Posts Tagged ‘ education ’

Beyond the ABCs – Teaching Kids About Work and Life

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Remember when kids used to talk about what they wanted to be when they grow up?

It’s troubling to think that kids don’t do that as much anymore. As a culture, we’ve become consumed with the idea that the purpose of education is to build pure academic skills that can be measured by standardized tests. This kind of thinking filters down to the youngest kids – even preschoolers can be faced with an “academic” curriculum that leaves little time for play (the work of childhood), imagination, and connection to the real world.

One way to change this thinking is to infuse children with a sense of wonder of what it’s like to “do” in the world. I’ve been researching the lives of entrepreneurs to find out what makes them tick – not to learn how kids can become entrepreneurs, but rather to discover some keys to instilling them with entrepreneurial thinking. Why? Simply put, entrepreneurial types embrace many principles that will serve kids well – they are positive thinkers who know how to generate their own passion and take on obstacles in order to reach their goals. These are real world skills that all kids should have and can start learning early in life – yet skills that are not part of our mainstream educational roadmap.

One thing I’ve learned from my research is that I’m not the only one who feels this way. Brian Cunningham, successful entrepreneur and co-founder of, suggests that many kids grow up without having a chance to develop the type of passion that fuels the entrepreneur and would serve all kids well (no matter what type of career they end up pursuing later in life). He feels that we need new resources to reverse this growing trend and to plant the seeds early in life. To this end, is providing both a mindset and new tools – particularly a series of books – to help educators, parents, grandparents (all the supportive folks that kids need in their lives) cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit in kids. Consider this quote that summarizes their mission:

What’s it like to be, say, an entrepreneur, mechanical engineer, infectious disease specialist, marine biologist, biochemist, sculptor, thoracic surgeon, architect, or software programmer? What kinds of knowledge and skills are needed? Where are the greatest rewards, needs and opportunities? Presented in the right way, and with guidance from significant others, insights based on the life experiences of experts can help children “discover a path where their passions can shine”.

In the next few days I will be featuring more about as one resource for parents and educators alike that will help kids learn more than the ABCs and begin to cultivate a spirit and motivation that is the core to their potential to be everything they want to be. Next up: an introduction to a terrific new book – Camila’s Lemonade Stand – developed by to serve as a platform for conversations with kids to stoke their imaginations.

What career will your child have? Take the quiz and found out!

Spring Cleaning With Kids!
Spring Cleaning With Kids!
Spring Cleaning With Kids!


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Why Recess Is Essential

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

As you think about what you want your kid’s school year to look like, keep in mind one essential: recess. Yes, it’s not just good, but essential. And there are lots of reasons why. 

In fact, studies have documented multiple benefits. One report identified a number of specific benefits of recess including:

  • Less Bullying
  • More Vigorous Physical Activity
  • Better Readiness For Learning

These specific findings highlight the broader deliverables of recess.

  • It gives kids more opportunities for unstructured interaction – which leads to better social integration and cooperative play
  • It ensures that kids get in some dedicated physical play time – which not only helps to combat the obesity crisis but also nurtures motor skills which have been shown to support cognitive development
  • It allows kids the breaks they need during their long day to do what they need to do (run around and burn off some energy) – which allows their brains the time and space to be focused and engaged as they transition back to the classroom

We live in an age where we are concerned with making education as rigorous and productive as possible. Given that, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that one of the best ways to give kids a platform for daily learning is to make sure they have time for recess.

School Playground via


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Raising the School Dropout Age To 18: Some Key Points To Consider

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

President Obama’s recent suggestion that all states establish age 18 as the legal dropout age has generated lots of discussion and raised plenty of questions – including those posed by readers of As this issue is complex, I’ve spent some time sorting through the key points. Here’s where I’m at right now.

What exactly is the proposal?: The proposal is that every state adopt the following policy: youth cannot dropout of high school until age 18 (they can of course graduate at a younger age). Keep in mind that, at this point, it is a suggestion – states establish their own laws. Some in fact have adopted age 18 as the legal dropout age (at last count it appears that 20 states currently do so). Others use 16 or 17 as the legal age at which a youth can dropout without completing the requirements for graduation. Some, like New Jersey, are currently debating the issue. So if you are a parent it’s worth your time getting familiar with the current policy in your state – and potentially what’s on the table for discussion.

What is meant by dropout? One thing that can be confusing is determining what is considered schooling. Every state establishes what it considers to be acceptable practice and many allow a variety of alternatives to “traditional” high school. For example, a given state may include public high school, private high school, trade/vocational schools, and home schooling/private tutoring as equally valid options. The issue being discussed is the age at which a student can legally dropout of any approved educational process prior to meeting the requirements for completing that process (which would be a high school diploma or equivalent). Again, right now, it’s most important for you to learn about the policy in your home state – that’s what will apply to you.

Why establish 18 as the dropout age? The whole idea here is to find a way to make sure that every youth successfully completes their high school education (again whether it is in a traditional or alternative setting). Youth who drop out are less likely to have a job, will earn less, and are more likely to go to jail. Sure, some kids who drop out do fine, and some kids who graduate don’t – but we’re talking about some pretty strong research findings which show that, as a group, dropouts fare much worse than graduates. So the thinking here is that by ensuring that kids continue their education until age 18, they will be more likely to get their degree.

Will raising the age to 18 achieve this? This is a matter of debate right now. Some argue it will – some say it hasn’t had an impact in the states where the age has been raised. As a researcher, it’s not clear to me that we have good enough data right now to make definitive claims. The analysis I’d like to see is a solid longitudinal study with a “before/after” comparison within states (comparing across states is complicated because there are different issues in different states that affect graduation rates). Maybe it’s out there, but I haven’t seen a definitive study yet. So right now I’d say that this issue is far from resolved.

Why would it work? Plain and simple, the hope is that by keeping kids in school longer, they will be more likely to complete their degree. Some argue that the lower age limits (like 16 and 17) are out of date – 16-year-olds with no high school degree are not going to find much in the way of work options in today’s society. Others suggest that 18 is a more reasonable age for kids (and their parents) to make a life decision – and maybe they will be more motivated to get their degree at 18 versus 16 or 17. And it is also sometimes suggested that raising the age to 18 will put collective pressure on everyone – parents and schools alike – to not let kids give up to early.

Why wouldn’t it work? Some argue that the age limit is arbitrary – kids who aren’t interested in school at 16 won’t be more interested at 17 or 18. Others worry that an older age limit could result in a disproportionate allocation of attention and resources to kids in school who don’t want to be there – at the expense of those who do want to be there.

Where does this leave us? Well, I’m still sorting through the issues. But if I had to decide today, I’d be in favor of establishing age 18 as the dropout age. Why? Because I hate the idea of giving up on kids. I hate the idea that we all don’t have the expectation that kids will graduate. I hate the idea that a school can watch a kid walk out the doors without a diploma.I hate the idea that some parents don’t think it’s important that kids get a high school diploma. I hate the idea that some kids are so disengaged that they want to quit school by age 16 or 17. I hate the idea that some kids struggle with issues such as ADHD or dyslexia and don’t have access to proper psychoeducational intervention that could make school less difficult for them. Simply raising the dropout age to 18 won’t change all of that. But it could be a catalyst for us to reconsider our investment in education. It could help orient our discussions around the reasons why so many kids are not engaged in school. It could prompt us to continue to brainstorm about alternative educations that could engage kids – including kids who do not get appropriate interventions for underlying problems that could interfere with the learning process. And to me, most importantly, it could be a reminder that we need to also focus intensively on the early years of education and make sure kids get the platform they need to develop the skills and attitude necessary to be engaged in school, and succeed in school.

Image of graduation cap and diploma via


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The Single-Sex Education Debate: Sorting Through The Issues For Parents

Friday, October 7th, 2011

The pros and cons of single-sex education have received intensive coverage of late. That said, many parents might still feel confused about the issues and the bottom line. So I decided to get guidance from an expert to help me determine the take-home messages for parents.

I spoke at length with Dr. Rosemary Salomone, who is the Kenneth Wang Professor of Law at St. John’s University. She has written many influential books on education – including her award winning “Same, Different, Equal: Rethinking Single-Sex Schooling”  – and is a leading expert on single-sex education and so recognized in educational, legal, and government circles. Here are some of the issues I raised with her, and my take-away messages based on our conversation. 

Are there definitive studies that demonstrate that single-sex education is either good or bad for kids?

No. There are a number of imperfect studies that gather data that either partially support or refute some of the claims made for or against single-sex education.

So what should a parent think when they read extreme claims (either pro or con single-sex education)?

Keep in mind that many times people grab certain studies to support their claims without giving a balanced picture of the evidence to date (including the evidence that does not support their claims). It’s a mixed bag and we can’t expect the imperfect science that exists to resolve the issues right now.

What exactly are the issues?

Many of the discussions right now focus on the legality of offering single-sex education as an option (it has to be voluntary) within a public school system (private or independent schools can do what they want). In order for the law to support this, there needs to be “persuasive justification” that it is accomplishing something beneficial. That’s what people are debating. Many arguments supporting single-sex education rely on contentions that girls and boys have very different brains and learn very differently. In general, these are not well supported scientifically and are very simplistic (the fact is many girls and boys learn in essentially the same way). That said, many people who are opposed to single-sex education only look at very narrow indicators of success such as test scores. It is important to examine if, for example, single-sex education leads to other important achievements, such as more girls taking advanced math and science classes, or more boys studying foreign languages.

How should parents sort through these issues if they are considering a single-sex school (not just classes) for their child? 

Many of the single-sex schools provide the same benefit as any good school: smaller classes and a positive culture for learning. Are these unique advantages to single-sex schools? Probably not. Are they advantages nonetheless? Many times yes.

If you are considering single-sex education for your child, evaluate the factors you would always consider if you have a choice. What’s the philosophy of the school? What is the size of the classroom? What does the curriculum look like? How do kids do in the school? What is less relevant is the extreme rhetoric about why single-sex education is beneficial (the unsubstantiated notion that boys and girls have profoundly different learning styles) or not beneficial (the unsupported notion that it promotes gender stereotyping). These are complex issues that have not received sufficiently rigorous scientific examination to lead to a conclusion one way or the other.

So given that there are pragmatic pros and cons to any school choice (and you can always find someone who either loved or hated single-sex schools, just as is the case for coed schools), the ultimate bottom line right now is to forget all the stuff being debated and ask yourself the real question: What seems to be the best school for my child right now? And use all of your tools as a parent to answer that question for yourself.


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