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QUESTION: Is it Fair for Kids to Make Wreaths and Ornaments in Public School?

People talk about it often. Separate of church and state.  And around the holidays, the lines become garbled.  Holiday concerts. Arts & Crafts projects. Holiday shopping. Given this yearly situation, my friend, who happens to be Jewish, posted a question yesterday on her personal Facebook page, that garnered 85 heated comments as answers:

Does it bother anyone else that in public school the kids are making wreaths and ornaments? Am I being too sensitive? I am so tired of fighting the same fight.

So…what do you think?It was a spirited, fascinating discussion. Some friends simply stated; “No, you are not being too sensitive” or “I would feel the same way.”  Others recommended a more inclusive approach that called for representation and crafts from a variety of different religions while others felt there was no place for any of these religious symbols in school.  Still others felt that these crafts had a definite place in school– especially when the majority of kids (while not all) celebrated Christmas.

I did chime in too.  Here is my take:

“I certainly see the issue. It would certainly be more inclusive if there was a celebration and lesson plan around several of the holidays represented in the classroom.

When writing our Powerful Words character education program each year, I love to write in a section that allows children to talk about the holidays. I usually choose a word that allows for some grounding in discussion– whether it’s open-mindedness, tolerance, patience or friendship, I love providing curriculum that deciphers both similarities and differences within and between holidays and the way people celebrate.

For example; “last time we talked about having being open-minded to learning and trying new things. Today let’s use our open-mindedness to learn about the holidays people celebrate at this time of year. What are they (i.e. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa)? What holiday do you celebrate? What do you do on your holiday? What do you eat? Favorite part? We may celebrate differently (even if they celebrate the same holiday!) but open-mindedness allows us to still learn from each other and be good friends!”

I then provide notes to the teachers about similarities and differences that children might find interesting. For example, the reasons why people celebrate the holidays are different but the way people celebrate can be similar (lighting candles, eating a meal with family, giving gifts, etc). It’s nice to allow for ways for the children to feel that they have something in common to unifyat this time of year.”

I’d love to hear your take.  Should public schools do crafts and concerts that center around Christmas if the majority of the children celebrate this holiday? Should public schools do crafts and concerts that put any religious motifs at it’s center? 

Or, should there be a definitive separation of church and state such that December lesson plans leave out holidays and just focus on winter?

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February 29th: Teaching Children about Leap Year

Teaching Children about Leap Year 2012

Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman

leapyearleap-222x300Are the children asking you about leap year? I know, as a parent, I get pelted with questions about just about everything! If you want to be ready– here are some answers to frequently asked questions about leap year:

Leap Year Defined: What is a leap year?

A leap year is a year in which February is longer than it typically is in a non-leap year year. In a leap year, February has 29 days in it instead of 28 days.

Why do we need a leap year?

In order to align the Earth’s rotation around the sun with our seasons, leap year was started. Even though we acknowledge that a year has 365 days in it– that statistic isn’t completely accurate. Actually, it takes approximately 365.2422 days for the earth to travel around the sun in one year. So, in order to get “lined up,” we give one extra day to the calendar every 4 years to account for the additional time the earth takes to travel around the sun.

When is Leap Year?

This year, 2012, is a Leap Year. Leap year occurs every 4 years (believe it or not, with some exceptions every few hundred years). It’s celebrated on February 29th– a day that only occurs in a Leap Year.

Trivia question: How long is 365.2444 days?

Answer: 365 days 5 hours 48 minutes 46 seconds

How do you calculate a Leap Year?

According to the Gregorian calendar, there are 3 rules used to determine if a year is leap year or not a leap year.

  • Rule 1: Leap year is divisible by 4
  • Rule 2: Exception to Rule 1, any year divisible by 100 such as 1900 or 1800 is not a leap year
  • Rule 3: Exception to Rule 2, any year divisible by 400 is a leap year such as 2000

Were you born in a leap year?

2012, 2008, 2004, 2000, 1996, 1992, 1988, 1984, 1980, 1976, 1972, 1968, 1964, 1960, 1956, 1952, 1948, 1944, 1940, 1936, 1932, 1928, 1924, 1920, 1916, 1912

Fun for the Kids:

How many leap years old am I? (For someone who is 40 this year they are 11 leap years old.)

How many leap years old is Grandma/Grandpa/Mom/Dad?

How many leap years old is my school?

Did you know? Leap Year Traditions

In Ireland, every February 29th, women were allowed to ask for a man in marriage. A man was fined if he refused the proposal.

Leap Year has been the traditional time that women can propose marriage. In many of today’s cultures, it is okay for a woman to propose marriage to a man. Society doesn’t look down on such women. However, that hasn’t always been the case. When the rules of courtship were stricter, women were only allowed to pop the question on one day every four years. That day was February 29th.” Read more about it.

Leap Year Activities for Kids

frogpuppetFrog origami

Making a leap year frog out of a paper plate

Pin the Crown on the Frog Prince

Musical Lilly Pads

Frog CupCakes

Frog Hunt and other Frog Games

Make a Frog Bean Bag

Paper Frog Puppet alternative

How to celebrate leap year:

It is rare that we get an extra day out of life.  Celebrate it by:

  • Making it a day when you show gratitude for your family, your friends, and other things in life.
  • Taking a courageous leap to do something different or try something new.
  • Reiterating a goal that you made in January as part of your New Year’s Resolution.
  • Play leap frog or do a special leap year craft with your kids!

Have a powerful Leap Year Day!

drrobynsig170

Mind Your Manners! Top 10 Tips for Helping Children Show Manners during the Holiday Season

boy_potatoes-199x300Joey, a seven year old boy with big brown eyes and a proven love for mashed potatoes did the unthinkable.  Sitting around the holiday table, Joey wanted to show his Aunt Theresa that he could be part of the “clean the plate club” just like his Great Uncle Lester.  With great conviction, he picked up his plate and licked it—sending his leftover turkey onto the floor, his unused gravy into his lap, and his mashed potatoes up his nose.  Then he sneezed…and no, he didn’t cover his mouth or nose.

Joey’s mother, Trish, told me during one of our coaching sessions, “Perhaps it would have seemed funnier if half my guests weren’t covered in remnants from Joey’s dinner…my mother-in-law included.”

Holiday time can be unpredictable. It can encourage parents to push the limits of their credit cards and children to push the buttons of their parents. The excitement of these special days coupled with “once-a-year” guests, competition for parental attention, anticipation of gifts, power shopping and elaborate meals can inspire children to do things that they might not try at any other time of the year.

How can you help to ensure that your child doesn’t do a repeat performance of Joey’s dinner disaster?

(1)  Expose them to role models with manners: It’s challenging to teach good manners if a key adult or older sibling in the house isn’t modeling them. Actions speak louder than words. Children must be shown as well as told what you would like to see with regard to manners. Older “cool” friends or siblings who have great manners can be a particularly powerful influence. If your children see others showing great manners, your children will learn to do the same.

(2)  Set the expectations: Talk to your children about how you would like them to act in certain situations before they arise. Role-play these ideas.  What would you like them to say when someone gives them a present (even if they don’t like it)?  How should they behave at the holiday table?  Give them the step by step and allow them to help you generate ideas.

(3)  Start practicing at home: Going to someone else’s house for the holiday? Manners begin at home.  If you want your child to use manners out in public or in someone else’s house, they must be reinforced and used in your home.  Practice using a napkin, asking someone to pass the food, saying thank-you to the host, and saying goodbye to the guests.

(4)  Be consistent: Children retain what you repeat.  “Please” and “thank-you” will only become habits if you teach your children to say it every time it’s appropriate.  This does not mean you should nag.  Remind your children without making a big deal of it.

(5)  Use books and posters to show examples: If you have worked with me, you know that I like to compile children’s books by category such as manners, discipline, courage, and other character education words.  The use of books and posters can be great visual ways to start a conversation about manners during holiday time as well as throughout the year.

(6)  Play the “what if” game: Provide scenarios and questions and allow the whole family to discuss manners in this interactive way.  I like to provide about 18-20 questions for each of my clients to use so that each person in the family can answer several questions.  When you do this as a family, it makes it fun as well as educational.

(7)  Play the “messy manners” game: Another fun game I encourage people to play is the “messy manners” game.  During this game you can brainstorm all the rude manners one might exhibit at the holiday table.  You can even role play these “messy manners.”  Everyone gets a good laugh but most importantly, it provides a springboard for the questions, “Why shouldn’t we do that?” and “What should we do instead?”

(8)  Review the Powerful Greeting: Any child who attends a Powerful Words Member School or has worked with me during a presentation at a school knows about the “Powerful Greeting.”  This greeting is really quite simple.  First, teach the child how to shake an adult’s hand.  Then, teach him how to look at someone in the eye.  Finally, teach him to say, “hello, my name is ____, it’s nice to meet you,” or “Hello, it’s nice to see you again, thanks for having us.”  Everyone is always very impressed and the praise the child receives from others always makes the child feel really good!

(9)  Teach the Child How to Write Thank-You Notes: In the age of email, we all know how simple it is to send a quick note.  However, we also have to admit that getting thank-you card in the mail is better.  Teach your child how to write a thank-you card if he has received a nice gift for the holidays.  Young children can draw a picture and sign their name to the card.  You can even take a picture of that child with the gift and send that along as well.  It doesn’t need to be perfect or complex; it simply shows children the importance of saying thank-you.

(10) Praise it if you like it: When you compliment children on good behavior, they’ll want to do the same thing again.  Be specific with your praise.  What did you like?  “I like the way you helped clear off the table without anyone asking.  That really put a smile on my face and shows that you have very nice manners.”  Children will be looking to do a repeat performance and find other ways to make you proud.

Good luck with your holiday plans.  Remember to try and relax through the hustle and bustle of it all.  These tips are sure to prepare you for a great day. And if the mashed potatoes still end up flying in the face of your mother-in-law during holiday dinner, don’t forget, there’s always next year.

drrobynsig170

Ask Dr. Robyn: 5 Tips to Encourage Generosity in Children

Here we are! Holiday season! At a time of year that shouts “buy, buy, buy!” how do we encourage giving and generosity in our children? Dr. Robyn Silverman answers a question about generosity and children from reader, Linda:

Dear Dr. Robyn: We want our daughter, Krysta, to be the kind of person who gives of her time and energy to others.  Kids are often all about what they get these days. Her cousins are so selfish– they get everything they want and don’t like to share.  Krysta gets jealous sometimes. We want her to be happy but we don’t want Krysta to pick up the same habits as her cousins have adopted.  How do we help her to become a generous, giving person?

How do YOU encourage generosity in YOUR children?