Tag Archives: options

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/