Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Why Children Should Recite the Pledge of Allegiance

Given the recent discussion about a school in Florida that issued parent waivers for opting out of the Pledge of Allegiance and Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to participate in the National Anthem, it seems timely to discuss the importance of the Pledge of Allegiance. The pledge shouldn’t be regarded as an empty tradition in our nation’s classrooms. It has a purpose, and there are benefits to teaching students the pledge and requiring them to recite it.

Pledging Allegiance

Reciting the pledge allows students to practice pledging to something other than themselves. It reminds them that there is a cause greater than themselves. If patriotism erodes, then there will be no desire or, at the least, a sense of duty to improve one’s community. Patriotism cannot survive if our nation’s citizens pledge themselves more to their preferences than the well-being of their nation. The “liberty and justice for all” that we enjoy will erode if our children fail to accept responsibility to their nation.


We enjoy freedom unlike people from any other nation because patriots abandoned personal preferences and comfort to fight for their nation. Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance reminds students of the cause these patriots valued. Some have refused to recite the pledge, but why do they have the freedom to refuse? Is a citizen of a communist country permitted the option of protesting their government? Is a citizen of an Islamist country permitted the freedom to protest Islam? The freedom Americans enjoy cannot be found in most nations.

Whether or not citizens have the freedom to refuse the pledge is not the question. After all, this is a nation that allows freedom of speech whether others agree or disagree. The issue at hand is about respect. Refusing the pledge shows a lack of respect for freedoms that were bought by the blood of patriots. Although one may have the freedom to refuse the pledge (or protest the National Anthem), their protest disrespects the patriots’ sacrifices. If our children don’t learn to value the concept of patriotism and show gratitude for the freedom they enjoy, then freedom will die. Freedom cannot survive if no one is willing to be a patriot. And we can’t expect our children to want to grow up to be patriots if patriotism is no longer valued.


Although the freedom to protest a particular issue is a benefit Americans have, children need to learn the difference between protesting an issue and protesting America. It’s self-destructing to protest the system (America) that permits one to engage in protests. If our children intend on living in a nation that offers them freedom to improve their community and protest when necessary, they need to learn to pledge allegiance to the nation that permits such flexibility.

We are a pluralistic nation – ethnically, religiously, socioeconomically, and politically, but our indivisibility lies in a belief in freedom that can hardly be found when searching the annals of history. Teaching patriotism to our kids gives us a means to pass the torch of freedom to the next generation and instill a responsibility to be active citizens and protect their own freedoms.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Survival Guide for Parents of Middle School Students

1. Require organization. Middle grade students need help with organization. This applies not only to their school responsibilities, but also to their entire life. Their hyperactivity, desire to play, and new awareness of the world tend to conflict with responsibility and orderliness. You may need to require helpful habits rather than hoping your child will exercise them independently. For example, make it an absolute requirement that finished homework be immediately placed in the book bag to avoid wasted time gathering it in the morning or forgetting it altogether.

2. Calm emotions. These may be the most extreme emotional years of your child’s existence. Everything is either awesome or horrible. School is either exciting or boring. Their classmates are either best-friends-forever or bullies. Most kids need help understanding that most of their experiences lie somewhere in the middle. Don’t ignore their feelings of rejection or depression, and talk to their teachers about issues that may need to be addressed at school; but also be their stabilizer who helps them see that unfortunate scenarios may not be as critical as imagined.

3. Keep them busy. Middle-school- age students have energy to spare, and they will find ways to expend that energy. Help them use their energy in a meaningful way. Sometimes, they just need to be sent outside. Other activities such as sports and the arts can be productive, but be careful about over-commitment that makes life more stressful or robs time from academics. If your children appear bored or tend to find mischievous ways to expend their energy, then it’s probably time for them to increase their chores. Volunteer them to give some of their time to a ministry, or volunteer them to rake the neighbor’s yard. Find something productive for them to do, because idle hands at this age causes significant problems, and in many cases, big regrets.

4. Communicate with their teachers. Since communication is a two-way street, be sure to learn how the teachers communicate information to parents. Some teachers use blogs to post important information; some send out email announcements; others use flyers or letters. Learn the best way to contact your child’s teacher when you have questions. A majority of teachers use email, unless the need is critical enough for a personal meeting. Communication is vital because students often forget, overlook, or confuse important details. For example, it’s helpful to know that the teacher posts requirements for the students’ book report on her blog; that solves any debate between the parent and child about how it should be written.

5. Encourage them spiritually. Many of the potential problems these students will face can be minimized if they are growing spiritually. God’s promises to give wisdom to those who seek it, comfort to those who need encouragement, and strength to those who are weak apply to children as well, not just grown-ups. Make church attendance a priority. Monitor their friendships and media influences. Motivate them to read Scripture and books with a Christian perspective. As children in this age group progress hormonally, physically, emotionally, and socially, they need spiritual influences to help them gain a proper perspective on life.

What Should Elementary Parents Expect For Homework This Year?

            It’s commonly understood that no one enjoys homework, and some even believe it is ineffective. Parents’ opinion on the matter lends to extreme views. Some want their child to be academically competitive, and because they believe loads of homework will help accomplish this, they expect a certain amount of homework for their child each evening. Some, on the other hand, resent the fact that the family’s evening schedule must revolve around their child’s homework responsibilities. There are reasons indicating that neither one of these extremes are reasonable beliefs.

            Homework can be effective in helping students improve their achievement, if it is assigned properly. Yes, it is true that busywork fails to help students. For this reason, teachers at HCS avoid assigning busywork, but instead, assign tasks that will help students become skilled, independent thinkers. Most homework assignments can be labeled as practice – math practice, reading practice, etc. Occasionally, projects may be assigned for different reasons such as research, critical-thinking, and problem solving.
            Independent practice without the direct supervision of the teacher is necessary to help students develop mastery in their studies. If a student cannot perform independently, then they haven’t actually mastered the content. This idea is especially important for testing. If students cannot perform assignments without the help of a teacher or parent, then they will not be able to perform them on the test. Teachers at our school assign tasks that help students obtain mastery. This is why these tasks are usually started at school but finished at home. In many cases, students finish all of their work at school and have nothing to take home.
            In lower elementary grades, most homework assignments involve practice reading. Rarely do these students have written homework. Middle grades begin to have a heavier math lessons, but these should mostly be finished at school. However, students in these grades require time at home studying for tests and quizzes. Students in the upper elementary grades will be assigned a few more projects (i.e. research paper) than other elementary students, but they are given time during the school day to begin working on these tasks.  
            For homework to work effectively, time must be considered. After students have been at school all day, their ability to concentrate on academics at home will be limited. For this reason, teachers consider the amount of time it will take students to complete homework. The ten-minutes-per-grade-number rule provides a reasonable compass for determining whether the time required for completing homework will surpass a child’s ability to concentrate. For example, a third grader (3 times 10 minutes) will rarely be able to concentrate at home for longer than 30 minutes. Our teachers take this principle into consideration when forming assignments. Exceptions occur when the occasional long-term assignment is assigned, such as book reports, science projects, or research papers. On most days, the homework load will take less time than this ten-minute principle.
            If your children take longer to do homework than the average student, it will be necessary to allow them breaks to clear their thinking. Exercise will also be vital. Bottled up energy can be distracting for the child, as well as irritating for the parent. Knowing what to expect and planning accordingly will help your children complete their homework and build their achievement, one assignment at a time.