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Great book

October 24, 2010 - Jill Gosche
I've finished Rafe Esquith's book "Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire." Rafe is one of the speakers I hope to listen to and write about at the conference. If his talk is anything like his book, I'm in for an incredible experience!

The book's title comes from a neat experience he had in the classroom. (I think it's neat...I'm not sure he would call it that!) When students were working on a science experiment, one girl was on the verge of failure. He was determined she was going to succeed. He was so determined, in fact, he caught his hair on fire and barely noticed! Just think if all teachers taught that engrossed in the lesson and so determined students would succeed that they didn't realize their hair is on fire.

The end of the book has some of the most amazing pieces of advice for parents, and I think it is worth sharing. "Seven Ways Parents Can Help Their Children Beyond or Outside the Classroom" is appendix E.

First, Rafe says, many kids can't do the things adults learned in home economics or shop classes. Parents should teach their children how to cook lasagna, sew on a button, plant a seedling or change a tire. Sound advice, isn't it?

Second, Rafe says, parents of elementary school children need to spend time in the classroom. He suggests doing it every month if possible. "Bringing in home cooked brownies for a party or the school play will make your child's day." As a daughter of parents who did similar things, I can say, without a doubt, this makes a difference!

Third, parents should have a family movie night once a week on nights when there is no school the next day. "Help your child understand that learning is a full-time job and does not end at 3:00," he wrote. I agree wholeheartedly. It's important for children to learn that learning should never stop.

Fourth, iPods are great ... but not in public, according to Rafe's book. Children shouldn't be shutting out the world around them. It's so easy to get caught up in music, for example, and miss what's going on, and that's unfortunate.

Fifth, parents should steer their children away from screens. Neither parents nor children should be watching television on a school night. While this might be an extreme view and one that might be hard to follow through with, I think it brings up an interesting point. I believe life often is much more exciting than television, anyway!

Sixth, Rafe recommends children participate in the total meal experience -- preparation, eating and cleanup. He also discourages eating in front of a screen.

And last, holidays are a chance for parents to teach their children about history and tradition. He offers examples of watching an appropriate movie, reading a book together, visiting a military cemetery or placing flowers on graves on Veterans Day. This idea really strikes home for me. I love attending Memorial Day ceremonies; while they are sad reminders of the cost of war, it's easy to feel so proud of our country. Having family members who are veterans has instilled in me a deep appreciation for veterans' sacrifices. I am appreciative of my family for helping me understand the importance of such holidays.


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