After The Run

The title of this post applies equally to getting through Halloween and to the Turn Back the Clock family run that ended the weekend. Even without the trick-or-treating we had lots of activities and treats. My preschooler had a harvest party and my son was dismissed early as it was the end of conference week. We spend Friday and Saturday with family and friends and were glad to be able to enjoy Sunday with just our family unit.

We walked up to the local park to participate in the run. The kids had a good time and we enjoyed the lovely fall walk on the way there and back.

We spend the rest of the afternoon playing games and enjoying each others company. Scheduling downtime is as important for family health as physical fitness. Don’t we always know when the kids have had a little too much fun?


Back to School

Happy Labor Day.

We have come to the end of another summer. Long days at the park and relaxed mornings are being replaced by school buses and homework.

It is also time to start packing school lunches. If you have read my five part series on school lunches you know why I don’t allow my children to eat at school. If not, you can find them here:

To make this part of the routine simpler I have compiled a list of lunch box ideas. Happy packing.

My own kids will likely take leftover pancakes from the requested back-to-school breakfast and nut butter with fruit, carrot sticks and water.

Climb ouf of the Darkness

photo by Nick Demerice

 This weekend I was privileged to join several amazing moms and their families in a walk for postpartum mental health. The Climb Out of the Darkness walk in Olympia was a celebration of overcoming the unexpected emotions that often accompany the arrival of a new baby. This was a victory for families everywhere.
photo by Kristin Jacobsen
The sentiment was reinforced by Team Olympia leader, Kristin Jacobsen, in several creative and memorable ways including a beautiful opening and closing ceremony and bubbles. We were also asked to carry a rock around Capitol Lake to the bottom of the hill we were to climb. There Kristin gave us an oil pen and asked us to write a word on the rock; one that represented our struggles with new (and not so new) parenthood. I chose the word “unfit.” While I still feel that way occasionally, it was a daily thought for much of the first year of my son’s life. Healing came when we through those rocks into Capitol Lake. 

What we carried up the switchbacks was not our rocks, fears, and worries, but hope. We each carried a lovely glass bead with the word “hope” hand written neatly in the center. At the top of the hill was the state capitol and a gorgeous panorama of Olympia and the sound as well as new summer blooms and plenty of smiles.

At the end of the walk we carried our hope. Hope for ourselves and our families and hope for a culture in which no new mom ever feels alone. This video from Postpartum Progress shows some of the many moms (including Kristin) who have come back to the light.
I look forward to participating in this event next year. Mark your calendars for June 20, 2015 and join me.

Do Standarized Tests Help or Hinder Education?

Standardized tests have caused anxiety in the hearts of American students since the first use of the SAT 1926. Today testing begins in elementary schools. With the induction of Common Core Standards every math unit comes with pre and post unit tests for all grade levels. Mandatory state testing begins in grade three. Government officials tell us these tests are needed to determine the quality of our kids’ education. Teachers often tell us that these tests take away from learning time in the classroom. As a parent it is hard to know what is best for our child at times, especially when you see faces full of confusion and fear, wondering if this test performance will mean that they are not smart.
In her article, Breaking the Grade, Amy Dean states:

Parents clearly have legitimate reasons to demand better—and to join with others to reject school privatization, budget cuts, and high-stakes testing. Teachers and parents interact and relate with students on a daily basis. They have a better grasp of their own child’s needs than administrators or legislators, whose priorities are not grounded in the realities of the classroom or the dining room.

The article goes on to issue a further call-to-action for parents to unite in calling for change in the use of standardized testing practices. However, her opinion of the education reform movement isn’t much better. What then is the solution? I agree that the overtesting of students takes away from valuable learning time. Teachers, rather than governemnt officials, should be making decisions about what educational system will work best for our students. Those in the classroom should be listened to.
As parents, we have an obligation to listen to our teachers, our children and our instincts. We need to ask ourselves what we want the next generation to learn. Do I want my child to be good at taking tests or good at problem-solving, good at memorizing information or curious to search out answers for themselves. In our family, we value curiosity. This, however, is not a skill that can be tested with a bubble sheet
I agree that our education system needs reform. But, like Ms. Dean’s article, I have no clear answers as to what the best path to follow will be. I will learn as my children learn and ask questions as I encourage them to do. I can only hope that if enough of us ask questions the answers will begin to emerge.