Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Teen tuneup for mom mode

From Saturday's Briefing:

Clues that your child is less than a year from high school:
Some weeknights, you struggle to stay awake long enough to see your child to bed.
Some weekends, you struggle to stay awake long enough to see your child come home.
You pray that years of modeled behavior, subtle hints and outright lectures have actually stuck.
You realize that everyone who warned you was right: The middle-school years fly by.
Cooper has finished two years, and soon — in what will no doubt feel like two months’ time — he’ll be headed to high school. All signs indicate that eighth grade is a transition year not just for students, but for parents, too.
He’s often awake past 10 or 11 p.m., completing homework, managing projects and studying for tests. I try mightily to stay up with him, to be available for questions, to offer moral support or to turn off his bedroom light. But there have already been a couple of evenings when he’s the last human awake in the house.
Two of his classes are heavy hitters — high school courses a year early, with grades that will kick off his official GPA. While I appreciate that students have an opportunity to get ahead and clear their high school schedules for even more complex classes, I struggle with the pressure 13-year-olds face in worrying about GPA. And I sort of dread what a full load of high school classes will look like.
With greater responsibility comes greater freedom, including later “curfew,” if you can call it that when parents are doing all the driving.
After long weeknights, I’m usually desperate for a lazy, early Friday night. The eighth-grade social scene is in full swing, though. I’m thankful for two- parent families, who almost always volunteer to take the late driving shifts for me. At least I can doze on the sofa while waiting for my teenager to come home — and little sister can keep her bedtime.
Last Friday night, as I drove Cooper to a high school football game, I felt a wave of alarm. Had I properly prepared him for whatever scenes might unfold? Would there be a fistfight under the stands? A group of ruffians smoking in the bathroom? (Was I expecting American Graffiti to break out?)
I couldn’t keep silent the building admonitions.
“Watch out for trouble. You can’t drink any alcohol or try any drugs. I mean, I know you wouldn’t and we’ve talked about all this before, but it’s my job to tell you these kinds of things all the time. Seriously. Don’t. If I text you, you have to text me back. Do you have your phone? Do you have cash? Is it safe in your wallet? You have to stay with your group the entire time. And have fun!”
Whew. Mom mode needs some fine-tuning. But the whole teenager thing happened so fast.
If you’re parent to an infant or toddler, you might start rolling your eyes now, but it’s absolutely true: Each year moves faster than the year before.
Each year is filled with more — more papers to write, more band concerts, more group projects and more word problems with increasing complexity.
And those tall people who were not long ago your preschoolers are gone more often — going in early for tutorials or sectionals, staying late for meetings or challenge matches on the tennis court.
As their lives fill with more, and you spend fewer moments together, time has the illusion of speeding up, like someone hit fast-forward on your very existence.
We’re not given the luxury of hitting stop or even pause. We’ve simply got to keep up — as long as we can stay awake — and relish the moments we can share.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at tyradamm@gmail.com.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

From my phone

Katie and Mr. Else, Hosp Elementary dedication
Noe and Katie, after Katie's storytelling performance at Barnes & Noble

Cooper and Katie, lunch, Three Squares

Tyra, Mrs. Woodson and Cooper, at the Hosp Elementary dedication

Tyra and Katie, college hat day

Sunday, September 07, 2014

From my phone

Tiny "Teach" sign created for me by Katie

Cupcakes decorated by Katie after a quick lesson from Aunt Melissa

Katie's first-ever published photo, in Pockets magazine. (She even earned $10!)

Cooper left for Order of the Arrow Fall Fellowship just a few minutes after Aunt Melissa arrived for the weekend.

Monday, September 01, 2014

From my phone

Katie's getting excited about this year's Storytelling Festival.

First day of school groupie 

Part of a song Katie composed in the shower

Coop loved the hot tub at our Beavers Bend cabin this weekend.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lessons from home form solid learning foundation

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 tyradamm@gmail.com.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

One reason I'm thankful for blogging

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.

May 2006
August 2014

Before church this (very rainy) morning