On the Things that Ain’t Happenin’

Jen Hatmaker hits it out of the park, once again. Having just ushered my 18 year old into adulthood 2 days ago, I am relieved that I don’t need to back-fill my antique trunk with annual time capsules. As I like to say at my house: that ain’t happenin’.

Other things that ain’t happenin’: spending time angst-ing about planning the perfect birthday party, regretting all the parties I promised and then never got around to, attending every single sporting event or school concert or feeling guilty if I don’t, and painting or other messy crafts.

Things that are happening: being present for the big stuff (as defined by the kids), lots of family meals (not all home-cooked), involvement in church (including regular service and deep, cross-generational relationships), chores & expectations at home, some screen parameters (that are regularly agonized over and discussed), and conversations — countless, thoughtful, structured & unstructured, where there are two main goals: understanding who my children are and who they are becoming, and inviting them into my world view, my values, my mission and my hopes for their character.

For all of this, I am grateful for the example of my own parents, and proud of the hard (and sometimes tedious) work of parenting that Hal and I have done. And I am always glad to be reminded to send the kids outside to play with the neighbors.

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On Common Core Myths & Facts

Common Core Myths & Facts: It seems that I hear increasing understanding by parents in my community, but I continue to hear many of these myths perpetuated by politicians. It’s troubling to me when our students are caught in political cross-fire.

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On Surviving the College Admissions Madness

Thank you to my March ’97 Mama friend, Lara Nolan, for this one. Our 17/18 year olds are making college decisions right now, and this is some terrific advice.

When your son or daughter is thinking about selecting colleges to apply to, sometimes you hear guidance counselors and others talk about finding a “good fit.” To be honest, it’s hard to figure out what that might look like. It is worth noting, though, that it doesn’t necessary look like the toughest school your kid *might* get into. Maybe it does. Maybe that’s the best fit. But maybe the best fit is someplace else.

I love hearing stories like in this article, about students who thought their dreams were dashed, and then they discovered something beautiful, something wonderful. They found a good fit. For them.

It takes a special person, a special attitude to get rejected and then be willing to be happy again, to find their place in a community they didn’t think they wanted to be part of.

My hope for my 17 year old and his friends, and for those of you whose Juniors and Sophomores and Freshman are headed down this road next year and beyond, is that they will learn day by day that being satisfied and connected in the community you are a part of has much more to do with attitude than success.

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On Practicing

At our house, we use a principle we learned from good friends: “Practice makes improvement.” This article describes the results of research that expands upon the principle. While the research was about music, I might hypothesize that the observations and conclusions might also apply to athletics and other skills. What do you think?

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On Looking Out for Each Other’s Children

The title of this piece is a bit sensationalist, thought it’s a very real issue. I like the article, though, for the specifics it has regarding ways we can “look out for each other’s children.”

Back when my 17 year old was 3 or 4, one time we were at a park with playgroup Moms & kids. There were some older kids there (older, as in age 8-10 : ) ) who were running around and knocking over toddlers and preschoolers. They weren’t trying to be mean, just having fun and oblivious to the consequences. I remember looking around, seeing no parents who seemed attached to these kids, and having an epiphany: “I’m the Mom. I can say something to these kids.” So I did. And the kids listened and stopped running into the little people. 

While this particular moment had little to do with the safety of the “big kids,” the incident speaks to the ways that we *are* in community, the ways that we build community and cultivate safety simply by thinking: “If there’s a kid without an adult, I am willing to take action to look out for that kid.”

Have you ever helped a child in your neighborhood feel safe? It might simply be saying hello to them while they’re walking home from school. Some might call me a Pollyanna or naive, but I truly believe that these small choices we make day to day, week to week, are the building blocks of a safe community.

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On the PARCC Test

Alongside the balance that I have encouraged in thinking about the Common Core, it is only fair to add my concern regarding the PARCC Test. Thanks especially to Jennifer Hierbaum Pastore for prompting me to think a bit more about PARCC this week.

So much of what we hear about Common Core and PARCC testing isn’t local. These issues are impacting schools, students, staff, and families all around the country, and I enjoy perusing what people are saying in different states. Ultimately, given the nature of our *United States* of America, these decisions are political decisions at a state level. In this moment, I’m not using the word “political” to express concern or a negative bias. I simply mean that the decisions are being made by states in state legislatures. Every state government is appropriately interested in the education of its children. And they each approach things in a different way. That’s just one of the myriad of reasons we see Common Core playing out differently state by state.

The PARCC Test is (last I recall) being used by only 7 states. For this reason, I think it’s especially helpful to hear from school districts right here in Illinois. The following testimony was offered at an Illinois House of Representatives hearing just this past Wednesday. The speaker is the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction for Leyden School District, up by O’Hare. His position is comparable to Assistant Superintendent Faith Dahlquist in District 200.

Take a look at the testimony. The recording is particularly interesting as well. I appreciate the detail of the commentary regarding the impact of testing on students taking the test and those who aren’t. Pay particular attention to the comments about high school, where very few students are actually required to take the test, but the schedule will impact every student.

I’m not to the point of solutions. Right now, I’m simply sitting with some concern and wondering what to do. Any thoughts?

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On Allowances

Allowances. I’m not sure we’ve ever approached this aspect of parenting well or consistently. We got better at it when our kids hit the teenage years. With our older two, we manage things electronically with checking accounts and debit cards. I feel good about this. Those early years, though, I feel like we struggled to teach consistently about finances and financial management.

What do you think of the principles in this article? How do you handle allowances at your house?

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On the Misperceptions surrounding the Common Core

This article is a fascinating look at the misperceptions surrounding the Common Core. Seems like a PR disaster. I wonder if the political dramas playing out in so many states might have been avoided with a different sort of roll-out a few years back.

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On the Common Core and Its Impact on the Achievement Gap

Another article on the Common Core, this one on its potential impact on the achievement gap.

“In other words, while the Common Core may provide the “map,” it’s up to the school districts to undertake the journey to make sure the new standards fulfill their promise for students whose futures depend on them.”

Interesting commentary and vignettes about what Common Core is looking like on the ground. To be honest, I wish my kids were in Kindergarten this year, getting in on the ground floor of this way of thinking.

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On Weeping

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.” (Kahlil Gibran)

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