Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Diversity is a must!

As the dawn of a new school year is upon us I was struck by the number of missing faces in my neighborhood school. Over the past few weeks I have talked to at least a dozen parents who have jumped ship and invested their savings, and their hopes and dreams, in private schools. I understand the frustration and have entertained the option more than a few times myself. But, as I look at the diversity across my child’s public school classroom I wonder if parents are counting the cost of what they are leaving behind.

Academic prowess has become the goal of most parents. Parents do everything they can to give their child an “edge.” Parents put children in tutoring so they can get ahead and maintain their advantage. In an effort to secure a Harvard acceptance letter, parents invest thousands of dollars a year buying workbooks, software, educational toys and games, music lessons and enrichment camps and classes. Few parents devote as much time, thought or energy focused on their child’s psychosocial development.

I value traditional academics, but when I think about educating my children I do not think about factual knowledge. I want my children to think, reason, and analyze, but I also want them to think globally; to understand their place in the world and the impact they can make. I want them to be compassionate, empathetic, and altruistic. I want my children exposed to as many different people, environments, and beliefs as possible. I have toured the many private schools over the years, many of which have superior educational programs, but consistently there is one thing missing: Diversity!

As a parent of a minority child, lack of diversity was a deal breaker. Despite my mounting concerns with the academic deficiencies of my neighborhood school, I could not enroll my daughter in a school where she might be the only minority in her class, and in some cases, the only child of color in her grade level.

Minority status aside, lack of diversity should be a deal breaker for parents of ALL children. All children benefit from spending time with people who are different from them. Children as young as 3 and 4 years old have already begun developing biases and beliefs about people who are similar to them and people who are different from them – and these early beliefs persist throughout middle childhood, and often last a lifetime. Children who live, play, and learn in diverse settings have a more nuanced understanding of themselves and others. When parents give children the opportunity to cross boundaries (e.g., racial, cultural, economic, etc.) they minimize bias, prejudice, and discrimination and increase self-awareness, cross-cultural understanding and acceptance.

My child’s school is not the most diverse, but the diversity in our neighborhood school is at least 75% greater than any private school I have visited over the years. During open house I observed different races, cultures, and varying levels of socioeconomic status. Additionally, I expect there are varying levels of academic preparedness, intention, and ability. So, despite my nagging concerns about whether my daughter is maximizing her academic potential I get satisfaction in knowing that when she looks around her classroom she sees people who look like her and those who do not, when she attends birthday parties she will see people who live like her and those who do not, and when she is grouped with other students there will be students who are academically superior and those who need a little extra help. My hope is that her experiences will minimize her biases, help her identify the similarities among us, and teach her an appreciation for that which makes us unique.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Hello, fellow travelers.

It is an honor to have been invited to contribute to this new CFR site and even more so because it is in the Southeastern United States. I was born here, I live and work here, (even though I was out of it for about 20 years, I did return) and I am pleased that we can finally say that there are Southeastern representatives of NCFR. My sincere congratulations to all of you pioneers who have worked so hard to make this happen and the quality of the organizaion and materials is most impressive. I have been a columnist for a regional specialty newspaper in Northeastern Coastal South Carolina for 15 years and am now sorting through the monthly offerings that are being gathered into a book, hoping to find some pieces that might be appropriate for posting on this site. I will try to choose carefully since I know that you readers and members are highly educated and highly knowledgeable about this field and I don’t want to embarrass myself! I have been primarily working in the Parenting Education world for 19 years with Family Life being added as a CFLE 11 years ago. We have a lot of work to do, don’t we?

ParentsCare is the name of the column I write in Parnet News, www.parentnewsmagazine.com and I work for still learning, inc. www.stilllearning.org where you'll find some details on the ParentsCare curriculum developed for parenting workshops and for facilitator training. You will also find more details about my long life than you would ever want to know. ParentsCare, the columns to-be book, is a collection of personal opinions and suggestions intended to be heart-felt, experiential and educationally-written observations of our most important choice in life...parenthood. The offerings are taken from over 15 years of columns. It is my hope that this future book will become a “bedside” fixture for parents who will read at least one offering per week as they face the hourly challenges and joys of raising children. These ideas are meant to affirm, encourage, support and guide. If you find them helpful, I will smile.

A collection of personal essays
compiled through and offered by
Putting Parents And Children First
Through Family Enrichment Programs

As the new school year begins

Raising Parents

By Jim R. Rogers


All of us were at one time children and the paths that we have traveled to adulthood have been as varied as our fingerprints. Our homes are where we start life from, and when the start is solid and nurturing our chances of being solid later on are better, much better, and we will be more likely to do a better job raising our own children and sending them off into the world well prepared to handle whatever comes their way.

Departments of education, nationally and in state and many districts and schools are now finally emphasizing “parent involvement”, better called “parent engagement” programs which is a really great decision. But almost all of the programs are designed and conducted to help parents help their children achieve academically. Sometimes the parents respond well as then do the children, but often times the parents and therefore the children do not respond well and are unfortunately left by the wayside of learning. There are unfortunately only a few parenting education and family management programs to help parents understand their roles of raising healthy and responsible children. But, there should be. Here’s why.

Effectively parented children are the most likely to succeed at school, be cooperative and helpful in the community, and become productive and healthy adults and parents. Modern parenting education programs, classes and seminars are the most direct way of helping more parents to be effective and sensitive in raising children.

We will have better schools if we have better students. We will have better students if we have better parents. And what I mean by “better” is “effective”. Effective parents should be partners with the schools as team members in helping achieve the students’ success. How effective the parent is at home will better prepare the child to be open and receptive to the wondrous opportunities to learn that the schools and the teachers provide. What a loss in life it is when a child does not receive the educational foundation that is available in many forms in our schools. Many dedicated people work very hard to provide the best education they can deliver. Parents and other caregivers, have to be equally dedicated and caring about doing their part to prepare the child to be a willing learner. That’s why it’s important for parents to start the learning process early, and continue it throughout the formal education years for the children.

Children learn better when their lives are better. When children feel loved, cared for, respected, listened to, included and considered, they feel better. And when children feel better, they do better. So do adults. When children are surrounded with order, structure, safety nets, routines, clear expectations, and lots of warm attention then they feel loved, they feel able and they feel capable. Their desire for learning increases as they feel better about who they are and become more confident in their abilities to achieve.

At the root of a learning attitude is liking to read, and what happens in the home in the early years sets the standard for learning. Reading possibilities are all around us and the internet and your school’s media department are chocked full with ideas and materials. As the parent, our interest in learning is critical as a model for our children. Make sure learning and education are important values in our home. Give support to and cooperation with your schools and teachers. Let our children know that education is at the top of our importance list with reading, learning, studying, having a positive attitude and exhibiting self motivation getting our attention before most other things like, computers, games, TV, playmates, toys, extracurricular activities and wasting time. It’s all important for well-balanced growing, but too often, the lists are reversed and the pieces that are not the most valuable out-weigh the pieces that will give the best future.

Parents and caregivers play the most critical role in the success of our children. Helping them be successful in school is giving them perhaps the best achievement for being successful in life. And success in school does not mean academically successful exclusively. There are many other parts of a successful school life that contribute greatly to our total education. It’s important that parents and caregivers and educators understand that intelligence, top grades, rigid schedules, and narrow focus can also limit positive and successful growth toward adulthood.

There are social, psychological, physical, and emotional growth needs as well. Proper attention has to be given to all of the parts that make us the human beings that we are and will become. Growing up is hard to do. Helping others grow up well is, too. But, it’s our job. We have to know how to do it effectively. Good luck with this new school year and let’s plan to be the best supporter of our child’s education there could be and know that it starts in our home.

Next time, who knows. Until then,

Don’t lose heart!

Jim R. Rogers, M.Ed., CFLE
Parent and Family Life Educator
still learning, inc.

Conference Registration and Proposal Submission Site Is Live!

The Southeastern Council on Family Relations is pleased to announce that the proposal submission and conference registration site for our March 2011 meeting in Birmingham is now up and running. For details about the conference, as well as instructions for submitting a proposal and registering for the conference, please visit this link 2011 SECFR Conference Website

Register now to take advantage of the early bird rates of $99 for professionals and $25 for students and receive a 1-year complimentary membership in SECFR!