The Importance of Being New at Rosh Hashanah

 Genius: (n) the tutelary spirit of a person, place or institution.

 At sundown yesterday, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year started. I always felt that it was part of the genius of Judaism that they had the wisdom to start the new year when the children go back to school. (Yes, yes, I know they decided to do that long before there even was school.) It’s just that for my whole remembered life (starting at the age of 3) the new year started in September when school opened.

Eaglebrook School had a tradition (do they still?) that the opening assembly of the new year ended with the declaration: “You are new.” Continue reading

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What is Genius? Part 1: Calli’s Love Life

Finding genius is not about finding ability. Finding genius is about unlocking the creative potential of the human brain.

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Overparenting: How Not to Get Kids Ready for School

Last school year, I saw a young mother and father in the Decatur Public Library leaning forward over a small table overparenting their three-year-old daughter as she tried to put together the puzzle of an alligator with 26 green pieces A to Z. Continue reading

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Raising Competent Children Is Easier than Raising a Spoiled Brat

A teacher friend of mine recently transferred from a “Title One school to a school for Entitled Ones,” as she puts it. According to her the Title One children were generally appreciative, creative, resourceful and loving, the Entitled Ones (not all of them, of course) were demanding, unappreciative, disrespectful and very difficult to teach. Continue reading

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Kindergarten Readiness: Parent Strategy for Best Results.

A very reliable way of assessing children’s readiness for kindergarten is to bring twelve four-and-a-half-year-olds together for a one-hour mock kindergarten class. A teacher greets parent and child at the door, and the parent says good-bye. Most of the time the children leave their parents happily and launch off into what for them is a super play-date. Continue reading

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Thoughtfulness 2: How to Evaluate Teachers

Last week I told the story of how Helen, age 3, resolved a fight in the sandbox one Saturday afternoon. Her diplomatic skills were dramatically evident leaving one wondering how to get her on some Middle East peacemaking team—or simply how to turn over the job to her. Continue reading

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Thoughtfulness: Engaging Empathy to Build Strong Brains

Helen was playing in the sandbox in the park, when a brawl between a brother and sister broke out near her. Helen looked up from her work to see them arguing over a shovel, knocking each other to the ground. Continue reading

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Entitlement and the Pursuit of Happiness

“I just want him to be happy” is the most natural thing for a parent to say; it can also be the most dangerous. Life has unhappiness built in. If it’s not one thing it will be another. We want to spare our children. We want to protect them from pain and rescue them from suffering. This is completely understandable, but it is not particularly constructive. In fact, it is self-defeating. The pursuit of happiness makes happiness increasingly elusive. Continue reading

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Was It Character Building?

Character Building

Before the war (as my parents used to say) “character building” was a good thing. In the 50’s and 60’s when something was hard, educators could say to us students, “Just do it. It’s character building.” 
They must have misused the expression, or used in once too often, or something.  Because, today, character building seems to have become something we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy. Continue reading

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The Invincible Thirty-Something and the Three Joys of Parenting a Difficult Child

“You were a difficult child,” my mother said to me in one of the last few conversations we had before she died.

“I know,” I replied, and we held hands. Continue reading

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