Teaching Grown-ups

Homophones on the road

Homophones on the road

We’ve been out of school on fall break for two weeks.  This is a souvenir I received from someone really special.  This is one of those priceless little gifts that probably nobody else will really understand.  It’s from a husband and wife who come and mentor my little reading rock stars.  Not only do they mentor six of my little people every single week, but they fill-in on short notice when mentors are absent.  They do a lot of really nice things for me.  They are so precious and wonderful.

I often take a little time to give refresher info to the mentors so that they will understand what they’re doing with the kids they mentor each day.  Recently we’ve been working on multiple meaning words and homophones and so I’ve been giving the adults a refresher course on what, exactly, a homophone is.  That’s not common knowledge that we carry through life and use in daily conversation.  Even the most intelligent people forget some things.

So Sandi and David were driving through North Carolina over fall break when they passed this church.  They stopped and went back to take a picture of the homophone on the side of the road so they could show me that they’ve learned what I’m teaching!  It’s hanging on my bulletin board.

These are the kind of gifts that stick with me because they remind me that what I do matters and people care.  Probably silly to everyone else…priceless to me.


Do you have an hour a week to help a second or third grade student become a better reader?  Click here to find out more about how to become a HOSTS mentor. http://www.wayne.k12.in.us/hosts/

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom

Dear Mom, I know I wasn’t an easy kid to raise.  I think that’s why God gave me to you; He knew you could do it.  And you did!  I’m far from perfect, but I’m way better than just OK.  You taught us what truly matters in life–love, loyalty, family, faith, education, and moral standards.  All things no amount of money could ever buy.  You led us by example. You ARE the Grandma you set out to be.  Their sun rises and sets in you.

Thanks, Mom.  I love you.  Happy Mother’s Day.

(Click the “Play Button” on the bottom right)

Our Struggle With “No”

Today my friend, Jill Shea, posted this to her Facebook page:

“Everybody is going to want you to do what is convenient for them. Learn how to say the most anointed word ever created: “NO”.

This is an area that has been an enormous challenge to me throughout my entire life.  “No” is not a simple two-letter word.  In fact, it is a huge source of stress and confusion in the lives of almost everyone.  We don’t like to hear it; we don’t like to say it, even though it holds an enormous amount of power.  We don’t say it when we probably should; we do say it when we probably shouldn’t.  Wars are fought.  Relationships are destroyed.  Jobs are lost.  Money is squandered. Health is compromised.  Lives are lost.  All at the hands of that one little word.  REALLY?  Really…

Can’t say no to food?  It’s likely that you wrestle with obesity and serious health issues.  Can’t say no sex?  It’s likely your personal life is a mess.  Can’t say no to cigarettes, booze, or drugs? Can’t say no to a salesperson?  Is it starting to sink in?

I have a theory.  Our struggle with “no” begins when our life begins.  It is innocent and very well-intentioned.  When we were kids we were taught to eat everything that was served to us. Regardless of whether we were hungry or liked it, we were forced to leave our plates clean.  If not, there were consequences and they could be severe.  That’s how our parents were raised, and their parents, and their parents…all the way back to when we killed what we ate and ate what we killed.  There were no leftovers. You ate it or you threw it away.  But as the world changed, this life practice did not.  And look us now.  We are the most gluttonous, obese, and unhealthy society on earth.  No blame here; I’m just stating facts.

When my oldest son turned one, I took him off formula and handed him a sippy cup filled with milk.  He took one drink, scrunched up his face, cried out, and threw the cup on the floor.  For months I was wringing my hands, trying over and over to get him to drink the milk.  My family and friends would call from all over the country to see if I’d forced him to drink the milk yet.  I was strongly  encouraged to thirst him out.  To literally give him nothing else until he drank it.  Children MUST DRINK MILK, right?  Wrong!!  It was his pediatrician who gave me permission to trust my instinct.  Everything in me was screaming that I should not force something that was clearly undesirable.  I didn’t like the message that sent to my child.  Nobody in my life agreed with me but they finally let it go. Guess what; he’s nearly 13 and he’s fine–healthy and thriving without ever consuming another drop of milk.  7 years of elementary school they forced him to take, and me to pay for, milk every day because I refused to sign a paper saying he’s allergic.  I refused to coach him to lie.

As we grow into a world where “no” is rarely an option for us, we begin to use it inappropriately.  Think about a two-year old child. What is typically their favorite word?  It holds a lot of power–that which they have quickly learned they possess very little.  And so it begins.  And as we grow it becomes ever more confusing and complicated.  Can you count how many ways your life might be different if you’d just said “no”–to that last drink, to those credit card offers, to that come-on, that cigarette, that cupcake…

We can’t change anything in our past, we can only learn from it.  Please don’t play the blame game; it is useless and so very destructive.  We can use our past as a tool to move ahead with better habits, rich in the knowledge gained at The School Of Hard Knocks.  Careful now, over-use of “no” is not better than under-use.  The key is in balance.  Tune in to yourself, to your life, and to those who matter to you.  When you start saying “no” to the things that are truly negative you will see your life change in amazing ways you never imagined.  We are all going to do some things we don’t necessarily love doing, but we learn when to say “yes” because it serves a greater purpose.  We feel better about stepping outside our comfort zone–about saying “yes” when we should, when we might have said “no” in the past.

So far I’ve said “no” to food that was making me sick and keeping me overweight.  My health has improved drastically and I’ve lost 40 pounds.  I’ve said “no” to cigarettes and I’m 17 months free from their hold on me.  I’ve said “no” to people who use me shamelessly but don’t appreciate me, and my stress level has dropped immeasurably.  These were not the easy habits to break.  I still do lots of things I don’t want to do, but I do them with a much better attitude.  I do many things I never did before that I really enjoy. I give of myself because I want to, not because someone demands it. I take pride in my accomplishments, work hard to keep changing the negatives, and live in better balance by using (not abusing!) the power of “no”.


When Kids Are Cruel It Breaks Hearts

I have never in their lives counseled my children to lie about anything, until today.  Today I instructed my son to break my cardinal rule of absolutely no lying– and to do it quickly.  I tried not to cry.

Something you may not know about me, I have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  We are so blessed.  He lives a very normal life.  We have had many years of the best teachers and school support staff, along with the best therapists.  If the Autism spectrum is a line that goes from zero to a hundred, my son started out at maybe fifteen, and is now at about five.  He’s going to go on and live a completely normal life.

Today one of his lifelong friends was razzing him about having ADHD, which is information I’m not thrilled his parents have shared with him.  Instead of walking away or ignoring the teasing, my son –with the very best of intentions–made the fatal mistake of correcting this child.  “…it isn’t just ADHD, there’s Autism with it.” Oh my! Let the games begin.

I’m writing this now because this is the outlet that keeps me from doing anything to make this very bad situation worse for him. I have to accept that, at nearly 13 years old, I can’t make this OK for him anymore. I fear he may be learning one of the hardest lessons he’s had to learn in his life so far.  My heart aches for him.  They were so mean.  They called him “mental” and I’m not really sure what else but he was genuinely and deeply hurt.  These are boys my son has literally grown up with since the age of 4.  The friends he made the mistake of thinking he could trust.  This is one of the little nuances that goes along with his “inconvenience”.  He doesn’t entirely understand social queues and behaviors. We spent a great deal of time teaching him over the past 6 years or so.   And since we’ve hammered into his head that truth is almighty, he expects that it shall always set him free.

When I told him about Autism Spectrum Disorder, I all but begged him not to tell other kids.  I tried to explain that kids will be really cruel, even the ones you think are your friends.  Ever so sadly, he thought he would get total acceptance from his “real” friends.  When he didn’t, it hit him straight in the heart, no buffer.  The one child who didn’t say cruel things to him, defended the ones who did from Nick’s counter attack on their abhorent behavior.  There were absolutely no winners in this scenario.

And so I told him to lie, and to do it quickly. I told him to go back to his friends and tell them he was lying about having Autism.  He said they thought he was lying about it anyway.  It’s so undetectable in him that they’ve gone all these years without noticing.  He was reluctant to lie. I pushed him.  “…they don’t believe you anyway, so go tell them you were lying and then just let it go.  You have nothing to be ashamed of.  But you’re learning about a potential negative side of absolute truthfulness.  Sometimes you just keep a thing or two to yourself.”  God help me.  I’m not sure if I made the right choice or not.  I don’t believe this is something to be ashamed of!!!  But he’s only just started middle school a few weeks ago and a thing like this can change a teenager’s life forever.  They’ve made it this far without noticing.  We need to ease them into it.  I pray I helped him make the right choice.

He headed out the front door about 5 minutes later and hasn’t come back yet.  I have to let him handle this alone, and I will, but it shreds my heart into little pieces.  I’ve known for some time that I can’t make things right for him anymore.  It was wonderful while it lasted but that ship has sailed. My role now is to help him make things right for himself.  I never thought I’d be counseling him to lie.

I’m proud of my son for standing up for himself and expecting his friends to step up to the plate.  So far he’s not a follower.  He stands up even if that means standing alone.  The one great thing with kids is that in a day or a week things tend to blow over, and they move on.  I, on the other hand, will never forget this day for the rest of my life and I suspect my son will not forget it either.