Texas Teachings

Today is Holy Saturday, 2018, and I am located in El Paso, Texas.  It is a balmy 80 degrees and feels like I went from winter to summer and skipped spring.  I’m visiting my daughter and son-in-law and their two children Johnny and Luke.  Johnny is 4 and Luke is 2.  These boys are no strangers to Little Flower as they have been to Springfield and hung out in the gym and my office.

One thing I noticed during my stay here in Texas is that at the kitchen table Kaitlin has three placemats…not really sure why three.  Anyway, one of the placemats is a map of the world, one is a map of the United States, and one is a chart of the human body including the muscular, skeletal, and circulatory systems.  I have been surprised how much normal meal time conversation involves geography and physiology.  Also, math.  It is amazing how Cheerios can be a conduit to teaching math…if I have five cheerios and ate one, how many do I have left?

We at Little Flower School are dedicated and committed to childhood education.  We partner with parents to teach our children essential facts and concepts.  One little example that we do at LFS is each day we do a little trivia quiz.  Oftentimes it involves a historical fact relating to U.S. or World History, sometimes a geography question involving the state or a foreign country…sometimes a science related matter.

I feel it is important that students know the educational basics…that the capital of Texas is Austin, that Ecuador is in South America, that 8 x 9 is 72 (and that you do not need a calculator to figure that out).  At Little Flower we are exposing our students to these basics and much more.

Well, I’m going to get back to Johnny and Luke.  We’re getting ready for the Easter Bunny!  Happy Easter everyone!

A Little Toughness Can Be A Good Thing

When I pulled out of my driveway this morning, I glanced at the temperature reading on my dashboard gauge.  It was a balmy 40 degrees outside.  There was no rain and a little wind.  As I cruised through a far west neighborhood, I noticed a phenomenon that I have been aware of for several years.  There are many cars with school age children in them parked with the engine running waiting for the school bus to arrive.  Today I saw a boy aged 13-14 bolt out of a car, cross the street, and amble into a bus that had been waiting for him.  And, he had a Starbucks with him.

So I can understand a ride to the bus stop if a child is injured or has a physical disability.  I can understand it for a variety of reasons.  My understanding wanes, however, if parents are coddling, pampering, or facilitating entitlement.

Children can benefit from a brisk 2 or 3 block walk in the morning and afternoon.  Children can benefit from being out in cold weather for short periods of time.  Children can benefit from interacting with other children at a bus stop…off of their cell phones.

Sometimes parents try too hard to protect their children…from the cold, from experiencing adversity.  Children can benefit from how to rebound from tough circumstances.  Strength, resiliency, and adaptability are wonderful personal assets and they can be acquired in childhood and adolescence.

Balance: Key to Thrive

So this is the weekend that we say goodbye to Central Standard Time and say hello to Daylight Saving Time. At 2:00 AM on Sunday morning our clocks spring forward one hour.  Most of us will be deprived of one hour of sleep…which leads me into my blog topic: the importance of sleep, proper nutrition, and exercise in the life of an elementary school age child.

Many studies have demonstrated the importance of the right amount of sleep to overall successful academic performance of children and teens.  Primary school age children ideally would get 10 – 12 hours of sleep per night, intermediate grade levels 10 – 11 hours per night, and junior high 8 – 10 hours per night.  Sleep totals significantly less than this can lead to a variety of negatives including reduced ability to concentrate, impaired memory, increased irritability, increased anxiety, and increase in oppositional behaviors.  It is best if bedtimes are consistent each school night and that children are  not allowed to have electronic devices after bedtime.

Proper sleep hygiene is just one component of establishing a healthy lifestyle.  Nutrition, exercise, leisure and relaxation, social activities, study, spiritual activities, and family time are other components of our everyday lives.  Th key to an effective, productive student experience is a good BALANCE among these components.  Students run into trouble when the balance goes haywire.  Going to school without breakfast leads to fatigue…too much social media leads to problems…not enough sleep leads to problems…no exercise leads to physical and psychological vulnerability.  Every so often it is a good idea for parents to do an assesment regarding balance in their childrens’ lives and make changes when needed.

The Little Flower Family

At Little Flower School and Parish we talk a lot about the fact that we are a family…a family that watches out for one another.  This past weekend we had two events which embodied the family spirit of Little Flower.  On Friday night the Little Flower Gym was packed with people enjoying the third of six Lenten Fish Frys.  On Saturday night the Little Flower Gym was packed for the Byron Pempek benefit fundraiser.  Both nights represented what is special about Little Flower and the beauty of our School and Parish which is encapsulated in our slogan: Faith-Family-Fun.

What impressed me about both events is the generosity of so many volunteers…men, women, and children…working hard for awesome causes.  Persons from all walks of life having fun, enjoying a meal together, a positive spirit among the members of the crowd, laughing, talking and playing.  There is such a “feel good” aspect to all of it.  It is not put on, it is not fake, it is real.  People helping people for a positive cause.

It is not tool ate to get involved.  It is so positive for our LFS students to be a part of those extras that our school has to offer like the Fish Frys…whether as a volunteer helper or as someone who goes with their mom, dad, aunt, uncle or grandparents.  Taking part in these types of activities is good for the mind, body and soul.  Together we thrive as a school and a parish.  and, as always, we are so grateful for all the community members that attend our fundraisers and make them so special.

Catholic Education in the wake of tragedy

Two weeks ago I was interviewed by Channel 20, WMAY Radio, and by a reporter for the New York Times.  All of the interviews involved the tragic school violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  Some reporters wanted to know how parents should approach such serious topics with their children.  Others wanted to know what safety procedures are in place and if students felt safe.

In preparation for these interviews, I spoke to each Little Flower Junior High class and asked them what they had learned about the Florida shooting and how did they feel about it.  Almost all students had heard about it and, shockingly, several had seen actual footage of the carnage on Snapchat and Instagram.  Our children are exposed to more than we know sometimes.  Reactions ranged from sadness and fear to apathy and desensitization.

Here is where the Catholic Education advantage becomes a reality.  In a society where a tragic incident like this becomes a forum for gun control debate and finger pointing, at Little Flower we are able to do something meaningful, valuable, and wonderful.  We are able to pray…for the persons whose lives were cut short that day, for their grief stricken families, for the faculty and staff of the high school and for the community of Lakeland, Florida.  Little Flower School is a family and when someone is in need of prayerful support, we are there in love and spirit doing our part to make the world a better place.  That is what Catholic Education is all about.