I refused to use dumbed-down textbooks or to lower standards because some children just couldn’t be expected to achieve them.  (Perfect example: “Don’t require memorization of math facts…give them a pocket chart or later on a calculator.)  I am proud to say that our kids do learn these important facts!

    Many teachers teach a lesson only to find quite a few students didn’t learn the concept.  The error then is the failure on the part of the teacher to do everything possible to discover different ways to help those children achieve the goal.  Yes, it takes hard work!  Parents have expectations that a child’s teacher will help their child to learn.  That should be our expectation, too.   The variable may be the amount of time involved, but I believe all children can learn anything if we can teach it in terms they understand.

    One of my parents gave me a plaque with a poem on it that sits in our school foyer.  It talks about the teacher’s expectations for her students.  At one point the teacher leads them to the edge of the cliff and tells the children to leap.  “It is too hard,” they said.  But with the teacher’s leading, they leapt off the edge and “they began to fly!”   That meant a lot to me because their oldest child stopped talking after experiencing the Moore, Oklahoma, tornado which destroyed everything around them.  I had great success with this little boy.  His father wrote me and thanked me for “giving his son back to him.”  

    Since it takes so little to be above average, set your aims high!  I promise you a life of rewards!

-        Kay



It’s that time a year again: everyone is headed off to malls and department stores to find great deals on gifts. There is a lot of pressure that comes with this time of year, specifically around the idea of gifting. Everyone wants to be the perfect gift-giver, but with so many people in our lives, it’s hard to find the perfect gift for every loved one.


I struggle with knowing which people I should be gifting. Beyond my immediate family, friends, and significant other, I also feel a need to gift to the next tier of people in my life. For instance, I brought gifts for everyone I worked with last year and in return received one gift from my close office friend. I’m not saying that I’m upset that I didn’t receive more gifts, but it seems as though it was unnecessary for me to spend money and time gifting all of my colleagues.


This scenario highlights a fundamental difference in how people think about gifting. For example, last year I discovered a difference between my significant other and myself. We spent tons of time going to malls looking for gifts for family members and friends and he said, “Do we need to get each other gifts this year since we are spending all this money? I’m fine without a gift, what do you think?” I said, “Absolutely not! Of course we’re getting each other gifts.” To him, the idea of not receiving a gift from me seemed practical.  But I couldn’t stand the idea of not getting him a gift and vice versa. He didn’t mean this to hurt my feelings, he was just raised with a very different idea of gifting than myself.


For me, gifting is such a special experience for both parties. A good gift giver shows that they really know and understand what the gift receiver likes and appreciates. This is meaningful beyond just the gift because it validates the person’s connection to you. I think it’s important to gift throughout the year. I don’t mean that we need to get expensive, lavish gifts year-round, I just think it’s nice to give little things to remind our loved ones that we are thinking about them and that we care.


One thing I appreciated about my mother growing up was the little gifts she would bring us back from running errands. These things weren’t always huge gifts, but it showed that she was thinking about us and our needs in her day-to-day life. This is something I’ve tried to carry on into my adult life with those I’m close to. I will always be the person to memorize someone’s coffee order and pick up a cup of coffee for them on a particularly rough day. What is $2.00-$4.00 to me, means a lot to the receiver because it shows that I was thinking about him and acknowledging that he is having a tough time.


I think shifting our focus of gifting would help make this season a little less stressful. Rather than waiting all year and putting a ton of pressure on the holiday gifts, integrate small gifts throughout the year. This will challenge you to really get to know your loved ones and find out what they like and need. Not only will you build their appreciation of you, but you will also come to know them better and feel the sense of goodwill that comes with gifting this time of year. After the holidays pass and the decorations come down, remember that gifting doesn’t only exist within the confines of November-January. Carry that cheer throughout the year and see how it strengthens your interpersonal relationships.

-        Bria

Gifts are certainly at front and center in our minds this week.  Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been playing very large in all the advertisements on TV and in the newspapers.  It seems that our economy is doing quite well at this moment, and people are trying to buy gifts at record savings.  As for me, I will do the usual…put off buying these gifts until the last possible moment.  I can’t explain why I do this each year…I just do.

            Perhaps my passive gift buying stems from my childhood poverty.  Gifts were not easy to come by for my family.  It was nothing like we see today.  I can’t remember having the “gift everyone must have” such as the Elmo craze one year.  Each year we hear of the new “must have” sensation.  I guess I just never developed such a craving.  Yet, I see children stressing their parents out over the possibility that they will be the only ones at school who didn’t receive that “must have” toy.

            My thinking about gifts tend to center around those small unexpected cards of thanks, or small items left on my desk which mark a special relationship with one of my students or families.  Usually, these little gifts come after a major breakthrough we’ve had in learning.  It is kind of my Olympic moment!  I know these come from the heart and are not just given because it is a set calendar day upon which everyone feels the pressure to give.

            Gifts are something we receive from someone else.  I like to remind my gifted students that their IQ is a gift God and their parents have given to them.  Yet, how they use that gift is very important.  Some people squander such a glorious mind, while others take that mind and create solutions to life’s problems.  I challenge each of them to be like the latter person and use their minds to “gift” us all with new cures for diseases, or with beautiful new melodies or art pieces, or with discoveries of nature and the universe which we have yet to find.

            Over the years, I have seen gifted students I went to school with establish cancer research centers, help with the invention of the electron microscope, and unravel new ideas in quantum physics.  I have seen others establish mission outposts for the poorest individuals on our planet.  What wondrous gifts they have given to us!

            As I consider all these gifts, I cannot put aside the greatest gift of all.  How I am amazed and thankful that God loved us so much that He gave us Jesus to teach us how to love Him and to know how to have eternal life.  That one special gift which gave me salvation has changed my entire life.  So, amid all the commotion of this holiday season, I will treasure this one gift and spend time reflecting upon it and seeking ways I can pass this special gift on to others.       

-        Kay

    ‘‘Tis the season to give, right? From the bell ringers outside the stores to the clerk asking you to give a dollar more to (insert charity’s name) to Secret Santa drawings at work, the pressure to give is put in hyperdrive during December. “Gifting” does not come as naturally as we might think, though. It is our job to teach our children how to be philanthropist, even if they aren’t rich.

     Tithing used to be standard in many homes. The 10% amount is a good standard for all homes, not just Christians. If we taught our kids to give a tenth of what they receive to those less fortunate, there might not be such a rabid search for funding in December. There are a wealth of good causes out there. Allowing your children to help decide and support a cause will do nothing but good for them.  Gifting our time works just as well as money often. There are so many programs that would benefit from a family donating some monthly volunteering time.

      We had a rule when my kids were young: for every toy or item they got at Christmas or their birthday, they had to donate a gently-used toy or item to Goodwill. The idea was that they were to help a less-fortunate kid have a chance to have a cool gift as well.

       Don’t just require that your kids gift, though. Model giving. I’m not at all saying that every cause should get a bit of your money. You’d be broke after one trip to the mall! Don’t accept false guilt; you were not meant to save the entire world! Just find the sliver you’re supposed to help.

       Gifting is a “love language.” There are those to which this comes naturally, and nothing makes them happier than to give. Very few children are in touch with that love language, though. It’s up to us to cultivate the desire to give.

-        Michelle


              Chores can help children develop responsibility if they are used correctly.  Once a child understands that everyone has chores just because they are a part of the household, respect for each other and what it takes to keep harmony in the house becomes natural.  A problem many people face with chores is the mistake of rewarding doing chores with an allowance. When reward is attached to it, the chores become a bargaining tool. That often leads to arguments.

              We require children to have chores in the school because we all live here and want our surroundings to be in order.  When things are put away where they belong, tasks and lessons can take place easily without interruption. When things or pieces are missing or lost, everyone suffers by not being able to use that particular resource.

              Assigning chores also allows us to more easily identify those children who go above and beyond.  They are more aware of things awry, take the time to fix the situation, and alert us to possible serious situations.  That is the responsible citizen we are trying to rear in our school.

              From time to time I ask help with a more rigorous task.  Those who help may receive a piece of candy because I appreciated their willingness to help me.  Immediately, three or four students will try to repeat the task (ex.: picking up extra trash blown onto the playground by the winter winds) after it has been done.  They bring me a piece of paper they found and ask for a piece of candy. I explain that no candy is given when the purpose of the act was to get candy.

              Chores also allow the child to develop time management skills.  Getting a task done on time is a skill that many of our friends in the retail business tell us is disappearing.  Another part of that is children learn how to divide large tasks into manageable parts to achieve the whole in a timely manner.

              Chores also allow a child to grow in self-esteem.  Every time a job is well done, people usually take note.  It makes a child proud to have adults or others brag about the job they do.  Believe me, they also get an attitude adjustment when they don’t do their chore up to standards.  Negative comments help bring about a correction in their work ethic pretty quickly. (That is if they do care about what others think.)

              Chores can sometimes help the child develop a skill not typical of children their age.  For instance, the students working on our school robotics build teams have learned to properly use and take care of very sophisticated equipment which includes drill press, grinders, and table saws.  These are skills which may help them later in life as households need repairs.

              I love the School of the Ozarks.  It is called Hard Work University.  Students can pay for their education by working in the many labor areas of the school.  They run a dairy, make food products for distribution, run a highly rated restaurant and hotel, plant and grow their own foods, etc.  My own nephew graduated from the school and is a successful teacher and coach. That education would not have been possible for him if he had not gotten the opportunity to work for his tuition.

              As I have mentioned before, The Little Red Hen is my favorite book.  When the homemade bread was finally cut and eaten by the hen and her chicks after their hard work, it was especially delicious!    Kay