Don’t Let Their Feet Touch the Ground

don't-let-their-feet-touch-the-ground

Have you ever sat in a meeting where there was a crawling child, or new toddler who repeatedly worked their way up to the front of the room to pull on the corner of the tablecloth? Each time the mom would stand up, walk up and get the child and then go back to her seat. But every time the child got to the edge of the table cloth you’d wonder, “Are they going to pull hard enough to make everything come crashing down from the table?” So you’d watch every time it happened until you realized that you (and lots of other people in the room) were not paying any attention to the teacher, but were engrossed in what was going to happen to the table decorations.  It’s so distracting! The child is certainly upstaging the teacher.

 On Facebook last week my teenage daughter posted this quote: “There are two kinds of parents: the ones that let their kids climb the stairs to the stand in church and the ones that don’t”. When I read it I asked her where she had heard that and she said, “No one told me, I just noticed because it happens all the time in church”. I was actually quite surprised she had noticed since she is in her pre-parenting stage of life (I guess she’s been caught up in the table cloth/toddlers phenomena too). Since it’s something I’ve spent lots of time thinking about and working on over the years I thought it was the perfect idea for this weeks post.

Before I had children, someone told me what I considered an absurd child rearing method. They called it the “don’t let their feet touch the floor method”. Basically it was to not let your child down from your arms, lap, or their chair to run around, or wander during any of the Sunday meetings. Ironically, what at first seemed like a strange idea to me became a method I adopted, used and learned to really appreciate. I sometimes felt like a magician with a big bag of tricks when I left for church, however if I didn’t let my child run around I had to furnish something for them to do. I realized that it is unrealistic to expect a toddler to sit still and pay attention for a long period of time; it’s just not developmentally possible.  So I felt that if I wanted them to sit still, I needed to have a plan and furnish things to capture their attention (Tune in another week to learn what to put in your bag of tricks).

When I was a young mom, a seasoned mother told me that her method of handling her young children in church was to make sure they had their own chair or space on the bench and that they stayed in it.  They could lay on it, sit backwards or forward on it, stand on their head on it but they needed to stay in their chair. Having their own chair, or bench spot can offer them some space of their own and be a privilege (of course at young ages there has to be an adult’s hand holding gently on to the back of their shirt or inches away, ready to catch them if they fall). If they can’t stay on the chair, then they go back to mom or dad’s lap. But the idea is to “not let their feet touch the ground” until the “amen” of the closing prayer is said.

Does this sound like a good idea in theory but not so feasible in reality?  Another method we implemented was to make being in church more fun than being out in the foyer or in the halls.

When a child decides that he is determined to get down and run around, or starts screaming or quarreling with the sibling next to him or something else that is disruptive, it’s time for them to be taken out of the meeting. (Remember noisy children, like good intentions, should always be carried out). Now what you do with them once they’re outside is very important. If a child gets to go out of the chapel and run around while Mom or Dad chat with the other adults in the foyer, it will not take very long for them to figure out that it’s a lot more fun in the foyer than in the meeting. Then they will give you every test they can devise to get out there. Also, although the kids don’t know the word consistency, they know the process. If you take them out once and let them play and run around, next time they’ll holler longer until they’re taken out. Each time you give up, they’ll fuss longer and longer because they know eventually, you’re going to give up and they’ll get what they want. So when they start to act up ask them if they want to go out and remind them how much better it is to stay in the chapel. If they choose to stay, then remind them of how they need to act if they are going to be in church.

If a child is very young, under 2 or so, a walk down the hall and back with a pause to point at pictures hanging on the wall is sometimes enough of a change of scenery that they will be ready to go back and join the family in the chapel. I’m grateful that the foyers of LDS churches have beautiful pictures of the Savoir, scenes from the scriptures, Church leaders, etc. Stopping at each picture and asking questions can not only distract the child and give them the needed break, but can be a learning moment. Things as simple as door knobs that require keys, hinges, lighted Exit signs, speakers mounted in the ceiling, numbers on doors or closets, etc. can be pointed out and explained while walking though the halls.

If an older child, say 3-5 years old chooses to have a trip out of the meeting, take them out of the chapel to empty classroom, or an isolated area and sit in a chair with them on your lap. Don’t give them anything to play with. Tell them that it’s more fun to be in church with the family where they have their own chair, books to read, and music to listen to, than it is to sit in that quiet room on your lap. Sometimes they want to wiggle and fight to get out of your arms, but they need to realize that in the chapel they have their own space, or chair, but if they have to be taken out, they have to sit still with you, alone, on your lap in a quiet (boring) room. When they choose to go back into the chapel, they can walk with their arms folded back to their seat.

Another idea to consider is the use of time between classes.  I know that 10 minutes is not very long, but when used wisely it can make a difference. I made sure my kids walked around between the meetings or I’d take them outside to run around for a minute, before they needed to sit for another stretch of time. When a meeting was over they would know because I’d say, “Amen” to them, set them down on the floor and tell them it was over and it was time to walk around again.

Remember that teaching children to sit reverent is a process. Don’t get discouraged if they don’t figure it out after 2 weeks. Just try to be consistent and they’ll get there.

Homework

homework

“Homework time!”  Are those dreaded words at your house?  I know that when I was growing up that was my least favorite time of the day.  If your kids echo this sentiment then we have some ideas for you!

  • Have a set homework time.  If there is no homework that night then they read during that time.  It’s funny how kids can “magically remember” they have homework when they realize that they are going to be reading anyways and not having free time.  Have your homework time the same time each night: like right when they get home from school, right after dinner, or the hour before bedtime.
  • Be close by in case they need help.  When kids have a reason to get up (hunting you down to ask a question for example) they are more likely to get sidetracked and off task.
  • Have a set homework space.
  • Have tool and materials close by and easily accessible.  The types of tools needed vary greatly depending on the age of the student.  Materials could include an alphabet chart, number line, blocks or counters, a dictionary/thesaurus, pencils, pens, highlighters, paper, a computer, sticky notes, etc.  This is also a great place to keep all their textbooks.  Again, this gives them no excuse to get up, possibly wonder around and lose momentum.
  • Help them realize that you understand that homework isn’t fun, but it’s expected to get done.  Whenever I would tell my did that I didn’t want to do something his reply would consistently be, “You don’t have to want to do it, you just have to do it.”
  • Make it a party!  I know, I know… the words ‘homework’ and ‘party’ seem like polar opposites, but hear me out.  Use the word ‘party’, throw out a couple snacks (I almost typed snakes!  That would make things interesting for sure—HA!), make it a group effort instead of an isolated event, have a good attitude, and BAM, homework time just got a little bit better.  As silly as it may sound, I have many fond memories of doing homework with my brothers.  You know what they say: a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down!

Hopefully some of these ideas can help homework feel a little less painful.  Keep in mind that these are just ideas we have—use as few or as many as you feel will help.  Anything you guys would like to share that has worked for you?  We always love your ideas!  Happy homeworking!

Common Core Standards

A reader asked: “The Common Core–I’d love to hear your opinion on it if you feel like you want to share it; how will affect my children–will it be a difficult transition?  Anything I can do to help them with the transition?”

common-core

Yes!  I would like to share my thoughts on the Common Core standards!  Here is a good overview and history on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).   Here is the official website if you want to take a look.   If you don’t want to go to look at those sites, but aren’t familiar with the CCSS, they are essentially new educational standards that the US is urging all states to adopt.  All but about 13 states have fully implemented them (with most of those 13 looking to implement them fully within the next couple years).  Arizona—which is where I live—has adopted them.  They had them in place for grades K-2 last year, and fully starting this year.  They are math and reading standards for kindergarten through 12th grade.  The goal is to:

  •  Help standards be more uniform across the nation (and closer to the standards in other parts of the world).
  • Help students thing deeper and explain their thinking and reasoning.
  • Ensure that student who graduate are prepared to enter college or the workforce.

There are lots of people out there who are passionately against these new standards.  There are also lots of people who strong advocates.  I fall in the middle of the spectrum.  I feel like some of the changes are really good for children.  I also feel like some of the expectations are unrealistic and overly rigorous (at least for a second grader [which is where my experience lies]).

You asked how it will affect your child and if it will be a difficult transition.  The biggest change I see is that students are required to think deeper.   Here’s an example—the following mathematical practices are for all grade levels:

  1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  4. Model with mathematics.
  5. Use appropriate tools strategically.
  6. Attend to precision.
  7. Look for and make use of structure.
  8. Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

The biggest change for your child will be that they will need to explain how they got an answer or how they reached a conclusion.  In the past in education the answer has been what really matters.  Now, what matters even more than the answer is explaining HOW they got there and why it makes sense.  They will also be asked to have lots of discussions with peers.  In these conversations and discussions they will have the chance to agree or disagree (respectfully) with others’ thinking, share their ideas, teach and explain to others, work together, and come up with questions of their own.  A lot of these things will be new or challenging for your child in the beginning.   That leads to the next piece of the question asked.

How can you help?  Here are a few ideas:

When they say “this is hard” have a response ready.  Something like “Oh yeah?  That means it’s really helping strengthen your brain and making you smarter!” or “I understand that feeling like something is tricky is not the best feeling, but when you work through it you are going to feel so proud of yourself!” or “You’re right!  I’m glad you have the tools to accomplish this, even if it’s tough”.

Let them be the teacher and explain what they’re doing to you when they are working on their homework.

– Be patient with your child.

– Use LOTS of pictures, visuals, and tools when working through things together.   This could include drawings, tables, counters (beans, buttons, pennies, etc.), rulers or base 10 blocks.

Remember that there is more than one way to solve a problem (This is another idea that is emphasized with common core.)  Every way to solve a problem is great as long as it can be explained and justified.

The CCSS are new and different: that means that they’ll take some getting used to. Teachers, so you have any ideas to add?  Parents, what have you done to support your child with the changes?

You have our permission!

Happy New Years! We know that lots of you are setting goals and making resolutions for next year.  If ‘have a cleaner house” or “stay on top of cleaning” is on your list then this post if for you!  Even if those aren’t on your list we feel like you might find something here helpful.  When a space (or home) is organized and clean it has a positive affect on a family (or those who live there).  Yes, happier families in 2014!

My mom and I were talking about how we set rules for ourselves—rules about what we can and can’t do around the house and in our daily lives.  Most of them don’t have much reasoning behind them and we probably didn’t even reach the decisions consciously, yet we feel bound to these ‘rules’.  We are here to share some insights we have had about what we allow ourselves to do after receiving ‘permission’ from someone else.   So let’s get rid of a few silly rules we have subconsciously set for ourselves and make our lives around the house a little bit easier!

Simple-tips

  You now have our permission to:

Throw a cup of water on the floor and spot mop with a towel.  My mom’s friend (who always seems to have a nice clean house) says that sometimes when her floor is dirty (but she doesn’t have the time/energy/motivation to do a whole official mopping) she will pour a cup of water on the floor, toss down a bath towel, and have a mini dance party on the towel.  Now you can take the time you just saved and read a story to your child.

Run the dishwasher half full.  It feels like it can be a waste of water not to utilize every last inch of space.  We find ourselves waiting to run the dishwasher because there was room for 3 or 4 more dishes.  But then we would forget, have a sink full of dishes and end up in a dish funk.  In an effort to save water or energy we get behind. OR we end up adding the 3 more dishes, starting the dishwasher, and washing a sink full of dishes by hand.  Now did that really save water or time in the end…? No.  So you now have our permission to run your dishwasher before it’s all the way full.

Never leave a room empty handed.   I read this somewhere and thought it was such a good idea!  As I’ve implemented this, it really helps.  It makes cleaning up an integrated task instead of a big chore that takes a chunk of time.   Always carry something with you as you go to another room.  If you walk down the hallway and see something in the wrong place, it takes almost the same amount of time to think, “I’ll get that and put it away later” as it does to pick it up and put it away as you pass it’s home.

Happy cleaning and happy New Years! We hope these tips (and our permission) make your life a little easier!