Tuesday, November 19, 2013

American Education Week

This week is American Education Week in New Jersey and parents get an opportunity to go in and observe their child's classroom! I was just in Pink's class this morning and it was really cool.

Having my last three kids so close together was wonderful and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.  But, it did pose some challenges.  Sleep, showering and sanity suffered.  Another challenge was that when Pink started Kindergarten it was nearly impossible for me to get in to the classroom to volunteer when I had 2 little ones still at home and no family around for childcare.  Same went for Tink when she started school - there was still little Rella running around. So, I didn't come in for "Mystery Reader" or help with Centers or volunteer to be Room Mom (the latter of which I actually have no interest in ever doing).

It's difficult for working parents to get into the school and sometimes it is difficult for stay at home parents as well.  Yet, I think we all like the idea of at least getting to observe the classroom environment when they are little, when we can. 

Rella, the last little duckling, got the least attention as a baby, all the hand-me-downs, and gets left out of her older sisters' games sometimes. But, she lucks out in that I can actually spend some time in her classroom once a month volunteering with Centers. It's really fun to get to know the kids better, the teacher better, and get a glimpse into the Kindergarten day.  

We are very fortunate to be in a great public school district.  I love the elementary school and so far, I'm loving Pink's new school, Grades 4 through 6, as well.  The teachers are incredible in our township, and though no school is ever without flaws, our district is pretty great. We're very proud to send our children here.  CB's school is amazing as well and these teachers, in my opinion, are even more deserving of praise. They work with a very, very challenging group of kids and not everyone can do it. 

Dr. Fabulous and I obviously value education. We should - we both completed 300 years of school and have doctorate degrees in Clinical Psychology. My father is a medical doctor and his mother received an honorary doctorate degree in the mental health field. In essence, my children come from a long line of nerds and bookworms. But these degrees certainly don't mean we're any smarter than anyone else.  In fact, I could list a million people I know who have more intelligence than I.  I just memorized a lot of things that won't serve me well in an Armageddon situation so... I'll be eaten first. 

Despite the fact that amount of schooling or grades can't always predict future success, I still strongly believe that a good education is invaluable for giving you the kind of flexibility you need to make a variety of choices in your life. I also strongly believe one of the main keys with education is not necessarily being the most naturally gifted or smartest. It's often about a family's value on education, the individual's motivation and desire to learn and their work ethic and good study habits. I am actually pretty painfully average cognitively. Yet, I've accomplished a great deal academically because I found a field of interest to me and had the tenacity to set a goal and not give up until I attained it. Obviously, the way my parents raised me had a lot to do with that.

It certainly takes great teachers, a school with resources and a quality curriculum to make sure our kids are prepared academically. And I'll never argue that success takes more than "book smarts."  Creativity, problem solving skills, SOCIAL and interpersonal skills, philanthropic behaviors are inarguably part of the equation. But everyone needs a solid academic foundation. The teachers, however, can't do everything. We as parents need to do our best to reinforce learning at home while our children are young and impressionable.

 Yet, it's hard, I admit.  My kids like to learn and they thankfully do not appear to have any learning or attentional difficulties. But they have their areas of strength and weakness and like most kids they don't necessarily like to always put EFFORT into things that don't come easily. Their motivation needs prodding sometimes. When learning comes easy, they're all into it.  When they start getting challenged? Sure, the frustration comes.  They are sometimes inclined to give up prematurely unless we intervene.

I rely on their teachers a great deal for all the ideas and resources and support they provide for us to work with the kids at home. The communication between teacher and parent is so important. It can be overwhelming when they let you know all these things you can do at home, but you don't have to do it all.  There are so many awesome apps and websites that certainly make learning fun (though they end up monopolizing my precious computer). I try to do the best I can. I think the idea is to just keep the kids practicing, especially over the weekends and longer breaks.

Above all, I am a firm believer in good old fashioned nose-in-a-book-with-real-pages READING. If I do nothing else, I always fall back on reading, reading, reading. My kids will read to themselves before bed, they'll read on the side lines while a sister is at soccer or swim practice. They'll read to each other. I'll read to them. A story app will read aloud as they follow along.

Did you know that if a child reads 20 minutes a day during the school year that they are exposed to
1,800,000 words? A student who reads 5 minutes each day?  282,000 words. Incredible.

I know not every kid takes to reading and some may even struggle with it.  I have some people in my extended family who struggle with reading. In those cases, the Mom reads to them (even though they are 13) and buys the Kindle Fire that can read aloud to you.  Whatever works for you.  Whatever works, just don't give up and give in.

Another thing I am a stickler about is getting homework done right away.  I think most people have the tendency to procrastinate. It's in our nature.  So, I'm trying to instill some good work habits NOW while I have the utmost of control as "The Mom," and hopefully some of it will stick.

Education is so important and I am tremendously thankful for those who dedicate their lives to teaching and school administration. While I certainly don't have any guarantees about how everything will go down with my children and school,  I do know that it is amazing to watch them learn and grow each day.

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