Work While You Work; Play While You Play

    Work while you work; play while you play. That is the way to be cheerful all day. All that you do, do with your might. Things done by halves are never done right. One thing each time and that done well, is a very good rule as many can tell. Moments are useless trifled away; so work while you work and play while you play.             ~M.A. Stodart Why expect so much from students? Why apply more stress to already stressed out kids? I’ve been an educator since the late 70’s and have witnessed a slow but steady decline since then in what is expected from students.  At the same time I have discovered that often the most stressed out kids are actually those who lack the ability to apply themselves wholeheartedly to anything but entertainment.  These are the kids that want to both play while they play and play while they “work”. While today’s educational culture supports the ideal of a strong work ethic, this ideal can merely be a stated aim but not necessarily one that is carried out.  To walk it out can at times feel like swimming upstream against the current. It’s hard work to expect kids to work hard! The fourth commandment to “observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy”  is followed by the often omitted words “six days you shall labor and do all your work.”  Laziness is so easily confused with peace.  Yet kids won’t find freedom from stress  if they aren’t struggling to work as well. WIthout experiencing toil and labor, true rest is illusive. I am reminded of the...

Living Life in Full Throttle

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.   Romans 12:11 Kids come into the world with a unique combination of strengths and weaknesses, yet all kids need to develop key character qualities as they mature. Erin MacPherson classifies these character qualities as “the fifteen factors”  in her latest Christian Mama’s Guide to the First Years of School. Today I want to address one of these factors, a strong work ethic, which in and of itself will forge the development of many of the other factors such as resiliency, responsibility, focus, self motivation, to name a few.   Erin knows firsthand the value of hard work; it defines who she is.  Erin is my oldest daughter and she began life in full throttle from the day she was born. Erin does nothing half way – or slowly.  She learned to run before she could walk by applying Newtonian mechanics – the laws of momentum –  to this endeavor. She discovered that if she focused on speed, she could make it to the next piece of furniture before her  lack of balance caused her to tumble.  (Any scientist reading this is probably cringing right now!) In middle school she organized a project with the intention of providing coats to one needy family.  Instead her project turned into a school wide event with truck loads of donations for numerous families.  She finds satisfaction in producing, creating, in being industrious, and in helping others!  She is the first to volunteer in the church nursery; the first to make a meal for a family in need;  the first to organize...

Restoring Virtue and Excellence to Education

It’s been an unusually full week.  I’ve prayed with anxious teens and comforted frightened moms.  I’ve confronted deception and applauded growth.  I’ve rejoiced with success and called out irresponsibility.  I’ve cried with families in crisis and laughed with others who find themselves on smooth paths.  It’s been a rich week -full of challenges and full of blessings but it’s Friday, and I have yet to develop a post for this week’s blog.  Yikes! Two weeks ago, I wrote about errors in thinking behind perfectionism and last week my post was about other thinking errors that stand in the way of pursuing excellence. This week I have largely copied for you two excerpts that shed light on cultural mindsets that have led to a lowering of standards in American education. The first one is written about the state of school in general and the second one addresses private school education. Pathways to Prosperity Project: Harvard Graduate School of Education February, 2011 “As we end the first decade of the 21st Century, there are profoundly troubling signs that the U.S. is now failing to meet its obligation to prepare millions of young adults.  In an era in which education has never been more important to economic success, the U.S. has fallen behind many other nations in educational attainment and achievement.  Within the U.S. economy, there is also growing evidence of a “skills gap” in which many young adults lack the skills and work ethic needed for many jobs that pay a middle-class wage.  Simultaneously, there has been a dramatic decline in the ability of adolescents and young adults to find work.”...

Using Bribes and Threats to Motivate your Kids- How’s it Working out for You?

Do you frequently find yourself drawn into a battle over homework with your daughter- or for that matter with any responsibility?  Does your son hurry through assignments, producing sub par work in order to spend more time watching TV or chatting with friends or does he just dilly-dally his time away?  Do you find yourself offering rewards, threatening to take away privileges or resorting to nagging, lecturing and even arguing?   Do you wonder how you can get your kids to be responsible for their work without having to battle? The challenge you are engaged in needs to be won (by you!) because gaining a strong work ethic is essential for kids:  They need to develop strong mental habits and learn how to produce quality work. They need to learn how to be productive and responsible citizens.  Doing what they ought to be doing however is likely not what they want to be doing. To make one’s brain focus and attend to work is a struggle that requires some serious training! Bribes and threats are common weapons parents use in this battle but if we are honest with ourselves, they are not very effective. Kids may step it up temporarily to get something they want, but external rewards quickly lose their motivational effectiveness and do little to grow an inner sense of responsibility.  Meanwhile the parent has to keep increasing the bribe AND remain in the driver’s seat directing the kid’s every step.  It’s exhausting! When you get right down to it, we resort to bribes and threats because we don’t want to see our kids deal with the negative...

All's Well that Begins AND Ends Well

Are you a procrastinator who habitually struggles to get started?  Or do you start out enthusiastically only to find yourself fading before the finish?  Appallingly, both a slow start and a fading finish describe a growing number of modern day students who find themselves distracted and drifting without any clear purpose. I ran the 800 in high school track.  (Actually, it was the 880 yard run which shows you how long ago that was.) I always shot out fast from the starting blocks.  And, on my best days, I managed to finish strong as well.  To this day, I fondly remember one particular race when I qualified for state as a sophomore, much to the surprise of my coach.  I ran hard from start to finish. I also regretfully remember my next race (the state meet).  I let the fear of not meeting expectations get to me, and I still remember the spot on the track when I decided to fade.   I also remember how exhausted I felt – far more so than in races when I never gave up. I finished dead last at state, with my slowest time of the season. That momentary decision, on the third curve of the second lap, reduced my courage… not just for that particular race but for many races to come. I began to fear running.  My confidence plummeted as I worried about giving up again. The joy I had previously found in running greatly diminished and so did my self-esteem. Without a doubt, the more effort I gave to a race, the more invigorating and rewarding the experience was. Isn’t...