Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The daily schedules that don't match

In our county the school system decided to stagger start times to help prevent additional traffic woes in the morning. For our family, this means that our son's school day starts and ends much later than school did when I was little.

On the one hand, this is a good thing: My son can sleep in a bit and wake up naturally (in fact, he is still asleep as I write this); there is little need for us to rush around in the morning; and traffic isn't snarled throughout our area. But on the other hand, it still means that I have to adjust my working schedule to accommodate the time he is in school - working a bit at home in the morning, take him into school at 9 am, commute into the office.

And almost every day I think that I am so lucky to work in a job that lets me make those adjustments. Because so many other working parents can't make the school times work for their schedules.

I've often wondered if schools will ever adjust their start and end times to meet working parents' needs. After all, around half of all families with school-age children have two parents that are working. It looks like some communities have been toying with ways to extend the school day - but there is always a cost to be considered.

I know that more changes to our daily schedules are coming. After all, my son won't be in elementary school forever, and when he moves on to middle school, our schedules will need to adjust as well.

Have you needed to adjust your working schedule to your child's school schedule? Tell me how in the comments.

Monday, September 17, 2018

When writing gets a little loopy

When I was in second grade, I distinctly remember the teacher from third grade visiting our class to teach a lesson. As she wrote on the blackboard, a slight gasp arose from the class. She asked us what was wrong, and one of my classmates said she wrote really pretty, but we couldn't read her writing. It was because she wrote in cursive.

I am sure that some sort of teacher-to-teacher conference took place later that day, because the next day our second grade teacher started teaching us cursive writing. But I don't think she was happy about it.

When my son entered second grade I asked the teacher if they did anything with cursive and she responded in the negative. I wasn't shocked by this news - classrooms have been removing handwriting from their curriculum for years - but I told her that I thought it was a shame that they didn't even go over letter recognition. After all, even the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series of books had sections in cursive.

So, like a lot of parents, I taught my son cursive. He's not great at it, because we don't practice it enough, but he can read cursive and he definitely likes writing that way. There is something about cursive - the ability to connect all the letters in the word that children really enjoy.

I need to start practicing cursive again with my son. And I really mean that the two of us need to practice together. Like many adults, I write in a mix of cursive and print that can get very sloppy. Maybe it is time for me to slow down and work on my loops again.

How would you describe your own handwriting? Tell me in the comments.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Talking about differences with your children isn't enough

I did not grow up in a very diverse world. The other children in my elementary school looked a lot like me. It wasn't until we moved several times and I went to high school that I was able to meet and make friends from different racial and economic backgrounds than mine.

And while I do not recall there being any specific conversations about diversity in my household, I do remember being told that everyone is worthy of respect and kindness, and that everyone is needed.

I have carried those same sentiments forward into my son's life: That everyone should be respected. And I try - in an age appropriate way - to tell my son that diversity and inclusion leads to a better life overall; when we are curious about other people, we learn the most.

But it turns out that talking is not enough. The activities my son participates in, the children he plays with, the places we go on vacation, the neighborhoods we go to - it is through those actions that he is absorbing the real values of our family.

It's a powerful reminder that parent actions speak much louder than our words. And it does give me something to think about the next time I sign him up for an extra-curricular activity.

Does your family have regular talks about diversity? Tell me how they go in the comments.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

How important are things to your child?

There is an experiment that you can do at home, in which you ask your child to make a collage (or drawing) of all the things that are the most important to them. Even better: You could ask your child to make this collage as they enter each new grade. And that will tell you the point of time at which material goods start to gain importance in your child's life.

Here's a hint: It's around seventh grade.

Hold on while I think about my seventh grade year for a moment: Never mind. I had a perm and I was in Catholic school. I was probably not a typical child.

Most children start really paying attention to their peers - and comparing themselves to them - in seventh grade. And changing what you have in life seems (for many children) to be an easy way to level the playing field.

Of course, your children will display signs of wanting things way earlier than seventh grade. I keenly recall an incident last year in which my son wanted different shoes so he could "be like other boys in his class."

But, overall, middle school is the sweet spot: It's the time when our children start picking up on parental reactions to material possessions that they will take with them through adulthood. This (of course) is just another example of how your child is always watching you - even when it seems like they are ignoring you. So now I have to think even more about the stuff we bring into our household and if they are things we need or if they are just the latest shiny toy that we want.

What kind of importance do you place on material goods in your household? Tell me in the comments.