Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Gifts

One of my favorite things about being a mother is creating my family’s own Christmas traditions with my husband and our two daughters. Though we may disagree on a few details (mostly regarding when to start decorating the house and the specific weather guidelines under which it is acceptable to go cut our tree) my husband and I have finally - for now - agreed on our plan for giving our daughter’s Christmas presents.

We are in our second year of doing four gifts: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read. While my children are quite young (3 and 1) my older daughter’s reluctance to actually play with toys has left me with no desire to fill my house with junk. Focusing on four gifts helps me think about what their interests are, and how I can happily coexist with those supplies in my living room. I am genuinely excited for them to open their gifts this year because I think they really capture their interests. I’m also really excited that there won’t be piles of toys everywhere that they both trip over as they race to unload the tupperware drawer and scatter its contents across the kitchen.

My three year old is a tried and true “threenager” and it is taking some real work to teach her, and remind myself, about the Spirit of Christmas. If only she could read I’d get a shirt that said “Love and Kindness, that’s what Christmas is all about”, but until then I will just keep saying it 100 times a day (along with “Fine. I’ll just call Santa then.” sprinkled in for good measure). Her rotating Christmas list includes: ballerina slippers, a monkey, Oreos, and a Christmas tree. My one year old would probably also enjoy any of these items as long as her big sister was currently trying to use it. This is to say, their needs are minimal. I am, however, quite happy to establish a gift giving tradition that can grow with them throughout the years.

Though I really think my girls will like their gifts, I will not be disappointed on December 26th if they are scattering kitchen utensils from one end of the house to the other while I sit contentedly coloring with their new art supplies. My true Christmas wish for them is that they know how to love unconditionally and I hope that they feel loved in return. I pray that they are kind to each other, themselves, and others, today and always.

Love and Kindness, that’s what Christmas is all about.

Mrs. Eileen Barendse
Assistant Principal and
Director of Early Education

Saint Francis Xavier School
Developing the whole person:
Academics, Faith, Community and Character

Interested in learning more about Saint Francis Xavier School? Just fill out our inquiry form and someone will be in touch!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Memorization Doesn't Have to be Frustrating

I know this from experience. Although I come from a family of good memorizers, I was terrible at it and I hated it. I’m not sure how old I was when I learned the “sevens” on the multiplication table - but I do remember poking my head up over the wooden rail of my bed in my room that day because I refused to memorize them. I felt that if I didn’t remember a fact the first time, then I had failed.

Memorizing is frustrating for parents because they can’t just do it for their kids. But kids feel like they just can’t do it, period. There’s nothing more frustrating than that.

I speak from experience: for me, memorization requires effort, but I didn’t know that because it seemed so effortless for my family members.

But it does not have to be frustrating.

It requires the good kind of effort. The kind that is rewarded as soon as the child can say “Hey, I memorized 7x1! I will get extra dessert for the day!” In other words, if you want your kids to “practice, practice, practice”, my advice is to “encourage, encourage, encourage”. We tend to underestimate the amount of time we need to commit facts to memory a lot. If you want your kids, who might not be good at memorizing multiplication facts or words in a foreign language, to spend the correct amount of time practicing memorization, then spend more time than feels necessary to practice. Don’t expect them to get it all at once and tell them that you don’t expect that. Some kids will remember their words the first time (lucky), some kids will remember the third time (lucky), some will remember the 20th time. Students will feel success as soon as they accomplish small tasks. Let them experience that success.

I read what I think is a good strategy for practicing memorization: a mother, who gave her kids the multiplication chart to look at, would quiz them repetitively, and eventually they would stop looking at the chart. I think this strategy makes a lot of sense - don’t remove the children’s study aid too soon; and, let them be in charge of it. It gives them a feeling of “I’m still succeeding”, and checking the study aid is a visual form of repetition.

My last suggestion is to match memorization with some sort of physical activity. As I got older, I began to pace as I held onto my cheat sheet and practiced my words.

I imagine that any repetitive physical activity which they could do while holding a normal conversation could serve as a “physical focuser”, a physical activity which “distracts” the kids from not liking the mental activity. I imagine basketball, jenga, drawing, stacking or organizing objects could serve as physical focusers. If you are going to spend time helping them memorize, pairing the memorization activity with a physical activity might be helpful for a perfectionist or an easily-frustrated child. This would be for a student who is capable of keeping his mind on the facts which are being practiced while his body is busy shooting hoops. As a side note, keep in mind your children’s saturation point and encourage your kids to think about how they learn. How many words can they learn before they need a break? How much time do they need as a break? How does the intensity of their practice affect their duration?

Remember, a good strategy for practicing memorization can make learning new information easier.

Middle School Teacher

Saint Francis Xavier School

Developing the whole person:

Academics, Faith, Community and Character

Interested in learning more about Saint Francis Xavier School? Just fill out our inquiry form and someone will be in touch!