Cultivating Your Child’s Character

Interesting Powerpoint on developing character in young children. One important point, “decision fatigue”: that is, the truth that the more choices we have to make, the worse job we do. So, much of character development is fostering positive habits. Mary

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It was a pleasure spending the evening with an engaged group of parents to think about what we each want our Character Legacy to be and how to practically go about passing that on to our children.  If your parenting partner was unable to attend or if you would like to participate at home, please feel free to email me and I’d be happy to send along the Cultivating Character Worksheet Packet to you.  Please keep me posted on your discoveries!

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Try being curious, George

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http://blog.positivediscipline.com/2012/12/curiosity-questions.html

Positive Discipline parenting classes give new ways to see children, new ways to see misbehavior (as mistaken goals; your children trying to connect in some terrible, or at least, ineffective ways), and at least 52 “tools”.

This is one of the “tools”: “curiosity questions”. Asking a question gives you an opportunity for the child to consider the consequences of an idea or action: “I wonder what will happen if you do that?”; “How do you think your brother will feel if you do that?”; “How would you feel if I said that to you?”; “What could you try next time?”; “Do you have a solution we could try?”

Said with real curiosity, this invites a child to think and not react. Our first job as parents is to be teachers.

It’s all what you’re used to

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(This really is about parentingl bear with me!)

Recently, our very fancy dryer died. It has a fatal computer error. It needs a new computer, which costs $200. Talk about First World problems! My dryer is not happy without its own computer! I am old enough that I know that one does not need a computer to run a heating element and a turny thing. I am contemplating a dumber dryer, for sure. My husband wonders why this is aggravating me so much; what’s the big deal?

In the meantime, I am enjoying my drying rack. It is better (vinyl covered) than my old one, the wooden one I had for years when the kids were younger. (The mildew on the wooden one was off-putting. Otherwise they are identical; great designs are hard to beat.)

Before my children were born, we had no washer or dryer. I went to the laundry mat, and brought the clean clothes home to hang them up. Nice weather: outside; bad weather: inside. Then, after child #1, my mother bought us a washer! I still hung up all laundry, even cloth diapers. After child #2, we got a dryer.

With the dryer demise, I have revived the drying rack. As I said, I enjoy it. I don’t enjoy every minute of it: not the scratchy towels, or the lint issue, or what to do when your favorite shirt is hanging damply when you want to wear it, or the wrinkle issue, or the get-up-and-hang-something-up issue. But I enjoy it nevertheless. And I think I enjoy it because I am used to it. That is, I did it every day, for years, even if that was 30 years ago.

We also have a drying rack at school. I am now contemplating bringing wet napkins and towels from home to hang up. Talk about inconvenient! However, when we have done this, inside and out, the children LOVE it. They love, love, love it. They fight over who can hang things up, and who can take them down. They do this with all “practical life”, but, I will admit, they have more interest in the novel jobs. However, if we did this every day, there would always be a child who did not mind helping. Unlike adults, who know that it is silly to hang things up if you can dry them in a dryer. (I am not arguing the energy efficiency issue here.)

That is to say, children enjoy tasks which involve their bodies, a bit of skill learning, that are obviously useful and needed, and that you (adult person) will do with them, at least initially. They really do. They will sharpen pencils, fold napkins, sort socks, squeeze orange juice, grind peanut butter or flour, any old boring thing that needs doing.

And, if they are used to doing them, these chores become habit, and can even be enjoyable. They can space out a bit, socialize, and do these boring old jobs with some satisfaction, like me with the drying rack.

Please take time to teach and allow your child to learn to do the needed, boring jobs that make your household work, whatever they are. They will value learning a skill, being part of the family, contributing, and will have more boring things to enjoy as adults.

What we want

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What we want, as teachers, is to facilitate children loving to read. LOVING it. Life long readers. I, for one, don’t even care what they, as adults, read: Jane Austin, or 50 Shades of Grey. Motorcycle magazines, or the sports pages. READING (and learning), yea!!!!

But how do we help that to happen. As parents, your job is kinda easy. Read, enjoy reading, and read to your children things that you enjoy reading to them. That’s it, really.

As teachers and schools and school systems, there is a lot of politics involved. This is partly, of course, because there is a lot of money involved.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/01/13/report-requiring-kindergartners-to-read-as-common-core-does-may-harm-some/

Ahhhh, the politics of learning. Who knew? This article cites a “report”. Sounds great. The report is partially funded by the association of Waldorf schools. Waldorf schools do not think that children should be exposed to letters until around age 7. They have apparently found a way to attempt to influence the conversation in this way. Sigh.

No, I don’t think Kindergartens should expect everyone to read in Kinder. My son did not read until he was 9, and any attempt to speed up the process, even with Montessori materials, just did not work. I’m sure that, as we continue to learn more about how we learn and how to teach, we may understand more about the processes that impede learning. I’m sure there are many. But Kindergarten teachers should not feel that pressure, children should not feel that pressure. Do any of us learn well under pressure????

And there is this bullshit about “play based preschools”. I’m sorry, I am so tired of this. Children have been learning alongside other people since the Dawn of Time. Do primitive people put their toddlers in rooms full of plastic crap to “play with” until they are “old enough to learn”? What model are we using here?

Montessori teachers, RIE educators, and many other people feel that children learn alongside others with whom they have a relationship. This school of thought is called social constructivism (Social constructivism is a sociological theory of knowledge that applies the general philosophical constructivism into social settings, wherein groups construct knowledge for one another, collaboratively creating a small culture of shared artifacts with shared meanings.) and includes not only Montessori but include Dewey, Bruner, Piaget and Vygotsky (http://www.ucdoer.ie/index.php/Education_Theory/Constructivism_and_Social_Constructivism)

This is not new stuff. It is not radical stuff. It is supported by what we now understand about learning, and best practices about teaching.

So, should we demand that all Kindergarten teachers in the US, who have learners of all types and stripes (non-native English speakers, at-risk children of all types, like homeless children and children who have a variety of special needs, diagnosed and not), teach all children to read by June of the Kinder year? Hell no!

Should we “protect” children from being expected to learn anything until age 7, so that they can joyfully “play”? Hell, no, either. Children want to learn what people know and do. That is why they learn to walk and talk. They are hard-wired for this. To deny them this is to tell them that they are incapable, and need “special service”, creating dependency and helplessness. For some, the extended time in “pretend play” causes them to lose a grasp on the reality of what is going on around them, and what the other children/people are doing and saying.

Yes, this is not a complete rant. I am not saying that children need to sit and look at flash cards, either. Of course not. Most of them cannot sit at all! Children learn through movement, relationships and relevance.

But please do not fight an absurd assumption (all children can and should learn to read by age 6) with an equally absurd one (no one should have to learn anything until age 7).

Adult problems

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Megan and I were on the playground together this week. She filled up the water table and several other containers, as the children love both water and ice. It is winter in the Northern Hemisphere where we live. Within ten minutes, there was great enthusiasm AND most of the water had been poured out to make a “river” and a “lake”. We clutched each other and said: “adult problems!”

Ugh. It is a real pain to get out the hose and fill up the water table, always. It is messy and you get wet, and you have to wind it back on the holder and ugh. Adults do not enjoy this (unless they are completely enlightened and can Be Here Now.). And then all of the water is gone. This also happens with sand. The children are SO excited by New Sand. It is white and clean and dry and wonderful. They go and tell their parents: “There was New Sand on the playground today!” And then they throw and carry it all over, in buckets, wheelbarrows, in spoons and bowls. They cook and mix and carry and spread it all over, and then it is GONE. Adult problem.

We obviously add water and sand to the playground because the children enjoy it. They also learn a ton about physics, and social interactions. It is the currency of the playground. So, we deal with it.

Lots of things that children do are a pain. It is a pain when someone, learning to self-toilet, poops on the floor. It is a pain when someone vomits in your lap. It is a pain when they whack the ice with a shovel and look shocked when it breaks. It is a pain when 2 year olds dump everything out. It is a pain when a 5 year old, very carefully carrying the movable alphabet, trips and spills all 208 letters, and they must be put away. However, this is what is needed. Sometimes we can teach around it, and sometimes it will just take time and experience to learn that pouring water towards yourself makes you wet, or that throwing sand gets in someone’s eyes, or that pouring out all the water makes no water, or that making a lake in the sandbox will be temporary.

AND, we believe that this learning is very important. It might be the most important things that we do, or that we set up for them to do, or that we allow. We are observers, so that there is more safety, or less danger, but we are there to “create the environment”, as Montessori said. Setting up an environment for children means allowing them to make mistakes and explore, so that they can have their own insights, which, as we know, are the most valuable ones, because they are truly ours.

If we allow children not to wear mittens and so feel how cold their hands are, they can reflect on that another day. And that is learning for a lifetime. So many of these things are.