Educating Potential

Early Childhood

Kids’ inner voices

I’m having a lovely weekend with a friend who is expecting her first baby this summer. My friend and her husband are in the process of name selection and she was sharing with me the challenge she is having figuring out how to have the name reflect both her and her husband’s family. It is a struggle I think many of us have had, as more women elect to keep their maiden names after getting married. Whose last name does the baby get? Do you hyphenate and let the child make the hard choice about which name to keep when he grows up? Do you have one parent’s last name be the middle name knowing that most people don’t use their middle name, thereby making that name less important? Do you make up a new name? It’s a bit mind-boggling.

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Kids, movement and health

I was at a Montessori school in New Haven last week and got to spend some time watching primary kids ages 3 years to 5 years in their classroom. Montessori primary classrooms have an area called practical life that is filled with activities like sweeping, washing, cutting, pouring. For the uninitiated it is a little disconcerting to see children in school apparently “working” rather than learning.

We forget that for millennia human children lived lives that were very different from the ones they lead now.  They were outdoors, they explored, the moved, they encountered dangers, they learned through experience.  Our society has evolved rapidly over the last 100 years, but our basic human nature, our brains and our physical bodies have not.

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Professional insight and parenting

Last fall I had friends over whose son was in the same class as my son at our local Montessori school. They were a bit annoyed at the school and the teacher because they felt that their son was floundering and nothing was being done; they were considering changing schools. Montessori schools are organized into multi-age classrooms and their son had just moved from a primary (ages 3-5 years) classroom into a lower elementary classroom (grades 1-3).

My older son had made that exact same transition the previous year and he had had a similar experience. He had a hard time settling into an academic rhythm; instead he seemed more interested in watching what other students were doing; had difficult social encounters with other students; and just generally seemed untethered and unfocused on learning. He came home upset about interactions with other kids almost on a daily basis and it broke my heart to see him struggling. Part of me wanted to jump in, call other parents, ask the teacher to step in and protect him from what he was finding hard.

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The Sense and Sensibility of Boarding School

I’ve been reading a lot about adolescent development behavior recently and the more I read, the more I am coming around to the idea of boarding school for middle and high school students.

A lot of expat kids come home to Singapore for the holidays. And I’m not talking about college students – I’m talking about middle and high school students. In the US the idea of sending your child to private boarding school is generally unheard of outside of a small subset of families. However, in much of the rest of the world boarding schools are a far more common phenomenon. It’s been interesting to chat with some of my nephews’ friends who have been at boarding schools for a large portion of their middle and/or high school career, and even more interesting to hear the perspective of these kids’ parents.

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Can we be virtually real?

Our family is spending the Christmas and New Year holidays in east Asia this year. One of my older brothers and his family live in Singapore and we not seen them in over two years. Given how often they come to the US, it seemed a good time to make the trip over. As it turns out, our trip has been a four for one deal.

We flew through LA to spend some time with another brother and his family. We arrived in Singapore to find that one of my cousins and her husband are doing a biking tour of Vietnam and that we are overlapping with them for a few days. And yet another cousin who lives in Australia is heading over to India for a work event and routed herself through Singapore to see us when she learned we were in the area/region.

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Business and education

I was at the annual meeting of a local Chamber of Commerce last week and couldn’t help but be struck by the simplistic way in which business leaders talk about education reform. I am frustrated by the double standard adopted by the business community when it comes to shaping and, in many cases, driving education reform efforts.

Business leaders are vocal in opposing increased regulations on business generally and on all manner of specific industries. They argue that politicians and bureaucrats do not understand the complexities of business; that regulations create hurdles and uncertainties that stymie innovation and growth; and that the money used to comply with regulations could be better spent on core business enterprise.

Yet, when it comes to education, we see three growing trends among business advocates:

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Reformers as parents: the early years

I have to admit being wryly amused these days after conversations with colleagues who have been on the “reform” side of education policy conversations over the last four years. The reason? Many of them are now parents whose children are getting ready to enter preschool or kindergarten. People whose day jobs often entail wholesale advocacy of higher standards and accountability for schools, students and educators seem to forget these issues during conversations about the programs they are considering for their own children. A recent exchange at a social event is reflective of this general trend:

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