Monday, September 24, 2012


Saturday is chore day. Thats the way it’s always been. When I was young we always devoted time to do chores each week. Growing up in a family of six kids there were always chores to be done. I remember my mother explaining, that if you are a part of a family you should be expected to contribute. So, every Saturday all of us kids would engaged in tasks around the house. The tasks changed sometimes depending on the needs of the household. My mom would decide what had to be done and delegate jobs to us kids. During the Summers I remember doing a lot of painting and weeding as my folks worked on the house and garden. I also have memories of splitting and stacking wood. Then there was the usual routine inside. For some reason, I remember being the one who always seemed to pull dusting detail, although my brother Brett may disagree as he also had time behind the can of Pledge. All of the chores us kids did each week was for the good of the family.

I’m thinking that a lot of you readers out there probably had a similar situation. It’s good for children to learn to pull together as a family. Working in the home teaches teamwork and the ability to contribute to the greater good of the household. One reason I think Saturday had an impact on me, was the fact that no family member ever received monetary compensation for working around the home. All of the labor was done to benefit the family and house.

This expectation from my parents created an environment in which us kids appreciated the house, and each other much more than if we had no expectation to contribute. The family even had better relationships as the work in the house made life better for all of us. Lets be honest... who doesn’t love a clean and organized home. So, I want my children to have this same environment that I had growing up.

This however, is easier said than done. I really appreciate how my parents were able to create the “Saturday program” and institute it in a family of six kids. I only have three children, and getting them motivated for chores can be difficult. I tend to be a routine guy. If I do something on a schedule every week, than I am more likely to keep going. So, I am using this method for chores.

Every week on Saturday, I spend time cleaning bathrooms with my daughter. This is a very important chore as I have two sons with questionable aim. For me this chore gets top priority. So my daughter and me have been getting into the groove cleaning. We have been doing this for quite  some time now, and she is getting pretty good with the task. She is responsible for the toilets and bathtubs. Even though she is only seven years old, she has become skilled with the scrub brush and Comet. I love to see her thin arm holding the scrubber scouring the surfaces clean. She has developed a good work ethic which makes me proud. I have noticed that on many occasions my daughter is the one who reminds me that its time for us to clean. When this happens, I know that I am on the right track.

Now I have started a routine that someday, soon hopefully, my daughter will be able to do all by herself. Infact, she will be able to train her little brother on how to clean this area. All of this service is for the good of the house and its occupants. It’s like my mother said, “If you’re part of the family you should be expected to contribute.” No one gets paid for the service, but the payoff is great. My children have an opportunity to learn how to work for the family and respect the space in which they live. They inturn treat the house and all of their belongings much better. They understand that they are responsible for their belongings, and need to keep them put away. There are many important lessons that come from Saturday.

The trick is starting the routine. If you can do this, the hard part is over. All you have to do is keeping it moving. I look forward to getting my other two boys on the Saturday program. Its been great for my daughter and me. If anyone out there has a good ideas on how to start routines like this please tell.

-Brother Jared

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Think of the Children

This will be a departure from my typical subject matter, though it still pertains to kids. It is a topic that every parent has to think and make decisions about, decisions that affect our children. Its education. This has become especially prevalent in my mind with the school year beginning and with the Chicago teacher's strike becoming such a news topic.

First a little background. Like most of you, I went to public schools and had some great and some mediocre school teachers. The best school teacher I had happened to be my mom. She was an incredibly gifted elementary school teacher who in her long career taught every grade from Kindergarten to Eighth. She was a Reading Specialist, with a Master's degree and in that capacity was able to help a lot of kids that under normal circumstances would have been left by the wayside. My father was a college professor, equally gifted. I'm jealous of his students. I never had a professor that was able to draw in young adults the way he could. I have siblings that teach. Jared's wife is a 5th grade teacher and just completed her master's degree (congratulations, Jill!). I have always been surrounded by teachers.

So, like you, I was taught. The difference is that when school was over I went home to a house full of teachers. I was able to observe the conversations, frustrations and the satisfaction that comes with their career. I was also privy to their motivation. Over the years I discovered why all these lovely people in my life decided to become teachers. More than any other reason people become teachers, particularly elementary school teachers, is that they truly love children and they sincerely want to make a difference in their lives.

Teachers are misrepresented. They are often characterized as individuals that took the job as an easy way to have benefits, and summers off. All you need is a teaching certificate, right? School only lasts 6 or so hours, so the time commitment must be low. If I were ever made King of the Universe I would end these misconceptions. Nothing about being a teacher is easy. Yes, you need to be certified, but that doesn't guarantee you a job. Most spend years substitute teaching before they can find an actual full time teaching position. Once you have a teaching job you have to continue your education or risk loosing said certification. Teachers are at school well before any kids, stay way later and even after they get home are often grading papers or writing report cards.

Then there is pay. I have a hard time writing this without getting angry. Let me just say that I find it ironic that for several years my school lunches were paid for, because my parent's income was so low they couldn't afford to feed me lunch. The money that paid for my "free lunch" came from the same place that paid my mother's substandard salary. As for benefits like medical insurance... I hope Jared will one day write a post touching on this. Let me just say, it's not enough.

Teachers suffer the substandard pay, the grueling hours, and perhaps worst of all, misrepresentation all because of the reward - being able to affect the most important resource we have in a positive way.

In following the teacher's strike in Chicago, I am often angered by some of the attitudes of the parents. Granted, working parents of 320,000 kids have been inconvenienced. Finding a safe place for kids to be during the day is a challenge when you're working and day-cares, churches, etc are already overcrowded. Often, these parents get angry with the teachers, feeling that they're being greedy or something. And ultimately, when interviewed they always say, "they need to think of the children." Really? What they're really saying is "think of me," because they no longer have a FREE service that picks up their kids from their doorstep, drives them to a safe place watched over by certified, educated people, who develop their children's minds and bodies, often making up for parent's short comings, all day long and return them back home - all at no cost.

"...think of the children."

Are you serious? Who else do you think they're thinking of? Themselves? That certainly isn't the case or they wouldn't have become teachers in the first place! When teachers strike its in behalf of YOUR KIDS. Teachers become teachers knowing full well that the pay is going to be garbage and conditions not always ideal. To them that is a given. So you know when they start complaining, its not out of avarice, its because something is affecting their reward - their ability to be a positive force in your child's educational development.

-Brother Brett

Monday, September 10, 2012

School Times

I like the first day of school. Actually I love the first day of that I don’t attend school. I love to watch my children get excited about the first day back. They are eager to wear their new cloths. They have backpacks full of school supplies. I love how they are up early the morning of the eventful day. My children seem to almost prepare themselves as my wife and I give orders to eat breakfast and find certain articles of clothing. As the children finish their preparation, they almost instinctively line-up at the door. They look nice with their new clothes, wearing the backpacks full of paper and writing utensils.

My oldest of the three, will be in fourth grade this year. My daughter who is the middle child, is going to second grade. The youngest, my little boy, will be attending kindergarten. The older two know mostly of what to expect. They seem eager to get back to seeing their schoolmates and working with their new teachers. They know that there will be a change in their schedule. The youngest is a little more cautious of what will be happening. He still doesn’t seem stressed out by his new academic adventure, however he knows its going to be a major routine change. I think that change is good. Getting used to change can be good especially for young children.

You see, the first time kindergartners go to school they have a half day in which the parents also attend. It’s a sort of breaking in day, or a time to ease your child into the public school arena. It’s interesting to see all the different types of parents with their children on this day in this school setting. Some children refuse to leave their parents side. These children usually need major coaxing from parents and teachers to participate with the class or sit at a desk even with the parent present in the classroom. Others have no problem in separating from their mom or dad and immediately begin interacting with the teacher and fellow students. The children that I saw that day ran the gamut from super shy to being overbearing.

I am very proud of my little guy as I didn’t need to pry his arms in a death grip from off of my leg to get him to sit with the others, nor did I have to tell him to keep his hands to himself and listen to the teacher. My little son made it very easy for me as all I had to do was stand there with the other parents, and listen. He would occasionally look over at me and wave, but that was pretty much my involvement on this day.

Still there were other parents who were trying to gain control over their kids who at this point just want to leave. I felt bad for the little ones who saw this as a frightening and traumatic time. In their little minds escape was the only solution, since the mom or dad wouldn’t take them away. Some parents used this school day as an opportunity to celebrate this change. I was very impressed by this group as I think they have the right mind set. They were very prepared and had good words of encouragement. They usually had cameras and were constantly taking pictures. Their children were very excited and seemed eager to pass through this celebration of change. I found this to be a great time for both the parent and the young kindergartner. I unfortunately can't say that I am that good. I just find myself lucky as my little guy seems fine with the situation. I guess he figures it’s what is supposed to happen. Still, it would have been better for me, if not him, if I would have used this time for more praise and encouragement.

I think taking advantage of these situations in this way make it better for the child as it will certainly make future milestones easier. As parents we have the opportunity to make change a good thing or something that is bad. The kids will look to us in how we see change.

-Brother Jared