Remember this

Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania are among the most beautiful places on this planet. Anybody who has been there will tell you. They are beautiful because of the exotic plant and animal life, and also because of their insanely gorgeous landscapes. They are fascinating because of their history overcoming challenges and strife. 

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But - as anybody who’s been there will tell you - these African nations are deeply exquisite because of the sweet people within. Women who are mentally, physically, and emotionally stronger than any American politician could ever hope to be, children who rise above more hardship before breakfast than most of us do our whole lives, and men who are fighting in every way for their families to have hope and a future. 

Our family had experienced the greatest hospitality, warmth, and love in these African nations. We have taken boats on the Nile River, experienced The Great Migration on the Masai Mara, and stood in an endless field of 4-foot grass admiring how God perfectly provides for His creatures. We have had the most extraordinary experiences of our existence in some of the African countries our President just insulted, because it is in one of these that we met our beautiful Pearl Girl.  

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We met her, and we fell in love with her birth country. We were represented by an African attorney who helped us stand in front of an African judge and commit our lives to parenting her. A significant part of that commitment is giving of our time, attention, resources, and love to this place we hold so dear. We deeply love her country of birth, and we honor it in every way we can conceive.

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Today, we honor it by speaking up to say - African nations are NOT “$h!th0le” places. 

Pearl’s home country and all the nations of color our “President” has spoken so poorly about are precious treasures in our world, and our both lives as Wilsons and our collective life in this nation as Americans would be so, so dull without them.   

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Any dim-witted, racist politician who calls these - and any other nations in our world - a “$h!th0le,” speaks out of ignorance. He should ask someone who has been there. Or better yet, make an effort to see these amazing countries for himself, and try it through eyes of understanding and love rather than fear and disdain. 

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To all our African friends: We love you dearly. We are embarrassed by and wholly condemn President Trump’s remarks about your nations, and we want you to know that this is not the heart of America. We are a country made of loving people, just like you. My hope is that it is our voices and not his that you remember. 

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STEM for Preschool

The merging of all my posts into one feed has uncovered some old drafts that never got published. Here's one from last year.

Kidzone Discovery School - a place that is and people who are very very dear to our family - invited me to serve as a speaker for one of their professional development days last spring. In response to the administrators' research in best practices for young children, they asked that the focus be on STEM for Preschool. STEM, as some of you may know, is the emphasis on and intersection of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. STEAM is the newest version of this, incorporating Art into the mix.

STEM/STEAM-focused learning activities are pretty on trend right now for K-12 education. At the onset of planning, my approach was taking something complex and simplifying it for preschool purposes and I anticipated some challenges in that area. Would I be able to find enough "lower-level" activities to pull this off?

As it turned out, STEM is so perfectly aligned to instructional strategies appropriate for preschool that there was no shortage but rather an abundance of options for this workshop. Polling together my own personal children's STEM-type tools as well as some materials provided by the preschool made for a powerful, hands-on workshop that the teachers seemed to truly enjoy.

I started off with an interactive quiz to determine that audience's level of familiarity with STEM. We had some basic understanding but for most participants, this concept was entirely new. Then I gave a quick talk on the origin of the STEM movement and how this method of instruction helps nurture curiosity, initiative, and critical thinking skills in our kids. The next chunk of time we spent rotating through stations so that everyone had an opportunity to try out (and evaluate) some activities for appropriateness in relation to their specific age groups. Each station had a challenge/task card with just enough instructions to enable self-sufficiency in exploring the activity.

1. In this challenge, teachers were given rolls of tin foil and were asked to design a boat that would float. They experimented with design of their vessels, and even took on the extra challenge of adding cargo (pennies) to see how that would alter their boat's function.

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2. The next station was simply a box of Magformers. These are magnetized geometric shapes that can be clipped together to build designs from the included idea book or users can branch off and design a structure according to their own specifications.

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3. The next station was creating chemical reactions with baking soda, food coloring, and vinegar. The teachers could use droppers to pull out colored vinegar and create artistic chemical reactions by adding it to the pans of baking soda. Younger kids love this activity, and as long as you prep ahead of time with disposable trays and garbage bags, clean-up can be kept to a minimum.

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4. This was the most advanced STEM activity of the session. The participants were challenged to use tin foil, pins/hot glue, and streamers/ribbon to create a comet. The emphasis on this station for actual use with preschoolers would be teacher assistance and instruction on the various terminology associated with the comet models. The fun part, of course, would be getting to throw their foil comets across the room afterward.

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5. The next station involved using Legos and the Lego Movie Maker app to create short, stop-action videos. I have recently been devastated to discover that Lego Movie Maker has been discontinued, but there are other stop motion video apps out there that would accomplish the same goal.

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6. This station was the simplest yet it yielded the most room for creativity. The challenge was to build Elsa's castle out of sugar cubes, and everyone had such a creatively different take on the best way to assemble a sturdy castle. One of the administrators suggested that we could also use a sugar water paste (similar to gingerbread house icing) to help the "bricks" stick together.

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7. This station was also pretty simple, including just pipe cleaners and beads. Using those two materials only (plus duct tape, of course), the teachers were challenged to see which team could build the tallest structure.

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We rotated everyone through the stations in five-minute increments. Some challenges required more time, others less, but this gave all the teachers a broad sweeping exposure to the STEM/maker concept. A follow up interactive quiz gave good feedback on the participants' understanding of the purpose and details of our STEM activities.

Whether you're a teacher or a parent looking for Spring Break/summer fun, you are welcome to check out the links below to set up your own kiddos' STEM challenges!

Link to STEM for Preschool presentation

Link to supplemental signs for STEM activities

Time


Without even having to ask what I wanted and needed most, my favorites knew that the best Mothers’ Day gift for me this year was time.

Time away.

Time to think.

Time to breathe.

Time to relax.

Time to write.

Time to dream.

Time free from the incessant barrage of expectations that I sometimes feel I’m drowning in as a working mother of three small children.  

When I got to my van Friday afternoon, there was a hotel key and an address on my seat. In that hotel room was literally everything I could ever have needed or wanted for the next 24 hours: journal, clothes, toiletries, laptop, iPad, books, tech case, extra phone charger in case I’d forgotten mine, a mani/pedi gift certificate for a place right up the street, a gift card for dinner from my favorite restaurant within walking distance, a stash of drinks in the mini fridge, snacks, and most importantly…a small pile of chocolate.

It was the stuff of dreams, y’all.

For 24 hours I prayed and read and wrote and cried. I organized my files, took a frivolously long shower, left fragile items wherever I wanted, and let the Yelp app choose my breakfast.

You may have a different personality type, but God made me in such a way that time like this is as essential to my sanity as having air to breathe. I truly love the service-oriented nature of my profession, but the fact is that all day long, I’m covered up with endless requests from teenagers and adults who need, need, need and are loud, loud, loud about it. As soon as Sassafras walks into my library each afternoon, work life and mom life overlap. My kids, my sweet and beautiful treasures, they also need, need, need and are loud, loud, loud about it. It can suck the life right on out of an introvert.

Maybe not anything so lavish as this carefully orchestrated getaway, but on a regular basis I need some time. Mamas need some time.

Let’s try to do a better job of taking some small bits of time, ladies. Families, hold us to it. 

techKNOW parenting

Recently I had the honor of being invited to share at a Parenting Academy sponsored by our church.

Are you busting a gut laughing at that statement? Yeah, me too.

Suffice it to say, I was well out of my league. Two high school counselors shared about modern fads in drug consumption and helpful warning signs for parents. A pediatrician presented a wealth of information regarding legal and ethical dilemmas in teen health. The Captain's topic was the scariest of all...how teenagers think. My piece of the pie was technology trends and issues.

I soaked up every single bit of information shared by the experts. Though all our girls are just kindergarten or below, Lord willing they will become teenagers one day.

Just threw up a little bit.

It was hard, hard stuff, y'all. Don't get me wrong. Teenagers are exciting people to be around. I'm surrounded by them all day long and though it can be difficult to focus while they are flittering and fluttering around, I really do love hearing them think out loud. What a fun time in life...being just on the verge of adulthood and with very big and important thoughts about life beginning to form, sprinkled with plenty of humor (both intended and un).

But y'all. They deal with some serious junk.

Over the month leading up to the event, I conducted lots of informal research on the topic, including conversations with students about apps they use as well as gathering feedback from a school administrator, wife of a former school resource officer, and my own school's SRO about common problems they see with teens and technology. I felt pretty confident sharing some of those as cutting edge, because they are newish apps, websites, etc.

The problem is, this stuff pops up like weeds! Any parent striving to remain informed about the trends in technology that may impact their kids will struggle to stay ahead of or even with their children's consumption of the stuff.

My hope is that by continuing the research and sharing periodically here, I can provide at least a small measure of support to those mamas and daddies who just want to be good parents and know what their kids are up against.


Have techKNOW parenting topics to share? Let me know here!