Monday, September 17, 2012

Grades and Caleb

Caleb is in 6th grade now, which means he is getting real grades for the first time.  After a few weeks of school, we're starting to see some results coming in, and overall we are very proud of him that he has an A or B in every class.  The only blemish was some math assignment where he got a 45.  Tonight I was driving him to his tutor and we were talking about it.

He said, "Yea I got that 45.  But I lost 5 points for turning it in late.". 

"I think that's your only assignment where you have something other than an A or B.   That's really good Caleb," I said.  Caleb then began recounting all his assignments, which it appears he has memorized.  "I got an A, an A, an A, an A, an A, an A, an A, a B, a B, a B, a B...".  

"Wow!  You remember all your grades," thinking he's got a plan.  "Are you trying to get all A's?" I asked.  Not one to be tied to a commitment he might be tracked on, Caleb shot back, "Oh no... I'm not trying to do anything!"  

Sunday, June 10, 2012

(I Really Hope that My) Guys Read

Last summer I had some success with reading incentives for my kids, despite the group think on the Internet that says you shouldn't reward kids for reading.  (Those articles written, of course, by people whose kids already love to read voluntarily).  As for me, I'd rather reward them for reading than anything else they are likely to spend time on this summer.  So I set out this summer to find an incentive program that would be easy to manage and fun to do for boys.

I didn't find any canned programs, or apps, for that matter, that would help.  But I did find some good sites with resources encouraging kids, and boys in particular, to read.  One is, and I even went as far as to buy a T-Shirt from them.  Another is, which is an endeavor associated with book writing machine James Patterson, who also has several books series aimed at middle school students and teens.

I decided to roll my own incentive program, complete with 20 levels (from Barney to Avengers) and two Tiers, based on ability.  Tier 1 is for my younger boys, and Tier 2 for my teenager.  There is a financial incentive associated with each level that escalates the further you go.  So you may only get $1 for "clearing" the Barney Level, but $6 for clearing the Wolfpack level.  So if you are cranking out books come late July, you will have earned some good spending money - and hopefully read some great books!  We are also planning to incorporate sleepover privileges and some gaming privileges with clearing certain levels.  There are some other kids in the 'hood who are also going to join in.  Results will be tracked on another good reading resource site

Anyone is welcome to borrow and modify the table below, which I am providing with the hopes that other parents will get their guys (and girls) to read, if they are not already.

Pages of words (cumulative)

Incentive Level
Tier 1
Tier 2
Barney Level
Bob the Builder Level
Lego Star Wars Level
Panther Level
Falcon Level
Wolfpack Level
Eric Staal Level
Philip Rivers Level
John Cena Level
George Washington Level
Ronald Reagan Level
Columbus Level
Thomas Edison Level
Mozart Level
Copernicus Level
Steve Jobs Level
Albert Einstein Level
Neil Peart Level
Isaac Newton Level
Avengers Level

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Luke has Hat Trick in Win Against Defending Champions and Former Team

Luke had a soccer game yesterday at 5pm against his former team, The Revolution, and 2-time consecutive champion (they won once with him, and once after he changed teams).  It was tied at 0-0 in the 3rd period, and one of our kids finally scored.  Then moments later, Luke broke away and scored... Then again... The coach left him it at mid-center (his favorite position)... then he scored again.    Three goals against his undefeated former team.  It was a great game for him, and we won 4-2!!   

He has such great athletic instincts.  He's just a natural at whatever sport he tries.  I have him signed up for Wolfpack Boys Soccer camp this summer for 1 week.  It's a day camp at NC State taught by State coaches and players.  I hope that he will enjoy it, and will want to stick with soccer.  He says he doesn't really like it, but he's so fickle that that changes from month to month.  I'm sure he liked it yesterday!  I really think that if he were serious about it, that he could get a scholarship.  Right now, it's just fun.

Here's a picture I took LAST week...  (we won that one 2-0)...   I love this picture because Luke's eyes are looking ahead to where he's going with the ball...  towards the goal!

Not sure where he got his soccer skills... surely not from his parents!!

Monday, February 6, 2012

My First Junior Achievement Program Completed... It was a BLAST!

Last week, I wrapped up my first ever JA experience, where I spent 5 sessions in January delivering the Our City program to Mrs. Dubin's 3rd graders at Green Hope Elementary School in Cary, NC.  It was a BLAST!

Being that I've always had a passion for teaching and wanted to give back to some local schools in some way, I had been interested in JA since the intro breakfast I attended in 2011.  But when I attended an orientation session in November, and saw the quality of materials available for the program, my motivation and excitement kicked into a higher gear!  I wanted to get started!

The Our City program helps teach elementary school kids about how a city is created and operates.  Students learn basics about zones, construction concepts, opening a restaurant, publishing a newspaper, and how a bank operates.  The materials are all packaged in a "briefcase" and professionally designed and organized with a volunteer guide that tells exactly what to do in each session.  There are plenty of hands-on activities and the guide gives some latitude for the volunteer to bring his or her own experiences into the discussion.  The importance of education, study, and hard work are reinforced throughout the delivery of the program.

There is a colorful city map that is used for all of the sessions.  The map is divided into zones and we discuss why we have zones, and what the role of a city planner is.

Students build buildings using cutouts which form 3D figures, and also do some basic construction measurements and talk about the importance of quality in construction.

The restaurant session was my favorite, as I got out the dry-erase marker and conducted a pretty interactive discussion on different aspects of being an entrepreneur and restaurant owner.  The funniest moment came when the students had to name their restaurants.  One group wanted to have an Italian style restaurant like Maggiano's which also offered massages.  The ring leader of that group proclaimed it would be called Massagiano's!!  (By the way, that particular ring leader was my son Luke).  Other richly diverse teams compromised and decided to have mixed-culture menus, such as "Chinese-Mexican".  It was enlightening to see how well they worked together.  We were all pretty hungry after this session was over!

The newspaper journalism session was fun too.  Students crafted outlines to their own made-up stories, some of which included Mrs. Dubin opening her own restaurant, or other students becoming sports champions!

The banking session involved the students dividing into 2 groups - customers and workers - and demonstrating capitalism in action.  You earn money... you put it in the bank...  the bank stewards your money... you buy stuff using a variety of methods like checks and ATM cards, and at the end of the week, you reconcile your expenses.  Basic stuff, but we can all learn a lot by twenty 3rd graders standing up, walking around, and conducting business in a "city" called a classroom.

I prepared about 60-90 minutes for each session, and that was mainly because each was my first one.  I took notes and made highlights in the volunteer guide, and used that more as a general outline than a script.  The kit is truly "turn-key" and ready to use out the box.  Mrs. Dubin was helpful in making connections to what they were teaching in class, and rightfully so.  The JA programs are intentionally mapped to grade level subjects in the Department of Education's subject taxonomy.  Mrs. Dubin also helped keep the kids in order and helping with many of the activities.  She has a great class, and I will surely miss them!

It was truly a pleasure serving these kids.  I knew most of the names by the 3rd session, but the JA tent cards helped where my memory failed me.  As I got to know the students, I encouraged them more and more - helping the shy ones get engaged, helping the outgoing ones learn about humility, and helping everyone to act professionally, courteously, and speak up confidently when talking.  There's certainly more to this than just learning about "our city".

Before this session was complete, I had already booked my next Our City gig, to be done with some 5th graders later this spring.  I can't wait.  I encourage anyone with a passion for service to kids and our educational system to consider making an investment in Junior Achievement.  You'll have a blast, too!!

To volunteer for Junior Achievement, please contact your corporate volunteer coordinator, or if you are in the Triangle area, the JA of Eastern NC office.