Humor Helps When Teaching Your Kid to Drive

It’s a challenge for any parent to help their child learn to drive. For the parent of a child with extra issues, whether it’s ADHD, anxiety, or autism, the challenge can be even greater. Gina Gallagher, co-author with her sister Patricia Konjoian of the book Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid, recently shared a post on their blog of the same name about helping her anxiety-ridden daughter learn to drive.

Ms. Gallagher approaches the challenges of raising an “imperfect kid” with both humor and love, and her post on teaching her daughter to drive is no exception. She wraps up her post with seven imperfect parent driving survival tips, all of which work well with any new driver. Among the tips are:

  • Start in the driveway. Parked. This excellent piece of advice came from education consultant, Cynthia DeAngelis, who instructed us to practice starting the car in the driveway. While in park, we also practiced switching from brake to gas pedal, increasing speed, and signaling. By the time we were actually ready to drive, my daughter had her footwork down and we had logged 40 hours of practice (just kidding).
  • Find an empty parking lot. On my daughter’s first real run, I took her to an empty industrial park. The company that once operated there made a wise decision to move as we surely would have killed all their employees.
  • Visit graveyards. They provide an excellent venue for your child to practice turning and driving on narrow roads. More importantly, it’s impossible for your child to kill people who have already died. #winning

Be sure to read the full article for a little help in how to teach your child to drive and a little smile about the challenges we all face as parents.

Photo © 2012 by Alex Proimos under Creative Commons license.

Helping Your Child Prepare for Assessments

Spring is here, and with it comes assessments. For third through eighth graders, that means the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). For high school juniors, that means the SAT.

Just like some schools may play up the assessments with pep rallies and such while others treat them as simply another test, some students may take assessments in stride while others stress out about them. Whichever reaction your child has, here are things you can do to help them prepare.

Understand the Role of Assessments

It is important for families to understand the role of assessments. The state of Illinois only requires one set of assessments—PARCC, the SAT, and the Illinois Science Assessment (ISA) in fifth and eighth grades and high school biology.

The additional assessments that your child takes are determined by your school district, and concerns you have with excessive assessments beyond the once-a-year state assessments should be directed towards your district. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has piloted the Illinois Student Assessment Inventory to help school districts reduce the number of assessments that they use by eliminating those that do not inform student instruction or overlap with other assessments.

The PARCC assessment tests students’ ability to apply what they’ve learned, not just report back facts they have learned. Likewise, the PARCC assessment report provides more information to both families and teachers on where students are struggling. A recent survey found that 90% of parents believe their child is performing at or above grade level in reading and 85% say their child is on track to meet learning goals and grade level expectations; however, in fact only 34% of eighth graders are reading at or above grade level according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The PARCC assessment provides you with the information you need to know if how you think your child is doing in school is actually true.

Finally, understand that how assessments are used to evaluate how your child’s school is performing has changed under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA has given the states the duty of determining how they measure school performance, and Illinois is using the Illinois Balanced Accountability Measure (IBAM). Under ESSA, schools that are identified as struggling are targeted for additional support, not the punitive measures that were enacted under No Child Left Behind for schools that didn’t make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

Helping Your Child with Test Anxiety

Illinois PTA has shared information on how to help your child deal with anxiety in a general sense, but even kids without anxiety issues can feel anxious about a test, whether it is the PARCC, SAT, or a regular math test. The suggestions for dealing with general anxiety still apply with test anxiety, but there are other things that can help as well.

Familiarity with what the test will be asking can help. PARCC has practice tests available, as does the SAT. Good study skills and a plan to prepare help as well. Great Schools also has a short two-minute video on things you can do to help your child with text anxiety.

Resources are Available to Help You

There are many additional resources out there to help you help understand what your child needs to know to meet their grade-level expectations.

7 Keys to Creativity

When we think about creative people, we tend to think of artists, writers, painters, and the like, but creativity is an essential part of almost everything we do. Whether it is figuring out the best bridge design to span a river or cooking dinner for our family, the opportunity to be creative is always there. So how do you help your child foster their creativity?

Creative thinking expert Michael Michalko spells out his seven tenets of creative thinking, the seven things he wishes he were taught as a student. Helping your child learn these lessons can help them (and you) be a more creative person.

  1. You are creative. Everyone creates, especially as a child. It is only as we get older that we begin to think of ourselves as creative or not. The main thing that identifies creative people is that they believe they are creative, and so they develop their abilities to express themselves.
  2. Creative thinking is work. Thomas Edison once said that genius is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration. Being creative requires dedication to developing new ideas, most of which will be bad. What separates great photographers from the amateurs is that the great ones take many, many more pictures. Every great movie leaves piles of footage on the cutting room floor.
  3. You must go through the motions. Our brains build connections as we do and learn things, and the more that we do those things, the stronger the connections become. Working to come up with creative ideas increases your ability to be creative. Creative ideas don’t come to you. You have to go chase after them, and the more you chase, the better you’ll be at catching them.
  4. Your brain is not a computer. Our brains don’t really separate fact from fiction. It is why a good book can transport us to another place. It is why we feel the same exhilaration as Luke Skywalker when the Death Star blows up and cower in our seats during a scary movie. Imagining is an essential part of creativity. Walt Disney called the creative people working on his movies and parks imagineers, a portmanteau of imagination engineers.
  5. There is no right answer. Little kids tend to think of things as black or white, but as adults we know there are many shades of gray in between. When trying to create new ideas, it is essential to not evaluate them as they come to us. Every idea is a possibility, so you should generate as many as possible before figuring out if they are any good or not. Edison himself thought of 3,000 different lighting system ideas before he even began to evaluate whether they would work or not.
  6. There is no such thing as failure. If you don’t succeed, you still have produced something. What’s important is what you learn from what you produced, even if it didn’t work. As author Neil Gaiman said in his commencement address at the University of the Arts in 2012, “I hope you’ll make mistakes. If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something. And the mistakes in themselves can be useful. I once misspelled Caroline, in a letter, transposing the A and the O, and I thought, ‘Coraline looks like a real name…’” Coraline is, of course, one of his most famous children’s books as well as a successful movie.
  7. You don’t see things as they are—you see them as you Experiences don’t have meaning until we give them meaning, and the meaning we give them depends on where we are in life and what we believe to be true. Ken Olsen, the founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, which made mainframe computers, famously said that there was no reason anyone would want a computer in their home. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak saw the same industry through a different lens, and now most of us not only have computers in our homes but also in our pockets and purses. Creative people realize that we construct our reality by how we interpret our experiences.

By keeping these seven keys in mind, we can help our children become more creative, supporting them when they get discouraged and encouraging a growth mindset.

Photo courtesy Max Pixel.

The Free-Range Kids Project

3432402338_be0e45a042_bChances are that when you were a kid, you did not have “helicopter parents.” You might have gotten yourself to and from school. On a Saturday, you might have headed out the door once the cartoons were over, only to return for lunch, dinner, and when the streetlights turn on.

But as parents now, we tend to shelter our children much more than we were. While there are certainly dangers facing our children that we did not face, many of us go well beyond just keeping our children safe. At last year’s National PTA Convention, one of the highlights was the keynote speech given by Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of How to Raise an Adult. Ms. Lythcott-Haims was a Stanford dean who noted that more and more of the incoming students couldn’t seem to function without checking in with mom or dad, going so far as to text a parent to find out how to get to their next class when there was a campus map right next to them. Ms. Lythcott-Haims has given a TED Talk on the subject that explains the issue further.

Nine years ago, Lenore Skenazy wrote a column in the New York Sun about letting her 9-year-old ride the subway alone. The column went viral, and a sixth-grade public school teacher saw it and invited Ms. Skenazy to speak with her students. Before the visit, the teacher had her students do a special project—do something on your own that you feel ready to do, but get your parents’ permission first.

The results were surprising. Kids took their younger siblings to soccer practice, made dinner for the family, got themselves ready and out the door to school, or ordered and ate a meal at a restaurant on their own. Many of the kids had a new-found confidence as a result of the project.

Perhaps more surprising were the results for the parents. They reported being nervous about the project, but when they saw the effect that it had on their child, they found a weight lifted off of them. Parents reported that their child’s confidence showed up at school and in other parts of their lives. Many parents said they let their children do even more things on their own and stopped micromanaging parts of their child’s life. The project ended up being as freeing for the parents as it was for the kids.

The Free-Range Kids Project, named after Ms. Skenazy’s book Free-Range Kids, has a handful of schools participating from across the country, from California to New York City. Even if your school or class isn’t doing a Free-Range Kids Project, you can do one on your own in your family. The project even provides a free-range kid “membership card” that your child can show to a concerned adult with your signature and phone number. Think about letting your child become a free-range kid who comes in for bed when the streetlights turn on.

Photo © 2009 by Rachel under Creative Commons license.