Sep 012013




Learning by Doing

Photo credit: BrianCSmith


I’ve been thinking about a mother who told me that her parents did “not approve of” her approach to her elementary school-aged son’s “less than stellar” grades. As the conversation unfolded I remember she shared a number of important thoughts.  She was proud of her child.  According to Mom, the young “offender” was:

– kind and compassionate
– a bundle of energy
– very curious and interested in learning
– socially motivated, with great people skills to match
– fairly disinterested in grades

While the “prevailing wisdom” — both from her in-laws and several elementary school teachers — was that this “live wire” should be grounded from sports, outdoor breaks and extra-curricular activities until his marks improved, this Mom disagreed.

“I know people think that I’m  far too easy on him, that he’s lazy, and that I’m making excuses that enable poor school performance.  I just can’t figure out how to turn teachers’ comments into a currency that’s meaningful for him.  And, I still think, if you’re trying to raise a life-long-learner, education needs to be its own reward. Am I wrong?”

Perspective is an interesting thing.  Is this kiddo reflecting his Mom’s values?  Clearly she did not consider test scores or grades the holy grail of learning.  She worried that turning the whole grade “thing” into a battle of wills would have a detrimental effect on her child’s considerable curiosity and desire to learn.

“Maybe I’m wrong but I think that punishing him because he learns differently will do a lot more harm than being a ‘C’ student ever could,” she said.

In an era that sees parents challenging students’ grades on behalf of their kids this is an unusual attitude. A child appears to be performing below potential and receives grades that reflect that reality.  Isn’t that as it should be?

Or do you think  she’s being short-sighted?  Limiting her child’s future opportunities by not demanding high scores?  Or is she choosing her battles wisely and  accepting her child “as is,” regardless of the opinions of others?


Jan 152013
Cleanup in Times Square after New Year's celeb...

(Cleanup in Times Square after New Year’s celebration. Photo credit: Wikipedia)


I often hear that it takes twenty one days to develop a new habit…  Sometimes, however, when learning that new habit, we forget to pair it with developing the discipline needed to continue to take action.  Consistency helps to develop our self-discipline ‘muscle.’

Although people have a variety of work styles, there are chores and activities that need to be accomplished every single day, not just once in a while.  Your dentist probably wouldn’t be happy if you ‘saved up’ and did all of your brushing and flossing just before your office visits!

Activities that may not be daily can still follow consistent patterns.  Take a look at the patterns and rhythms of life in your family.  What routines do you have for things like homework, spiritual practice, independent reading or family meals?  How about for saving money, grocery shopping or vacation planning?

Children can learn about consistency in a variety of ways, ranging from “we always take our shoes off when we come into the house” to “When Grandma sends a gift you write a ‘thank you’ before you use it.”

They also learn from our example.  What are you teaching in this new year?  Are you teaching your kids that they should ‘crash diet’ for a couple of weeks and then quit?  Or, does you example show them that with consistency and self discipline, small changes over time yield big results?

Apr 182010

Here’s a great new ‘find.’  


According the “about” section of her blog Mary Lea is “raising children with a heart full of art. I’m a crafty mama and homebody with too many ideas and not enough hours in the day. I was an elementary art teacher, and now I’m home crafting with my two little girls: The Frog Princess (7) and Mini-Saurus (3). “We must become the change we want to see in the world” – Gandhi … Bring a smock!”

Not only is her blog beautiful to look at, it’s loaded with great projects to do with your kids or grandkids.