Tag Archives: education

Sharing an honest perspective on Christopher Columbus with kids

Like most kids who grew up in the United States, I first learned about Christopher Columbus through the popular poem:

In Fourteen Hundred And Ninety Two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Columbus was part of a greater bunch of lessons that put a positive spin on colonization, and downplayed — or outright ommitted — the atrocities commited against the Indigeneous peoples of the Americas in order for these revered Europeans to succeed.

As I grew up, I discovered American history is not as clean and beautiful as I had once thought, and indeed the founding of my country is full of mess and ugliness.

I am happy to see a shift toward more honest retelling of history in our schools, and an effort to uplift the voices of those figures long overlooked in the story of America. However, I am aware that curriculum is slow to change, and the narrative our kids are ingesting still very much has a Euro-centric spin.

So, when my almost eight-year-old son asked me why he was going to be off from school one Monday in October, I took the opportunity to talk with him about Columbus Day, why we celebrate it, and why that is problematic for many people.

We talked about how whole communities were living here before Christopher Columbus and other Europeans landed on the shores of the Americas, and how he did not in fact “discover” this land. We also spoke deeper about colonization and why European nations saw the Americas as an opportunity for expanding their access to materials such as minerals, crops and more to use to build their economies.

We spoke about how Columbus is credited for starting the colonization of the Americas, eventually leading to the country we live in today. We discussed how being Americans has afforded us many privileges and opportunities, and how fortunate we are to have them. We also discussed how Columbus and others, in order to achieve their visions of colonization killed and exploited the Indigeneous peoples of the Americas and later enslaved millions of Africans brought over to bear the brunt of work required to build up our developing country.

We finished with how many Americans feel we should no longer honor Christopher Columbus and instead lose the holiday all together or change it to honor the Indigeneous peoples of the Americas. We ourselves did not come to a “conclusion” on how we feel about the matter, but I am glad we were able to have a thoughtful discussion on U.S. history.

Even if Columbus Day disappears, I hope our schools will continue to teach our students about him in a way that is honest and reflective of the good and bad of American history.

Homeschooling is a privilege many families can’t afford

It is a privilege to be able to homeschool your kids.

Yes, it is also a lot of hard work and sacrifice.But, in the end, if you or another trusted adult is able to devote a significant amount of time on your child’s education, that is a privilege.

A privilege which was thrust into a big bright spot light because of a pandemic that forced our schools to close.

For the first time homeschooling wasn’t a choice, it was a mandate. And as the weeks and months went on, we heard story after story of parents struggling to manage the new normal of working, raising a family and educating their children.

Many parents just asked the bare minimum of work from their kids, others just threw in the towel, believing (hoping) they would get through this until the school year ended.

Well, now summer is here in the United States, and families have to face the reality that “school” will be much different if and when they reopen.

How To Talk To Your White, Jewish Kids About Racism

Social media has seen an uptick in thoughtful and passionate pleas from white Americans to their white friends and family to reflect on their own racial biases, confront racial injustice and stand by black Americans who continue to fight for equitable treatment in the United States.

And, while the authors don’t always explicitly invoke Jesus and his teachings — though many do — from the language and tone, you can understand they are coming at this from the perspective of white Christians, a group which enjoys a high level of privilege in America.

As a Jewish person, I have often felt conflicting emotions while reading some of these writings, especially those claiming “we” (meaning white people) could never understand what it feels like to be oppressed and targeted for who you are. Continue reading

Five black-led causes to support right now

The horrific death of  George Floyd at the hands (or rather, the knee) of a police officer disgracing his badge by exerting his power over another human being has lead to increased outrage and anger within black and P.O.C. communities in general, as well among white folks who are continuing to speak out, or speak out for the first time, against racial injustice.

As a white woman, I am learning how to balance using my own voice while being sure to amplify the voices of black/brown folks and other marginalized groups. I am constantly making mistakes, learning, and growing. 

In my journey toward being a better ally, I have grown to appreciate the importance of putting actual dollars (or whatever your country’s currency may be) into causes that directly or indirectly serve people of color in their communities and beyond. 

These organizations are working with often limited resources to fight and correct years of racial injustice and inequity, and are especially in need of funding at this time.

With the help of family, friends and colleagues, I have compiled a short list of organizations for those looking for places to give. These organizations not only focus on the needs and specific issues impacting black members of their communities and beyond, but they are all (to the best of my knowledge) founded or led by black folks.

In keeping with this blog’s Blogging for Better initiative these are mainly smaller, grassroots groups who are doing incredible work in their cities and towns.

If you have any other causes to suggest, please list them in the comment below. Continue reading

This book made me appreciate teachers even more

Whenever I think about who inspired me to become a writer, my second-grade teacher comes to mind.

When I think about who inspired me to think critically, and ask questions, a high school teacher comes to mind.

When I think about who will shape and influence my children over the years, teachers come to mind.

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The importance and value of great teachers cannot be understated. These dedicated servants to education can make all the difference in the lives of our children.

I have long had a deep respect for this profession, yet, I never fully understood the depth of work and devotion to this career, until I got my hands on a copy of Schooled: A Love Letter to the Exhausting, Infuriating, Occasionally Excruciating Yet Somehow Completely Wonderful Profession of Teaching. Continue reading

Writing can save lives

The first few months or so after I gave birth to my first child were a blur of sleepless nights, days without a decent shower, and scrambling to eat to keep up with the never-ending hunger I felt from constant breastfeeding.

I was often exhausted, overwhelmed, angry, sad and confused.

New motherhood brought on a slew of emotions I had little experience with before I had kids.

I needed a way to process those emotions — to make sense of what I was experiencing — so, I turned to writing.

I started this blog in 2013, shortly after I made the decision to leave my job and become a stay-at-home mom.

My first entries were short, often nonsensical ramblings, I never intended many people to see. Though, I guess, subconsciously, I was hoping others would read it, otherwise I would have stuck with an old-school journal.

Regardless of my intent, getting my thoughts about parenting out of my head and on to the screen helped me to work through some of the harder parts of motherhood.

Writing might seem like a simple solution, but for me and others, like Kimberly Zapata, the founder of Greater Than Illness, there is so much more to writing than words on paper. 

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Continue reading

Dear parent about to send your baby off to Kindergarten

I sometimes have trouble believing nearly two years has passed since I sent my oldest off to Kindergarten.

I remember doing my very best to hide my nerves to keep my son from picking up on my anxiety and becoming worried himself.

I had no idea what the year would bring, and my mind buzzed with questions.

Will he adapt to the school environment?

Will he get along with his classmates?

Will he like his teacher?

Will he behave?

Will he meet expectations?

With each school day attended, a little bit of my worry eased. Not just my son, but my husband and I, became more acclimated to school life.

We learned along with him.

We got through the struggles with him.

And, sure enough, our son finished Kindergarten and went on to have an excellent year in first grade.

Your kids will get there, too.

While on their journey, here’s some things which may help.

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Continue reading

Foundation seeks to make college a reality for deserving youth

My parents drove me up to my dorm, the family car stuffed with clothes, bedding and more to get me through the coming year. I was filled with excitement and a little bit of fear, as I was about to embark on my collegiate journey.

I had the typical freshmen concerns:

Will I like my roommate?

Will my classes be hard?

Will I have a good time?

One question, I never had to ask, however was:

Will I be able to afford my education.

I am privileged to have had my entire college education paid for by my parents. Not once in my four years as a student did I ever have to worry about where I would find money for books, room and board, or even food. I was fortunate. More fortunate than many of my peers.

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Knowing my financial situation was always stable, I was better able to focus on my studies and handle the other pressures of college life.

But, my family support wasn’t limited to money, I also had parents, who, were actively invested in ensuring myself and my two siblings made it through school and earned our degrees.

They knew getting through college is not a task easily accomplished without help. Continue reading

If your child struggles in school, cut yourself some slack and stop the self-blaming

Here we are, many of us in the middle of Spring Break, heading into one, or just getting ready to enjoy a long weekend with our families. Many of us are eagerly awaiting to get our kids back in school and back to the routine. I for one, have a child who needs the steady structure of school, and actually, for the most part, is happy to be there. For others however, school can be a source of dread and anxiety.

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You might struggle every day just to get your child out of bed. You beg and plead, hoping for a day when they happily get on the bus.

You might be dealing with a newly diagnosed learning challenge and an I.E.P. (individualized education plan). Your mind is a tangle of questions, worries, and wondering what this all means.

You might spend so much time with the principal, guidance counselor and other specialist that you feel you know them better than your own family. You might secretly envy other parents whose children are never cited for disciplinary problems, for being a distraction or for being unfit for the classroom. Continue reading

Yes, fellow SAHMs, your degree still matters

I am in the bathroom, knee deep in my child’s excrement, failing miserably at coaxing him into the tub to scrub him down. Meanwhile, half of his room carpet is covered in poop, and I know I have that whole situation to deal with, as soon as I manage to clean my kid.

While this is happening, I can’t help but wonder, what did I sign up for? I am educated woman. I took several Advanced Placement and honors courses in high school. I graduated cum laude from my alma mater. I am (well used to be) fairly well read and cultured.

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My brain, once used to pen in-depth reports on a variety of subjects, now ponders the benefits of bribing a child to use the toilet. Days spent discussing the merits of various philosophies have morphed into fights with small children over how much television they can consume. I was one of those people who loved school, who loved learning, and valued a college education as the cornerstone for success.

Post college, I wasn’t making huge waves with my career, but I had a job, was doing what I love (writing) and making a modest income. I felt proud to utilize the skills I learned as an English major.

I had no intention of giving up my career when I became pregnant, but for personal and financial reasons, I quit my job shortly after returning from maternity leave and became a stay-at-home mom.

Over time, I got back into writing, and while I don’t make a ton of money, I am happy to have the chance to do what I love. I understand, however, that not all professions afford women the same flexibility, and many of you reading this may have little to no connection to what you studied.

You may be in the thick of motherhood, covered in spit up, tears and last night’s dinner, wondering if you squandered your Ph. D. Or maybe, you worked at a top law firm and now you host mommy and me play groups every Thursday. Perhaps, you graduated top of your class and today you stare at a bottomless laundry pile.

In these moments, you may wonder, does my degree matter? Does all that education — all that time and money spent to become an expert in something — does it matter? Did I waste my time? Continue reading