Friday, January 31, 2020

How to Help Keep Our World Clean and Healthy

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This month we'll celebrate Tu B'Shevat, the "birthday" of the trees. In ancient times, Tu B'Shevat helped farmers know when to bring their first fruit offerings to the Temple; in modern times, it's become something of an environmental holiday. 

There are lots of ways to celebrate Tu B'Shevat today: having a special seder and eating fruits native to Israel, planting trees (this year, you can help us plant some on our playground!), and talking with children about our obligation to protect our earth.

Children aren't too young to learn that they have responsibilities to help keep our natural world clean and healthy. There's one very easy, age-appropriate, and tangible way to begin teaching them these lessons: Trash Free Fridays. Rather than send in lunch foods packaged in plastic, send sandwiches, fruits, and drinks in reusable containers. The children take great pride in showing off their lunches that contain NO trash at all. Thanks to Morah Susan in Kitah Turkiz for this splendid idea.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Asking Good Questions

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I'm guessing I'm not the only one who's stayed in my car after parking it to hear the end of an NPR story. Today, I sat in the cold because I had to hear more of this absolutely delightful StoryCorps episode called "You're My Favorite Person to Talk about Space To." It's worth listening to for so many reasons.

The uncle says something to the boy about how important knowledge is, but also how important sharing that knowledge is, which reminded me of a pedagogical tool called Bloom's Taxonomy. So often, especially in school, we worry about what our children know. But asking knowledge-based questions (meaning there's only one right answer) is considered the most basic and least complex kind of question to ask. Once knowledge is established, it's important to ask increasingly complex questions that foster deeper thinking and application of that knowledge.

Bloom's Taxonomy (updated) progresses from the least rigorous cognitive skill to the most rigorous: remember -- understand -- apply -- analyze -- evaluate -- create

How would Bloom's be applied to the boy in the NPR story?

What is the biggest planet?
How is Jupiter different from Earth?
How are the four inner planets different from the four outer planets?
What makes a planet different from other objects in the solar system?
So is Pluto a planet or not?
Can you develop a set of criteria for identifying planets in other solar systems?

Rather than just asking your child if they remember facts, also ask them the kinds of questions that will get them to apply what they've learned in meaningful ways. It's what a 21st century education is all about.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Give Your Children Choices to Avert Inevitable Battles about What to Wear

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The title made me laugh, so of course I had to read the article: The Boys Who Wear Shorts All Winter. We all know this boy, right? (And, yes, it's always a boy, according to the article.)

The author makes some good points about this phenomenon. It could be that some children are sensitive to different fabrics and textures and shorts are simply more comfortable. Maybe this is just a way for some children to exert some independence. Or maybe they do just "run hot." 

Regardless of the reason, the author's point is that we don't need to overreact when our children don't want to wear what we think of as weather-inappropriate clothes. Unless it's -15 degrees, we really don't need to worry about children getting frostbite the minute they walk outside. (Please note the negative sign in that sentence.) As parents, we need to pick our battles and for many families, this one probably isn't a battle worth waging. Furthermore, if we decide to battle our children on this front, they're unlikely to back down, especially if they're tweens or teens. The last thing a child that age wants to do is prove their parent right. So, probably, they'll put on warmer clothes when they get cold, but only if it's their choice to do so.

A good way to promote independence in preschoolers and teach them what's appropriate to wear and what's not is to provide them with two acceptable choices. For example, "You may wear the blue knit cap or the baseball hat. Which do you choose?" Or, "You may wear long pants or tights and a skirt. Which do you choose?" Always make sure both choices are acceptable to you!

And if it's just one of those days and you cannot, just cannot, get your child to cooperate and change into something appropriate and your only choice is to send them to school in their PJs or not come to school at all, please, send them in their PJs. We don't mind at all. 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Why "I don't know. What do you think?" is Often the Best Answer to Your Child's Question

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"Why do Jews always answer a question with a question?"
          - curious reader

"How should they answer?"
          - Dear Abby

"No, really, why do Jews always answer a question with a question?"
          - same curious reader

"Well, how else are we supposed to learn?"
         - Morah Jen (taking over for Dear Abby)

"But there's got to be a reason, right? Like a real reason?"
          - increasingly frustrated reader

"Sure. What do you think the reason is?"
          - Morah Jen


"Ok, I'm sensing your frustration. 

Jews answers questions with questions because for us it's not about the answers. We're not really looking for the answer. How can we ever know the answer is the right answer? Or the only answer? So it's not about the answer. 

It's about the questions. It's about the journey. It's our struggle with the questions that connects us to our history, our ancestors, and to God. We find holiness in asking questions and debating what the answer is.

Also, it's just good pedagogy. Read this article to learn more."

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