Twin Parks Montessori - Largest Accredited Montessori Program in Manhattan

Kathy’s Insights

Insights on the Montessori method and Early Childhood Education from Dr. Kathy Roemer

Summertime: Montessori Style

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Children’s brains are working all of the time. Learning doesn’t stop just because children are not in school. Typically, math skills do tend to be ignored during the summertime because it is easier to pick up a book to read rather than figuring out a math problem.

So how can you assist continued learning and enjoy the summer with your children?

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Keep a consistent schedule for meals, play and rest

2. Mix up the activities of the day, choices may include:

• time outside,

• stimulating work inside,

• listening to music,

• work with a variety of art materials,

• time for quiet and reflection,

• trips to museums and libraries

3. Read a variety of books daily including:

• non-fiction,

• poetry,

• joke books,

• as well as chapter books that will challenge the imagination

Read Outdoors

Read Outdoors

4. Explore Nature

• go camping!

• if you travel, read about the biomes before you go, learn about the plants and animals you may encounter

• make a botany map of your favorite area of the park

5. Take up a new hobby with your child:

• fabric arts like knitting, sewing, tie-dye, beadwork, weaving

• painting,

• pottery,

• woodworking,

• photography,

• playing a musical instrument,

• dancing,

• cooking

Enjoy Outdoors!

Enjoy Outdoors!

6. Establish daily chores like watering plants, setting the table, dusting folding laundry, feeding pets

7. Create math activities to do together:

• measure everything, count everything, sort everything

• comparison shopping (keep a pad and pencil handy)

• graph daily activities like when you go to bed, how far you walk each day, how many ounces of water you drink

• measure things around the house, map them, and rearrange the furniture,

• learn to play chess

8. Be social:

• invite friends for dinner, include children in the conversations

9. Engage in activities that foster independence:

• dressing and undressing,

• help prepare snacks and lunches,

• be responsible for belongings

10. Reinforce grace and courtesy: “please” and “thank you” go a long way!

Summer can be a time for children to learn more about their world and their place in it. Get involved in your community. Exploring cultural opportunities by attending parades and festivals is a wonderful way to explore the world at home.

Create an Ideas Jar: Write down new activities to choose from and pick one whenever the urge strikes to allow children to have extra screen time. All members of the family can participate in what goes into the jar.

I have heard children say, “I am bored.” I respond with “What does that mean?” Most of the time they do not know. Children often want parents to be their main source of entertainment.

Know that it is ok for children to be “bored”. That is exactly the time when creativity can be encouraged! Instead of feeling guilty, or feeling a need to “fix it”, ask, “What can we do about that?”

Enjoy your summer! Share ideas that are successful for your family!

Enjoy your summer! Share ideas that are successful for your family!

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Bullying Still Exists: Please Pay Attention

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In 2012 a movie called, Bully was released. It is a film highlighting the very real problem that is bullying, which is happening in schools all across the U.S. In recent years, there has been a lot of press about bullying, and now licensed teachers in NYC are required to have specific training to help identify and stop it. Below is a clip of the movie that will touch your heart. It just takes one kind action for children to feel safe in our community.

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Your Gifted Child: Why Montessori May Be The Answer

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All children are gifted and unique in so many ways.

Each individual shares a part of themselves with the world a little differently than everyone else. A more formal definition of giftedness is children who give evidence of high-performance capabilities in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, leadership or specific academic fields who require services not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities. Sometimes a child’s mind develops at a more rapid rate than their physical growth. The estimated number of gifted children is between 6 and 10% or 3-5 million students.

Traditional, general education schools make accommodations in the regular classroom like advanced projects and studies, pull out advanced group sessions, acceleration or grade advancement. Grade advancement is difficult because social-emotional development is not always advancing at the same rate as academic abilities. How does the Montessori method address these gifted students?

Montessori early childhood classrooms are multi-aged and contain a range of curriculum materials from 2.5 years to 7 years of age.

Students can enter the classroom and with an assessment by teachers, advance at their own pace. If a student excels in verbal and language arts abilities he can progress through all of the letter/sound recognition, blending, creating words with the movable alphabet and be reading within a short time.

Teachers rely on a students’ ability rather than age or grade for placement.

Children who are interested in numbers and math can advance rapidly through 1-10, teens, tens and thousands using golden bead materials. Students learn about cubing by using a variety of prisms, some square some rectangular inside cube-shaped boxes. One is called the Binomial Cube and the other is the Trinomial Cube. These prisms ard put together to form the solution to (a+b)2 and (a+b+c)3. When I was a high school algebra student, I had to learn the Binomial Cube and the Trinomial Cube formula. I did not know that each of the cubes squared or cubed made a larger cube – did you? I didn’t visualize math formulas. Montessori math materials define a solid foundation for later abstraction.

Binomial and Trinomial Cubes

Binomial and Trinomial Cubes

The Montessori Math materials are mathematically perfect in construction with attributes that enable students to make comparisons between materials. Mathematics is sensorial, seeing a thousand golden beads in a cube, feeling its weight, comparing it to one unit bead or a ten bar or a hundred square gives a firm foundation of number relationships and quantity. (Can you tell that I adore the Montessori Math material?)

Every area of the classroom has advanced materials.

The youngest children in the classroom can experience the materials sensorily without learning the concept. When they are ready for more advanced experiences the teachers can present specific lessons to the children. In addition, there remains the joy in discovery to see that the pink tower cubes are the same size and shape as some of the elements of the binomial and trinomial cube. That the geometric solid shapes can be seen in features within the classroom.

We remember 10% of what we read

20% of what we hear

30% of what we see

50% of what we see and hear

70% of what we discuss with others

80% of what we personally experience

95% or what we teach others

– Edgar Dale

In a multi-aged classroom where older children are role models for younger children and older children help to teach younger students – they do retain an exponential amount of information.

Authentic experiences also increase the amount of information retained. For instance, if a child learns how to tie a bow by using a dressing frame, she will be able to tie her own and other’s shoes. A child who serves snack, one napkin and cup for each child will understand one to one correspondence. Children who learn to take care of and respect the classroom will take care of their belongings at home.

Montessori classrooms are safe spaces where mistakes are opportunities for learning to take place.

Children experiment, make their own choices and plan their morning work cycles. Children also set their own learning goals. I worked with a 4-year-old student who loved Geography. He set a personal goal to learn every country in the world. He worked one continent at a time. He made his own set of continent maps with countries labeled with colored pencils. They were beautiful works of art. Once he accomplished the countries, he started on the capitals. It was his own personal independent project based on his interests.

Montessori classrooms have large blocks of uninterrupted work time.

What this means is that children do not change classrooms or have specialty teachers teaching during this prime learning time. Teachers do organize one-on-one time and direction and small group lessons. This allows students the time to work through various tasks and responsibilities at their own pace. It is vitally important for building concentration, coordination, independence, and order. Executive function skills of problem-solving, perseverance, working memory, mental flexibility and self-control all need time to develop.

The Montessori method of education meets the needs of all types of learners. Gifted learners excel in a Montessori classroom!

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The Treasures We Take With Us

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We know that parents are the greatest influence in a child’s life. Teachers run a close second.

Research has shown that teachers who have high expectations, who teach with respect and love have a long lasting impact beyond social and academic influences. Teachers are role models who inspire and encourage children to strive for greatness, live up to full potential and see the best in themselves. Teachers can change children’s lives.

What children learn in these early years are the building blocks and scaffolding of the moral beings they will become as adults. We are proud that we shared these milestones with so many families.

This time of year is always bittersweet for teachers and school administrators. We are excited about finishing another year, and anticipating our summer plans. And we are sad to say goodbye. Our goodbyes are many: to children who are aging up and going onto elementary school; goodbye to children leaving our classroom for another; goodbye to team members who are moving onto another school or job opportunity; and, goodbye to families leaving New York City.

We hold many treasures in our hearts and minds. The smiles and happy faces of children who have grown and learned so much during their time with us and their families who have given us their trust in the care of their child. I have a special place where I keep the handmade cards and artwork that children have given me. Each classroom has a memory book of the children for children to enjoy in years to come.

We treasure so many little things, too. When a child says our name for the first time. When a child exclaims, “I did it!” We treasure the laughter. When an assistant understands that Montessori really works. When a parent recognizes and thanks us for our work.

We thank you for sharing a wonderful year!

One of our best-kept secrets is that working with young children helps keep us young in body, mind, and spirit. ~ Kathy Roemer

Twin Parks Montessori School

Twin Parks Montessori School

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How to Teach Children Patience

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Many parents experience a whining child or a child throwing a tantrum. These are not pleasant experiences for the parents or for the children. One of the main reasons for these responses to a situation is that children have not learned how to “wait”.

Adults do a lot of waiting in doctor’s offices, in line at the grocery store, for the train, or recently for me on jury duty. As an adult, we have many ways to keep occupied while we are waiting. Besides using our ever-present technology, we read books and magazines, knit, play Solitaire, or think. How do we teach children how to occupy themselves in times when they have to wait?

If you have read books by Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, or Pamela Druckerman’s book on French parenting, Bringing Up Bebe, you will know that some of our American issues are related to lack of affordable child care help and public assistance for new parents. However, the way America handles maternity leave, daycare and public education are topics for another essay and won’t help you when your child is pulling on your clothing to get your attention when you are just trying to finish your coffee before it gets cold. Whew!

Children do need to learn expectations, family and home ground rules, and  how to be respectful and appropriate. This requires Face-To-Face Interactions with adults to learn how to do and be. For instance if a child is throwing books off of a shelf, this is a perfect time for an adult to demonstrate how to put them back in place – and that activity is fun, too. Instruction has to be firm but with love. Children who are given only love without expectations and limits become the whining, obnoxious little people who embarrass and harass adults. Spending time to teach and practice skills with children when they are young sets the stage for thoughtful, peaceful responses to life’s stressful moments.

Cooking teaches patience!

Children can be taught to have patience and the key is that it takes Parental Time to Teach and for the children, Time To Practice. And children need to understand what it means to “wait”. You have plenty of daily examples, for instance, “when I am talking on the telephone or to someone else” or “when we are at a doctor’s office”, or “when we are waiting for a train”. Parents have to be present in these moments in time to teach the concept of waiting. Parents can give examples of what they do while waiting, hum or sing a song, read or look at magazine, observe your surroundings and play I Spy, count objects, etc. And parents will have to practice these techniques with their children until they can do it alone – the key is that they can do it alone.

One of the observations that I and other Montessori educators make is that often adults underestimate the potential of young children. If adults expect children to operate at the top of their intelligence, respect possibilities and plan and allow for more time, many skills are attainable. Some of adult pitfalls to avoid include: nagging, rushing and sarcasm. None of these tactics work with young children. Modeling patience, using reflective listening, timers, teaching coping skills and doing activities that require patience with your child are golden. Cooking together is a perfect example of an activity that requires being organized, following directions and waiting. Try baking a cake together!

Bake a Cake!

Bake a Cake!

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Homework for Young Children

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This essay won’t be about the school work children bring home from school, instead it will focus on the kind of work children can do at home.

Doing chores is a tradition in many families. The benefits include learning about responsibility, being independent, increasing confidence, making a contribution, the feeling of adding value to your family. Chores also give children the message that these tasks need to be completed for the household to run smoothly. Young children naturally want to be a part of the family and help.

Sometimes we wait too long to introduce them because we don’t think children are ready.What are age appropriate chores for young children?  As Infant and Toddler Guru, Dr. Virginia Varga told me, “Toddlers can do anything you prepare them for”. Young children learn by doing! There are many wonderful ways children can help. Look at this graph for ideas when choosing chores for young children.

Age appropriate chores

Age appropriate chores

A relaxed approach is best so chores are not a struggle. Role modeling the activity will be necessary to get started. And perhaps a “I’ll do one and you do one” turn taking activity will help facilitate rhythm of the work.

Chores were a part of my life as a young child with 4 siblings. I remember my first chore was to clean the leaves of all of our houseplants. Later, I folded clothes, dried the pots and pans (my oldest sister always washed the dishes), cleaned the bathroom and my bedroom. My favorite thing to do was help my mother with the cooking. My husband grew up on a farm in Texas. He was always helping his dad with chores that included fixing and making things out of those items you don’t throw away cause you may need them some day. As a teenager, he could rebuild engines of all types of vehicles, take care of the livestock, prepare the fields on a tractor, repair fences, etc. He has often remarked that he enjoyed tinkering with machines with his father.

Practical Life in a Montessori Classroom

In our Montessori classrooms, children take care of their own belongings and classroom materials. They water the plants, take care of classroom pets, straighten the books in the library, bus their table after lunch and snack and sweep and mop the floor after spills, sort and fold towels, put away dishes. Many of these activities are located in the the Practical Life area of the classroom. All of these activities translate into work at home.

Perfection will not happen every time or even consistently. Encouragement for effort and completion of a task goes a long way to help children repeat the task. Job charts can work well as a reminder. Money should not be attached to chores. Money does not mean that much for young children and can be a de-motivator as the child ages. For teenagers, allowances can be earned for going above and beyond the established chores.

Siblings helping with laundry.

Siblings helping with laundry.

Children who do chores learn responsibility and learn important life skills that will help them throughout their lives. It is not too late to start a plan now!

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Alone in the Big City: Making Friends With Other Parents

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Recently, we hosted a breakfast for our new families who will join our community in the 2017-18 School Year. Everyone had a name tag with the word: “Infant, Toddler or Early Childhood” on it. There were other name tags that said, “Current Parent”. Parents carefully wrote their name above the label that identified them by the group their child would belong to next year.

The quiet hum in the room rose to a glorious symphony of happy voices. Most of the conversations started with a favorite topic – children. Then quickly talk moved onto what people did for work, where they lived, Central Park, where to take swimming lessons, new projects and excitement for the year ahead. We ended the event by having a live performance by three and four year old children singing two songs that included hand motions. This added treat prompted another round of conversation around the song choices, the children who had rhythm and were dancing and the lovely teachers.

We were off to a great start in helping new parents find friends within our Twin Parks Montessori School community.

Many of our new parents are in NYC without family member support. Many have moved from another country and are still learning the nuances of the English language. How do parents make friends in a big city? Making new parent friends (with kids the same age as yours) that you can laugh with, and share your deepest parenting fears with, and just click with, is not an easy task. Let us help you!

The most important thing to remember is that no matter how isolated or awkward you feel, there are other parents feeling the same way. You need play dates just as much as your children do. Here are a few easy things to do:

  • Our schools are situated near Central Park and Riverside Park. Take a walk with your child in the park.
  • Find out where the playgrounds are that are a match for your child’s age and size.
  • Bring extra toys or bubbles to play with.
  • Watch and see which children your child gravitates towards and strike up a conversation with the child’s parent.
  • Ask some questions to learn what you may have in common especially if you live close to one another.

Before you leave mention a time in the future that you can meet for a play date. Find a way to stay connected whether it is a time you plan to be in the park or share contact information.

Play dates are for parents, too.

Play dates are for parents, too.

Play dates are great and can be simple to plan. If you meet in your home, have snacks and water available. Plan an activity the children can do together and make sure the other parent understands that you would like them to stay with their child. A good play date should not last more than 2 hours or be planned during nap time. Keep a positive attitude if there are mishaps or it does not go as perfectly as you imagined.

If you joined Twin Parks Montessori Schools’ community, make a deliberate point to attend all classroom “happenings” and parent education events at the school.

In September, teachers plan and host a Classroom Orientation. This happens before school starts. This is an opportunity to meet the parents of children in your child’s classroom. It is also a time when teachers share the intricacies of how the classroom functions. This event is not to be missed!

A few weeks later the teachers host parents for Curriculum Night – another event to reserve time for. Teachers go into depth about Montessori curriculum, materials and observation of the children. Teachers spend a lot of time preparing for both of this beginning of the year opportunities for you to get to know them and other parents in the classroom. Honor the teachers by attending these events when possible.

There are many additional classroom activities and socials throughout the year. Our Parents’ Voice also plans for families to get together informally outside of school hours. You know you already have things in common with the parents in your classroom because you chose the same school and educational method for your children.

The people you meet at your child’s preschool will become friends for the rest of your life. No matter where you move or school your child attends later. You will bond with fellow parents, share triumphs and disappointments, and learn and grow as parents together.

Dads have fun on play dates, too!

Dads have fun on play dates, too!

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Hope and Possibility

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Montessori education has come into its own as an educational method for life. Teachers can be trained to educate people from infancy through high school. The American Montessori society is working on a certification for Montessori and special needs programs. The International Montessori Congress, to be held in Prague from July 27 to 30, 2017, is hosting The First Montessori Aging and Dementia Symposium. This will be the first conference on how to use Montessori principles in aged care and with people facing dementia. Montessori education truly is for life.

Last year a Montessori educator, Annie Daly, started a volunteer program called Montessori Worldwide. This group works directly with Achilles Kids, a subset of Achilles International. Achilles is an organization that provides physical activity for adults, teens, veterans and children with disabilities. We have a New York City chapter that holds walking and running work outs for disabled athletes and guides that enables a strong community of friendship and support among members and volunteers. Achilles Kids provides training, racing opportunities and an in-school program for children with disabilities. While the organization is primarily focused on running, that is simply one tool to accomplish the main mission: to bring hope, inspiration, and the joys of achievement to all.

2016 Hope and Possibility Race in Central Park.

2016 Hope and Possibility Race in Central Park.

 

I helped at the Montessori Worldwide volunteer table last June and plan to do so again for the Hope and Possibility Race on June 25, 2017 at 9:00 AM.  We had several people from Twin Parks Montessori Schools participate in the race.

Montessori Worldwide table.

Montessori Worldwide table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Tuesday evening in May, I had the opportunity to observe the gathering of the Achilles NYC chapter athletes and volunteers. The NYC chapter meets every Tuesday from 6-7:00 PM at the 90th Street and 5th Avenue entrance to Central Park. There were many athletes and volunteers present. The chapter organizer paired up runners and walkers. Many of the athletes arrived early, waited, and patiently watched for the group to trickle in. It was the most amazing demonstration of people making a difference in another person’s life that I have ever witnessed. The benefits were evident for all.

Achilles Work Out Group in Central Park

Achilles Work Out Group in Central Park

Hope and possibility is what is needed for everyone. When joy can be shared with people with challenges, hope and possibility are amplified. For readers looking for a volunteer opportunity or a way to join something larger than your current sphere, please consider volunteering. If that commitment is too much, plan on attending the Hope and Possibility race on June 25th and cheer for the participants!

Guides and Athletes paired up and walking in the park.

Guides and Athletes paired up and walking in the park.

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Montessori Management For Your Home

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Parents often ask, how do teachers do it? How do they manage 12 toddlers or 20 early childhood students at the same time? Where is the magic? Will I ever be able to do it too?

I will share a few time and experience-tested techniques that Montessori teachers incorporate in the classroom that you can try at home.

1. Ground rules

Montessori teachers establish reasonable ground rules based on respect that helps the community work together. Teachers respect each individual child. Children are taught to respect the teachers, the work materials, the environment and one another. Teachers accomplish this by stating the ground rules in a positive voice and modeling the expected behaviors themselves. For example, “We use inside voices” or “We use walking feet”. As children age and can communicate verbally, it is very powerful to include them in the creation of classroom rules. At home, you can do the same. An example of a positive ground rule at home would be, “We eat dinner together sitting at the table”.

2.  Consistent scheduling

Young children thrive in an environment that is predictable. Routines and expectations help children self-regulate. Having a consistent schedule enables children to have the beginning knowledge of telling time. Consistency is important in the home during those times when all family members are getting ready for the day and on their way to school or work. Bedtime routines are also crucial for evenings to flow smoothly. We all need more sleep. Starting with an ideal bedtime of 7:00 or 7:30 and working backwards to include reading together, self-care bathing and brushing teeth, free play time and dinner should help you establish your nighttime routine – and still allow for some alone time with partners.

Reading before sleep can be a family activity.

Reading before sleep can be a great family activity.

3.  Giving choices

There is a basic tenet of Montessori, “freedom within limits”. What this means is that after the teacher carefully prepare the classroom with appropriate choices of activities, children can choose what they would like to start with and do next. Making choices leads to independence and self-reliance – skills that benefit an individual throughout life.  At home a choice maybe, “Would you like cereal or eggs for breakfast?” or “Choose two books for bedtime” or “Do you want to wear this outfit or this one tomorrow?” Just as in the classroom, all of the choices at home need to be appropriate. For instance, summer clothes and flip-flops are not available to wear in the winter.

Children are more likely to try new food if they help prepare it.

Children are more likely to try new food if they help with food preparations.

4.  Allowing mistakes to lead to learning

Mistakes and accidents happen daily as children learn how to maneuver their bodies in space and their gross and fine motor skills are developing. We prepare the classrooms with all of the child-size tools necessary for cleaning up dry and wet spills, toileting mishaps, and material repairs. Children who are taught natural consequences and ownership for mistakes are more likely to find a solution the next time all by themselves. Montessori teachers do not hover or “fix” everything for the toddler who is showing signs of frustration over a task. Children are given time to try a variety of solutions to a problem which leads to perseverance and grit. Children are also given the words to use to ask for adult help, “Help, please”.

Every child can learn to clean up spills.

5.  Consistent response

Perhaps the most common error a parent makes is giving in under pressure. Children are excellent interpreters of body language and what behavior parents will respond to immediately or eventually. Parenting partners must present a united front for managing behaviors. It is advisable to have “what if” conversations before the challenging behavior happens.

Are there exceptions? Of course, there are exceptions to all of the points in this essay. Families go on vacation, have relatives visit, have sickness in home, or a new baby. The goal for all of these events is to remain consistent as possible. Parenting is a life-long task and one willingly and anxiously awaited. The skills that your children learn directly from your role modeling, and your household management will last a life time and influence the adults – and parents they will become.

Family projects are one example of time well-spent.

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When Dreams are Encouraged

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about the messages your children will hear that will encourage them to succeed. I predicted that the message will be “people with grit make it in the world.” Grit as I define it means courage and resolve as a strength of character.

As a child, what did you dream of becoming when you were an adult? For a time, I wanted to ride a horse and have a pet monkey just like Pippi Longstocking. I also played school a lot with my sister’s dolls. Then I vividly remember wanting to be a detective and figure out mysteries. I did work as an archeologist in the US and Central America for about 15 years – which  somewhat fulfilled my dream to be a detective. My graduate education and second career allowed me to be the teacher I played at being as a child. Although I didn’t get a horse and monkey, I do feel that my dreams came true.

What do your children dream of becoming when they are adults?

How are they encouraged? Some of the ways that children can be encouraged is to talk about their ambitions and how to get there. If a child wants to be President of the United States, encourage them to work out how they could do that. Talk about what it takes to be president. Challenge them by encouraging academic risks, and celebrate successes no matter how small.

Giving children opportunities to see new things, and meet new people is important for developing social skills for life. Many families do not have the means to travel the world. Your children can see the world reflected in the books they read. Reading to your children, with your children, and role modeling reading is the most important thing besides love that parents can do for children.

Many children choose fantasy or animated characters to focus on during their play. A much healthier dose of exposure to real-life heroes and learning about their lives is a gift and a positive way to focus ambitions. What about doctors, authors, firefighters, pilots, veterans, and teachers? Encourage your child to learn more about the people they come in contact with on a daily basis. Children can be heroes, too!

The dreams of Elon Musk

This morning, I was watching a TED talk conversation with a remarkable man, Elon Musk. Elon was an avid reader. He was also bullied throughout his childhood in Pretoria, South Africa. He has since become an American citizen. At age 10 he was interested in computing and by 12 years taught himself computer programming. He created a BASIC-based video game called Blaster and sold it to a magazine called PC and Office Technology.

Today, Musk has a long line of companies from Zip2, PayPal, SpaceX, Tesla, Hyperloop, OpenAl and The Boring Company that he has been involved with. Not to mention his co-founding of Neuralink, a company to integrate the human brain with artificial intelligence. Musk’s dreams included building electric cars, electric trucks and an underground tunnel that will allow skates to transport cars under the freeways around Los Angeles in a fraction of the time that people sit in traffic today. I watched the following video before reading more about Musk’s background. He is definitely a person who has worked hard to follow his ambitions, ideas and dreams.

 

I am also reading the series The Expanse, written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck under the pen name of James S. A. Corey. The Expanse is currently a Syfy television series. I don’t read a lot of science fiction, however, when my son recommended it and I found that they are well-written I was hooked. In this series, there are people living on Mars. The connection to the rest of this essay is that Elon Musk has ideas about people living on Mars. Maybe not in my lifetime, but maybe in your children’s lifetime. . . . add astronaut to your list of real life heroes!

 

 

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Kathy’s Insights