Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Sunday, September 07, 2014
Tiny "Teach" sign created for me by Katie
Cupcakes decorated by Katie after a quick lesson from Aunt Melissa
Monday, September 01, 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
From Saturday's Briefing:
This is the absolute best season for list-makers.
Backpacks, lunch boxes, new shoes.
Single serving chocolate milks, juice boxes, cheese sticks.
Wide-rule, 200-page, red spiral notebook with pockets.
Proof of residency, student physical, PTA directory order.
So many lists! So many potential checkmarks! (So much money!)
After a year of teaching and a summer of prepping for my second year, I have a few additions to the traditional back-to-school lists. (In no way does one year of teaching make me an expert. But it has heightened my awareness of what I can do at home for my own children.)
Background knowledge: Learning is a lot easier when you have a basic understanding to build upon. Some background knowledge comes from classroom lessons in prior months and years. Some comes from independent reading and curiosity. And parents can play a big role in building background knowledge by continually exposing their children to ideas and experiences.
Last year, when teaching key events of the American Revolution to fifth-graders, children who were often most engaged were those who already had an interest in war and those who had visited Boston or read previously about the colonies breaking from British rule.
You don’t have to travel or spend lots of money to help build your child’s background knowledge. You can read books and watch documentaries together, go on nature walks, visit museums, plant seeds and then watch vegetables grow — all while talking, asking questions and seeking answers together.
Rich vocabulary: Students are often challenged to use context clues and inference skills to understand difficult vocabulary words while reading. That’s a simpler task if the context clues are easy to understand, which is made possible by a strong vocabulary.
That means, again, that there should be lots of talking at home. Don’t shy from employing resplendent words — and defining them. Download a word-of-the-day app and challenge family members to learn along with you. If you’re reading aloud, pause at difficult words and talk about them.
Reluctance to rescue: If your child leaves his homework at home, try with all your might to let it stay at home. Don’t drive the forgotten assignment to school. Let your child live through the natural consequence of forgetting.
He may have to work a little harder during the school day or even lose some points on the assignment. But he will be more likely to remember to pack the homework next time if you refuse to rescue.
The same applies to snacks, lunches, water bottles, jackets, musical instruments and stuffed animals on stuffed-animal day.
Positive attitude: Grumpiness and optimism are equally contagious. Those mornings at home when I’m feeling frantic, no doubt my own children feel a little stressed. And then I feel awful for dampening the moods of the entire house. It’s a gloomy cycle.
Bubbly mornings, though — they’re the best. There’s little to no discord. We listen to music as we eat breakfast. We laugh on the drive to school. We each enter our classrooms with smiles to share and confidence to spare — even if we left a lunchbox on the counter at home.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Last Saturday we were finishing our weeklong vacation. We drove back from Kennebunkport, Maine, to Boston, waiting for our 7:20 p.m. flight. We spent most of the day wandering the streets of downtown Boston.
Our first stop: the ducklings in the Public Garden. (The bronze statues were installed in 1987 as a tribute to Make Way for Ducklings, the classic 1941 picture book by Robert McCloskey.)
In May 2006, we spent a few days in the Boston area. Our family was complete then -- Steve, me, 4-year-old Cooper and not-yet-1 Katie. We spent some of a day wandering the streets of downtown Boston. And we visited the ducklings.
In 2006, Cooper climbed on a duck and we took a photo. And we placed Katie on a duck and took a photo. But in 2014, I couldn't remember exactly which ducks.
So, last Saturday, in the middle of the Public Garden, I pulled up our family blog and found a post about our Boston trip. I couldn't find Cooper on a duck, but I did find baby Katie on a duck. Using the photo as a guide, Katie found the same duck and sat on it again. More than eight years later.
This time without Steve. That's worth an entire post by itself. I'm weeping now, just thinking of our 2006 experience and last week's.
Soon I'll write about the missing Steve piece. Until then, here is tiny Katie and a little bigger Katie -- on the same duckling.
Saturday, August 09, 2014
|Goose Rocks Beach, Kennebunkport, Maine|
We’re wrapping up the best week of the year — our summer week away.
I love everything about this week. Navigating unfamiliar roads. Discovering new-to-us restaurants. Experiencing in person what I’ve only read about before.
Most of all, I love escaping our daily routine.
In the past week we have not once run errands to the bank, pharmacy or dry cleaner. No one has been ferried to and from a music lesson. No one has practiced an instrument. No one has attended a meeting.
In the absence of busyness, I’ve been more acutely focused on our little family — not just the logistics of us but the actual us.
I’ve been reminded of Cooper’s deep well of patience and tolerance. Every day of vacation, we’ve been at the beach. And every day, he draws tiny fans who admire his ability to dig giant holes and tunnels in the sand. My six-foot 13-year-old answers question after question.
“How long have you been digging? Why is there water down there? Why is that tunnel not falling? How old are you? Where do you live? Can I help?”
He always lets them help.
I’ve seen how confident Katie has become. Some of our adventures have presented opportunities for climbing. Katie hasn’t been scared of a single tumble of rocks. She considers all the pathways then forges ahead, leaping when necessary.
She’ll eventually turn and find that I’m still standing, still staring, still not certain that I’ll cross without falling. She leaves no man or woman behind.
“Put your foot here, Momma,” she coaches. “You can do it!”
All three of us are reminded of how very little we actually need.
The cottage we’re renting is dated yet comfortable, with huge windows facing a river. It’s significantly smaller than our Frisco house, and it holds a lot less stuff.
We’ve not once felt deprived. In fact, there’s freedom in managing less of everything.
Here’s the challenge: When this blessed week is over — it’s always over too quickly — and we’re back at home, 1,900 miles from our cozy cottage, how can we better escape the busyness?
It’s an essential question, especially with two weeks left before school begins again. How do we keep connected when we’re running in different directions? What can we prune from the busyness so that we’ve got some protected downtime?
Our family calendar is already filling with dates — band orientation, curriculum night, Scouting events. We’re only weeks away from homework, guided reading and sectionals.
Already the most protected time of day is dinnertime. On school nights, we eat dinner together at home — even if that means eating at 4:45 to make a meeting on time. It’s the one guaranteed daily moment for catch-up, reflection and venting.
Can we be bold enough to say no to some expected events — and do so without guilt? Can we skip a meeting or two? Politely decline a party invitation?
It’s easy to say yes now, but in real life, we get sucked right back in. We live 51 weeks at a hectic pace, knowing that at week 52, sometime in the heat of summer, we’ll escape and reset before leaping back in.
The three of us are leaving Maine a little more relaxed, a little more freckled and a little more inclined to carve out some lazy Saturday mornings at home — no beach necessary.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at email@example.com.
|Katie, Cooper and Tyra aboard the Pineapple|