Tag Archives: education

Online Learning: A Dual Perspective

As an online educator, I have seen the power of online learning from the perspective of a teacher.  I have seen online education be a vehicle for bright students to move quickly in through concepts that they have mastered so that they can go more deeply into concepts that interest them.  I have seen online education be a vehicle to allow students who are involved in rigorous competitive activities such as gymnastics, snowboarding, or horse jockeying stay in school while competing nationally and globally. I have seen online education allow students with challenges meet their goals of obtaining their high school diploma.

Online learning is powerful.

I was reminded again last night about the power of online learning for my own children.  As they sat in the live session with their teacher from New Zealand, my heart was so happy.  My children have used online learning off and on for the past six years as needs have come up with scheduling or class offerings (mostly math).  Our son spent a year and half as a full-time online student before he returned to a seat-based school due to the extra-curricular options available to him and his desire to have daily in person interactions with other kids his age.

Online learning can be full-time or part-time.

Often when people hear of online schools, they only imagine the full-time students who work from home in their pajamas.  (An aside: not all full-time students work from home in their pajamas, but it is a nice benefit – as my son.)  However, many students enrolled in a seat-based school take online classes as part of their educational experience. 

Reasons for this include the following:
    • Scheduling issues
    • Limited course offerings at the seat based school for a variety of reasons (funding!)
    • A desire to expand on the high school experience through electives
    • A desire to pursue outside activities

    By the way – all students in Minnesota are eligible for part-time online classes.  The school where they attend can reduce their course load by the number of courses they take online. They law states that students can take up to 50% of their courses online, and their enrolling school can sign a waiver to allow them to take more.  Click here for more information on this in Minnesota.

    The challenge for full-time online students is in person interaction.

    As part of my job as dean of students at an online school, I go to court when students (who stayed in their pajamas but never logged in and did any work) have had attendance issues.  (An aside: In Minnesota, students who attend the publically funded online schools remain subject to attendance and truancy laws.)  I obviously cannot share the details of the hearing because of privacy laws.  However – after the hearing – I had a conversation with the county attorney who asked about how online schools overcome the challenge of person-to-person interactions.

    It is a challenge!  However, in the same way that homeschoolers have stated that they can overcome the challenge, students in online learning can.  It takes dedication on the part of parents to help coordinate these efforts, and many online schools encourage it through field trips and giving course credit for service learning (volunteering).  While our son spent his time as a full-time online student, he volunteered with his elementary teacher and helped younger students with reading.  It was a great experience for him!

    Online learning needs to be embraced.

    Although challenges exist, these challenges can be overcome through planning by parents and online programs.  Students will continue to seek online learning as a way to challenge them and support them through their K-12 experience.  It opens doors that the traditional model of school cannot, but traditional models are learning and becoming more flexible.  As online schools become more accountable by state departments for student attendance and testing, they will continue to gain more credibility.  The workload is not lighter, and it is not an easy way to do school.  In fact, most attendance policies require that students do more than simply log on – they need to make progress.  This adds a layer of rigor which is needed to maintain credibility.

    What have readers heard or experienced in terms of online learning?  Have others had children take online classes? If so, what is your impression of the programs?

    ps: Tomorrow will be Day 1 for a weekly webinar series for parents of online learners at my school. I am so excited.  If you want to ever watch one of these, let me know.


    Other posts about online learning from this author:

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    Filed under Education, Parenting

    Just Go to School!

    Today is day seven of the 2012-2013 school year, and I am in awe of the number of students who are not back in school yet.  My team of five people has spent the past seven days calling, emailing, and texting students, their parents, their grandparents, and their resident school districts because they have not re-enrolled with us and because they have not enrolled anywhere else.

    Maybe we should get rid of public education?

    I am starting to wonder if free public education is a good idea any more.  Perhaps parents and children would take education more seriously if they had to pay for it.  I already take education pretty seriously for my own children, but I can guarantee you that I would take it even more seriously if I have to pay $7K or more per child in order for them to attend.

    We (as a school) spend thousands of dollars every year to track attendance.

    We could save a great deal of money if education was not compulsory. Of course, I would be out of a job, but I am pretty sure that I could find another one.  Seriously, though, think about it: for my school of 1,200+ students, there are four people in addition to me who are dedicated to tracking attendance and encouraging (bribing, threatening – you choose the word) students to do well.  If we just stopped doing that, we would save the cost of the employees, the supplies, the office materials, and all that mileage that pays for me to drive around the state of Minnesota.

    So – why do we require students to attend school?

    We require students to attend school because it is in our nation’s best interest to have an educated population.  We need to keep people out of prisons and to keep them working. The best way to ensure that students stay out of prisons in the future and in jobs in the future is to educate them.  Ramsey County – and many other counties – in Minnesota believes this so strongly that they adjudicate students until the age of 19. Some judges have been known to get in the way of a student dropping out of school.

    Education is important, so kids should go to school.  And parents should make sure that their kids go to school

    Enough said.

    ps: I did not go into the fact that there are people around the world who would LOVE to have the free public education that we have (not to mention transportation to school!), but let’s face it – that argument is kind of like getting your kids to eat peas by telling them that people are starving in other parts of the world.  It doesn’t work well in that scenario, and I doubt that it would work well in this one.


    Filed under Education, Parenting

    Supporting Sparks with Gifts

    According to Search Institute, sparks “are the interests that inspire, the activities that energize. Sparks are the special abilities uniquely yours to tend, to grow, to share with the world.”  Everyone has a spark.  Many of us have forgotten what our spark was or have not thought about it for a while.  But pursing our sparks could mean the difference between merely surviving rather than thriving. The Search Institute asserts that youth need to find and pursue their sparks in order to survive. If we would all be thriving, our world might be a better place for all of us.

    In our society, we are more concerned about what will allow kids to make it in life than what will help them thrive in their lives.

    While I was on my trip out east a month ago, I spent a day in the village of Rockport and enjoyed poking my head into many a shop.  One of the shops I ventured into was called The Wishing Well – a shop filled with products by a variety of artists including paintings, quilts, and ceramics.  The shop also had some supplies to help young people pursue their interests in these areas.


    Pictured above is a colored pencil set in a woolen sock puppet case.  What a great idea!  If I had a young child who had shown an interest in are, I would have considered buying this as a gift for him or her in order to support the interest in art.

    Sparks may not be what career a child pursues in order to pay the bills.  In fact, my own Spark – writing blogs – will probably never pay the bills.  But Sparks enrich our lives, allow us to thrive, and take us to where we long to be.  We need to support the young people in our lives as they discover their Sparks, enrich their lives with their Sparks, and learn more about their Sparks.

    As adults, we should care about the future of all youth.  This could mean that we have to buy some art supplies, pay for soccer camp, or drive them all around town.  We might need to help them with research, connect them with a mentor, or give of our time

    How can we support a young person’s passion today?  I would love to hear stories from readers about how someone supported them in their younger years to pursue their Sparks.  Please, please – share in the comment section!

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    Filed under Education, Parenting, Travel

    Common Sense (Assets) Rocks!

    Having been a parent and an educator for over 15 years, I have seen how concepts cycle around.  What was a hard and fast rule yesterday may be seen as merely a fad today.  It can be hard to keep up, and technology truly only makes it worse as we have access to oodles of websites with contradictory information.

    What seems to make the most sense – what should be common sense – probably should be the approach that one pursues in both the parenting and education arenas.  If it makes sense, it probably does so for a reason!

    And for that reason, I have been drawn to Search Institute’s asset approach for years thanks to a colleague/supervisor who introduced me to them while I completed my guidance counseling internship.  And for that reason, I have been drawn to their parenting initiative – ParentFurther – recently.

    Last week, I had the opportunity to attend three days of training hosted by the Search Institute, and two of the days focused on building assets in school communities.

    Side note: any non-educator parent or community member could have attended the school community training and taken away as much as the educators did. This is one of the nuggets of the concept; it crosses all barriers and asks us all to participate in creating a more healthy and more positive future for all children.

    What are these development assets?1

    1. 40 positive experiences and qualities in 8 categories focusing on external structures, relationships, and activities as well as internal values, skills, and beliefs.
    2. Common wisdom about the kinds of positive experiences and characteristics that young people need and deserve.
    3. Positive behaviors and attitudes which influence achievement and help protect young people from many different problem behaviors.
    4. Common elements across gender, ethnic heritage, economic situation, or geographic location.

    According to Search Institute’s research (which has been verified and replicated by outside sources), the more assets that a child has in their toolkit the more likely to exhibit  succeed in school (get mostly As on report card) and the less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors.  Why are we not all jazzed about this?????

    Seriously!  As parents, community members, and educators, we spend hours and hours trying to determine solutions to really big problems.  But Search Institute already has the answer – promote the developmental assets!  It sounds too simple, right?  And it is.  Many of us already do these things, but we might not realize that we could do them more or that we could expand our sphere of influence by doing them with kids in our neighborhoods or in the store.

    The sad thing: on average, young people report having 20.1 assets.2  I put together the chart below from information in “The Asset Approach.”  Across the bottom is the number of assets that youth reported having while vertical numbers show the percentage of youth who reported those numbers.


    Wouldn’t it be great if that looked like the graph below instead????


    While this might be a lofty dream, we all can play a part…and more students can have more assets when we all focus on our youth.  They are our future!

    To support us in all of this, Search Institute has trainings, they train trainers, they provide surveys (I want my kids to take these…), and they have a vast library of books to order.  In addition to all of the things that cost money, they have oodles of free stuff online at both Search-Institute.org and ParentFurther.com – who also provides a monthly (free) webinar (third Wednesday of each month) about current issues.

    I love free stuff!!  And the resources are great.  As I have snooped around on the websites, I have found the list of the assets, suggestions about how to encourage student and build the assets, and ways that the assets help students.

    Great nugget: This is not another program; this is an approach.  Any already established school, youth program, church, family, or neighbor could adopt this way of thinking without re-creating a program.  What it does require is that people become more intentional. And it may require some people to do things that they had not thought to do.

    Encouraging youth should be on all of our “to do” lists each day.  If we do not know how, we can go to the website and get some ideas.  One of my favorite stories from the training last week was about an elderly woman who decided that she would smile at youth as she passed them on the street or in the store.  That was her one thing!

    Can you smile?  Then you can encourage…who will I smile at today?



    1. These definitions are taken from a publication titled “The Asset Approach” and are used in accordance with their copyright.  More information can be found at the website: search-institute.org.

    2.  From page 4 of “The Asset Approach.”

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    Filed under Education, faith, Parenting, Relationships

    To Dream the Impossible Dream…

    Yesterday was July 4 – Independence Day for those of us in the United States whose country started as a dream and became a reality.  I cannot imagine what it was like for many of ancestors to board boats from their countries of origin and set out for what they hoped was better than what they left behind.

    It probably seemed impossible.  Yet – because they dreamed it – we have a country now where freedoms exist like they do nowhere else.  They dreamed an impossible dream, and yesterday we remembered that. And I am thankful.

    IMG-20120701-00557On Sunday, my family attended a production of Man of La Mancha at the St Croix Festival Theatre. We know the man who played the lead – Don Quixote – and the musical is one of my favorites.  The show is actually a show within a show.  The story set in reality takes place during the Spanish Inquisition.  Miguel Cervantes – author of the book Don Quixote de la Mancha – is in jail awaiting his trial for crimes against the Catholic Church.  While waiting, he pulls the other inmates into the musical telling of Don Quixote who believes himself to be a knight fighting giants (windmills) and wooing the lady Dulcinea (a prostitute named Aldonza).

    When he describes his quest, Quixote sings a moving song that brings tears to my eyes pretty much every time I see the production (or even hear it on my car stereo…).  You can watch a performance by the original Broadway performer by clicking here.

    The lyrics (taken from the Reel Classics website) are amazing:

    To dream the impossible dream
    To fight the unbeatable foe
    To bear with unbearable sorrow
    To run where the brave dare not go

    To right the unrightable wrong
    To love pure and chaste from afar
    To try when your arms are too weary
    To reach the unreachable star

    This is my quest
    To follow that star
    No matter how hopeless
    No matter how far

    To fight for the right
    Without question or pause
    To be willing to march into Hell
    For a heavenly cause

    And I know if I’ll only be true
    To this glorious quest
    That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
    When I’m laid to my rest

    And the world will be better for this
    That one man, scorned and covered with scars
    Still strove with his last ounce of courage
    To reach the unreachable star

    Every time I hear this song, I am moved.  But, as I watched the performance on Sunday – only days after attending the Search Institute’s training about one of their Big Ideas called Sparks, I realized that Don Quixote is inspiring because he has found his spark!

    According to Search Institute’s website, “Sparks are the interests that inspire, the activities that energize. Sparks are the special abilities uniquely yours to tend, to grow, to share with the world.”

    Don Quixote’s spark is to fight for the ability see the world in the most positive light possible…he wants to dream the impossible dream and bring others along in what other characters in the musical see as madness.  But for Quixote, the dream is not madness – it is what gives him life.  It is what allows him to thrive.  And when the spark is put out, Quixote nearly dies.

    Search Institute has a cool formula that shows how a young person’s spark helps them to thrive:


    +  3 champions (adults who support the spark/the young person) 

    +  opportunity

    = thriving

    Over 200 years ago, 13 colonies and the Committee of Five had a dream that seemed impossible, but it came true. We are evidence of that today. Imagine what would be different if that spark had been put out. Imagine what would be different if they had chosen not to follow that quest and do the impossible.

    What impossible dream does a young person in your life have? What spark does that young person have and how can you or someone else help it along?


    Filed under Education, Music, Parenting, Relationships

    Lord, Be With Them

    Graduation season in Minnesota seems to be nearing its end.  While the graduation open houses will continue through to the end of this month, most ceremonies have occurred.  As the graduates go on to their next steps, hope and dreams of all who have raised them are high.  However high our dreams are for them, their futures are out of our hands.  Although we can do our best to create networking moments, the truly best thing we can do for them is to pray earnestly.

    Lord, be with them…

    Last night I attended a gathering for a bride-to-be.  She and her groom-to-be are lovely and will likely have a lovely life together.  However, we all know that life has its own path, and sometimes that path is bumpy.  We cannot protect each other from the bumps, but we can be with each other on those bumps – providing encouragement along the way.  At one point during the evening, those gathered surrounded the bride-to-be and lifted her up in prayer.  The common thread of the prayers earnestly asked for the same thing.

    Lord, be with them…

    My daughter left this morning for day one of an occupational therapy internship with a program that provides services to those with special needs.  She has to drive a new route, will meet new people, and will have new experiences.  As her mom, I have created her experiences up to this point.  Though I had a hand in finding this one, she has done the grunt work and has made this a reality.  Today is a new day in my life as mom – one of the many to come – where I let the kids go off to jobs of their choices doing tasks that they choose.  And I am left at home doing the the only thing I can – praying.

    Lord, be with them….

    Though the situations are each different and point to situations out of our control, the principal remains the same.  And as I write this, I am being reminded that prayer is not only for others but can also be for me – by others as well as by me.

    As I look ahead to the rest of Friday, filled with fun as well as unknowns, I whisper a silent request to the One who hears and responds.

    Lord, be with me…

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    Filed under Education, faith, Parenting

    Spotlight: A Proud Mama Moment

    Walking up to the Orpheum Theatre on Monday night, I noticed that my heart started to pump with excitement when I saw on the marquee that the show was sold out!


    How exciting to know that my daughter would be on the stage of a show that was sold out!

    I need to step back…

    The Spotlight Showcase is an event put on by the Hennepin Theatre Trust as part of their education and community engagement arm.  (Side note: it would be so fun to work for them!!!)  It highlights excellence in Minnesota high school musical theatre, and students from 56 schools – metro area schools as well as schools from as far away as Bemidji – participated in this program this year.  Next year, the list of participating schools will grow, and we were told at the event that next year there will be two showcase nights.

    Judges anonymously attend productions throughout the year and evaluate the productions on many levels.  There are several awards that Spotlight judges give to schools ranging from dance performance to community involvement.  Schools whose productions receive an outstanding overall production award send their entire cast to perform a medley from their production.  For me, this is a great way to see what is out there in musicals.  I had no idea that there was a musical titled Urinetown until Monday night.

    Judges also evaluate the performances of individual students from each production and choose outstanding performers as well as honorable mention performers.  These groups of students have the thrill of being part of one or more numbers on the Orpheum stage during the showcase production.  The students spend a few days prior to the production practicing together and working with professional choreographers and musical directors.

    IMG-20120610-00537My sweet girl received an honorable mention for her performance of the pastor’s wife in Footloose this year.  The huz and I were so proud and wish that she had been able to sing her solo for everyone that night.  However, as we sat in audience and saw the number of students with great talent performing alongside of our girl, we realized that, although the girl is talented, so are many others from around the state.  We sat in room full of other proud parents and family members, and we had no way to get the girl’s picture while she was on stage during the performance.  We just sat and glowed with that acceptable parental pride.

    IMG-20120610-00541Fortunately, I was quick at the ready with my phone camera at the end of Sunday’s rehearsal – the one on the Orpheum Stage.  To the left, you will see my sweet girl along with Julianne, the gracious choreographer who assisted me in convincing the girl to pose for the picture.  The girl was trying to give me a hard time for wanting the picture.

    “This is a big deal,” I said – hoping that would convince her.  Julianne was off to the side and heard me say that.  She agreed and popped into the picture.  How could the girl turn down this professional choreographer?

    One of the things that came out over and over during the showcase was the impact of adults on students through theatre.  Julianne’s thirty second support of a crazy photo pushed my girl to realize that performing on the Orpheum stage is a big deal.

    And it is.  How many people in Minnesota can say that they have performed on that stage?

    So – I want to thank the Hennepin Theatre Trust and all who support it with their time and their finances.  You gave me, as a mom, a very proud moment.  More importantly, though, you gave my daughter something that I could never have imagined as part of her path – the chance to feel honored for her talent and to perform on an amazing stage.

    Funny moment from the evening: When we got to our car to head home, the girl share with us a little tidbit: the dressing rooms have bathrooms.  Did she use them?  Of course – if you have the chance to use the bathroom in an Orpheum dressing room, how could you pass that up?

    Related posts from the production time of Footloose in November 2011:

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    Filed under Education, Parenting

    Attendance: Common Sense?

    In my job, I am confronted almost daily with the need for common sense when we approach attendance.  The idea of attendance in an online school is a completely foreign concept for most people, and it was for me until several years ago when I jumped into teaching at an online school.  While at Wolf Creek Online High School, I participated in the development of attendance policies for the online world.

    As I have worked in this now for several years, I have refined my thinking, have shared the concept around the state of Minnesota and in other states (most recently in Michigan – so fun!!!), and have started to think outside of the online world and into the seat-based world.

    attendance pyramidSchool attendance is important, but we often go too far and lack common sense in our application of this value.  As one can conclude from the graphic to the left, I firmly believe in a correlation between school attendance and students passing their classes which eventually leads to graduation.  As this is the ultimate goal that schools presumably have for all of their students, it follows easily, then, that school attendance should be expected from all students.  But notice that, in addition to attendance, access to curriculum is also part of the pyramid. This is there because of my use of this pyramid in the online world.  Accessing curriculum is attendance in the online world.

    But it is not in the seat-based world.

    My latest and greatest question is this: WHY NOT?

    With more and more schools using course management systems such as Moodle, BlackBoard, or Desire2Learn in order to house curriculum, lessons, and videos, accessing curriculum (which used to equate to the butt-in-seat of classroom) now can be done from a sick student’s bedroom while the student recovers from pneumonia.  This completely destroys the concept of seat-based attendance because accessing the curriculum is no longer dependent upon the student being in the classroom.

    As options expand for accessing the curriculum, our definition of attendance and truancy will need to change.

    And it should.

    And when it does, horrible grievances against students will be avoided.

    Within the past year, I have jumped into the Twitter world (mostly due to being able to disseminate my blog posts).  In that same time, I also read Think by Lisa Bloom and then followed her on Facebook and Twitter.  While she and I would likely disagree on some things (and we would both be ok with that as long as our stances can be clearly thought out and defended), she and I do agree on many things such as the need for literacy, the need for an emphasis on education, and the need for many to start thinking!

    Last night, she shared a link on her Twitter-feed that sent me through the roof!

    Click here to watch and read the news story about Diane Tran, the 11th grade honor student who was sent to jail for missing too much time in class.  Instead of dropping out to support herself when faced with a difficult situation, Tran chose to stay in school while also working a full-time job.

    There are many questions that I have about this situation:

    1. Why is she supporting herself and two siblings?

    2. Why are her parents not involved?

    3. Why has no school social worker intervened and kept this student from going to court?

    4. Why has no one talked to this student about taking an online class instead of the first hour class that she often misses due to her life’s schedule?

    5. Why is she still getting good grades when she misses so much class?

    There are solutions to the issue that did not need to involve the student paying a fine, going to jail, or even going to court!  The courts should be used when students and families are not able to cooperate with the school in a reasonable fashion.  They should not be used to punish honor students who are doing just fine in their classes even when they miss the classes.

    I have said and will continue to say it: our system needs an overhaul to get it caught up with the times.  Our laws are still based on the education system of fifty years ago when schools did not even have fax machines.  The last revision of the truancy laws in Texas occurred in 2003; two years later, the Texas legislature passed the law allowing for virtual schools.  Like most other states across the nation, these two lines of thinking did not intersect.

    But they need to do so.

    Moving all of our schools to progress-based attendance will solve issues like that of the case of Diane Than.  She is but one student who has been caught in the cross-fire of attendance and truancy laws being outdated and poorly applied.  The intent of these laws are to engage all students in learning which would lead to successful lives.  When we lose of the intent of laws in the midst of applying them without common sense, we do the students of our nation a disservice.

    This is why I do what I do.  I want to see these laws applied correctly to the students and families who need them.  And I want to see students and families to whom these laws no longer apply be freed from the shackles of old thinking.

    What do you think?

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    Filed under Education, Parenting

    Divorce, Custody, and the Government–Oh MY!

    IMG-20120520-00484Sunday was my 17th wedding anniversary.  With every year that passes, I am more and more grateful for the man who said “I do” even though “for worse” at times describes our lives more than “for better” does.  We have learned, grown, and gone through trials. As we come out still married at the end of each bump in the road, we realize that we are part of a rare crew – those who stay married.  We do not say this with pride because it has less to do with us than it does to do with God and His role in our lives and in our marriage.  Maybe a little bit of stubbornness plays a role in our sticking it out, but really – the glory goes to God.

    Yesterday morning I woke up and, as often is the case, I read some news on my phone. I typically scroll through the headlines and read those that catch my eye.  I care less about how many fish the Minnesota governor caught during the fishing opener than I do the laws that await his signing.  Today, the headline about a statute that hits home in my own life caught my eye.

    Click on the title to read it: Proposed Custody Changes Await Governor’s Signature

    I posted info about this on Facebook and asked my plethora of friends to respond.  I heard from many whom I anticipated would respond, and I also heard from some voices that are not normally in my “commenting” crowd.  All had strong opinions and good questions.  Many spoke from personal experience as a child of divorce or parents who had been through a divorce.

    Thank you to all who responded as you have assisted me in clarifying my own thoughts!

    Thought #1

    As much as possible, I firmly believe that those who bring children into the world should stay together.  I doubt that those who legalized divorce in (insert statistics here) ever anticipated that in 2011 more children would live without both biological parents than those who do. In my faith life, I would definitely say that no one should seek to tear apart what God has joined together. My preference would be that our country be filled with marriages and families with a firm foundation of faith; however, the divorce rate is as high (if not higher) in the Christian church in the US than in the general population.

    In my opinion, we have become victims to a lie that we deserve better than what we have chosen, that we should not have to work so hard at our marriages, and that infractions or betrayals are “good enough” reasons to abandon the marriage ship.  However, if forgiveness reigns in our hearts, lives, relationships, and marriages, staying together can be an option. (Note: I do not support anyone staying in dangerous relationship, so please, please do not hear that!!!)

    When my husband and I do the premarriage counseling session on communication and forgiveness, he always states that we do not forgive our spouse or expect forgiveness from our spouse because we deserve it.  We do so because God forgives us through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross – an act of forgiveness that we did not deserve.  Those who look in on our marriage might wonder, “What struggles have they had that they would even know what I have endured?”  Although I am very candid in my blog, I have not “bared all”…and there are things that we have struggled through that have been very difficult – in the same way that most couples would be able to say this.  There are times that we have both wondered, “What did I get into?”

    And we have chosen to forgive –  not because the other deserved it but because we chose to follow God’s example in this area.  Staying together is not easy, but separating does not seem all that easy either.

    Thought #2

    Divorce happens.

    Because we are human, we make choices, others make choices, and sometimes all of that ends in divorce.  I would not stand on this side of the blog and say that I judge another because they have gone through divorce because that is not my place. It is my place to encourage and support marriages to stay together; in fact, regardless of our faith convictions, we probably can all agree that –in the majority of cases – staying married is the best choice.

    Although we can believe this, know this, and live this, we have to recognize that divorce happens. I can believe what I stated in Thought #1, still be a realist, and accept that divorce happens.

    Thought #3

    Divorce hurts everyone involved, but it causes a great deal of issues for children. No one whom I respect argues with this.  I know this personally as my own parents were divorced when I was very young. Although I believe that everyone involved did the best that they were able, I still had a very rough time navigating what it meant for my parents not to be together.

    Thought #4
    The government should not have to legislate common sense.  A couple of the commenters on the Facebook thread really took this to task.  Why are we legislating what should be common sense?  Research supports that children survive divorce better when both parents are involved.  If that is common sense, then why should we have a law on the books?
    I have to say that I tend to agree.
    However, common sense has not ruled since custody battles started.  A couple of dad commenters (so glad to hear from them!!!) supported the need for legislation to support their rights to co-parent.  In the past, there has been a stigma against dads; yet, I know many who have been raised entirely by their dads, and they have come out with no more issues than I who grew up with my mom having 100% custody (ok…no crack jokes about my subscription of issues!!).

    In fact, IF we are going to legislate at all, why are we going only to 35% and not to 50%?  Why would we not start out with the understanding that children who have 50% of the DNA from each parent should have input from each parent 50% of the time?  Honestly, these are just questions….I don’t really have all the answers – even if I act like I do…

    Thought #5

    In Stacy’s world, this is how things would go:

    • Unless there is compelling evidence of abuse, all custody arrangements should start at 50-50.   As a nation, we need to recognize that both parents are necessary in a child’s life.  If there is evidence or concern of abuse or neglect, that should be brought up to the court and taken into consideration.  However, dads have been neglected for far too long, and – in some cases – they have been allowed to neglect for far too long.
    • Every child whose parents are getting divorced should be assigned a guardian ad litum (yes – parents would have to pay for this as part of the divorce).  Guardians are “pro-child” – they are not to have anyone’s interest in mind except the child’s interest.  They would recommend to the parents and the courts what would be best if the 50-50 was not the best choice.  There might be times when 50-50 living conditions are hard (example: when children attend school in a district that is far from one parent’s home).  This needs to be addressed.
    • Parents need to realize that their lives will be inconvenienced, and that is just how it should happen.  While the ones who could not “make it work” move on (often re-marry, etc.), children go on living in the state of divorced-ness for the rest of their lives.  The parents are the ones who need to bend over backwards to make sure that life is as health as possible for their children.
    My Last Thought

    What is best for most children is that they are raised by the two parents who contributed their creation.  However, as in the case also of foster care and adoption, this is not true of children with divorced parents.  Because of this, legislation should not be in place, but judges and other law-parts involved in custody cases should be educated that both parents (except in exceptions) should be allowed and expected to have involvement in their children’s lives.

    In closing, ParentFurther.com has a FREE webinar (click here to sign up!) coming up about how moms can make room for fathers.  I know that I often get in the way of my husband’s fathering, so I plan to attend and see what they have to say.  You can too – they are always at noon, so take your lunch hour and learn some parenting stuff!


    Filed under Education, faith, Parenting

    Highs and Lows

    While in the hospital this past week and as I have been resting since my return, I have watched several episodes of “Law&Order: SVU.”  This is my favorite television of recent history because the detectives are likeable and the stories are engaging.

    One of the episodes that I watched focused on the college-aged daughter of Detective Stabler.  She had broken into some people’s house and had taken a shower in their house.  Additionally, she had stolen the wife’s diamond necklace.

    As the story unfolded, the daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  Because she was an adult, she could refuse to take medication or to use her mental illness as part of her defense even though she had clearly been in an untreated manic state when she broke into the house.  It was clear that she needed psychiatric care more than she needed prison.

    As the story continued, details were revealed about Detective Stabler’s mother who had gone her entire life as a woman with an un-medicated case of bipolar disorder.   Stabler visited his mother and asked her to speak to the judge on his daughter’s behalf.   Although grandma refused, she eventually spoke to her granddaughter.

    I know that these characters are fictional, but the interaction between grandmother and granddaughter was a beautiful moment.  Their descriptions of the highs and lows – the dreams and the sorrows – were perfect and moving.

    The higher you fly, the farther you fall.

    The grandmother said this at the end of their conversation, and the granddaughter agreed to get help.

    Without a doubt, agreeing to be medicated for bipolar illness has its benefits.  Both the extreme highs and lows of this illness have their dangers.  At the same time, though, being medicated means that we give up something…those great feelings of being able to do anything that we put our minds to…and that is hard.

    Upon my diagnosis of bipolar tendencies a few years ago, I had a choice to make: to medicate or not to medicate.  Ultimately, the need to slow the racing mind was what convinced me to agree to the medication.  I had originally been on a dosage that took all of the wind out of my sails. At first, this was comforting.  Eventually, though, my psychiatrist and I agreed that the medication was taking Stacy out of my personality. She adjusted it to a lower dosage which now keeps me safely from going too high or too low and which is low enough that someday I could come off the medication completely.

    This is not the experience of all with bipolar illness.  For some, the polarizing pulls are so strong that a lifetime maintenance – much like insulin for those with diabetes – is necessary.  There is no standard “one size fits all” answer to this illness in the same way that most illnesses have varying levels of needs and experiences.

    It is a mistake for anyone to think that we can simply apply the same answers to anyone with a single diagnosis. Within most illnesses there is a range of experience, a range of needs, and a range of answers.  Only professionals can truly decide how to accurately diagnose someone or choose whether or not to medicate.

    With the large number of web resources, we have a tendency to research and determine our own diagnoses before seeing professionals.  We also tend to talk to friends or relatives before we see a doctor.  All of those things are good, but they should not replace someone in the medical field whose knowledge of medicine would allow them to help us.

    I am thankful for the awareness that is out there about cancer, diabetes, bipolar, and all of the other illnesses that plague our world.  When we need help, we should seek it without embarrassment.  When we can, we should ensure that our bodies are healthy so that we can take the best care of ourselves at all times.

    Above all, we need to recognize that we all have varying experiences and needs.  What I experience will vary drastically from another person with a similar diagnosis.

    And that, my friends, is what has been bouncing around my head the past few days while I have been recovering from my recent stint in the hospital.

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    Filed under Education, Thoughts