Category Archives: Learning and Schooling

Define “superior” parent please

Amy Chua at the 2007 Texas Book Festival, Aust...
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Say what you want about Amy Chua (and people are saying plenty):  she knows how to market her book.  From a lengthy article in the Wall Street Journal to an interview on NPR, from Slate to my Facebook status, people are talking about “Chinese” and “Western” parenting.

Oh, she assures,

I’m using the term “Chinese mother” loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise. I’m also using the term “Western parents” loosely. Western parents come in all varieties. (WSJ, “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.”  January 8, 2011)

Like the editor at the WSJ would say, “Wow.  Look.  Here’s an essay about Jamiacan parenting.  We’ll call it “Jamaican Parents are Superior.”  Puh-lease.

About the time all of the media was making this Yale law professor their darling, Bruce Reyes-Chow, a Presbyterian pastor in San Francisco, was posting this:  “Teaching children to embrace the joy of mediocrity.”

It doesn’t look like he intended it as a response to Chua.  And since Chua brought up the “Chinese” distinction (not literally, of course, but actually, yes, literally), I should note that Reyes-Chow’s heritage and culture is only part Chinese.  He is also Filipino. (In his “snarky” bio, he describes himself as Filipino/Chinese American.  And a whole bunch of other things not related to his ethnic heritage.)

Distracted enough from the point yet?

The book is supposed to be about parenting styles and how this one (uncompromising and disciplined) is superior.

So is it superior?  As FB friend Carol C. said, “What’s your goal?”  An important question to answer if you’re going to read this book or participate in any discussion about your “parenting” relationship with your children.

I’ll withhold judgment until I get a look at the book and can get past the attention grabbing headlines and soundbites.  I suspect there’s some truth in it for our family, just as there’s truth and guidance in Reyes-Chow’s post about celebrating mediocrity.

Meanwhile, time to supervise violin practice.

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Think before you fill out that next youth sports registration form

We are just coming to the end of another season of youth sports in our home. Two of our kids tried new sports this season: track and field for the junior, who wanted to work on his strength and conditioning for football, and lacrosse for our 7th grader, who wanted to join the wave of young people trying this growing sport. Our 5th grader did a stint with a spring hockey team as well as joined the middle school track team (consider it additional speed and conditioning to complement the once/week practices for the spring hockey).

I’m guessing there’s some eye-rolling  from readers about “crazy youth sports parents.” And we might deserve it.

We’re not alone. Mark Hyman, a sports journalist and parent, was prompted to explore the youth sports complex based on his own crazy parenting. He discusses it in his new book, “Until It Hurts: America’s Obsession with Youth Sports and How It Harms Our Kids.”

Jane Brody’s column in today’s NYT covers the book.  While injuries are part of the problem, what caught my eye was this:  “with each passing season youth sports seem to stray further and further from its core mission of providing healthy, safe and character-building recreation for children.”

I hope you’ll join me, as we move from one sports season to the next, in using Hyman’s standard to determine whether or not it’s the right choice for your child.  Ask yourself:  Are my kids involved in healthy, safe, and character-building recreation?

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Uncle Jay wants you to say “please and thank you”

Today’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has a nice human interest story about three families at USM who have a daughter AND a son playing in this weekend’s state hockey tournament.

Talk about family-based education.

However, my experience is you don’t have to be related to be treated like a member of the family.

I call it co-parenting–please, anyone who can come up with a less “social-science-y” name for it, I’m all ears–and it’s one of those features in a community that I’d argue makes for a great place for kids.

Here’s an example involving one of the dad’s in today’s Journal Sentinel story.

Jay Wigdale and I were talking between periods at a hockey game.  My middle guy had hockey practice after the varsity game and was panicking because his gear was in the car.  “Mom, c’mon!” he urged.  I sneered at him–the look that should say, “I’m talking to another adult here.  Give me a minute.”  But he was fixated on getting that bag, torn between waiting politely and being on time for the team meeting before practice.

After interruption number three or four, Jay said, “Hey, how about ‘Please Mom?'”  That broke the spell and a few minutes later, Son #2 and I were on our way.

Maybe it’s that Jay and I have stood at football, baseball, and hockey games together for the last couple of years watching our sons play.  Maybe it’s because Jay’s wife and I serve on the school’s Booster Club board together.  Maybe it’s because, by my count, Jay has 13 nieces and nephews living nearby, or that about half of those nieces and nephews have played hockey with my own kids.  But Jay felt perfectly comfortable scolding my son.  And I was completely thankful he did.

To the best of my knowledge, I am not related to anyone at University School, save my own children.  Still, there are plenty of days that we feel we are part of a family.

“I really need to check Facebook out. . . “

Facebook's new homepage features a login form ...
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Here’s your chance:  my co-hosts on Parents as Partners will be demonstrating Facebook tomorrow night (Monday, February 23 ) and you can join them (and me!) at 7 p.m. our time.

Here’s your opportunity to get onto Facebook (without signing up for an account!) and gain insights on how to become a digital parent and teacher.

Sponsored by Elluminate & Steve Hargadon at The Elluminate virtual classroom will allow participants to use audio, chat, video and desktop sharing to join in the presentation. (Steve came and trained USM teachers this fall on 21st Century learning tools).

Regular show hosts Lorna Costantini, Matt Montagne and Cindy Seibel, will welcome Nick O’Neill from who will demonstrate 10 ways to protect your privacy on Facebook. Shonna Daly, a parent from St. Catharines, Ontario will talk about how she carried out a parent consultation using Facebook. Matt will share his experiences using Facebook and connecting with parents.

Please join us by direct link to the Elluminate classroom:

And please share this with your friends!

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P-O-R-T-A-L is not a four letter word

Ah, technology and its promises. Ease of use, improved communication, anytime-anywhere learning and living.

What? You’re not buying it?

First, let’s review how a typical family with a child in each division might be using “technology” to participate in the USM community over a 24 hour period. (Okay–so it’s my family.)

10th grader: Check the English Literature blog, the Western Civ blog, the Facebook group on Latin 2, the portal for homework updates, do a webassign for Chemistry, and do vocabulary sentences on the Sophomore English wiki.

6th grader: Check the portal for homework (compare to assignment notebook), enter answers to History on e-Learning site blog, re-enter the answers to History on e-Learning site forum, check French wiki (after Mom reminds you) for assignment, check out lunch for tomorrow.

4th grader: Check portal for homework (compare to assignment notebook); attempt to sign on to GoogleDocs via Google, attempt to sign onto GoogleDocs via portal; beg mom to send email to teacher so you have work for weekend.

Mom: Check portal for all homework, be sure to check French wiki, read sophomore English blog (What? I used to teach high school English!), download US announcements, email Frau Jaeger about school picture order form 10th grader forgot to bring home, check 6th grade History site, check portal for grade comments, read Friday Folder/Friday Footnotes/US Update, read email from teacher about GoogleDocs, . . . .

Dad: What’s a wiki?

I’m guessing, given the number of kids on Mr. Matera’s site last night and the note home from Mrs. Ptak about GoogleDocs, and the extension of Mrs. Kendall’s composition assignment last week, and [insert your story here] that there are still some kinks to work out in “extending the learning experience out of the classroom and into the home.”

Still, I thought it was pretty cool when my 6th grader did the take home quiz for History online. And, you know, it’s nice to have some window into what my 10th grader is doing in school. It’s great, too, that the 4th grade class is learning about GoogleDocs now–saves paper AND reduces lost papers.

So, learn your portal user name and password, set up your NetWildcat account, maybe even update your profile (Really–you have a profile waiting to be updated on the USM portal).

Most of all, be patient. And see what you can learn about USM and what our children are learning.

More teacher travel blogs from USM . . .

Two more blogs to read about our great teachers at USM.

First, 8th grader English teacher Mrs. Barth is blogging about Shakespeare from England. What’s the emoticon for “green with envy?”

Then, Mrs. Schwebel (5th grade science and composition) and Mrs. Ziegelbauer (LS science) are off to the Florida Keys, to learn more about coastal marine ecology and efforts to restore the habitats of the Keys.

If you’re taking inventory, here and here are the other teacher travels. That’s your Phase I funds at work, people! 🙂

Range Line Valley Alamanc

I know exactly the moment I decided it was time to learn a little more about the eco-system in which I was living: standing in the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Arizona, I realized I knew more about the Sonoron Dessert ecosystem than I did my own. I didn’t even know the name of my own ecosystem.

Turns out I grew up in the Southeastern Wisconsin Savannah, the Wisconsin Till Plain subsection. I now live, just barely, in the Northern Lacustrine-Influenced Upper Michigan and Wisconsin section, Green Bay Till and Lake Plain subsection. What a mouth-full.

School is also located in my current home’s section. The dominant pre-settlement vegetation was northern hardwood forest, dominated by beech and sugar maple, with basswood and some oaks, including red, white, and black. From a conservation perspective, we’re a part of a major migratory bird corridor, especially for raptors and waterfowl, according to the United States Geological Survey website on the area.

I think I still know more about the Sonoron Dessert.

Madame Dupee has learned in her travels that Swiss children are both familiar with and caring of their surroundings:

. . . the more I talked with and spent time with Albert and his cousin, the more I realize what a commitment they feel to the beauty of their country. For example, when we were walking, Julian noticed a cloth that was lying on the ground in a pasture. Without hesitating, he ran to it and picked it up, and later threw it away.

Also, whenever I asked him what cetain flowers were called, he always knew the answer. I was so impressed with his ability to name each of the wildflowers that grew in his region- there were so many! I felt quite inspired to learn the trees and common flowers in Milwaukee when I return home.

The kids and I have visited the school’s garden, known as Karen’s Garden, both to lend a hand, to have a place to bike to, and to learn more about gardening in our environment. Last week, John helped Mr. Jacobs (a.k.a. our neighbor, Kip) with some of the gardening work. Next week, we’re the Garden Captains. We’ll learn a little about the weeds that grow here, I’m sure, as well as how our late harvest garden is doing. Our crop will feed students at school in the LS/MS and US Dining Rooms.

John and Elizabeth\'s first summer visit to Karen\'s Garden at school

Finally, the kids and one of the neighbor boys flew kites a couple of weeks ago on a windy June day. I may not know the names of common trees and flowers in this corner of the world, but after a childhood of water and wind sports out on the lakes of Waukesha County, I’m familiar with the weather patterns over the seasons. We took over Ken Laird Field at school and the kids, using two news kites from their Uncle John, ran 100s of yards. The south/south-easterly wind kept them busy for almost two hours! (I wish I could figure out how to post the video from my cell phone so you could hear Elizabeth as she sang out, “WEEEEEEEEE!”).

Next time: Why does it matter that there’s buck thorn?