Parents, Did You Teach Your Children To Weed?

weeds growing in cracks

I think I’m what some people call a natural-born-teacher. It’s in my blood; teachers sprout from my family tree for generations upon generations. It’s no surprise that as a parent, I’ve been an education task-master. You think preacher’s kids have it rough? Think about being a teacher’s kid. You’re constantly the guinea pig for lesson plans, you have access to the endless books and supplies and strategies constantly brought into your home, and more than anything else, you are your parent’s prize pupil.

Needless to say, I’ve taught my kids lots of things. Oh yes, we worked on letters and numbers and the alphabet. They were read to and sung to and taken on adventure after adventure. Lily and I spent hours creating our own reality tv cooking show; when I was in labor with my second child, three-year-old Lily could make french toast and show Grandma where I kept the coffee maker. She evolved into a perfectionista baking goddess who found Wednesday afternoon stress relief mixing butter, sugar, flour and vanilla into delectable bites of goodness. Cameron, now a teen, will spend hours in the kitchen leaving a trail of disaster in his wake, yet arise with a smile and display a dish that would rival an Iron Chef on Food Network.

We taught them to love all kinds of sports, to learn from traveling the world, to paint and draw and sculpt and build and design and tried to engage their every creative and educational curiosity. And now as they’re growing up and away and into their own lives, I find myself asking – did I teach my children to weed? Did I teach them to discover and evaluate and search deeply for what really matters in life?

Parents, teach your children to weed before it’s too late. Take them outdoors and teach them to look at the beauty around them. Show them the messiness of life’s landscape and remind them that they don’t have to bloom where they’re planted – they can change what they don’t like in life. Teach them that they can uproot, they can replant, and keep moving and trying and re-doing until they get it just right.

Teach your children that weeds are the ones that look like they’ll flower but won’t. That sometimes life gets sticky, and can unexpectedly crawl up the vines you’ve carefully trained. Teach them that weeds can be all at once beautiful and fluffy and then with one breath, with one small burst of air they will scatter into directions you never intended – or expected. It will never be perfect. Some weeds will come back; some will be gone forever. You get to choose.

Teach your children to weed – to put both knees in the soil, even when it’s muddy and full of manure. Teach them to get into the center of their life, to get dirty and not fear what’s in front of them.

Teach them to not always yank and pull randomly at life, but to think about what’s underneath, and what the bigger design for their life might be. There’s always unexpected beauty beneath the surface.

Stargazer lilies in my garden
Stargazer lilies in my garden

Teach your children to pay attention, to delight in small discoveries in life, like tulips sprouting at the first sign of spring, or a lily straining to grow and share her exquisiteness – just like them.

Don’t wait too long to teach your children to weed – now’s the time. In the blink of an eye, neglected gardens become beds of weeds, requiring much more effort to put back in order. And if you feel like you’ve waited too long, don’t worry. Just do it. Starting is always the scariest part of it all, but if you don’t start now, then when?

Remember to take it one section at a time – take breaks. All those weeds didn’t all grow in one day – it will take awhile to get it the way you want it. Sometimes season after season it will keep coming back, and one day – if you keep at it – it will be gone. It’s OK to stop when you’re tired; self-care is an important skill to learn.

Finally, stop and admire your work. Make life pleasant – listen to the birds, fill a hummingbird feeder or watch the butterflies land on the flowers. Admire your hard work. Hug your children tightly, tell them you love them and watch them grow into amazing creatures. Your efforts will pay off, I promise.

did you teach your children to weed

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Somewhere Over the Rainbow Is Right Here, Kids

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“The great teachings unanimously emphasize that all the peace, wisdom and joy in the universe are already within us; we don’t have to gain, develop, or attain them. We’re like a child standing in a beautiful park with his eyes shut tight, there’s no need to imagine trees, flowers, deer, birds, and sky; we merely need to open our eyes and realize what is already here, who we already are – as soon as we stop pretending we’re small or unholy.”

~ Bo Lozoff

This quote reminds me of the scene from ‘The Wizard of Oz‘, when Dorothy, having survived the tornado of her life, wakes up and sees all that she has around her.   Things she previously worried about, people she loved, and those she feared had swirled together in her mind to create the most unimaginable drama, but when it came down to it, there was no place like home.

Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland from the tr...
Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland from the trailer for the film The Wizard of Oz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many times throughout my teaching day I find myself cheering on my students, telling them, “You are better than this. You are better than these grades.”  I think about how they must feel, lost in a world that judges them by accomplishment rather than individualism.  I wonder how I can teach them to close their eyes, to look inside, and realize that they, like Dorothy, have all they need in life. They just need to figure out how to harness it, how to jump on the power and energy and wonderfulness that life has to offer them, and soar above anything they have ever imagined.

I think if we can teach teenagers this – to stop pretending they are ‘small or unholy’ – that they not only have a huge future ahead of them, and that they have all they need to get there – if we can help them see the joy of life, we can create hope that somewhere over the rainbow really is right in their own backyard.

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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What Can President Obama’s Inaugural Address Teach America’s Children?

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White House, October 2012

I watched President Obama’s inauguration, on the birth date of Martin Luther King, Jr., with a delicious sense of happiness. Parents, educators and American citizens easily make the connection between the two leaders; I began to think about how Obama’s inaugural speech’s messages will leave the same lasting impact on our children as did MLK, and how his ideas of freedom, change, citizenship, equality and character can be used to educate our children.

Obama’s speech sent a message of freedom and ‘limitless possibilities’ for America’s children. He believes that each generation has an obligation to peacefully work towards freedom, and that by working together, using new responses to what was set before us in the Constitution, we can create change. His statement that we can turn enemies into friends represents the essence of how children can begin to learn to create freedom for all.

To create change, Obama asks Americans for commitment. Our children may not understand the ‘it can happen to you’ message, but they do understand that the world is ours to share. Learning about climate change, new ways of creating energy, developing and using new technologies are all ways that as adults we can adjust to our time, and create a future that is sustainable for our children and our children’s children. Obama’s message that ‘together we are stronger’ is a way our children can learn to work together to solve the challenges of our future.

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JFK Center for the Performing Arts, Wahington, DC

Citizenship is something we profess to teach in school, but Obama’s speech highlights the necessity of working together as American citizens. As we teach children allegiance to American ideas set forth in the Constitution, we must teach them to work together to understand the power of this obligation, and the hope that can be realized through action. Teaching our children that they don’t always have to agree, but they do have to listen, collaborate and work together.

Children understand the concept of fairness. Obama’s speech addresses the concept of equality as a way to grow our country, and an necessity because we are Americans. He said, ” Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.” Each of us, regardless of gender, religion, belief, disability, sexuality, or race deserves equality because we are Americans.

Finally, Obama’s inaugural address can teach America‘s children about the concept of character. Our children will inherit the errors and successes of this generation, but by learning the concept of hard work and responsibility will have the necessary tools to conquer the challenges of tomorrow. Obama said, ” And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice – not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.”

What better message can we send to our children: that by working together, and understanding and acting on the concepts of freedom, change, citizenship, equality and character we can not only improve ourselves, but better our future as a nation.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Struggle

NPR’s recent story, “Struggle for Smarts: How Eastern and Western Cultures Tackle Learning” really got me thinking.  I’ve spent 22 years teaching junior high, and 16 years parenting, so the question of how do I teach kids to tackle struggle resonates in my everyday life.  The NPR story focuses on struggle and intellect – how that looks in the classroom and at home.  It made me think about the bigger idea of struggle, determination, and perseverance – traits that as a mom, I find creeping up in my life every day.

As a parent, I’ve tried to show my kids the easiest path – I’ll be honest.  Does anyone like to see their kid make painful mistakes, or take the twisting road rather than the straight? Watching our children collapse in defeat or cry in frustrations makes us feel helpless and wish we could change the outcome to spare them the agony of defeat, frustration, and yes, struggle.

No one mentions struggle in the parent handbook.

With babies, we think we will do it right.  We’ve read the books, watched, the videos, and for me, I had seen enough rotten parenting in my first six years of teaching to know I would do it differently.

None of that prepared me for those moments of struggle.  The moment when my daughter cried in exhaustion after her first weeks in kindergarten.  The moment when she had to understand her math problem – in Spanish.  The moment when she fell off the balance beam at a gym meet, or had to deal with ‘mean girls’ for the first time.  The moment when my son struck out in a baseball game, crashed in a ski race, or tested for his black belt.

I felt utterly helpless.

But in those moments, something came to me.  I suppose it was that same tingling feeling that comes to a boxer when they’re down, or a scientist on the brink of a cure.  It felt that profound, that important.  It was that split-second moment when struggle could tip the scales.

Parents know that moment.  It feels like your heart will tear out of your chest, wanting to protect, run away, shield them.  It plows through your head like a tsumani, spilling your thoughts and emotions all over and eventually, hopefully, turning you upright, to the air pocket, and in the right direction.

Don’t give up.  Persevere.  Fight.  Push yourself.  Never quit.  You can do it.  Come on, peanut.  Stick it.  Ski fast, buddy.  You’ve got this.  Run fast.  Indomitable spirit.  Study.  Don’t be afraid.

Mama loves you.

In the end, struggles happen.  Our world thrives on them.  We look to Eastern cultures and marvel at their test scores, their focus, and their determination.  We look to Western cultures and are inspired at their individuality, their creativity and problem solving.  We wonder if we’re doing the right thing.

We look to our children and know that struggle will not escape them, no matter how much we wish them safe travels down the yellow brick road of life.

So parents, what are we going to teach them?

If you’d like to read more of my analysis of the NPR story from a teacher’s perspective, please click over to my Yahoo article, “Are American Students Getting Through School Too Easily?”


Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Teach-That’s What I Do

I’m really getting tired of education being a dumping ground.

I’m tired of politicians who think that money doesn’t matter – we can decrease funding for schools, freeze teacher salaries, or worse – impose salary cuts because there isn’t enough money in the budget.

I’m tired of class sizes getting larger and faith in schools getting smaller.

I’m tired of hearing about all the things teachers should do instead of hearing about all the things we actually do.

I’m tired of unpacking standards during the only free time I have in my day.

I’m tired of staying late for meetings, or eating lunch over a stack of papers.

I’m tired of ‘officials’ who get paid more than me but know less about what really goes on in the classroom.

I’m tired of thinking about everything else except the children.

What I’m NOT tired of is the children.

I’m excited to see their faces every day, looking to me for a plan.

I’m excited to help them with their challenges and watch their success unfold before our eyes.

I’m excited to show them a new book and talk about what they love.

I’m excited to laugh with them, learn with them, and send them out into the world.

I’m excited when the fire is ignited, their passion is found, and it shows.

I’m excited to teach.

That’s all.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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