What is the perfect education?

From a Head of School in England with 36 years in education.

Opher's World

a. The Setting

Education should take place in a setting that is friendly, warm, secure, safe and beautiful. The building and rooms should be cheerful, artistically interesting and full of stimulation. The grounds should be a haven of nature.

b. Education should be fun

c. The Teachers should be warm and caring and devoted to their students.

d. The curriculum should be broad and all encompassing. It should also be fluid.

e. There should be no facts – just opportunities to explore and discover and concepts to understand.

f. There should be all manner of equipment to enable that exploration.

g. Teachers should be facilitators to assist and guide.

h. Lessons should be discussions, investigations, experiments.

I. Creativity should be at the core of everything that happens.

j. The curriculum and syllabi should be flexible to enable children to explore

k. Testing should be diagnostic.

l. Basic skills and knowledge…

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Something to Think About – The R’s of Life – #Respect in our modern world by Sally Cronin

Respect is fundamental, and the root of how we grow. Lack of respect appears to be far too common and is eating away at the culture of humanity. I am all too aware of how behaviors have far reaching effects, good and bad. But, I can make a difference and you can, too. Yesterday I went into a pizza shop and ordered a pizza. At every question I was asked, I answered, “Yes, please.” in a rather confident voice – the same voice and words I teach my preschoolers to say. Because it will make a difference to someone listening. It may take a hundred times for people and also children to “get it”, but they will. I have the good fortune to teach young children, and respect is a given part of my classroom. Lack of respect is an opportunity to teach respect. The books I choose to read aloud always have an element of respect. Milly the quilter started as a way to connect generations. Respect. New and different cultures among children are opportunities to learn about the world. Respect. I have a simple thing I do when a child displays an act of kindness that is above and beyond; I say to that child, “Kiss your heart.” The child then kisses his or her fingertips and touches them to their heart. I am showing respect and kindness. And the other children watching? Boy, do they get it! I am sure that we can all make a difference to this world by showing respect. Sally’s article is an important read and says it well. Thank you, Sally!

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

In January 2016 I began a series that I was intending to publish as a book but since it has been languishing… I have decided to re-run since it is three years since it was last posted.

The title came about as I dipped into a Thesaurus to find some words for a poem I was writing. I noticed that a great many words that reflected (see what I mean) key elements in our lives began with the letter ‘R’. In the original series there was an introduction, but I am skipping that to dive straight into what I believe is becoming extinct in many areas of our world and our own lives…..

The posts are a bit longer than the average.. so I hope you have a cup of tea handy!

The R’s of Life – Respect.

It is always so easy to criticise and I don’t want these…

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another july.

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Library Book Bears… and Bob

Book Bears is my library reading group.  These second and third graders read a book each month, and we have a discussion about the book.  We talk about everything.  Everything! Let me tell you, this group is terrific.  Everyone is different.  I sit back and watch as they talk and laugh.  The best part is that I’m included in the group.  Reading is a magnet.

In September, our first meeting of the year, everyone brings their favorite book they read over the summer.  Me, too.  I brought Bob, by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead.  Frankly, I think it’s the book of the year.  Fingers crossed for a Newbery nomination.

I picked a random page to read aloud, and I watched the children as the words went into their ears.  Oh, those words were hitting their brains.  They were wide-eyed and silent. Finally one child asked, “So who is Bob?”

I had hit the trigger to the brain.  They had no idea the trigger to the heart would come later.

Bob is the story of a girl, Livy, who travels with her family to visit her grandmother in Australia.  The problem is, Livy is eleven years old, and the last time she visited her grandmother in Australia, she was five.  She doesn’t remember much, and when she finds Bob in the closet, she certainly doesn’t remember him.

He remembers her.  And the story unfolds.  The back of the book cover reads:

  1. Counted to 987,654,321.  Six times.
  2. Built a Lego pirate ship.  Sixty-three times.  In the dark.
  3. Played chess against a Lego pirate monkey and still lost most of the time.
  4. Tried to do the hokey pokey like Livy had taught me, but there’s not much room to turn oneself around in this narrow closet without hitting the walls.
  5. Cried.  But only once.
  6. Okay, twice.  Each day.  But only for the first year.
  7. Thought of all the reasons that might explain why Livy didn’t come back for me.

The chapters alternate between Bob and Livy, in their own voices.  Each one has a story to tell, and reasons for remembering and not remembering.  The story line is gripping and real, and the writing is so well done that putting the book down is nearly impossible.

The Book Bears decided that at the end of each meeting they wanted me to read aloud Bob. And I am doing just that.  They know when it’s 4:30, time to finish and go home.  We decided together that at 4:25 I’d read Bob.  Five minutes.

Well, it hasn’t worked out that way.  By 4:20 the clock watchers get ready and start to bang the table, chanting “Bob!  Bob!  Bob!…” in the best of ways.  That is the most genuine testament to a good book!  Of course I keep reading, and those five minutes turn into fifteen or twenty, all in what feels like an instant.

Education is not filling a pail but the lighting of a fire.” -William Butler Yeats-


Posted in Book Review, books, chapter reading, children's books, Early Education, Imagination, Inspiration, reading aloud, reading aloud | Tagged , , , , , , , | 61 Comments

Reading Tricks for Kids of Any Age

Mom's Favorite Reads

As a dad of a 3-year-old whirlwind, I find myself already asking the question facing most parents: how can I make my child read more and spend less time in front of a screen?

As an author of children books and teen-friendly fantasy books, I also ask myself this question’s flipside: how can-I make my books appealing to them?

In the immortal words of Gonzo the Great, if at first you don’t succeed, fail, fail again. In my case, after many trials, failures, and retrials, I have come to two main conclusions:

First, every child is different; second, every age has different triggers, needs, and sensibilities.

Which means that encouraging children, teens, and young adults to read, is an ongoing mission rather than a one-off thing. It also means that for every age, your weapons, allies, and book-loving super powers are different.

How to make toddlers love books

It is…

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‘Gloria’ Works Wonders

Some days just aren’t the best days.  Children feel that, too.  When everything seems to fall apart, there is Gloria.  She is the quiet one, the savior.  She listens to children and gets hugged – constantly.  She lives on the couch, and she often joins us for Morning Meeting or activities.  Children read to Gloria and include her in their play.

But sometimes Gloria is just ‘there’.

And sometimes being ‘there’ makes all the difference in the world.  Because tears fall and hearts break.  Because we need love.

Gloria just has a way with children.  Maybe it’s because she’s a little different.  She always seems to understand.  Reading to Gloria – reading her very own journal – was all it took to soothe the child’s heart and dry her tears.

The weather was freezing cold and windy today.  Snow would have been better than gray skies and the remains of cold rain and mud.  As we dressed in our winter gear to go outside to play, some children were less than excited.

“Do you think it’s too cold for Gloria?”

Fifteen children suddenly became very excited.  So, we bundled her up in her Peace Quilt and took her outside.  I handed Gloria over to the children.  They scooped her up like a baby.  And they put her in the swing.

We sang songs to Gloria.  Children told me the songs she wanted to hear.  Music warms the heart.  Gloria already knows that.  Now the children know, too.


Posted in behavior, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Kindness, Love, Teaching young children, wonder | Tagged , , , , , | 42 Comments

In a Box of Crayons (Children & Art)

All in a Day's Breath

In a box of crayons, I am the orange. Who are you?

Ok, I believe that each of us can be represented by at least one crayon. I know for myself, I am definitely not a pink, or a brown, though I do like nature and the earth.

Children and art belong together, just as they need to be read to aloud, and to learn as many words as they can in fun ways that they remember.

The following story illustrates the imagination of a child when that imagination is squashed so to speak.

My mother, like a good number of other mothers in my day, put me into a summer Bible school. Now this was fine if we were church goers, but we were not, and I really did not know much about the Bible. So on one of the first days, the teacher asked us all to color pictures of Joseph and Mary that she gave us. We…

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