Start at the Beginning – Stay ‘Til the End

Hawkins - 1st day of school - 2024

For several years in a row, Phil and I were invited to give a talk to parents of kindergarten students at Scotts Creek School where Phil taught 7th and 8th grade Language Arts.

We would introduce ourselves as parents of four grown children, and say that between us, we had many years (40+) of teaching experience. This was meant in no way to give the impression that we were experts. Yet we did want those listening to know where we were coming from. The purpose of the session was to encourage parents to start at the beginning to take an active role in their children’s education – then maintain that involvement throughout their child’s career in school.

It is evident at any school open house, the higher the grade, the less parents come to meet their child’s teacher. Why do parents start out involved and present at school activities when their children are young, then fade into the background as their child grows? Unless it is an athletic event, it is difficult to get parents of teens to show up at school.

Phil would share this comment as we began – “I want to share some strategies with you as¬†your child begins kindergarten so that by the time they reach my classes in 7th and 8th grade, they know how to be a responsible student. It will make my job a whole lot more effective and enjoyable for your child and for me.” (This usually got several polite laughs. ūüôā

If we think that the moment we turn our children over to a teacher, our responsibility for their education in over, we are sadly mistaken. As parents, we have a vital role in supporting, monitoring, advocating, and (only when absolutely necessary) intervening in our children’s education. There is no excuse to abdicate that role to a teacher. As a dedicated teacher myself, I admit that I did not see and hear everything that¬†went on in my classroom. I also know that I¬†was not aware of some of the special needs or circumstances my students faced – unless the child or parent told me.

We gave the parents of kindergarten students a handout with four suggestions as follows:

Follow Through –

  • if you say, “No video games until you pick up your toys” stick to it.
  • Don’t say it if you don’t mean it.
  • Don’t take excuses. This leads the child to believe that your instructions are negotiable.
  • It takes effort but it will pay off!

Read to (and with) your Child –

  • This is the MOST important activity you can do to encourage your child’s academic growth
  • It will help them be the best student they can be.

Talk WITH Your Child – Listen

  • It is important to ask them about school, then ask the “next question”,
  • i.e. “Did you learn anything new today? “What was it? “Did you enjoy it?” Why or why not?”
  • “Did anything funny happen at school today?” “What happened?”
  • “Did you do your homework?¬† “Let me see it.”

Limit Screen Time –

  • Using devices, watching TV, videos, playing video games, even educational content, may rob children of doing many things that are important to their physical, emotional, and social development, like playing outside.

God speaks to the children of Israel and says the following:

Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (NIV)

18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

May God bless our children and grandchildren with a great school year that helps them grow in God’s grace.

Potential – Unlimited!

Hawkins - 1st day of school - 2024

Several of my friends and I have grandchildren who have started kindergarten this year. As a former kindergarten teacher myself, I have been very interested in how their initiation into formal education has begun.

It is¬†revealing to see how different children view this common experience. Some responses to my “casual” questioning have been –

  • I like PE the best.
  • I like recess the best.
  • My teacher is nice because she gives me books.
  • I’m the tallest.
  • I’m the teacher’s best helper.
  • ____ can’t speak English so I am helping him.
  • We are learning letters, but I already know them.
  • I like math the best.
  • My teacher is nice.
  • I like library time best.

The overwhelming response has been positive and I am so thankful. After all, at least 12 more years of schooling looms ahead for these kindergarteners!

The most important issue is that each child has potential – potential in the Kingdom of God.

Luke 9:47-49 (NIV)

47 Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48 Then he said to them, ‚ÄúWhoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.‚ÄĚ

¬†We easily declare that all children have potential. The potential¬†will not necessarily result in “success” by the standards of our current culture. Too often today success is measured by popularity, wealth and material possessions, or notoriety in athletics or entertainment.

Jesus valued children because they demonstrated unconditional love, faith, and trust. Each child has potential to experience God’s unconditional love – most often through their parents.

To help our children reach their God-given potential, God has placed them in our families to nurture and care for. We must demonstrate to them and for them our faith and trust in God and His word.  We have no idea what lies ahead for our children. We do know that without a doubt there will be trials and difficult times ahead. Our children will suffer hurts and rejection.

Yet, God is faithful.

Our great potential is that we can become the children of God.

John 1:11-13 (NLT)

11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn‚ÄĒnot with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

God’s plan from the beginning was to bring us into relationship with himself. As parents we have the responsibility and privilege to share this highest of potentials with our children.

May God empower us to fulfill this challenge.

Back to School

image

Today was the first day of school for me, three of our grandchildren started kindergarten, and three other grandchildren had their first day in either 2nd or 4th grades.

It was a BIG day!

New beginnings are exciting and a bit scary at the same time. I have been praying for each of our grandchildren that their teachers would love them and see them as individuals.

As a teacher, I pray this for myself as well.

It is easy to notice the students that demand attention either positively or negatively. I have 30 students in my first period class and right now I am making a real effort just to learn all their names.

I started my teaching career in 1974, which I realized this week is 40 years ago! During that time I have taught in the public school, private school, Christian school, and I’ve home schooled.

Now, I have not taught continuously “lo these many years” – but I have taught over 25 years. I have learned some important lessons that help communication between parents and teachers during this time, some because of mistakes I made. I share these thoughts with the hope that each of us allows God’s grace to overshadow all we do as parents and teachers.

So – here goes:

* don’t believe everything your child says – check it out.

I had a parent come see me my second year of teaching and ask me if I had dressed up as a moose. No, I had not. In talking further, we realized that I had a dress with a white pinifore (this was 1975) and that the child was trying to tell her mother that I had dressed like Mother Goose – only the child said “moose”.

* if you have a concern, ask about it respectfully, don’t
accuse

I remember thinking “why didn’t the teacher let me know about this earlier” only to find out a note was sent home – but never given to me. Not the teacher’s fault.

* if you have a concern, write a note that says something like this – “I am concerned about Jimmy’s __________ (fear, negative attitude, apathy, lack of understanding of new material, etc) and I was wondering when I could meet to talk with you about it. Is there something I could be doing at home to address this concern?”

Showing up during class or calling during class is NOT a good idea. Teachers want and need to be teaching during class. Waiting around right after school unannounced may also be a problem because the teacher may have after school duty, a faculty meeting, or a sports event for their own child. A note expresses your willingness to respect the teacher’s schedule as well as let the teacher know you want to work together for the good of the child.

* Whenever something positive happens, especially after you have expressed concerns, share appreciation for what the teacher has done and is doing. It means so much and it also sets a good example for our children.

These verses are a good reminder for teachers, parents, and grandparents since we all share the responsibility of teaching our children.

Proverbs 15:2 (TLB)

2 A wise teacher makes learning a joy;

Proverbs 16:21 (TLB)

21 The wise man is known by his common sense, and a pleasant teacher is the best.

May God Bless this school year!

“I’m Thirsty!”

Caleb

The children were all in bed and we had just settled down to play Settlers of Catan, our current favorite board game. There was the “pitter patter” of little feet and a sleepy looking boy came up the stairs and said “I’m thirsty”.

As his mother went into the kitchen to get him a drink, Bad Nana – me, snuck him two spoonfuls of ice cream.

So what if he thinks that if he wakes up at night he will get ice cream?

I won’t be around.

After several dirty looks from my daughter, the little guy went back to bed and I am pleased to say, he stayed until morning. Which, by the way, is 6:00 am.

We all get thirsty and we are quick to satisfy that thirst for ourselves, our children and grandchildren. We are so fortunate to have a ready supply of clean water, not everyone in the world has that blessing. Water is an essential need of our physical bodies as human beings and an important source of continued health.

Our spiritual health depends on our supply of “living water.” If we don’t renew that supply daily we will dry up spiritually with souls like a desert wasteland. Jesus taught on this spiritual thirst.

John 7:37-38 (NIV)

37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice,
‚ÄúLet anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.‚ÄĚ

So, what is this “living water?”

John goes on to tell us in verse 39

39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

The Spirit of God is water to our souls. We need the Holy Spirit to not only quench our thirst, but to “overflow” to those around us.

I start teaching school next week. I am looking forward to meeting new students and seeing my upper level students again. A new school year brings the excitement of the “new”:
* new students
* new co-workers
* new curriculum and the resulting new lessons
* new shoes

As I encounter all the “new” I must remember that the “new” quickly wears off and the result can be the BORING same old – same old – unless I intentionally make the effort to renew.

Our children, our families, our friends, our co-workers, and our students are thirsty.

Our pastor read the above scripture yesterday and challenged us with the need to “spill over to those around us”.

To spill over, I must first be full myself. I become filled spiritually through studying God’s word, prayer, worshipping, and fellowship with other Christians. These spiritual practices fill me with living water. It is amazing how even little bits of time spent “drinking” living water can fill me to overflowing. I need to be intentional about keeping my living water level full.

We live in a dry and thirsty world.

As a young mother, a wife, a co-worker, a grandmother – whatever role or roles I find myself in – I must satisfy my spiritual thirst so that I will overflow with LIVING WATER to those around me.

Back to School Memories

Woody girls in high school - Senior, Junior, Freshman.

Woody girls in high school – Senior, Junior, Freshman.

I stood at the fence crying, waiting for my big brother to walk me home. The kindergarten students were dismissed 15 minutes before the other students and I needed my older brother. After all, he was in third grade. A really big kid, a 6th grader who was a Safety Patrol, was exercising his new found authority by telling me I had to leave the playgound, THAT WAS THE RULE!

What was I to do? How would I get home by myself? I wasn’t sure which way to go. (I lived four blocks straight down Illinois Street, turn right on Washington Street and my house was the second house from corner – 315 South Washington Street.)

But I didn’t realize that. I had walked to school with my brother and I was going to wait and walk home with him. All 700 students who attended Lowell Elementary School in Wheaton, Illinois walked to school. At least it seemed that way. There were no buses and it was rare for a student to be dropped off by a car.

It was 56 years ago that this situation occured, yet it is my first and freshest memory of school. It amazes me that memories like that remain and the accompanying feelings are often felt as well. I went on to have a very good year in kindergarten and have wonderful memories of my years in school. Yet that first day…

I had played school since I was about four years old – my first pupil was my younger brother. (At this point, all southern ladies say “Bless his heart!”) It was true, I imposed the iron will of my teaching authority on his sweet, compliant nature. He now works very successfully at a prestigious university, so hopfully the damage I inflicted was minimal.

As parents and grandparents we want our children to have positive experiences in school. Some parents choose to homeschool, often with the goal to ensure positive learning experiences. Yet is it possible to guarantee positive outcomes for our children? Even in playing, I possibly gave my brother negative learning experiences.

I was reading this week in James 1:2-4 (NIV)

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

There are trials, hurts, and disappointments that our children will face in school. There are times when we must advocate for our child. A dear friend recently mentioned that she and her husband (who is a school administrator) recently changed the school their children attend because of unresolved issues that were adversely affecting their children.

How do we know when to intervene, and when to let circumstances run their course so that our children learn “perserverance … making them mature and complete”? There are no formulas. It takes wisdom and faith. Those are qualities I must seek from God.

Guess what? The very next verses in James say …

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

So, there are times during this school year when you will need to seek wisdom from God. Like every day! When we ask, we must believe – trust – that God is faithful.

May God Bless each of these precious children as they begin school this year. May God Bless each parent and grandparent as we learn to trust.

No Excuses

Our grandson in the red cap is starting kindergarten!

Several years in a row, Phil and I were invited to give a talk to parents of kindergarten students at Scotts Creek School where Phil teaches 7th and 8th grade Language Arts. (Since we live in a rural community, our elementary schools have Kindergarten through 8th grade in one school.) We would introduce ourselves as parents of four grown children, one son and three daughters, and say that between us, we had many years (40+) of teaching experience. This was meant in no way to give the impression that we were experts. Yet we did want those listening to know where we were coming from. The purpose of the session was to encourage parents to start at the beginning¬†to take an active role in their children’s education – then maintain¬†that involvement throughout their child’s career in school. It is evident at any school open house, the higher the grade, the less parents come to meet their child’s teacher. Why do parents start out involved and present at school activities when their children are young, then fade into the background as their child grows? Unless it is an athletic event, it is difficult to get parents of teens to show up at school.

Phil would share this comment as we began – “I want to share some strategies with you while your children begin kindergarten so that by the time they reach my classes in 7th and 8th grade, they know how to be a¬†responsible student. It will make my job a whole lot more effective and enjoyable.” This usually got several polite laughs. ūüôā

If we think that the moment we turn our children over to a teacher, our responsibility¬†for their education in over, we are sadly¬†mistaken. As parents, we have a vital role in supporting, monitoring, advocating, and (only when absolutely¬†necessary) intervening in our children’s education. There is no excuse to abdicate that role to a teacher. As a dedicated teacher myself, I must admit that I do not see and hear everything that goes on in my classroom. I also know that I am not aware of some of the special needs or circumstances my students face – unless the child or parent tells me.

We gave the parents of kindergarten students a handout with four suggestions as follows:

Follow Through –¬†

  • if you say, “No video games until you pick up your toys” stick to it.
  • Don’t say it if you don’t mean it.
  • Don’t take excuses. This leads the child to believe that your instructions are negotiable.
  • It takes¬†effort¬†but it will pay off!

Read to your Child –

  • This is the MOST important activity you can do to¬†encourage your child’s academic growth
  • It¬†will help them be the best student they can be.

Talk WITH Your Child – Listen¬†–

  • It is important to ask them about school, then ask the “next question”,
  • i.e. “Did you learn anything new today? “What was it? “Did you enjoy it?” Why or why not?” not?”
  • ¬†Did anything¬†funny happen at school today?”¬† “What?”

Limit Screen Time –

  • Watching TV, videos, playing video games, even educational content, may rob children of doing¬†many¬†things that are important¬†to their physical, emotional, and social development.
  • Some content is excellent and very productive.¬†¬†Check out¬†creationscience4kids.com and¬†igamemom.com)

These suggestions are just that, you may feel led to do other things. God speaks to the children of Israel and says the following:

Deuteronomy 11:18-19 (NIV)

18 Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 19 Teach them to your children,  talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

There is no excuse for being actively involved with our children.