Category Archives: Thrive!

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/

 

Coat Ban

Did you know Canada Goose winter coats have been banned at a school in the U.K?  Moncler and Pyrenex coats have also been banned at Woodchurch High School in Wirral, England.  According to this article: “It is not because kids are stupid, lose things or steal off each other…Rather it is because of inequality.”

Canada Goose Jackets

Checking Prices

The Canada Goose website advertises youth parkas starting from $350 up to $750.  Moncler has coats for teen boys (12-14) that are upwards of $1000. Pyrenex jackets are the cheapest of the three ranging from $200-350 for children’s jackets.

What is the priority?

When I have looked for a winter jacket for myself or for my kid – I go with one priority, to find something that will provide warmth for our winters without breaking the bank.  Canada Goose, Moncler and Pyrenex may be wonderfully warm coats, but there are other, cheaper brands that are also sufficiently warm by my experience.  Thus, I struggle to understand why anyone would spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a single item of clothing especially for a child who would outgrow that item even if they don’t wear it out, lose it or otherwise wreck it?

Does name brand matter?

Over the years there are many brands that have held the spot light and thus been in high demand: Nike, Polo, Levi, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Tommy Hilfiger, Sketchers, Aeropostale, Abercrombie & Fitch and so on.  For some, sporting these names helps to establish the individual as someone who is ‘cool’.  The problem is that the popularity of a brand can influence the price tag making it harder for everyone to afford and thus reinforcing the difference between those who have and those who don’t.

“Poverty Shaming”

In a time when wealth provides a sense of status and entitlement and when people are famous essentially because they have money, those who are unable to ‘keep up with the Jones’ (or perhaps the Kardashians) are looked down upon and can thus become targets of bullying.  In essence, while status is associated with wearing the ‘right’ brands, stigma is associated with the absence of such brands.  The assumption is that if you don’t have those brands it is because your family is poor and can’t afford them.

“Wealth Shaming”

One Facebook post complained that banning expensive, name brand coats is the equivalent of ‘wealth shaming’ – making people feel bad because they have money and can buy (really) nice things.  All of this, however, depends upon seeing the brands you wear as a means to define who you are.  Is this really the ideal we should teach in a school?

What do you think?

How important is what a student wears?  Should schools ignore those ways in which students  define one another based on clothing?  Or should the classroom and playground stress character and other qualities allowing young people to define themselves beyond what they wear?  Is limiting the brands students can wear a way to achieve this ideal? We want 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/

Picky Eaters

At a recent Thrive! Dinner we had paninis.  To accommodate vegetarians, I purchased an avocado hummus that I thought would be nice with red peppers, carrots, spinach and cheese.  While I have eaten garlic and roasted red pepper hummus, avocado was new to me so, I decided to give it a try with a carrot. 

The puzzled look on my face (the taste was not what I was expecting), led to a conversation that included inviting others to give it a try.  Initially there weren’t a lot of fans.  I followed up by making a panini.  The taste grew on me and another participant was really enjoying it as a dip.  In the end, it was an interesting experiment.

Food fights!

One of the challenges of parenting is getting our kids to try new things.  Picky eaters can be the norm for a considerable part of childhood and even beyond.  Sometimes the struggle is compounded by food allergies or anxiety making mealtimes a constant battle.

Tricks we tried

Over the years, we tried to get our picky eater to try new things.  For a while we used Jessica Seinfeld’s cookbook “Deceptively Delicious” which had me making purees, freezing these in ice cube trays and then adding them to a variety of dishes.  Our kid knew that I would do this, but the rule was that I wouldn’t reveal what was in the food until at least half of the serving was eaten.

Recognising that kids can be turned off at the sight of something new and different, for a time we played: “name that food”.  I would make dinner without telling my family what I was making.  Then I would blindfold them at the table and give them bites of food.  They then had to guess what I made.  This was done with the assurance that there would only be one potentially new food on the plate so as not to overwhelm the picky eater.  Interestingly, this is when I introduced long grain and wild rice.  To this day I believe that my kid would have picked out the wild rice because it is dark in colour but because it was first tried while blindfolded it remains on the menu to this day.

Peer Pressure

As our picky eater moved into the later teen years, we have encouraged hosting dinner parties and going to meals with friends.  Engaging with others has helped to introduce our teen to some new foods.  Of course, this process comes with its challenges too.  Giving teenagers free reign to make their own dinner had them ambitiously trying to make pasta from scratch which ended up being a horrible failure.  In the end, the group opted to order pizza which we still considered a ‘win’ in developing independence.

What is important?

In the end, we know there are those who will go through life and continue to be picky eaters.  I know seniors for whom restaurant choices are a challenge.  Perhaps the most important thing is that whoever we are and whatever our preferences might be, our body gets what it needs to survive and thrive.

Do you agree?

Are you a picky eater?  Do you know a picky eater?  What tricks have you experienced to encourage picky eaters to try something new?  What does it take for you to try something new?  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/

 

Friends!

At our Thrive! Dinner last night, I discovered that one of our young men is a fan of “Friends”.  Aired from 1994 to 2004, the show follows 3 men and 3 women through the struggles of early adulthood.  While done with humour, there was a realism to the challenges faced by the characters over the years as we watched every character go through job changes, relationship failures and heartbreak all while renting apartments in New York City and drinking coffee at Central Perk.

Life uncertainty

As Generation X was coming of age, Friends hit the air.  There are many themes which resonate with this generation.  I remember being a young adult talking with teenagers whose fears included being the first generation who was not better off than their parents.  Many of my friends didn’t get the jobs they hoped for upon leaving school.  Many changed jobs multiple times over their lives.  There were many reasons the characters from “Friends” changed jobs.  There are many today who understand and have lived with these kinds of changes.

I’ll be there for you

The theme song says it all “So no one told you life was gonna be this way.  You’re job’s a joke, you’re broke, you’re love life’s D.O.A.  It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear.  When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month or even your year, but I’ll be there for you…”

At the heart of this show was a story about relationships, friendships.  Despite the challenges of life, they always had each other.  They continually cared for and supported one another in a multitude of ways.  And they accepted one another’s quirks and eccentricities.

There is something poignant about this foundation.  There is wisdom in knowing that the best things in life are not material.  Relationships can bring meaning to our days regardless of what else we may confront.  In the face of breakups, divorce, job uncertainty, health struggles, life’s ups and downs, when we have people around us that we can depend upon we have a vital resource that allows us to persevere.  This is true for every generation.

Who are your friends?

There was once a post on Facebook which asked who, on your friend’s list, excluding family, have you known the longest.  For me, it is my university roommate and friend.  We haven’t lived in the same city for decades but remain connected through email, social media and texting.  We visit each other from time to time and can talk for hours about a multitude of topics.

Friends are a treasure, especially those enduring friendships which provide mutual support and care over the years.  Do you agree?  Who are your friends?  How do you nurture those friendships?  In what ways do parents help our children to make and keep friends?  What do you think is the most important lesson in regards to friendships?  We want 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/

 

 

Happy Halloween

It is the day when people are encouraged to dress up and be playful.  We are among those who decorate our house with ghosts and bats and witches.  We have a mat we picked up at Canadian Tire years ago.  When someone steps on it – it screams!  It was the best $5 we ever spent.  The reactions of children who come to the door are priceless!

Getting Creative

Of course, Halloween doesn’t always arrive at a convenient time.  I must admit there have been many years when we hadn’t given much thought to a costume for our kid.  The result has been a time of creativity often an hour before going trick or treating.

Among my favourites costumes was the very first year.  At 8 months old, we hadn’t intended on taking the kid out trick or treating.  But as the night went on and we watched the neighbourhood kids run around, we decided it would be fun to knock on the doors of those we knew.  On the spur of the moment we pondered a costume.  Taking a canvass bag, we dropped the kid inside and added stuffed animals and dolls.  Our kid’s first costume thus became: a bag of toys!

Another favourite was also a last minute conjuring.  Sailor hat, life jacket and some well-placed green tissue paper transformed the kid into what we called ‘lost at sea’.

Trick or Treating

To be fair, hubby and I took turns distributing candy and trick or treating.  It afforded us each an opportunity to have fun and connect with neighbours.  As the kid grew older, there came a time when a desire was expressed to go solely with friends.  We insisted the group be at least 3 and set some parameters which were followed.  It was the first time our kid carried a cellphone, one tool that allowed for some independence.

We Scare Hunger

When we were young, trick or treaters were encouraged to carry UNICEF boxes and collect change along with their treats.  It created an opportunity to do something for children around the world who live in poverty.  I haven’t seen those boxes in quite a while.  However, another organisation has taken advantage of this opportunity to build awareness around hunger.

Free the Children (now known as “We Charity”) has included in its materials the suggestion of using Halloween as an opportunity to collect canned goods for local food banks.  Some have done this in school or with other groups.  Our kid and friends, did it by bringing a wagon with them trick or treating.  As a result, we allowed the kid to trick or treat a couple years into high school.  This meant one year when we had 4 kids, eating loads of candy and ‘sleeping over’.  Oh the memories.

What do you do?

Every family is different.  What are your memories of Halloween?  What traditions have you developed?  What was your favourite costume?  We would love to hear from you!  Trick or treat!

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/

Protecting Ourselves

Jackson Katz asks men what they do daily to prevent being raped.  He is often met with silence.  Eventually, one student might say: avoid going to prison. 

He then asks the women the same question.  Immediately hands pop up with responses:

  • Hold keys as a potential weapon;
  • Look in the back seat before getting in the car;
  • Carry a cell phone;
  • Don’t go walking/jogging at night;
  • Lock all the windows when I sleep;
  • Don’t take a ground floor apartment;
  • Own a big dog;
  • Carry mace or pepper spray or a gun;
  • Have a home alarm system;
  • Don’t drink too much, and don’t let my drink out of my sight;
  • Have a buddy system;

And so on and so on.

Teaching our children

These are the messages we pass along to our daughters, teaching them from an early age to be aware of their surroundings, avoid certain areas, walk with a partner and so on.  Universities and Colleges offer workshops for female students to help teach ways to avoid being a victim, including self-defence techniques.  One study determined that only 22 women would need to participate in a rape prevention program to prevent one additional rape from happening that year.

What about boys?

A lot of time, money and energy is spent on helping females to avoid becoming victims.  As a result, females are often the ones held responsible for their participation in sexual activity.  In fact, in one analysis of a scenario, the commentary has focused exclusively on the role of the female since the 1990s, a point the professor continues to make.

How to prevent rape

Recently there are those who have turned the tables and created a list of things men can do to avoid raping. The emphasis in this instance in on the choices males make that could ultimately lead to rape with the encouragement to avoid these behaviours.  Underlying this message is an awareness that men are not helpless victims of their own urges but have the capacity to make better choices that will ultimately protect themselves and those whom they may sexually desire.

What do you think?  What should young people be taught?  How is this different for males and females?  When should this be introduced?  Who should teach it?  Your thoughts are welcomed!

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/

 

Relationships

Romantic Comedies and Reality

Years ago, a boy that I liked asked me to go with him and his friend to a movie.  When 15 year old me asked my parents, they wanted to know if this was a date.  To which I responded that we wouldn’t be alone – a friend was tagging along.  When the boy showed up in a two-seater MG, however, my mother was not convinced and insisted that my younger sister go with us.  It might have made for an appropriate scene in a romantic comedy – the boy driving a two seater car with the girl beside, and her little sister on her lap.

Romantic Comedies

The genre of rom-coms seemed to hit its stride beginning in the 1980s with hits like Sixteen Candles (1984), Pretty in Pink (1986), When Harry met Sally (1989), Say Anything (1989), and Pretty Woman (1990).  These films typically feature some unlikely couple moving through a complex journey of circumstances that ultimately lead to a passionate moment when they realise their love for each other.

Such films work best when the protagonists are portrayed as naïve and emotionally juvenile.  There is a need for the characters to grow in order for the relationship to develop.  They need to come to a new understanding of themselves, the object of their affections and the nature of relationships for them to come to a place where they can recognise that they are in love.

Life imitating art

I did date the boy with the MG for a short while but it wasn’t meant to be.  We didn’t have the kind of chemistry needed to go the distance.  These things happen.  It is rare to ‘get it right’ the first time.  In fact, I would have several relationships before finding someone with whom I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life.  Throughout the journey, there were several of those rom-com moments, zany times in which we laughed, learned and grew.

As I watch my kid grow into adulthood, I recognise a similar journey.  My teen has experienced the wonder of a first kiss on New Year’s Eve, the joy of an over-packed picnic in the park and the heartbreak of those moments when we realise it is not meant to be.  The story continues to be written.  We can’t predict where it will go but we will walk with our kid through the ups and downs of the journey, offering advice and the occasional shoulder on which to cry.

Offering Advice

Looking back on our relationship journeys, what advice have you received that has been helpful or perhaps just zany?  What advice would you give to those younger than you?  How have your relationships mirrored a romantic comedy?  What do you think it takes to make a relationship last?  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/