Monday, September 12, 2011

Mags Said: Education = Teachers + Parents

 With back to school time I have been thinking a lot about education and what it entails.  We had always thought about home schooling.  Sean and I were both bored in school and Robbie is a very bright child.  Home schooling just wasn't an option and we wanted to make sure that Robbie had lots of social interaction.  Sean and I were both shy as children, I have out-grown it more then Sean has.  Robbie is a social butterfly and we try to keep him active and social.

I am on the School Activity Committee at Robbie's school.  With seeing the background stuff to education I have learned a lot.  The biggest thing I have learned is that for schools to be really effective that parents need to be involved!  When I was a kid it was expected that teachers taught everything that was needed for kids to know.  In today's world that model of education no longer works.

Parents need to be involved with their kids from day one.  We need to ensure that our children are ready to learn.  When teachers send homework home it needs to be completed.  Parents need to make sure their children are reading daily.  Most of Robbie's homework consisted of nightly reading.  For every 20 nights Robbie would get a positive referral to the Principal's office.  There he would get a certificate, a pencil and a toy.  In kindergarten Robbie received 12 referrals!   We put them on wall to remind Robbie what a great job he was doing.

When I suggested this topic Sean laughed and asked if I was thinking of someone in particular who needed this message.  We found out that one of Robbie's classmates was referred to take Kindergarten again as she did not even know her alphabet at the end of June.  Homework was never sent back to school (tracing letters and colouring pictures) but suddenly over the summer the mom was going to make sure her child was ready for Grade 1.  My thought at the time (and it is still my thought), if the parent couldn't be bothered with teaching her child in the first 5 years was she really going to do anything in 2 months.  I guess time will tell but I have to say that if my child is held back because I child that is not ready for the work of Grade 1 is in the class that I will be angry.  Actually, I know that won't happen as the teachers at Robbie's school make sure that he is challenged.  I know this takes extra effort on the teachers part and we are very grateful that they do this for our son.

Knowing that Robbie loves to learn and experiment we make sure to buy educational toys (as well as fun ones).  When Robbie watches tv it is mostly the Discovery Channel with mom or dad watching along.  We are not the type of parents that want Robbie to be a super kid that goes to University as a young teen, we just want to encourage his love of learning.  Often I tell Robbie that I don't know the answers to a question but we can look up information and learn together.  Robbie is still of the opinion that mommy and daddy know everything even when we tell him we don't.  The day will come when he learns that we don't know everything but hopefully by that time he knows that we will answer his questions and will help him find answers to things we don't know.

New desk.

Our First Grader on the first day of school.

Sean Said: Eduation = Teachers + Parents

When the very notion of public education was in its infancy, attendence was optional, teachers were unqualified, and there was no expectation of results. Since that time there has been a steady increase in all of these areas; even in my lifetime there has been noticable changes in the role of education.

At the time I started school (in 1979) the general public widely agreed that a child should be made to stay in school until high school. However, completing high school was still seen by many as optional, and post secondary education was still considered to be the realm of academics.

However, while not everyone might have seen the value in school, some parents certainly did. These parents helped their children, encouraged their children, and demanded their children do their best. After attendence, parental encouragement is the greatest determining factor of success in school. (and seeing as attendence is frequently a function of the parents, one might argue parenting is #1 and #2). The children of these parents were fortunate, and were statistically far more likely than their peers to finish high school, go to college, earn degrees, and achieve success in their careers.

But then in the 80s a huge push began to get all kids to finish high school. Public perception was changed through massive awareness campaigns. School programing was changed to give greater options to those who previously struggled to earn a diploma. Eventually (much later), laws were changed to effectively force children to be in school during school hours.

Then, once it became expected that all children would finish high school, the next big push began - to get all high school graduates to enroll in post secondary studies.

We live in a world today where very few jobs don't have college programs dedicated to them. We live in a world that is very quickly moving to demanding that anyone who wants to enter a profession first get training in it. By the time children entering school this fall graduate, there will be very few jobs available that don't require at least a six month college course.

School teachers know this. They know that the education system is now expected to make nearly all students achieve what was once the realm of the elite. They know that the only way to lift the whole population upwards is to get the parents of all students to do what was once done only by the parents of those same elite - take an active role in the child's education.

The sad thing is that there are still many parents who wish to resist the demands the school is placing on them - even though the school is only asking them to do what they should have been doing already, for their child sake.

It is a lot easier to be apathetic, than to care. It is a lot easier to be angry at the school for placing demands than to take an active role in educating your child.

Success always demands sacrifice.

It is unfortunate that not all can see this, and it is very sad that some children will grow up to live hard lives because their parents could not recognize the importance of their own role in the children's education.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mags Said: Advice to New Parents

I will be writing this from the mom perspective... not really a surprise I suppose.

  1. Get out of the house daily.  Do not get house-bound, this is especially important in the winter.  Get out, meet friends, go to new moms' groups.  I think my post-partum depression was affected by me closing myself off from others.
  2. Take a little time for yourself every day.  Even if it is 30 minutes to have a shower, it is important for you to have a life besides your precious baby.  If you are giving all the time you will start to feel that you can't do it all.
  3. Let your husband (partner) do things.  They may not bathe the baby like you would, diaper as quickly, or handle crying in the same way.  This gives bonding time as well as time for you to take a baby break.
  4. It is perfectly fine to listen to people's advice and then ignore it.  Somethings may have worked for them and not for you.  If it is parents/in-laws it could be that laws/doctor advice/science has changed things.  When I was a baby there were no car seats, now I wouldn't let my child not be in a car seat.
  5. Pregnancy/labour/child birth/newborns are all difficult things to deal with.  They are exhausting both mentally and physically.  You need time to rest and recover.  Sleep/rest when you can.  Especially in the early days I would nap with Robbie, sometimes lying on the couch, sometimes in our bed.
  6. Don't feel bad to leave your baby for an hour or two.  This was a hard one for me.  Robbie was born at 36 weeks and spent 5 days in the nursery before being allowed to come home.  I had been in the hospital for 2 weeks prior to giving birth due to gall stones.  I got to the point of exhaustion and Sean forced me to come home to sleep for one night.  I felt so bad leaving Robbie but Sean was right, I needed some time away from the hospital.
  7. Don't let other people make you feel guilty.  Totally hard to do!  As a parent you will often feel enough guilt that you don't need to have other people make you feel guilty too.  
  8. Allow yourself time to grieve if something does not go the way you want it to.  I really wanted to breast feed, I looked forward to it.  Then I had a preemie; all his energy was used to latch on.... I was devastated that I was not successful at doing what I thought was best for my baby.  It took me a long time to accept that while formula was not my first choice that it was still ok.  I still wish I could have breast fed and knowing what I do now I think I would have tried harder/insisted on more help from day one.
  9. Take lots and lots of pictures.  They grow and change so quickly!
  10. When people come to visit or ask how they can help - take the help!  This is one thing I did not do - take help when offered.

                                                      Robbie and I @ about 16 hours old

Sean Said: Advice to New Parents

Pretty much the only guys who ever get asked for parenting advice are the ones whose profession makes it seem like they should be an expert; I don't know if its because people just presume we don't know anything (a belief we do a great deal to reinforce with our antics around a first baby) or what. But whatever the reason, I have never been asked for my opinion on any child rearing topic unless Margaret was by my side and the question was aimed at us both.

However, this lack of questions doesn't change the fact that I am a know-it-all and really want to share what I have learned with someone. Fortunately, writing on a blog doesn't require the audience to have requested the opinion, so I can just go right ahead and tell you what I think every new parent ought to know.

Learn Everything You Can

The very process of raising a child is itself educational, and everyone learns many tricks along the way, but don't ever be satisfied with just learning from your own experiences. There are countless resources in this world to help you be prepared for what is happening and what is to come - use them. Read books, magazines, websites and blogs about parenting. Watch tv shows with child rearing experts. The more you know the better.

Have a Plan

There are some people who seem to think that they would be pissing all over a kid's childhood to introduce some structure and order into their lives - nothing could be further from the truth. As a parent who has tried to order some parts of my child's life, but not others, I can say with complete assuredness that the ordered parts not only achieved the desired results, but gave my son comfort and even confidence, while the chaotic parts were a pain not only to myself and Margaret, but to Robbie as well

We had plans to get him to read, sleep well and eat well - and those have all been unmitigated successes in his life. We did not have plans for getting him potty trained or teaching him sports and those have both been huge set backs for him.

Evaluate Your Parenting Regularly

Its very easy to get comfortable with a particular routine in regards to parenting, without having really thought through what the impacts of that routine might be. So look at what you doing. Examine every aspect of your parenting in its minutiae and ask yourself - is what I am doing the best choice for my child, myself and my family?

Sometimes the answer will yes, and then you can take comfort or even pride in your actions. Other times you will see a need for a change, either to correct a problem, or nip one in the bud.

Cherish Every Moment

Its really easy to get so caught up in the burdens of parenthood to not properly appreciate the time you have. Whatever age your child is today, and however hard today was for you, there will come a time when you wish you could have had them this age a little longer. Make sure you are wishing that because of all the fond memories and not because you didn't spend enough time with them.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mags Said: Saying "I love you"

Growing up I never heard the words "I love you".  I can honestly say that I do not remember any affection shown by my parents or siblings.  We kissed and hugged the babies/small children but no affection was ever shown by the adults.  Actually, when my sister Edith died 20 years ago, my sister-in-law warned me that my brother might hug me.  The fact that she had to warn me is pretty sad.

For a while after my sister died we did say "I love you" and would hug each other but that quickly stopped.  Personally I craved the hugs and affection.  Luckily I had friends who affection was not a problem for.

When I moved to Edmonton I would end telephone calls with my family with a quick "love you" and might get a response back but most of the time I would not.

Enter Sean....

Sean loves to cuddle, hug, give quick little kisses and say "I love you" probably 100 times a day.  I am in my version of Heaven!  I love hearing "I love you" from both Sean and Robbie and tell them both that I love them constantly.

When my sister-in-law found out that Sean and I were getting married she asked if we were a "normal couple".  I had to ask her what she meant.  She told me "you know, hug, kiss, hold hands, the opposite of your family".  I assured her that we were definitely a "normal couple".

Tonight while we were doing some shopping I mentioned to Sean that I knew the first time that Robbie said "I love you" to me he did not really understand what the words meant.  Even knowing that my heart jumped at hearing those simple words from my little boy.  There are times that I have tears in my eyes hearing those precious words.

I am so happy that we are showing Robbie that love and affection is an important part of families and life in general.  Robbie will ask for hugs and kisses, say "I love you" to us.

Three simple words but they mean so much.

Sean Said: Saying "I Love You"

Have I told you lately that I love you?
Have I told you there's no one else above you?

I must admit, I don't understand people who love someone, be it a spouse, child or any other special person in their life, and don't profess it - constantly.

I grew up in a house that was perhaps lacking in love, but was never lacking in I-love-yous. The thousands of I-love-yous my mother and I exchanged in my early years are probably the biggest reason I keep letting her back into my life, despite the fact she has hurt me many times, and more recently has hurt my wife; I just can't escape the emotions of those many exchanges.

Oh I know the arguments that those who don't like to say I-love-you use. They say that their loved one already knows they are loved. They say that its just words.

I say words cost you nothing to speak, but can carry a far heavier weight than some people realize. Our thought patterns, and even our neural networks organize themselves around our language. Words can fill you with rage, and bring you to tears - why would you not believe they can shape your heart and your relationship?

Your significant other might know you love them, but they feel it when you tell them. Your child, being a child, isn't even aware of most of the loving acts you undertake on his behalf; if they aren't told they are loved, their interpretation of their childhood and their relationship with you, might not be what you expect it to be.

So tell your loved ones you love them, and do it often. You don't need to sound like an infatuated teenager where all you ever say is I love you, but saying it several time a day can go a long ways; if you don't see the value in it during the good times, then at least realize that if you said it often in the good times, the bad times will go much more smoothly.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mags said: Raising a reader.

When Robbie was about 2 years old I was asked by an acquaintance how we got Robbie to love books so much.  I really didn't know what to say other then we always had books around.

When I was pregnant I would read to the bump.  When I found books on sale I would buy them.  By the time Robbie was born he had a small collection of books.  When Robbie was about 3 months old my mother-in-law gave us two big boxes of Sean's old books.  I read daily to Robbie since the day he came home from the hospital.

When he was about 4 months old I took Robbie to a program called "Books for Babies".   Through the four week program and books that I read I learned the most important thing to do to raise a reader was to have books around.  We had tons of books around!  The book shelf in Robbie's room was full of books and then there were about 3 tall book shelves with mostly my books.  The other information I learned was to let kids see you read.  No problem there!  I am a huge reader, I would rather read then watch tv and Robbie certainly sees me read.

Our local library has a program for babies to get a free board book with their first library card.  In his first year we went to the library a lot, mostly so I could get out of the house.  I would sit in the comfy chairs in the library and feed Robbie while flipping through magazines.  We took out a few books but I was never comfortable with sharing board books with strangers.

We started a bed time routine with reading at least one story, now we read for 30 minutes (most nights) with Robbie doing some of the reading.

We read a variety of books, fiction and non-fiction.  Robbie likes all books and reading the non-fiction stuff I get to learn a lot of things.  Yes, there are times that we have read the same book over and over and over again.  However, this has lead to Robbie recognizing words.  Robbie started reading just after he turned 4 (I read before my 4th birthday).  In kindergarten, Robbie was the only child reading until way after Christmas.  Right now it is estimated that he reads at a grade 3-4 level!  Not bad for a 6 year old.

So, how do you raise a reader?  I don't know but we did something right!