Category Archives: teaching

Grandma Heads Off To College: A Recession Era Tale

ImageGRANDMA HEADS OFF TO COLLEGE

A RECESSION ERA TALE

               I drove through the quiet, manicured suburban Roseville neighborhood I would no longer call home this morning. My swollen eyes and red splotchy face were the affirmation that I had made the right decision not to put on make-up after my morning shower. That was the last shower I would take as a permanent resident in my daughter’s home. At one point, my daughter knocked asking, “Are you OK Mom?” which I answered, “Yes” though I didn’t tell her I had been in the bathroom for an extra-long time this particular morning because I had been balling my eyes out while writing my two little grandchildren, Hudson (4) & Dayton (2) their good-bye, I will miss you cards. I also didn’t tell my daughter that the first time I walked into a drug store to buy a Thank You Card for their family, I started crying so much that I just had to leave!

Yes! Today is the day I headed off to college! Yet, unlike the eighteen year-old, I am leaving behind six of my eight grandchildren, two of my three daughters, my roses, the vegetable garden, most of my belongings (in storage), my two son-in-laws (who probably aren’t crying) and Baxter, my daughter’s ten year-old pug that may not live to my next visit. (I just realized that in my blubbering, that I forgot to say goodbye to Baxter!)

The impetus for my unstoppable fountain of tears is because I am leaving my youngest grandchildren whom I have lived with for most of their little lives. How will I get along without anyone to share with when I see a magnificent bird, an egg shell from a nest or a giant caterpillar? Who will be there to be just as amazed at the sunset as my little 2 year-old granddaughter Dayton, who asked me to pull the blinds up last night so she wouldn’t miss the “set-sun?” Who will care about whether or not the “owie” on my finger has healed yet? Who will be there to never tire of playing card games, like my three oldest grandsons?

Regardless of the monumental suffering these daily dilemmas and others will create for my aching heart, I had to leave! I had to leave for the very reasons my eighteen year-old granddaughter, Elora left her friends and family behind last year to head to college. If I didn’t leave, I would have the pressure of a poverty-stricken or very family dependent retirement looming large over my loved ones. I had to get my rear-end to graduate school quick!

This was never my plan, yet it was always an unspoken dream cast away after decades of repetitive mental reality checks every time I saw those enviable titles after someone’s name that I knew I could never compete with, no matter what I had accomplished in my life: MPH, PhD. EdD. MSW, etc…

If I listed the journeys I have taken to get to this moment, I would never get through this post, so I won’t. Briefly, after losing my home, my retirement, my marriage and with wages plummeting, I only had the hope to work for $12-15 hr. with little chance for benefits, if I worked in the field I Ioved, without those three initials. My daughter and her husband and 2 babies took me in and we have helped each other for the last 2 ½ years. I am so grateful for them and what they did to bring our family together. Truly one of the better outcomes of this recession has been the return of the extended family experience.

Grandiose plans to be a famous author and “child expert” six years ago were quickly dashed during the recession after I self-published my first book, The New Physics of Childhood (IUniverse, 2009).  Not only was it rejected by many because I did not have a credential behind my name like, PhD., MSW, EdD., etc. I realized that the tone of it (due to a lifetime of pent-up experiences) was somewhat arrogant and harsh. I began the rewrite immediately, along with edits by several professionals. Then the publishing industry took a dive and so did my income. It was time to set idealistic dreams aside and make way for Plan X.

Foreclosure, bankruptcy and divorce (in that order) were juxtaposed to my extinguished author dreams. I knew that the once well-paid work I had done earlier as a caregiver was a very temporary replacement and sabbatical to my teaching career, yet this job title had lasted for over a decade and seemed it was my only real option for earning income forever, unless I had a Master’s Degree! With a Master’s, I could finally earn the respect of my years, since wrinkles don’t show well on a resume. After researching and allowing the dream to simmer, I knew that a Master’s in Public Health was the only way for me. It would allow me to focus on my passion for Preventive Health Education, while also giving me incredible opportunities to influence public policy and the health of communities. It would also provide me with the potential for a real income and benefits so I can rebuild my life and my nest egg before I allow myself the luxury of retirement in my mid-70’s.

I could have never imagined that when everything was gone, save my beautiful family, that the only option was actually the dream I had so wanted, yet had never uttered or allowed myself to think of. This dream also occupies the same space as my dream to be a well-known and respected author one day. *

For now, the reality is one dream at a time! I prepared for two years by taking brush-up courses and using the time to finally become fluent in Spanish. All of my experiences and preparation in the last two and a half years got me accepted to the 3 programs I applied for! In August, I begin my journey in San Francisco State University’s MPH Program in Community Health Education. Yeah!!!!!!

I am saving money by couch-surfing for a month, while I work in my field of choice, in preparation for grad school. I am not thrilled about taking any student loans out and am hoping my second year in school is funded solely by scholarships and part-time work. I have a lot to accomplish professionally, and am committed to being a full participant in my graduate school experience.

During my undergrad career, I was a single mother raising three daughters. I had no time for friends or campus activities. All I wanted to do was race home to my daughters every day after school. The 3-hour commute to higher education ate up many precious hours with my daughters as it was. Now, I am one mile from campus and by myself to focus on school work, etc. Maybe I will even make some friends, something that hasn’t really been a part of my life with every second going to family. Though I am realistic enough to know that I won’t really have time to do much of this or to sit around and play cards while I am in grad school. However, I am already looking forward to visits “back home” to indulge my inner card playing junkie.

Yes, this day, this life, this new chapter is the perfect description of a bitter-sweet moment. I will miss my family in Roseville, but I will actually have more time with my youngest daughter and other grandson, now that I am closer to them.

Beyond the tears and tugging of little heart strings, life is good! I even received a $1,000 scholarship by a wonderful organization that felt compelled by my personal journey. Perhaps there are more angels like this in my future. I sure hope so, because as this Grandma heads off to college, I need all of the angels I can get, yet nothing will take the place of the beautiful family I have waiting for me when I return home after I receive my Master’s in Public Health! It will be the 1st. Master’s Degree in our family, just as my AA & BA were when I received them, years ago. I hope one day I can be an inspiration for my grandchildren so they know that it is never an option to give-up or give-in and that it is never too late for your dreams to come true!

*CONFESSION   – In the middle of preparing to leave for grad school, the writer in me just had to get that one last lick in! I formatted the 30+ years of my children’s stories and printed them out for my grandchildren to read in my absence. More on this project in future posts.

Hasta Luego!  Got places to go, things to do, people to see!

Christina Ivazes

aka Granny Pants

3 Comments

Filed under Banks, Barack Obama, children, community, Education, Elders, foreclosure, Grandchildren, Grandparents, Granny Pants, health care, jobs, mother, Parenting, prevention, teaching, The New Physics of Childhood, Writing

10 Study Skills that Really Matter!

Effective study and lifestyle habits are the real factor in academic success, most often superseding economic, intellectual, or age factors.

Personally, I had to learn how to study effectively because I was not taught or required to study as a child. This list of recommendations is for everyone, young and old. It is based on my personal experiences as a student, teacher, caregiver, mother and grandmother.

1. KNOW YOUR WEAKNESSES– This is the first step to deciding your study strategies. Everyone has some challenges with studying. Most students have multiple challenges. Knowing your weaknesses and admitting them is the first step to getting your study habits into ship-shape so you don’t waste a single minute of your precious personal time studying in ineffective circles that not only rob you of fun, but also rob you of the best grades and opportunities that you deserve. By eliminating your time wasters and over-confidence when you actually need to increase study time, you will actually have better grades, more energy and have more time for the people and activities you love without those nagging feelings haunting you.

2. IF YOU TEND TO PROCRASTINATE– Set up a plan to reward yourself with personal time and activities only after you have finished your work or have studied enough to have a good command of materials. Study your most challenging subjects first when you have the most energy. Save easy study tasks like making flash cards last when you don’t need to think as deeply. Isn’t it interesting how it can be very difficult to study effectively at night when we are tired but we are never too tired to talk to our friends! Use this fact to your advantage.

3. IF YOU ARE EASILY DISTRACTED– Create a private, comfortable and well-lit space with no distractions. Use earplugs or headphones if needed to reduce environmental distractions. Turn off any computer or phone notifications while studying. Notify your parents and friends when you are studying and tell them that you will return their calls/texts or requests when you are finished. Give yourself a 15-minute reward for personal/free time at the end of every hour of non-stop, focused studying. Make sure you get up and move around during this free time to bring the blood back into your brain that tends to become lodged in the bottom after sitting for long periods of time. (A walk around the block during study breaks can do wonders to energize you and increase your memory.)

4. WRITE CLEAR & DETAILED NOTES WHILE YOU ARE IN CLASS & STUDYING & ENSURE YOU HAVE WRITTEN EVERYTHING DOWN NECESSARY –Do not fall into the “I will remember this” pattern. Back-tracking and searching for information later can be a huge time and energy waster! Tools such as highlighting, side notes on the page and colorful tabs can save time later on.

5. WRITE A STUDY LIST EVERY DAY & BREAK DOWN ASSIGNMENTS INTO SMALL, MANAGEABLE TASKS – Do this right after school or first thing in the morning on non-school days. – This will keep you from feeling overwhelmed and prevent you from knowing where to begin. It also makes it easier to check off your priority list and block study sessions which increase the feeling and awareness of your real progress. If you tend to overlook and forget your assignments, check with your instructor after every class to make sure you have all assignments and notes down correctly and thoroughly.

6. ALWAYS HAVE SOMETHING TO STUDY IN YOUR BAG OR BACKPACK – Choose the items you are most challenged with so you can study whenever you can. Flash cards or reading assignments are the easiest things to have handy. Make a copy of a complex reading assignment and have in your bag to read and highlight. Whenever you have an unexpected delay or free moment, pull out your studies instead of your phone and you will have more free time to communicate with friends without stress at the end of the day!

7. ENSURE MAXIMUM COMPREHENSION OF ALL MATERIAL BY USING EFFICIENT TOOLS WHILE YOU READ– Before you read anything, understand, read or write down what it is you are supposed to know from reading the passage or chapter. Read the questions however, not the answer choices! Then as you read the first time, highlight any key points that fit your comprehension goals. If you are not able to highlight, write notes as you read, noting the paragraph or page number. If possible, copy the passage and highlight that. Next, re-read the questions and read the passage again, but this time as you read, write notes on what you think the answers or main points are to the assignment. Then go to the questions and see if any match your understanding of the material. If you need to write an essay, you will then have the best notes possible to create your outline!

8. DO NOT SKIP ANY STEPS OR QUESTIONS & UTILIZE ALL AVAILABLE STUDY RESOURCES UNTIL YOU KNOW A SUBJECT INSIDE AND OUTUnless you are repeating information with an “A” mastery level; not just until you think you have it. Mastery comes from repeating exercises, quizzing, re-reading, re-writing and explaining the subject to others. Much of the frustration of studying comes from the missing pieces of information we pretend we know or don’t need. Then we cannot operate with all of our potential and often struggle unnecessarily. Study resources include materials in all media forms such as audio, visual, study groups, tutors and whatever resources the instructor has recommended. Using all of your senses is extremely important, especially if you are challenged with a subject. The more senses that experience the information you are learning, the deeper the knowledge will go and the less likely you are to forget it because you have it understood in a multitude of layers. Remember that the most effective way to comprehend and remember material is to discuss it with others; hence the study group.

9. BE AT YOUR BEST BY ENSURING YOUR SLEEP, EXERCISE & NUTRITION NEEDS ARE BEING MET – Exercising daily will increase your memory, energize you, keep your immune system strong and prevent insomnia. Getting the right amount of sleep (about 8 hours/night) will also ensure you can think clearly while you are in class, studying and testing. Energy drinks, coffee, tea and/or drugs in the place of sleep, exercise or nourishing meals wear down your immune system, increase insomnia and fatigue, leaving you with less energy and more health problems in the long run. Contrary to popular thought, if you eat snacks with less sugar and/or carbohydrates and instead eat snacks with protein rich snacks, you will have more lasting energy and increased brain functions without experiencing the “carb-crash” which can affect your ability to study properly. A bag of nuts, sunflower seeds, dried fruit or jerky are great things to have on hand at all times.

10. RE-ASSESS YOUR STUDY HABITS AND EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES AFTER EVERY TESTING OR GRADING PERIOD – Set yourself up for success, not for failure. It often takes about 1 ½ semesters to adopt effective study habits that become natural. Commit to your study plan if it is working but re-tool it if it is not. Ask your instructor how much you should be studying each day for each class and arrange your schedule around honesty about how much you need to study instead of denial about how much you need to study. Eliminate any extra activities until you are achieving the grades and knowledge mastery you desire. Remember that exercise, sleep, eating properly and an allotted amount of personal time to enjoy life are not extra-curricular activities but necessary for your health, well-being and good grades!

4 Comments

Filed under children, Education, exercise, Families, Fathers, insomnia, media, mentor, mother, nutrition, prevention, teaching, technology, teenagers, Writing

STOP! Before you shop for the holidays, read this:

cfg 

2011 Holidays for the 99% Across the Globe – Birth of a New Tradition

As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans and other countries with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods — merchandise that has been produced at the expense of

local labor. This year can be different. This year Americans and other countries can give the gift of genuine concern for their own

local economies. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by

local hands. Yes there is! It’s time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper? Everyone — yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your

local hair salon or barber? Gym membership? It’s appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement. Who wouldn’t appreciate getting their car detailed? Small,

locally owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates. Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plunking down the Benjamins on a Chinese made flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course or recreation facility or skating rink. There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants — all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn’t the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the

local breakfast joint. Remember, folks this isn’t about big National chains — this is about supporting your home town Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open. How many people couldn’t use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy? Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day. My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.

If you are still fortunate enough to have a

local bookstore, it may cost a few extra dollars to purchase a book from them, but it will be worth every penny.

OK, you were looking for something more personal.

Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes and old fashioned wooden toys for children.

Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a

local play or ballet at your hometown theatre. Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands. Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of light, about fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip. You see, Christmas should not be about draining local pockets so that China can build another glittering city. Christmas should be caring about US, encouraging local small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And, when we care about our fellow countrymen, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn’t imagine. Make this the new international Christmas tradition. Forward this to everyone on your mailing list — post it to discussion groups — throw up a post on Craigslist in the Rants and Raves section in your city — send it to the editor of your local paper and radio stations, and TV news departments. This is a revolution of the 99% caring about each other and isn’t that what Christmas is about?

Children’s gifts can be just as inventive and supportive to

local economies from local movie, dance, music or theatre tickets that support teen theatre workers to

local bookstores, classes, fun houses, museum memberships, hair salons, ski resorts, etc.

Please pass this on! I cut and pasted and modified this message so it does not get tracked by whoever tracks our group emails because I generally do not pass on anything from email but this was too good to drop the ball.

Like this idea? You can also “like” it on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-99-Supporting-Local-Economies-for-the-Holidays/273216302721563

Leave a comment

Filed under community, Craigslist, Families, Grandparents, prevention, teaching

Education Reform and the Over-Inflated, Over-Rated 4-year College Degree

by Christina Ivazes  

 The current state of the US economy, our unskilled labor force, the need for educational reform, and the skyrocketing costs of a college education demand we be smart and efficient about solutions that affect and connect all of the above. Perhaps a better strategy is to back away from the ideal that every American should go to college. Yes, we can all agree that every American should have the opportunity to go to college if they choose. However, to give our students and our nation the best educated and skilled workforce, we should not focus on every American going to college, but first, on every American graduating from high school with two years of career training. This pragmatic strategy offers numerous benefits to our country. 

vh   By becoming more efficient and effective in preparing students for the real world and college, the US will save money and jobs. In 2010, The Fiscal Times reports, “just 56 percent of those who enroll in a four-year college earn a bachelor’s degree…Some students drop out because of the trouble paying the cost—the average college debt upon graduation is a whopping $24,000” (Reynolds Lewis). According to the U.S. Dept. of Education Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the cost of a four-year college education is from $18,900 to $35,500 and rising. We also know that these quotes are a low-average and not really what a four-year is typically costing our college graduates, where $50-$100,000 is a more common estimate today in 2011. And graduation does not necessarily equate employment as we see with a glut of unemployed college graduates today weighed down with inflated student loan and credit card debt. There are jobs however, that are immune to outsourcing and which do not warrant an expensive four-year degree.

Secondary and post-secondary vocational and technical training programs are historically lower in cost with competitive salaries to those earned from four-year college degrees. Matthew B. Crawford advocates for the many benefits of trade-based training in his bookShop Class as Soulcraft, “You’re likely to be less damaged, and quite possibly better paid, as an independent tradesman than as a cubicle-dwelling tender of information system or low-level “creative” (53). The Houston Chronicle published an article supporting Crawford’s concept stating, “Mechanics of all types are in high demand and can command a high hourly wage… Many blue collar jobs require training through apprenticeships or vocational training programs and others may require on-the-job training or passing an aptitude test prior to employment” (Nielson). This is not a proposal to eliminate the college track for high school students in America.

Shouldn’t we beg the questions: Why are we so single tracked about how to create a productive & competitive job force? And, shouldn’t we think about downsizing the cost of education along with our lifestyles? The IES reports that in 2008, earnings for an employed four-year college graduate are on average of $55,000/males, $45,000/females per year. Compare the costly four-year college degree with training and apprenticeship (which can begin as a junior in high school) for an electrician who can earn from $34,000 and upwards with no student loan debt with just two more years of post-secondary training for $400-$1000/yr. “Semi-truck drivers…start out making $50,000 annually…and only requires about four weeks of training to obtain a license” (Nielson). Debt free high school training in the trades or technology/health careers can yield from $34,000-$50,000+ per year. Another pragmatic idea Crawford suggests is “even if you do go to college, learn a trade in the summers” (53).    By increasing high school career training programs, we can create a stronger buy-in for students, reducing training costs while also reducing the costs of high school dropouts for our society.

cgh  The costs of high school dropouts are far-reaching beyond the costs of college dropouts. According to the 2007 report The Economic Losses from High School Drop-outs in California, the significant impact from high school dropouts come from lost tax revenue, Medical and Medicare expenditures, fiscal costs to fight crime, prosecute and incarcerate felons, and increased assistance for both felons and their families. “The economic magnitudes are substantial” (2 Belfield, Levin). After deducting the cost of education, the average total lifetime social gains for a high school graduate is $391,910 per graduate in the State of California, with the savings for black males being the highest at $681,130 (Table 18, Belfield and Levin). My point is not to stereotype but to acknowledge that we need to do everything in our capacity to invest in our high school students to become ready employable adults and/or ready for college, not inmates and/or recruits for drug cartels.

Career and technical training can be a ray of hope for all high school students, not just the disenchanted. Crawford makes a strong case in favor of the trades in Shop Class as Soulcraft, including his highlight on their little recognized intellectual merit, “I quickly realized there was more thinking going on in the bike shop than in my previous job at the think tank” (27). With a PhD. he describes a collegiate fall from grace as a blessing because it led him back to his original high school training as a motorcycle mechanic.  Crawford describes his own cognitive journey as well as those of other tradesmen he interviewed. The conclusion is worth a new focal point in our education reform. In Crawford’s view “Given the intrinsic richness of manual work— cognitively, socially, and in its broader psychic appeal—the question becomes why it has suffered such a devaluation as a component of education” (27). Some may view this idea as undermining a college education, but what Crawford is really pointing out is that “Practical know-how… is always tied to the experience of a particular person. It can’t be downloaded, it can only be lived” (162). Children and teenagers have always responded positively to the value of hands-on learning, especially when it has a practical application in their lives.

At the age of 16, a teenager’s cognitive maturity starts him or her on the path towards the reality of the adult world and all that entails. You may wonder what cognitive maturity has to do with a broad-based high school career and technical training program, but if students are struggling in school, have no money or family support for college, many see no future in the value of their junior and senior years. Challenged students need full engagement to prevent them from becoming avoidable statistics. By focusing on Math and English proficiency by the end of sophomore year, juniors and seniors can take core subjects and science classes with their half day of training courses to ensure they are ‘college ready’ at graduation. This schedule does not limit a student’s education, it enhances it by making it relevant; it prepares the student both for life and for college should they choose to attend.

 cvb  Though career and technical training in high school is not the solution for every student, it can serve a healthy percentage of our labor force. Some model programs in the US illustrate the potential of every high school, such as the Howard High School of Technology in Delaware.  The 2010 report by the Delaware Department of Education declares, “Howard has a high graduation rate (97 percent) and daily attendance rate (95 percent) and a low serious infraction rate….In addition to an academic program, Howard students choose one of the following career pathways: finance and business; carpentry; computer network administration; cosmetology; culinary arts; dental assisting; electrical trades; engine technology; legal administrative assisting; medical assisting; nursing technology; public service; or structural steel detailing.”  This richly diverse program serves a variety of student and community needs. It is a model that deserves replication.

There are still many questions to address in more detail before programs like Howard can be implemented effectively across America.  Questions like: How will we pay for this?  How can we make a solid case for the benefits of high school career training that will not be sabotaged by budget cuts every time state and federal revenues fluctuate? How can we refocus dollars from punitive institutions to education so we can create a higher skilled work force, reduce high school dropouts and prison populations while also reducing student loan and credit card debt? The answers to these questions and are necessary for the design of lasting and effective education reform that will strengthen our economy and society.  Of course, to change the current system, we may also have to challenge for profit college and prison industries that have benefitted by the shrinking of high school career education in the U.S., but it’s a challenge worth taking up.

Work cited

Belfield, Clive R. and Henry M. Levin. “The Economic Losses From High School Dropouts in California.” University of California, Santa Barbara: California Dropout Research Project Report #1, August 2007. PDF.(Table 18) Web. 7 April 2011.

Crawford, Matthew B. Shop Class as Soulcraft. New York: The Penguin Press. 2009. Print.

Delaware Department of Education. “Delaware Partnership Zone: Howard High School of Technology.” PDF. 2010. 21 April 2011.

Nielson, Lisa. “Highest Demand Blue Collar Careers.” The Houston Chronicle. 2011. Web. 7 April 2011.

Reynolds Lewis, Katherine. “High College Dropout Rate Threatens US Growth.” The Fiscal Times. October 28, 2010. Web. 22 April 2011.

 Wei, Christina Chang. “What is the Price of College?” U.S. Department of Education. December, 2010. PDF. (Table 1). Web. 7 April 2011.

 

 

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under Books, children, Education, Families, Fathers, Financial Crisis, Literature, mother, Parenting, prevention, teaching, technology, teenagers, The New Physics of Childhood

Calling All Teachers!

For those familiar with Paulo Freire’s book Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Continuum, 1970), the story below illustrates the tragic results to the individual from a very personal perspective:

From Ch. 17, The New Physics of Childhood: Replacing Modern Myths with Simple Strategies (I-Universe, 2009)

“FOR TEACHERS

The following story of “La Niñita” is an introduction to what powerful influences teachers are in a child’s life:

La Niñita

‘I was five years old, I was in kindergarten. From the beginning, school became troublesome for me because I was always looking out the window, instead of listening to my teacher. One day, while daydreaming of wonderful things, I had a fabulous idea.

After school, I ran home to work on my big project, a special play for my class. I felt happy because this play had a part for all of my classmates, leaving no one out. That was the most important thing.

I worked hard that weekend. I made costumes for my classmates out of paper bags my mother gave me. Mommy smiled. She was proud of my play and my costumes. I was a big girl now, I was in kindergarten.

Monday morning, I walked to school with all of the costumes wrapped and folded into two big paper bags. I ran to my teacher. I showed her my project. I told her all of my classmates were in the play!

My teacher’s face was like a stone, she did not look at my costumes and she did not look at me, she just stated, “We don’t do that here.”

Those five shocking words put much of my innocent and uninhibited creativity to sleep that day, changing my life forever. Just five words, five powerful words loomed in the back of my subconscious from that moment on.

Thirty-two years later, then a woman of thirty-seven, I created, acted, produced, and directed a production, purposely to include the forgotten teenagers in my community. These teens had no place to go or activities to enjoy. At the end of the production, I stood on the stage with these forgotten teenagers and in a flash, remembered that moment from my past.

The feelings were very intense as I finally manifested my dream as a five year old! Without realizing it, I had started to heal that wound from my childhood.

Today, I acknowledge that it will take many years of work to return to the uninhibited creative state I experienced as a five year old. Being around children helps me remember. For me, this is the beginning.’

Imagine what could have become of not only this little girl, but countless others, if she had had the support from the adults in her life to pursue her interests. She needed so little, just awareness and sensitivity on the part of the adults in her life, the parents and teachers who missed the opportunity to nurture her creative potential. Please choose your words carefully and take care not to do this to any child. Our precious children need the adults in their lives to help them blossom into whatever they are supposed to become. When adults recognize the signs and provide them with a supportive environment, children can create a world in ways only they can imagine.” by Christina Ivazes, aka Granny Pants

5 Comments

Filed under Books, children, Education, mentor, Myths, Parenting, teaching, The New Physics of Childhood, Writing

STAY AT HOME DADS- UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES?

Today, our fathers are more important than ever! We are grateful they are taking on these new roles in caregiving, providing our children with an awesome opportunity for the first time in American history! Yet, with these economic driven changes taking place, there are also some current considerations.

In my profession, I observe diverse family systems, the changes they go through, and the effects these changes have on children. It doesn’t matter whether the children are in the United States, Finland, Mexico, or an other country I have experienced.  Children all have the same basic needs and when these needs are not met, they communicate this imbalance to us in a variety of ways. Imbalance expresses itself differently for each child. It may look like withdrawal from the world in one child or acting out in another. It may show up in the form of insomnia in one or stomach aches in another. Because of all of these different “shouts for help” coming from our children, there is one new need that children will be suffering from in the future that we should all be aware of and work towards handling so we don’t see a new form of preventable childhood problems.

My focus has always been on the preventive. It is more cost-effective and harmonious for all concerned to prevent a problem rather than ending up with a host of problems that not only torture all involved, but also become very costly to treat.  I urge you to keep this in mind when I communicate the following:

bnbWith the new trend of Stay At Home Dads, largely in part due to our current economic downturn and high rates of unemployment, many Dads are embracing unemployment as a gifted opportunity they never had before. Children are also benefitting from having their fathers more present in their daily lives than any other previous generation in the U.S. (Though many European countries already recognize the importance of Paternal Leave.)

As we witness this beautiful evolution in our fathers, which I see on a daily basis, and most personally, with my own son-in-law right now, many fathers are showing themselves as capable caregivers, and in some respects, even better housekeepers than their wives. I say Hallelujah for this!  When the mother does not have the burden of working, cooking, shopping, caregiving, and housework entirely on her shoulders, she will be more balanced in her own life, and perhaps even more available emotionally and physically to her husband!

However,  just as unplanned suburban sprawl has created numerous unintended consequences to our culture and planet such as isolation, over-consumption of resources and energy, obesity, and addictions, we need to prevent unintended consequences from this current trend in Stay At Home Fathering. We need to have a plan and consider all ramifications before we have a spiraling out-of-control situation that we did not foresee or know how to stop.

There are two specific  issues I am bringing up with this post to consider, regarding this modern day phenomenon:

#1. When fathers are not trained as caregivers from birth as mothers are from generations of gender stereotyping, experience, and role-modeling, it is important they have had good role modeling, and/or training and support in basic healthy practices and effective child rearing methods in order to prevent the further deterioration of our children’s nutritional, emotional, and cognitive states, especially in the U.S. Granted, our children have a  host of problem these days, regardless of who their caregivers have been. However, since most fathers are not known for their focus on nutrition and vegetable consumption, we have the potential of a back slide from the current consciousness we need in this country to get our children back on track with the health, academic, and social skills they need for success in life. We need fathers to adopt and support a set of nutritional standards for their children so their daily care is actually strengthening our bnbj children’s physical health and immune systems.  How about: No foods purchased with sugar and high fructose corn syrup to start with. (Though nothing can replace the fun and satisfaction of a once in a while batch of homemade cookies.) How about focusing on more vegetables in meals. We all know that a large percentage of men, husbands, are not so keen on vegetables. In fact, it is usually a major issue of contention in many families and has affected the family’s nutritional state for generations. So, what will the effect be if our fathers today are the primary caregivers and meal makers, if they lower the vegetable intake of our households when we should be increasing this intake for our overall health.

Of course, there are many Dads who are doing a great job providing the best for their children, but aren’t they the minority? Prove me wrong please, and then I won’t take issue with this point. What I am saying is that if a father is now responsible for the nutritional standards and meals of a household, shouldn’t they be trained and committed to ensuring their children are getting their nutritional needs met? This is yet another case for a return to required Home Economics for all students in the U.S.!

The other consideration of point #1 is boundaries, limits, respect, emotional maturity, and physical exercise (instead of TV, movies, the internet, or video games). I know I am being very general about many things in this post and there are exceptions to every one of my points, but as a rule, we need to look at the majority of households, which will have the largest future impact to society, regardless of exceptions. When a father is caring for his own children all of the above considerations now become his responsibility to provide, along with the other daily needs of his children and household. To do it right, to ensure children have the best chance at success and happiness in life, all caregivers must be more, not less conscious of these aspects of caregiving.  Now is the time for all parents in America to step up; we cannot afford to push back the issues of our children’s physical, emotional, and cognitive health because life has thrown us changes!

Fathers bring many assets to provide our children with these needs. From my experiences, I have seen many fathers actually provide more hands-on opportunities and be more adamant about getting outdoor exercise than some mothers, which I personally believe comes from some genetic intuitiveness. The firmness (not cruelty) that some fathers bring to the table is probably a good thing for most of our children because they need a better foundation of respect for others and more limits to foster their emotional maturity. In this respect and numerous others, children need and benefit from more of their father’s influences, especially if it is firm, loving and infused with clear limits and consequences.

However, when some (not all) current popular father bloggers seek and succeed at high ratings from their witty, clever posts that boast poor parenting practices (Messed-Up Parenting Tips), we see the influences of popular internet culture becoming convoluted and potentially harmful to the future of our children and the idea of Stay At Home Dads, unless we have louder voices of common sense and consciousness prevailing, like the great father blogs like Natural Papa! Of course, I like my own Granny Pants’ Daily Parenting Tips, which always considers the present and future of the child over popular or market-driven trends.

We are stepping into new territory. Child rearing has not been very successful in the U.S. in the last several decades for a variety of reasons. Marketing pressures have influenced parents to choose convenience over what is best. Our current trend of kids raised on TV, DVD’s and video games has led to a country filled with hyperactive, physically unfit, obese, disrespectful, illiterate, depressed, and often violent children. Fathers who are at home with our children now have a new responsibility to embrace the preventive strategies to combat these challenges.

We cannot cvb afford to slip back into a nation of sheep, unconsciously allowing our children to self-medicate through TV, computers, movies and video games. We need fathers to take a stand and ensure they are not a part of the problem. We need fathers to disconnect those DVD players in your SUV! They are making our kids grow up illiterate and unable to communicate with their own parents or others! Their creativity is being extinguished because they have no time to listen to their own inner processes and expand their experience. They are constantly plugged into someone else’s creativity, not developing their own. We need all parents to kick them outside, teach them how to build, garden, paint, hike, explore, swim, care for animals, etc….

And, please teach them respect for others, all life, and compassion!

#2.  This next issue is something I have been pondering for a while. I am not really clear about what the solutions are, but I have some ideas, which are worth considering. Many of my approaches throughout the years, though seemingly radical at the time to others, have slowly become what are recognized as valid and proven preventives through numerous studies. I am heartened by knowing that common sense and pragmatism is seeping back into American culture, however slow it may be.

Have you ever had something you never knew you would like and then you had it, like a chocolate milkshake? (This reminds me of the story The Fonz told Richie when he was explaining to him how divorce’s were used to having sex all of the time because they had been married with easy access.)

This is the potential situation our kids will be in when fathers return to work. There are already fathers that have returned to work and already children dealing with this withdrawal feeling. They may not have been used to having Dad around, then they got used to it, then he left again!

So, how do we handle this emotional void for both Father and Child? We do it consciously. We do it by conversing with children about it, by carving out some very focused father/child time together every week, no matter how busy a schedule may get. With Skype, we can ensure regular communication during long absences, like military families and traveling business people have been using. We also do it by watching for the signs that our children are suffering these losses as in the ones I listed at the beginning of the post.

By all means, it is best for parents not to let guilt drive their responses to a child who is missing him/her.  Guilt is an unhealthy emotion that can lead to permissiveness, especially in inappropriate situations, where structure and limits are needed. Children pick up on and run with a parent’s guilt if they sense it, which can serve to drive even more symptomatic behavior and create a perspective of victimization.  Guilt and blame do not empower a child to deal with a situation. Whether it comes from the absent parent or the parent at home, what children need is adult maturity in these moments.

Honest conversations about changes and feelings are important, expressing that the adults too are missing their children. Working together as a family on healthy responses and solutions teaches a child emotional maturity and resiliency, not victimization.  Adults seeking solutions while expressing empathy are what children need to learn to deal with any loss, change or challenge.

Because a new position or career change can take off like a jet plane, leaving everything else behind, it is extremely important we acknowledge this reality while also acknowledging the need to maintain the investment in our children’s emotional security and maturity so we don’t lose the investments these fathers have already made if and when the family decides that the father take on an outside employment position!

Many baby boomer children and beyond look back and wish they could have had their own fathers more present and active in their lives. Today, so many fathers are realizing this awesome opportunity to do just that. Yet, because we have an unprecedented situation, we need to create a realistic and thoughtful plan. We need to go beyond market driven decisions and popular culture that throws fix-it remedies at parents like a pitcher to a batter. Most remedies strike out for the long haul because they are profit driven and do not consider the future of the child.

AND, many Dads already foresee their own heartache at returning to work and have considered the full-time stay at home alternative. We are at a precipice, a defining moment  in American family life. Let’s have the conversation on these important and valid points. When I see my whiny grandson missing his father, now that he is gone 3 weeks this last trip after months of being at home, when I remember a former employer and his son who used to act out frequently as a result of his father traveling, after seeing his Dad day after day and traveling with him for months, and when I have witnessed hundreds of fatherless children firsthand with their numerous behavioral and emotional problems, I can see the situation repeating from this completely different situation: The Stay At Home Dad Who Was Here Today & Gone Tomorrow

It really is all the same when a child is suffering loss. And toys and gifts and food and money thrown at a kid to soften this absence never fill the emotional void. It takes a conscious father to recognize the needs of his children and himself to make up that time by being present, even for 20 minutes a day or during a weekend excursion. Absolute 100% focused time with a child is 100% appreciated by every child!

What I am saying to all of the fathers out there is “Please don’t let life take over again, leaving your kids on the sidelines.”

And, for mothers and other caregivers, perhaps more hugs, more Mommy time, some male teachers, nannies, or relatives to fill that male void while Dad is gone, and maybe a little more tussle and outdoor play time is also in order!!!!!

For the Dads who choose to stay at home, please recognize this awesome responsibility and find support for making the best choices for your children! Recognize the powerful marketing influences of pop culture and steer clear for your kids sake as well as for your pocketbook! This 5 minute video is worth pondering: (Consuming Kids

Do you have any exemplary or despicable Stay At Home Dad stories to entertain us with? Please share them here with other readers in the comment section!

Are you a Stay At Home Dad by choice or necessity? Will choose to stay at home for a while or will you leave for a better paying position? Why do you enjoy staying home with your kids? 

Granny Pants

http://TheNewPhysicsofChildhood.com

Leave a comment

Filed under 1, babies, blogging, children, community, cooking, culture, environment, exercise, Fathers, health care, insomnia, mother, Myths, nutrition, Parenting, prevention, Stay-At-Home-Dads, teaching, teenagers, The New Physics of Childhood, Topics

10 Things You Need to Know But Probably Don’t Want to Hear!

OF COURSE YOU ARE TOO BUSY TO READ THIS WHOLE POST!   

po

Empowering Healthy, Capable Kids Takes Conscious Parenting!

HOWEVER, whether you are expecting your first child, or have a child of any age, I CHALLENGE YOU TO TAKE THE TIME TO READ IT ANYWAY! At times, the truth can sting a little, or even a lot, but isn’t better to know when it comes to the future of our children?   

1. If you live in the U.S., your child probably needs at least 2 more hours of outdoor activity a day in order to function normally (physiologically, mentally, emotionally). Children of every age need physical activity for 4-6 hours a day and the OPTIMUM is to have most of that activity outside, even in the cold (with adequate clothing, of course). When a child starts school, their body does not automatically reduce its need for physical activity. In fact, many of the behavioral, physical, and emotional issues of children today are a direct result of this physical, outdoor deficit! Don’t even think about medicating a child for any behavioral or emotional issues until they have had these OPTIMUM needs met for several weeks. Dramatically increasing outdoor physical activity (in a safe environment) will almost always guarantee positive results with challenges such as insomnia, attention, lowered immune resistance, emotional outbursts, physical  fitness, strength, large motor skill development, and overall life satisfaction.   

2. If you have a baby from this point on, any investment you can make that allows the mother (or yourself) to exclusively breastfeed baby for the first 6 months (no water, food, or formula), is the No. 1 best investment for both a baby and mother’s health. Exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first 6 months is the recommendation for OPTIMUM infant health by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the American Pediatric Association, and other health organizations, YET, all over the world, this recommendation is not being followed, especially not in the U.S. where even though 73.9 mothers start out breastfeeding at birth, only 13.6% of babies are    

bv

No doubt about it: the best!

exclusively breastfed at 6 months of age http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/report_card2.htm. This staggering statistic correlates with the rise in many childhood illnesses and allergies. Even mothers who breastfeed lower their own risk of breast cancer and diabetes, while also losing extra baby weight easily (as long as they are not consuming empty calories). http://grannypantsspeaks.wordpress.com/2009/10/22/excerpt-from-the-new-physics-of-childhood/ Instead of providing the minimum standards with processed, incomplete formula and heating it with a microwave oven, let’s start our children out with the OPTIMUM nourishment and disease prevention.    

3. Insisting that caregivers and/or you hover over your child to protect them is creating generations of wimpy kids! If you think giving your kids what you didn’t have for yourself is all good, you may be fooling yourself! Whenever an adult does something for an infant, child, or teenager that they can do for themselves, the underlying message is, “I know you can’t do this, so I will do it for you.” When these actions repeat throughout a child’s life, starting in infancy, children become dependent on others to make them happy. They do not experience the intrinsic motivation of autonomous accomplishment. They need the continual approval of others and they often have low-self esteem because they are not challenged to learn, to try, to fail, to adjust, to try again and to succeed!  Experiences of success with minimal interference by adults create confidence and independence. They develop with plenty of alone time to learn to play, to satisfy oneself and to accomplish difficult tasks. Infants learn these lessons, even as they sit in the yard or on a patio, observing nature by themselves, or by playing with a single toy by themselves. Attention and reinforcement are important components in parenting children that helps them feel loved. Equally, children need to experience their own ability to make themselves happy by increasing autonomous successes that allow them to become capable, confident, and self-motivated adults someday.   

4. If you feel that your household is out of control, your kids may be the ones in charge, not you! Children need parents who are leaders and mentors, not overly permissive best friends. Being a parent means running the family and training children to be functioning members of society. This is not the job of a child. Children are not supposed to choose their own schedules, pick out their own food from the grocery store, decide what and when to eat, when to go to sleep, or how much exercise or tv time they get, or whether or not they participate in the upkeep of the household they live in. The job of parents is to make sure children have the proper household routines for OPTIMUM sleep, hygiene, eating, exercise, homework & free time, proper, nourishing food,  proper respect for others, manners, accountability for behavior and age-appropriate contribution to the household. If a parent is not providing these needs for their children, the children will become disruptive to the household-plain and simple.   

5. Quick fix meals may actually be hurting you and your kids in ways you aren’t even aware of! Unfortunately, parents need to read the labels when they are shopping, no matter where they live because manufacturers are adding ingredients to foods continously. Sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners should not be a part of any baby or child’s dietary consumption, yet they are included in many foods for babies and children today. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM ) The escalating rates of diabetes and obesity around the planet are a clear example that more diligence is needed from parents everywhere. Microwave ovens are also a seriously questionable method for heating ANYTHING for a baby or child. On the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services website of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), this is the statement they have regarding the health risks of microwave ovens, “Much research is underway on microwaves and how they may affect the human body.” http://www.fda.gov/Radiation-EmittingProducts/ResourcesforYouRadiationEmittingProducts/Consumers/ucm142616.htm. Will microwave ovens be another BPA nightmare as the FDA sits back and does research to substantiate the risks AFTER products are already being manufactured and consumed? Don’t make your child’s health a scientific experiment. Read labels, buy more fresh foods, including fruits and vegetables. Don’t buy foods containing sugar, and choose proven, safe methods of heating food. (Keep a tea kettle filled with water that can be heated quickly and a deep bowl or measuring cup to heat any liquids or foods by adding hot water to the bottom and inserting either the bottle or bowl. This  3 minutes or so may save your child’s health!)   

6. Creating peace of mind today by allowing kids to tune-out with technology could be destroying your family and your children’s intuitive and sensory-based communication abilities. When parents make numerous choices and non-choices to allow ways for their children to be pacified by technology throughout the day–so they can have peace of mind–children are losing the valuable minutes, hours, and days they need to prepare themselves for life in other areas such as physical creative, intellectual, emotional, and social   

dv

Technology- A Blessing & A Curse

 development. See each moment a child or teen is glued to a television, video game, or computer as a minute robbed from their development. When children and teens are plugged into music devices or cell-phones at all times, they are not learning to develop or fully listen to their own instincts and guidance. They are losing their ability to relate to and be aware of the world around them. They are losing their ability to communicate face-to-face. When anyone in a family is plugged into a device or allowed to use a cell-phone/IPod at the dinner table, they are systematically digging a wide communication chasm between family members that may never recover if it is underdeveloped. Why not create a tech-free zone for meals, a significant portion of commuting to school and other activities, after school, weekends and/or traveling. Of course, the kids will rebel at first, but in the end, they will have YOU and your conversations to reflect upon, not just a blurry memory of text messages and images on screens of people they don’t even know.   

7. Children identified with an illness, condition or disorder like ADHD, diabetes, migraines, etc. are debilitated by labeling. A label or an attachments does not really get anyone off the hook! Labels exacerbate challenges by limiting a child’s perception that they can have control of the many things in their life, starting with their attitude. The language that we teach our children either empowers or weakens their perception of their ability to create their own happiness and life satisfaction. First of all, if your child faces any physical, mental, or emotional challenges, refrain from using language like this, “Your diabetes” “Your migraines”  Shouldn’t children identify themselves and get more attention from things other than illness? Internal language produces physiological changes in the body, which either deteriorate or improve health. http://www.amazon.com/Quantum-Healing-Exploring-Frontiers-Medicine/dp/0553348698/ref=sr_1_18?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1265880453&sr=1-18 Whatever the condition of a child’s physical or emotional state, he/she will still need adults in their life to emphasize that “They are not their body!” They are a bright and shining spirit that is meant to experience joy in many forms. It is up to parents to find these experience for a child and build on them, not on the culture of victimhood. Regardless of any situation, we always have the ability to change our internal attitude! Physical and emotional states will improve when they are nurtured by positive experiences and empowering perspectives!   

 8. Marketing shapes a child in ways you may not even be aware of!  Limiting a child’s exposure to technology will also limit their exposure to dangerous life altering influences. The cumulative effects of advertising and product placement promote a “me” driven, materialistic culture which discourages the development of a child’s intrinsic motivation, integrity and compassion for others.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maeXjey_FGA   

9. Children are learning more about how to be from what they observe you doing than from what you say! Although this is not revelation, isn’t it funny that we ignore this fact quite often? How many times have you done   

vd

IS THIS WHAT YOU WANT YOUR CHILDREN TO BECOME?

something inappropriate like using profanity, but then tell a child not to do it later on? These little hypocrisies throughout the day add up over a lifetime. The way we  feel about events and other people, especially any contemptible or fearful feelings,  are felt by infants, children, and teenagers, even if they do not say anything. These strong opinions and feelings, reactionary behaviors, and even disrespect towards others (even employers) is affecting how they too will view others someday.  If you would rather sit on the couch and watch TV all evening, they probably won’t want to go outside and exercise. They too, will become couch potatoes someday. Pretend a movie camera is filming you and outsiders are reviewing you on your own quality of daily life experience. This is what your children see. Then, adjust it so they see     

vvd

OR THIS?

the movie you want them to watch!   

10. You may think putting off your own nutritional, exercise, or sleep needs are okay for now, but you are wrong! Not only are children learning how to take care of themselves by watching your example, your health and state of mind also effects your ability to care for your  children.  If you are exhausted, it is difficult to be consistent and firm. If you are tired, can you really be present for your children? If you are sick, how available are you for anyone? Perhaps this means limiting outside commitments, especially in the early years of your child’s life. Over time, the cumulative effects of neglecting your own health can also lead to many debilitating illnesses that will in turn, rob you of valuable, quality time with yourself and your family someday. This includes quality downtime for yourself with your partner and yourself to just do nothing, like taking a vacation. Who wants to spend their vacation time sick because they waited too long ot take on, or never be able to make it to enjoy retirement? Do it for your kids and you will also be doing it for yourself! When a parent is at their fittest and healthiest and rested, they are better equipped to care for their children and actually enjoy the experience!   

All of these preventive strategies among many others are contained in my book, The New Physics of Childhood: Replacing Modern Myths with Simple Strategies  You can purchase the book at http://TheNewPhysicsofChildhood.com, and follow me on    

sdf

Author, Christina Ivazes (aka Granny Pants) w/ Grandchild # 7 Hudson Cooper

Facebook at “Granny Pants’ Daily Parenting Tips”   

I welcome your feedback and experiences with any of these issues! I am also available for Parent & Family consulting. Email me about the needs of your family @ christinaivazes@chameleaproductions.com   

Granny Pants

3 Comments

Filed under 1, babies, Breastfeeding, children, cooking, exercise, insomnia, La Leche League, nutrition, Parenting, prevention, teaching