Are We Putting Too Much Academic Pressure on Young Children?

My granddaughter’s kindergarten class has an honor roll.

Academic pressure increases for all grades

Pressure to perform academically starts in kindergartent

If you make honor roll, you’re parents are invited to a small ceremony honoring the children’s achievement.  If you’re a kid that doesn’t make the honor roll, the child gets to go the ceremony and sit with the other non-honored kids.

My granddaughter didn’t make honor roll.  She was in tears the day her best friend Sofia’s Mom got to come to school and her mother didn’t.  Even worse, when she asked her mother about it, her mom didn’t even know about this.

Here are my problems with this:

Why start to identify kids based on academic achievement so soon?  Kids are at different developmental stages when they’re five.  The children who are not reading at five will most probably be reading at six or seven.

I bet the school sees this as a way to motivate students. But I’m afraid it may backfire.

Do the children who don’t make honor roll feel stigmatized? Do they start to self-identify as not being smart?  Is this setting them up for a poor self-image? I don’t know.  My granddaughter seems to have weathered this crisis and still loves school.

I always thought kindergarten was a time for children to learn social skills and get ready for the rigors of first grade. Since so many children are going to preschool now, maybe preschool is the new kindergarten.

What Does the Research Say?

A recent survey of kindergarten across the country found today’s public school kindergarten programs have become increasingly more academic and less play-oriented. Teachers provide direct instruction to teach children how to read and to write prior to first grade

A 2006 research study found that children who learn to read in kindergarten have higher academic achievement in later grades.  My reaction:  these children were probably developmentally ready to read. Perhaps they excelled later in school because they were identified as superior performers early in their school career.  Or maybe they’re just smart kids.

Bottom line: I don’t see the need to start the academic rat race so young. I don’t see the need for making academic super stars out of some children and letting others sit on the sidelines wondering how they fell short.

Agree? Disagree?  Let me know your thoughts.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Is An Apology Necessary?

Recently, a 10-year old boy was out bike riding with his dad in our neighborhood.  He Boston Terrier Mailbox 2wasn’t paying attention and rode into our mailbox.  The mailbox, pictured here, was a gift from one of our children and honors our Boston Terrier Riley, who died a year ago.

We all ran outside when we heard the crash.  The kid was fine, just a bit shaken.  He scampered home. (He was staying across the street at a house that rents in our beach-side neighborhood by the week.)  The mailbox on the other hand was badly dented with the door barely hanging on.  The father apologized.  We said we were glad his son wasn’t hurt, and we’d see what we could do to fix the mailbox.

The next day the father left his name, email address and phone number in case we had to pay for repairs.  We once again asked how the boy was.  “Fine,” the father said, “just embarrassed about running into the mailbox.”

The mailbox was fixable, although there are still slight traces of the dents.  We never followed up with the family since we were able to fix it ourselves.

Here’s the question:  Should the young boy apologized in person for denting our mailbox?

If he was embarrassed about it, would it have made sense for his parents to have him write a note?

Or is the apology from his dad sufficient?

Let me know what you think.

Posted in Interpersonal relations | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Saving $370 at Tour d’Argent

Paris, the beautiful Eiffel Tower.I took my daughter and granddaughter to Paris. I have always wanted to eat at the Tour d’Argent – a famous Michelin-rated restaurant, albeit only one star. But it’s the place to see and be seen and I wanted my granddaughter to experience culture in its finest sense.

I told my offspring that we would eat at cheap cafés, buy bread and cheese, have the free breakfast at the hotel so we could afford the $200+ drinks at Tour d’Argent. So, I’m thinking it’s going to be about $750 for the evening.

I was concerned that my granddaughter’s dress was not quite nice enough so I bought her a new one at Galleries Lafayette. And, since I bought her one I thought I deserved a new one too. But they were “solde” (on sale).

We came back from sightseeing early and showered, did our hair, makeup, and all around made ourselves beautiful. We came downstairs and got in our cab. The driver had never heard of the restaurant! Really, where is he from, Tunisia? Actually, yes, he was.

Traffic was terrible and we were going to be late. So I finally called the restaurant to tell them that we would be there but were stuck in traffic.

They could not find our reservation. I gave them the reservation number and while I waited for her to find it, I looked at the email again. It started Dear Madame, we are so pleased to be of service to you but – OMG – they did NOT have room for us on that night, not that they did have space.

I begged and pleaded – could we just come in for a cocktail? Non, non, non. We regret that we are completely full.

Just at this moment, we are pulling up at the front. I ask the Tunisian taxi driver if he knows of another restaurant. Sure lady, maybe in Tunisia. He sees the starch-suited bellman who opens the door, takes my money, and gets out of “Le Dodge”

The bellman takes me in and explains to the gatekeeper who says, no food at the inn. However, he will run across the street to their “sister restaurant” and see if by any possible chance they can seat us.

Amazingly, they could. We were squeezed into a table in the middle of the empty restaurant where we ate for $185. We had a great laugh and had a fun dinner. I figure we saved about $370 ($750 expected cost of dinner minus $200 (dresses) and $180 (cost of the real dinner).

You always have to look on the bright side. This restaurant even had a cat!

Lynn Freer is a successful California business woman, who recently went to Paris with her daughter and granddaughter. Her adventures can be found at her blog  

Posted in Interpersonal relations, Values we share | Leave a comment

Message for Our Grandkids: It’s Okay to Feel Sad

faces of a dice In our happy-face culture, we rarely hear people express they are sad.  But that’s exactly what happened to me recently.  My Yoga instructor had her two dogs die in a horrible accident.  It happened on a Sunday night.  She cancelled her Monday classes.  In her email to her students, she told us her dogs had died and then said: “I’m too sad to teach today.”

That simple phrase “I’m too sad …” touched me deeply and made me think how we so often don’t allow ourselves to be sad.  Instead we embrace the “stiff upper lip” philosophy, rather than recognize that some event has touched us and made us sad.  Burying sadness, ignoring sadness is not good for us. If we do that repeatedly many of us will end up suffering in other ways—chronic back pain, headaches, stomach problems.

Let Kids Know It’s Okay to Be Sad

It’s important to allow our children and grandchildren know it’s okay to be sad.   I can remember being told repeatedly as a child:  “Come on. Get over it. It’s not the end of the world.”  Of course, my childish sad times were not the end of the world.  But why did the adults in my world try to have me bury my sadness? What were they afraid of?  By letting our children and grandchildren know it’s okay to be sad,  we can help them find outlets for expressing and sharing their sadness.  Being sad is a part of life.

A side note here: I am clearly differentiating between sadness and depression.  Depression is a disease and anyone suffering from it needs professional help.

Posted in Interpersonal relations | Leave a comment

A Funny Thing Happened in Church

Girl prayingCombine children and church and sometimes the results can be hilarious.  Our own experience came when one of our sons was about seven.  During Christmas instead of going to our usual children’s mass, we inadvertently took the family to a High Mass.  The mass had everything–an orchestra, singing and incense.  About halfway through the mass at the moment when everything and everyone was hushed, our seven-year old piped up: “I can’t stand the incest any more.”

Of course everyone turned and looked at us.  Needless to say, I was mouthing “He means the incense.”  People smiled and chuckled and Children’s Protective Services were not at the door to meet us.


Here’s another story told by Mother Elizabeth Kaeton:

Preachers run some risk when they involve their young parishioners during a service, especially those who are devotees of TV.  A Baptist pastor was presenting a children’s sermon.  During the sermon, he asked the children if they knew what the resurrection was. Now, asking questions during children’s sermons is crucial, but at the same time, asking children questions in front of a congregation can also be very dangerous.Having asked the children if they knew the meaning of the resurrection, a little boy raised his hand.
The pastor called on him and the little boy said, “I know that if you have a resurrection that lasts more than four hours you are supposed to call the doctor.”
It took over ten minutes for the congregation to settle down enough for the service to continue.


Finally, I read the following two anecdotes at

A little boy opened the big and old family Bible with fascination, and looked at the old pages as he turned them. Suddenly, something fell out of the Bible, and he picked it up and looked at it closely. It was an old leaf from a tree that had been pressed between the pages.
‘Momma,  look what I found,’ the boy called out.
‘What have you got there, dear?’ his mother asked.
With astonishment in the young boy’s voice, he answered: ‘I think it’s Adam’s suit!


Six-year-old Angie and her four-year-old brother Joel were sitting together during church services. Joel giggled, sang, and talked out loud.  Finally, his big sister had enough.
‘You’re not supposed to talk out loud in church.’
‘Why? Who’s going to stop me?’ Joel asked.
Angie pointed to the back of the church and said, ‘See those two men standing by the door?  They’re hushers.’

Posted in Humor | Leave a comment

Grandmothers for marriage equality

Marriage EqualityI’m starting a movement today—Grandmothers for Marriage Equality. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional and 12 states now allow same sex couples to marry.

I’ll get to why I believe grandmothers should work for marriage equality but first a little bit about how I arrived at my belief that same-sex couples have the right to marry.

Several years ago I was very unsure about how I felt about gay marriage or the more neutral term—marriage equality.  But in the last few years I have become a supporter.  Here’s why:

First, I have been fortunate to have close friends and family who are gay and in committed relationships.  The old saying—familiarity breeds contempt—is wrong.  Spending time with my friends and family made realize their relationships were much like the one I have with my husband—highs and lows, tears and smiles, good times and bad but love, respect and mutual support at the heart of the relationship.  So in this case, familiarity bred understanding, respect and acceptance.

The second barrier I had to overcome was what I thought were the biblical prohibitions.  The oft-quoted verse from Leviticus 20:13:  “If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.”   This verse is part of ancient Israel’s holiness code, which is part of the first five books of the Bible.  This code also commands death by stoning for people who work on the Sabbath, for adulterers and for stubborn and rebellious sons, among many other taboos that would not be accepted today.  At the same time, the code permitted selling one’s daughter into slavery or buying slaves from neighboring countries.

Opponents of marriage equality pick and choose the bible verses that support their position when they cite their objections. Instead, these verses must be viewed in historical context.  In ancient times, child mortality and death from war and disease were prevalent.  A high birth rate was necessary; hence marriage between men and women was a necessity.

The not-so-slippery slope

The third objection—and one that gave me pause—was the slippery slope argument.  The argument goes: first comes gay marriage, and then comes acceptance of polygamy and other forms of non-traditional marriage.  In reality, as a society, we define what is acceptable.  Until 1967 interracial marriage was illegal in many states.  In the 19th Century, it was commonplace for married women to have their legal and economic identities subsumed by their husbands.

Our societal values changed and the laws change to accommodate those revised values.  The same goes for societal attitude towards same-sex marriage.  The first comes from the public’s growing perception that homosexuality is not something a person chooses.  Today, 47% of Americans believe that sexual orientation is determined at birth, according to a May Gallup Poll. And according to a CBS poll, 53% of people in the US now support same-sex marriage.  I

Finally, I don’t think gay marriage is going to threaten the institution of marriage.  In fact, I think it strengthens it.  Massachusetts passed its law to permit same-sex couples to marry.  It might just be a coincidence but the divorce rate drop dropped. Instead, I believe same-sex marriage will strengthen families.  No longer will children whose parents are the same sex feel their family is inferior.  Their parents will have the same benefits—the right to visit their partner in the hospital, preferential tax treatment and inheritance rights,

Grandma already knew

I have heard this story several times from different people so I think it’s apocryphal. The story goes like this: a man in his thirties (or in some versions a woman of similar age) finally decides to announce to his/her family he is gay.  They’ve hidden it for years.  Finally the young man decides to tell his grandmother.  She turns to him with a smile and says, “Of course.  I’ve always known.”   How sad for the many gay people who have hidden from a grandparent their essential nature.

If you believe, as I do, that people are born gay, then we should not deny them the rights we enjoy. Same-sex couples are asking to have their relationships recognized as equal under the law. Full marriage equality is the true measure of our success in this area.

I am asking grandmothers to consider the arguments for marriage equality and lobby to change the laws in their states.  I don’t know if any of my grandchildren are gay and it doesn’t really matter.  What matters is we don’t deny a portion of our population equal rights.

If you share my feelings, please repost this article.

Posted in Interpersonal relations, Trends, Values we share | 2 Comments

Thinking about miracles

DaffodilsI’ve been thinking a lot about miracles recently.  That’s not surprising given that we’ve just celebrated Easter and Passover.  Also it’s not surprising since we are just beginning to experience the miracle of spring here in the Northeast.

Of course, in this age of science, technology and instant communication, the question really is—do any of us—can any of us–believe in miracles anymore?

We hear about THE MIRACLE DIET (lose 40 pounds in 40 days or was that minutes?) and the MIRACLE Detergent (get your whites whiter and your darks darker).  This is either miracle devaluation or miracle inflation.  Devaluation, I think and an indication that advertisers think most of us are really stupid (but that’s a topic for another post).

But are there any real miracles anymore? So much of what people thousands of years ago would have called miracles are now routine thanks to science and technology. Horrible diseases that once killed thousands, if not millions, are conquered or at least held at bay. We have the capacity to feed our planet and end starvation and malnutrition (if human greed and war and hate don’t get in the way).  We know instantly about world events.  Upon reflection these developments are all miraculous.  It’s miraculous that human intelligence and ingenuity continues to explore, invent and create.

So I’m going to drop my cynicism (at least for a while) and look at this miraculous life I have.  I am going to celebrate the miracle of spring.  I’m going to celebrate family and enjoy the miracle of my three wonderful grandchildren. I’m going to take a leap and say there are essential life questions still left for me to answer—questions about God and the afterlife, questions about faith and its meaning today. And finally I’m going to embrace what Albert Einstein said:

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Please share your thoughts. I’d love to hear them.

Posted in Trends, Values we share | Tagged | 2 Comments

What kind of world will our grandchildren inherit?

These children plant a tree, which will help reduce carbon dioxide

These children plant a tree, which will help reduce carbon dioxide

I was at the gym the other day and overheard a conversation that shocked me.  Two women were talking about the weather forecast and climate change. The forecasters were predicting yet another major and frightening storm.

The conversation went something like this:

Woman 1:  I guess what they say about global warming is true.  This weather is really crazy.

Woman 2: Yes, I’m really glad I won’t be around when it gets really bad.  You know in 20 or 30 years.

Woman 1:  That’s right.  It will be our children and grandchildren who will have to deal with the mess.

Woman 2: Oh well, that’s going to be their  problem.”

These women were of a certain age—probably before the baby boom generation but not by much—maybe they were in their late sixties.

How could they just shrug off the mess we’re making of our planet?  How could they be so nonchalant?

I shudder at the thought of what my grandchildren will face if we don’t start addressing our climate problems.  Is my legacy to my grandchildren going to be a world of super storms, eroding beaches, polluted air and the resulting chronic illnesses?  I hope not.

At a minimum we can teach our grandchildren to cherish this planet and to treat it gently. And we can be an example and explain to them why we take the steps we do.

Here are 10 simple things from that we can all practice:

  • Change a light. Replacing a regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent one saves 150 pounds of carbon dioxide each year.*


  • Drive less. Walk, bike, carpool, take mass transit, and/or trip chain. All of these things can help reduce gas consumption and one pound of carbon dioxide for each mile you do not drive.


  • Recycle more and buy recycled. Save up to 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide each year just by recycling half of your household waste. By recycling and buying products with recycled content you also save energy, resources and landfill space!


  • Check your tires. Properly inflated tires mean good gas mileage. For each gallon of gas saved, 20 pounds of carbon dioxide are also never produced.


  • Use less hot water. It takes a lot of energy to heat water. Reducing the amount used means big savings in not only your energy bills, but also in carbon dioxide emissions. Using cold water for your wash saves 500 pounds of carbon dioxide a year, and using a low flow showerhead reduces 350 pounds of carbon dioxide. Make the most of your hot water by insulating your tank and keeping the temperature at or below 120.


  • Avoid products with a lot of packaging. Preventing waste from being created in the first place means that there is less energy wasted and fewer resources consumed. When you purchase products with the least amount of packaging, not only do you save money, but you also help the environment! Reducing your garbage by 10% reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 1,200 pounds.


  • Adjust your thermostat. Keeping your thermostat at 68 degrees in winter and 78 degrees in summer not only helps with your energy bills, but it can reduce carbon dioxide emissions as well. No matter where you set your dial, two degrees cooler in the winter or warmer in the summer can mean a reduction of 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.


  • Plant a tree. A single tree can absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.


  • Turn off electronic devices when not in use. Simply turning off your TV, VCR, computer and other electronic devices can save each household thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide each year.

I know this issue is far larger than my planting a tree or doing my wash in cold water.  But it’s what I can do.  It’s where I can start. It’s how I can help my grandchildren learn to cherish our beautiful planet.




Posted in Interpersonal relations, Values we share | 1 Comment

The naming of grandma—it’s a difficult matter

Hello, my name is ...?

Shortly after I announced to friends and family my son and his wife were having a baby—our first grandchild—almost the first question—after do you know the sex—was what are you going to be called?

My response: “Grandma, I guess.” I hadn’t really thought about it but then I heard from other friends that they selected special names. It reminded me of the TS Eliot poem: “The Naming of Cats” that starts:

“The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter.”

Well as it turns out the naming of grandparents may not to be as easy as it seems. Some friends said grandma sounded too old fashioned, too fuddy duddy. (I didn’t feel either old-fashioned or fuddy duddy. After all I was a child of the rebellious 1960s! Hmm, 1960s–that was a long time ago. )

Friends have chosen derivations of their names or gone back to their heritage to choose a name. One friend has Native American ancestry and grandchildren call her E-Ni-Si, the Cherokee name for grandmother; another whose first name is June is Juney to her granddaughters. Another friend wanted his grandson to call him granddad.  Well the toddler decided that Bop Bop was a better name.  So Bop Bop he is right now, but we’ll see what the future holds.

In fact, just like there are books with baby names, there are books on grandparents’ names. Amazon lists several, including:

The New Grandparents Name Book by Lin Wellford and Skye Pifer (Jan 5, 2009)

You Can Call Me Hoppa! The Grandparents’ Guide to Choosing a Name that Fits by Lauren Charpio (Aug 5, 2008)

The Big Book of Grandparents’ Names by Jeanmarie O’Keefe Moore (May 30, 2009)

When all was said and done we opted for the plain vanilla grandma and grandpa. But then I went to Ireland this summer and heard my many, many cousins referring to their grandmothers as Nan (a diminutive of Nana I think).  I fell in love with the sound of Nan and decided I wanted my grandchildren to call me that. After nearly three years of being Abuela (the Spanish for Grandmother), Gamma and Grandma Helen, what are the chances I can get my grandkids to call me Nan?  Stay tuned. I’m working on it.

What’s your favorite grandparent name?

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Kids watching videos in a restaurant: your opinion please

Tuned in, tuned out?

A friend told me  about an experience that left me with very mixed feelings.  She and her husband took her daughter, son-in-law and 2-year old toddler out dinner.  As soon as they sat down at the table, the daughter whipped out a video player and earphones and plugged the baby in to a Dora the Explorer video.  The little boy watched his video and the adults ate dinner.

Nifty idea, right?

I just don’t know. If we invite a child to dinner with his parents,  should we expect the young child to be part of the dinner? Isn’t this how a child learns about being sociable and about manners.? And most important, isns’t this one of the building blocks for experiencing the joy of a family being together, sharing conversation, ideas and family stories?

My friend (who is the soul of tact) didn’t say anything to her daughter but she was fuming about it afterwards.

Even though I wasn’t thrilled by the vision of a plugged in toddler at the restaurant table,  I did try to see it from the daugher’s perspective. We all remember how tired we were when we had a toddler running around the house. This was one way to have a meal undisturbed.

Let me know what you think.  Take the poll and leave a comment.



Posted in grumpy grandma, Trends | Tagged , , | 3 Comments