STEM Programs: A Means as Much as an End

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In general, I applaud the recent initiative launched by Radnor Township parents to launch a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) program in their schools, especially on the elementary level.

That U.S. students’ science and math scores consistently lag behind children in other developed nations is by now widely known. Perhaps less well known, but just as important, is the fact that a much smaller percentage of native-born students in U.S. colleges and universities earn engineering degrees, again, compared to their peers in other countries.

Thus, any effort to strengthen the way that our students learn math and science and fundamental principles of engineering is to be applauded. STEM can be seen as the latest iteration of this kind, dating back at least to the Sputnik era of the 1950s, another time when American society was anxious about science and math education.

The Value of STEM
STEM FOUR
In many ways, the STEM approach mirrors the establishment of language arts curricula, which have been around for several decades now. How many of us remember getting report cards with separate grades for grammar, spelling, reading comprehension, literature, and writing? (And handwriting, but that is a whole different discussion!) At some point, educators realized that children and students are more engaged when they “see the big picture” and understand the interrelatedness of the skills and knowledge they are being taught. Thus was born the “block schedule” with longer periods devoted to teaching reading, writing, and literature in an interdisciplinary, interrelated way.

STEM programs mirror the language arts approach. The integration that STEM emphasizes between and among science, technology, and math, and the real world problem solving and application of skills in those academic areas, results in an “engineering mindset” for the learners.

Good teaching now is much less about “part to whole” learning and more about “whole to part.” How, for example, do adolescents and emerging adolescents learn a new video game? Do they begin by reading its directions, or by practicing just one way to advance to the next level? And more fundamentally, do they even proceed in a linear manner with whatever “task” is called for in their particular game? Instead, they routinely “jump right in” and don’t wait to master one skill before trying another.

Many Paths to a Solution
It is in these ways of encouraging multiple approaches to attack a problem, and of using various skills across different disciplines, that STEM offers the most promise as a way to engage and excite students.

As RadnorPartners4STEM begins its study and deliberations, let me offer them one gentle, cautionary note to “keep your eye on the ball” and remember that STEM, (and ALL curricula, really) is a means to an end, and not an end in itself. In other words, I think we in education sometimes get too focused on finding whatever “magic bullet” is out there and believing it to be a panacea, whether it is a curriculum, or a piece of software or hardware. We occasionally operate in the mistaken belief that what we teach or the tools that we use to teach matter more than the outcomes we are seeking.

Our goal in teaching STEM at Rosemont School of the Holy Child is to develop better problem solving skills among our students, with particular emphasis on using the scientific method and quantitative analysis as the foundation for their subsequent efforts finding creative solutions to knotty, real world problems. As a result, we hope to excite and engage the children by making their learning of skills and acquisition of knowledge – whether in math or science – more meaningful and relevant.

May that be the goal for Radnor Patners4Stem and for educators everywhere.

Aren’t all Catholic Schools alike?

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With the pending visit of Pope Francis to the Philadelphia area this week, we thought that we would reprint this edition of Tom’s Blog to present an overview of the difference between Catholic schools and independent Catholic schools such as Rosemont School of the Holy Child.

Based on the questions that our Director of Admissions Megan McHugh gets from visitors during tours and Open Houses, it seems that many parents don’t truly understand how Rosemont School of the Holy Child is an independent Catholic School and thus differs from a parochial school.

As an independent school, Rosemont School owns its physical facilities and is operated by a self-perpetuating Board of Trustees. In that sense, it is like other area private schools, such as Episcopal Academy, Haverford School, or Shipley.

The Progressive Holy Child Education Model
Pic 8aUnlike those schools, however, we indeed are a Catholic school. We are proud of our rich tradition of religious education – based on the spirituality of Cornelia Connelly, who founded the Holy Child Order almost two centuries ago – and our student-led prayer services and liturgies reflect that. Also, as a Catholic school, all our students take religion classes; our teaching and programs embrace and reflect Catholic teaching and theology, including respect for and commonality with other world religions.

As an independent Catholic school, much like other Catholic schools such as Malvern Prep, St. Joseph’s Prep, or the Academy of Notre Dame, we are financially independent and do not receive funding from a parish (which parochial schools do) or from the Archdiocese at large. Nor are we mandated to follow the Archdiocesan curriculum for math, social studies, et al., and we do not.

Instead, we are fortunate to be able to hire our own teachers, and give them the liberty (within reason) to develop and create their own curriculum, sometimes according to one’s area of interest or expertise. The Division Directors – Rita Smith in Early Childhood, Jeanne Marie Blair in Lower School, and Associate Head of School Deb Borden in Middle School – oversee the teaching and curriculum in their respective divisions, and work collaboratively with me to ensure that there is coherent scope and sequence to our program.

Measurable Student Achievements
One of the ways to judge the effectiveness of our academic program is via the results of the standardized tests that we administer – the ERBs. (I have written about them previously, noting that our students routinely exceed national achievement norms on these exams.)

Pic 1We also are evaluated as a member of the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools, which is a more robust accreditation process than exists for parochial schools.  Also, although admittedly I am painting with a broad brush, our overall programs differ to a significant degree from those of parochial schools generally.

Class sizes tend to be smaller in an independent Catholic school like Rosemont School, and our program is more robust. We have specialist teachers in science, Spanish, art, and music; in fact, we have separate Early Childhood/Lower School and Middle School specialists in each of those areas. Few parochial schools are able to afford such faculty resources from which to draw. They charge less, but often lack the depth of curriculum (including, for example, advanced Spanish or perhaps advanced math, or the widespread use and integration of technology) that is a hallmark of Rosemont School’s program.

All of our Middle School teachers are specialists and can concentrate on their area of expertise. At Rosemont School, we find this approach more valuable than having a faculty of generalists, who predominate in the upper grades of most parochial schools, covering all or most of the subjects for one grade.

Many Extracurricular Options
Cheering fans 2Similarly, and again from a broad perspective, at Rosemont School we offer a more extensive extracurricular program, especially in Middle School, including sports, performance ensembles, MATHCOUNTS, Robotics, and our annual Middle School play. Certainly CYO sports at various parishes and parochial schools are strong, but playing for the parish CYO team – with teammates from public and some private schools – does not seem to have the same galvanizing effect as does playing for one’s school. It’s hard to think back to Rosemont School’s Catholic Academy League championship games that routinely are played before a full house of supporters and fans, and imagine such an electric atmosphere at a CYO game.

We also draw from a wider geographic area for our families and students, and thus, by definition, are more heterogeneous than schools that draw primarily or exclusively from within parish boundaries.

Finally, our mission and philosophy as a Holy Child School leads us to be broad minded and inclusive in our approach to the spiritual development of children. It is no small coincidence, for example, that the very first Goal of Holy Child Schools is to “foster a faith commitment that engenders a joyous personal relationship with God.” Part of the greatness of Holy Child Schools is that they are historically ecumenical and widely accepting in their relationships with students and families.

The Right Balance for Children in Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer

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(This week’s edition of Tom’s Blog is presented by Warren Patton, Director of Communications at Rosemont School of the Holy Child.)

“Don”t have to worry “bout teachers. I”m so glad that school is out, I could sing and shout!”
– “School is Out,” Gary U.S. Bonds

Behold the children”s anthem of The Greatest Season. Time to swim, play, recharge … and rule. Time to revel in becoming their own schedule-makers.

However, for many parents, it’s an alarm, the signal for the start of the “summer slide”: Our children will wither in an educational vacuum that will sap them of every shred of knowledge they gained over the last nine months!

Relax, everyone. These are not your grandfather’s summers any more.

Up in the airDuring the hot months of June, July, and August, a lot of play and regular doses of inspiration can go a long way toward giving kids a chance to be kids as well as fact-retainers and fact-acquirers.

Let’s begin with an inconvenient truth: the “summer slide” syndrome is for real. According to the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, under-stimulated students can fall back. There is a significant difference between standardized test results at the end of a school year and the beginning of the next one, for example, primarily because of the lack of educational stimulation, experts have found.

This knowledge falloff is not a foregone conclusion, however. There are convenient ways for children to keep current over the summer hiatus and at the same time “recharge” themselves.

The Home Library
Most valuable for children is reading, which is why Rosemont School creates summer reading lists as well as tactics to encourage literacy. Children actually can enhance literacy by being able to digest information at a different pace.

For younger children, read to them and with them, recommends Rosemont School Early Childhood Director Rita Smith. Let them hear you read, as this develops fluency. Experiential and authentic learning is always the best way to learn. Cook with your child and have them help you read the recipe or count out the ingredients needed, have them weigh fruits or vegetables at the market, read signs, or name letters on cereal boxes. The possibilities are endless.

Work Never Stops – But It Can Moderate
Schools can develop work assignments that are both invigorating and yet allow plenty of time for recreation. Parents can monitor their children’s progress (no helicoptering, online casino please!) while being mindful of the fact that this is the off-season, because …

… Kids Sometimes Need A Break
DribblingRSHC teacher Steve Clarke adeptly wrote about the educational benefits of summer play, so there is no need to parrot them all here. In short, self-created play permits children to develop social skills, physical fitness, interactive strategies, and a sense of inquiry. Yes, free play time also can be an essential learning tool.

One example: years ago, a study was conducted by sociologists who provided two tools – a ball and a wall – to both suburban and inner-city children over the course of a week to see which group could develop the most games. Inner-city children were the clear winners because, the study found, they were better equipped to manage the resources that were available to them. Self-created play!

Ration TV, Computers, Organized Activities
They all have their time and place in society. However, an over-reliance on them is counter-productive to summer work, physical fitness, and essential playtime. And there is a fine line between a wealth of and too many organized activities. A glut can lead to burnout, which is a major factor in the poor conditioning of school-age children.

The Family School
Many of the best ideas are developed within the home. This could be the time to display home movies made on your favorite portable device. Show children how they can produce and customize the videos on computers – if the children don’t show you first!

Targeted vacation trips can be both fun and educational. Take a boat ride, for instance, to enjoy the waves – and see what lurks both over and beneath the surface. Visit a museum.

And there always is a service learning project. Some computer research could bring awareness of a need within your community. Develop strategies for the family to contribute ways to address the need, perhaps even by enlisting friends and neighbors for assistance.

The Convenient Classroom Without Walls – Your Backyard
Why not create and maintain a family fruit and vegetable garden to attain a sense of accomplishment and structure – and generate some savory results? Observe how each plant requires specialized care, and how each thrives in different parts of the summer.

10154512_771471759544005_8324171341914159492_nThen there is the ultimate, low-maintenance family entertainment: bird feeders. Place a few of them on poles throughout the yard (don’t forget the squirrel baffles) and see which species they attract. (For IDs, pick up a guide to North American birds.) Note the culture of the birds; how they eat (ground feeders vs. feeder eaters); which are songbirds (wrens and mocking birds); the shy ones (cardinals); which like to travel with partners (cardinals again) and how they relate to each other. Hummingbirds (such as the one above) require a sugarwater solution feeder – or special plantings – but they also are among the most charming creatures to watch.

In short, no young minds will go to waste if you – and they – collaborate on your own educational centers this summer. You probably will be pleased with the results.

Hints for the Hurried Child in Summer

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(This week’s edition of Tom’s Blog is presented by Steve Clarke, Middle School teacher and coach at Rosemont School of the Holy Child.)

Summer vacation is here! As a kid, there were no sweeter words to hear. Summer meant swimming, climbing trees, and rolling around in the grass. It was the time for endless wiffle ball games with my brothers and neighborhood games of kick-the-can that sometimes went on past dark. It was when we went off to the fields, woods, and ponds nearby and caught frogs and fireflies, butterflies and bees (yes, bees!).

The simple joy of jump rope.

For us, summertime was a welcome break from the scheduled, more predictable lives that we lived for the rest of the year. It was a time to explore and challenge our boundaries, and a good bit of it was spent away from direct adult supervision. When I became a parent, I soon realized that it would be quite a challenge to recreate this summertime atmosphere for my own children. Yes, times have changed. It’s not the sixties anymore. What has not changed is the importance that relatively unstructured, self-guided activities play in our children’s development.

There has been much in the media recently about over-scheduled children and the decreased amount of time children spend in free play. Studies have reported that the percentage of time that children spend playing has dropped from 40 percent of their day in 1981 to well under 25 percent today. Awareness of this issue led Rosemont School to institute our after-school Sports, Fun, and Games program and what guides us in our planning during summer Fun Camp.

Why does this matter? David Elkind, professor emeritus of child development at Tufts University and the author of The Power of Play, states, “Self-created play for children is neither a luxury nor a waste of time, it is a basic mode of learning, and children have a need to play. Accordingly, we cannot really prevent children from engaging in such play. But we can limit the time and opportunities available for such activity. That would be a mistake, particularly for young children. Although it is counter-intuitive, the more children learn from their own play when they are young, the better prepared they are to learn from academic instruction when they are older.”

Football

Children can make up their own games, if we let them try.

So what can a parent to do to help create a more relaxed summer atmosphere? Since no family situation or child is the same, there is no easy, one-size-fits-all solution to making your child’s summer less hurried. There are, however, some general guidelines to keep in mind when planning summertime activities

Get Outside
Visiting the park, taking a walk in the woods, or just playing in a creek help children connect with the natural world. According to author Richard Louv, “Children are smarter, more cooperative, happier and healthier when they have frequent and varied opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors. Green plants and play yards reduce children’s stress. Free play in natural areas enhances children’s cognitive flexibility, problem-solving ability, creativity, self-esteem, and self-discipline.”

Spend Time Together as a Family
Studies repeatedly have shown that families who spend time together – even if only at dinner each evening – have children who are happier, healthier, and perform better in school. Family time also promotes good emotional health in children, which is linked to a greater likelihood that they will avoid risky behaviors later in life. Summer is a great time for families to reconnect in a more relaxed atmosphere instead of rushed interactions in the car on the way to the next activity.

Allow Time for Free Play
Our children’s lives have become increasingly scheduled. Higher academic expectations, scheduled after-school activities, and increased screen time take up hours of our children’s days that otherwise would be devoted to valuable, unstructured play time. This unstructured play is far from wasted energy, Boston College psychology professor Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life, tells how play supports the development of executive function and particularly self-directed control.

“Free play is nature’s means of teaching children that they are not helpless,” he said. “In play, away from adults, children really do have control and can practice asserting it. In free play, children learn to make their own decisions, solve their own problems, create and abide by rules, and get along with others as equals rather than as obedient or rebellious subordinates.”

Among many other benefits, child-directed play:
• Requires attention and sharpens the senses
• Demands mental dexterity and flexibility
• Expands our nervous system
• Allows us to take risks and try on new roles
• Teaches kids how to get along with others and control themselves
• Encourages creative problem-solving
• Fosters good decision-making, memory, and thinking, and speeds up mental processing
• Reduces aggression
• Develops brain cells that exert control over attention, regulate emotions, and control behavior.

Parents can encourage free play by trimming organized activities in the summertime, reducing screen time, finding summer camps (or a sitter) that are less regimented and encourage free play, and by sending your kids out to play with others in the neighborhood.

Don’t Jump at Every “I’m Bored”
Children work on a different time schedule than adults. They generally want what they want when they want it (usually now). Don’t fall into their expectation that it is your job to relieve their boredom.

A wise man once told me that “boredom is self-created.” I agree. The important thing to remember is that boredom’s opposite, engagement, is also self-created. Learning this helps children to gain a sense of control over their lives and the world around them. If you limit some of your child’s go-to activities, such as screen time, you will inevitably be accused of creating a boring environment by your child. Be strong, it will pass.

Finding the right balance between family time, outdoor free play, and more structured activities can sometimes be tricky. “We need to find the middle ground between totally dropping out and totally signing up,” says author Carl Honoré. “It’s not going to hurt your child to spend a rainy day watching movies, nor are kids who spend much of their summer in day camp missing out on quality family time. You know your family’s needs best. Try to work out the best balance and scheduling that suits you, without succumbing to the swirl of activity modern parenting can become.”

Tinkering in the 21 Century

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(This week’s edition of Tom’s Blog is presented by Rita Smith, Rosemont School of the Holy Child’s Director of Early Childhood.)

What is tinkering? It may conjure up an image of someone working on their car in their garage or fixing a toaster in a workroom. But tinkering has come a long way and has actively made its way into 21st century learning. As any dictionary will tell you, to tinker means to repair, fiddle with, make changes to or improve upon and my favorite, to play with.

STEM ONETinkering in our present day classrooms allows children of all ages a chance to investigate, create, design, invent, build, and explore. We see this being played out every day with the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) lessons and Robotics units woven within our curriculum. Even
our youngest children are experimenting with marble runs, simple woodworking, and box designs. Our Lower School students, for example, are building suspension bridges and our Middle Schoolers are creating all kinds of things in the MAD Lab. Specifically, our 8th graders have researched and prototyped, and are about to build, their own drone!


Forum for Imagination

This type of learning promotes problem solving, creativity, and collaboration. With its base in play, children are free to be the inventor, architect, or engineer. Children are controlling their learning, and the teacher is supporting them along the way. Children are free to use their imaginations. This learning approach is also a wonderful way to build resiliency. Many projects will require trial and error efforts, and repeated tries to online casino’s get to the next level. An “I can’t” attitude is converted into a “how am I going to get this to work” attitude. Children have to figure out a plan and continue to update it. As children get older, technology will be an added component for gathering and sorting information.

STEM THREEHaving a space to tinker is important. You often hear of maker spaces as a place set up for the simple purpose of creating. Why not a tinker space in your house? It’s not that hard. All children would benefit from a place to explore and imagine. Tinkering is play that involves hands on learning. As children get older tinkering becomes play with a purpose. Tinkering should be fun.

Many Resources Available
All you need to get started are simple supplies, tools, art materials. Let your child’s imagination dictate the rest. Remember, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure! Knowing your child’s interest will help you set up your space. The Internet is full of ideas for you to try. A good place to start is http://tinkerlab.comPinterest also has many tinkering projects. There is no wrong way to get started, only creations to be made. If children have opportunities to tinker, who knows what inventions could be coming our way! The possibilities are endless.

Tinkering allows you to use your hands, mind, and imagination. If this sounds incredible you might want to join one of the many adult tinker clubs that are opening up all around the country. Tinkering is learning for life.

Sometimes Being “Late for School” is On Time!

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(This week’s edition of Tom’s Blog is presented by Kim Roerig, Rosemont School of the Holy Child’s Director of Admissions and Marketing.)

It seems like yesterday that my husband and I were deciding on the right course for our child with a late-summer birthday. There were many opinions, and we were so concerned that we would “get it wrong.”

We wondered how our child would feel if we waited until the following year for her to start school? Would that somehow hurt her self-esteem? Would she know she was “older?” Would she be challenged academically?

But not waiting seemed very risky, as many of the children with summer birthdays were already delaying their entry into school. After much thought and, truthfully, a few sleepless nights, we decided that we should wait and let our child be older rather than younger. And, as it turned out, there were nearly a dozen summer birthday children in her class whose families also chose to wait.

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The Benefit of Being “Late for School”
Many years have passed since we made this difficult decision. Looking back now, we are convinced that our decision to wait was the right one. Our child has had tremendous academic success and has been a leader in student council, athletics, and other activities. While we will never know if this would have happened without waiting, we think that giving our child the extra time to mature was an incredible benefit.

The pressures that our children face to succeed today are sometimes mind-boggling. Managing the demanding world of academics, the pressure of the college admissions process, and the challenges created by our high-tech world has created a very different experience for our children. Additionally, it is challenging to navigate the increasingly complex social “scene” encountered by adolescent children.

As we consider our Early Childhood education programs at Rosemont School of the Holy Child, we are sensitive to our parents’ concerns and their desires for their children. It has become increasingly clear that many families are choosing to wait for their “young” summer birthday children to provide them the gift of extra time to mature. Rita Smith, the Director of our Early Childhood Division, describes this as “the gift of another year.”

Early Promotion Can Have Drawbacks
I often hear that you will never regret waiting, but you might be sorry about promoting your child to be the youngest in a class with children who may be 12-14 months older. I know that we all wish we had a crystal ball and could predict the future; but we do not, and we have to try to offer each child the path that will best serve their needs.

Nursery for admissionsWe created our “Young Falcons” program partially in response to this “summer birthday” conundrum. It allows children who are 2 years and 7 months to 3 years by September 1 the opportunity to start a wonderful, Early Childhood program at Rosemont School. They no longer need to wait or find another program. Additionally, for those families who choose to let their young 3’s wait to start school, they now have a great alternative to our traditional Nursery/Three Years program.

As I have spoken with families trying to decide the right course, I am impressed with their openness as to what is right for their child. While there is always a focus on the current needs of the child, we also speak of the world that their child will encounter as they move from lower to middle and upper school. Additional time to mature will always benefit our children as they navigate the many challenges that lay ahead.

Again, a crystal ball would be fantastic but until we have that, we have to try our best to do what we think each child needs. Our experience at Rosemont School of the Holy Child is that allowing our summer birthday children to wait and join a class where they will be the oldest rather than the youngest is often the best choice. We are fully confident that offering this wonderful “Young Falcons” program will provide another excellent Early Childhood experience for our families and for their children.

Tech Unplugged – Establishing Limits for Our Children

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(This week’s edition of Tom’s Blog is presented by Robin Beaver, Rosemont School’s Director of Technology.)

It may seem counter-intuitive for the Rosemont School Director of Technology to tell you to close that laptop and put down the iPad, but that is just what I am about to do. As much as I love technology – all the shiny devices, cool apps and glittering gadgets – I am a big fan of Benjamin Franklin and his admonition, “In all things moderation.” Many students are surprised to find that I enjoy needlework, gardening, and hiking as much as I love the new Surface Pro! There is a time for technology and a time to unplug.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of great reasons for our students (and your children and grandchildren) to use technology in their academic and personal lives. The opportunities for exploration, collaboration, and connection are boundless. Technology can be an outstanding outlet for creativity and imagination. Students are living, and will be working, in a techno-centric world and we can neither ignore that nor under-prepare them.

Be Ethical, Safe, Smart
Our challenge is to help our students figure out how best to live in that world and when to disconnect. At Rosemont School we spend a good deal of time helping students be ethical, safe, and smart users of technology and the Internet. We do not want them to be invisible on the web – just positively and safely visible.
When I speak with Middle School students I tell them that in five or six years, when I Google one of them, I DO want to have them come up in my search results. But I want to see the awesome them – a great essay they wrote or a photo of them doing community service, not the less-than-terrific them – photos of inappropriate behavior at a dance or mean comments that they posted on someone’s news feed.

But this post isn’t really about Internet safety or cyber-bullying; it is about finding balance in our lives. It is about looking up, looking around, and interacting with the world around us. So, how do we achieve this Nirvana? That, dear readers, is the million-dollar question in our over-connected lives.

Imposing Limits 
I do not pretend to have the ultimate answer but I do have some basic tips:

  • Limits on screen time can be effective for younger children – experts suggests no more than two hours a day. However, this may not be practical for older children who often have academic requirements for screen time. So why not work toward screen-free goals instead? So instead of “we will limit our screen time to two hours today,” how about, “we will spend at least two hours with our cell phones out of sight today.”
  • Establish tech-free zones. As far as I am concerned, all dining room and kitchen tables, bedrooms, and bathrooms (yes, bathrooms!) should be tech-free zones. There are more important things to be done in those spaces!
  • Short car rides should also be considered screen-free/tech-free times. You have a captive audience! Take the opportunity to talk to each other, play a game, or sing a song. Simply listen to your children talk to each other – you will be amazed at what you can learn!

This is my take on the topic, and all families will have to create their own boundaries. While it may not be easy to do so, the boundaries need to be set.

Adults: Set a Good Example!
As teachers and parents, it is our responsibility to not only establish healthy patterns of tech use but also to model them. The serial violator of the “no tech at the table” rule at my house is actually an adult over 40! You may or may not know that I sit in the mezzanine of the gym during the Christmas Program each year so that I can record the program for the music teachers to review later.

From that vantage point I can see all of the parent mobile devices that are in use. Unfortunately, most of them are not capturing the event – they are being used to check text messages and emails. Luckily, most of the kids cannot see what I see. And, by the way, I know for a fact that this situation is not unique to our parent population. Years-end is a crazy time and it is understandably hard to disconnect but we have to stop and ask ourselves what is most important in this moment. I am not saying this is easy; just that it is important.

This month we will have a Tech Down Week, a student-led initiative, where faculty and students will be asked to limit their use of technology in a very specific way. Why not take the opportunity to talk to your child about this and perhaps participate as a family? Better yet, why not make it a part of your family’s Lenten activities?

From a motion picture to a motion people

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(This week’s Blog post is presented by Rosemont School of the Holy Child liturgist Greg Soltis.)

Isaac Newton’s 1st Law states, “A body at rest stays at rest, and a body in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

Tapping into his inner Newton in his message preparing Catholics for Lent, Pope Francis applied an unbalanced force on Christ’s body – the Church – a body that he finds at rest. Despite the need we all see in the world, he diagnosed us with a condition he coined as a “global indifference.”

And this indifference makes a difference.

Advice from Elsa.

Too often, we are just like Elsa in Disney’s movie, “Frozen.” We live in a state of eternal winter, isolated, and ignorant of the suffering of others. We become icicles, not disciples. We are a body at rest, not a body in motion.

So in this Lenten message, Pope Francis offers the following gnawing – and hopefully thawing – reminder:

“Usually, when we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others (something God never does): we are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings and the injustices they endure.” Our heart grows cold.”

We become “frozen” by indifference.

But we shouldn’t.

As Christians, we believe in a God who was not indifferent to our world. We believe in a trinitarian God – a God of relationships. We believe in a God who, in true humility, became human and offered the ultimate sacrifice. We have eternal hope in restoring our relationship with God. As people of the Resurrection, we continue to seek a new life in the midst of uncertainty, suffering, and death in our lives. And we believe in a God who reached out to the weak, the broken and the suffering, the sinners and the indifferent – those who failed to bother to love.

Middle School student volunteers paint Empty Bowls for a Lenten dinner at Rosemont School   that will raise awareness about hunger relief.

We only have to remember those who walked by the injured man in the parable of the Good Samaritan or the proverbial goats who did not give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, shelter the stranger, or visit those in prison.

When we see others suffering, we may ask God: “Where are you?”

But when God sees the world suffering, God asks us the same question: “Where are you?”

Are we a body in motion or a body at rest?

When we are frozen by our indifference, God challenges us to “let it go.” And if we’re honest, we will all recognize that we find ourselves idling. We must overcome this spiritual inertia. We must overcome the indifference inside us so we can become the difference outside us. And the Pope challenges us to use this Lent to become a body in motion.

So if we want to truly respond to the Pope’s Newtonian challenge, maybe we can offer our own Newtonian response.

Newton’s 3rd Law states, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

For every indifference we begrudgingly acknowledge on a global level, there is a chance this Lent for us to find an equal and opposite way to make a difference on a local level – at our jobs, in our families, at our parishes, and in our hearts. And the Church in its wisdom offers three equally essential means: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.

There are countless ways we can personalize these three pillars of Lent. But if we answer the challenge to overcome our indifference, we can truly make our Lent meaningful.

So if we’re not sure what to give up for Lent this year, how about our indifference?

Forty days after Easter, we will celebrate Jesus’ Ascension. And we will hear the angels ask the disciples (i.e., you and me) once again:  “Why do you stand there looking at the sky?”

This year, may we not be like the first disciples – a body at rest, standing idly and asking God, “Where are you?” Instead, may we find ourselves to be a body in motion, leading lives that let everyone know where God is.

That would be different.

Is There Room for Cursive Writing Instruction in the Digital Age?

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(This week”s guest blogger is Jeanne Marie Blair, Director of the Lower School at Rosemont School of the Holy Child.)

Is the art of writing with loops, swags and curls headed for extinction?

Cursive writing has remained a controversial topic among educators, occupational therapists, policymakers and scientists for the last decade. The debate centers on whether cursive writing should be removed from the language arts curriculum because it is no longer relevant or efficient in this age of digital communication. The unveiling of the new Common Core Standards has added fuel to the fire by on requiring printing (cursive is not even mentioned) to be taught in Kindergarten and 1st grade. Beyond 1st grade the current thinking is that students should focus on typing in order to perfect their skills for communicating in a digital world.

Cursive handwriting instruction also encouarges group collaboration.

However, research suggests the merits of learning cursive go far beyond striving to be efficient. Suzanne Baruch Asherson, an occupational therapist and national presenter for Handwriting Without Tears, states, “learning how to write in cursive is shown to improve brain development in areas of thinking, language and working memory.” She also believes “the physical act of writing in cursive leads to increased comprehension and participation because cursive writing stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between left and right hemispheres, something absent from printing and typing.”

What is fascinating about this hot button topic is that teaching cursive is neither time-consuming nor likely to dilute a robust curriculum. At Rosemont School, we embrace the importance of teaching cursive beginning in 2nd grade by integrating it into our language arts period. Our teachers spend less then an hour a week formally teaching cursive writing, but our students have ample opportunity to practice their writing throughout the day.

One hour each week seems a minimal investment when talking about ways to improve cognition and brain development. Dr. William Klemm, a professor of neuroscience at Texas A&M University, has also weighed in on this race to save cursive writing, stating, “Cursive writing helps train the brain to integrate visual and tactile information and fine motor dexterity.” If Klemm”s findings are accurate, why casino online would we deprive students of a skill that can only enhance learning?

A thoughtful moment while composing.

It appears to me that some of the skeptics are over-thinking and over-reacting as to why educators favor teaching cursive. We are always looking for proven methods that will enhance reading skills, fine motor skills, memory and cognition, and cursive writing has been linked to having an impact in all of those areas. Why shouldn”t teachers have the opportunity to employ cursive writing as another tool they can use to teach children and improve classroom instruction?

As an aside, a recent article in The Wall Street Journal contends that people who take notes by hand tend to retain more information and understand it better than they might have by typing!

Interestingly, enough true advocates do not want to replace typing and keyboarding with cursive instruction, they just want to include cursive writing as a means to communicate that has wonderful benefits. So the next time you go to sign your personal John Hancock on a document, think about the generation of students that may never have the ability to add their personal touch to paper if the art of cursive becomes an anachronism. Please note that John Hancock”s birthday is Jan. 23, which has been declared National Handwriting Day to encourage people to explore the power of handwriting even in a digital age. Cursive writing should not be labeled as passé when today”s classrooms are focused on promoting 21st century skills such as creativity and communication. What better way to express one”s thoughts and establish personality than with the flair of cursive writing!

I Can't Wait …

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I can”t wait until my child sleeps through the night . . . life will be so much easier then.
I can”t wait until my child gets potty trained . . . life will be so much easier then.
I can”t wait until my child goes to Kindergarten . . . learns to read . . . gets his driver”s license . . . gets into a good high school or college . . . finds a nice girl to marry . . .

Which begs the question, of course: does the “waiting” ever really end?

I am thinking about this concept of waiting for a couple of reasons. We know that the liturgical season of Advent is all about waiting – for the arrival of the Christ Child, the Holy Child, when God was made manifest to us and for us in the form of a man, born to Mary in a manger. Clearly, the Church in its wisdom requires us to wait, and promotes such delayed gratification as a virtue, and as an example of good, old-fashioned self-discipline.

And like so many of you, I am thinking about waiting because I can”t wait until Christmas . . . not because I am looking forward to toys and gifts. I can”t wait because our two oldest sons (Tim, 26, and Matt, 23) will be coming home and along with their younger brother Andrew (16), my wife, Disty, and I will then enjoy having our family all under one roof, if only for a few days.

But in thinking about all the waiting my wife and I have done, wanting and wishing for our boys to . . . play their first Little League game, go to their first prom, get their first “real” job . . . I realize – belatedly, I admit – a very important lesson オンライン カジノ that I wish to pass along to every parent of young children.

This is my Christmas gift to you.

As hackneyed as it may seem, try hard to refrain from waiting for the next developmental milestone; instead, enjoy each and every moment that you spend with your child as its own reward. It is far too easy to get caught up in anticipation of the “next developmental stage” of your child”s life, whatever that stage might be.

Now I admit this advice might NOT apply to parents of newborns or infants, because it”s hard to suffer sleep deprivation and think of anything but seven hours of uninterrupted slumber! For all others, however, I urge you to savor each and every stage of your child”s life as it is. That includes the runny noses, the temporary frustrations when you are disappointed with their academic performance, or their sports or musical performances, or when you feel the hurt and disappointment that inevitably come when your pre-adolescent daughter navigates the choppy waters of changing friendships and peer relations (as ALL adolescent girls must do).

Not if, but when, you experience these temporary disappointments and aggravations, please remember that your unconditional love will make those difficult moments pass for your child more quickly.

So my hope and prayer this Christmas season is for each of you to take a few quiet moments to sit in front of your tree, or a roaring fire, and think not about what comes next. That instead of thinking “I can”t wait until my child (fill in the blank)” you will be able to enjoy staying in this moment, this stage of your child”s life journey, to reflect on it and focus on the good of this developmental stage, the skills s/he is learning and practicing, and that you will find real comfort in doing so.

Merry Christmas!