Think Big Thoughts
I recently returned from a school trip to Rome and Greece. Should you ever get a chance to go on one of these larger school trips, I highly recommend doing so. Start saving up now because they can be costly, but are well worth every penny.
In Greece, I was struck by the thought that some people in the past thought big thoughts. This picture to the left is of Agamemnon’s fortified city’s entrance way. This imposing structure likely served the purpose of impressing and intimidating visitors while similarly reassuring citizens of their own safety and esteemed position in their world.
The partially reconstructed Parthenon to the right similarly impresses even today with its mathematical exactness and beauty. Dedicated to Zeus and Athena (Greek gods of antiquity), the Parthenon seems like man’s attempt to impress the gods with human devotion and skill. Considering the thought that the gods were divine, immortal, and possessing power and knowledge far in excess of humanity, this human attempt seems to me all the more surprising and impressive.
The Theatre at Epidaurus, still used today, contains seating for 17000 and enables the spectators in the uppermost seats to clearly hear keys jingling and paper being crumpled and ripped at center stage. Such marvelous acoustics without tech impressed students and adults alike. What wasn’t so impressive was that we weren’t allowed to sing O Canada as a group. Oh well, we did lay plans for one day having Canada join the Greek empire.
Finally, not quite 200 years ago, the Greeks thought to improve shipping in the region and to do this, they cut their country in half at Corinth. The Corinth Canal joins the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf. The ancients attempted to cut through the isthmus at or near Corinth, and the task was completed by Greek nation about 50 years after its liberation from the Ottomans in 1830.
Aside from sharing a few snippets of the trip with you, my intent again is to encourage each of us to think big thoughts – not necessarily to erect huge fortified cities, build massive worship centers, construct architectural wonders or cut landmasses in half – but to dream and to strive for something beyond our current status.
Ambition rightly held can be a powerful force. Wrongly held, ambition can lead to arrogance and selfishness. But rightly held, ambition can help each of us to realize a better future if not for ourselves, then for others. I would encourage each of us to ambitiously seek for greater joy, greater health and happiness, greater opportunity for all, greater knowledge and wisdom, and greater faith. And of course, I would encourage you to also make it your ambition to participate on those school field trips – where to next? Jerusalem? Northern Greece? Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England? Europe? Asia?
I stepped out of my RV early this morning to change over the propane tank. This tells you two things: 1. My new house is not quite ready for occupancy, but only a few days left before we officially move in. 2. It was cold in the RV with the heat having gone out sometime in the night. But that isn’t the reason for the opening statement. That was a precursor to tell you that in the space of a minute, even while concentrating on hooking up a new propane tank, I saw three very bright meteorites streak across the sky. If you can get out from under the covers, out into the darkness, and under a cloudless sky over the next few nights, you should be treated to some spectacular meteorites.
Yet these rocks burning up as they race through this planet’s atmosphere pale in comparison to the sight those shepherds had long ago under another midnight sky as they watched over their flocks. May you be doubly blessed this Christmas season as you consider the wonder of the shepherds, the passion of the magi, the fear and hope and anxiety that must have been Joseph’s, the pain followed by joy mixed with confusion that must have been Mary’s, and the faith and salvation that has been given to mankind.
During the two weeks that the school systems will be shut down, I trust that the furthest thing from your mind will be academics for academics’ sake. Rather, may you be at liberty to enjoy family, enjoy friends, enjoy faith, enjoy the meteorites and the other wonders of the creation, enjoy relaxation, and even enjoy the cultural festivities associated with Santa. May the God of all Goodness bless you with a season of happiness.
A trip down memory lane to the Goals of Education back with the old curriculum reminds me that education used to be about developing children into responsible adults able to provide and care for themselves and others while contributing in a meaningful way to society as a whole. The wording was something like: intellectual growth, human and social growth, and economic growth. At some point in the last decade, the Ministry of Education began to realize that the old curriculum was not well suited to the new reality of the 21st century, that technological and social changes were such that the old curriculum and the old ways of educating were not well suited to realizing the goals of education.
A close-up look at the Core Competencies around which the entire new curriculum is built suggests that the old goals are largely being re-branded, reworded; that the goals of education have not shifted radically. Three main areas of Core Competencies exist – two of them specifically aimed at employ-ability skills and academics (Communication, Critical and Creative Thinking). The third one is Personal and Social skills, attitudes, abilities etc.
I would like to begin a series of articles presenting my thoughts on the Core Competencies, and I would like to begin with the Personal and Social set of competencies. For your reference, the topic for this first article is pasted below:
|Relationships and cultural contexts|
I can describe my family and community.
I am able to identify the different groups that I belong to.
I understand that my identity is made up of many interconnected aspects (such as life experiences, family history, heritage, peer groups).
I understand that learning is continuous and my concept of self and identity will continue to evolve.
In the first cell, you have a general heading under which four descriptors are given which would help a person consider their current status as well as possible personal areas to think about in detail. As a student, parent, adult, teacher, etc considers themselves living in relationship (of whatever sort) and in culture, how does one see oneself in the family and in the community? Am I able to identify different groups I belong to (family, school, team, club, neighbourhood, church, party, etc)? How is personal identity connected to our relationships and our culture? And how will I view myself in a few months, a year, a few years, a decade?
I can envisage many great and meaningful discussions going on in families – perhaps a parent has a “date night” on a regular basis where the parent can focus his or her attention on just one child at a time, perhaps discussions around the supper table are a common occurrence and everyone feels confident to participate, or perhaps there’s lots of driving time where such discussions can occur. The interesting thing about the Core Competencies in the new curriculum is that only Self assessment is expected, encouraged, allowed. After all, does it really matter if a teacher or parent assesses a child’s perceived relationship to and with family? Let me share an example with you.
Many years ago a young family would sit in church weekly and the parents would provide some quiet entertainment for their young children by drawing with and for them. A common theme in the drawings was the family car with the parents and one child in the car while the other child was on top of the car supposedly having the adventure of a thrill ride and calling out “Wheeee” as the car went down the road. The parents perceived this as a happy family with an adventurous, fun loving, thrill seeking child on top of the car while the quieter, more studious, book-loving child rode inside. A decade later, that thrill seeker asked why he never got to ride inside the car. The quiet one has not yet asked why she never got to have any fun, but maybe that question still lingers.
Discussing your child’s perceptions about relationships and culture and his/her place within those seems to be a worthwhile activity. And the curriculum claims to be aimed at allowing a child to consider such things. What a child reads and studies, the skills and subject-area competencies one acquires, the subject areas one focuses on, and even the field trips and events one participates in go a long way towards developing a sense of relationship both to people and to the surrounding culture.
It is my hope that you will find such discussions help you and your child grow in your relationships and selves. As for how this all works with schooling, on the final report card, your child is asked to record some self assessment in the Core Competencies – one or more areas). Over the next few months, I will provide articles like this to as many of the Core Competencies as time permits. As a school, we contemplated focusing on one core competency each term or each year. We decided, instead, to leave the Core Competency choice to families. Who better to assess what to focus on when it comes to self, than self? Children should be encouraged to note that they will never be assessed or evaluated in the Core Competencies by anyone connected to the school. School is a safe place to be and to grow. May your year be a happy one.
The truth of the matter may actually be “both!” Routines are enjoyed by all. None of us, no matter how spontaneous we might believe ourselves to be are without our routines. We use routine to help us cope with those things that are repetitive and for which we don’t want to expend a great deal of time and effort administering. We have our morning routine, our washroom routine, even our tooth-brushing routine. Establishing routines might well be considered a necessary tool in establishing positive mental and physical health.
Routine is essential in education, too (https://www.education.com/magazine/article/importance-routines-preschool-children/) (if the link doesn’t work for you, refer to the article pasted below). Establishing routines early in the school year will enable the entire family to cope better with the demands of acquiring an education. Routines will help a child grasp more information in a more organized manner thus resulting in more knowledge, and more usable knowledge.
Yet, a life of routine can also dull the senses, fatigue the mind, kill the desire to learn. Some resources are very repetitive always requiring a student to show understanding in the same way or presenting information in the same way. A balance needs to be struck between a learning plan full of routine and a learning plan novel, exciting, and daring.
Try establishing a learning plan with balance – some exciting learning, and some repetitive and routine situations. Talk openly with your child about the needs for routine and novelty. Even young children can grasp the basic concepts when communicated on their level.
And may your efforts be met with much success. See below for the article referenced above.
Routines: Why They Matter and How to Get Started
One of the most important things that you can do to make your young child feel safe
is to establish as much routine in his life as possible. Children (and adults) feel the
most secure when their lives are predictable. When adults provide environments
that feel safe, children learn that they can trust others to take care of them and meet
their needs, so they become free to relax and explore their world.
Young children do not yet fully understand the concept of time, so they do not order
their lives by hours and minutes, but rather by the events that happen. When events
happen in the same order every day, children have a better understanding of their
world, and therefore feel more secure. A regular schedule gives children a way to
order and organize their lives. When young children know what to expect, they
become more confident in both themselves and the world around them. They know
they will not be confronted with unfamiliar tasks that they are for which they are
A young child’s brain is still undergoing major development, especially the part of the brain that is able to plan
ahead and make predictions about the future. A routine helps kids practice making these simple predictions, as
well as understand concepts such as “before and after.” Routines also help children develop self-control
because they know they have to wait until a certain time to do a particular activity. A regular schedule fosters
responsibility and independence because children will be able to perform more activities on their own if they
have done the same activities many times before in the same environment.
A routine is especially important during particularly difficult times of day, such as bedtime or getting dressed in the
morning. When there is a routine in place, there can be little argument because the expectations for behavior are
taken for granted. Therefore, a major benefit of establishing routines is that you will cut down on stress for
yourself. Keeping to a routine may sound like an impossible task when you are overwhelmed with balancing a
constantly changing schedule for multiple members of your household. However, even implementing the
smallest routine can make a big difference. Here are 5 ideas for starting a routine in your home:
1. Plan at least one meal per day that you have together as a family. This meal does not have to be dinner;
even a 15-minute breakfast where everyone gets to share their plans for the day can be effective. Turn off
the television and do not answer the phone during your family time. This is a great way to start a routine
that allows children to take responsibility, even for something small, such as carrying the silverware to the
2. Have a bedtime ritual, which will help children slowly calm down, and allow them to associate certain
activities with getting sleepy. Think about what calms your child. Is it taking a bath? Reading a
story? Listening to soft music? Always do the bedtime preparation in the same order, and ask your child
questions such as, “What do we do after we put on our pajamas?” A great item to include in the bedtime
ritual is that of talking about your day. Let your child tell you what he did that day, and prompt him if he
forgets. This part of the routine not only helps children with memory, time orientation, and language skills,
but it also shows them that you care about what they did that day.
3. Include preparation for transitions in the routine. For example, say, “We have 10 minutes left before we start
getting ready for bed. When the big hand gets to the 12, it will be time to put on your pajamas.”
4. Work together to make pictures that indicate each step of the routine, put the pictures in order on a colorful
sheet of paper, and hang the finished product in your child’s room. You will not only be helping build
creativity in your child, but you will also promote self-sufficiency, as your child will be able to look at the
pictures to identify what step comes next.
5. Although routine is very important for young children, do not be too rigid. Children do need to learn how be
flexible and deal with minor changes. If there is an interruption to the routine, tell your child, “I know we
usually do x, but today we are going to do y because (reason). Tomorrow we will go back to our usual
schedule.” If most of their day is predictable, young children will be able to deal with small changes,
especially if they are prepared for the changes and see you modeling calm behavior as you deal with
problems that occur.
It is never too late to start a routine. You set a good example for your child when you tell her, “The way that we
have been doing things has not been working. We are going to try something new. Here is our new
schedule.” While you should definitely be open to the fact that the schedule may need some adjustment, you also
need to be firm in sticking to the new routine. At first, your child will try to get you to break the routine, but do not
give in to old habits. Young children need both consistency and limits. Know ahead of time that your child will
have difficulty adjusting, and be prepared with how you will handle this resistance.
The earlier that you begin to order your child’s life, the easier it will be. When you stick to a routine, you teach your
child how to arrange her time in a manner that is efficient, productive, and cuts down on stress. This sense of
order is not only important for making your young child feel secure at this moment, but it will also allow your child
to internalize an automatic sense of how to organize her own life as she grows up.
On behalf of my wife, Claire, and myself, I want to welcome you to the new school year. I am blessed to have a wonderful partner in this adventure called life, and Claire patiently abides by me as I work from home (our little trailer right now as we build a new home) or pack my cell phone wherever we go (which allows me to work a bit more flexibly). Shortly after taking this picture on a lovely, lonely beach north of Sayward on Vancouver Island, I answered a call from a parent wanting information on her children’s options for education. This flexibility is one of the tremendous opportunities that Distributed Learning gives to students, families, and educators alike. I encourage you to take advantage of it.
The pages of this school year have not yet been written. And last year’s pages have begun to collect dust. So move on. Capitalize on what has worked, leave what hasn’t. Plan for success, plan for work, plan for play. And keep your expectations reasonable. Looking forward, we face the temptation of trying for perfection. Looking backwards, we then realize our lack of success in achieving that perfection. So, why not avoid that temptation of setting ourselves up for failure. Rather, let’s write this year one page at a time, pages written well enough, and pages filled with contentment, joy, satisfaction, love, camaraderie, grace, patience, a few tears and lots of smiles.
My hope and prayer for this year is that students, parents, and staff members will find lots of happiness here at TLA. Whether you are using our Home program, our Blended program, our Online program, or a mix of two or three of these programs to complete your education this year, set happiness as a key goal. Ideally, you want to begin and end each of the pages of the year on a happy note, and when that isn’t possible, realize that whatever is robbing you of your happiness ends that page with a “To Be Continued” which means that tomorrow holds out the promise of happiness returning.