The Education Revolution: Perception, Possibilities and Parents’ Prerogative

Education Revolution: Perception, Possibilities and Parents’ Prerogative

NOTE: If you don’t feel like reading this blog right now,please consider watching this now or later, a TEDS talk clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U

State of Education

Parents or caregivers in 2013 are facing very different straits than 50 years ago when it comes to deciding where and how their children will be educated during their formative years as set by our local and federal laws.  As a parent, I’ve been hypersensitive to any news regarding the state of education in our country whether it be standardized tests, curbing of budgets, teachers’ fatigue or fights and the list is endless.  We’d all be lying to ourselves if we didn’t also admit that our emotions are assaulted when observing horrific criminal acts occurring on school grounds—school campuses where it is understood as an unspoken sacred place that we entrust our students will thrive and learn without suffering the pains of a scary world just yet.

Perception

Why has it all shifted?  Most adults recall our early days as students in school as either taking a bus or having our parents/carpool drop off us at a building(s) where we congregated daily Monday through Friday from the morning until a few hours after lunch time—simple, repetitive, no awareness of alternatives.  Of course, there was the occasional homeschooler (read “weird outsider”) that we would encounter but as young children it was easy to fear or make fun of that which we didn’t know.

These days the common buzzwords for educating our children include public, private, magnet, charter, home-schooling, virtual schooling and more.  There is a contentious divide between the public school system and everyone else.  Of the many heated debates in my home state, for example, the Florida legislature considered a bill (HB 867) known as the “Parent trigger” that would allow parents to collectively pull the trigger on a failing school—see The Palm Beach Post column printed on March 29, 2013 by Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of www.FundEducationNow.org: http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/opinion/commentary-florida-public-school-parents-dont-want/nW6zY/

I’m beginning to finally process all of the information I’ve been ingesting over the past decade on the topic and have hit a peaceful conclusion to be continued on a daily basis as my children grow.   What do we think our children should learn? I believe that apart from knowing how to engage in language and other common core standards (see: www.corestandards.org ) that my children should love to learn.  I believe it’s not so important to make sure they attain greatness in one school or another as much as they should enjoy the journey of growing up surrounded by family, friends and community—I wish to help protect my children from the wrath of apathy rampant in many students today.

Possibilities

The Palm Beach Post printed an article today highlighting a place in Delray Beach, Florida called “Space of Mind” written by Allison Ross, read more at: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/local-education/delray-beach-social-homeschooling-facility-riding-/nYpwt/

Although “Space of Mind” is a very unique idea that may be catching nationwide slowly, it signals along with many other developments such as charter schools popping up everywhere that our country is definitely in the midst of an Education Revolution.  There are probably many folks who are unsettled by this reality of the “traditional” education paradigm shifting in different directions, however, may I offer a few suggestions as we ride through this together with the next generation we’re helping to raise?

Try to remember what this is all about: we hope for our future through our children’s progress as we understand that they will carry on after we leave.  With that basic philosophy in our hearts, we can as parents/caregivers exercise our prerogative to decide among the countless possibilities as to what’s the best route to take for our children’s education.

We must also keep in mind that whatever path is chosen must be considered a fluid one as a reflection of what life is really like for everyone.  What works for our 2nd grader attending the local public elementary school down the street may not work for them when they are in 7th grade and would perhaps benefit from virtual schooling with coaching by family and loved ones.  The only guarantee we can assure our young students of is that we love and care for them—we must also accept that we will likely also learn along the way with them, a blessing for adults who have been jaded by life’s difficulties.

Plenty of Resources

Thankfully in the age of internet and iPhones we have many sources of information to access for researching education choices for our students.  Accessing your local school board office is a great start to at least assess what is available in your area.  For example, we have Ms. Beth Gillespie who works for the school district overseeing the home education office for south Florida’s Palm Beach County—a county where more than 5,000 students were home-schooled this past school year.

Whatever you’ve chosen or will choose for your children, you’ll always be their first and most important teacher(s).  May we learn to grow with our little ones as they aspire to be like us—we hope they’ll be greater than us in capacity to love and learn for themselves and each other.

R.V.S.Bean

My sources:

www.palmbeachpost.com

www.corestandards.org

www.FundEducationNow.org

www.palmbeachschools.org

Why Banning Guns and Buying Homeschool Guide May Not Be the Answer

Note: It cannot be said enough, may all our hearts and spirits continue to send love and pray for those affected by today’s shooting at the Connecticut elementary school.

TODAY

For most parents, today’s news will hit us as 9/11 did in that we will remember where we were, whom we were with and how quickly we wanted to get back to our children if they weren’t already physically with us.

In the quick moments I was able to share with other parents today I heard and read about a couple of things that concern me because it’s too reminiscent of that knee-jerk reaction we humans have when confronted with appalling behavior by another human(s).

TOMORROW

Gun ban or gun control will be the word buzzing in the aftermath of today’s tragedy in Connecticut–perhaps even more so than when recent senseless shootings have occurred in our nation like Columbine, Beltway sniper shooters, the Arizona congresswoman and the Kansas City Chief football player.  Unfortunately there is no true control over the sickness or outright evil that may transpire in one’s mind to execute such horrific outcomes in taking other lives.  Banning guns completely to the public in our nation may help cut down gunshot crimes and yet would also mean that the possibility would rise we’d be seeing crime scenes so awful that would make Edgar Allen Poe blush.

Homeschooling:  Although I am personally in favor of homeschooling, it’s not because of random, unthinkable moments like today and Columbine.  It’s understandable that many parents and caregivers these days are a nervous wreck when dropping off the children at a school that may have them be exposed to drugs, sex, violence, verbal abuse by bullies or some kid who was disgruntled and sick arriving to massacre.  These days there are so many choices for a child’s education that we cannot blindly choose homeschooling or any other option out of fear that our children will be vulnerable–again, we cannot control this random variable manifest by illness or pure evil.

FULL CIRCLE

There certainly needs to be a lengthy conversation on whether we need to consider various new regulations on issuing gun licenses and purchases but let’s not “invade Iraq” by trying to take away the right to bear arms.

The issue of safety at the educational institution is in a constant state of revision and it will continue to take the faculty, students and families of those students to find what is the right path at this time.

May we find a way to get through this for those close to the pain and those who hurt for them.

R. V. Saridakis Bean

Why Fight? All Mamas Work!

Cue the New York Times latest online: Strategist’s Comment Sets Off Fierce Political Debate On Role of Women http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/13/us/politics/hilary-rosens-ann-romney-comments-spark-campaign-debate.html

Forgive me as I’m far too exhausted from a humble day of raising two boys and helping family out to actually type out a properly written response to the latest “debate” in the race for our next President of the United States as we creep closer to the 2012 Fall election season. However, since my partner in life’s crime called me today from his “work” to tell me what Ms. Hilary Rosen had said and thereafter apologized for, I must try to say something back.

“never worked a day in her life”…maybe it’s my Greek philosophical blood or my spirit’s overall demeanor, I just don’t see how anyone can accuse a mother of not “working” if she decides to be a “stay-at-home” mother.  At the same time, I also don’t understand or subscribe to those who would dare demonize a mother who has children and also takes time to work “outside the home”–they actually impress me as they are juggling two careers and I am inspired to do more because of them and want to help where I can if possible.  In short, to all those who would make comments I kindly propose that they shut up.  Why fight over this? All parents work!

Given my history of working in politics and my inevitable future of dabbling again in this rough area of our society (e.g. campaigning and working for/as government-appointed or elected officials), I understand that campaigning can get a bit dirty and idiotic.  However, in this case, I’m glad that even our First Lady Michelle Obama made the concise comment on Twitter that, “every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected.”

As I was pulling weeds and harvesting our cabbage in my garden with my sons this afternoon I had the thought flash in my mind that there were countless women centuries before our time that were also working like us if not even harder and that was before we had social security, pay stubs, time clocks and wage wars–let alone “mommy wars”.  What really hurts about this latest mommy slur was that it was a woman who uttered the disdainful comment–as if we don’t already have enough to deal with in an obvious patriarchal society here.

Thank you for apologizing Ms. Hilary Rosen for a momentary lapse in judgement (we all have them, no doubt) and thanks to Mrs. Ann Romney for being honest that as much as us mamas love our children, it’s not easy work–it’s a labor of love beyond delivery/acceptance/adoption and whether or not we receive paychecks I truly believe that all mamas work.

R.V.S.B.

NEWBORN BLUR AND BLISS: SHARING A SNAPSHOT

For my friends and family reading this: thank you for the countless thoughts and prayers as on March 9, 2011 at 4:03am I safely delivered our second son D.A. joining his proud big brother T.A. and making our cozy brood feel blessed as a family of four.

Newly minted parents can either enjoy every precious moment of their newborn’s first hours and days or they can feel like a tossed vessel in a Northern Atlantic storm at sea as the lack of sleep and constant need of a helpless human in their stewardship drains them relentlessly. Hopefully, it’s a healthy mixture of the two with some sort of recording going on like photos, video or written word. For seasoned parents, the second and any children thereafter may seem “easier” in comparison during those early newborn weeks and perhaps they are able to better relish the fleeting moments of all their child’s firsts.

When I had my first child, I had just vacated my roaring twenties still drenched with politics and vivid memories of working at the Department of Treasury for Secretary Henry Paulson and, prior to that, in the House of Representatives as a legislative aide. After a hurried and traumatic induction I delivered our first son in June 2008 and crash-landed into my thirties with no clue how to navigate this new “normal”. The result was a bumpy postpartum road that felt as if I had taken a sabbatical to a country where I neither knew the language, nor recognized the landscape and hardly knew the reflection in mirror looking at me.

Approaching and surpassing the due date of my second child’s of March 3rd, I was increasingly overwhelmed with a deep, cave-like undercurrent river of concern as I wondered what this new shift in my life season would render. I had tried to prepare by defending my right as a healthy woman to allow nature to take its course- waiving cervical checks until after the due date passed, writing a birth request sheet that included items like wearing what I wanted to instead of a hospital sheet and to hand my newborn child to me immediately upon entry and waiting to prod him until we were ready, preparing our son by talking to him about what was about to come, nesting as best as possible in a unique situation as boomerang children ourselves and the list goes on frantically and as thoroughly as I could conjure up in the pregnant months leading up to last week’s culmination.

After a long early labor stage of nearly 10 days, I was blessed with the classic sign of “my water broke” on the evening of Tuesday, March 8th. In less than an hour we arrived and checked in at the medical center, labor came into full force and I traveleded the raw journey with a mixture of awe, comedy (yes, you can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of what our bodies do!) and a high respect for all women before me and with me that very night laboring around the world to bring new life through alive.

Five hours later and the doctor on call barely made it to my room in time during the final minutes from the announcement that I was “9.5 cm” as my doula, mother, sister, nurse and husband were all trying to encourage me to “blow it away” (all the while I can feel my son trying to kick his way out and me wondering who was going to catch him!).

There are no words to describe the very moment you see your child make it through that unknown passage of time from safe womb to all-bets-are-off-Earth with their first breath. Relief, tears and overwhelming love are just a few emotions and physical reactions that can help measure that moment. I believe the combination of numerous emotions, reactions and such allow a mother to be ignorant of the after-birth, of any pain felt moments earlier or complications that may arise. For instance, I lost over a pint of my life blood after he was safe in my arms but thankfully I was not affected in a catastrophic manner except for my weakness that is to be expected until I recover fully in coming weeks.

I am amazed at how small he is and yet how strong. My first son has embraced his little brother with a tenderness and automatic acceptance that I couldn’t have hoped for in my loftiest dreams. Feeding him and sustaining him has been a physical feat that is laced with enjoyment and gratitude all while trying to savor his tender first days and weeks as he blossoms through growth and development.

The newborn blur has been blissful for me this time around as it has also healed and forgiven for me those emotional scars that had haunted me from my first newborn blur in 2008. I am grateful for both experiences now as they carve my personal character and I have insight that allows me to know what it’s like on both the positive and negative sides of the newborn blur.

R.V.S.B.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Having had a medicated birth prior and now an un-medicated one I can say with no reservation that going the old-fashioned way (as long as all is healthy and well) is by the far the BEST way to give birth as a woman. We were designed for this, we are strong beyond belief and being pregnant is NOT an illness, it is merely one of the many life passages that we are capable as women. And even if a c-section is required for valid reasons, women are still birthing partipants as their body delivers life through pregnancy, birth and the nuturing thereafter! For any of my family or friends that want a detailed rundown of my birth experiences, you know how to reach me~

Facebook Phenomenon: Facing It

FACEBOOK PHENOMENON

In the past week or so, I’ve read and seen a couple things regarding the Facebook phenomenon as I see it. If you missed the CNBC piece on Facebook entitled “Facebook Obsession” you can look up more information on it at http://www.cnbc.com/id/39618344/
In our local paper here, The Palm Beach Post, on February 4th there was an article printed entitled “Teen Crisis: To friend or unfriend Mom and Dad?” by Tracy Correa of with McClatchy Newspapers that can be seen at http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/a-teens-tough-call-should-i-friend-mom-1231753.html?cxtype=rss_news
It is amazing how Facebook has infiltrated our lives—of course, I am speaking about those who have signed onto Facebook as there are many who have chosen not to.

New Social Strand

Perhaps it’s the frenetic pace of live that we all collectively sense we are undergoing that makes a social networking program like Facebook alluring to use daily. I recall there was/is Friendster and MySpace but Facebook certainly seems to have gained much more popularity for a variety of reasons. One may be that socially-geared programs before it allowed for lessons to be learned in terms of being widely user-friendly. Second, many businesses have picked up on the advantage of signing up with a program like Facebook because of how it easily spreads the word to potential customers and allows for free or low-cost advertising.

World Wide Café Setting

I personally was one of the reluctant ones to jump on the Facebook bandwagon. It is well-documented in my statements on the internet and in my circle of family and friends that I distrust the rampant use of technology for sharing things like our financial information, consumer transactions and social networking through programs like Facebook or even a Google email account. Yet, ever the cautious hypocrite, I ended up on Facebook partly because I had just transitioned to a new season in my life as a first-time mother and CEO of the home (i.e. homemaker). After I got through the initial awkwardness of having a “facebook page” of my own, I felt like I was logging onto an international café every time I put in my password.

Mobile Café

The other feature that put Facebook in such a public forum was that somehow, sometime along the way, it found its way to applications on mobile phones. Before the catch phrase was “smart phone” and “apps”, you could not only log on your Google, Hotmail MSN or Yahoo email accounts, you could add Facebook on that refresh application option. It’s so easy to check on your “Newsfeed” on Facebook in your phone during the day. With a click you can “Like” or “Dislike” something or even go as far as to comment on something one of your colleagues put as their status.

Good for Us?

I still treasure a note that is sent through the now archaically-termed “snail mail” as I send my own hand-written sentiments to those I hold dear in this life. However, as texting was the new direct way to communicate without interrupting someone’s day too much, Facebook also serves as a non-confrontational but nice-casual way of saying hello or posting information that is either helpful or directed to a specific person or cause. For most adults, (ironic that Facebook was initially started for college students only), I think Facebook is like that corner of the playground we would all hang out at to shoot the breeze when were experiencing the waning years of our adolescence and we just wanted to bond through dialogue.

Facebook Fallout and Fallacy

The flip-side of Facebook’s social revolution is its effect on those in the college age range and younger. If you happen to read the above article link or have read something similar, it is increasingly obvious that many pre-teens and teenagers are now logged on to social networking programs like Facebook and find it to be an easier way of hiding their social experimentation or growth. This is a tricky, perilous predicament for both the youth and the parents thereof. Every generation has tried to hide their dalliances into adulthood from their parents—I’m not going to argue that recurring fact. But, that doesn’t mean that parents should just stand by and actively allow their minor-aged children to engage on Facebook or a site similar to it. The ramifications of posting our personal messages on social sites or simple email accounts are just beginning to show how they be a negative on our transactions later in life like when a graduate is seeking a new job. I would need to write another article posting altogether to pick apart why parents should just grit their teeth and be temporarily “disliked” for banning their children from this sort of unchaperoned internet social networking.

Future of Facebook?

I’m not a computer engineer, although I do have family and friends who are in touch with the waves of technology washing over our planet and they do share with me that there are always newer and better things ahead. Facebook definitely seems to have a hold on the 20s. 30s and 40s age groups out there and perhaps with that active group following and as long as those who run the company keep reinventing their social wheel—they’ll stick around in a Google-like fashion. Nevertheless, I still trust in the human connection as being not based solely on the screen(s) that I use to tap into a website, blog, email account or social networking website: we all need consistent care in other areas of our physical and spiritual senses to feel connecting to each other in an enduring fashion. Let’s hope we can keep that lesson going as we teach our children born into this amazingly instant-information age.

RVSB

Smart Phones: Dumbing and Numbing Parents and Children Alike

PART ONE

In full disclosure, if you don’t know me personally, I will admit that I have always had a love-hate relationship with technology in its countless forms in both the 20th and 21st century.

In the last two decades of my life alone, I’ve witnessed our dependence and lust grow for the personal computers, internet usage, cell phones and now the latest tech combo plate menu item: smart phones.

As a wife and mother who juggles her little family and extended family’s needs as well as the drive to stay connected to friends and current events, I can’t say that the advent of these multi-tasking devices (my favorite is the blackberry) hasn’t helped me.  But lately, I find myself forcefully putting my blackberry into my purse or even leaving around in the house or car because my heartburn is growing as I witness the gap these devices are contributing between parents and our children.

I can speak to the infant and toddler experience in parenting as my son T.A. is 2 years old and I’m expecting our second. 

PLAYGROUNDS

Why on earth are you engrossed in your phone during your child’s playtime either at an inside or outside playground?  I’m not talking about the occasional “checking the time” or “who’s calling/texting” and such.  I’m talking to the dad I saw the other day who was utterly consumed in his blackberry while his child wrecked havoc on others as well as himself.  I’m recalling the mother whose little girls were trying to get her attention outside while she chatted away on the phone and didn’t even take a break to let them know why she needed to take such an important phone call (I hope it was).  Yes, I sound harsh and I am the first to admit that I’ve had to answer the phone or reach out to someone–but the difference is I make it a point to communicate this to my son  before, as and after I do it.  You see, they still absorb everything we do, as young toddling ones did hundreds of years ago…the only difference now is we have these gizmos that cast this weird silence upon them when we get lost in using them for both good and bad reasons.

Again, I’m not saying you should never have these phones/devices out while with your children in a playground setting.  I’m just trying to suggest that it’s probably not necessary that we do and I’d rather we spend our attention on our children as one day they’ll be grown and won’t ever need as much as they do now–how critical it is that we don’t become that absent parent while physically present.

APPS FOR DISTRACTION

Who hasn’t been frazzled by their child’s behavior at a restaurant, place of religious worship, et cetera?  I have used our digital camera at an eatery before to help squeeze out the final course or conversation with those at the table–as a last resort. 

A couple of weeks ago, though, I read an article about how parents pacify their children during card rides with phone apps varying from games to videos.  I also witnessed a mother at my church who had her toddler holding her smart phone with a video during a children’s history event on our Greek OXI day.  This blows my mind as we are called to help our little infants and toddlers to experience life in all its forms…not always defaulting to the digital/virtual one.  In the car, my son has books, toys, writing pads, stickers and all the like.  I refuse to hand him my phone and now have determined that I don’t even want DVD players in any future cars either. 

Again, it’s not a necessity and we certainly should not help them nurse a dependence on this sort of instantaneous entertainment that will always have to be trumped somehow.  Why miss out on the conversations you can have with your toddler about what we see on our way to the grocery store or mall?   My son will sometimes recalled up to half a dozen times in a week something we saw last week–it is fascinating how their mind makes connections without the constant feed of a video on a phone that would only serve to distract them from their surroundings.  Don’t we want to help our kids have a better grasp on people and things around them on a daily basis?  Is it worth the silence and not being “bothered” by your child when in several years you’ll have a teenager who has no empathy or depth of perception in the real world?

CLOSING OF PART ONE

I want to write further on this subject and I welcome any comments or criticisms as I know my tone can sound pretty convicting.  If I want anything to be remembered from this it’s that I feel it’s more important to put aside these smart devices and play with them on our own time than our child’s time. 

RVSB

Nature as God’s Classroom…

Gardening or farming is not for everyone as a hobby or career, however, I do believe it should be part of our education as children with refresher courses in our adulthood.

This past weekend I worked in my garden and mini-fruit tree orchard with a hired hand to go through my approximately 25 x 75 foot raised bed garden and surrounding area weeding, mulching, digging and planting.  My subject of my nature lesson on Saturday became dramatically clear as we bagged nearly half a dozen black lawn bags with unwanted weeds and dead vegetation.  How do my plants survive through adversity?  Translation:  How do we humans fare in adversity?

In my nearly twenty years of active “gardening” of some sort, I have often run into living analogies of our humanity in the natural world of plants and organisms.  As I’ve matured in my adult life, I’m comforted by witnessing both the triumphs and failures of things in nature as they echo of my own life experiences up to present.

This past Saturday’s lesson is a repeat, I’ve seen it before but I never get bored with its wisdom revealed.  Of the 9 fruit-bearing trees that I’ve planted in the corner of my mother’s property, 5 of them are actually growing well and thriving.  The remaining four have been a struggle to keep from withering away.  Conventional wisdom would have us infer that the five trees which are doing well had been meticulously monitored since their planting complete with consistent water, perhaps a protecting plastic for the young trunks, clean mulch lacking weeds, good feed and soil and so forth.  The reality is that I was only able to really pay special mind to the four trees that are now barely clinging to life–they have been hit with water stress, bugs, molds, fatigue, et cetera.

What does that say?  Does it mean I let the five go on untouched?  No, actually, I have gone in a couple of times this year and cleared the five healthy trees of their choking weeds, refreshed their soil, put down mulch again, fed them and pruned.  However, I did allow them to weather the trials of a record summer of heat in Florida, bear the burden of giant ant hills and thick weeds.  Basically, I didn’t try to protect them from any and all adversity that could strike them.  I did endure guilty feelings this season as I thought I was truly neglecting them and would suffer their loss.  Instead, as I would clean them up periodically, I found that they had gained strength, built immunities, grown thicker and taller and overall have a bright future of bearing me healthy fruit yields in future seasons.

As the worker and I finished our labor this weekend, I walked and inspected each of my nine fruit trees individually.  I’m still amazed by what seems such a backward logic to many of us, especially parents.  By allowing some of my young trees to fend for themselves on a number of naturally occurring elements, I essentially ensured that they would garner their own armor and future strength reserve for battles ahead.  While my poor four trees that I donned so much attention on ended up stifling them and rendering them ill-equipped for the unforseen weather patterns and bug raids that would occur in this summer season.

For myself, this lesson yielded a few layers of personal learning.  As a parent, it tells me that it’s okay to not hover over my son constantly in certain situations.  Obvious things aside like danger of drowning or being burned by the stove, it does benefit my son to let him navigate some social situations on his own or witnessing him making mistakes in a play scenario so that he can nurture his own sense of troubleshooting through things.  As a wife, it reminds me that my husband and I will sometimes feel that God has gone silent in our marriage when we seem to be capsizing in one of life’s tumultuous storms out in the proverbial sea.  But as we cling to each other and our love for our Maker, we will weather those storms and truly enjoy the stronger vessel our love is as we sail gorgeous seas together.  As a friend, it comforts me that while I cannot always properly nurture all my relationships, this doesn’t mean that I will be destined to lose any particular friend as there are those whom we cross paths with in this life that are not affected by the passage of our human time.

This is a pretty inexhaustible subject and yet I wanted to share it with all of you because we are so busy in our lives that when a nature lesson like that hits me with precious information that can help everyone I want to shout it out to the world…so I type this post to you world.

Happy Labor Day!

R.V.S.B.

Palm Beach County’s Possible Folly: Easing Ban On Cellphones in Schools?

Generally speaking, every morning it takes me a nice cup or two of coffee to help me open my eyes and get the fuzz off my brain’s exterior.  However, this morning I was spared my routine overdose of caffeine by the Palm Beach Post’s front page article entitled “Plan to ease school district’s policy on cellphones gets fuzzy reception” that sent shock waves through my cerebellum.   If you don’t live in Palm Beach County, Florida, you can look up the article written by Ms. Cara Fitzpatrick on their website at www.palmbeachpost.com: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/schools/palm-beach-county-school-board-gets-hung-up-535575.html

I struggled to read through the entire article without yelling aloud in back talk as I’m prone to do–especially if I’m watching political pundits on TV.  Evidently there is a group of school technology officials in Palm Beach County that are suggesting that school board members consider easing the district’s restrictions on cellphone use, possibly using them in classroom instruction.

As I must applaud the creativity of using texting to send out memos to students during the day, I also abhor the idea of further overwhelming our youth with technology that offers little benefit overall.

The reality is that as with much of the technology bingeing that our society has participated in only the last three decades, the cons come out much later after we’ve been sold on the pros of the latest gadget or concept (like the world-wide web internet).

In this particular case, school officials have essentially become perhaps a little worn down by the constant need to reprimand their students for illicit cellphone use.  At the same time, I do believe that parents are to fault for sending their children to school with a cellphone in tow.  As for you parents that may be reading this and get upset with me: then at least consider if you do deem it a necessity for your child to carry that cellphone on their person, you are also responsible for ensuring that they do not use that phone during school hours unless it is a serious emergency on your part or theirs (which, honestly, those calls should be conducted in the school administration office, not in the classroom).

One of the ideas for a revised mobile phone policy in Palm Beach County mentioned that “use of cellphones would be ‘generally banned’ in schools, but would be allowed in classrooms for the instructional purposes as determined by the teacher and principal”.  Again, we’ve already learned that computers, both desktops and laptops, offer some benefits in classroom use, but they cannot replace the instructor-student interaction necessary for proper learning as appropriate for the respective grades.  Why would we then incorporate cellphone use on top of a pre-existing educational technology with bigger screens and memory?

A funny proposal was the one I read that offers “students, parents, school employees and others would be allowed to use electronic signatures to sign documents.”  Now I think we’ve truly gone tech-stupid.  The moment a John Hancock is too much for a parent to do in person for their child just makes me angry.  You may want to argue with me on this one and I invite you to do so because perhaps I’m simply a dinosaur in this regard.  I still think I want my child to bring a paper to me in person so we can discuss what it’s asking of he/she as well as myself to sign off on.  Why would we want to treat our interaction with our children regarding their education like some faceless technology swap with our big-wigs at the office or the bank loan officer we’d rather not meed in person?

Ultimately, the article leaves the cellphone discussion “to be continued” in this school board’s case in Palm Beach County, Florida.  It did wake me up again to the fact that our idea of how school was for us certainly is not the same for our children today.  However, I also stand firm that change doesn’t mean throwing away the template completely to make way for something that we still don’t know the true ramifications of in the future.

I’ve written before on the subject of the current epidemic of today’s children not knowing how to interact outdoors in nature unabated.  That is a direct result of a number of factors, mostly involving overuse and overstimulation of TV, video games, computers and other indoor medias that have paralyzed an entire generation of kids.  We must tread carefully as we now witness our technology becoming increasingly handheld, head held (like the annoying blue tooth, I lasted with that for a few months before I decided no thanks).

Of course I’m not saying that we can avoid it entirely.  But I know we as parents do still hold the key to teaching our children how to exercise moderation in every aspect of their lives with technology increasingly becoming a pervasive part of it for them.  Already I am curbing in my own usage and have found that it benefits me personally as well as hopefully an example for my son T.A.–and, no, he will not have his own cellphone in middle school, I can promise you that.

RVSB

Our children and networking websites: a glimpse of the future

Yesterday I walked into my local U.S. Post Office with my son T.A. in my arms while balancing the 4 small packages I was endeavoring to send off Priority Mail style.  Which, by the way, kudos to our USPS for putting these self-service kiosks in along with standard mail supplies so people like parents of small children can get stuff done without necessarily waiting in that long, winding line in the main area.

I set my son on one of the work tables and held him with one arm as I addressed and sealed my packages with my free hand.  All the while I am feeling proud of myself for getting this minor task done without a meltdown or acting-out by my 21 month old. 

My happy-go-lucky soundtrack in my mind is suddenly shattered by the one-way conversation I overheard as a lady walks up talking on her cell phone.  “Well, you know they are going to ask us soon enough to have a Facebook account as they’ll be 10 and 11 years old soon, and well we will have to deal with it but yeah, there is just so much danger with these things that they don’t realize…”

If she said anything further I didn’t hear the words,  had already tuned the lady out as I begin to dwell on the idea of my child wanting to have his own link to a networking site one day when he is an adolescent, a bulging teenager.  The very thought jarred me completely, I was weighed down by the realization that the challenges continue to get more complicated as our beloved children grow.

My son argues with me nowadays with grunts and wordless syllables that can most easily be pacified by a food treat or changing the subject.  What will it be like when he is going back and forth with me in long sentence diatribes about how unfair I am to keep him from connecting to the internet unfettered.

Is it so far-fetched of me to think that allowing kids to log on to the internet with no supervision is much worse than letting them drive cars at 16 years old?  Why do we as parents feel that we must accept computers and the internet as the new norm for our children? 

Maybe I’m just a dinosaur when it comes to technology, but I just don’t think that developing bodies and minds should become so dependent on them.  Should they know how to use them–of course!  Should they use the internet for all their research projects?  I truly believe the answer should be no but am willing to permit perhaps 25% from that source.  It’s not helpful to guide the next generation to get all their answers to life and interactions in friendship and love through these silly keyboards and mouse clickers.

I know some of you may be angered by my opinion and it is understandable if your knee-jerk reaction is to say, “Oh yeah? Just you wait until you have to deal with this issue from your child.”  But I also know that we as parents can stick to what we believe is right for our children. 

For instance, my husband and I agreed that it was important to us that we avoid having our son watch commercial TV prior to me giving birth to him.  21 months later and I can honestly say that we have succeeded with a couple concessions, in the last few months we have allowed him to see us watching our Alma Mater college football games and we started a couple bilingual videos that he watches every other day and sometimes daily.  We also had to cut back our own viewing of TV in order to accomplish this and feel we have benefited from it as well.

It’s by no means easy to be a parent, especially in the 21st century when technology can be a useful tool and yet also a divisive instrument that can alienate families in their own home (picture family evening with dad with blackberry, child with Ipod, child with laptop, mom with cell phone texting, etc).

Ultimately, you make the choice as to what’s appropriate whether it be to allow a Facebook page for your son or daughter–I hope for you it is the choice that makes you feel at peace as you raise your child(ren).

RSVB

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"