Moms Must Make Mistakes (Dads, too)

Last week a key line in Daphne’s mother’s email to me was: “…parents are trying to be the best parents they can be (and can be quite unforgiving of themselves for the mistakes they make.)”

The very same day Daryl’s mother sent me this: “rick, heard you loud and clear on daryl’s first day. when i asked him what he was most looking forward to in second grade, he responded ‘my mistakes.’ I kid you not. It really happened! :-)” Continue reading

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Teaching, Learning and Creating the Conditions

After reading “Daphne goes to School” (last week’s post) Daphne’s mother wrote me a long email which she concluded with: “I guess the question I am asking is: “How do we encourage exploration and confidence without leaving a child unprepared for the judgment and criticism they’ll have to deal with later on? And at what point does “education” end and “the real world” begin? Or is your idea that an environment of experimentation and exploration early on will create a confident, centered person who isn’t shaken by the competition that will come?” Continue reading

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Daphne Goes to School

It was a hot day on the upper west side of Manhattan. I had just dropped my freshman stepdaughter off in her dorm room at Columbia University and was experiencing a rare and marvelous moment of directionlessness. Daphne, age five, stood at Broadway and 114th at a table with her father and held a sign saying “Lemonade 50 cents.”

I said, “Wonderful. Lemonade. Perfect thing on this hot day. How much does it cost?”
“Fifty cents,” Daphne replied with a smile.
“Fifty cents. That’s cheep. Can I have a glass?”
“Certainly,” said Daphne.
I gave her a five-dollar bill, and she reached into the zippered purse around her neck, giving me back two quarters.
“But I gave you a five,” I said. Continue reading

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Leave and Learn

Having trouble separating from your children on the opening day of school? Separation from our children goes deep.

The sun rose at 6:30 on the morning of August 22 in the hills above Philo, California. I know because I was awake to greet it having risen, myself, at 5:30 like clockwork. You’d think I thought it was my responsibility to make sure the sun got up all right.
And indeed, it did rise beautifully. This Sunday morning the dense fog bank that has plagued northern California for a month seemed to be thinning out over the coastal range to the west. In the east the mists now lay (as they should) like blue-tinted cotton batting in the valleys below me, and they were beginning to rise in fibrous filaments toward the bluing sky.
However, it was much later that day that it finally dawned on me that in five days I would be leaving California. My 28-year-old architect daughter Katie and I had agreed that our goal for the weekend Continue reading

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Choosing

Many years ago, when I was getting ready to put my six-year-old son Peter to bed, I noticed that there was a two-hour TV show that I wanted to watch, which I would miss because of his bedtime. I irresponsibly said, “Peter, would you like to stay up late and watch TV with me? Or would you like me to read you a story and put you to bed?”
He said, “Dad, what would be the smart thing to do?”

Maximizing free and informed choice has always been top of my list of important variables in creating a learning community both at home and at school. But what choices by whom and when? These are dynamic questions; the answers differ from child to child and change with time. Parents and teachers must be vigilant to make good decisions about when a child is ready to make a decision. And now Sheena Iyengar makes us look at this set of issues in a whole new way.

What do you think? Continue reading

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An Educational Summer

There is not much disagreement that reading to your children for at least 20 minutes a day is a very good thing–and that’s good. A quick scan of a google search for “read to your children” will give you a pretty good outline of many of those reasons. However, the most important one is underrepresented: Continue reading

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Just Say Nothing

We want our children to grow up to be decision makers. We also want them to make good decisions. How can we get them to do the right thing and treat them as if they know what they are doing at the same time? How can we treat them as if they know what they are doing, when we half know that they don’t?

As I was saying goodbye to early childhood teacher Gretchen Ott on my last day at Children’s Day School, she reminded me of a very important technique. She said: “A long time ago I learned the trick of not saying anything. If a student did something I knew he knew was wrong, I would just give him a look. I’m still perfecting my look, and I wish I did it more.” Continue reading

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Don’t Get Mad; Get Creative.

Margaret had a classic class clown in her second grade one year. Ruben was smart, active, inquisitive, and made the class laugh several times a day, disrupting Margaret’s lessons. She found him infuriating, but fury was not recognized as an acceptable professional approach. By the third week of the year, she was sending him into the hallway for a “timeout” as a regular practice. That Friday, she lost her temper and sent Ruben to the principal’s office.

Over the weekend Margaret worried, thought, wondered, pondered, stewed, and talked to a friend about what she should do to fix this problem. Only three weeks of school! It just couldn’t go on like this. Nonetheless, Monday morning she arrived at school without a plan. Continue reading

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