Navigating Your Kids

Experiences and perspective on the School Years

December 31, 2015
by Frances

What is REALLY the outcome we desire?

imageThroughout the course of my kids’ education–homeschooling and public school–I struggled with the question:  Is the purpose to teach a body of facts or convey a love of learning and the ability to learn?  We are destroying a generation of kids with current educational philosophy and methods.  This is a great article by Emily Talmage…..On the Obsession with Outcomes.  Seems that the outcomes are chosen by those whose agenda is their own, and not the agenda of a parent for their child.

November 6, 2015
by Frances
1 Comment

You Only Live Once

IMG_0748.JPGYOLO…….living on borrowed time……a life is threescore and ten years……and the phrase that has initiated many an eye-roll at our house…..Carpe Diem–Seize the Day (“you can sleep when you are in the nursing home”).  It has been my nature and habit to live life with intensity and a sense of urgency.  Some–OK, many (especially my own family)–seem to find this annoying, OK even rude, but it is an innate perspective that is my nature.  I suppose this outlook comes from losing both parents early in life, which is a constant reminder of the fleeting nature of human life.  Those who have seen loved ones through a terminal illness can probably relate to the sense that every visit might be the last and the time…life… is priceless.  Even harder than this is the unexpected accident or illness that abruptly ends life expectancy with no chance to tie loose ends or say things left unsaid.

At some point, the realization hits a person of a certain age that their time is extraordinarily valuable.  The truth is that your time equals your life and the things you spend your life doing begin to take on a huge significance.  Most people spend a lot of time working, most out of financial necessity, and most feel inadequately compensated no matter how great the salary and benefits.   But if you can see the divine perspective–work is your purpose, your mission, your ministry and your worship–then work and the time spent is given immensely more value and readily given away.  No compensation is remotely adequate for your life–but an opportunity for a ministry introduces a value beyond measure to that time spent at work.  This realization–your time IS your life, and your life IS your time–begs a constant re-evaluation of the purpose  and ultimate value of time commitments.

There are circumstances where others may pay for control of your time or possessions—farmers paid NOT to grow crops on a certain acreage, or a worker paid for a certain number of hours of labor.  This may be ok for some, but for those with the Carpe Diem-YOLO-time’s a wastin’ mindset,  that time has to be transformed into a higher purpose or it is simply not worth that portion of your life.  Divine tasks performed here daily……check out the writing of Max Lucado……






August 29, 2015
by Frances

Reality Bites–Get Over It

tumblr_m01bx6XfmR1ql43xgo1_500-450x341I always wanted to be a backup singer.  You watch those people onstage, drifting around, chatting, drinking, then stepping up to the mike for a “WOO, HOO, HOO, HOO”.  It looks so easy–you are on the stage, sharing in the glory and fame, with minimal risk or pressure.  The major limiting factor is that you have to be able to sing.  And no matter how much I hoped and visualized and pretended, I eventually had to admit that I am not a singer.  No matter how much people smile, humor and tolerate me, I am still not a singer, and I just have to accept that reality, make the most of who I am, and move on.  Seems like it’s time for the rest of society wake up and accept the realities of life as well.

Today I became aware of a publication from the University of Tennessee’s Office of Diversity, encouraging students and faculty to use ‘gender neutral pronouns’–nonsensical made-up ‘words’ that have no meaning other than the meaning the Office of Diversity says they have. I can tell you right now, this BS does not pass the Gold Standard for ‘word-hood’ used in my family–being able to be used in Quiddler or Scrabble.  If it’s not an acceptable word here, it’s not a word.  “Are you kidding me? Qua is NOT a word! Get that off there!” And as much as the University of Tennessee would like to be politically correct and tolerant, it just seems to me that an institute of higher learning would see a little problem with making up nonsense instead of……well….real education.  In somewhat of a defense of UT, this has become a trend in most businesses, hospitals and institutions, most having their own version of the Office of Diversity to endow us all with an upgrade of the sensitivity app.

This week we were informed of the murder of two people on live television. The follow-up stories document the mental issues of the murderer, who took words out of context and twisted the meaning into perceived racial slurs where none were obviously intended.  Our society has now evolved to the point that the behavioral norm is a state of constant vigil–looking to be offended by intolerance, political incorrectness or insensitivity of race, sexuality, or socioeconomic status.  On a similar note, I can’t begin to explain the recent surge of gender identity issues.  Political, social, and media manipulation of issues certainly play a role in desensitizing and pressuring the masses to accept new ‘normals’, as well as offering reasons for deviation from the intent of the Creator.  Any student of biology can tell you that from the beginning, biological sex is set in almost every living thing and in humans, 46 XY is a male, and 46 XX is a female.  For whatever problem and confusion that develops between the ears regarding what you think or wish you are, biological sex as well as race, is set from the get-go.  Sorry, Bruce…er….Cait….umm….ze….uh….

This foolishness at the University of Tennessee, and many other colleges and universities I suspect, serves to shape the next generation into a bunch of spineless lemmings, following the crowd, afraid to speak, or question, or think, or challenge–all in the name of tolerance and sensitivity.  If the alumni, all you Vols For Life, don’t want to persist as a laughingstock you need to speak up like Alan West did.  Comedian Colin Quinn illustrates the ridiculous place where society has now arrived…..



I can’t speak for everyone, but for most it’s easy to get along with and be tolerant and respectful of anyone who is willing to show me the same courtesy, not flaunting something in my face and forcing me to accept it as ok, normal, or desirable if I don’t agree.  ‘It is what it is’ and it’s time to speak up. Thank God for Donald Trump…..if nothing else comes of his campaign, at least he has given us the courage to speak up.



July 15, 2015
by Frances

“Thank You Government”…..said NO Profession EVER!



I recently sat through a meeting with an administrator, who came prepared with a folder full of charts, schedules and power points and the discussion ensued as to how we should and could become more productive if we only followed the new and exciting schedule/protocol/coding system.  Funny how someone who has never seen a patient, diagnosed an illness, taken a night of call, or actually generated an income is now able to tell you how you can best practice your profession.  I’m not necessarily resentful (well maybe just a little) of these bean-counters, because I recognize that you can’t survive in today’s business world without them.  It’s just kind of sad that we have passively allowed the government to take control of the profession so that we actually NEED the multiple levels of managers and bean-counters to survive in today’s climate.  Yes, the multicolored schedule chart looks great, fits perfectly with the time allotted and available personnel, and the projected percentages of full scheduling and income are appealing…..but the unknown uncontrolled factor is the one human being you are actually there for…..THE PATIENT.

It used to be that you could schedule a reasonable amount of time, see a reasonable number of patients, code for some reasonable charge and enjoy your profession.  Now, because of numerous government regulations and interventions, and decreased reimbursements for services, time is taken away from the real purpose of medicine to gimmicky methods of survival in the business world.  And there seems to be a never ending layer of people exacting an income from the exorbitant cost of health care, on the backs of the physician and patient.

It all looks good on paper, the charts and graphs predict efficiency and success, until the human factor surfaces.  The office visit that is scheduled as a sore throat, that actually behind the closed door of an exam room is sexual abuse.  The well visit that actually is a foster child with numerous social and emotional issues in addition to health concerns.  The rambunctious kindergarten boy who is told that there is something wrong because he won’t ‘focus’.  The first-time mom who is overwhelmed with fear and responsibility.  These all take time….and often tears….that there is no diagnostic ‘code’ to apply….and are the administrators and bean-counters nightmare.  But that’s what makes me go to work every day.

Teachers, I feel your pain.  I have seen how those administrators, government officials and bean-counters in your world are wrecking the system and ruining the profession.  What was once a profession whose purpose centered around the needs of the student, has now become a job centered around how best to generate data—to make the system look successful and bring in funding to continue the scheme for another year.  It’s no longer about education of children, it’s about teaching children how to take a test….how to ‘bubble-in’ instead of how to think. But to you educators who have not given up on the original purpose, who continue to go to work every day, and who are now beginning to speak up to reclaim your profession, I am cheering you on.  For as in my profession, there are way too many administrators, bean-counters, and the like who are making a living off the backs of the teachers and students.

For the rest of the professionals who are just hanging on until the next administration/next promotion/retirement, I would say, come on over.  It’s much more fun to be a Rebel. No implication or reference to historical figure, flag or ideology intended and I acknowledge the ridiculousness of this disclaimer—hope all of you teetering on the cusp of offense find the humor intended.



May 31, 2015
by Frances

Hold Out for Happily Ever After

Quotes from historical leaders seem to be a popular source of inspiration for graduation ceremonies.  JFK’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” is a popular one, but often misquoted. Personally, I like Churchill’s “Never, never, never give up.”  It’s hard to screw up that one.
I recently had the opportunity to attend a graduation event that included a slide show of each graduate’s baby picture juxtaposed with a ‘grown up’ picture. It was a sweet presentation, very well done, and brought to mind the many phases of child-rearing and parenthood–dreams and interests, successes and failures, triumph and tragedy.   I cannot help but remember  the many emotions experienced along the way–many of the worries and concerns that burdened us then may not have materialized in the young adults before us now. But, we still have not heard the end of the story.
School can be very easy for some, a struggle for others, and while grades, test scores and awards are an obvious measure of success to some, there is no measure for the internal effect of the school experience.  The academic and social challenges experienced may often translate into grit and determination for success at the next level.  Conversely, relative ease at one level may give the false expectation of ease at the next level.  And unfortunately for some, the ‘glory days’ at this level may be the peak of achievement.
For parents who are confronted with your child’s struggles, and for parents who are basking in the glow of your child’s successes, I would say to both: the end of the story has not yet been told.  There is a long time between third grade spelling and high school graduation…or college graduation….or successful entrepreneurship.  You don not know what is on the path before you. What you struggle with now, does not define future potential–and what you glory in now does not ensure future success.  Do not fall prey to the prevalent mindset that there is only one path to success or failure.  Be careful that you do not let what is happening today, good or bad, cause you to lose sight of the end of the story.  Never, never, never give up.

May 10, 2015
by Frances

The Cost of Motherhood

Graham_0090They say that you ‘pay for your raising’.  Mine was expensive on many levels.  In reflecting on my mother and my ‘raising’, I am just now starting to realize what this little phrase means, and realize that I probably still have a few more installments left to pay–not just in money or time, but also in sleep, worry and hair pigmentation.   I am reminded of the recent example of maternal instinct demonstrated by the knee-jerk reaction of the Baltimore mom who ran into a full-on riot to drag her kid out of danger.  I also recognize that it is just as difficult a task to maintain the day-to-day vigilance needed to get kids through adolescence to adulthood.

As a kid, I was mischievous with a mind of my own and no sense of danger–a combination that most certainly carries a costly penalty today.  But in a time and place where people knew each other and their families, and wisdom and empathy were more common than protocol and ‘zero tolerance’, most adolescent behavior could be treated as what it is.   My mom was a teacher in a rural high school.  It always seemed that every time I tried to get out of class for some lame reason she was there, standing in the hallway just waiting to ask, “What are you doing out of class?”  She didn’t have to drag me out of a riot, but sure did have a look that could speak volumes.  Having now been on the receiving end of discreet eye-rolls and smart-alack replies, I am now realizing that I had it pretty good and escaped adolescence relatively unscathed, despite some impulsive idiotic behavior.  Like the time my friend and I took a teacher’s car keys and drove the car off school property.  (Today that would have been grand theft auto on government property—and I might still be in jail if punishment was meted out by current protocol.)   Now that I think about it, I can only imagine the sick feeling a mom would get having to answer a collect call from the State Highway Patrol regarding  her child……or opening the front door to find FBI agents looking for her child.  (There were innocent explanations in both instances, but the parental gut-punch had the same effect.)

As an adult, I realize that my mom has, in large part, made me who I am, and I understand her more with each passing day.  She took us to Vacation Bible School, to piano lessons and swimming lessons.  She gave us ‘the look’ when we needed it, more when that wasn’t enough, but she also gave us roots and gave us wings. My mom taught me a lot of things:  buy good shoes and high thread count sheet,  be sure to write thank-you notes,  do things while you have the chance, and share your blessings with others.   We lost her much too soon to cancer and she will, in my mind, be forever young.  We miss you, Mom…thanks for your vigilance and endurance.  We turned out OK.



April 4, 2015
by Frances

Reblog: Forbes–Is Common Core Developmentally Appropriate?

UntitledThis is a great article re-posted from Dianne Ravitsch’s blog, and it is SO true that standardized tests do not correlate with ability or future success.  In medical school we were graded, for the most part, by multiple choice computerized tests–and preparing for that type of test most definitely narrows the ability to think broadly and problem-solve.  Some of the best physicians–as in other professions–are not good test-takers.  I must confess that I am a ‘good test-taker’ and can often pass continuing education tests without reading the material because of a knack in test-taking.  That may seem pretty scary, but I read and research because I am motivated to learn for other reasons, the test-taking just completes the bureaucratic documentation.   If we are teaching kids at such an early age to limit their thinking to a predetermined choice given to them on a test, we are doing them a terrible disservice.  Stop the insanity.  

April 1, 2015
by Frances
1 Comment

What Kind of Culture Are We Allowing to Exist?: Hazing…the need to ‘belong’

389445_10151064392520373_1148695462_nI sometimes have to take a break from straight educational topics to clear my mind on related topics.  A few months ago our community, Clemson University, and our state has experienced a heartbreaking loss with the death of Tucker Hipps during a fraternity pledge activity.  While all the detail are not in as of yet, the circumstances are worrisome–if not for out-and-out hazing, at the very least for allowing a culture to exist where thoughtless cruelty is accepted and promoted.  I recently read a book, Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell, that gives an account of the punishing training period that a Navy Seal must endure, and for good reason.  The difference in that circumstance is that the training is intended to prepare for future survival in life-threatening circumstances, which proved to be necessary for the author’s survival.  It seems that the nature of the human heart is toward evil, and as history has shown over and over again, left unchecked it will surface.

I did not personally know Tucker Hipps, but my son did–Tucker was my son’s senior counselor at Palmetto Boys State this year.  By all accounts, Tucker was an impressive young man, a great example and leader for those coming behind him, and my son’s life was enriched by having crossed paths with Tucker.  His life and death are a reminder of the frailty of life and nearness of our own mortality.  I would hope that all would reexamine the extent to which we will go to ‘belong’……or the extent to which we will allow that human nature to guide our actions.  For kids of all ages, especially high school and college students, I beg you to remember that there is no group whose inclusion is so important that you foolishly risk your own life or that of another.  These activities are but a moment out of your whole lifetime, do not let it cost you your life.

There are areas in our society where a culture of cruelty exists–protected by archaic traditions and lack of oversight–you have all heard the stories from military schools, fraternities, and other college organizations.   You don’t have to look very far into world history to see that this is not a new phenomena–Nazi Germany, ISIS, and the Roman Empire under Nero–the nature of the human heart is inherently evil. This should be a wake-up call for all such organizations and prompt a new commitment to moral leadership and oversight by the adults in charge.   The invincibility mindset of youth does not recognize and fear how quickly something can go wrong.    While we may not be able to change nations and governments, we can start with our schools and our own kids.  Belonging to a group should not cost you your self-respect….or your life.  My goal and my prayer is that we can teach our kids not to let others define them, not by outward appearance, memberships, personalities or test scores.  Carpe diem, the time is short.  Check out the Huffington Post article.

February 27, 2015
by Frances

‘Community Organizer’ Might Not Be A Bad Thing: Opting Out

Someone (who I don’t think agrees with me on much) asked me about a quote in the local newspaper article they thought was attributed to me.  (It wasn’t)  “You always seem to have something to say.” Why, yes…..yes I do usually have an opinion.  And my opinion usually comes after I have done my homework–observing, experiencing, reading and thinking about an issue.  And at my stage of life, I don’t mind sharing my opinion, in fact, I think it is my calling.  Check out the Andy Stanley message–your life, your experiences, your knowledge is a unique treasure to be shared with others… other words, be a Bridge Builder.

I have observed and personally experienced the downfall of the public education system in America.  I am a product of the public education system when it worked. Like so many other things, medicine included, it has been ruined by handing the reins of control to the government in exchange for the almighty dollar.  But that doesn’t have to be game-over…..there are still more of us than there are of them….which brings me to some thoughts on the glut of standardized tests, and inappropriate early childhood tasks being forced on our kids…..and how we can start to reorganize our communities.

1.  This is still America, these are still your kids, and you are still the parent and can call the shots.  And most teachers, real professional educators, will cheer you on….not so much with the administrators.

2.  It doesn’t take much to screw up averages, just ask Tiger Woods, or any other sports figure.  OUCH….School Report Card, administrator’s resume, school grants and recognition for government funding—all hinging on these test scores.

3.  ‘Critical Mass’ is not the same as ‘majority’, it is a much smaller percentage of the total, a tipping point that will encourage many to join– but it is the strong–the non-conformists– that must create the momentum.

4.  When the motivation is money, and you take yours elsewhere, you will be noticed.  Pearson.  Common Core.  Per-Pupil Spending.  Educational Savings Account.  Home School.  Charter School.

5.  There is a movement nationwide, including a cross-section of parents, educators and politicians of all stripes, to ‘opt out’ of testing.

6.  Have you ever seen the movie, ‘The Matrix’?  The projected reality that is created with all the testing, and data, and protocol, and ‘College and Career Ready’, and ‘rigor’, and ‘Path to Success’, and……. in the end it doesn’t matter, it is not helpful, and it is not real.  But you don’t see this until the end.  Read opinions of other thinkers outside the bureaucracy of the Department of Education.  You’ll be glad you did.


Sometimes it may just take someone with an opinion, sharing information to help a community organize for change.  Heck, Obama rode the ‘community organizer’ gig all the way to the White House….maybe I can at least give people some information and courage to rescue their kids from a failing system.



February 15, 2015
by Frances

Stop the Insanity: Drilling and Testing in the Early Years–Part 2

safe_image.phpIf you are a parent of one of these fabulous kindergarten or pre-K kids who are not interested in ‘school’ as it is, do not let yourself be isolated and intimidated and second-guess yourself.  You know much more about your own kid than you are led to believe, and you may have to seek out other options, at least for a while.  Kindergarten used to be the time to learn to listen, learn to share, learn socialization skills, and acquire the other benefits of free-play–problem solving, imaginative play and getting along with others.  But now the pressure is on and the testing is the ultimate measure of kindergarten ‘success’.  While there are many ways to learn, there are also many ways to assess learning individually, without creating the angst and frustration we are now seeing in these kids.   We seem to be interfering with developmental stages and skills necessary for learning, and in the process creating frustration for the child and parent.  This frustration is often manifest as disinterest, ‘lack of focus’, not cooperating, etc., and is more often than not punished.  The child learns that school is a place that they don’t want to be, a place where they get in trouble, and lose natural curiosity and interest in learning.   The current agenda is interfering with the acquisition of these skills, replacing the developmental time with learning activities for which most may not be ready or capable of mastering.  Yet we press on, and test, and label, and punish.

For years there has been a glut of commercial products marketed to parents to enhance education of their little ones and make them the  brightest star on the stage–language videos, flashcards, computer programs, you name it.  Even the politicians are getting on the bandwagon–Hillary and her Village even came out with a political campaign recently to encourage pediatricians to promote early literacy.  Hate to break it to the old gal, but she is late to this party.  Any mom, any parent, any pediatrician knows the natural desire of the heart is for a parent to spend time with the child and share a book–not only for the learning, but also developing the association of reading with love and nurturing.   The one thing that may not have been advertised about the commercial videos is that they actually slow the acquisition of language–the thing that builds vocabulary is human interaction with the child.  Imagine that….the parent’s heart desire is exactly what the child needs…, there was a Grand Design, or something.

The drilling, testing and frustration that has invaded the early years is a crushing blow for many kids, and the end result is a kid who hates anything to do with school.  One can only wonder how many inventors, artists and gifted thinkers we are destroying in the first few months of school. Take a look at the TED talk by Ken Robinson on how school kill creativity at an early age….the current trends only worsen the problem.  Maybe we should take a lesson from Finland, one of the best school systems in the world, which does not start formal schooling until the age of seven.  The bottom line is this:  do not let your child be robbed of his/her natural curiosity or love for learning.  Take the initiative for your child and be his/her advocate, and put testing in it’s place.   Nationwide there is a growing movement of parents opting-out of standardized testing Many early childhood teachers may agree with the inappropriateness, but may–for any number of reasons– not be able to take action.   And finally, you don’t really need Hillary or her village to tell you to do what you enjoy as a parent and what your heart tells you to do—read with your kids.  It’s an investment of time that has enormous benefit far beyond learning to read.

TIP OF THE DAY:  Read some of the opinions of independent education thinkers… may be surprised to see what people are saying outside the local school district regarding the current educational practices.