Tag Archives: school

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.

It’s time we give our kids more credit for handling the tough stuff

Kids are terrible about wearing masks.

Kids don’t wash their hands.

Kids won’t keep their fingers out of their mouths and noses.

Kids are gross.

Yes, kids are gross.

As a mom of two boys, I know this well. And, one whiff of my house, you would know this, too.

Yes, kids are tiny germ machines, and I understand why many fear them as little vectors of illness.I also don’t underestimate their potential role in spreading COVID-19. However, I think we also need to show children a bit more respect.

While plenty of adults throw tantrums over having to wear a mask for a 20-minute grocery run, plenty of kids wear their masks when needed with little complaint.

Maybe it is because kids are often more caring than adults?

I am not saying it is easy for a child to wear a mask for extended periods of time, nor that every child puts one on without a fight, but I am tired of these blanket assumptions that children are terrible about protecting themselves and others.

Both of my kids have spent hours outside, in the summer heat, in masks. I have seen other children do the same, even while us adults complain about how uncomfortable we are.

For kids, like my oldest, they see a mask as a safe way to do the things he loves. A mask means getting back to school to see his friends. A mask means a chance at some “normalcy.”

We all worry about how our kids will handle the changes at school, and if they can/will be able to comply with all the new “rules.” And, there is plenty to suggest they won’t.

But, as my own kids have shown me, children are often more capable of much more than we think.As many of us prepare to send our kids back to the classroom, anxious about their safety, I offer up a bit of hope and encouragement that they will be OK.

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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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

From preschool to college, graduates deserve celebration

Editor’s note: This post was written in collaboration with PurpleTrail.com. All views expressed are my own. Images for this story were provided by PurpleTrail.com.

As I sit here writing this on a chilly, New York, winter morning, it’s hard to imagine the warmer weather, and what those sunnier days bring: the end of the school year, and, for many students, graduation.

When I was a high school senior, many, many years ago, I eagerly awaited my graduation day, excited to see what adventures lay ahead of me in college and beyond. Four years later, that same feeling, albeit with a bit more nerves about heading into the “real world,” was with me as I journeyed toward the end of my higher education.

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I had the self-centered focus of youth, and wasn’t able to fully understand how important my education was to my parents. Even as a young adult, without kids, I didn’t understand the big fuss families made over graduation. Now, that I have children of my own, I get the joy families feel when seeing their children walk across the stage, collecting their diplomas, signifying many years of diligent work and determination.

Graduation is a huge accomplishment, and whether they are headed off to college or Kindergarten, PurpleTrail.com has a wide variety of gifts and invitations to mark the occasion. Continue reading

I don’t regret putting my five-year-old in first grade

I was an anxious newly minted mom of a school-age child, one year ago, and like most parents preparing their kid for kindergarten, I worried about my son making new friends, handling the school work and whether he would eat the lunches I made. Having never sent my child to daycare or preschool, I was thrusting him into a whole new world. And, all of this was happening when he was only four years old.

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My eldest was born in November 2012, which fell about a month behind the New York State cut-off for entering kindergarten in 2017. I knew he would likely be the youngest child in his class, and how many parents in my place would have held him back. I had every intention of sending my son to school, but the voices of concern both in my head, and from without, filled me with a lot of doubt. I wondered if I was making the right choice, especially since conventional wisdom is to red-shirt children. Continue reading

How I get my kids to bed early

My eldest was in camp for most of the day, for the first half of the summer, meaning he continued his early bedtime/early wake-up routine he was used to during the school year. When his month at camp ended, we took a more laid-back approach to bedtime, and let him stay up a bit later than normal.

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Summer is coming to an end, and soon will my relatively lax rules regarding bedtime. My son will be starting first grade in a few short weeks, and the demands and rigors of school require a healthy sleep routine.

People have asked me how well my kids sleep since they were born. The answer has never been great, and we have a lot to work on as a family. My eldest is an especially restless sleeper, while my youngest sometimes gets random bursts of energy in the middle of the night. One thing we are fairly decent at, however is getting our kids to bed early. Continue reading

Thank you, class parents

Every class has one, or maybe two. They are the moms or dads who remind you of special events or nudge you about getting your money in for the class gift. They organize email lists and volunteer schedules. They do the grunt work so we all can shine.

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They are the unsung heroes who work tirelessly keeping track of the details, so the rest of us, who barely remember what day our kids have gym, can look like competent caretakers of our little ones. Continue reading

Promote early literacy skills with this ABC lift-the-flap train

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I am a blogger, and, as you might have guessed, I loved reading and writing in elementary school. I devoured books and composed stories of my own, many of which my parents still saved to this day.

Yes, I was one of those kids who read for “fun.”

My oldest, so far, shows no signs of having inherited this trait. He is much more into running around, building train sets and pondering highly existential thoughts. Sitting down and working on his writing is not high on his list of priorities.
ABC Train (1)

Granted, my son, who will be five in November, is very young for Kindergarten, and may develop more of an interest in writing as it gets more comfortable for him.

Like all of you, I want my child to do well, without pushing him so far that he completely loses any interest in learning.

So, when I learned he needed a little more help with his literacy skills, I knew I had to come up with some fun ways to make reading and writing fun. Continue reading

School’s birthday policy is something to celebrate

I was elated earlier this month, when I received an official packet from my son’s school. The manila envelope was packed with information about his teacher, his bus route, special programs run by the Parent Teacher Association and important dates to remember.

One piece of paper stood out among the rest. A letter from the principal informing parents and guardians about the school’s new policy of not allowing food for classroom celebrations. Instead of bringing in treats, caregivers are asked to work with their child’s teacher to create a special project, game or other fun way to celebrate the birthday. Continue reading