When to Begin...

There is a time and a season for everything under the sun….so goes the Bible account of life in a nutshell.  This week’s topic makes me think of several of the things that cause parents of young children to worry and fret.  Perhaps the following information will put their minds at ease as they trust us with the education of their children.

            “My child doesn’t speak clearly.  Does he/she need speech therapy?”   Parents can relax a little if they will realize the following expected correct articulation of consonant sounds.

            Age                     able to make these sounds correctly

            3 ½ yrs.                   b, p, m, w, h

            4 ½ yrs.                   d, t, n, g, k, ng, y

            5 ½ yrs.                   f

            6 ½ yrs.                   v, th (as in the), zh, sh, l

            7 ½ yrs.                           z, s, r, th (as in thin), wh

Not being able to pronounce certain sounds isn’t a serious obstacle to learning to read.  Instead, we do become concerned when children cannot discriminate among speech sounds.  When that occurs, other learning interventions are sought.

            “How can I help my child be a better reader?”  Remember that reading is a process…not a subject.  It is not an end…it is a means to an end.  Parents can help in the following ways:

            Read to and with your child each day when possible.  Children see that reading is important and they also hear the proper use of language patterns.  Research has shown us that reading with a parent is one of the major factors which help develop good readers.

            Provide a variety of experiences for your child.  Don’t stop there…discuss and relive the experiences through shared telling about them.  This teaches the child vocabulary about the experience.       Play games with them in the car, etc. that call for letter recognition, alphabetical order, etc.  Do the same with words. 

            “Are writing skills that important?”   Yes, they are extremely important.  If children do not develop the ability to write and read their written expressions, they will be handicapped when they are met with historical documents that are hand-written.  They will not be able to read communication from people who do not have a computer or cell phone at hand…perhaps in emergency situations.

            When children write their letters, words, etc. they are adding one more sensory level to their learning.  They see, hear, feel, and manipulate the letters as they write.  It is important that they hold the pencil correctly to prevent fatigue.  Motor memory will kick in after much practice in the same formation of letters.  If the manuscript letters are written correctly, cursive writing becomes a nagural next step which saves time.

 

            “Why do you use tables and grouping so much at LAAS?”  According to J. Barron of Educational Psychology 2000, Vol. 92, pp. 391-298: “Problem solving is best learned in groups.  Not only do groups solve problems quicker than individuals, but when members of the group have to solve subsequent problems alone, they do better than those individuals without the group experience.”

            The last bit of helpful thinking is the following way of looking at grades.  I can’t tell you where I came across this in my 54+ year career…but it is good.  Relate the achievement level with the probable attitude the child might likely develop.  It is called the Ladder of Achievement.

                                                          100% - I did.

                                                    90% - I will.

                                               80% - I can.

                                         70% - I think I can.

                                   60% - I might.

                             50% - I think I might.

                        40% - What is it?

                  30% - I wish I could.

            20% - I don’t know how.

     10% - I can’t.

0% - I won’t.

            And I would remind everyone of the wisdom expressed by James Delisle & Judy Galbraith in The Gifted Kids Survival Guide II.      “Age is a number that happens to you, while maturity is an attitude and a set of behaviors you develop to face facts, set goals, and dream dreams.”           Kay

 

    I tell kids all the time that parents were not born knowing how to be a parent. Parenting doesn’t even come with one standard manual, like driving does. So, it’s no surprise that teachers are asked when certain events should begin with their children all the time. I thought we might address some of the most frequent.

 

   When should I begin to worry about letter reversals?

 

   Have you ever noticed how similar the letters “d,” “p,” and “b” are? It’s the same symbol just spun on an axis or flipped horizontally. The you add a hook on the tail, and, depending upon which way the hook goes, it becomes “g” or “q.” (And the fact that Times New Roman doesn’t put the tail on my “q” makes it even more confusing!) When your child begins to grasp that the letter is more than a squiggle he is forced to repeatedly write, he should quit reversing. The checking into possible problems begins in late first grade or early second grade when the problem persists.

 

    When should I seek help for my child’s bed-wetting?

 

    This one is close to my heart because I was a bed-wetter. Thank heavens, my parents knew it wasn’t a discipline issue. I get so angry at the ads that make parents believe this is a problem they must tolerate (Pull-ups, for instance). Sometimes bed-wetting is due to a medical reason.  But sometimes, bed-wetting occurs because a child is running, running, running all the way to bed time. The kidneys never receive the message from the body that says, “Hey, it’s time to empty for the night.” When the child finally goes to bed, he just crashes, falling instantly into a deep sleep. The kidneys say, “Ope! There’s the signal!” and they empty. Parents, doctors have a pill that will help your child slow down in the evenings so that kidneys will get the message before he goes to bed. It’s a mild antidepressant. I cannot remember the name; I just called it my “magic pill” because it allowed me to go to sleepovers! It took about six months, but it worked.

 

    When should I begin prepping my teen for college entrance exams?

 

   This is a tricky one because the ACT and SAT have been changing quite a bit lately. For years and years, they were the standard. They became too easy to master, though, because of the plethora of material for studying.  Colleges got false reads on intelligence (a.k.a. kids who could study and pass the test, but who couldn’t think their way out of a box), and schools howled for the curriculum tested to match the curriculum taught. Because some universities have waived the need for the testing now, the SAT and ACT have become one of those “institutions” that is dying. In an act of desperation, they are matching tests to the Common Core (ugh!) and are giving the highly paid for “secrets to excelling on the test” away for free to all.  So… your child could prepare for one type, and it could totally change. I’d say, concentrate  on teaching them concepts and to think.

 

     When should my teen beginning perusing admission to a college?

 

     My sophomores all must have a college entrance exam on file with us by the end of the sophomore year. This lets the teen know which schools are likely to accept him and which are out of the question. By the end of the junior year, my students must have narrowed the list of desired schools to three, which they should visit by the end of the summer. I very strongly encourage my seniors to seek early admission to the college of choice. Early admission (application submission in October; acceptance attained by December) means opportunities for merit-based scholarships, opportunities for earlier enrollment in classes, and the chance to just enjoy the last half of the senior year.

   Scholarship opportunities become available as early as the sophomore year of high school. Taking the PSAT/NMSQT should begin in 9th grade. That way, the teen has two years to

practice before “the money” year: the year they might become a National Merit Finalist, which inherently comes with scholarship opportunities.

 

   When should I let my child have a cell phone?

 

   This is somewhat based upon your child’s maturity and responsibility. I would say that middle and high schoolers need to be able to contact parents when on a school activity trip. The teen and I might need comms, as well. There’s a huge difference, though, between a phone and an entertainment center! I wish I could afford some of the phones my students have!

    The big thing to remember is that your teen will do or receive things on the phone that you will not like. You, as the parent, should be vigilant about accountability. Some parents do this by setting up the child’s email so that they can see all the child does. Others check the phone’s history at the end of each day. Do not feel guilty for monitoring use, but also do it in a way that lets your teen know his rights are respected.

 

    When should I begin looking for a different school for my child?

 

    Believe it or not, I have this conversation often. Our school is not for everyone. As the years progress, the difficulty rises exponentially. Some kids suffer because they want to stay with their friends, but the school is just too tough. Chances are, we will have already been talking to you. Keeping a kid here when it’s actually too tough can really do some damage. Notice I say “actually.” If your child is just lazy, we will work with you to help “motivate” him or her. But, if nothing is working, we will begin to encourage you to consider another school. Over the years, there have been kids who were doing poorly at our school because it was too hard, and then have become very successful at a public school. All the good habits were ingrained, and the student was able to proceed successfully. There are plenty of reasons to like our school, but don’t forget that it is a niche school, specifically aimed at education gifted and talented kids.

 

   These are the most common questions I get. Feel free to ask if you have something I did not address.

-        Michelle

When I started thinking about the topic, “when to start…” I was curious about what people search in regard to this phrase. I opened an incognito window in chrome, so as not to have my search history influence this experience, and typed in, “when to start…” The results were all over the place. Everything from, “when to start brushing your baby’s teeth,” to “when to start dating,” to, “when to start applying for colleges.”

What I learned from this is that people have a lot of questions about timing. There are a lot of pressures about timelines and when to begin planning for big life events. Rather than trying to conquer the overall question of timing and preparation, I’m going to tackle planning for college.

 

When to start visiting colleges:

I remember going to visit the University of Texas at Austin with my mom the summer before my sophomore year in high school. Although I was admittedly young, this trip was really important and formative for me. It helped motivate me towards the goal of attending a good college after high school. Over the next three years, my plans for college drastically evolved, but I still credit this trip for focusing my high school career and motivating me to strive for success.

 

When to start applying for colleges:

I encourage you to do early applications to a few different schools. This allows you adequate planning time. I sent in my applications in the fall of my senior year of high school. I received my acceptance package from DePaul two days before Christmas that year. This gave me six months to plan for my move, think about dorms and roommates, and research the university and city to which I would be moving. Aside from practical planning, this gave a lot of time for scholarships to come through and for my family to plan on loans and payment plans to cover the remaining tuition. It was really helpful to have ¾ of a year to plan for these things.

 

When to start declaring a major:

This one has more of a gray area in my opinion. I went into college with the major that I graduated with. Many of my friends were undeclared or chose a general concentration and specified later. I think that there were benefits to both, but I will say I graduated faster than others who waited to declare because I didn’t take extra classes. Generally, I believe it is alright to take general education classes and a few specific classes as electives for your freshman year, with the intention of declaring a major going into sophomore year. Waiting beyond this point can mess up your credits and delay your graduation date. That being said, do your research before going into college so that you have a general idea of what you are pursuing.

Overall, it’s a good idea to give yourself plenty of time to plan ahead. It’s not hard to book tours of colleges in your area. Even if you have to travel, it’s worth it to start thinking about the future now. This will position you to have a strong, more thoughtful application that could have further effects on scholarships and acceptance. It never hurts to think about the future; when to start is today.

-        Bria

Shaming

            Shaming seems to be something that is making big news on the Internet social sites.  I must admit that I am not fully sure of this new social media “no-no,” but I will try to address this subject from a senior citizen’s point of view.  When my daughter first discussed this topic with me, we were talking about situations in which children lay on the guilt towards their parents in order to get their own desires met.

            As we have mentioned so many times in previous blogs, no one seems to want to bear the responsibility for something going wrong.  Yet, my mother used to say, “It takes two to make a fight.” And, accordingly, both of us siblings were punished.  Today, when someone is caught in an entanglement, the cry goes out, “But he started it!”  Yes, we tried that excuse when we were young, too.  No, it didn’t work then either!

            It seems today that groups gather together to apply pressure.  I guess that is especially noticeable in our political arena.  As my husband observed today, “I get tired of hearing the cry that this group of people or that group of people are always winning and then controlling the legislature.  People should realize that if they don’t care enough about an issue to get out and vote, those who do care will rally the troops and vote in their representative.”   Yet, people will continue to gripe and not take much positive action to stop such a trend.

            I believe in using a good dose of “mother’s guilt” when children do not appreciate the many wonderful blessings they have.  Instead of constantly bemoaning the fact their parents don’t let them have the toys they simply “must have,” I remind them of the great expense their family faces in just providing the needs of their children.  Most of my students haven’t got a clue about house payments, utility bills, medical expenses, clothing costs, etc.  Many times it is a good wake up call.  Still, I have those who counter the tablespoon of guilt with, “Yeah, but my dad gets to buy what he wants!”

            I don’t have the answers to this ongoing conflict, but I feel I’ve addressed it before in a blog about manipulation.  However, I would like to introduce readers to a wonderful little ditty from the late Zig Zigler.  It does send a message about responsibility, or the lack thereof, and thus shame on the guilty parties.

            “There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.  Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.  Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.  Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.  It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody, when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.”         

-        Kay

Body-shaming, fat-shaming, job-shaming, mom-shaming, slut-shaming, dog shaming. These are some of the most common results when you search shaming on Google. Excluding the funny Internet practice of dog shaming (look it up if you do not know what I am talking about), these are all horrible things. Shaming in any context should not be allowed, but somehow the idea of shaming has become so deeply ingrained in the narrative of our media that it is a common place word in many major headlines. This harmful concept constantly bombards readers, normalizing the idea of shaming someone for the way they act, dress, look, etc.

Your children are faced with shaming daily, either personally or as an audience to existing shaming of others. The problem here is oversaturation. At some point, it was easier to morally distinguish right and wrong with shaming and bullying, but now our public is so inundated with this kind of negative media, that it blurs the lines of right and wrong. A lot of Internet shaming is done under the veil of comedy. This makes things blurry for children in particular who don’t innately understand dark comedy and insult comedy and the fine line between a joke and hurtful criticism.

Inversely, children have a hard time when this shaming is turned towards them. Whether it be “comedic” shaming or just hateful criticism, children are not taught how to process and respond appropriately to shaming. In turn, this causes two reactions. Either they retaliate with that same hate that they were shown, or they internalize the criticism and let it damage their self esteems. Neither are healthy, responsible, or productive decisions.

This kind of negativity manifests itself on social media with things such as the “don’t judge me challenge,” on Tik Tok (formerly music.ly), a social media platform with a very young population.

In this challenge, kids start out their video with pimples drawn on their face, unibrows, glasses, messy hair, etc. Halfway through the video, they put their hand over the camera, and when they pull their hand away, they are suddenly all done up with a full-face makeup, nice clothes, nice hair, etc. This kind of content might be initially regarded as comedic content, but there are kids that actually look like the “before” versions, and they are seeing people constantly Cosplay “ugly” by dressing up like them. Additionally, there were many versions of this challenge that used different people for the before and after shot, which reinforces the idea that the first person is less attractive than the second.

This behavior stems from the normalization of shaming in our culture. Our kids think it is funny and acceptable to make fun of people for the way they look. This is a direct reflection on the society in which they were brought up. We have to change and be better and teach our children to treat each other kindly. Shaming is unacceptable and not appropriate, and it needs to be treated as such. When shaming becomes less mainstream, I believe we will see less bullying and low self-esteem in our youth.

-        Bria

      There are a lot of bad habits to pick up from the Internet, but one of the worst is shaming.  If you look up “shaming” on the Internet, you will find a plethora of stories of lives completely ruined by a public shaming.  Now, I’m not against a little “mom guilting;” in fact, I think kids ought to know why they ought to be ashamed of themselves when misbehaving.  I stop short, though, at publishing their mistake for the whole world to join me in making them feel bad!

      As a principal, I write many emails to parents to let them know of an infraction committed by their child or grades slipping or the such.  Teachers have been griping about the change in how parents handle this for over two decades now.  When I was a kid, if my parents received a call from the teacher or principal, I got a second punishment at home.  The shifted reaction has been one of putting the blame on the teacher, and we’ve not been too fond of that.  Recently, though, I have had many parents who blame themselves. 

      “It’s my fault.  I’ve just got her involved in too much.”

      “It’s not his fault.  It’s mine.  I never was any good at that in school either.”

      “My child is just so anxious, and I haven’t had time to get him to a doctor to see what’s wrong.”

       Okay, I’m all for not overextending your child or for getting him medical help if needed, but much of the time I hear these things, I KNOW that the child is not overextended or hereditarily bad at a subject or anxious.  Parents, before you let your child put a heaping of “mom guilt” on your head, do some investigating.  I have told my parents before not to argue with their gifted children.  They will have you apologizing for making the birthing process so uncomfortable… for them!  Well, don’t let them blame you for their troubles, either.  Gifted kids know how to get the focus off of them and on to you.  We used to call this “false guilt,” or feeling guilty for something that is totally not your fault.  When your child is making unwise decisions, and he starts to tell you all the reasons it’s your fault, put the responsibility squarely back on his shoulders.  After the admonishment, give him some guidance as to how to avoid this situation again, and even offer to point out when he is slipping toward it again.  Help your gifted child see that mistakes are made by everyone, and no one is required to be perfect from the get-go.  We just have to own our mistakes and work to fix them.

-        Michelle

Perfectionism

   Perfectionism is probably going to be the downfall of our society.  It won’t be because Americans are inherently perfectionists; it will be because society itself is a perfectionist. Literally anybody can critique a person nowadays thanks to the Internet, and he doesn’t have to even face you to do it.  When did we become such an unforgiving society?

   Gifted people are prone to perfectionism.  As small children, we actively strive for excellence.  We love that “proud parent” look, and we bask in the glory associated with being “first,” “best,” and “winner.”  Then we lose. Wow!  We don’t like that one bit.  As we grow older, we learn to avoid situations in which we might fail.  Where avoidance isn’t possible, we procrastinate… literally putting off the possible losing till later.  Our parents and teachers are unwitting participants in our perfectionism.  They evaluate our efforts, point out our procrastination, and admonish us not to make the same mistakes again.  Add to that the constant critiquing EVERY pre-teen and teen gets via social media, and you have a troubled youth on your hands.

   We expect this from our teens.  The only thing new here is the effect of social media.  What is new to me is how early perfectionism is starting.  My current third grade just about has itself in knots with fear of failure.  I’ve never seen so many elementary students so worried about succeeding.  I have been researching and questioning and trying my hardest to figure out what is going on.  We’re a private school, and one does have to apply and interview to get in.  We do prohibit re-enrollment of students who fail to meet our standards, but we complete an awful lot of intervention before that ever happens.  Have we created an atmosphere in which “perfection” is a requirement for admittance?  I don’t think so.  We encourage students to cut themselves breaks all the time.  We point out to students that “failing” in some things is inevitable, but this is a “safe” place to fail. It’s the trying that matters. 

   Could it be the parents putting the pressure on the kids to excel that causes their perfectionism?  Again, I don’t think so.  I have seen parents who require perfection; their kids maintain a façade of perfectionism at home, all the while leading a double life here.  No, the parents of these students are just as perplexed as I.  All of us want to take the pressure off, and we are bending over backwards to let the kids know that we don’t expect perfection.

    I even went so far as to gather the elementary up for an impromptu assembly at which I shared fourteen inventions we would not have if their inventors had not made a mistake.  I pointed out what their lives would be like without penicillin, potato chips, and chocolate chip cookies – all mistakes. 

    Public shaming has to be the culprit.  But are my third graders experiencing public shaming?  I think so.  I think it’s unintentional.  It comes in the form of nine-year-olds on World of Dance and America’s Got Talent.  Every time we herald someone younger-than-ever accomplishing something not usually required of that age, gifted kids listen.  They see the bar rise higher, and they are overcome with worry that they will not measure up. 

    So, how do we combat literally everyone in the world when it comes to raising our child.  Well, the first step is not to give everyone in the world access to your child.  There are enough parental protections out there right now to keep your child safe on an occasional Internet venture for an assignment or game.  The second is to be the voice in your child’s head.  We must be louder than all the advertisements designed to make a person feel inadequate as is.  We must not let the majority of conversation in our children’s lives be what is read on a social media site.  We must create a safety zone that not only allows our children to bring any issue to us, but actually encourages it.  And third, and I think most important, we must be a compassionate advisor, a cheerleader, and a shoulder to lean on when “trying again” for our kids.  Childhood for them is nothing like it was for us.  My daughter just saw the movie Eighth Grade, and she highly encouraged me to see it.  It’s not aimed at eighth graders; it’s aimed at parents of eighth graders and society as a whole.  She said, “That’s exactly what it’s like for us.”  It’s rated R for language and some of the content, but, compared to what you’re 8th grader sees on social media every day, it’s pretty tame.  I plan to see it.  I want to understand my students better.  Perfectionism unchecked is a path to eating disorders, substance abuse, and possibly even suicide.  I cannot bear the thought of losing even one of my kids. 

-        Michelle                                                                  

(Kay is out of town this weekend.  She will submit next week.)

I have struggled with the appropriate way to approach the topic of perfectionism. I think it is such an important discussion, and I truly want you to hear important information about perfectionism from subject-matter experts.

I think the way I will go about this blog is to speak generally about the topic and then link out to research and articles that can serve as resources for parents dealing with children who are either perfectionist by nature or are feeling pressure to be perfect.

Oddly enough, The Wall Street Journal published a really great article called, “The Perils of the Child Perfectionist.” This article discusses perfectionist in a broad view, the pressures children face, and the unfortunate outcomes associated with this pressure. This article also details a research study that provides insights about parental relation to this pressure, discussing ways to push children towards success that do not cause harmful outcomes for your child.

As you probably know, gifted children also experience perfectionism and the pressure to be perfect. This study highlights the science behind perfectionism in gifted grade school students. The original study was conducted in 2000 and has been since recreated and updated. This is a really good resource for parents of gifted perfectionists because it breaks down the experience those children are having based on grade level, gender and other surrounding factors. For people who like an analytical approach to problem solving, this study is great because it used the Frost Multidimensional Personality Scale (FMPS) to rank perfectionism. This test bases its score on factors such as concern over mistakes, personal standards, parental criticism, organization and doubts about actions.

The last thing I wanted to share is an article about managing and overcoming extreme perfectionism. Although I don’t completely agree with the sentiment that people should overcome perfectionism, I think this article provides ways in which to manage perfectionism and base your perceptions in reality.

I know this was somewhat non-traditional as a blog. However, if you are actually dealing with perfectionism in your child or yourself, it’s much more important for you to hear from an expert than me. I hope you click through these links and do your own research as well. There are links out there to help manage perfectionism. Learning about this issue is the first step to managing it.

-        Bria

Restlessness

     I have the strangest malady.  It’s called “restless leg syndrome.”  Sometimes at night I spend more than an hour kicking and turning and holding in weird positions my legs in an effort to stop the desire to move them.  It’s bizarre… and very frustrating.  I’m pretty sure I would test positive for ADHD were I to take a test, and as such, I can identify with children who just cannot sit still.  I used to shake the whole pew at church with my knee-bouncing. But, that’s not the “restlessness” I want to address today.

    This restlessness is the one that comes right before change occurs.  As a military wife, I always knew when the time to move was coming soon.  All of the sudden, the house I’d just loved before wasn’t right anymore.  Friendships were drawing to an end because of duty station changes, and I was ready for a different job.  As a Christian, I believe this restlessness was part of God’s process of preparing me for another move.  As proof, I offer the fact that I have lived in this latest house for eleven years, and I love it as much as the day I moved in.  I have taught at Lawton Academy for fifteen years and I am blissfully happy.  And, even though Lawton does not rank high on any list of best places to live, I enjoy my life here.  I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

     Restlessness is an indicator, as far as I’m concerned.  When my students get restless, I know it’s almost time for the bell.  I get restless at five-till-nine at church because I know it’s time for the sermon to conclude.  When my daughter has to work late and then drive home through Chicago and walk more than a block from her car to her apartment, I get restless if I cannot reach her.  Heck, I get panicked! (Too many Law and Order episodes!)

     If your child is exhibiting restlessness, there’s a good chance that it’s an indicator as well.  It could be that something is wrong, or it could be a sign that your child is changing.  The move from elementary to middle school is a big change, and the one from high school to college is mammoth.  You will see lots of restlessness in the year right before these two big changes.  It is very important that you mark these restless indicators with change in your behavior, too.  Part of your child’s/teen’s restlessness is due to the fear that you will not allow them to change.  The new middle schooler wants to dress like her friends or play the video games his friends do.  The soon-to-be-college-freshman is anxious to make his way in the world, albeit the “college” world.  Any attempts to keep your child/teen as they were only cause trust issues.  Those whose parents refuse to let them grow up become really good at hiding it.  

    Over the years I have watched a lot of actions that, had the parents known, would have gotten the child/teen in major hot water.  If a parent asks me directly if his child is doing something particular, I never lie… but usually these parents don’t even ask.  They think their children are willingly abiding by their too-young-for-them rules.  Once these kids hit college, they tend to break all the rules that bound them before.

    It’s hard to let your children grow up.  The desire to protect only grows as they get older.  My kids have been out of the house for five and ten years now, and I still cry when I return home from visiting them because the house seems so empty without them.  It’s a short-lived cry, though… a melancholy because I have so thoroughly enjoyed the adults they have become, and the week spent with them went too fast!

    I encourage you to research your kids.  There are definite stages in their lives, and the best indicator that a change is about to occur is restlessness.  Do your homework, and your relationship with them will grow right through these changes!

-       Michelle

                Restlessness…at my age usually means restless leg syndrome or some other type of “old-timer’s malady.”  I have reached the age of contentment, so I don’t usually have feelings of restlessness anymore.  I do, however, often have restless nights when I have a situation, problem, or new idea that keeps my mind working long into the morning hours.  Usually, I stop and read my Bible and soon there-after find sleep comes.

                I do see restlessness among my students in school.  Many of these children act as if sitting quietly for even five minutes is torture.  Learning times of about twenty minutes were the standard in my early teaching career.  Now, we are lucky if we can keep children on task for fifteen minutes.  Many people are quick to blame chemicals in our packaging of water, other drinks, fast foods, etc. for the constant motion and talkativeness of our children.  I, however, tend to blame the lack of quality “talk” time experienced in families.  Children love to talk about what interests them, what’s happening in their day, etc.  Often, TV, cell phones, or computers have captured attention instead.

                When my husband and I were in Youth Ministry, we discovered that students hardly ever had time to talk during the school day.  They have a great need to express themselves to others and to learn how reactions will affect them.  Thus, when I started teaching in school, I made sure there was time for interaction among students.  Mrs. Smith has carried on that tradition at Lawton Academy.  Our students just seem happier to be present and seem to be more actively involved in the education process.

                There is a natural restlessness in children, as in animals in the farmyards, whenever a sudden change in the weather is about to occur.  I have an excellent record for accurately predicting rain in our area…all based upon the restlessness in the students starting a few days prior to the event.  Just like biting and bucking colts in the fields…students get rowdy!  Since it is in both species, it must be a natural thing!

                Military families I have met over these many years talk about “It’s about time to move to a new duty station.  I’m feeling it’s time again.”  In their cases, restlessness is probably a good thing.  Otherwise, families might find anger and resentment at the thought of leaving familiar friends, places, etc.  I find admiration for their resilience in tough times of moving, adjusting, packing and unpacking again and again.  God bless our wonderful military families and all they do for our nation.  I salute you!  

-       Kay

The feeling of restlessness is the most persistent annoyance that I face in my life. Growing up military, I moved around a lot in my early years. I attribute this to my need for change after a certain amount of time. I have now been living in Chicago for over 5 years. I’m starting to have feelings of restlessness.

This is not something that everyone struggles with.  My boyfriend is in his late twenties, and he has only ever lived in the state of Illinois. He is entirely content to live here until he dies. This is a point of conflict for us because in my mind, I would be happy to move on to the next place as soon as we are financially stable. For him, it is hard to leave friends and family that have lived around him his entire life. Both feelings are completely normal and natural depending on personality type, upbringing and background. However, I personally believe that these feelings of restlessness give us motivation and desire to move forward and experience new and exciting things.

Restlessness is not a great feeling. It’s annoying, uneasy, unsettling and it causes disruption in other areas of our life. But ultimately, I see restlessness as an opportunity. You only have one life; if you are truly feeling deep feelings of restlessness, it might mean it is time for you to move on to the next opportunity. Maybe that is at a new school, a new extracurricular activity, a new job or even a new location. All of these changes can be really scary, but ultimately these situations force us to grow and learn and develop as people.

Don’t suppress your feelings of restlessness; be mindful to understand if they are temporary or persistent. If these feelings are long-term, consider the opportunities you have available to you. Don’t dwell on the hopeless emotions that can go hand-in-hand with restlessness; seek out new and exciting adventures. It is important to continuously try, learn and grow. Complacency is a death sentence. Use feelings of restlessness as a propeller to advance you to your next place in your life, and then you can continue on your journey to seek and find happiness.

-       Bria

Give it to me I’m worth it…. These words repeat in our heads as we shop the sale racks at Old Navy.

 

Give it to me I’m worth it...The anthem rings as we fill our grocery cart with ramen.

 

Give it to me I’m worth it…. We say to ourselves as we get credit card offers after credit card offers with rates that will surely ruin us.

 

Give it to me I’m worth it… We spend our free time watching beauty gurus making money off our insecurities.

 

Give it to me I’m worth it... Without our parents, we’d have to choose between loan repayment and rent.

 

Give it to me I’m worth it… As we work in the service industry while our degrees are for corporate careers.

 

Give it to me I’m worth it...As we pay our dues (debts) while we pay our dues (being young in the workforce) while we pay our dues (poverty) for paying our dues (debt).

 

Give it to me I’m worth it… We finally get a 401(k) and pay all our money into it, just to know that we’ll never get it back.

 

Give it to me I’m worth it... All day we see social media influencers, beautiful, fit, rich not knowing all the filters and fillers and assistants it took to produce that image.

 

Give it to me I’m worth it... We have 500+ connections on LinkedIn but no one to hang out with on Saturday night.

 

Give it to me I’m worth it...We are the generation that is most aware of the necessity of therapy and least capable of affording it.



I know I lost half on you in the midst of the above. It’s easy to say Millennials and Gen X are whiny and lazy. Yesterday I worked 15 hours on a Saturday. Most of my peers work incredibly hard and still can’t afford the lives that their parents and grandparents lead.

There is an immense amount of stress and pressure being a teenager or young adult right now. We were raised under the impression that if you work hard, get good grades, and make good choices, you will earn a certain amount of success and sustainability. But somewhere in the last decade the rules changed.

Now, it is not enough to work hard. You have to work harder than everyone around you. You can’t just go to college and get a job. You need at least a Master's to do most “9:00-5:00’s.”

You can’t work during college to cover the cost of tuition. Even with scholarships, grants, etc., you’re still going to come out with more debt than the annual salary of someone who will be your manager.

Aside from economical examples, this generation faces tremendous pressure to be beautiful by society’s standards. Parents of teenage girls, I would encourage you one time to just scroll through your daughter’s Instagram timeline. Notice the amount of weight loss products, makeup, acne treatments, and even plastic surgeries advertised to her between pictures of her friends and celebrities she follows. Notice the celebrities she follows are also pushing these products.

 

Everywhere around them, youth are being told, “You’re not good enough, but this product will help you.” Unrealistic goals are set for them in all areas of their lives, and when they cannot reach these goals, they end up feeling worthless. Our society creates a tangible measurement of worth through followers, likes, retweets, shares. Never before have humans been constantly evaluated in front of their peers in such a public facing way.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution to this problem. What I can say is, parents be patient with your children. You don’t understand the pressures they face in this world because you didn’t have to grow up in it. Kids, try to separate these pressures from your self-worth. If you are chasing society’s conception of perfection, you will never be happy. You have to find ways to see the worth that does already exist inside you. And to both parties, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Seek advice, learn, grow, change, be understanding and compassionate, and if you ever feel worthless and helpless, talk to someone about it. It takes support to combat feelings of worthlessness. Lean on those in your life to build you up and remind you that you are worth it.

-        Bria

 

       The mother of one of my students is doing a course with my students on Fridays, and this past week she asked the kids to make an identity badge.  On this badge, the students were to list adjectives describing their character, tell their top four values, and identify themselves by name, job, ethnicity, gender, religion, and social class.  Each shared his badge on Friday.  

        It was good to hear that my students had positive views of themselves.  Just the day before, their answers to a test I’d given had sent me into a slight depression!  It always happens after the first test over The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  You see, the last two questions deal with how closely they identify with nihilism and to what extent they believe religion and existentialism are often mixed today.  I don’t know why, but the eighth grade students who take this test always seem to be hope-less.  They question “the point” to anything, and I get sadder and sadder as I grade!  Fortunately, my daughter is fantastic at helping me understand how my students’ lives are so very different than mine was at their age.  

       She pointed out that getting a job was a much simpler task when I was young.  I wouldn’t say it was simple, but I do see her point.  The pool from which to choose employees was limited by a file cabinet’s size when I was seeking employment.  Now, employers literally have the world from which to choose.  For us, it was a step-by-step plan to follow.  Nowadays, If you don’t get hired through an internship, you have to depend upon networking to get your foot in the door.  It’s not who you know; it’s who knows you.  She also pointed out that hard work led to advancements in the job back then.  Today, people actually lose their jobs because of too much experience… a younger, less experienced worker is cheaper for the company.

        That same Internet that brings job candidates to the employer’s fingertips, lets your teen know that he is just one of millions.  She’s not as talented as others; he’s not as brave as many.  All of this information can make a kid question his worth.  Furthermore, it can make him question if it’s “worth it.”  Is it worth going through a break up to date?  Is it worth going to college when all your money will go to student debt?  Is it worth risking the pain that comes with real relationships when I can talk online with fellow Fortniters literally 24/7?  

         How do we work with a generation who one day sounds lost and the next seems self-confident?  I think the key is not to quit asking.  I think all teens have good days and bad days.  I think some teens have figured out the answers to give us so we’ll think they’re fine and leave them alone.  I encourage you to take the time to check how things are going with your teen.  I know the older they get, the more they retreat to their room for the evening, but you must establish some fellowship time.  The natural place is the dinner table, but that’s only if dinner is not out of a bag in between lessons and practices.  Whatever time it is, I encourage you to MAKE a time to talk to your kids… all the way till they head off for college (and then by phone!) because they are definitely worth it!

-        Michelle

           “Worth it? or “Worth it!”  What a difference there is between these two expressions.  Both are judgement calls which evaluate an experience as being good or bad.  I’ve used these expressions many times as a teacher in my classroom or as the chief administrator dealing with student discipline issues.

            One of my favorite teaching tools over the years was “The Giorgio Effect.”  I would bring in my favorite perfume gift my husband gave me for Christmas: a beautiful yellow and white striped bag which contained a box wrapped in gold and white striped wrapping paper sealed with a red wax imprinted seal much like a king’s signet ring seal.  Inside this box was a beautiful bottle of perfume with a gold cap which sat in a cradle of satin.  Yes, it was an expensive gift which my husband chose for me…especially for a person who grew up as poor as I did.  $150 was (and still is) a lot of money for perfume.

            I was so impressed with the beauty of this gift that I kept all the wrappings over these fifty plus years.  To teach my students how important it is for their projects, reports, or creations to make a good impression, I showed them a plastic bottle of perfume from the corner drug store.  The price of this plain plastic bottle of “smell good stuff” was approximately eight dollars.  Then, I showed them the Giorgio!

            As I carefully unwrapped the Giorgio perfume, students would “oooh” and “ahhh” much like I did upon receiving such a fine gift!  They could immediately see the difference in prices.  Presentation is very important!   Did this demonstration have a positive effect upon my students?  Well, I attended a memorial service a few months ago for a wonderful teaching assistant I hired years ago.  At the end of the service one of my former students came to see me for the first time since she graduated about twenty- five years ago.  “Mrs. Johnson,” she said, “I still remember the ‘Giorgio Effect’ which you taught me all those years ago!”  Yes, it was worth it!

            Being a first grade teacher is a difficult vocation.  We have much accountability for building the foundational skills of students.  Teaching the important skills of holding a pencil correctly for writing, teaching the correct form and spacing of letters in handwriting, and putting thoughts into written form are all extremely important skills which pay off later in school tasks.  Unless I am consistent and persuasive in these areas, my students will have difficulty throughout their school years.  But, like the “Giorgio Effect,” these basic skills, once mastered, can allow much more freedom of expression and flow of creative ideas as these students perform in school.  So, I think it is worth it!

            I couldn’t leave this subject without quoting words from one of my favorite hymns which has been floating around in my mind as I addressed this subject, “It will be worth it all…when we see Jesus! Earth’s trials will seem so small…when we see Him!”  Our school is filled with parents who have been willing to make a sacrifice to send their children to our private school.  My family and our staff will be working very hard to make it possible for them to say, “It’s worth it!”         

-        Kay

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”

                                                                                                  -Steve Maraboli

When thinking about the concept of control, I have a lot of immediate reactions - both positive and negative. In efforts to collect my thoughts and hone in on one idea to discuss, I came across this quote that conveyed an idea I wasn’t thinking about at all: the acceptance of your own lack of power.

So often we think of control in regard to what we control in our lives and the ways in which others control us. We think about the power that we have, and the benefits and side effects of that power. Whenever we think about things we do not have control over, it is typically with a negative connotation. Reading this quote made me think about my relationship with control. As someone who finds herself in the bottom half of the organizational chart, it is easy to fixate on control. I am constantly relating situations to the power and control I do or do not have. As I begin to gain control in some areas, it makes the areas in which I have no control more and more frustrating.

I think the interesting part of the above quote is focusing on what you have control of and owning it. Being an event planner, I have heard a lot of motivational speakers and keynotes. One that always stuck with me was a speaker at a conference for female business owners. I distinctly remember her saying, “How are you supposed to be the CEO of your company if you can’t be the CEO of your own life?” This really resonated with me because the speaker was empowering the audience to take control of their own lives in addition to their careers.

Focusing on the parts of your life that you have control over and making the most of  those aspects of your life is the healthiest and most productive way to live your life. As students, you don’t have control of your entire life. What you do have control over is your drive, your performance, your attitude, etc. All of these are incredibly important aspects of growth and development. Someday you will have the control you want; in the meantime, use what you do have control over to drive success for the future.

                                                                                              -Bria

         Control is probably the best descriptor one could use for our present times.  People speak of a world “out of control.”  Others spend millions of dollars for ads which seek to give them control of the popular vote in various and sundry elections.  Medication ads tell us we can gain control over any and all kinds of maladies with their latest discovery…of course, there are side effects!  Educational institutions are a battleground where daily struggles occur between students and teachers over who will be in control of the classrooms. And last, if not least, TV programming has been interrupted by “difficulties beyond our control.”

            My control issue lately has been over the completion of our pavilion project of turning it into a wrestling gym/ multipurpose building.  I learned quickly that control over such projects is temporary and fleeting because so many people are involved.  Setbacks beyond our control have been scheduling of cement trucks (there are so few available); fabrication of metal pieces that must be made and in place before other steps take place; and the weather that often fails to cooperate.

            We have just completed our first full week of school.  I am busy trying to teach my first grade students how to control their handwriting.  Besides that, I must help them gain control over their impulses as they consider others who now share their “space.”   It will take a while to accomplish my goals, but I will persevere, and my students will eventually reap the benefits.  Learning to control one’s behavior is the first of many steps on the road to maturity.  I have to admit that getting these little ones to look beyond their own immediate desires seems to be a task that is a little harder than in the past.  Maybe that is due to very successful advertising in the media, coupled with the blessings of living in a “land of opportunity.” 

            We give scholar dollars to students for successful completion of tasks, etc.  They have control over these dollars in their bank…until they spend them.  A few have already gone to the treasure chest and are now seeking to replenish their savings.  Others have held tightly to their dollars and hope to gain more.  So…I am teaching them self-control…  Something we all need to learn again and again.

-        Kay

     Probably the most important factor in determining whether a student is accepted or not into our school is control.  Is the parent in control, or is the child?  If the child is in control, but the parent is seeking help to change that, we can help.  But if the child is in control, and the parent is firmly keeping him there, I will recommend rejection every time.  Let me explain.

     An alarmingly growing number of parents are letting their kids call the shots.  I understand using the sickeningly sweet voice with your dog or your cat, but children have the ability to reason… even at a young age.  Trying to coax a child into compliance is not reasoning with him.  Reasoning comes after compliance (or way before the situation ever occurs, pre-emptive, if you will).  Most children want to do what’s right and acting out is really a call for the parents to care enough to discipline.

    On the other hand, some elementary schools in our area have sought too much control.  The students wear uniforms, walk through the halls with “bubbles” in their mouths, and have no sugar on their campus (even going as far as taking the sweets out of lunch boxes brought to school!). Kids at our school have no uniforms, talk as they move between classes, and actually get a small dessert every day.  Yet, we have little trouble getting them to concentrate in class and do what’s right throughout the day.

     I think the key is expectations.  If you do not discipline your child at home, he will embarrass you when you try to do it in public.  If you set a high standard at home, he will keep to that high standard when in public.  You can reason with your child, but that reasoning comes along with compliance.  Children should understand why you need them to do something, but they also need to comply with that “something.”  This should not be a problem if you have been consistent with the child both at home and in public.

     High intelligence is no excuse for bad behavior.  Many of the students at our school have the potential to be Sheldon Coopers (Big Bang Theory).  We work very hard to help our children know that their rights do not trump others’ rights just because they are smarter than most.  

     If you are in control when they are young, you will not have to tightly control when they become teens.  It is important that you relinquish some of that control as the kids grow.  Third graders and on should pick what they wear… even if those clothes might strike you as odd.  (Your control can come in the form of supply.  “I will not buy that type of clothing, but you may use your money to buy them.”)  Kids should have a tablet or phone in mid-middle school, but you should control availability of content and freedom to keep it if misused.  High schoolers should be able to drive and spend an evening out with friends, but they should also have a curfew and maintenance jobs with the car. 

      If it helps, think of “control” as this:  love.  The parent who cares whether his daughter makes it home safely after a date has a curfew because he loves her.  The parent who gives the teen no curfew may not know for a full day that his teen did not come home.  That might be too late to save her.   I’m a morning person.  In high school, I loved my curfew because I was tired!  “It’s not my fault; I have a curfew….  Ahhhh, bed!”  If you play your cards right, your teen will actually appreciate the areas you still control.  

     Until then, please do your child’s teacher a favor.  The best students are the ones whose parents explained their reasoning but were definitely in control.  

-        Michelle

Common

     It’s a new school year, and we’re back to writing again.  Welcome to those of you who are new to our blog, and good to share with you again to those who are returning!  We have chosen the word common to explore this week.  We hear the term common often nowadays:  Common Core, common sense, The Commons on the Internet.  There are at least five definitions of the word common, and I have to wonder why the rapper chose “Common” as his name.

    How much do we really have in common?  I hear people ask us to use “common sense,” but I’m not sure what makes sense to me makes sense to the next person.  I think there was a time when a lot of people had the same idea about things and we called that sense “common.”  That was a simpler time… back when there were just three television channels… back when we only heard local news…back when our “worlds” were much smaller.

    Today, I am amazed when parents tell me that pediatricians are recommending beginning potty training at three.  My children both were potty-trained before two.  I cringe as parents tell me of day care center workers who no longer correct bad behavior, but rather “re-direct” the focus of the child.  And I refuse to join the ranks of those who have thrown out teaching cursive writing.  (If we cannot read the documents our founding forefathers wrote, we have to trust that what others tell us is true.  That didn’t go so well for the men of Afghanistan who could not read their Quran and, therefore, became easy targets for the deceit of the Taliban.)

     Do I have much in common with the “sense” of today?  I don’t know.  Is my generation’s thinking becoming obsolete?  It might be, but I don’t think our teaching style is.  I recently conducted a tour in which the prospective client told me that he asks all of the children who come through his business which school they attend.  Inevitably, the best ones come from our school.  He made the decision that he wanted his son to attend our school, too.  What a great compliment!  Believe me, it is not a coincidence… we work very hard to make sure our kids make wise choices.  We let them know when they’ve made bad ones, and we help them to make better choices next time.

     This blog is intended to offer help to parents of gifted children.  You will find that raising gifted kids requires some ingenuity.  Expect our blog to offer some uncommon ideas because your kids are anything but common!

-        Michelle

Welcome back! It’s been awhile! After a summer sabbatical, we are back into the swing of things, and this week we are talking about “common.” There are a lot of ways to interpret “common,” but for this week, in the time we are living in now, I think it makes the most sense to focus on what we have in common. 

Commonality can be viewed negatively; people want to stand out and be individuals. We are living in a time where personal branding is top of mind, and people, specifically young people, feel pressure to add qualifiers and distinguishers to their personalities to prove individuality. While it is great for kids, teens and young adults to understand their identities and what makes them unique, this differentiation causes a separation that makes it harder to relate to their peers.

Think about the scenarios in which friendships blossom. Maybe you met your best friend at a flag football tournament, or in choir, or maybe through mutual friends. All of these scenarios involve commonality bringing people together. This is the time of their lives for your kids to make friends and develop skills with interpersonal relationships. It’s so important to encourage them to find like-minded individuals with which to learn and grow.

The constant segmentation and over-definition of personalities is a great way for your child to understand who he is, but he must also find interests that he has in common with his peers to build relationships upon. Think about the people you know that characterize themselves with a laundry list of descriptive adjectives and identities. Are those people surrounded by healthy, mutually-beneficial relationships? For me, these people in my life have a few like-minded relationships, but they largely avoid a lot of potentially great encounters based off of a list of qualifiers and standards for their interpersonal relationships.

I 100% encourage you to give your children room to discover themselves and their unique values and traits that make up their personalities. At the same time, remind them that people are not always going to fit our expectations and perfect preferences; however, opening oneself up to a variety of types of people with different personalities and backgrounds will ultimately help them grow as people.

As we embark on a new school year, your children will come into contact with new faces. Remind them to be accepting and open to friendships with people they wouldn’t normally describe as their ideal friends. Also remember to keep an open mind about the people your children invite into their lives. This is the time for them to learn, grow, experience conflict, and learn to bond and connect with people outside of their family. Give them room to grow and enjoy the commonality with their fellow students.

                                                                                                           Bria

Common… shared by a number in a group.  That definition pretty-well expresses a lot of the statements I hear from parents who are enrolling their children in Lawton Academy each year.  These common ideas include: “My kid’s ADHD;” “It’s not his/her fault…it’s mine;” “I had trouble when I was in school , too.” and  “He/She is just like I was.”

               Often times, there really isn’t a common trait between parent and child.  However, there is a common thought-process in America today that anyone who fidgets or has a short attention span must be ADHD.  Not so!  I can remember students fifty years ago who couldn’t stand to be alone with their own thoughts for even a few minutes.  They talked, hummed, tapped, or just wiggled in general to avoid being alone with their own thoughts.

               Much of society today has decided to blame any misbehavior or distraction upon chemicals or other such entities which cause ADHD.  And of course, society willingly seeks medication to cover or treat this “social illness.”  However, my observation has generally shown much of the behaviors called ADHD are really the inevitable outcome of inconsistent parenting.  Many families have come to our school and worked with our staff to learn how to be more consistent in the parenting process.  The results?  Many of those “ADHD” children are doing fine in school!

               Don’t get me wrong, there are truly ADHD children who do need help through medication which reverses the hyperactivity in their brains.  But the records of educational institutions show about 90% of young boys in school are listed as ADHD.  I think (personal opinion) boys just have a tougher time adjusting to the typical restraints placed upon them in school settings.  I have always referred to this as the “Huckleberry Finn syndrome.”  These boys love the outdoors and big movement activities.  Many of them are truly “wise” about how things work in the “real” world outside school walls.

               As an administrator for fifty-four years, I have seen curriculum ideas come and go a number of times.  I watched the “New Math” protests of the sixties turn into the “changing paradigms” of the eighties, and now the “common core” curriculum fights for supremacy.  I think it is just “common” in mankind to always be looking for “the next best thing!” 

               In fact, I am already seeing some indicators that people are growing a little tired of video games.  I wonder what the new “common” entertainment platform will be next.  This blog certainly allows me to see those ideas our family of three generations hold in common, and those ideas which are quite oppositional among us.  It gives me “food for thought!”          

-        Kay