• Better Together

    I love to see the children beaming in their new uniforms holding those sweet little first day signs for the photos. I love the way the upper school students take pride in organizing their lockers. I love to see the teachers begin to build relationships with a whole new group of students. And I love to see new parents making connections and feeling the love of the Covenant family.  

    This year, we started a new tradition: First Chapel of the school year. It seemed fitting to begin the school year with a symbolic way to remind us of our partnership in seeking after wisdom together.

    Parents and teachers join together to raise up another generation to be disciples of Christ. We depend on one another, support one another and sharpen one another as iron sharpens iron. At Covenant Academy we believe we are better together.

    For our first day, we as an entire school, parents, teachers and students read from Proverbs Chapter 2.

    The parents led with,

    “My child,  receive my words
     And treasure my commandments within you,
     Make your ear attentive to wisdom,
     Incline your heart to understanding;
     For if you cry for discernment,
     Lift your voice for understanding;”

    Here the teachers joined in with,

    If you seek her as silver
     And search for her as for hidden treasures;
     Then you will discern the fear of the Lord
     And discover the knowledge of God.
     For the Lord gives wisdom;
     From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

    The students replied to these words with,

    He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
     He is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
     Guarding the paths of justice,
     And He preserves the way of His godly ones.”

    These words of Solomon penned so many years ago remind us that the way of learning wisdom is active, communal and inter-generational. We are better together and so blessed to be part of the community of Covenant Academy. 

  • Success is Spelled with Two C’s

    I remember the day my oldest received her first low test grade. She was so disappointed and embarrassed. Truth be told, so was I. But I shouldn't have been. The poor girl had suffered through a really rough winter of sickness and just hadn't been able to master the material. She was trying but it wasn't sinking in. That low grade helped her to understand some of the areas where she was confused. Why did we look at it as such a terrible thing to get a low grade? How had this become so important to us? Her low score was a mirror of how well she understood the material and what she needed help with. She took that test back to her teacher, asked for help to overcome and sure enough, he worked with her and she was less confused (funny how that works). She became much more self-aware and intentional about how to improve the areas of her weaknesses rather than relying on her strengths to compensate. What a difference!

    I had a change of heart, too. I realized that her success had become too important to me. I was unknowingly putting too much of an emphasis on her performance in school by my responses to her grades and expectations. I realized that cheering and clapping for her “A’s” was sending the wrong message. Why wasn't I cheering all of her best performances? It was adding unnecessary stress to her life. I asked her forgiveness for this and we both grew from the experience. She could be honest about her struggles because it was safe to talk with me about this topic. This was a great opportunity for me as a mom. I hadn't realized how I had begun to live vicariously through my daughter’s success until I was disappointed in her grade (why was it that important?). That was a turning point for us!

    He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

    How do we learn to walk humbly? I think it starts with recognizing that we are not going to be “A” students in everything: we’re human! An honest assessment of our weaknesses can be a healthy step toward getting better. My husband is a great role model for me in this area. He possesses quiet reserve and persistence that enable him to persevere in hardship. When we acknowledge our weaknesses and ask others to help us become stronger in those areas we are demonstrating that our confidence is not in our own strength: the beginnings of humility. 

    In the end, it is understanding our weaknesses, and accepting our imperfection that enables us to overcome them. In doing so, we find success. A few low scores can actually be instrumental in providing feedback and setting goals. Perhaps that is why success is spelled with two c’s?

  • Disconnected Children

    “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys” was written to warn mothers of the lonely life of cowboys. As sung by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, the warning cry is clear: this is a sad and hard life and mothers would want to prevent this loss of connection with other people if they only knew.

    “If they only knew,” I often think to myself when I see young children using smart technology in restaurants or doctor’s offices. They sure do a good job of keeping kids quiet, don’t they? More and more evidence is leading doctors and educators to believe that there is an expense to the luxury of keeping kids quiet that goes way beyond dollars and cents. Our brain is a muscle; it gets stronger when it is exercised. Like any muscle, it will atrophy if it is not challenged; comfort and ease will prevent the brain from getting stronger. If a child is not properly challenged, relational skills like imitation and eye contact will not develop. Rather than benefit from the volumes of information at one’s finger tips, young children come to believe that all of life is as easy as the swish of a finger. Learning requires imitation, focus and perseverance, none of which are required when using an iPad.

    Many children are significantly benefited by advances in technology. Children with speech and motor delays have been empowered to communicate via assistive technology. Why then does the same technology have the opposite effect on other children? Applied effort is the amount of effort applied to learning and it has a direct impact on the amount of learning accomplished. Little effort=little learning. Great effort=great learning. This is why smart technology is so tricky: it requires very little effort to have access to great storehouses of information. Do you remember when you used to have phone numbers memorized? Why bother now, right? Your smart phone can do that for you. Children develop the same mindset to facts and other information.

    Memorization is not a thing of the past; our brains do not build connections without it. Memorization is hard work, but it makes you smarter. Thankfully, our grammar school teachers have invented myriads of songs, chants and other great mnemonic devices to make the hard work of memorization fun.

    Connected to technology, disconnected to people. In my own limited experience, I have found that children who have significant amounts of daily access to iPads, iPhones and the like at a young age tend to struggle connecting with people. They struggle to make eye contact, follow directions or imitate others and often it has an impact on their classroom experience. I've also noticed that children who struggle to connect with people tend to want to connect to technology. It is very likely that these children would struggle to connect with people regardless of technology and that technology simply compounds a natural tendency. Bottom line, for some people anything that makes learning passive is a bad idea.

    Video games are designed for short attention spans so that gamers will not get bored and switch to a new obsession. That’s right; children who play video games and watch a lot of television are developing shorter attention spans. Attention spans start off very short (a few seconds for a baby) and are lengthened as children make eye contact with their mothers during feedings, imitate them during play and persevere when they encounter difficulties. If attention spans are not challenged to stretch, they will remain short and sporadic and this will impact their success in school. How do you lengthen an attention span? Start small and add perseverance.

    If learning is always easy, our ability to pay attention will not get stronger. Overuse of technology impacts children’s abilities to make eye contact, imitate and persevere. This leads to children who are disconnected, easily frustrated, and ultimately lonely. Lonely? Yes, because although technology is entertaining and keeps kids quiet, it doesn't provide the same benefits as relationships and conversations. Children who spend more time connecting with technology tend to lack the skills in how to connect with their peers. As their peers mature, they lag behind and each year the gap widens as both groups learn (or fail to learn) new skills. A disconnected child will ultimately have fewer meaningful friendships. In addition, when life gets hard (as it always does) they will not have the skills to cope. What does one need to cope? Perseverance. 

    Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up disconnected.

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