End of 2016-2017 School Year

The end of another school year and what a wonderful year it was too! It seems like just yesterday that the boys started the school year and then I blinked and it was over.

Two things that stood out the first few weeks of school that made me really appreciate the school system we are in and the teachers at our school. I felt from the beginning of the school year that it was going to be a really good school year and that the teachers my boys were blessed with would show great love and care, while also being a great example of Christ. Here are the two things that lead me to feel this way:

  1. The day we met Alex’s teacher, she unashamedly had Christian music playing in her classroom. This spoke volumes of her testimony and her love for Christ.
  2. At a youth gathering of students from the local churches coming to pray together, Aric’s teacher was there as a sponsor from her church and prayed along with the students from her church.

To see our teachers being unashamed of their Christianity and being open about it makes me realize that those years of worrying what people thought of public school or my presupposed ideals were in vain, and that God knew perfectly what He was doing when He guided us to the area we are in and to put our children in the Public school system.

Aric and Alex both had excellent years academically, and they are looking forward to Alto starting Pre-K next school year and being able to go to school with them.

This year Aric (3rd Grade) was one of a few 3rd graders to be selected to be part of our school robotics program (Our school is one of a few elementary schools in Georgia to have a robotics program). Aric loved this and enjoyed building a robot the 1st half of the year and displaying it with his partner at the Fall Festival in November. In the Spring he was able to participate in a rocket challenge he decorated his with Mario and one 1st place for best in show!

Alex (2nd Grade) was able to perform in this years Christmas Play, he was a reindeer, unfortunately he got a little stage fright and forgot his one line he got to say “Generous, and don’t forget generous!”, But he insists he still would love to act. He also had perfect attendance this year! He has really improved in his reading. (remember my Something Clicked article)

I was able to participate in the S.T.E.A.M. day again at school in May and teach about graphic design. Every year I have done this I have given out information about our church including a Gospel tract. I was able to do this once again this year and also offer an audio Bible to the student who could answer a question at the end correctly. The students LOVED getting the prize (I designed the packaging for the audio Bible).

I look forward to what the 2017-2018 school year has in store for us!

 

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End of Summer, Beginning of School

In just about a week, the school year will start back. I anticipate this to be a good, but busy year. Aric our oldest (6) will be going into first grade, Alex our middle (5) is starting Kindergarten, and I am serving as the Communications Chair for our PTO (Parent Teacher Organization). When I started the blog last year I had planned on posting something every week, but there wasn’t much to post some weeks. I plan on continuing to post this school year on things that will encourage and challenge my fellow Christians to greater heights. Here are some tips for the start of the school year.

1) Go Back-to-School Shopping Early

I know there is the tax free weekend in many states, and I am all for saving a little money, but let’s face it unless you are planning on buying a TON of school supplies, you may only save a few dollars. You will already be stressed enough the week before school starts, why add more stress by going shopping the same time everyone else is doing their school shopping? Many stores start their back-to-school sales at the beginning of July. For our family we try to purchase most of what we need online and then purchase the remaining items toward the middle of July. (For back to school clothes go to the thrift shops, why spend 100’s of dollars on clothes when you can get all you need for 2 children for $50).

2) Let the school know they have your support

You don’t  have to be on a PTO board or school board to let the school know that you support them. Write and email to the principle, tell him/her that you support them as a parent and are available to help with anything that they might need you for. As I have said in past posts, schools really do want you as parents involved. Don’t overstep and over push, but find way to volunteer and help. (Even an hour helping put books on the shelf in the library once a week is a great help to the school)

3) Show up for meet the teacher, reassure the teacher that you support them

Meeting the teacher isn’t a requirement for a child to go to school but you should require yourself to be there. Going to this event gives you a chance to meet both your child’s teacher and some of their classmates. While there ask the teacher what ways you can help them through the school year. Let them know that you are glad they are your child’s teacher and that you support them.

4) Join your PTO

Why should you join your PTO? Because as a member you have the opportunity to show your support for the school and have a collective voice with your fellow members to voice support, concern, questions, and opinions to the leadership of the school. Take time to join them, you aren’t wasting a few dollars for a decal or magnet, you are showing your support for the school.

5) Pray

Certainly you should pray more than just at the start of the school year, but the closer it gets, the more you should pray for your children and the challenges they will face this year. It helps prepare your heart for the school year and helps your children prepare their hearts. Let them tell you things they would like you to pray for, no matter how “small” their request may be, pray for it, God cares about them enough to give an answer.

What type things do you do to get ready for the beginning of a school year?

Learning to adjust

Seven weeks ago my oldest child Aric started his first year of elementary school and I can say this has been a big time of adjustment for all of us. 4 weeks ago our third child, Alton, was born and added to the need to adjust. When change happens in life sometimes you can find it extremely hard to adjust and be just plain overwhelming. I know that eventually I will be adjusted to this new time of life, but here are a few things I have found a difficult time to adjust too.

1) Going to Bed Early

I consider myself to be more of a night owl than a morning person. Before Aric started school I normally was to bed between 12am-2am working on projects for my company, but since the start of the school year I have to adjust my schedule to getting up before 7am so going to bed so late isn’t a good ideal. I mentioned a little about this in the blog post from the first week of school.

2) Being Productive Between Drop-off and Pickup times

This has been the biggest adjustment for me. I already kept a busy schedule before Aric started school, but now that he has started school it seems like the 6 hours between dropping him off and picking him up is hardly every productive. I know that I really am being productive, but it is hard to grasp that it actually is. I work 2 (sometimes 3) jobs. I am an Assistant Pastor, a Freelance Graphic Designer, and a Substitute teacher.

Many times when I get home from dropping Aric off I get home and try to start working on graphics projects or getting things ready for church. Just about the time I finish with some of my projects it is lunch time.  Then by the time lunch is over, I only have an hour before I have to leave and pick Aric up from school (2:00pm). So even in just a little paragraph you can see it can be a heart thing to make sure I am productive. But over time I will figure it out I am sure.

3) Taking extra time to spend with my children

You might be thinking, “Well, Duh! It’s your responsibility to spend time with your children”. It isn’t that I didn’t spend time with my children before, but now that we aren’t all at home, all day together, it takes some adjustment. With a new-born baby in the house, it takes a time of adjustment to juggle things back around and make sure my children get the time with their father that they need. Sometimes this means taking my individual children out and just hanging out with them. But it still is a hard adjustment to make when so many new things are going on in my life.

What type of adjustments have you had to make in your life either when your children have first started school or when summer has ended and your children are headed back to school?

Book Fair Volunteer

This past week I had my first opportunity to volunteer to do something at my son’s school. They were in need of parents to volunteer to help with the book fair they would be holding in the Library of the school, so as I feel it was my responsibility to help I volunteered  for a few hours on Monday. I had hesitated to volunteer for a little bit, with having a new baby in the house, trying to figure out a new sleeping schedule, and needing to complete jobs that were already behind, it was easy to make excuses not to help. I began by rationalizing that there would be plenty of children who’s parents had volunteered to help and that they really wouldn’t need me, but since I had already said I would be there I needed to keep my commitment.

When we arrived at school I walked Aric into the school building, checked in, and headed to the library. I expected to find a library full of parents jumping in to help, but there were only 2 other parents ready to help. I stayed for the time that I had volunteered and asked if they would need my help again the next day. The librarian told me she would love to have my help anytime I wanted to be there as there weren’t very many who had jumped on the opportunity to help.

Tuesday was “Book and Breakfast” day, a day that they offer to let you come eat breakfast with your child and check out the book fair together. I arrived a little early and thought that there would be a bunch of parents excited about eating breakfast with their Pre-K – 2nd Grade students (approx. 260 students). But when I arrived there were only a handful of parents there to eat with their children, a few more arrived after Aric and I had ate our doughnuts. Once back in the Library there weren’t but maybe 8 parents who came through with their child to pick out books.

Before I left for the day the Librarian was telling some of the teachers how thankful she was that she had some new parents coming in to volunteer for helping as all the parents who had helped in times passed no longer had children in the school and had moved on with their children.

Three quick things I learned from being a “Book Fair Volunteer”:

1) Schools really do like parents to volunteer

2) Not many parents will take the time to volunteer

I do understand that not all parents are able to because of their jobs

3) Not many parents took advantage of spending quality time to get to know more about their child’s school.

It isn’t that I expected every child to have a parent there to eat breakfast with their child. I would say at least 3/4 of the students ride the bus, but still to only have 8-10 parents show up to have breakfast with their children just baffles my mind. Every morning when I go to drop off Aric at school there are at least another 16 cars there, and that is only the parents who get their early. As I have stressed before, I believe in order for a child to succeed in ANY school, parents need to be involved as much as possible, but it is obvious that many parents do not take the time to do so.

Guest Post: Why Did My Parents Choose Public School?

My parents moved to Virginia in the early 80’s when my father received orders from the military to once again move.  After joining a church which also had a Christian school, my parents decided to place my brother into the kindergarten class for the school year.  Let’s face it, every school, every educational system, and every teacher has flaws. However, my parents immediately knew there was a problem.  My brother as well as other students (we later found out who had this same teacher) struggled with learning problems.  My parents removed my brother from the Christian school and placed him in our local public school for 1st grade.

It was the last decade or so of the Cold War, but military families experienced the Cold War in ways that most people do not realize.  Our fathers, husbands, brothers, and uncles were constantly deployed.  Mediterranean Cruises, Med Cruises, were common place for Navy families.  My father was typically deployed for 9 months on a Med Cruise, came home for 2-3 weeks, and then left again for 1-2 months on a training exercise to GITMO Bay, the Bahamas, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or Bermuda.  During a 4 year rotation of Sea Duty, my mother was basically a single parent.

My brother could not have had a better elementary school principal.  When his learning struggles became clear, Mr. Brown took my brother under his wing.  Mr. Brown knew my brother by name.  He knew my mother and I even though I was still at home and not yet enrolled in school.  Mr. Brown even diagnosed my brother’s learning “problems.”  My brother was gifted.

This elementary school principal referred my mother to a child psychologist and helped my family in a way no one else had previously done.  Seeing my brother improve was all the thanks he needed.

Christians, conservative Christians, have this idea that public schools will change your child’s values, your child will just be a number amongst the crowd, and or your child will receive a substandard education.  We did not.  I will address some of those topics later.  Were there problems?  Absolutely.  I am not going to lie or whitewash history.  My point is this, there are wonderful public schools available and parents should not be made to feel like they are sinning by sending their child to public school.  Their children should not be segregated from “good Christian school kids” either.

What Should I Do When My Child Get’s In Trouble?

As you can see from my first post of this week “Learning to be Patient”, that sometimes as much as I love my boys and think they are pretty good kids, they still can get in trouble. We are going on 4 weeks of school and Aric has already gotten in trouble a few times. I know it will take time for him to adjust to a classroom setting, so the question lingers then “What should I do when my child get’s in trouble?” So here are a few things that I am trying to do as a parent.

1) Trust the Teacher over your child

I was raised by parents who lived by the principle to “Always trust the word of the teacher over your child”. The truth is 99% of the time this principle is true and your child has done wrong. The teacher isn’t out to get him! In today’s society parents want to believe their children are perfect angels incapable of doing wrong in the classroom and unable to lie to their parents. This is a lie that parents want to believe about their child to make themselves feel good about themselves and their choice to not discipline their children. When Aric gets a note sent home for getting in trouble, I never doubt the note, even if he says that it isn’t true. Is there times that your child shouldn’t have gotten in trouble? Sure about 1 in a millions times. Trust the Teacher.

2) Talk to your child

The first thing I do every day when picking up Aric from school is ask how his day was. I ask him if he got in trouble or if he was well behaved all day. If he says he got in trouble, then most of the way home we talk about why he got in trouble. Most of the time when I ask him why he got in trouble he will say, “I don’t know”. Don’t settle for that answer, the child really does know why he got in trouble, it will just take some work to uncover the reason. Many times I have to go through verbally asking each point of the day why and when he got in trouble. I have to ask things like: Did you get in trouble before lunch or after? Were other children doing the same thing? Did your teacher ask you to stop? Did it happen when the teacher was asking a question?. There are a lot of other questions that could be asked, but the important thing is, is to get to the bottom reason of what he did and why he did it.

After the questioning process is done, I try to take time to explain to him that the teacher is just like “mommy and daddy” and “we expect you to obey her like you obey us”. Then if it is appropriate when he gets home he gets disciplined for the wrong doing. On the way to school the next morning, I review with him what happened the day before and what we need to do to avoid getting in trouble again. I also instruct him to apologize to his teacher the first thing in the morning.

3) Tell the Teacher “Thank You”

One day when Aric came home with a yellow face (that is a negative mark in Kindergarten) it had a note that he was yelling and making loud noises. This was the second time he had gotten in trouble for the loud noises and I was curious as to what the loud noises were and why he was making them. In a non-offensive way I wrote a note to the teacher including a couple of questions and a thank-you at the end. Here is what I wrote:

Dear Mrs. ______ what can we do at home to help Aric behave better in your classroom? What type of noises is he making and when is he making them? Thank-you so much for the good work you are doing!

It may seem like just a trivial thing, but I am telling you when a teacher is told they are doing a good job it makes their day! I want to make the job of my children’s teachers easier not harder, so when I show appreciation for the discipline they give to my child, it lets them know I am not a parent they have to worry about jumping down their throat for punishing my child’s wrong doings.

What are some other good things you have found to do when your child has gotten in trouble?

Welcome to Our Little Man

Yesterday we welcomed the newest addition to our family. My wife gave birth to a good and healthy baby boy. His name is Alton Reese McBride. Born on 8/26/2013 at 2:10pm. He weighed in at 9lbs 12oz. (Renee doesn’t have small babies) and was 21.5 inches long.

DSC_0029Alton is not a real common name, but we do have a few reasons that we chose that name. First of all if you didn’t know we have named all our children with an “A” first name and an “R” middle name. We do this because of my first name being Aaron, and my wife’s middle name being Renee. So we have Aric Riley (our first), Alexander Ryan (our second, not middle), and now Alton Reese (our third).

After choosing the name Alton we found out that Renee had a great Uncle who shared that name, so without knowing it we had chosen a family name.

Alton also shares his name and his birthday with a man who my wife and I count as a very important person in our life. Both my wife and I went to the same Bible college, Ambassador Baptist College. The president of our Alma Mater is Mr. Alton Beal. We were amazed to find out after we had posted the name, gender, and due date on Facebook, that Alton’s due date was on Alton Beal’s birthday! Of course if you read our previous post “Learning to be Patient” then you know that we were hoping baby Alton would arrive earlier, but God must have thought it would be something special to have our Alton be born with the same name and on the same date as a man that we count as a great influence in our lives!

Learning to be Patient

expression -  Patience is a virtue - written on a school blackboWhen it comes to writing blog posts I usually try to write them ahead of time and schedule them to be published at a later date. So I am writing this particular post on Aug 20, 2013.

Patience is a hard thing when it comes all areas of life. Today we were hoping that our #3 child would be born and had had plans for my wife to be induced today, but the baby and my wife’s body are just not ready at this time. I can see how uncomfortable my wife is and she tells me often how sore she is. We also have my mother down here for the week as we anticipated getting to hold Baby Alton in our arms today but instead we are having to wait patiently for natural process to start. My wife was ready to kill me today as I have forced her to walk down every isle in the grocery store, walk up and down the sidewalk at our church, and later we will be walking some more. We are hoping for good news from the doctor tomorrow, but until then we just have to be patient.

Romans 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

While it is hard enough to be patient as we wait for a new child to be born, there is another lesson in patient that God has been teaching me while Aric is in school. Sometimes it is easy for me as a father to lose patience when it comes to my child doing well behaviorally at school. The first week of school I felt like Aric did a great job, he only had one  bad mark on one day and the rest of the days he had all good marks. The second week he did great on Monday, but had a bad mark on Tuesday. We had a long talk on the way home about paying attention in class and doing right. I told him that “I don’t want to see any other bad marks this week”. Wednesday and Thursday he did great with great marks. On Friday when he got in the car I asked him, “Aric how did you do? Did you bring home a green face today?”. When he hesitated to answer, I knew he must have gotten something other than the “Green Happy Face”. He once again had 1 bad mark against him, this time for making loud noises in class. So once again we had a long talk on the way home about how he should act in class. Then Monday rolled around and once again he had gotten a yellow face, indicating he had done something bad once during the day. It was once again for making loud noises in class and yelling an answer. Man did this frustrate me!

I have to realize something though, while there is no excuse for bad behavior, I have to realize that this classroom thing is all new to Aric, he is still having to learn and adjust to not having the freedom of playing all day. I have to take time to understand this and to let it process in my mind. I also have to take time to let the structure of a classroom settle in Aric’s mind. It is going to take patience as we learn this process together. I know as a father that I also need to be careful to not get overly frustrated at the times he might forget instructions or rules. It is easy to get upset as an adult when in our minds the classroom instructions and rules are so easy to follow, but then when we stop and think about how hard it was for us as children it certainly can help us be much more patient.

What are ways that you have had to learn patience with your children?

Update on Baby: While I wrote this post ahead of time, at the time of this being published we are currently at the hospital with my wife being induced. Praying that the baby comes quickly and safely.

The Blessing of Public Schools

Okay I know that people probably think that I talk to much about the negative views that many Christians have of the public schools, but I like to take those negative outlooks and try to let people see that not everything about Public Schooling is negative. Just the other day I saw someone put this negative ideal on Facebook using the words “failing public school system”. Is it true that some children come out of public schools unprepared? Sure it’s true. But the same can be said of Christian schools and Homeschooling as well. People will make statements like “Well 75% of people who are homeschooled go on to further their education, while only 49% from public schools go to college”. Well it’s a nice stat to state, but considering that there are about 49 million more people in the Public school than there are homeschooled those statistics really aren’t that impressive. Now if there were just as many people homeschooling as there were in public schools and the percentage came out like that, then I would say, “maybe homeschooling is a better option for us”. (NOTICE: I said a better option for us. I am in no way saying that the option of public school is for every Christian family.) The other statistic that many people like to point out is that when compared to other countries, the US doesn’t score as high on standardized testing, but I will answer this stat in one of my points of the blessings of public schools.

Blessing #1: EVERY Child is given a chance to be educated

Some children, if it were not for Public Schools, would never be educated at all. When the US is tested each year, many people criticize that our test scores compared to other countries are very poor, but the difference is, in most other countries children who are poor or have disabilities are not given a chance to even go to school. In the US, however, children with disabilities are given a chance to get an education, children who are poor are given a chance to receive an education, so of course scores will be lower in standardized testing. Perhaps if all we did was test the elite of our education system the statistics would measure closely to the rest of the smartest countries in the world, but in the United States every child is given a chance to receive an education.

Blessing #2: Low income children are given a chance to be healthy

I know some people would say that part of the problem with our country is the amount of people who receive food stamps and free housing. Do I believe that is part of the problem with our economy? Yes, I believe it is so. I think many of those people could do better for themselves but have gotten lazy and leach off the government and our taxes. While all this is true, should we punish the children for the sins of their families and say no to giving them the nutritional food they need? No we should not. Many children who eat their breakfast and lunch served by their schools will receive no other food from their homes. This does not negate the responsiblity of the parents, but for that child who is going hungery because of the neglect of his family the provision of food at his local school is a huge blessing.

Blessing #3: Public Schools provide jobs for many Christians

When my wife and I moved to Northeastern, GA in 2011 I had no ideal how I would provide for our family. We were stepping into a new ministry and while they were able to provide us with housing, we still had to make enough income to pay for the rest of our bills. I had put an application in at several businesses, but to no avail. Then I found out how to become a substitute teacher in our local public schools. I took the course, had my background test done, and was able to get on the Substitute list. The first year I was here I was able to sub an average of 3 days a week. This job provided me with enough income to make it through each month. If I had decided that the Public Schools were a “Godless place not fit for any Christian” than I would have failed to provide for my family like the Bible commands me to as a father and would have been “worse than an infidel” (I Timothy 5:8). So I count the public schools as a huge blessing to me and my family.

Blessing #4: Public Schools provide education in areas of knowledge that parents are lacking

Let’s face it, not all parents are experts at Math, English, Science, History…. and the list could go on and on. I can tell you that personally I like History, if I were to homeschool my children they probably would learn more about history than any other subject. I was pretty good at math up to a certain point. While I could help them with basic math, when they get to more advanced math, I am helpless. You probably can also tell that English is not a strong suite for me. I probably put punctuation in wrong places and repeat words a whole lot in my writing. Science, I can get that pretty good to a certain point but when it comes to chemistry and biology “forget it”.

While I know there is some “junk” that is taught in many of the subjects, I understand enough as a parent that I need to carefully explain and teach my child at home the truths from God’s Word relating to Creation, historic events, life styles, and godly living. I need to teach my children how to tell the difference between the facts from God’s Word and the fiction of the world. But in the end I also realize that the school my children attend is able to offer them some very good skills and knowledge. Do I have issues with some of the things my child may learn about in a public school setting? Yes, just as I take issue with some of the things that don’t line up with God’s Word in Christian Curriculum.

I am sure there are other blessings that could be added to this list. What blessings have you found from the public schools?