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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Can Teachers Make Mistakes?

“Tell me about how it is okay for teachers to make mistakes,” Michelle said. “I am both a teacher and a parent,” she went on. “As a parent, when you make a mistake, you can acknowledge it, change your mind, make a better decision, and move on. But when you are responsible for other people’s children, you can’t make mistakes. What’s a professional to do?”

In a talk I gave last month at a school in the Midwest, I had made the twin statements: “Mistakes are learning opportunities; Fear of Making Mistakes is a learning disability.” The idea hit a nerve. Continue reading

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Cover of the Second Edition of “Genius”

The publisher of the second edition of “Genius”, Globe/Pequot Press, has selected a photo for the cover after a great deal of searching. It is particularly fun for me that they selected this candid taken by a new photographer friend of mine, Julie Carter, who lives in Decatur. Here’s what Julie says about the photo she took of her granddaughter at home a year or so ago.

“When Rick talked to me about creating a photo to illustrate the message he was wanting to convey in his book, I immediately thought of the photograph you are considering. The little girl in the photo is my granddaughter, Natalie, who was four-years-old when the photo was taken.

“Natalie was “teaching” my husband how to read a book after telling him that he was reading it to her in a rather “silly” way Continue reading

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Want Cooperative Children? Treat Them As If They Are

 Man walks into a room with a clothesline across it, takes a handful of clothespins out of a basket and starts pinning up clothes. A mother and her 18-month-old son are sitting on the floor watching. After pinning several items, the man accidentally drops a pin on the floor. He then pretends to reach over the clothesline to try to pick up the dropped pin, but his arms just aren’t long enough. The 18-month-old watches the man struggle for few seconds, then leaves his mother, goes over to the clothespin, picks it off the floor and holds it up to the man, who takes it and says thank you. Continue reading

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To Educate Empathy, Educate Imagination

Responding by email to my article last week on children’s natural inclination toward empathy Allan, grandfather of Elise, wrote:

Having just spent five days with a 3 ½-year-old, I can reaffirm everything you say in this.

While her mom was working nearby, Elise and I had a wonderful pretend game where she was the proprietor of an ice cream shop and I was the customer.   She stood on the other side of a table and served me.   Unfortunately she only stocked chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, so just to stretch her imagination a bit (after enjoying a chocolate cone), I started asking for flavors she didn’t have.

Continue reading

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Parents and Teachers Building Empathy in Children

 “Hey, would you help me…”

Say this to children, and you will usually get an enthusiastic, “Sure.”

If you get a negative reaction, I can think of several possible causes off the top of my head: Continue reading

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Who Takes Responsibility for Homework? What is the Parent’s Role?

Even though parents and teachers are both educators, things will work better if parents and teachers play different roles. A year ago Lorrie Soria told the following story in a comment on one of my posts about homework. I read it again this morning and decided it stands on its own two feet as a great story about “playing position.”

Years ago, when my daughter was in 3rd grade, homework was indeed a struggle. Continue reading

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