Saturday, December 8, 2018

Happy Birthday, Jean de Brunhoff

One hundred nineteen years ago Jean de Brunhoff was born on December 9 in Paris, France.  He was the youngest of four children.  He became old enough to join the army and fought in World War I as it neared its end. Later, he became a professional artist.  He married in 1924, and they had three sons, Laurent, Mathieu, and Thierry.


Babar was actually born in his wife, Cecile's imagination as she was trying to entertain 4-year-old Mathieu when he was sick.  He and his brother, Laurent, loved the story and asked their father to make illustrations for it.  It wound up being published as The Story of Babar.  Six more Babar books followed before de Brunhoff succumbed to  tuberculosis at only age 37.

After de Brunhoff's death his brother had two more of his books published:    Babar and His Children and Babar and Father Christmas.  

Years later after World War II ended, Laurent began working as a painter, like his father.  He started working on his own Babar book, taking great care to draw the elephants exactly like his father.  He wanted to keep his father's memory and his mother's contribution alive by continuing the Babar series.  He added 45 more books to the series.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Gingerbread Days

December is here, and gingerbread characters have overtaken my classroom!


 Several of my first graders are still struggling to remember the short vowel sounds and apply them to cvc words.  (I'm the Title 1 reading specialist at my building, working with K-3rd graders.)  I put together this game so they could feed the gingerbread boys some mints as they gained confidence in figuring out the words.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Book of Sorrows

J. M. Bergen has spun an engaging tale of Thomas, who encountered a mysterious stranger and an intriguing book shop on his way home from his Kung Fu lesson. He entered the book shop in search of book of magic, real magic. He remembered the last thing his father had told him seven years ago before he disappeared. "Magic is real, Thomas. No matter what happens, always remember that magic is real."

The shop keeper entrusted Thomas with a box containing an ancient tome, The Book of Sorrows, with strict rules of secrecy and for the reading of it. Thus began an incredible new chapter of his life that included more mysterious and sometimes sinister people, an abduction, magic lessons, and learning about his amazing family and his own destiny.

The book draws the reader from chapter to chapter see what happens next. The end leaves the reading wanting to dive into the next volume. It's an entertaining read for middle school and older!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Turkey Days

     I love my back-road drive to school each day. Last week I waited for a 12-point buck to slowly, majestically cross the road a little ahead of my car. He paused when he reached the other side and looked straight at me. 


    A couple of mornings later I had to wait as about 20 wild turkeys flew across the road in front of me, one and two at a time.


     The next day on the way home the turkeys were crossing the road afoot . . . by the turkey crossing sign that's on my road.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Butterfly vs Bubble Wrap Parenting

The process of the metamorphosis of a butterfly is an amazing feat. From egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to emergence is truly a miracle.  The culmination of this process is a physical struggle, without which the butterfly will not survive.  

Photo by Lindsay Smith

A monarch, for instance, exits its clear chrysalis and begins a laborious process called enclosing.  The creature continuously pumps meconium fluid from its abdomen through the system of veins in it wings. Slowly the wrinkled wings take their traditional stiff-winged shape.  After time for the wings to dry, the monarch is ready to launch itself into the wide world.  Watch Benjamin Hill's time lapse video of a monarch enclosing.   David Schuttler has a good video as well.        

Occasionally, a person may find a butterfly struggling to emerge and and attempt to help it out of the its chrysalis.  Such assistance, more often than not, results in the butterfly's wings not forming properly, leading to its death.  It needs the struggle to force the fluid into its wings, so it can eventually fly.

Our children are a lot like these  butterflies.  We care for them attentively so they don't become injured or have bad experiences.  Our knowledge keeps them safe.

As a teacher, I've seen more parents in the last few years who take take this responsibility to the extreme.  They want to spare their children every negative experience.  Like butterflies, however, children need a few struggles in their lives to help them understand how to solve problems and meet challenges.  

Imagine if you never turned loose of your tiny toddlers' hand when she was learning to walk.  You would be teaching her to fear the inevitable tumbles at that point in her life that lead her ultimately to walking independently.  Instead, you provide a safe environment in which she can learn, with many a fall, to balance and take off.

What if you rescued your sons from every.single.fuss?  How would they learn to problem solve, negotiate, and work out differences in the safety of your own home?  These skills can transfer to the kids in the neighborhood and to their classrooms.  You can listen from the other room or keep an eye on them in the back yard to make sure things aren't going too far.  Later, in cooler moments, you can have a discussion (rather than a lecture) about strategies they can use to get along. 

Parents who carry protection to the extreme are what I call "bubble wrap parents."  They want to insulate their children from any possible negative experience throughout their childhood.  

Their child shows up at the Pinewood Derby an amazingly-designed vehicle because they don't want their child to lose.  Their child brings the perfectly-crafted Student of the Month poster to school that obviously was not their own work.  They're the parent who gets in a teacher's face because their child did not score well on  a test.  They are the kindergartener who falls down and starts screaming because the teacher told the child, "No."

What can a child learn by failing?  Even though I didn't win the race, I still had fun building my car with (not by) my parent.  I enjoyed being creative to make my poster.  If I don't study, I will experience the natural consequences of doing poorly on a test.

If children learn to respect and obey "No" at home, they most likely will act properly at school.   When parents cave in to their children's "No" time and again to keep them "happy" or avoid a fight, they are teaching them unrealistic expectations of the world.  Life is not always going to go the way they want.  Whether it's in their years of school or their jobs later on, they will quickly find it's not Burger King.  They can't always have it their way.

Parents certainly should be supportive of their children and be their back-up when experiences are unpleasant.  They are the sounding boards and teachers to help kids learn to deal with hurts and disappointments sure to come into their lives.  Parents are the advocates when circumstances are beyond their children's abilities to solve.  

Bubble wrapping children against every bump in life stunts their social and emotional development.  It is our job to guide children through childhood and adolescence in such as way as to prepare them for independence as an adult.  As they deal with both positive and negative experiences while growing up, they are like the struggling Monarch who eventually flies away.  Parents walk a delicate balance of being only as supportive as their children need without being smothering.  

Certainly keeps your prayer life active!