Building Brains Builds All of Us

Last spring, I sat with a group of volunteers in a classroom at Hendersonville High School getting ready to judge senior project presentations.  A young woman walked in and I mistook her for a teacher.  My interest was piqued when I realized she was one of the students I’d be judging because her poise and demeanor suggested a more mature person.  When all the students had gathered, we went around the room introducing ourselves, trying to create a friendly environment and encouraging them to relax so they could do their best.  All of the presentations were excellent.  The students were well-prepared and did a great job, reinforcing my hope in this generation.  When the young woman finished with her presentation, I sat amazed at what I learned, the scope of the project she took on, the quality of her work, her powerful delivery, and the meaningfulness of the project itself to improving the life of another person.  In response, I couldn’t help but ask her if she was going to law school.  She responded no, but said she had plans to study sonography at AB Tech.  I was convinced that no matter what she did, she would excel. After the students left and we were debriefing with the teacher, I learned that she was an honor student, which did not surprise me.  I also learned she is a teen mom and that did surprise me.  The next day, I was happy to learn she was already enrolled in our Adolescent Parenting Program and had been receiving the support and help she needed from our team to balance being the...

The Creativity Crisis: What we can do as parents to help our child be successful through play and the arts

Before I was a parent, I considered myself to be not as creative as many other friends and family. I struggled with crafts and felt frustrated with the outcome of my artistic projects. I worried that I would pass along this clumsy-with-art-trait to my son, but also felt like well, being artistic and creative isn’t that important is it? Can’t I rely on teachers to help me teach these things? And isn’t my toddler just a little young to really get it? In researching for this article and working our PAT and APP geniuses, the answers I found made it starkly clear that I was wrong. In fact, creativity is essential for our little ones to develop healthy and flexible brains, schools often do not nurture creativity in the most helpful ways, and the ages of zero- three are critical in building our creative muscles. As I started reading, I first had to expand my understanding of what creativity is and how it is important to life. A famous study of creativity led by Torrance defines creativity as making something original that is useful. It requires two types of thinking: divergent (generating many different ideas) and convergent thinking (combining these ideas into the greatest result.) It turns out that children are perfectly designed to be amazingly creative thinkers. Consider that the nursery rhyme, the way we sing to children, the bright colors we surround them with are all designed to stimulate their love of learning through playful engagement. The challenge for parents is not to build creativity per say, but to protect their creativity from the rigidity and overwhelming...

Helping Kids Prepare for Kindergarten

Do you remember being in Kindergarten? I do. I entered Kindergarten in the fall of 1974 and I can remember exactly what my teacher looked like. She had perfect 1970’s hair, super long, shiny, dark hair, parted down the middle. I adored her. My one memory of an actual day in her class was the day I made her cry. I really wanted to go outside and play with my best friend instead of being in class and I proclaimed out loud, “I hate Kindergarten” and, to my dismay, she burst into tears. Kindergarten readiness is a big deal. It sets the stage. A child’s experience in Kindergarten can shape their view of school in general. So, it begs to reason, if they are struggling right off the bat compared to the other kids around them, it’s going to be hard. Over the summer, our work at the Children & Family Resource Center has been focused on helping preschoolers make their transition into Kindergarten. We’ve been working with some of these babies since before they were born and we stand by their parents, full of pride and joy, because we know they are ready. Being ‘ready’ for Kindergarten is not a test of knowledge, it’s really a measure of a child’s developmental readiness to learn. It means that most of the basics are in place and the child is ready for more complex learning. I’ve heard many of my teacher friends say “We can handle the academic part, that’s our job; if children are just ready to learn.” A teacher’s ability to teach gets hampered by shoes to tie,...

Contradictions for Kids

I learned the definition of the word contradictory when I was the wise age of “9 going on 10.”  At that time, my family lived in Beaufort, NC.   I was in the fourth grade and once a week I would go to work with my dad after school before we would walk down the street to my piano lesson.  Do you remember when you got to go to work with your parents?  How all those “older” people would make a big fuss over you.  One day, I was at his office and one of the ladies that worked with him had a niece who was in my class.  I was working on a project she heard about and she said something about the assignment that wasn’t true.  I can’t remember what she said, maybe it was the due date or some part of the work she had heard her niece talk about, but I corrected her.  She responded back in disagreement and in my full pre-adolescent mouthy little know-it-all fashion, I argued back.  I must have been indignant (I mean seriously, how would my friend’s aunt possibly know more about our project than I did?) and rude. It came time to walk to my piano class and my father didn’t waste the opportunity to correct me.  I remember him saying that when I spoke to adults, he wanted me to do so without being contradictory.  He had to define the word for me.  I was surprised to know that’s how I sounded.  In my mind, I was stating facts and was unaware of my ‘delivery.’ Life is full of...

Child Care Costs Surpass College

By Elisha Freeman, Executive Director The average cost of child care here in North Carolina is $9,135 per year for infant care and $7,774 for a 4-year-old. This is more than the tuition at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, where tuition alone equals $6,392 per year, or Western Carolina University, where tuition alone equals $8,135 per year. It’s shocking, isn’t it? Yes, there are other fees related to college that drive the price higher, but we don’t often stop and think that, at a base level, child care is more expensive. Child care is a major expense in family budgets. Parents are rarely prepared for the cost, which hits at a time in life when they are likely at their lowest earning potential. Research shows that the cost of child care is, on average, at least 10 percent of a dual-income family’s budget and 34 percent of a single parent’s budget. I took a little poll around my office to see what two real-life scenarios looked like. One employee is married and both she and her husband work. They are young professionals with master’s degrees. Child care for their child takes 12 percent of their annual budget. They feel the pinch, but they have things under control. Another employee is a single mother, also a young professional with her master’s degree. Child care for her son takes 40 percent of her annual budget! This leaves very little to manage for housing, food, medical expenses, clothing, automobile or other basic living expenses. Like many parents in our community, she receives a child care social service subsidy to help her pay...
Ready for Success

Ready for Success

As I write this, I have less than 76 hours before my son leaves for college.  The three of us; me, him and my daughter are gathered around the fire pit in my backyard. There’s a request to watch baby videos from when they were little this weekend. Oh my, can I do this? By now, I’ve had three breakdowns in the last six days and one mini one in my office with my coworkers.  I took the first part of the week off and we spent time tubing down the Green River, buying things for his dorm room, and I’ve somehow managed to turn into a domestic goddess as a stay at home mom…cooking breakfast, big dinners, and packing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for picnics.  Where has the time gone? I remember when he was born, older mothers would warn me to enjoy it because it goes by so fast.  I’d nod my head and smile politely, having absolutely no clue how right they were, and how in these last hours I’d wish for nothing more than to grab the clocks and turn back time.  I want a do over. These days it’s me I hear telling young mothers to enjoy this…it’s gonna fly by. They are nodding and smiling politely, and I just want to look them in the eyes and say, “LISTEN to me…hear this truth.” I can’t help but think about the parents with babies getting ready to take their first steps into a Kindergarten classroom. I remember, just like it is for me now, the emotions, tears, fears and joy for your child...