Tag Archives: options

Cursive

Some form of the meme keeps popping up on my timeline: “Share if you think schools should teach children to write in cursive”.  Every time I see this I want to ask why?  Why do children need to learn cursive?

“Share if you think schools should teach children to write in cursive”

Why is cursive important?

There is no doubt that cursive allows for us to write more quickly when taking notes.  It is an efficient form of communication for those contexts in which writing is used.  As a result, generations of students have been taught cursive writing to enable communication through this means.  Through cursive writing, we also develop our signatures which provide an important way of identifying ourselves for legal purposes – like when we sign contracts and make purchases with credit cards.

Communication in 2018

The fact is, however, communication is undergoing a significant transformation.  There are few places now where paper is the primary means of communication.  Instead, messages are sent via e-mail, text, messenger, and face to face communication.  Students have access to computers to take notes and information is available online through educational software to promote computerisation of education.  Purchases now happen through pin numbers and tap reducing the need for signatures.  Few need cheques given the ability to use paypal, e-transfers or credit/debit cards.  Even contracts are being modernised through docusign technology where electronic signatures are created and used.

Lessons take time

Recognising the shift in how we communicate, educators need to allocate class time to those topics which are important for students to learn.  Each choice fills in a block of time, limiting what else can be taught.  So then, what will not be taught if educators choose to continue to teach cursive?  Is this a sufficient priority to take up time in the education process?

But what about talking with grandparents?

One of the reasons I have heard to support cursive is that it allows children to communicate with their grandparents.  I am all for communication across generations and can understand how frustrating it might be to realise that grandchildren might not be able to read the birthday card sent to them by grandma and grandpa because they do not know cursive.  Is this a sufficient reason to include cursive in the classroom perhaps at the expense of other communication tools?  Or is it possible that grandparents could utilise other communication techniques, say printing which continues to be taught in schools, when they send those birthday cards?

What do you think?

When faced with those memes, how do you respond?  Do you like and share – promoting the teaching of cursive in schools?  Or do you think that it is time to accept that cursive is no longer as useful as it once was and that perhaps it is more important to spend time teaching other means of communication – like keyboarding skills?  We would love to hear from you.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Gender Norms

Recently I visited the Caldwell First Nations’ Cultural Centre in Leamington.  The woman showing us around proudly highlighted a series of pictures showing children doing various activities.  She noted that there are an equal number of boys and girls, even if we didn’t recognise them as such.  It is interesting that she had to clarify this for us.  I wonder how many people had passed through previously who had required clarification.  What does this say about our assumptions and expectations?

Gender Identity

According to Wikipedia: “Gender identity is the personal sense of one’s own gender.  Gender identity can correlate with assigned sex at birth, or can differ from it.  All societies have a set of gender categories that can serve as the basis of the formation of a person’s social identity in relation to other members of society.  In most societies, there is a basic division between gender attributes assigned to males and females, a gender binary to which most people adhere and which includes expectations of masculinity and femininity in all aspects of sex and gender”

When did girls start wearing pink?

This article  from Smithsonian.com highlights the evolution of our understanding of masculinity and femininity based on fashion.  In fact, the idea that girls wear pink and boys blue has only been in practice since the 1940s.  Prior to that there was a time when boys and girls wore dresses until they were 6 or 7.  It would seem that as our society changes and evolves, so does our understanding of gender and its associated assumptions and expectations.

Policy Resolution R4

Last week the Ontario Progressive Conservative party passed a resolution that states that gender identity theory is a liberal ideology that is controversial and unscientific and thus must be removed from Ontario schools and its curriculum.

Given the extent to which gender identity is influenced by culture, I find myself wondering what exactly this motion will seek to remove from schools.  I suspect the goal is to reinforce a particular understanding of masculinity and femininity while undermining any efforts to accept non-conformity.  The questions then become:

  1. Who gets to decide what version of masculinity and femininity is considered the norm?
  2. What, then, happens to those who would challenge these norms? Is it OK to have a ‘tom boy’ or effeminate man?
  3. How far are we expected to take this normalisation of gender as a binary? Do they also expect families to reinforce conformity to avoid further controversy?

Who gets to decide?

Life is a journey in which we have choices to make which influence who we become and how those around us see us.  One of my kid’s teachers once asked me what I thought about her having a ‘spa day’ for the girls in the class where they could learn about how to do their nails and put on makeup while the boys played soccer.  My only response was: what if not all of the girls liked that kind of thing?

Who gets to decide what we like and what we don’t like?  Isn’t part of the reason we need specialised STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs for girls BECAUSE for too long society has said these are not ‘feminine’ activities?  What about paternity leave, the opportunity for FATHERS to spend time with their newborn children – a very recent addition to employment rights because care-giving has long been assumed to be a mother’s job? How can we reach the ideal of gender equality if we promote policies that continue to narrowly define who we are based on socially constructed norms about gender?

What do you think?

Is it OK for anyone to choose not to conform to social norms about gender?  What risks are there to allowing space for fluidity?  What risks are there to reinforcing conformity?  We would love to hear from you.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

 

Take your kids to work

I noticed on Twitter today that it was ‘take your kid to work’ day across the country.  Looking at #KidsToWork, there were loads of tweets of proud parents showing off their children in their workplaces as they were treated to a sneak peak of what their parents do at work.

Kids at work

My kid never participated in ‘take your kid to work’ day.  I don’t remember why.  Perhaps it was because dad is a teacher and it is easy to get a sense of what they do both at school and at home (marking is often all around our family room).  Mom, on the other hand, is a priest, a role which doesn’t necessarily have a typical day because there is a need to be available for pastoral visits, participate in meetings, prepare sermons, worship and other programming, preside at worship, and so on.  Some of these aspects would be inappropriate for a kid to be present and others would not be particularly engaging.

I suspect this dad, who works at the Canada Revenue Agency understands the dilemma of introducing your kid to a job that requires independent work that may or may not be particularly engaging for others:

Tailoring the day for the students

It would seem that some companies welcomed students and made a point of developing engaging programming that young people would enjoy.

CSIS Canada tweeted:


Baycrest provided experiential learning with an ‘aging suit’ according to this tweet:


Students at Alectra had some electrifying experiences:

What do you think?

Have you ever participated in ‘take your kid to work’?  If yes, what did that look like for you?  If not, why not?  Do you think that this is a meaningful opportunity for young people?  Why or why not?  To what extent do you think young people should be encouraged to explore careers through such hands on opportunities?  We would love to hear from you.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Financial Literacy

I recently completed the online survey about education reform.  This included a section regarding financial literacy expectations for students.  Namely, what skills should schools be teaching?  While I agree there are some technical aspects which can be taught in school – for example, how to calculate interest on a loan – there are life skills and a morality attached to the use of money that could and perhaps should be taught at home.

Teaching about money

There are toys appropriate for young children which can be used to introduce money.  There are cash registers that allow children to imagine shopping at a grocery store.  There are games that can be played that involve money – Monopoly (which has a Junior version), Payday, Life, and so on.  All of these can be fun ways to explore money choices and options.

Giving children an allowance

The government of Canada provides an outline to help parents reflect upon the extent to which giving a child an allowance can be a tool for teaching financial literacy.  Having access to their own money can be an important way to encourage children to save, share and spend wisely.  With their own money, children get to decide what purchases are priorities and develop an understanding of making choices about what, when and how to buy what they want or need.

Financial morality

Inherent in our use of money is a morality.  We make choices about our priorities including where, how and what to spend our money on.  These choices can influence our children’s priorities.  Consider, for example, those who choose organic and fair trade products or shop locally.  These options are often chosen intentionally and it becomes easy to share these priorities with our children, letting them know that there are consequences to what we choose to buy and the companies we choose to support.

Our relationship to money can also be reflected in our actions.  If all our children see is us spending in hap hazard ways, they may come to believe that this is appropriate thus developing a hap hazard approach to their own finances.  If we never show our children our bills, they may not realise the expenses that come with renting or home ownership.  If we never show our children what we do to save money, they may struggle to understand the importance and ways to save.

What do you think?

Do you believe that financial literacy in its entirety is something that should be left to schools?  In what ways do you think parents could and perhaps should teach about financial literacy?  What priorities do you hope to pass on to your children?  We would love to hear from you.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

What’s on the menu?

This week I found myself rolling and baking 150 meatballs.  Doing so is part of an effort to help meal planning during those days when life becomes exceptionally hectic. In theory, I believe that if I have healthy, homemade options for quick meals on hand, we will be more likely to choose these over processed or fast food on days when dinner is an afterthought following a long day.

What’s for dinner?

There seems to be a moment in every household where someone asks: what’s for dinner?  This is the signal to say that the troops are hungry and want to be fed.  Responding to this inquiry requires an understanding of the options available:

  • Has someone thought ahead and made sure necessary ingredients are defrosted and/or otherwise ready to prepare?
  • Are all the required materials on hand to make a particular meal?
  • How long will preparation and cooking take?
  • Is sufficient time available to ensure that all can eat and still get to meetings, lessons and practices and do homework?
  • Who will do the work? Is that person willing and able to do so?

For many households, considerations must also be made in regards to the nutritional content of a meal:

  • Is it balanced?
  • Does it contain a protein, starch, vegetables and dairy?
  • Does it meet the needs of the various individuals in the household taking into consideration allergies and other health problems?
  • Will they eat it without a significant battle?

The weight of responsibility

Taken together, all of these considerations can feel like a big responsibility for the one who cooks.  Poor choices can lead to battles at the dinner table or worse, compromised health for some members of the family.  At times, the effort can feel overwhelming especially when the person has already had a long and tiring day.

As the primary cook in our household, I admit that there are times when I don’t want the responsibility of deciding what we will eat let alone preparing it.  My brain may be fried from the day’s work or I may be physically tired.  When that happens, more often than not, it means we end up getting fast food because no one else wants to cook.  While such choices are reasonable in moderation, it isn’t the ideal.

Increasing options

Over time we all develop a sense of the ebbs and flows of life.  We begin to anticipate those times when we are busiest at work, when the children are busy with their activities, and when we are most likely to be in that place where we would rather not cook.  This is where things like pre-made meatballs can be helpful.  Added to frozen pasta sauce made during harvest and store bought pasta means a well-balanced meal with little effort that the family will enjoy.  During the year we will also make various soups, turkey/chicken pot pie, lasagna, chili and more.  The key is to provide something for those nights that is easier than fast food.  For the most part, this works in our house, at least during the winter.

How about you?  Does your household have nights when no one wants to cook dinner?  How do you seek to balance the needs of the family when it comes to meals?  What tips and tricks do you have that you are willing to share?  Feel free to add your thoughts to the comments.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

School’s out!

No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks…

I remember how much fun it was on the last day of school both as a student and as a teacher.  It signaled that moment when the responsibilities of the school system could fall away into the background as we shifted our priorities and energies to other things.

School’s out for the summer!

The next day was often about sleeping in.  After weeks of assignments or marking, exams or report cards, rest became a priority.  It was nice to not have to worry about anything at least for a short while.  Soon enough, however, the question arose: “what next?”

What next?

Summer vacation for students is typically two months long.  While there are those who are content to sleep and relax for a large part of that time, there will always be moments when restlessness creeps in and challenges us to do something.  This is the struggle of many parents who hear that mantra “I’m bored”.

Summer expectations

The fact remains, just because students are out of school, doesn’t automatically mean that parents are off work.  In fact, even teachers are known to take courses and prepare for the next school year during the summer break.  Still, young children (and perhaps not so young children) need supervision and, all too often, parents are expected to be some kind of cruise director, determining what children will do during their time off.

At the same time, some parents (and perhaps some forward thinking young people) see summer as an important opportunity to learn and develop skills in alternative ways.  Released from the expectations of the formal school system, it becomes possible to explore different experiences.  Sports teams like baseball and soccer help to keep young people fit and teach sportsmanship and other important skills. Differently themed summer camps can have children making robots, learning to cook, exploring nature and more.  Family vacations can create space to explore new places and be family.  Job shadowing or taking on a summer job open the door to explore employment skills and routines while potentially earning a bit of money.

How will your family use this time away?

The opportunities over summer are limited only by our creativity.  How will you use this time off school?  In what ways do you hope that this time will be meaningful for the family?  What do you think the role of the parent is in planning summer activities?  What role should children play in entertaining themselves?  We would love to hear your thoughts.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/

Learning the Basics

The education platform for the Progressive Conservatives included a commitment to “…focus on the fundamentals and that includes proven methods of teaching.” .  This includes the proposed scrapping of ‘discovery math’ as test scores for Ontario have shown a lack of improvement for this area.

What are the fundamentals?

While there are many who would agree that getting back to basics is important, few take the statement one step further and ask what the basics are.  What should students know and be able to do when they graduate from elementary school; from high school?  What steps are needed to achieve these goals?

Arithmetic vs. ‘Discovery Math’

There are generations of students who made it through a school system where arithmetic was taught by route.  Doing worksheet after worksheet of calculations to ensure that students knew how to add, subtract, multiply and divide.  These are important skills and continue to be included in the curriculum.  The change is that now students are encouraged to learn through manipulatives which also help to develop problem solving capacities.

Why does it matter?

Learning arithmetic by route may mean that, at least for a time, students are able calculate 12 x 9 without assistance.  In life, however, there are no worksheets asking people to calculate basic questions.  Instead there are problems that we have to solve that may ultimately lead to a calculation.  For example, someone may need to calculate how many tiles are needed for a new 12 foot by 9 foot floor, someone might want to tip 12% or someone may want to calculate how much food is needed for a dinner party with 12 people.  While 12 x 9 can be calculated using calculators, calculator apps or even a cash register for those who are cashiers, people need to have sufficient skills in problem solving to know what to calculate.

Who likes math?

Compounding the issue is that, for some reason, mathematics is one of the few things that people are proud to say that they are not very good at doing.  In fact, math anxiety is widely accepted as a reality for a portion of the population. This includes parents, grandparents, teachers and students impacting confidence levels across generations.

What do you think?

Whether we like math or not doesn’t change its value to the education process.  So, assuming it is necessary, who do you think should decide what aspects of mathematics are foundational skills necessary for learning?  What resources should be used to decide how these skills are taught?  To what extent would you be willing to review these skills in order to assist your children as needed?

Journeying through life

When they grow up…

What do you want your children to be when they grow up?  Sometimes adults pose this question amongst each other.  The answers provide insights into our priorities, hopes and dreams for our children.  There are some who hope their children will follow in their footsteps.  Some hope they will take on prestigious careers that will give them fame and fortune.  Personally, my hope has always been that my kid will simply be happy.

Career assessments

Today, students are given multiple opportunities throughout their time in school to take aptitude tests that will then provide insights into the kinds of work to which the child is best suited.  The expectation, of course, is that these are useful tools in helping parents and children decide on the kinds of classes they will take in secondary school and the kinds of activities best suited for them.  In Ontario, this process culminates in a “Careers” course taken in grade 10 which is designed to help students explore post-secondary options and the programming required to achieve these.

How realistic is this process?

Unpacking this process, it becomes possible to recognise an expected linear progression from the results of the aptitude tests to the acquisition of skills to the attainment of an appropriate job.  There was a time when this progression was the reality for most.  By the time Generation X (i.e., those born between 1965 and 1981), entered the workforce this process began to shift to the point that it is now expected that long term employment with one company (or even in one industry) is a thing of the past.  Furthermore, thanks largely to technology, it is expected that a majority of children today will actually end up in jobs that don’t even exist yet.

What can parents do?

Parents can begin by reflecting on our own journeys through life.  How often did our paths change?  Why did we make those changes?  What were the consequences of such changes?  By drawing from our own experiences we can help young people feel comfortable about uncertainty.  Regardless of where our children are in the process, we show through our experiences that no single choice will permanently establish our future.  To the extent that we recognise the shifting landscape in which we have come to live, we can help our children be comfortable with the changes and shifts that they will face on their life’s journeys.

What is important is that we keep the lines of communication open, remain willing to learn and patient as we walk with our children through the challenges and changes of living in this millennia.  They don’t have to walk this path alone and neither do we.  On Apr. 29th beginning at 5pm at Essex United we will have our first Thrive! Dinner, an opportunity to gather for food, fellowship and programming that will explore the ways we as parents, teenagers, tweens and children can navigate through the changing landscape of today.  All are welcome to come to the table to be nourished and nourish one another.

Thrive! A living manual for families uses the tools of social media and food and fellowship to facilitate conversation about the blessings and challenges of being family today.  Check out http://stpaulstrinity.org/?page_id=2100 for more information or visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ThriveFamiliesManual/